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What the Hurt Business breakup says about the ceiling for Black male wrestlers

This one hurts for more than the obvious reasons

WWE.com

“First the Hurt Biz break up now every sec I look up
They got this wack stuff on the show
Yeah you right I’m really fed up cause the group was looking set up
To be dominant and hold all the gold.”

That rhyme is how I felt Monday night. The Hurt Business going out of business was the rotten cherry on top of Raw’s stale sundae. Besides the fact the group held WWE down for a year during the dark times of COVID, it was great seeing this group of Black men be powerful, intelligent, successful, and socially relevant.

To break up unceremoniously and seemingly for no reason just leaves me with a lot of questions. Chief among them: How high can a Black man not named Rock get in WWE before their wings are clipped, or they fly too close to the sun?

Bobby Lashley winning the WWE Championship should be the beginning of the story, not its end. Groups like the Four Horsemen and Evolution made their respective champions better. Ric Flair was already the dirtiest player in the game. With the Horsemen by his side, he was toxic waste. Any opponent knew Flair’s boys were always a couple seconds away from turning the odds in his favor.

Before MVP’s crew even got to that point, WWE pulled the plug. It’s been a long time since WWE had a dominant faction, a group with all the gold who dares anyone to try to take it. Rather than lean into the narrative of Black businessmen breaking barriers and backs to fatten their pockets, Lashley and MVP broke character. The two men with the most foresight became really stupid for reasons passing understanding. Suddenly, they’re ready to tear down Cedric Alexander and Shelton Benjamin instead of building them up.

And for what? Lashley’s winning streak stretches back to June 2020. He’s didn’t just win; he dominated. Why he’s suddenly so shook about Drew McIntyre that he’s worried about who can and can’t be at ringside during his WrestleMania match is beyond me. Especially since he beat the brakes off Drew at Elimination Chamber. But okay, sure. Following said shoddy logic, rather than having three guys, plus MVP’s cane at his side, the Almighty decided one King Corbin was enough. Then again, the way Cedric and Shelton were presented, maybe he’s right.

Saying WWE killed the best thing about Raw on Monday is entirely inaccurate. The truth is they pulled it apart the moment Cedric and Shelton lost their Raw Tag Team Championships and didn’t lift a pinky for a rematch. Based on what we know of The Hurt Business, that’s highly unlikely. Rather than fight for the belts and their WrestleMania match, they were chill about the whole thing. The fire and desire—no pun intended—other wrestlers have when they lose championships was weirdly absent.

Their situation was eerily reminiscent of Kofi Kingston’s in 2019. He finally wins the big one just to get fed to Brock Lesnar in front of a national television audience. This is a cat who fought for years just for the right to be mentioned in the same breath as WWE Champions, much less become one. Yet, he never demanded a rematch or made a plan to get that gold back around his waist. Plenty of men and women over the years said goodbye to championships. But according to WWE, the belts aren’t crucial to these three Black men. The fact they reached the mountaintop at all is a victory. Whether they scale the highest peaks again in their careers is inconsequential and entirely irrelevant.

To that, I have two words: bull and sh*t.

We never saw a group like The Hurt Business in WWE. They were heels-turned-faces due to the crazy amount of freedom they were given. Each member was a three-dimensional person instead of mustache-twirling villains. Given that only two of them have facial hair, that was probably out of the question anyway. But they were also different for Black men in wrestling. They weren’t too scary for White America, nor did they dance or tell jokes to disarm them. They were just another representation of the diversity within our culture.

Lashley is only the third Black WWE Champion in the company’s history. And his oh-too-short reign is more than likely ending at WrestleMania. Plus, his group probably disbanded to ensure he isn’t cheered over Drew, adding insult to a laundry list of injuries. Believe me, I want to be wrong. If this is all a swerve and the group celebrates its grand reopening next weekend, I’ll do cartwheels in the street.

But this is WWE. One need only to look at their WrestleMania co-host to understand why their track record on race continues to be trash. They just make it harder and harder to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The New Day is the most successful tag team in WWE history. There are multiple Black men, including Booker T and Mark Henry, who did very dope things with secondary championships. And their success is nothing to sneeze at. But for a group of Black men to be the supreme force in WWE is unheard of. For them to have the makings of a new Horsemen, complete with an untouchable tippy-top guy, is unthinkable. At least it was. Now we’ll always wonder, “what if.”

We all know the phrase “the sky’s the limit.” Well, to paraphrase an old Chris Rock joke, for Black men in WWE, until proven otherwise, “the limit is the sky.”

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