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‘The Rock’ Dwayne Johnson on Kofi Kingston being referred to as the first black WWE Champion

The Rock and Vince McMahon with the WWE Championship.
The Rock and Vince McMahon with the WWE Championship. Pic credit: WWE

There was a lot of debate after WrestleMania 35 ended due to Kofi Kingston being referred to as the first black WWE Champion.

To explain, the WWE Championship is the old WWF title that was held by names like Hulk Hogan, Bruno Sammartino, Macho Man Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, and Bret Hart.

That is not the same title that Booker T and Mark Henry won, which was the now-defunct WWE World Championship, the previous Big Gold Belt from WCW that was held by names like Ric Flair, Dusty Rhodes, Ricky Steamboat, and Harley Race.

That title had the actual first ever black world champion when Ron Simmons won the title while it was still in WCW. When it moved to WWE as a second world title, Mark Henry and Booker T won it as well.

However, the arguments were about why Kofi Kingston was called the first black man to hold the WWE Championship when The Rock Dwayne Johnson held it as well.

Johnson is half black (his father, Rocky Johnson, was the first black world tag team champion in WWE) and half Samoan (his mother is a blood relative of the legendary A’noi family).

Yokozuna was the first Samoan to win the title.

In 1998, The Rock won the WWE Championship as a half black-half Samoan world champion in WWE. He held the title eight times.

When The Rock saw people arguing about the idea of Kofi Kingston as the first ever black WWE Champion while dismissing him as a man booked as a Samoan, he chimed in.

The Rock said that he self-identifies as equally black and Samoan. He also said that he was never “booked” as a Samoan since he actually transcended race in WWE.

Remember, also, that The Rock was a member of the Nation of Domination when he broke out as a monster heel, and that was an entire stable built around the ideals of the legendary Black Panther Party and Nation of Islam. However, when he won his first world title, he had moved on to become bigger than that gimmick.

So, in reality, The Rock was the first black man to win the WWE Championship and did so multiple times, although he said that his title reigns had nothing to do with race and transcended those ideas completely.

Shawn S. Lealos has been a freelance writer for 25 years, starting with magazines and newspapers before moving to the internet. He has been published... read more
Shawn S. Lealos


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