Gail Kim, an Asian-Canadian who is one of the top female professional wrestlers today, recently left the TNA wrestling promotion to join the WWE. Coincidentally, (or may not so coincidentally), Lena Yada was released from WWE. While the official reason is that they didn’t think she was good enough to do more ring work, there are rumors that WWE management thought that Lena looked too much like Gail Kim. Gail is first and Lena is below. What do you think?
To be fair, I watch wrestling and I have never seen Lena Yada in a match. When she was on, she was usually doing interviews or doing something non-wrestling like being in a bikini contest. She is athletic, though, and competed in tandem surfing. Also, WWE has no shortage of white blond women in its Diva division. Prejudice (as some people claim) or just cost cutting?
I consider pro-wrestling to be a real window on what many Americans think. WWE shows like RAW and Smackdown have some of the high ratings on TV, and pro wrestling tries to play to a wide demographic. There is exoticism with characters like Sonjay “The Guru” Dutt (named to be similar to Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt), who has a guru character. “Jimmy Wang Yang” (played by James Yun, a half-Korean guy) is supposed to be the “Asian Redneck” who questions people on why he is he supposed to know where the nearest Chinese Restaurant is. His gimmick, which seems to question stereotypes, works because those stereotypes exist.
It’s also interesting to see what Asian-Americans do to make themselves more marketable. Dave Bautista, a half Filipino half Greek (he has a tatoo where a Filipino flag merges with a Greek flag) wrestler, changed his last name to Batista. Gail Kim got breast implants.
Finally, let’s note why Gail left TNA. Although she was one of their top stars, it’s rumored that she was made a contract offer less than 6 figures, and that WWE tripled that offer. It’s hard to say whether sexism, racism, or just bad business decisions lead to her lowball offer from TNA.