Kenny King is part of a new ROH Roundtable series which discusses racial and social issues in the United States. This comes on the heels of recent social unrest in the country and he discussed how the movement is affecting him personally when he joined The Wrestling Inc Daily podcast.
"I'm interested in real change so I don't give a damn about Aunt Jemima. I don't care about these surface shows of nothingness," said King. "It's great that it's being more acknowledged in our subconscious and our collective culture is not abrasive to it. But I still need – and it would be a nice time to say it – to see the arrests of the killers of Breonna Taylor and things like that. We are starting to see incremental change.
"One of my good friends I went to college with is a lieutenant with the St. Pete Police Department. I saw something where they said St. Pete PD is now going to start not sending police officers to things that are not life-threatening. Mental health, suicide – things that in a lot of these cases because people are behaving erratically and police officers don't have the training to deal with that, then sometimes police officers can escalate a situation because they don't have the training. When I spoke to my friend about this I said, 'What do you think' and he said you'd be surprised at how many police officers are down for this. We have been spread thin and assigned to things we have no training for but we're the garbage guys. We're the all clean-all and this is something that everybody in the department is behind.
"So, things like that and when you get into conversations like defund the police, I don't think anybody wants to defund the police. But when it comes to why are police dispatched to suicides when there's mental health issues? When there's violent crimes and things like that, absolutely and that's what we need them for. But if you can see how many things have been escalated due to an armed presence when maybe it didn't need to or how many things went left when it should have just went right, that's the thinking that's come from all of this. People are thinking what's the path we can take rather than always sending armed response to everything and hoping that things deescalate."
King then brought the discussion on racial issues to pro wrestling and how wrestling can do a better job of not falling into stereotypes.
"As part of the roundtable – and I say this in the roundtable and I'll say it again – it's a conversation I had with Vince Russo about black talent," recalled King. "He asked me why I felt there's been a lack of top-tier black talent and I said, 'The finger goes directly at you Vince. It's people like yourself who write the shows and you only write black talent from your perspective which is as gangsters or hustlers or pimps or these caricatures.' When you look at Triple H or Randy Orton, these are three-dimensional fully fleshed out characters. Triple H can be the Cerebral Assassin or The Game. He can be all of these different things which allows you to say that Triple H can be this main event talent because look at how many layers he has.
"When you look at R-Truth who raps and if you know Ron Killings like I know Ron Killings, he has multiple layers. There are multiple more interesting things about Ron Killings than R-Truth the rapper. But we don't get to see that or connect with Ron on that level that we need to connect with a world champion. We have to connect emotionally and I have to want to care for your well-being if I want to see you as a world champion or vice versa. But if you're not fully fleshed out and my character hasn't been allowed to show you all the things about myself that allow you to care about me or hate me, then that's why these things fall flat."
He then questions why Titus O'Neil isn't allowed to bring his out-of-ring life into his on-screen character. He also noted how Hispanics and Asians get stereotypes such as Asian talent being made into karate masters.
"Wrestling kind of mimics society so if we stop seeing black people as gangsters and thugs in the wrestling culture then maybe we'll stop seeing them as gangsters and thugs in regular culture," said King. "All of this subliminal messaging kinda bounces off one another."
King then talked about how racial inequality or racism has affected him personally in wrestling.
"When I was breaking in there were only so many spots for black guys on a roster and certainly only so many mid-to-high level spots. When I would choose where I wanted to go to work, I would have to see who's there. Is there a spot for me there or is there already a top black guy there? If there is then maybe I'll be pushed to the side. Or is someone else there because if not, I also don't wanna just get tagged together because we're two black guys," stated King.
"I've wrestled in almost every state and I've been called every name in the book as a bad guy but that's my job. But it's the nuance and there was a joke that all of us used to have where me, Bobby Lashley, MVP and D-Lo would be standing around backstage at TNA. With the four of us one of us would say, 'Hey man, we can't stand around and congregate. We don't want Dixie to know there's this many of us employed.' These are inside jokes that nobody would ever know but they are low-key serious to us because at that stage every one of us has kinda looked around at said, 'Damn, it's only me or there's only someone else that looks like me' and a lot of my white counterparts have never had to feel that way. It's just nuanced and a lot of racial inequality is nuanced."
As a father, King discussed how he's dealing with this moment in time with both the Black Lives Matter movement and the pandemic.
"It's tough because 'the talk' is generational and you only realize that when you have kids. At the beginning of the pandemic I went documentary-crazy and I realized we do this in America every 7-8 years or so. Something happens due to racial inequality and then something that supposedly happens justice-wise and the justice system falls apart and sh*t starts burning. So, it's a rotated circle," said King.
King noted moments in time that have been like this one, such as the Tulsa Riot and the LA riots. He talked about how these moments in time always surround the same things, saying it's depressing and that no one wants to have to say "Black Lives Matter" as it's embarrassing to have to remind people.
"To have to tell my son and my daughter what to watch out for and worry when they leave the house – not to mention there's a pandemic and nobody really knows what the hell is going on with that either. They look to us for information and leadership and if the leadership I depend on is lousy, then it's hard. It's hard to have kids and keep them safe and keep their confidence when there's so many things in flux," admitted King. "There's so many things that continue to happen and you wanna tell them, 'Well, things are getting better.' And some things are getting better but some things remain the same which is why we keep on putting our head on the same wall."
Kenny King is a panelist on the new ROH Roundtable sessions addressing racial issues in the United States of America and pro wrestling. You can check out the debut ROH Roundtable by clicking HERE. Kenny's full interview aired as part of today's episode of our podcast, The Wrestling Inc. Daily. Subscribe to get the latest episodes as soon as it's released Monday - Friday afternoon by clicking here.