Never underestimate the power of generational knowledge. It is the lifeblood of wrestling, literally what keeps it alive. There is no wrestling manual you can pick up and read. No internet masterclass to take. Learning from someone else is the only way to break into professional wrestling.
The importance of this transfer of knowledge is doubly important for black wrestlers. Black wrestlers now permeate every facet of wrestling. From the bottom to the top of the card, you will find someone with years of lived experience. While not all Black wrestlers have chosen to pass on their unique perspective, many have shared their knowledge with the next generation.
The most obvious place to start is trainers. Once surrounded by a haze of toxicity, wrestling schools were designed to break people rather than build them up. However, wrestling schools aren’t the grueling slogs they used to be. These places, while still physically challenging, have shifted focus to learning. In an industry previously dominated by white males, Black voices have entered the wrestling school space and gone on to develop top-tier talent. Booker T helped train Athena, and A.Q.A. Curtis Hughes taught Kiera Hogan. Norman Smiley, a journeyman wrestler, now a tenured WWE performance center employee, helped train Brandi Rhodes. We can go even further back; Junkyard Dog trained Jazz, who runs a wrestling school with her husband, Rodney Mack.
The knowledge these trainers pass on is invaluable. No one can capture the Black experience better than someone who has lived it. Each person’s experience is unique. A collage of interactions with thousands of wrestlers. Their knowledge and perspective can help craft and refine your own or help build something that resonates with you and the audience. And hey, sometimes it’s easier to absorb something from someone you admire and who inspired you during your formative years.
This also comes with an added bonus for the trainers themselves. Not every wrestler has the clout to land a talent agent job or a word in the ear of a major promotion. Wrestling schools allow wrestlers to continue their legacy and train the next generation regardless of their position.
The transfer of knowledge does not start and stop with learning the ropes. Mentorship and scouting are other examples of wrestlers paying it forward. There is no better example than Mark Henry. As a talent scout for WWE, Henry was responsible for pointing scouting Bianca Belair and Jade Cargill toward the WWE tryouts. Henry has played such a pivotal role in Jade’s career, so much so that she cites Henry as a mentor. While this is not exactly sharing wisdom, it is the same premise, recognizing talent that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Generational knowledge is the beating heart that keeps wrestling alive. It has been a time-honored tradition. As the influence of Black wrestlers continues to grow, we will continue to see the past affect the present. Whether that is helping train wrestlers, landing them a WWE tryout, or even just something as simple as rethinking a move or retooling a persona, the generational knowledge of wrestling’s past will help the present flourish.