Unlike in previous decades, when Japanese wrestlers in the WWE were asked to play stereotypical roles that didn’t do them any favors, the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura and Asuka are, for the most part, made to look like credible threats in a company that still mostly features American wrestlers, despite the increasing presence of international talents. They’re also among the most popular wrestlers in their respective brands and divisions. The same could also be said about Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane who is quickly rising up the ranks in NXT. However, reports suggest that the Pirate Princess was the subject of some very ugly, racist jeers at a recent NXT live event, jeers that simply have no place in any era of pro wrestling fandom.
According to a report from Still Real To Us, a small group of fans decided to poke fun at Sane’s nationality and ethnicity, with one fan in particular shouting “remember Pearl Harbor” at the 29-year-old Japanese standout, as related by multiple people who attended the show. Another audience member tweeted that other fans yelled out “happy ending,” a clear reference to dated stereotypes about Asian massage parlor workers.
Instead of reacting angrily or showing her disgust at the fans, Sane took to Twitter to post her own wordless response to the taunts, sharing a comic that featured people of different races and genders holding hands around our planet.
Interestingly, the deplorable behavior exhibited by that group of NXT fans comes months after the WWE Universe rightfully called out Jinder Mahal for cutting racially charged promos against Shinsuke Nakamura during their feud for the WWE Championship. Although the promos were evidently a work, fans did not take nicely to Mahal calling Nakamura "Mr. Miyagi," and suggesting that American fans think that all Japanese people "look the same." As such, one of the promos was met by audible chants of "that was racist!" and "that's too far!"
Reports suggest that the racist taunts directed toward Kairi Sane were isolated, and not indicative of the general crowd response to the up-and-coming NXT Superstar. That's still no excuse for hitting below the belt, however. As for Sane's response to the race-baiting, kudos to her – by posting that wordless image about tolerance and acceptance, she proved to be a total class act. Here's hoping her NXT run continues to be smooth sailing, pun intended, and here's also hoping she doesn't have to encounter such ignorance from members of the WWE Universe going forward.