WWE alludes to Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 during ‘Battleground’ and it did not go over so well


(Evgeniy Maloletka/AP)

Update: The WWE issued an apology of sorts this afternoon and denied that Lana’s promo had anything to do with the MH17 plane crash. The company said in a statement Via Caged Side Seats:

“Last night’s segment during WWE’s Battleground event was in no way referring to the Malaysia Airlines tragedy. The storyline with characters Rusev and Lana has been a part of WWE programming for more than 3 months. WWE apologizes to anyone who misunderstood last night’s segment and was offended.”

***

The first time the WWE used a giant photograph of Russian President Vladimir Putin to elicit boos for its heels Lana and Rusev, a pair of Eastern Europeans who hate the United States, it was largely looked at as a success. A cheap one, sure, but this is pro wrestling we’re talking about and there was almost a certain throwback charm about setting up a classic USA vs. Russia feud.

But on Sunday night’s “Battleground” pay-per-view, the shtick became less amusing and more cringeworthy when CJ Parker Perry, the bilingual American who plays Lana, the acerbic Russian manager of Rusev (who both in real life and in the ring hails from Bulgaria), decided to allude to “recent current events” while ranting on the microphone about how Russia is better than the United States.

Obviously, almost everyone assumed Lana was referring to Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over Ukraine last week. Nearly 300 people died in the disaster, which may have been caused by a Russian-made missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. Sure, the WWE got the heat it was hoping for, for its two ex-Soviet heels, but the struggling company also got a full-scale backlash for its lowdown ploy on social media.

No doubt, the WWE’s decision to allude to “recent current events” was tasteless, but it could’ve easily been worse. Lana could’ve referred to Rusev as a pro-Russian separatist, or even blatantly mentioned the disaster by name.

After all, let us not forget the lows the WWE is capable to stooping to. Those familiar with the story lines of the early ’90s will remember one of the most offensive plots of all time — when Sgt. Slaughter came out in support of Saddam Hussein in the lead up to the first Gulf War. Instead of a few unfavorable tweets, Slaughter says he used to receive death threats.

Baby steps?

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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