WWE Battleground took place on Sunday night and the wrestling company has drawn criticism after they appeared to reference the Malaysian Airlines MH17 tragedy in a segment during their pay-per-view.
In the pre-match trash talking leading up to the Alexandre Rusev v Jack Swagger match-up, on-screen associate for Rusev, Russian-themed character Diva Lana, asked the crowd, “You blame Russia for recent events.” The speech seemed to refer to the MH17 tragedy in which a passenger plane was shot down on July 17th.
Used to get heat
Wrestlers and their associates dominate the mic before matches to get the crowd worked up, and WWE often use other means to make sure that fans root against a certain wrestler.
Rusev is known as the brute Russian who is pro Vladimir Putin. WWE even used a picture of Putin in recent weeks to stir up some hate towards Rusev. It gets fans involved more, but they went too far on Sunday night.
Lana, real name Catherine Joy Perry (from the US), didn't actually mention MH17, but considering the debate currently raging about Russia's possible involvement in the crash, the audience in the stadium and fans at home reacted angrily.
Social media hate
Many fans responded to the Russian reference on Twitter angrily, with some demanding that WWE take action and fire those responsible.
“Oh did the WWE just do a Malaysia Airline Tragedy reference? Someone needs to be fired for that,” Mohamed Mohamed stated on Twitter.
While Alfred Sumrall took an even dimmer view, “Watches WWE stock drop 98% tomorrow as a character who was once a FSU Cowgirl blames the US for Malaysia Flight 17 being shot down.”
Courted criticism before
This is not the first time that WWE has run some potentially offensive storylines during a time of sensitivity across the globe. It wouldn’t be surprising if the hate surrounding this latest borderline story forces WWE to scrap the Rusev storyline altogether.
WWE had a similar situation with their former superstar Muhammad Hassan. That particular character had Arabic roots bemoaning Muslim stereotypes but he was pulled following a terrorism storyline that proved controversial.