Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (July 30, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: auburnpub.com

Wow wow wow good wrestling fans. Have we got a lot to talk about this week! Unlike previous installments, my thoughts for each category this week are more general. I am currently in the midst of a move out of the city (Chicago) to Evanston, so admittedly I didn’t have the sharpest eye to wrestling these last couple of weeks. But nonetheless, let’s get into it.

The Good
All. Women’s. Pay-per-view!

Did y’all hear me?

I popped so hard when Stephanie McMahon made that magical announcement. There is so much good that can come of this event. As per the announcement, all women’s titles will be defended that night, and we will also see the finals of the Mae Young Classic. In addition, female Superstars of the past will join in for the fun as well. The latter is especially exciting, because we could see nostalgia rivalries revived (Trish vs. Mickie anyone?) as well as dream match-ups between past and present performers — can you imagine Lita vs. Nikki Cross?!

Image credit: fanbuzz.com

Outside of all of the dream matches we can imagine in the next two months, the other major good in this is that it will (hopefully) mean that all of WWE’s women will get some screen time, and in turn, a payday. This could be WrestleMania to the women’s division every year, if WWE plays their cards right. Having several hours to work with will allow the women to actually take their time to work through matches, which is a luxury they usually aren’t afforded on pay-per-views with men. Let’s just hope they don’t try to do too much, or else fans will leave Evolution feeling just as cheated as they do any other pay-per-view in relation to the women.

With each milestone the women reach in WWE, I wonder when fans will pull back the curtain and demand that women receive the same pay as men, since they essentially perform at the same level as them now. But that’s a post for another day.

Aside from the historic news, one more good thing I noted these past few weeks was Sasha Banks’ performance in that now infamous backstage promo with Bayley. We’ll get into the promo and the fallout in the next section, but I don’t want people to sleep on Sasha’s performance in that isolated segment.

GIF credit: estboss4life.tumblr.com

People have often criticized the women, and often Sasha herself, for lack of promo skills, but in this segment Sasha showed that she took extra credit courses in Dusty Rhodes’ “promo class” in NXT. The sheer conviction in her voice, the shaky, near-tears intonation of her words — you really felt that she believed the words she was saying, and that’s rare on WWE TV, no matter the gender of the speaker. We need more segments like this for the women, and my hope is that we see them continue, especially in the buildup to Evolution.

The Bad
You know, I almost wish I could have written this post before RAW last week, when I and the rest of the fandom still had a bit of innocence about the Sasha/Bayley segment.

I liveblog RAW and Smackdown Live every week on Tumblr, and let me tell you, the fandom was a mess after Sasha uttered that first “I love you.” In the aftermath of the promo, I was swept into a whirlwind of theories as to where the feud was going. Was this going to be a gay romance storyline? Is this bait for one of them to turn heel? Was this done to spike ratings or re-ignite intrigue in this agonizingly long feud? Sometimes, WWE successfully throws fans for a loop, and regardless of our opinions of what exactly the loop in question is, that’s worthy of some praise.

However, and this is a big however, if the next week on RAW we just have the two squash two other local jobbers and have the announcers heavily friendzone the two in their commentary (using words like “sisters” and “friends”), why are we supposed to care about what happened the last week? We are being told that the two are only “friends,” and yet their body language last week spoke more than platonic.

My question is this: for as long as fans have invested in this feud, if this isn’t leading to a match, why should we care?

We as wrestling fans know that this sport is centered on matches. And anything that doesn’t lead to a match between the rivaling parties is almost always filler. A waste of our time. SummerSlam is truly the last hope for this feud, if you could even call it that anymore. I’m hoping that one of them turns heel and challenges the other at SummerSlam. The sell would be that it is the final match in their saga, in the same city where they tore the house down three years earlier in NXT. It couldn’t be a more poetic end to the feud, and then WWE can finally free each woman to go her own way. But is poetry too much to expect from Creative with this feud? Probably.

The Thorny
For the Thorny section, we venture over to Smackdown Live. I don’t have a fair amount to say about the action itself that took place on either week, but I now have some concrete evidence for the argument I made in this section in my last post.

Image credit: popculture.com

Becky is the new number one contender for the Smackdown Live women’s title. That’s great for her. It certainly has been a long time coming, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts.

But here’s the thing. She’s getting a title shot, and if WWE was smart, they would let Becky take the title off Carmella. They may not do it at SummerSlam, but with Becky’s momentum, it is inevitable in many fans’ eyes. The problem lies in that Becky is getting this shot after Asuka. Becky, who arguably went on a losing streak on the main roster simultaneously with Asuka’s winning streak in NXT, is getting a title shot after Asuka failed for some reason to capture the title. I would have been fine with Becky getting her push if Asuka was the champion, because that would have meant that WWE would have given Asuka the respect she deserved from all of her hard work in NXT. But not only has Asuka lost both title matches she was a contender for, she lost by foolish means both times.

This is what I mean when I say that certain women are not given the same chances in WWE. Between Asuka, Becky, and Carmella, Asuka is probably the superior. This could be argued from a fan standpoint, but in-storyline, it’s a fact. There is no viable, logical reason for Asuka to lose to someone like Carmella, even with interference. Asuka has been buried on the main roster, like so many other women of color when they were becoming just a little too popular.

And before you try to argue me by saying, “Well, white women can be buried too!” — I’d like to point out that while some white women may not be given as much screen time as others, if you look closely, rarely are they ever “buried.” They simply rotate in and out of the spotlight. Becky was in the background for a while, but she’s returning to the light. For women of color, it’s different.

Burying a woman of color is not putting her on TV if you have no plans for her (e.g. Alicia Fox) or her novelty wears off (e.g. Naomi and, inevitably, Ember Moon). Burying a woman of color means making her title reigns short and forgettable (e.g. Nia Jax and Sasha Banks). Burying a woman of color is making her lose crucial matches that would elevate her above her white counterparts if she gained victory (e.g. Asuka). When women of color are buried in WWE, it means setting them up to fail, or reach only modest success at best.

Image credit: gunshyghosts.tumblr.com

As much as I want to be happy for Becky getting a title shot, I have to stop myself. Because I cannot separate her rise coming at the expense of a woman of color being held back. And you shouldn’t either. We can’t say “Oh, I don’t mind that Carmella is champion, but WWE is treating Asuka unfairly,” because those two things are directly related.

If women of color are going to truly be given equal chances, we have to start correlating the success of our white faves with the suppression of our black and brown ladies.

***

SummerSlam is right around the corner, folks! And as certain as it is, I will be back here in two weeks to unpack the lead-up for you all.

Wish me luck on my move!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (July 16, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Hello good wrestling fans. I come to you with devastating news this week. After attempting to watch Extreme Rules yesterday — as I am wont to do using my brother-in-law’s account — I was given an error message upon trying to stream the pay-per-view, telling me that I needed a subscription to continue.

The heartbreak was real, friends, for me and my wallet. WWE figured out the madness behind people sharing streaming accounts. I was forced to subscribe to the network using my own email and payment information. I am recovering, but my innocence has truly been lost. Thanks, WWE. I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done.

In all seriousness, while it is annoying I now have to pay for a subscription, I can’t deny that it will pay for itself in time, or that I won’t use it. Plus, I have a feeling that sometime in the future, WWE will move away from PPV altogether, and the future will lie with the network and streaming.

Anyways, let’s crack on with the nylons and the midriffs. As usual, I’ll divide things between TV programs and the pay-per-view.

The Good

Photo cred: WWE.com

RAW and SD Live: Sadly I don’t have much for this section this week, but I will take time to comment on the matches between Ember Moon and Liv Morgan. Despite the fact that this pairing was likely thrown together willy nilly, the two put on solid matches on two separate RAW shows. I like that these two were given exposure on pretty dense shows, and both women looked good. Even if Liv lost both matches, to me, she looked strong in defeat, and Ember got to keep her momentum still being fresh to the main roster. For Liv in particular, it was good that she was given the spotlight to show off her wrestling skills, as backup members of any faction can easily be forgotten as legitimate threats between the ropes as well as outside of them. Nicely done.

Extreme Rules: None. Absolutely none.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: Here’s the thing: the weeks leading up to Extreme Rules were just plain bad for the women’s division. The buildup to both women’s title matches sucked, and other women’s segments were either pointless or nonexistent. And so much of what we did see was confusing with a lot of plot holes.

On the RAW side, we have the ongoing saga of Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax, with Natalya and Ronda Rousey as odd third and fourth wheels. I have so many questions:

  1. As mentioned in previous posts, why is Nia a face now when she was acting very heelish only a month or so ago? Is it because they’re both on Total Divas?
  2. Why are Nia and Natalya friends? Is it just because RAW is short stacked for face women to put in tag matches?
  3. Why is Nia being positioned simply as a placeholder for Ronda?

The mystery of Ronda is intriguing, but it becomes apparent every week in her absence that WWE just cannot write logical women’s segments or storylines. And that’s sad because 95% of their women’s roster is, you know, not Ronda Rousey.

And don’t even get me started on the Smackdown women’s division. James Ellsworth and Carmella are almost unwatchable to me at this point with how badly they are written and how sloppily both performers execute the material they are given. And poor Asuka…

Extreme Rules: …who deserves so much more than what she gets week in and week out. She continually is made to look like an imbecile by people who are cartoonish heels at this point. That match with Carmella was awful and you will not convince me otherwise. The booking, the pace, the execution, all of it. It’s matches like that that caused fans three years ago to cry out #GiveDivasAChance. How soon WWE forgets.

Image credit: 411mania.com

I don’t really have anything to say about the RAW women’s title match. I was indifferent to it, but I will say that it was predictable as all get out, especially since we’ve seen the face/heel dynamic between Alexa and Nia so much already at this point. The Ronda interference was fun, but I think it was poorly placed. She should have come out after Alexa’s win to assert herself as her new challenger. Interfering during the match itself felt trigger happy. It would have been more satisfactory if Alexa ate the punishment at the end rather than Mickie in the middle of the match.

The Thorny
RAW and SD Live: And we’re back to the Tale of the Never-Ending Feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley. I can’t believe I, along with other fansm really thought WWE had gotten it together a few weeks ago with that Bayley “heel turn.” There’s first the issue that Bayley was told by General Manager Kurt Angle that she needed to go to counseling to keep her job, on the very same RAW that Braun Strowman turned over Kevin Owens’ car and laughed about it. Not only was this the wrong move to make storyline-wise — because segments like these typically only work if they are comedy acts — but it also was very gendered.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

We do not threaten men’s jobs because they can’t get along with their cohorts. The fact that these women are being asked to essentially perform emotional labor to resolve their issues screams sexism. Men aren’t put in these kinds of segments, and if they are (a la, Team Hell No), we are supposed to laugh at it. And to top it all off, nothing even came of it!

This feud exposes a glaring problem in WWE’s women’s division. It once again proves that WWE is incapable of creating worthwhile storylines between women that don’t involve the title. Here we have two insanely talented Superstars that, lest we not forget, had Match of the Year in NXT and Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2015 because of their NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn title match, the first time for either that a women’s match had achieved that feat. If any two women could carry a feud without a title, it would be these two.

GIF credit: diva-dirt.com

But WWE is wasting them, because to focus on more than two feuds at one time in the women’s division is too difficult. We are able to create slow-burning non-title feuds with the men. Four matches at Extreme Rules were men’s non-title matches. Why, why can’t we do this for the women?

Extreme Rules: I don’t have anything yet, but only time will tell if the results will have long-standing implications.

***

That’s it, folks. Now we build to SummerSlam, and I’m hoping some marquee matches start to show themselves soon, because the division sorely needs it.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (July 2, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Credit: banksselection.tumblr.com

Hello good wrestling fans. I’m not going to beat around the bush with this post, because we have a lot to get through. I want us all to be caught up and acquainted with where things look to be going now that Money in the Bank is in the rearview. However, we’re still going to discuss MITB here, as well as the fallout from the pay-per-view on RAW and Smackdown Live. For post-PPV discussions, I’ll split up each usual section into two parts for the show and the subsequent TV installments. Let’s jump right in.

The Good
MITB: The women’s MITB ladder match was just fantastic. I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. The match had intrigue, excitement, plenty of spots, as well as suspense. Each woman had a chance to make her memorable mark on the match, and it didn’t seem that any one of them were dead weight (well, except for one, but we’ll get to that).

Credit: kennyomegasgf.tumblr.com

The crowd in Chicago (my city!) was also hot for this match, which only made it more fun to watch live at home. Special shout out to Sasha Banks, who continues to bump harder and sell more convincingly than her peers, male or female.

In addition to the ladder match, I must say that the Nia/Ronda match was well executed, especially considering how lackluster the build was for it.

RAW and SD Live: There were a few little nuggets of goodness on TV these past couple weeks. First, we’ll talk about The Tale of the Never-Ending Feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley. On the RAW after MITB, we saw multiple backstage segments threading through the show, culminating in a final declaration by Sasha that she was done with Bayley. This was good mostly for the execution; I’d love to see more women’s segments like this that seem to build on one another rather than just being one-offs to fill space on a show. It was nice to see some continuity in a women’s segment in a single episode of RAW, even if the actual content of the scenes left a lot to be desired. We’re going somewhere at least.

And then, we had Bayley beat the life out of Sasha the next week, leading the audience to believe she’s turning heel. Again, I’m unsure if I agree with that move — as Sasha makes a far better heel, especially in this rivalry — but I am captivated at the movement of this feud. I’m seriously hoping this culminates in a match at SummerSlam, especially since WWE has missed so many marquee match opportunities with these two. I’ll keep my reservations on the heel/face dynamic after the two go to counseling on RAW tonight *eye roll*.

In other news, Becky Lynch seems to finally be getting a push! This is sorely needed for her, and with Charlotte out of commission for the next several weeks, this is a golden opportunity for Becky and WWE Creative to assert her as a top woman in the SD Live women’s division. Also, the segment between Alexa Bliss and Ronda Rousey was very well done. It felt very Attitude Era, with Ronda storming to the ring to whoop ass and take names later. And her backstage interview after it all didn’t mince words — exactly the way that Ronda should be portrayed.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfJuw5EfXAE&w=560&h=315]

The Bad
MITB: I know a lot of fans (*cough* namely male) didn’t really mind the ending to the SD Women’s Title match, but considering the long term booking….this was bad. If it wasn’t bad enough that she lost to someone who likely couldn’t convincingly wrestle a mop, Asuka, at one time seen as one of the most dangerous women on the roster, was made to look like a fool because someone appeared wearing her entrance garb?

Asuka deserved to win that match. She needed that win after losing her streak. WWE is diminishing her to be Just Another Woman on the roster, and that’s one of the biggest mistakes they could make. When you have something special, you need to tout it as such. Carmella cannot hold a candle to Asuka in the ring. She couldn’t even hold Asuka’s robe. There’s no reason she should have won.

RAW and SD Live: Sort of recapping stories already discussed above, the logistics of the biggest women’s feuds right now are lacking. The Sasha/Bayley feud has been so overdone that you can barely manage to digest it now that it finally is happening. For as long as we’ve waited for the trigger to be pulled, it is disappointing that the timing is too little, too late. WWE needs to act quickly to make up for lost time or risk irrevocably tarnishing these women’s gimmicks for years to come.

In more Fierce Women Who Deserve Better news, Asuka continued to be chumped by Carmella, falling down to a single superkick from the champion.

Credit: lastwordonwrestling.com

I can understand to an extent the point that WWE is trying to make, that the Asuka of old is dead, but must they do so at the expense of logic? If you’re going to do this with Asuka, at least make her opponent someone who can match her between the ropes.

One last thing: Why is Mickie James just a sidekick to Alexa Bliss??? Is she not a six-time women’s champion? She deserves so much more than she is being given. I’m not sure if this is ageism, or Mickie wanting to work a more limited schedule (which I doubt, she knew what she was signing up for), or “waiting until the right time” or what, but given that she is older than the other ladies, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to get the best out of her while you have her? For as long as she has been in the busines grinding, she is owed her crowning final run.

The Thorny

Credit: pinterest.com

No need to split this section up, because I’ll be blunt: WWE’s obsession with blonde white women is ruining the women’s division. Period.

This will likely be a recurring critique in this series, but I’m so tired of it and it bears as much repeating as is necessary. The evidence in this instance is that, once again, two blonde white women are champion over much more deserving women of color (with some exceptions).

It was infuriating to see Alexa win the briefcase and even more so when she cashed in to win back the title a mere two months after losing it. Nia was booked horribly during her short run as champion. I don’t care if the feud between Alexa and Ronda makes sense after this shady booking. It still screwed over Nia, who could have been a monster of a champion if she was booked correctly, literally and figuratively.

Consider that Alexa has been on the roster for only two years but is already a five-time champion. Five times! Like Booker T! At least Charlotte has wrestling ability to justify her reign at the top. Alexa doesn’t have that, and she won the briefcase over women that could have used the push from a MITB win. I’m thinking Sasha, Ember, Naomi, and even Becky who, to add insult to worked injury, looked silly when she was at the top of the ladder fake-fumbling with the briefcase because Alexa missed her spot.

Carmella gets the same critique. She rises when her non-white opponent continues to fall from grace, even if the announcers try to sell us otherwise. Good mic skills should not be able to carry in-ring mediocrity this far, at least not in this era of WWE.

Although WWE promotes a “women’s evolution” within its brand, the politics of it all has stayed the same: the most marketable women are those that match the conventionally attractive and desirable template for white male viewers, and that is blonde and white. When will that empire fall?

***

Whew. That was a long one. But I think we’re all ready to look to the next few weeks before Extreme Rules. Now go back to your Netflix account so you can finish binging GLOW.

Stay legit bossy,
AC