Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (September 17, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Greetings wrestling fans, and welcome to the post-Hell in a Cell edition of Nylons and Midriffs. The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least, in both exciting and mildly worrisome ways. As per usual, I will divide the discussion between the two weekly WWE shows and the most recent pay-per-view.

The Good
RAW and SD Live: Renee Young! As many of us know by now, Renee Young recently became the first woman to claim a permanent seat at the announcer’s desk in WWE. I won’t stick my grubby, cynical fingers into this one; it is simply marvelous news! Renee has more than earned her place among the greatest on-air personalities past and present. I am happy that her consistency and likability has translated into an opportunity that will open doors for women announcers in the future. In addition, I liked how WWE announced this historic event, welcomed Renee to her seat at the table, and kept the show moving. There was no back-patting or repeated mentions of “women’s evolution.” WWE gave Renee an opportunity to shine, and then allowed her work to speak for itself. I wish WWE would do this more with “historic” women’s announcements.

Hell in a Cell: And your NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion…Becky Lynch! This is fantastic!

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Becky had an amazing bout with Charlotte Flair at the pay-per-view. Their chemistry is electric and they play off one another’s movesets so well. And what’s more, I felt different watching this Charlotte match. For the first time in a long time, my gut told me that Charlotte might not win. The action was unpredictable and compelling, and in my opinion, the best woman won. That finish came out of nowhere! Let us hope that this title win only adds to Becky’s heel development.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: Oh, the Bellas…

Image credit: supernickiminaj.tumblr.com

WWE is at it again with their revisionist history of events with the retelling of how the Bellas were an integral part of the Women’s Evolution. Outside of the exclusion of AJ Lee from any conversation regarding the origins of this supposed movement, WWE also wants us to forget that the Bellas were portrayed as active antagonizers to the women’s movement when it began in 2015. Many fans recall that it was against the Bellas that Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha Banks debuted.

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

What’s more, it is painfully transparent that the timing of the Bellas’ return coincides not just with the dawn of the Evolution pay-per-view, but also the premiere of a WWE-adjacent reality show they star in. The revolutionizing of the Bellas in WWE is a ploy to fit into their capitalist ventures which, as I’ve discussed many times, is antithetical to feminism. The Bellas represent the “Diva” of yesteryear, and while they can both hold their own in the ring decently enough (Nikki perhaps better than Brie), I think it is disingenuous of WWE to suggest that they measure up to the in-ring capabilities of their peers based off of association alone.

HIAC: In a rare sort of critique, I am going to complain about WWE giving exposure to women when it isn’t actually necessary. Case in point is the insertion of Brie Bella and Maryse into the Miz and Daniel Bryan feud. While even I find it awesome to see couples (and new moms!!!) square up in the ring, the whole angle flopped at HIAC. I understand Maryse being a cowardly heel, but she ran away from Brie at the expense of both women participating in the match in a meaningful way. The men carried about 90% of the action. This might have been for the best in the end, given Brie’s unimpressive performances in her comeback matches before this one. But still, if they weren’t going to be booked to wrestle one-on-one, then why go through the trouble of including them at all? As props to their husbands?

The Thorny
I don’t feel a need to split this section in two, as I have a general critique. In this section, I look at problematic patterns of women’s representation in WWE and discuss how they may hurt fan perception of the product down the line. That idea is what brings me to something I’ve noticed the past several weeks, months even. WWE has arbitrarily putting women in pairs or groups with other women, and they suddenly become factions. You have Sasha and Bayley of course, then Alexa Bliss with her lackeys Mickie James and Alicia Fox. They’ve paired Ronda Rousey with Natalya, and now Asuka with Naomi.

Image credit: foxsports.ph

As fans, we have to see through what WWE is doing. I’m seeing more women on TV in recent weeks, but it still somehow does not leave me feeling more satisfied with female representation. And I’ve figured out that the faction-forming happening within the women’s division is just another lazy way of putting women on our screens without having to write storylines for them or put them in matches. The association game WWE is playing with the women is seriously holding some of them back, and preventing them from shining individually. I understand that not every woman is going to be able to shine at one time. But, it would feel a little better if the writers could at least pretend to recognize the individuality of each woman’s ambitions. I’d hardly like to think that Mickie James’ aspirations upon returning to WWE included being a backup dancer to a bleach blonde rookie.


Although this post may mot reflect it, I do believe WWE is heading generally in a good direction with the women’s division. Yet, I suppose as a fan you wonder how slowly the ship can move and still call itself progressing forward. Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,

WWE and WizKids: An opportunity to rethink game theory


by David Beard, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, University of Minnesota Duluth

WizKids has announced that they have licensed WWE intellectual property for their tabletop games.

WizKids, the leader in high-quality pre-painted miniatures and established board games, today announced a new multi-year licensing partnership with WWE, with plans to bring the organization’s iconic Superstars to the tabletop with successful gaming platforms HeroClix and Dice Masters as well as branded board games.

The partnership will bring the likeness of popular WWE Superstars, including John Cena®, The Rock®, Charlotte Flair®, Roman Reigns® and The Undertaker®, in addition to WWE Hall of Famers such as “Stone Cold” Steve Austin® and Trish Stratus™ to several gaming platforms, including Dice Masters, HeroClix and Boxed Strategy Games.

Product will be available in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia and Europe. The first release is slated to hit shelves in 2019.

This is an opportunity, I think, to introduce a variety of game theory to readers of the PWSA blog.  It’s also an opportunity to rethink both these tabletop games and the pro wrestling product from within this theory.

About GNS Theory

The fastest summary of GNS can be found on Wikipedia, and I’m slicing bits of it below.

A gamist makes decisions to satisfy predefined goals in the face of adversity: to win.

Narrativism relies on outlining (or developing) character motives, placing characters into situations where those motives conflict and making their decisions the driving force.

Simulationism is a playing style recreating, or inspired by, a genre or source. Its major concerns are internal consistency, analysis of cause and effect …[E]vents unfold according to internal rules. Combat may be broken down into discrete, semi-randomised steps for modeling attack skill, weapon weight, defense checks, armor, body parts and damage potential. Some simulationist RPGs explore different aspects of their source material, and may have no concern for realism; Toon, for example, emulates cartoon hijinks.

Heroclix attracts players of multiple sorts. within this typology.

Some Heroclix players are very passionate about the narrative component:  while Heroclix allows DC and Marvel heroes to work within the same game system, they resist the idea that Superman and Spider-Man would ever be on the same team.  They might even bristle at the narrative unlikeliness of Superman and the Joker existing on the same team;  they exist within the same universe, but the narrative that would yoke them together on the same teach would be tortured.

Others are drawn to the game dimension:  they want to maximize their chances to win, based on the statistics of the individual pieces.  They tend to reduce the pieces to statistics and run these statistics, not the heroes and villains, against each other — much, I suppose, like a Fantasy Football player might.  [I’ve never played Fantasy Football, so this is extrapolation on my part.]

Occasionally, I have heard players complain about the simulation component — when they complain that a piece is “overpowered,” that can be a complaint from the perspective of gamism in that they want the game to be balanced for equitable chances to win.  But it can also be a complaint from the perspective of simulationism.  If, within the world of the comics, it seems unlikely that Howard the Duck could defeat Galactus, but the piece seems overpowered enough to make it possible, the complaint that the Howard the Duck piece is overpowered is rooted in simulation.

Already, you can imagine the possibilities for players of a WWE-branded Heroclix.  Who will win if the Undertaker fights Spider-Man?  Is Rey Mysterio as athletic as Nightwing/Robin?


About GNS Theory in the Ring

More provocatively, though:  Can GNS theory explain responses to actual professional wrestling?  Is a Mark just someone who wants to experience wrestling through the lens of gamism?  Does a Mark become a Smark when simulation breaks down?  [The childhood moment that broke the illusion for me was when Randy Savage crushed Ricky Steamboat’s larynx, allegedly;  I didn’t believe Steamboat could recover that quickly and so quickly came to believe that the whole enterprise was fake.]  And narrative, narrative, the dimension of wrestling that yarders never master, the dimension that makes wrestling the most popular form of American theatre.

Maybe recreating wrestling in the engines of Heroclix will open up new ways of thinking about Wrestling, too?


Review – All In

Fan Reviews, Scholarly Wrestling Reviews

For those unaware, All In, which took place at the Sears Centre Arena just outside Chicago, IL on September 1, 2018, came about because of a tweet posted on May 16, 2017 by Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer. In the tweet, Meltzer denied that an independent wrestling promotion like Ring of Honor (ROH) could ever sell out a large arena like Madison Square Garden. Former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstar turned indie darling Cody Rhodes decided to prove Meltzer wrong, teaming with Matt and Nick Jackson (collectively known as The Young Bucks) to organize the biggest independent wrestling show in at least 20 years, if not more. Cody and the Bucks took a huge chance on this show, because it held the potential to be a disaster of epic proportions, especially if the trio failed to fill the venue as promised. Luckily for them, a reported 11,263 rabid wrestling fans heeded the call, filling the Sears Centre to capacity and making All In both a resounding success and a historic (not to mention potentially game-changing) event that took the professional wrestling world by storm.

As Uproxx’s Brandon Stroud pointed out, Cody and the Bucks put together a show that celebrated the past, present, and future of professional wrestling. They made sure to book matches and performers that offered a little something for everyone, from casual fans to the smarkiest of smarks to the curmudgeonly old school types who lament the death of kayfabe and feel that people like Joey Ryan (who practically stole the show with his brief appearance) are “killing the business.” Over the course of five hours, All In turned the National Wrestling Alliance’s (NWA) World’s Heavyweight Championship into the most important title in wrestling, showcased some of the best professional wrestlers in the world, provided a platform for several young up-and-coming wrestlers who deserve wider recognition, paid homage to the stars of the past, and entertained fans with some incredible wrestling. In other words, it was a great show from top to bottom, serving as a nice antidote to the homogenized—and frankly stale—product offered by WWE (though even that has its place in the world of professional wrestling).

The show itself was preceded by All In: Zero Hour, an hour-long preshow event that aired live on WGN America and kicked off with a quick but brutal match between Southern California Uncensored or SCU (comprised of Frankie Kazarian and Scorpio Sky) and The Briscoe Brothers (Jay Briscoe and Mark Briscoe). Though somewhat sloppy at times, the match was fast-paced and entertaining, and it served as a good way to start the whole event because it perfectly encapsulated the feeling of All In: exciting, fun, hard-hitting, different, and not always pretty (the Briscoes were famously deemed too ugly for WWE). SCU picked up the win after Kazarian reversed a springboard doomsday device and hit Mark Briscoe with a vicious powerslam before successfully pinning him.


Image credit: https://www.tpww.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/all-in-zero-hour.jpg

This was followed by the Over Budget Battle Royal, which featured some of the top stars from ROH, Impact Wrestling, and the indie circuit. The match was characterized by fast and furious action, but every single participant got a spotlight thanks to some great storytelling. Indeed, the frantic and fun battle royal showcased the friendship between Chuck Taylor and Trent Barretta, the tenacity of newcomer Marko Stunt, the power of Jordynn Grace (the only woman in the match), and more. Of course, the match’s ultimate purpose was to get Flip Gordon (repeatedly excluded from participating in All In by Rhodes) onto the main show. ROH mainstay Bully Ray (aka Bubba Ray Dudley) appeared to win the match but was ultimately eliminated by Gordon, who was disguised as masked wrestler Chico El Luchador. Thus, Gordon earned a title shot against ROH champion Jay Lethal later in the night (more on that in a bit).

All In proper began with three preliminary matches, starting with a thrilling singles match between MJF and veteran indie wrestler Matt Cross, who also portrays fan-favorite character Son of Havoc on Lucha Underground. After some exciting back-and-forth action, Cross hit MJF with a pitch-perfect shooting star press and emerged victorious. After that, Arrow star Stephen Amell faced “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels (the third member of SCU) in a brutal contest that saw Amell jump from the top rope only to crash through a table on the floor. Despite some minor botches here and there, Amell acquitted himself well and delivered a respectable performance. It helped that he was in the ring with a knowledgeable veteran like Daniels, one of the best wrestlers of the past 20 years. Following the table spot, Daniels rolled Amell back into the ring and nailed him with the Best Moonsault Ever to win the match. Next up, Chelsea Green, Madison Rayne, Britt Baker, and Tessa Blanchard competed in a four-corner survival match that constituted the only women’s match on the card. All four women gave it their all throughout the match, and the crowd responded to their efforts by cheering wildly and chanting “This is awesome!” more than once. Blanchard eventually won the match after hitting a hammerlock DDT on Green, and while this was the absolute right choice, the ending still felt somewhat off (it seemed like either Rayne or Baker were supposed to break up the pin but missed the cue). Nevertheless, this was a truly exhilarating match that culminated with all four women celebrating together in the ring.


Image credit: https://statics.sportskeeda.com/editor/2018/09/05f8b-1536103448-800.jpg

The crowd was still buzzing as a video package played to set up the next contest, which saw Cody Rhodes challenge Nick Aldis for the NWA World’s Heavyweight Championship. Rhodes made his way to the ring accompanied by an entourage that included his wife Brandi, his dog Pharoah, and coaches Diamond Dallas Page, Glacier, and Tommy Dreamer. Aldis, meanwhile, walked to the ring alongside Sam Shaw, Shawn Daivari, and Jeff Jarrett (who received a cool reception from the crowd). The match felt like an extended homage to the NWA matches of the past, complete with an injury angle, a blade job by Cody, a run-in by Daivari (who ran straight into a Diamond Cutter delivered by DDP), and a lot of old school grappling from bother performers. It also featured plenty of drama and powerful storytelling. For instance, near the end of the match, Aldis climbed to the top rope to deliver a diving elbow drop on an unconscious Cody, only for Brandi to throw herself on top of her husband’s prone body and take the brunt of the move. This sacrifice allowed Cody to recover and hit Aldis with a Disaster Kick followed by a Cross Rhodes for the win. The post-match celebration was possibly the most emotionally powerful moment of the night, as a tearful Cody clutched the belt that his father, Dusty, helped make famous.

The next match wrapped up one of the longest-running storylines on the Bucks’ YouTube series Being the Elite and led to All In’s funniest (and possibly best) moment. “Hangman” Adam Page faced “Bad Boy” Joey Janela in a Chicago Street Fight that remained mostly confined to the ring and the surrounding area but still managed to be both vicious and innovative. Each man unleashed and endured brutal punishment during the encounter, though Janela absorbed most of it and was visibly bruised and battered by the end of the match. At one point, Janela’s valet, Penelope Ford, entered the ring and showed off her impressive athletic skills as she tried to save her man from Page’s devastating assault. However, even this was not enough to stop Page’s rampage as he continued to pummel Janela throughout the match, which ended when Page laid out Janela with a Rite of Passage off the top of a ladder through a table in the middle of the ring. After the match, in a moment that recalled The Undertaker’s entrance, the arena lights went out and a video of Joey Ryan, killed by Page several months earlier (watch Being the Elite for the full story), appeared on the screen. A bloody and seemingly deceased Ryan lay in a hotel bed, but then his penis started moving, indicating there was still life in the body (seriously, watch Being the Elite). At that point, a procession of men dressed in inflatable penis costumes solemnly marched to the ring followed by Ryan, who emerged to thunderous applause. Ryan performed his patented YouPorn Plex on a stunned Page, who was then carried from the arena by the Dick Druids (for lack of a better term) while the crowd cheered. Side note: Professional wrestling is amazing.


Image credit: https://411mania.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/joey-ryan-all-in-entrance-645×366.jpg

Up next was the ROH title match between Gordon and Lethal, who wrestled as Black Machismo, a gimmick centered around Lethal’s spot-on “Macho Man” Randy Savage impersonation. Savage’s brother, Lanny Poffo (who previously wrestled for WWE as “Leapin’” Lanny Poffo and The Genius), even accompanied Lethal to the ring. The match started with Lethal and Gordon performing an extended homage to the Savage/Steamboat match from WrestleMania III via a sequence of moves that recalled that seminal match. It was an impressive performance from both men, who managed to balance the wackiness and the drama almost perfectly. About halfway through the match, Lethal “woke up” from his daze and wrestled the rest of the match as himself. From that point on, the action ramped up as both men hit big moves on their opponent and, in true ROH style, kicked out of multiple finishers. Gordon showed a lot of heart and was clearly the crowd favorite, but nonetheless he failed to earn the victory. After an intense battle, Lethal hit his signature move, the Lethal Injection, to defeat Gordon and retain the ROH title. After the match, the two competitors shook hands in a show of mutual respect but were interrupted by a returning Bully Ray who was looking for a measure of revenge against Gordon. Bully Ray beat down both men, but thankfully Chicago’s own Colt Cabana came out to make the save, teaming with Gordon and Lethal to put Bully Ray through a table via a triple powerbomb.

This triumphant moment was followed by two dream matches, starting with “The Cleaner” Kenny Omega taking on Penta El Zero M (aka AAA and Lucha Underground star, Pentagon, Jr.). Back in 2017, during a six-man tag team match that took place at PWG’s Battle of Los Angeles (BOLA), Omega squared off against Penta for the first time ever in a brief confrontation that only left fans wanting more. Thankfully, Cody and the Bucks were more than willing to give the people what they wanted, and they booked Omega vs. Penta in a singles match at All In. The two competitors faced off in a thrilling encounter marked by some truly hard-hitting action, with each man throwing their most devastating moves at the other throughout the nearly 20-minute match. Omega hit Penta with several V Triggers (one of his signature moves), while Penta retaliated with several wicked chops and a devastating package piledriver on the ring apron. Yet, despite their best efforts, neither man could put the other away. That changed, however, when Omega managed to finally hit Penta with One-Winged Angel after repeated failed attempts. This allowed Omega to come out on top, much to the delight of the fans in attendance, who remained loud and rowdy throughout the entire encounter.


Image credit: https://lwosonprowrestling.ms.lastwordonsports.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2018/08/all-in-penta-omega.jpg

The next dream match saw “The Villain” Marty Scurll battle “The Rainmaker” Kazuchika Okada one-on-one. The story of the match was that Scurll wanted to prove he was main event talent by beating one of the very best wrestlers in the entire world. Okada, meanwhile, abandoned his recent crazy gimmick (which he adopted after losing the IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Omega) in favor of his seemingly unstoppable “Rainmaker” persona for the match at All In. Even with this development, the match proved grueling for both men, who hit each other with everything they had as they struggled to pick up the win. Scurll looked like a top contender throughout the contest, holding his own against a massively overpowered opponent. At the same time, Okada demonstrated exactly why he is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, appearing charismatic and tough while executing some of the most exciting moves ever seen in a professional wrestling ring. The match also featured some excellent storytelling, as each man got to strut their stuff and bust out their signature moves in some exhilarating ways. For instance, Scurll has recently been dogged by chants of “205,” a reference to WWE’s 205 Live and his less-than-heavyweight stature. At one point, Okada made “205” gestures with his right hand as a prelude to hitting Scurll with his finisher, the Rainmaker, but this momentary act of hubris allowed Scurll to grab Okada’s fingers and “break” them using one of his own signature moves. Ultimately, Okada came out on top after nailing Scurll with two consecutive Rainmakers, but Scurll left the ring looking like a main-event-caliber performer.

The show concluded with a chaotic six-man tag team match in which New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) star Kota Ibushi teamed with the Bucks against Rey Fénix, Bandido, and legendary luchador Rey Mysterio (who came to the ring dressed like Wolverine of the X-Men). Sadly, the match was pressed for time and the performers had to hurry to hit all their spots, marring the flow of the contest somewhat. Nevertheless, it was a fun encounter that featured a couple of fantastic sequences, most notably a one-on-one face-off between Ibushi and Mysterio that, like Omega/Penta at BOLA, left the crowd wanting more. Everyone else got a moment to shine, though Bandido benefited the most from the match; it was a perfect venue for him to strut his stuff and show the crowd exactly why he is currently one of the most buzzworthy wrestlers around. The match ended when the Bucks hit Bandido with the Meltzer Driver and pinned him for the win. Afterward, all the performers embraced and celebrated together while the crowd roared their approval. As the luchadors walked to the back, Cody, Brandi, Omega, and Matt and Nick’s families came to the ring. Cody and the Bucks then delivered an impassioned speech about how All In represented a revolution in professional wrestling, and they credited the massive crowd with helping to make it happen. After some concluding remarks from Omega, the performers retreated backstage to a standing ovation from the rowdy crowd.


Image credit: https://lwosonprowrestling.ms.lastwordonsports.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2018/08/all-in-penta-omega.jpg

It remains to be seen if the show is indeed the game changer that Cody and the Bucks claim, but one thing is certain: All In felt like something different, something that absolutely has the potential to alter the professional wrestling landscape, long dominated by WWE and its brand of sports entertainment. That Cody and the Bucks managed to book an independent wrestling show that sold out a large arena and attracted 11,263 people suggests that wrestling fans are hungry for a change and want something more than what they get from WWE programming. Indeed, the crowd responded enthusiastically when Matt and Nick teased the possibility of a second All In (title suggestion: “All In – Too Sweet”), suggesting that any potential follow-up show would likely draw as many people as the first. The runaway triumph of All In also demonstrates the power of social media holds over professional wrestling because Cody and the Bucks accomplished this historic feat largely due to their savvy use of platforms like YouTube and Twitter.

Ultimately, All In shined a light on the larger professional wrestling world beyond the confines of WWE, which was always at its best when facing competition from other companies (such as WCW). This is why it is ultimately pointless to compare what Cody and the Bucks did to what Vince and company do on a weekly basis (a comparison that forms the basis of many All In reviews). There is room for both because they each appeal to different audiences. In the end, All In demonstrates the need for someone that can compete with WWE rather than replace it, because healthy competition brings out the best in everyone involved, which benefits wrestling fans. Regardless of whether a second show ever materializes, All In will stand as a great independent wrestling show, as well as a historic moment in the history of the professional wrestling industry.

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (September 4, 2018)

Fan Reviews, Nylons and Midriffs

Many greetings to you, wrestling fans near and far. I hope those of you in the U.S. had an enjoyable Labor Day weekend. As I’m sure we’re all still trying to digest all of the savory barbecue and appetizers we ate this weekend, I won’t give you too much to swallow with this post.

But boy, is there some meat and potatoes to get into over the next few weeks…

The Good
Heel Becky. Yes, they actually did it! WWE turned Becky Lynch heel, and I gotta tell you, although I had my reservations about making Becky the heel in her inevitable feud with Charlotte, I underestimated Becky’s raw acting ability. The woman is utterly believable on the mic, which is rare not only in the women’s division, but the main roster as a whole. It isn’t always easy to sell words that are not your own, but just like great actors across television, it can be done if you have the talent and commitment to the script. The Charlotte/Becky feud is straightforward and intense. Both women execute their roles convincingly, and they sell for each other physically and emotionally.

Image credit: newsweek.com

It will be interesting to see how the writers will deal with the crowd reactions to the feud. It’s obvious in the weeks since the heel turn that fans are firmly behind Becky. Will they make her an antihero? Will they make Charlotte play “dirty” like her father? I will say though — WWE must tread carefully with Charlotte. Choosing to keep her face (and giving her the title) despite fan support for Becky has her running the risk of becoming a bemoaned babyface like a certain Samoan Universal Champion we know.

Trish’s return. A small nugget of goodness, but still worthy of mentioning, is Trish Stratus appearing on the Toronto edition of Raw. It was fantastic to see her as always, but that wasn’t the good I want to talk about here. Trish came back to deliver an entertaining promo in a segment with Elias. And hearing Trish speak in her cool and confident manner showed me that we don’t really hear women speak like Trish anymore. She sounded natural and non-robotic, like she was capable of complex human emotion. And as snarky as that sounds, it truly is the opposite of what most promos by female Superstars have become.

Image credit: wwedivadeluxex.tumblr.com

I listened to what Trish was saying not knowing where the dialogue between her and Elias was headed, and that unpredictability is missed from the Attitude and even Ruthless Aggression Era. Even more so than Elias, Trish felt as if she was truly reacting to what Elias was saying as opposed to just taking turns speaking on the mic. Nostalgia act or not, it was great to see that realistic promo work on my TV from a woman.

The Bad
Quickie matches. At some point during all of the hyping up and back-patting about Evolution WWE has been doing, they did something else. They regressed by giving fans very short women’s matches and thought we wouldn’t notice. Naomi, Zelina Vega, the IIconics, Sasha Banks, and Bayley have been cheated out of screen time over the last few weeks. Their matches have been two to five minutes with little to no tangible storyline development. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, wrestling is made by feuds, and feuds are nothing if they have no payoff. And they definitely can’t progress if the performers in said feuds are provided very little time to work with. Shame on WWE for trading off women’s actual weekly exposure with cheap PR for an all-women’s pay-per-view.

The Thorny

Image credit: express.co.uk

Ronda. Ronda, Ronda, Ronda.

The thorniest segment of the last two weeks was undoubtedly the Raw after SummerSlam with Ronda Rousey, Stephanie McMahon, and for some unexplained reason, the entire Raw women’s locker room. If you haven’t seen the segment before reading this, I would advise you to check it out on the Network or online somewhere. To see this segment as anything but condescending to the rest of the women on the roster is giving it too much credit. The positioning of Ronda in the ring looking down on the rest of the women. Stephanie pointing out how Ronda has stolen the spotlight from them. And then, Ronda attempting to make herself into some sort of martyr by asserting her title win somehow meant something to the “women’s evolution” as a movement.

I saw what WWE was trying to do here. The writers thought they were being clever by going meta and having Ronda (and Stephanie) address plainly what many fans saw as a problematic win. They thought they were having her save face by acknowledging that the women that came before her — many of which were standing around the ring — allowed her to get to the place she’s at now. To a smarky wrestling audience, all this does is confirm our suspicions about Ronda’s ascent.

Image credit: wwedivadeluxex.tumblr.com

And the poor women who were called out to essentially witness Ronda’s coronation as champion could barely hide their indifference, if not disdain. Many of them plastered on forced smiles, while others like Sasha Banks and Bayley had difficulty mustering more than a smirk. Their faces as Ronda called them out made me feel such sorrow for them, as they wrestle in pointless matches every week while Ronda wrestles part-time.

Can you imagine the men all standing around the ring to celebrate a title victory for Brock Lesnar, and Paul Heyman “graciously” acknowledging his client’s peers as helping him achieve his status…and Brock played the role of face in this situation? Do you know how absurd this would be if this was the other way around?

I rest my case. Write women better.


I can say for now that I am looking forward to Charlotte vs. Becky in a Cell at the next pay-per-view. I’m reserving judgment on most everything else.

Stay legit bossy,

Women’s Wrestling and the Erasure of History


by David Beard, Associate Professor of Rhetoric, UM Duluth

The history of women in wrestling was given a brief overview in Chris Kelly’s August 10th essay in The Washington Post “Lifestyle Section,” “The Women Wrestlers of WWE Have Created a Movement. Is it Built to Last?”

But the history is partial, only reaching back as far as the memory of Generation X and Millennials.  Kelly starts the story “when Hulk Hogan helped turn the WWE (then called World Wrestling Federation) into a cultural phenomenon in the 1980s.”  The story runs through the “sexualized sideshow” of the 1990s, into the 2000s and Divas.  It culminates in a sea change in 2012, in changes in the WWE NXT system.  As Kelly puts it, “the Divas’ Revolution gave way to the Women’s Evolution.”

Given that the story appears as a feature in a newspaper, it’s welcome that the piece addresses history at all — most likely, I think, to use the history as a foil.  The older ways of thinking about women in wrestling, as models and divas, has changed, and that change is what’s news.

But the history of women in professional wrestling is older than that.  That history could be traced, for example, back to the Mildred Burke [whose career started in the 1930s].  If we prefer a history organized around promotions instead of wrestlers, the World Women’s Wrestling Association (WWWA) is a touchstone of the 1950s.

I’m interested in drawing attention to this The Washington Post article.  But at the same time, if you are interested in the topic, pick up works like The Revenge of Hatpin Mary: Women, Professional Wrestling and Fan Culture in the 1950s by Chad Dell — the history goes back further, and there may be some value to seeing the resurgence of women in wrestling as-wrestlers in terms of the work of these pioneers.