Image credit: express.co.uk
How are you doing, good wrestling fans? I hope you all are staying warm and gearing up for the holidays. I have not yet begun my Christmas shopping, as I’m still in disbelief that we are already knocking on 2019’s door.
With Thanksgiving in a few days, I thought this week we could play around with the idea of thankfulness and how that is often a complicated thing for the marginalized identities of the WWE. The women of WWE do have much to be thankful for this year, but in my opinion, just as many things to rage about. Let’s talk about what they’ve been doing since Evolution, although it hasn’t been much.
Not much of it, folks. I am flabbergasted, albeit not surprised, that WWE has managed to muck up the women’s division immediately following Evolution. I will relent only about an inch for the fact that Survivor Series was so soon after Evolution, so there was not that much time to build feuds for the traditional Survivor Series elimination and title matches. I digress — we’ll get into the bad bits in the next section.
But I have to, as I have for the last several posts, rave about Becky Lynch. The woman is an absolute badass, an amazing heel, and yes, reminiscent of Stone Cold Steve Austin. She just gets it, both in the ring and in promos, and she makes her new attitude effortlessly believable. Not only that, she’s mastered an art of the 2018 era of WWE — social media storytelling. “The Man,” as she has christened herself after Evolution, has been absolutely roasting the likes of Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey on Twitter.
Her added sass and downright smack talk on Twitter only adds to the intensity that she brings to her rivalries. After her bloodied and almost triumphant beatdown of Ronda and the RAW women’s locker room, I crossed the threshold of becoming a full-blown Becky Lynch mark.
Continuing with things Becky does well, I’d like to discuss the subversiveness of Becky calling herself “The Man.” Yes, this is obviously a tongue-in-cheek reference to her beating a Flair. But, I read it a bit differently.
In Ronda’s promo on RAW last week (and boy howdy, we’ll get to that), she lamented Becky’s new nickname for herself and how it was disrespectful to the women’s evolution. Ronda, having made mildly transphobic comments in the past, perhaps understandably finds it hard to reconcile how a cisgender woman can call herself anything other than. [EDITOR’S NOTE: here is another article that supports this author’s view on the Lynch-Rousey feud.] Yet, many of the traits heel Becky embodies — her relentlessness, her driven attitude, her righteousness — are those commonly associated with men. But for those who think like Ronda, such a nickname isn’t possible. Gender is a construct. It bears no actual meaning outside of the attributes we attach to it. If by definition to many, being a man means xyz, and Becky embodies those things, then she’s a man. It’s just words. You can be whatever you want to be, really.
Although I am sad that we could not see the culmination of her feud with Ronda at Survivor Series, I am very hopeful that she will meet Ronda in the future, perhaps even at WrestleMania as the rumor has it.
This year, I am thankful for Becky Lynch. This will certainly go down as her year.
Image credit: WWE’s YouTube
As I began to detail above, I’m very disappointed in how transparently WWE discarded the women’s division after they had finished making money off of their pay-per-view. The Smackdown women’s Survivor Series team was announced in a 10-minute segment in the aftermath of Evolution, with no build or pomp and circumstance. In the same episode they announced the women’s team, they spent the rest of the episode building and hyping who would be on the men’s Survivor Series team. I could not believe the sexism was that blatant.
On the RAW side, the women’s team was announced the mere week before Survivor Series. Many people have forgotten this detail because the hullabaloo about the RAW team was overshadowed by Becky Lynch’s brilliant work after it. And yes, while all of the women were the main event of the show, in my eyes, it does not make up for the obvious lack of effort put into building to the traditional Survivor Series bouts, even within the teams themselves. Everything outside of the title picture for the women’s division continues to be thrown together without long-term booking in mind, and it is frustrating to no end.
As a woman watching the product week on week, I sometimes find myself in a tough spot. I’m thankful for how far the women’s division has come. But when does thankfulness become complacency? When does counting your blessings become patronizing? The progression of a few does not translate to the liberation of the many. We’ll talk about this more in the last section.
Although this doesn’t necessarily fit with the above, I have to talk about Ronda’s “Millennial Man” promo here.
Outside of it sounding superficial and scripted, the content of the promo was also bad. Ronda, a person who after only four months and four matches in WWE became champion, dared to call Becky an entitled Millennial (the irony being that Ronda herself, born in 1987, is unequivocally a Millennial). It was clear that Ronda was simply a mouthpiece for the bitter, older, conservative white men in power behind the scenes, dropping lines about being “offended” and it not correlating to being right.
With Ronda’s position of privilege within the company and the agenda-pushing men likely behind the writer’s desk, it isn’t surprising how tone-deaf Ronda sounded. And at the heart of it, I think that’s what irks me most about Ronda. It seems that although WWE tries to paint her as this badass babyface, often she just comes off as an arrogant outsider — someone that is there to represent what WWE thinks feminism is, rather than what it actually is.
Not only that, but I didn’t think it wise of WWE to play the “snowflake” Millennial card. If WWE thought they were going to get Ronda over using the tired Entitled Millennial card — when a sizable majority of their diehard fanbase are Millennials that grew up on the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras — they were sadly mistaken. We’re keeping the fandom of your product alive, Vince. Best not to bite the hand that feeds you.
Considering the idea of thankfulness as a woman can be a double-edged sword. If you don’t seem thankful enough for what you have, you’re seen as a miserable, power-hungry bitch. If you’re too thankful or passive about what you’ve been given in life, you can create unhealthy power dynamics with people, allowing them to walk all over you. For the women of WWE, I ache for them trying to walk this line in management’s eyes.
I talk a lot here about what true evolution could look like for the women. I don’t think the idea of “equality” can be met as long as all the women are is thankful.
Image credit: Forbes.com
Thankful for getting more segments on weekly TV, but ones that are shorter and still fewer than the men. Thankful for finally being able to wrestle the same amount of stipulation matches as the men. Thankful to now have their own pay-per-view.
Why can’t they ask for more? Or rather, why can’t they demand it? Do all of the new developments of the women’s division mean anything if the division is vapid? Why should the entire division be thankful for these strides toward “equality” when only a few of them will reap the benefits of those advancements?
I’m not sure why Asuka or Ember Moon or Tamina Snuka or Naomi would be excited about women being able to wrestle Last Woman Standing matches now if they know they’ll likely never be written into feuds with enough build to warrant such a stipulation. Or if they do, it will be long after the inception of such matches for the (white) women.
It is upsetting that WWE has myopic vision for female stories. Only two at a time, the rest of you can wait your turn. It is not too much to ask that WWE find headspace to care about women (most often women of color) not in contention for a women’s title. It is not being ungrateful to point out that there is still more WWE can do on a weekly basis to develop female characters.
I say it time and time again. It isn’t progress until everyone can have a seat at the table. I love the work that Becky Lynch is doing. But similar to her counterpart Ronda, she is not the whole division. Give the rest of the women something to be thankful for besides participation trophies.
I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about Survivor Series in this post. Quite simply, I don’t have enough thoughts about the show to warrant a discussion of it in this post. It was there, it happened, and it’s too early to tell where things are going in its wake. (And admittedly, much of the booking on the men’s side tainted my perception of the women’s segments.)
Onward to the end of the year.
Stay legit bossy,