We are just about out of gas on the road to WrestleMania, folks, and how did we do on mileage? Well….well……
We’re rolling on two flats, friends.
While things certainly looked promising after Elimination Chamber, proceedings have gotten more than messy since then. So much so that, although I intended to write a shiny new post for you all last week, believing innocently that nothing important would develop in the last two weeks before WrestleMania — I was sorely mistaken.
I will be suspending the typical format to examine the two women’s matches on the WrestleMania card this year, as well as a certain Goddess hosting the show. Let’s begin!
Women’s Tag Title Match: Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Natalya and Beth Phoenix vs. the Iiconics
The unproblematic fave of the women’s matches on Sunday, this match is shaping up to be more interesting than I thought it would be. I am first of all happy that Nia Jax and Tamina won’t be singularly challenging for the titles. They are too bland and clumsy in the ring to carry a WrestleMania caliber match with the likes of Bayley and Sasha. That sounds harsh, but it’s true, it’s damn true. Anyways.
As I suspected after Fastlane, Beth Phoenix has thrown her name into the contendership hat with Natalya by her side. And that’s exciting for her! I am all the way here for women stepping back into the ring post-childbirth and motherhood. In the history of WWE, it is such an uncommon thing up until the last two or so years to have a woman leave WWE to start a family and return to the company to wrestle. I want to take this quick second to give props to all the mamas who have done this recently: Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool, Maryse, Maria Kanellis (Bennett), Brie Bella, and now Beth Phoenix. All inspiring women who continue to break the taboos of working motherhood.
So I will be delighted to see Beth wrestle again, especially since she somehow looks more stunning and fit than she did when she did when she was a full-time performer.
Next, we now have to contend with the IIconics, who have made their intent clear: they, too, will be coming for the belts. With home-brand advantage, Billie Kay and Payton Royce defeated the champions, which apparently earned them a place in the inevitable four-way at Mania. And I think it just about sums up the top contenders for the women’s tag titles.
I believe this match will have a balance between skilled technicians and greener competitors, leading to an average to great match at WrestleMania. I do hope these women take the time to choreograph and build chemistry away from the cameras, however, as I think that may be the only thing holding this match back. There are too many women in this match that have never even been in the same ring with each other.
I’d also like to take a brief moment to express one gripe I have about the women’s tag division: it doesn’t really feel like a tag division. It feels more like an assemblage of mid-card women that were stuck together in pairs. The only team that actually shares an entrance theme is the IIconics, which in my mind is an argument for them to win the titles sooner rather than later. They are a team, and this is apparent in nearly everything that they do. Sasha and Bayley still come out to their own entrance themes, and still have their individual gimmicks. While I can see the obvious effort the two put in with their ring gear as well as on social media to portray themselves as a team, they still feel like they should be feuding rather than fighting together. Their individualism shines too brightly. The tag division is the place where you don’t want that to be the case.
To compare the division to the men’s (although I hate doing that), look at the men’s tag teams. Their unification is shown by their team names: The Usos, The Bar, The Revival, War Raiders, Heavy Machinery, The Undisputed Era. Even though there are still quite a few thrown-together men’s tag teams without unified names, there is a stronger case to be made that the men’s teams at least feel like pairings that are codependent. As it stands right now, any of the women’s tag teams could break up tomorrow and we could all say we saw it coming — with the exception of the IIconics.
Hopefully in the future we will see more women entering WWE as pairs to put the “team” in tag team division.
RAW & Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair – Winner Takes All
I’ve written about this feud at length thus far in 2019, so much that I don’t have very much to critique at this point. But, as a result of all of that nitpicking, I have now arrived at a general opinion about how this story unfolded from the Royal Rumble until now.
While some praise could be given for the unpredictable writing every week, in the end I feel that this feud was overbooked. The story after the Rumble could have nearly written itself, with all three parties having heat with each other in the confines of storyline. Becky was never an official entrant in the Rumble, either, and that could have been played up in the build.
But WWE took several detours to get us here — Vince McMahon’s involvement, the injury to Becky’s knee, that still baffling Twitter beef between Becky and Ronda. It became all very confusing and convoluted, more than it could have been.
I think in the end this feud peaked prematurely. I would be lying if I said that I was as amped for this match as I was as the Rumble went off the air. My waning enthusiasm is due to the saturation of promo segments that strung together the weekly episodes. Looking back, it is a little astonishing how little the three of these women wrestled leading up to WrestleMania. I understand wanting to sell the animosity between the women, but if nothing else, WWE could have utilized the rest of their women’s roster to face the three of them in the meantime. Shockingly, I think the person that wrestled most was Ronda. There are only so many different ways you can say “I deserve to be in this match and I’m going to kick your ass at WrestleMania.” Two months of that got boring.
That said, I also think we could have gone some weeks without seeing Ronda, Becky, or Charlotte. Again, while I hate comparisons to the men’s roster, take the Universal Title feud for example. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but not having Brock Lesnar appear on RAW every week kept Brock feeling fresh and the feud going until Mania. Not having Brock on TV means that we see Seth in more concise segments, and although you could argue this works against the feud, I think it helps fans build anticipation because we’re left wanting more. If Seth was going to cut a promo on Brock, or Brock was showing up to RAW, you knew it meant something; it wasn’t just done for the heck of it. That’s where I feel the Ronda/Becky/Charlotte story went wrong.
But all of my gripes are ultimately minuscule compared to the larger picture of this match. As we all are well aware by now, this match is the main event of the show. When we look back on the great WrestleMania main events, triple threat matches, and women’s matches in WWE history, people don’t recount the meticulous build it took to get to the matches. You remember the matches themselves. There are obviously exceptions to this, particularly if the build to a certain match was great. But shaky build can be forgiven if the match exceeds expectations. And despite how this match has shaped up in the end (and what was sacrificed to make it as big as it is), I do know that this will be a good match. I don’t have any doubt about that.
Yet, outside of the questionable stipulation that was added to the match in the wake of Charlotte’s championship win, something else makes this “victory” for the women’s division bittersweet.
In short, it is upsetting to know that it took an outsider, a mainstream star, to get the division to this point. Not only that, but the flagbearer of this chapter of the Women’s Evolution is a woman who has shown herself to be socially ignorant at best and downright problematic at worst. Someone who thinks that “The Man” is a literal statement relating to genitalia rather than a metaphorical finger to gender politics in WWE. A woman that slut-shamed Nikki Bella for being in a long-term relationship with John Cena. Basically, a woman that, in the one year she’s been with the company, has proven in many ways to be the antithesis of the very revolution she claims to be progressing merely with her presence.
I suppose this was the point of bringing a star like Ronda in, for this to be the payoff. And it is frustrating that credit must be given to her for leading the women’s division to this position on the card. But this credit is only valid if after WrestleMania, Ronda steps to the side and allows the rest of the women to shine. It is undeniable that there has been a hierarchy of importance within the women’s division since Ronda joined the company. If she does not relinquish her place at the top and reach her hand down to pull WWE’s homegrown female talent up, then what she did was not progress the division, but merely carve out her own space on the Mount Rushmore of women’s history in WWE.
It is not lost on me, either, that this women’s main event is also made possible by whiteness. There is no way that WWE would have allowed a competitor of color in the main event of their biggest show of the year. Can you recall the last WrestleMania where that was the case? (Note: I am excluding Roman Reigns from this statement, as his half-Italian ancestry allows him more proximity to whiteness, in addition to being “white passing” in appearance.)
So while I will probably still find myself choking up as this main event starts, one part of my identity will be questioning when women of color will be given this same opportunity. Until we see an Ember Moon or an Asuka or a Zelina Vega in Ronda or Becky’s position, I will not pat WWE on the back too hard. Female liberation is not achieved when white women reach the same level of prominence, success, and wealth as white men. It is attained when that success is feasible for all women. We’ve gotten this far. Let’s not wait another 20 years to make it happen for black and brown women, too.
Alexa Bliss, Our WrestleMania Host
I actually was delighted to see that WWE created a role for Alexa Bliss, who has been in uncertain health for the last several months. Similar to The New Day before her, Alexa has the charisma to carry a very long show. She’s funny and bratty and cunning, and the combination of these traits could make for some entertaining segments, or moments of brevity throughout the pay-per-view. And boy howdy, we’ll need them as long as this card is…
Anyways, Alexa will be a great WrestleMania host if she doesn’t hijack the show. Like a good General Manager, a good WrestleMania host should interject themselves into the show at logical points to energize the crowd (and audience watching at home). But, they should still ultimately allow the matches and the show to speak for itself.
I do wonder what’s next for her after WrestleMania, though. Will she return to the ring? Will she continue to plateau as a talk show host? I am not really sure, but perhaps it will become clear during WrestleMania itself.
It just doesn’t feel like WrestleMania season. The week before the show is almost exhausting as a fan, as there’s so much anticipation and fantasy booking and predictions and rumors flying all over the internet. I am nervous for some of the outcomes of the matches (men’s included — please let Kofi win), but I’m more ready to see where things go.
I’ll be saving up all of my rage tweets for Sunday! Get your snacks and drinks ready friends — we’re in for a slobberknocker!
Stay legit bossy,