Nylons and Midriffs: (Almost) Having It All (August 26, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

With SummerSlam in the rear view, we are effectively entering the end of the year, folks. The last quarter of the year is usually when the wheels start to fall off for WWE, but with competition on the horizon in the form of All Elite Wrestling’s weekly TV beginning in October, we may see the start of something entirely new in WWE.

There are a handful of things to celebrate over the last couple of weeks as we’ll discuss, but there are still some questionable decisions being made as they relate to the women.

Let’s talk about it.

The Good
I am going to let my bias take over for a few minutes. Sasha Banks is back!!!

GIF credit: wrestlingforum.com

As a fan of The Boss I was devastated that I actually missed her return live. But, a return is a return, and boy howdy did the women’s division need it. It was clear that without Sasha there a dearth was left in the main event scene, and Becky needed a worthy challenger that could bring out the best in her character. We’ve seen that Becky is on top form when her foil is also an elite level performer, and there are few others that have established themselves like Sasha has.

We’re only two weeks into this feud and Becky has already cut one of the best promos in her career, sprinkling in dashes of the reality about Sasha’s absence in her signature, intense style.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao-3Us6L1dw&w=560&h=315]

Sasha returning as a heel also unlocks a depth in her character that was missing in the years that she was a face: the return of her edginess should allow her to have more creative control over her persona.

I am hesitant to get my hopes up for positive outcome for The Boss, as history has shown that banking on her is a fool’s game. But, if WWE does this right, fans could finally be given a memorable reign from a Superstar that has more than paid her dues. And perhaps the woman herself will receive the payoff for believing in herself and demanding more.

In other news, Becky Lynch is engaged! The Man and her man, Seth Rollins, made it official on a rocky beach in a remote location on August 22. Unexpectedly, I was elated by this news. Obviously for Becky and Seth, who are honestly a fan’s dream power couple — but also for the implications of their engagement.

Seeing a woman as powerful and on-top-of-her-game as Becky get engaged was affirming for young, married women like me. While it certainly is not the same as being a working mom, working wives are still a marvel in their own right. In the context of WWE, it is hard for me to recall many women at the top of the division historically who were married at their peak. Feel free to let me know in the comments some examples of married women in their prime in WWE, but I feel that in the past it was more common that women either were single while at the top, or kept their relationships private.

But now, in the age of social media, it is almost more common than not to learn that a female wrestler is married to one of their peers. Women are being open about their relationships, and in turn showing women everywhere that if you are in a heterosexual relationship, you don’t have to hide behind your husband. You can strive for just as much success and shine as your husband, and in Becky’s case, do it alongside him.

Here’s hoping that WWE doesn’t use her soon-to-be-wifely status to diminish her star power.

Lastly, there is potentially exciting stuff to look forward to with NXT coming to cable TV and AEW starting up on TNT in the next several weeks. What many fans are calling the Wednesday Night Wars could spell positive things for female representation. Competition may force WWE to highlight more of their women in the main event and tag team scenes, and to make the NXT women’s championship feel equal to the men’s championship in importance.

Both companies have some of the best female talent on the planet at their fingertips — and their rivalry could force both of them to create a signature women’s style all their own.

I am excited that women’s wrestling will be accessible to more people, and that I personally will be able to diversify my palette with my cable package. A rich selection helps all of us, including pop culture writers like me!

The Bad
The bad for this week is nothing that I haven’t discussed before, so I’ll keep it short. Charlotte Flair is in the title picture…again. Sigh. I simply don’t understand how WWE executives don’t tire of having the same exact person constantly vying for the women’s title.

A small part of my brain is gleeful that we are getting the Four Horsewomen feuding in pairs on opposing brands (what a time to be alive!). But still, I am more than over Charlotte competing for gold. Please give her something else to do. Please give other women a chance to be great.

Image credit: wwe-news.com

The only saving grace of Charlotte’s feud with Bayley would be if she actually lost. It would certainly solidify Bayley as formidable, giving her credibility as a wrestler she is still in the process of gaining back. I guess the result of this feud will truly tell us how over she is with the powers-that-be.

The Thorny
And connecting to the previous point, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum this week. As I was recalling the events of the past two weeks’ RAW and Smackdown Live, I contemplated for several minutes trying to remember if anything of note even happened in the women’s division, outside of the main event feuds. I went back and reviewed results and recaps and found myself correct in my assumption that nothing really happened.

Which brings us to this question: where are the women?

Where are they!

Image credit: thefanboyseo.com

How is it possible that we are going entire hours of TV without seeing a woman? Why don’t we have the likes of the IIconics, Naomi, Ember Moon, Asuka, Kairi Sane, Carmella, and Sonya Deville wrestling on a weekly basis?

It is flabbergasting. All of the aforementioned women have so much to give to us. To quote one RuPaul, these girls have the charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to define a generation of women’s wrestling. The fact that many of them disappear for weeks-long (or even months-long) stretches for no other reason than “We don’t have anything for you” is unacceptable. If WWE can make time every week for Elias to strum a guitar, they can find time to showcase their female talent in a substantive way.

There isn’t really much more to say than that.

***

From the looks of things, the RAW and Smackdown women’s title matches at Clash of Champions should be bangers. And that’s exciting. At the same time, we can still want more.

If we’re lucky, in a month or two, “more” might just be what we get. I’m ready. Are you?

Stay legit bossy,
AC

The Problem with “Indie Wrestling” (hint: it’s not the wrestling)

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For the last couple decades, wrestling fans have been used to a wrestling universe divided into two categories of promotions: (1) the so-called “indies” (or “independent wrestling” or the “indie circuit”); and (2) the nameless other category, which is not really a category at all since it only includes a single promotion, the WWE.

So that’s the wrestling universe: every wrestling promotion that exists – minus one – versus that single exception. Now, if the former category consisted solely of those generally well-known, kind-of-WWE-competitors – New Japan, Ring of Honor, Impact, Lucha Underground, and now All Elite – then maybe it would make sense to divide the wrestling universe this way.

This classification system would be a way of setting apart the most well-known, biggest revenue-generating (by far) wrestling mega-corporation from the handful of rival wrestling companies, which, if you combined them all into one might in some ways be a more-or-less competitor to the WWE for global wrestling predominance.

You could even include in this latter, non-WWE category the next-level-down wrestling promotions – what I’ll call for now the WrestleMania week promotions. These are wrestling companies beloved by wrestling aficionados; they have some degree national exposure, but they operate on smaller scale than the previously mentioned kind-of-WWE-rivals. Examples of such WrestleMania week promotions include CHIKARA, Combat Zone, SHIMMER, EVOLVE, Shine, Full Impact Pro, wXw, and so on – any promotion whose show is listed in the schedule of WrestleMania week events. In this way of dividing the wrestling universe, “the indies” would be shorthand for the 30ish most prominent wrestling companies not named “WWE.”

The problem with this method of divvying up the wrestling universe is that the indie side of the divide has vastly more than 30ish promotions in it. In actuality, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of indies – a reality that became especially apparent to me when I moved to North Carolina about 15 years ago, and stumbled upon a prevalent form of small-time, small town, extremely local professional wrestling I hadn’t really known existed prior to that point. This type of indie wrestling generally features local, completely normal-sized wrestlers with modest levels of skill, who perform in periodic shows for extremely small audiences in rented spaces like church gyms or National Guard Armories, or in outdoor locations like parking lots or state fairgrounds. These promotions tend to have a minimal online presence – perhaps a Facebook page – and therefore almost no national or even regional exposure. In fact, local indie promotions are barely known outside of the town in which they operate.

Over the last fifteen years, I have made a concerted effort to identify the local indie promotions that operate within a two-hour drive (roughly) of my home in Charlotte, NC. I have come across dozens. Most of them pop up suddenly in a small town, run periodic shows for a couple of years, and then disappear as quickly as they emerged (promotions like New Life Wrestling, Lynx Wrestling Alliance, New Millennial Championship Wrestling, Wrestling for a Reason, and so forth). Others have longer staying power – like Eastern Wrestling Federation, American Pro Wrestling, and perhaps Xtreme World Wrestling (it disappeared for a few years, but has now come back).

The dozens and dozens of local indie promotions in my area aren’t all equal, however; they’re organized in a kind of informal hierarchy. The most short-lived of the promotions also tend to be the smallest – smallest crowds, smallest venues, smallest wrestlers, lowest ticket prices, smallest payouts to wrestlers, and so forth. The best wrestlers of these short-lived promotions get bookings in the next level up – at the local indies with more staying power – while the best wrestlers at these more stable local indies hope to get bookings in the top promotions in the region: Palmetto Championship Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Turbo, and especially AML Wrestling and Premiere Wrestling Xperience. The latter two sit at the top of the pyramid of indie promotions in the geographic region that includes western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina.

From the top of this local pyramid, the best wrestlers hope to get bookings at top-of-the-pyramid promotions in other Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states, or, even better, at the next level up – the WrestleMania week promotions. And from the WrestleMania week promotions, the top talent sometimes make it to the next rung — Ring of Honor, Impact, Lucha Underground – and then from there, a precious few might make it to WWE NXT, and then maybe, finally, to the WWE.

For most wrestlers, however, the journey from local wrestling to the wrestling big time is not as linear as I’m making it sound. Most bounce up and down between levels for many years. A smaller number ascend quickly, skipping levels along the way. A precious few begin their wrestling careers at the top, as fully-formed superstars in the WWE, with little time toiling in the indies (Brock Lesnar, Ronda Rousey).

The overwhelming majority of professional wrestlers, however, never leave the local level. They have neither the talent nor the desire to do so. Most are content to stay where they are, performing periodically in small-time productions for tiny crowds of appreciative locals.

But for those who do ascend through ranks of indies, the journey can be both thrilling and grueling. In my own little part of the Carolinas, I witnessed my friend Josh Powers become a star about a decade ago in American Pro Wrestling – a level above the smallest of the small-time promotions. He’s now a fixture in the area’s top promotions and, over the last couple of years, has begun to break in to Premiere Wrestling Xperience, the top of pyramid in this region.

I have also witnessed JD Drake (previously known as James Drake…until that became confusing) ascend from the smallest of the small-time promotions (like New Millennium Championship Wrestling), through next-level-up promotions like APW, through regional promotions like PWX, eventually ascending to the WrestleMania week level and becoming EVOLVE’s WWN Champion.

Another local example I’ve seen is Cedric Alexander, who followed a similar trajectory as JD Drake, though Alexander he has reached a higher level, WWE main roster, in a shorter amount of time. 

What I’m describing here is what wrestling fans know as the “indie circuit,” a term that both designates all the wrestling promotions that fall on the indie side of the of the indie-vs.-WWE ledger, and the circuitous path through the indies that most wrestlers take as they attempt to ascend to the wrestling bigtime.

The term, “indie circuit,” however, is incredibly imprecise. The two words that make up the phrase don’t have obvious referents. First of all, “indie,” short for “independent,” begs the question: independent from what, exactly? The WWE? Is that it? Nothing more? Again, we’re back to the problem of divvying up the wrestling universe into two stupendously lopsided categories.

Now, the term “independent” may have had meaning in the 1990s and early 2000s as a few small promotions began to pop up in the wrestling vacuum created when several aspiring wrestling monopolies began consolidating the old wrestling territories. Would-be monopolies included the AWA, UWF, Jim Crockett Promotions (NWA), WCW, and the WWF, which eventually emerged the winner.

Independent promotions that emerged during this time period included Eastern/Extreme Championship Wrestling, Xcitement Wrestling Federation, World Wrestling Allstars, and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Though these indies were few in number, they certainly were independent of the emerging wrestling behemoths – though their independence was neither as radical nor as dangerous as was the independence of the so-called “outlaw” promotions during the Territory Era.

Setting apart the handful of 1990s-era indie promotions from the handful of aspiring wrestling monopolies, and distinguishing these two categories of promotions from the handful of promotions clinging to the moribund NWA – this was a sensible way of dividing up the wrestling landscape at the end of the last century. It is a less sensible way today when “indie” means everything minus one.

The “circuit” part of “indie circuit” is equally puzzling – if “circuit” is meant to suggest a kind of order or pattern or established relationship. No such circuit of indies exists beyond the informal hierarchy I described earlier — with certain small exceptions like the WWNLive and maybe the remnant of the old National Wrestling Alliance (though, truthfully, I’m not entirely sure I understand what the NWA consists of anymore).

Another kind of semi-formal relationship in today’s pro wrestling is the parallel agreement where indies of the same tier enter into agreements to share talent and co-promote shows (so, for example, ROH and New Japan, or PWX and Fest Wrestling, or the general cooperation during WrestleMania week).

Aside from these few examples, indie wrestling promotions are solo entities — private, autonomous companies, each pursuing its own path.

Wrestling’s indie circuit is not at all comparable to baseball’s minor league system, though that analogy is often made. In contrast to wrestling, baseball actually does have a formal minor league circuit. Or, rather, it has a series of circuits, or leagues, that are hierarchically organized, with formal relationships between clubs at different levels, all of which are grooming and filtering talent from the lower levels to the highest level (Triple-A), and from there to Major League Baseball. The only such formal organizational ties in today’s world of pro wrestling that I’m aware of are the developmental promotions that sometimes attach themselves to a next-level-up promotions: WWE NXT to WWE, for example (though that’s an in-house developmental promotion); or, from a few years back, Ohio Valley to WWE or to TNA. Perhaps EVOLVE is developing this kind of formal relationship with the WWE right now.

The pro wrestling world parallels the world of live theatre much more so than it does the world of organized sports. Broadway, of course, is the pinnacle of live theatre, but there are numerous tiers underneath – from Off Broadway all the way down to small town community theatre and local high school theatre. Live theatre, like wrestling, varies by venue size; talent of the performers; whether or not the performers are paid, and if so, how much; production value; ticket price; and so forth. Moreover, the vast majority of actors, like the vast majority of wresters, work other non-theatre/wrestling jobs to support themselves, and only small percentage actively pursue acting or wrestling as a full-time career.

So what, in the end, is wrong with “indie wrestling” and “the indie circuit”? They are terms that do not adequately reflect the on-the-ground reality of professional wrestling at the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. In the place of a binary method of categorizing all of contemporary wrestling promotions – indies vs. WWE – I propose a five-tiered system that more adequately represents the complicated hierarchy of wrestling promotions discussed above. A few points about the tiers before I list them.

  1. Tiers are distinguished by the scope of a promotion’s reach; the size of its fan base; the size, quality, and frequency of live shows; overall revenue generated; and so forth
  2. As one descends from top to bottom, the tiers become vastly larger. In other words, there are precious few promotions at the top, and an enormously large number at the bottom
  3. Within a given tier, there are often sub-tiers (based on the criteria articulated above)
  4. Promotions can ascend or descend levels over time
  5. Casual wrestling fans will likely have only heard of the promotions on the top two tiers
  6. Ardent wrestling fans will have heard of the promotions on the first three tiers; they will likely only know a handful of promotions on the fourth tier
  7. The only people who know of the existence of promotions on the bottom tier are the ardent wrestling fans who comprise that promotion’s local fanbase
  8. Even though I just invented the five-tier system (below), I don’t know where to put several well-known promotions (New Japan, CMLL). I also don’t really know which promotions outside of my own region ought to populate the bottom two tiers

Tier 1: International Promotions (1 or 2)

WWE, New Japan(?)

Tier 2: National Promotions (5-6?)

New Japan (?), All-Elite, Ring of Honor, Impact, Lucha Underground, CMLL(?)

Tier 3: Trans-Regional Promotions (20ish?)

CMLL(?), EVOLVE, Combat Zone, CHIKARA, Dragon Gate, Full Impact-Pro, SHIMMER, Shine, Westside Xtreme, International Pro (UK), Game Changer, Absolute Intense, or any other promotion that appears on the WrestleMania week schedule

Tier 4: Regional Promotions (75-100ish?)

In Western North Carolina & Upstate South Carolina: Premiere Wrestling Xperience, AML

Tier 5: Local Promotions (multiple 100s)

In Charlotte, NC and surrounding area (up to 20): Xtreme World Wrestling, American Pro Wrestling, Eastern Wrestling Federation, Pro Wrestling Turbo, Palmetto Championship, Exodus Wrestling Alliance, Ring Wars, United Christian Championship, Classic Pro, etc.

Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 3: A man confronts his adversaries and problems

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Below, some notes about gender in wrestling, from “Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE” by Danielle M. Soulliere

Message 3: A man confronts his adversaries and problems

A further message revealed through the programs was that men are confrontational. To express this less violent form of aggression, male performers confronted each other and their problems in a variety of ways.

There were several examples in which manhood entailed confronting an adversary. During an episode of Smackdown (08-03-01), Kurt Angle tells rival Stone Cold Steve Austin to “face him like a man.” This suggests that being a man means confronting your adversary. In the context of professional wrestling and elsewhere, a real man faces his opponent. Similarly, announcer Michael Cole asserts that being a man entails confronting your adversary and competing physically: “Well, Booker T demands all this respect, wants to be (WCW) champion again. Why doesn’t he be a man and get in the ring and face The Rock one-on- one at Unforgiven?” (SD 09-04-01) Announcer JR also suggests that confronting your adversary is a necessary part of being a man. He says of Booker T: “He should come out of the closet and fight Austin like a man!” (RAW 12-17-01) Not only are men expected to confront their rivals, but they are expected to settle things physically through competition or fist-fight.

Men are also expected to confront their problems. When Debra tells Austin that he needs to go out to the ring and confront the fans about his recent violent actions against Kurt Angle (SD 09-04-01), she is suggesting that part of being a man is to confront personal issues. Austin further reinforces this message when he tells the Memphis crowd: “Stone Cold Steve Austin has a problem, he looks that person right in the eyes, and he settles that problem, because I’m a man’s man.” (SD 09-20-01) Clearly, manhood involves confronting one’s problems as well as one’s adversaries.

Wrestling Facts [3 of 3] excerpts from the Minnesota Historical Society

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The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has a limited collection of issues of Wrestling FactsWrestling Facts was available at the Friday night fights, in the case of this issue, at the National Guard Armory on 6th and Exchange.  Today, I want to finish looking at an issue of Wrestling Facts by asking:  what are the racial politics of wrestling in 1953?

Wrestling Facts 1953 Logo

Final

How do we understand the celebration of African American women wrestlers in 1953 in this document — without any form of sexualization.  I’m so used to women wrestlers today as sex objects;  how do I even begin to process this?

I’m still thinking this one through, and I welcome your thoughts about Ethel Johnson… who has been profiled here and here.

1.0

Wrestling Facts is my first contemporary text about her.

Nylons and Midriffs: Back to School (SummerSlam Review, August 13, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: newsweek.com

School is back in session, good wrestling fans! Well, for me, at least. After taking a must-needed break from WWE over the last several weeks, I am back to my old tricks — giving you the good, bad, and thorny from Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view.

For the most part, I’ve not sat and watched weekly WWE TV during my summer break. I’ve kept up with storyline developments and other backstage news through wrestling news media. So, my analysis of specific segments and matches leading up to SummerSlam will be limited. Still, though, I’ll pepper in my thoughts about the build to the three women’s matches we saw on Sunday, as this will lead us into the sunset of the weeks following the Biggest Party of the Summer.

Open your textbooks, and let’s start this week’s discussion!

Women’s Tag Team Title Match: The IIconics vs. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross (c)

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

To be frank, I didn’t watch this match because I didn’t realize it was even happening on the pre-show. I was going into the show blind (as I discussed above), and I never typically watch the pre-show to any pay-per-view besides WrestleMania. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t share my thoughts on the direction of the women’s tag titles, as that’s more significant than anything that could have happened in this match.

Firstly, I feel terrible for the IIconics. So much potential to make those belts mean something — if not for the tag team wrestling, the tag team unity instead. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce have a natural charisma that can’t be taught, and their real-life friendship makes anything they do between the ropes believable. But alas, they simply were not given the opportunity to shine.

As I’ve discussed in previous Nylons entries, it was clear from the outset that WWE didn’t really care about the women’s tag titles. And this was recently (allegedly) confirmed by insiders as well. This explains the absence of the titles (and titleholders) on TV for weeks on end. It seemed at certain points that the Kabuki Warriors could be next in line to challenge Billie and Peyton, but as we’ve come to expect from WWE when it comes to Asuka, they could never pull the trigger.

Enter Alexa Bliss…and Nikki Cross, by association. I guess WWE figured out that even if they don’t care about the titles that much, they could use them as a way to strap another one of their white, blonde faves. So, they put the titles on Alexa and Nikki. Now look, ultimately if this will get the titles on TV finally, it is a net positive. It’s just sort of eyeroll-inducing that they’ve found yet another title to give to Little Miss Bliss.

Hopefully they can build the tag division up moving forward, as one Boss n’ Hug Connection hoped to way back when…

Now, for the rest of the matches, we’re ironically going to go in order. The Good, Bad, and Thorny sections progressed throughout the night as the matches did. I will preface the below reviews with the statement that each match had good, if not great bits within it. But, as we’ll see, sometimes good isn’t good enough.

The Good
RAW Women’s Title Match: Becky Lynch (c) vs. Natalya

Image credit: pinkvilla.com

This match was very well done, as would be expected from two skilled wrestlers like Becky and Nattie. The two understood the assignment as a submission match, and they telegraphed their spots to fit this theme. The adversaries spent much of this match entangled with one another, desperately trying to one-up the other with technical submissions.

The two coolest spots of the match were Natalya’s sharpshooter on the top rope with Becky entangled in the ropes beneath, and the other was the superplex from the top rope. The former was a creative twist on a fairly straightforward submission; the latter just looked like it hurt. What’s more, I was particularly surprised that the two were allowed to do that superplex spot. It seems WWE tends to tease top rope slams often, but rarely allow wrestlers to fall from such heights — especially if the performers are women. I was glad to see both of them go for it!

As an aside, I think it’s about time we collectively put some respect on Natalya’s name. The woman is consistently good, a proud ambassador for WWE, and has more than paid her dues in her career. She pulled her weight in this match and so many others. It’s a shame that she’ll likely never get the meaningful title reign she probably deserves. But I think we should still give her her flowers while she’s still around to smell them.

The Bad
Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Bayley (c) vs. Ember Moon

Image credit: WWE.com

Ah yes, the match that had all the potential in the world to be great and just fell short.

The build to this match was lazy. Fans didn’t have a reason to care about either woman’s motivations going into it because neither were really given the opportunity to build a story together. Instead they acted as fodder for Nikki and Alexa’s storyline many weeks.

As a result of this, the match itself just felt off. You could tell there was little energy for either woman to feed into to keep the action interesting. The few memorable moments of the match came with Ember’s Codebreaker-type sequence to Bayley, and Bayley’s insane Bayley to Belly off the top rope that Ember sold like a champ. (I was honestly amazed at how limp Ember allowed her body to be as she fell from the air — a rag doll personified!)

But these moments were not enough to save the match in my view. Ultimately this match was sloppy in large bits, and I found myself wanting the transitions and reversals to look more crisp. Sloppiness can either be forgiven or corrected by good chemistry between two performers, and that’s what this match lacked. As a viewer I was taken out of the match at various points because I could see Ember and Bayley transitioning between parts of the match and anticipating pinning combinations.

On the whole, I think their wrestling styles clashed in an unfavorable way, and that sucks for both of them. But, I don’t think either of them should be ashamed for trying. The match wasn’t terrible, but I’ve come to expect more from each of them, which is the root of my disappointment.

The Thorny
Trish Stratus vs. Charlotte Flair

Image credit: theringreport.com

This match was arguably the most enjoyable of all the women’s bouts on the SummerSlam card. Trish absolutely has not lost a step, as she did a rendition of pretty much all of her greatest hits. There were such beautiful touches in this match including Trish’s patented chops, complete with a hand-lick before the final one, which doubled as a signature for Trish and a middle finger to Charlotte as a Flair. (The two would later go on to have a chop-off, which was equally as fun to watch.)

Perhaps the biggest pop of the match came when Trish somehow finagled her way into an inverted sunset flip of sorts to cinch in the Figure Four leg lock, that she even successfully transitioned into a Figure Eight bridge. I guess all that yoga has paid off, Miss Stratus!

Overall this was a fun, entertaining, and nostalgic journey of a match, due in large part as well to Trish’s capable opponent, Charlotte, who as usual put on a stellar heel performance.

So why, then, has this match landed in this section? Your eyes are not deceiving you. This match was largely great. However, my problem with this match is that it had to exist in the first place.

In the words of Tom Phillips: “It’s the biggest event of the summer, and what would it be without the Queen?”

There it is.

Charlotte, having spent the last three years in the title picture of both brands, found herself out of the women’s title picture and, thusly, without a match at SummerSlam. This match was transparently given to Charlotte as a way to get her on the card. And of course, if she couldn’t have a title match, they had to give her the next best thing: a match with a beloved legend as her foil.

I am going to smugly point out that the match that many fans had been clamoring for as a “one more match” dream match with Trish was against Sasha Banks. Both Sasha and Trish have expressed interest in this match over the last year or so, but of course Sasha’s absence from WWE at the moment made this match impossible. (And to be a little less biased, Trish had also expressed some interest in facing Charlotte.)

However, that isn’t the whole of what chaps my hide about this match. Upon hearing its announcement, my immediate first thought was: Who is this for? Who does this match benefit? You have Trish who doesn’t really benefit, because she could wrestle or not wrestle for the rest of time and still be loved by the WWE Universe. You have Charlotte who has already beaten Trish’s championship record, main evented WrestleMania, and has a host of other “firsts” to her name. Not only that, but she’s a Flair. She didn’t need the rub that this match could have given to literally any other woman on the roster besides Becky Lynch. She already has it all. Why do we need to give her more?

This match was for Vince McMahon. This was his wet dream of a match having his favorite blonde white women of the last 20 years in the ring fighting against each other. And that, at the root of it all, is one of WWE’s main problems. The writers, the decision-makers, only have one person in mind, and that is Vinny Mac. Whoever he likes, whatever he thinks is funny, whatever he thinks will sell. Even if he is woefully inaccurate with his estimations, it is his way or the highway.

And the result of this is that WWE continues to give the most “marketable” women the majority of opportunities. They give the prototypical stars (white, thin, blonde, etc.) all of the shine, while everyone else withers in the dark. The fact that a match was created to get someone on the card who is almost never absent from it is criminal in my view. Yes, it matters that Charlotte is good. I will never take that away from her; the woman is well on her way to GOAT status.

But I despise that there are so many other women that are just as good as Charlotte in the ring — that have the potential to get to her level of reverence in the wrestling world — but we don’t know who they are. In the most rudimentary way, we don’t know who they are. Because they’re not allowed to show themselves.

And hell, I don’t even mind that Charlotte won. I see the result of this match as poetic justice for Trish, who possibly righted a wrong from her original retirement match in 2006 wherein she went out as the victor. As a true wrestling elder, you are supposed to go out on your back, and that was fitting to see.

I just wonder what the landscape of women’s wrestling in WWE could look like today if they took the time to develop the Litas and Victorias and Molly Hollys and Jacquelines that helped to make Trish into the woman we saw on Sunday. For all of her success, Trish has never, ever missed an opportunity to sing the praises of the women who fought alongside her. I hope that one day Charlotte is able to do the same.

***

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to run down how RAW and Smackdown are doing heading into the next pay-per-view. Ciao for now!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Of Note: The Incredible Hulk and Hulk Hogan

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Nothing scholarly here, just a reference to “That Time That the Incredible Hulk Beat Up Hulk Hogan” by Brian Cronin – on Comic Book Resources, Aug 12, 2019.  Cronin references a licensing fee paid by the WWE/WWF for use of the Hulk name, a fact I do not have independent verification for and never heard before — can anyone help with some corroboration?
Otherwise, this is just a nod toward an appearance by pro wrestlers in other media that might otherwise go forgotten.

 

Wrestling Facts [2 of 3] excerpts from the Minnesota Historical Society

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The Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS) has a limited collection of issues of Wrestling FactsWrestling Facts was available at the Friday night fights, in the case of this issue, at the National Guard Armory on 6th and Exchange.  Today, I want to look at the “card” function of Wrestling Facts — the portion of the newsletter that promoted the event which the fans settled in to see.

Wrestling Facts 1953 Logo

The Card:

Card.png

the_crusher_-_westling_news_awa_-_21_may_1970_coverI don’t know most of these people, but I know Reggie Lisowski, from Milwaukee — “Da Crusher.”

But the card takes a small array of space — it is surrounded on all sides by the advertisements.

 

The Advertisements:

The advertisements give us a window into the idealized audience for these armory wrestling shows — they were willing to drive from Wisconsin [at minimum, a half an . hour’s drive] into St. Paul, MN for the shows.  And they might have been the types to attend shows after the wrestling event.

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The Flame was a Jazz Club, for example, hosting acts like

  • Charlie Parker, April 26, 1951
  • Stan Getz, May 7, 1951
  • Billie Holiday, August 24, 1951

This page is document genius;  every twenty minutes or so, as the wrestling audience member turned to their card to see “who is next,” they would see the advertisements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from “Wrestling with Masculinity” Message 2: Men settle things physically

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Below, some notes about gender in wrestling, from “Wrestling with Masculinity: Messages about Manhood in the WWE” by Danielle M. Soulliere

Message 2: Men settle things physically

Not only are men aggressive and violent, but their response tends to be primarily physical. Men settle debates, differences, con- frontations, and personal affronts through physical means.

For example, when Bradshaw and Farooq laugh at Booker T who complains about not being invited to the premier of Rollerball (SD 10-31-01), Booker T tells them to “lace ‘em up,” indicating that he intends to have a match with them. This suggests that men settle things physically. Booker T responds to a personal affront by challenging fellow performers to a physical contest.

On an episode of Smackdown (12-13-01), Jeff Hardy confronts Test after he intimidates Lita. He says, “You like intimidating women so bad, why don’t you try intimidating me. In the ring.” Again, this suggests that men settle things physically. Here, Jeff Hardy and Test are going to settle their differences through physical competition. Similarly, The Rock suggests to Jericho that the way to settle their differences is through physical competition:

The Rock is tired of this mamsy-pansy chicken crap going on between you and The Rock. We settle this one more time before Summerslam, this Monday night on RAW. (SD 11-01-01) Finally, it is certainly clear that men are expected to settle things physically when Commissioner William Regal tells Booker T and Rob Van Dam: “If you want to settle your differences, settle them like sportsmen in the ring tonight.” (RAW 11-05-01)