Nylons and Midriffs: A Reckoning (April 22, 2020)

I find myself despondent writing Nylons this week. As most of us likely know by now, WWE administered mass layoffs, furloughs, and releases of their staff last week — inclusive of producers, writers, trainers, on- and off-air talent. I followed the news as it broke on YouTube with my preferred wrestling content creators. I texted my little brother-in-law, who loves wrestling and is currently training to join the industry, to see how he was reacting. As cliche (and perhaps overly-dramatic) as it sounds, it is one of those days where you’ll always remember where you were when you got the news.

That said, I found myself in a compromising position last week. The notes I had on the previous episodes of RAW, Smackdown, and NXT — do I still share them with you all? Do I continue watching to gather criticism for this week’s Nylons? I didn’t feel like watching WWE TV in the wake of last week’s disgrace, especially considering the news of WWE being officially declared an “essential business” immediately before the releases.

Considering the developments discussed above, I will only be writing about the TV I watched before the releases occurred. AEW will be discussed for both weeks as normal. In the Thorny section, I’ll explain how I will be proceeding with my reviews of WWE TV.

For now, let’s walk a little around the elephant in the room and discuss happier times.

The Good
NXT/AEW: I’ll start first with All Elite. The match between Hikaru Shida and Britt Baker was an enjoyable watch. In the beginning, the match didn’t seem to find its feet, but once Hikaru drew blood from Britt, it colored the match in a new hue.

Britt continues to react to what is happening around her to tell a potent story about her character. The way she grinned through her blood stained-mouth as she doled punishment to her opponent made her look, without exaggeration, psychotic. Perhaps the blood brought it out of them, but I felt that both women sold grit very well in this match. Grit you can only expect in AEW.

Image courtesy of: uproxx.com

Lastly, that doctor’s office segment with Britt last week was gold. Solid gold I tell you!!

For NXT, I was only able to witness the ladder match for the #1 contendership to Charlotte’s NXT title. And it was pure carnage. Bodies crashing everywhere!

My favorite spot in this match was every spot: Candice LeRae walking up the ladder that Io Shirai hadn’t yet set up fully; Mia Yim’s chair shot to Chelsea Green’s prone knee, entangled in a ladder; Tegan Nox pushing Mia and Raquel Gonzalez off the top rope through a table below, only to receive a monstrous superkick from Dakota Kai forcing her through a ladder below. Insanity! The segments between Tegan and Dakota were also “class” as the British would say.

As general commentary, I like what I am seeing from Raquel Gonzalez and Robert Stone. In regards to Raquel, it is interesting to see a female version of a “heavy” for another woman — I can’t recall another example of this historically in WWE. It is refreshing to see a physically imposing woman be used as the muscle for a smaller (but still capable) woman. An equality reached for the women in WWE that I did not realize was missing, until Raquel and Dakota aligned.

Robert, on the other hand, acts as a bonafide manager for Chelsea Green. Again, I am having trouble recalling many instances of a man being a manager for a woman. The only one in my recollection is Teddy Long for Jazz. It is very heartening to see a man throw so much support and investment into a female character on screen as an active wrestler. Indeed, in male-female partnerships, it is always expected that the man is more powerful than the woman. So, seeing Robert define his worth by the success or failure of his female client — as so many female managers have done for male performers — is a refreshing take on a tired dynamic.

Image courtesy of: mediareferee.com

RAW and Smackdown: I thoroughly enjoyed the match-up on RAW between Asuka and Ruby Riott. Let Ruby wrestle!!! The match was packed with crisp strikes and flowing chain sequences, such as Asuka’s sick knee strike on the apron to a grounded Ruby, and Ruby’s creative counter into a submission toward the end of the bout. Of the three women’s Money in the Bank qualifying matches that took place on the same night, I’d say this one delivered most as far as wrestling is concerned. Further, I was struck by how much the women dominated the April 13 edition of RAW, both in and out of the ring.

Speaking of out of the ring, I continue to be impressed with Zelina Vega’s work. The tiniest things make characters believable, and for me it is in the matter-of-fact way that Zelina speaks to those outside of her client circle. In a backstage segment with Charly Caruso, she corrected Charly’s pronunciation of Andrade’s name before continuing on with the rest of her promo. In that interview, on commentary, and in the actual ring, Zelina understands her role and motivations like any actress would. Her mission is clear: get her clients over and force people to understand their superior talent by any means necessary. In short, she demands respect for her clients and, in turn, herself as a competent business manager. And well, I guess when we think of it that deeply, how could you really give her anything less?

As for Smackdown, the storytelling between Sasha and Bayley has been great. The writers are giving the viewers a logical progression and direction for things to go: Sasha is consistently used as Bayley’s shield, and not seen by Bayley as a formidable competitor (and potential opponent) in her own right. And while there are a few directions they could take this story, I am hoping it ends as a successful redemption for all that Sasha has been through in the last three or so years. Let’s draw a line under it, finally give Sasha the title reign she deserves, and put the past behind us.

The Bad
AEW/NXT: As avid readers of Nylons likely know, I rarely have criticism of NXT, and this week is no exception. I’ll miss those days…

Anyways, as for All Elite, the only true criticism I have is that I want to see more women on Dynamite each week. I realize to level this criticism at them now, under current conditions of the pandemic, may seem a little questionable. Still, it is something I hope Cody and the gang are keeping in mind for the months to come when things hopefully improve.

Commentators commonly mention matches that took place on AEW Dark on episodes of Dynamite. In these next few weeks, I will make more of a concerted effort to seek out ways to watch AEW Dark and keep you all updated.

For now, I simply want to feel each week that AEW has a breathing women’s division, rather than an obligatory women’s segment and nothing more.

RAW and SD: Unfortunately for the other half of the Four Horsewomen, I have less fond things to say about the promos that Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair cut on RAW two episodes ago.

First, Becky. In her promo on Shayna, she addressed directly the criticisms that fans have had of her: that she has become a caricature of herself. And her defense of this (or WWE’s retcon of her bad writing) is that she purposely acted flamboyantly to throw Shayna off. She explained that she acted as a “joker” so she could inch closer to the weakness of the “queen,” that being Shayna. This strategy, then, is what allowed her to beat Shayna, because Shayna basically underestimated Becky.

Okay, look. I suppose that makes sense. Golf claps to whoever came up with that. However, I do feel that this was a clever retcon by WWE to get fans back on Becky’s side. I’m not falling for it. I still believe that Becky’s decline in likability was unintentional and the direct result of bad writing, as well as perhaps Becky’s own ego. Becky began acting arrogantly before her feud with Shayna; it only became more pronounced when the feud began.

Image courtesy of: WWE’s YouTube

In any case, the fact that Becky is still feuding with Shayna is ridiculous. To me, they blew their chance to get this feud right at WrestleMania. If Becky wasn’t going to move on to a new challenger after overcoming Shayna, with as much animosity that had been built between them, I don’t think they can salvage this story. In the meantime, all the other women should not have to wait until WWE figures their writing out to be given their chances.

If Becky is finding convenient excuses for her success, then Charlotte is just admitting what we already know to be true. In her promo, she actually stated that Vince McMahon hand-picked her to be in the main event at WrestleMania last year. Before you call me out — yes, I remember that this was part of the storyline going into WrestleMania 35. However, meta or not, past or present — it’s not right. And it certainly is grating to have Charlotte constantly remind us that she is the Chosen One of the women’s division, when she has literally all of the accolades to back it up.

At a certain point, you have to begin to wonder how much of Charlotte’s “character” is really an act. I think too many (straight white male) fans give her the benefit of the doubt with this characterization. With the “wealth gap,” so to speak, in the women’s division between Charlotte and everyone else this steep, when do comments like these by the woman herself cross the line from method acting, to distasteful boasting?

The Thorny
The time has come.

I explained in painstaking detail last week why I felt wrestling should be cancelled. I also scorned WWE for, despite their wealthy financial status, refusing to close during the pandemic. And the following week’s events succeeded in proving, once and for all, where WWE’s priorities truly lie. Hint: it isn’t with their employees.

I want to provide you all with further reading/watching that will inform you of this conclusion. Please read this detailed Forbes article for a matter-of-fact look at what happened last week, and why it was callous. Here’s a video about the conniving way WWE was named an “essential business” by Florida’s government. Read this from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter about the precise breakdown of all of the money WWE have that they chose not to use to weather the pandemic without business. Watch and listen here for an anonymous letter written by a WWE employee to a U.S. government official about WWE forcing people to work. Please, feel free to do your own research as well. You will not find a single angle of this story that adequately explains WWE’s decision to layoff their employees at any point, for any reason.

I am indignant at the business practices of WWE. Frankly, every WWE fan should be. And we should be screaming about it. Four years into a Trump presidency and I see many people forgetting that this is not normal. The way our government functions is not normal. A wrestling show being deemed essential in the middle of a pandemic is not normal.

WWE has made it crystal clear that they don’t care about their performers or employees. To let people go en masse during an uncertain time like this is cartoonishly evil. Especially for the wrestlers, who to begin with were not provided health insurance by their company, that now have to figure out how to pay both their bills and health insurance in this mess without income. They cannot find new work, because promotions aren’t hiring talent if they’re running shows at all. They have no options for income outside of charitable streams of income like Pro Wrestling Tees.

I cannot in good conscience continue to watch WWE TV after this sickening display of capitalist greed by the McMahon family. If their TV deals are what inspired them to do this, so their profit margins could look better to network execs, then I will contribute to tanking their ratings. It is apparent that they do not listen to fans any other way. Perhaps if their ratings are low enough, they’ll decide to cut their losses and stop filming so talent can be safe. High hopes seem foolish to have at this point, though.

So, if you want to read WWE reviews, find them elsewhere. For the foreseeable future I will only be reviewing AEW content to review for Nylons. I would ask you, my beloved reader, to join me in protest of WWE programming. As an act of love for the wrestlers that are risking their lives to entertain us, yes, but also likely because they have no other choice. Anything we can do to force WWE to shut down could be a godsend to someone in danger, in WWE and out. I will start watching again at some point in the future. Right now I just….can’t. I hope all of you understand.

Wrestling is not essential. But in a society teetering on fascist government, the wealthy elite want to fool us into believing that “the economy” is. Don’t play that game. Flip the table.

Stay legit bossy,

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