Sometimes, I think WWE and AEW read Nylons, because no sooner do I critique something about their women’s divisions do they correct themselves on the following episode of TV. As many of you witnessed, women returned to TV on AEW two weeks ago. Hooray! And as such, there were some good things, and there were some…questionable things to talk about. I am excited to discuss them with you all.
I bet you’re wondering if I’ve consumed any WWE since we last spoke. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news (or good news, in some circles), but I did not tune in these last two weeks. But, I do have various thoughts on the booking of this year’s Money in the Bank, and that monumental announcement from Becky Lynch. Save for the latter, I will keep my other comments regarding WWE brief.
Without further hesitation, let’s get started.
AEW: As I alluded to in the intro, All Elite brought women back to Dynamite with a return match for champion Nyla Rose and a video package about the division’s top contenders. The match that Nyla had did what it needed to do, which was re-establish Nyla as a dominant heel champion. Between the promo she cut with Tony Schiavone and heel tactics during her match, such as pulling her opponent’s shoulders off the mat during a pinfall, Nyla is portraying herself as a heel that is firmly in control at all times. She will cut you off if she has something to say and punish you for as long as she wants. She’ll even whack you with a kendo stick if she wants. As a “beast,” we should expect nothing less.
Additionally, I enjoyed the aforementioned package that AEW ran for the women before Nyla’s match. In a way, this implicitly addressed their lack of focus on the division in the weeks prior. While a direct explanation would obviously be preferable, I will accept this intentional focus in the form of a video package as sufficient. Just don’t do it again!
In terms of match quality, I have to applaud the four-way last week between Kris Statlander, Penelope Ford, Hikaru Shida, and Britt Baker. This was a fairly exciting matchup where for the most part, the women successfully gelled their movesets together. There were so many excellent moments, such as Britt’s DDT to Kris, a tower of doom suplex by Kris to Hikaru and Britt, and Britt’s picture perfect Canadian destroyer. Indeed, the MVPs of this match were Britt and Kris. It was a welcome reminder for fans that Britt Baker can in fact wrestle, particularly since much of her work is vignette-based. And it seems that Kris is quietly becoming one of the most consistent performers All Elite has in its women’s division. I really dig her energetic-yet-powerful wrestling style!
Penelope, as I discussed last week, still needs some polishing. She had another spot in this match that was very ambitious albeit sloppily executed, that being a poison rana that she under-rotated a bit (causing her opponent to land awkwardly on her rather than behind her). Still, she was a great addition to this match. I can’t disagree with keeping Hikaru strong, given that she will finally be able to challenge Nyla for the women’s title at Double or Nothing.
WWE: I was happy to hear that Asuka won the MITB match this year, and thus is our new RAW women’s champion. And given that she is now apparently a face, my hopes are that she is booked better than she was the last time she was a face champion.
AEW: Ah yes, that whole Brandi Rhodes/Jake “The Snake” thing…
Okay. The promo that Brandi cut, in isolation, should be in the above section. I absolutely loved that she reasserted the power she holds in AEW (that being her role as CBO) for audiences and sexists alike. I snapped my fingers as she copped more of an attitude toward the end of the promo, essentially saying to Jake that she wouldn’t be just another damsel. If the actions that followed actually gave credence to her words, then I would have no problem here.
But, and this is a big but, what Jake did with his snake rendered her entire promo pointless. Brandi was not saved by her husband, so I suppose she wasn’t technically a damsel. Even still, her trauma is being used as a plot device to make this feud between Cody and “The Snake” more personal. As Brandi said, we’re not in the 90s anymore, and yet, this still feels fairly routine by today’s standards in AEW and WWE’s universes alike. When we want cheap heat for a male heel, we involve the face’s wife for shock and awe.
It seems like AEW had (or allowed) Brandi do that promo as compensation for having to allow Jake to hover over her prone body in the middle of the ring. Rather than portraying her as completely helpless, they at least allowed Brandi to speak up for herself before it happened to prove her strength. In a small way, that’s better than the alternative I described. But as I’ve said time and time again here, lip service only maters when the affirmative actions follow it. Don’t just tell us, show us. When a woman says one thing but her writing says another without sufficient explanation, it creates a dissonance that prevents us for getting behind female characters.
Maybe Jake will get his comeuppance from Brandi, and all of my whinging will have been in vain. I’m not getting my hopes up, though.
WWE: Here are my hot takes about the MITB booking:
1) I hope they pull the trigger on the Sasha/Bayley feud soon, or else it runs the risk of entering the territory it did in 2018. Release the tension! What happened to letting wrestlers wrestle each other back and forth to settle their differences, rather than letting the tension fester to culminate in one or two matches? Why has Sasha — one of the most gifted performers of this era — been reduced to a disgruntled sidekick? A fiercely dressed one, but a sidekick nonetheless. The rubber’s gotta hit the road soon, or else we’re right back where we were the first time around.
2) We know now that Becky found out about her pregnancy after WrestleMania, which means that WWE had intentions to keep Becky champ and her feud with Shayna Baszler going. We also know that Becky (and in turn WWE) knew about her pregnancy before Money in the Bank. So with that information, they could have easily had Shayna win the title she was supposed to win at Mania, right? No. Don’t get me wrong: I am very happy for Asuka, arguably the MVP of the pandemic-era shows, to be given another singles run as champion. And also — if it turned out that Becky did need to leave, why wouldn’t they just book Shayna to be champ, as fans expected back in April? Furthermore, if WWE had stuck with the original plan to have Shayna win so Becky (and Seth) could take a break after Mania, then this whole kerfuffle could have been avoided altogether.
Hindsight is 20/20, I guess, but I just feel sorry for Shayna in all of this. Everything pointed to her winning, and yet for whatever reason WWE went circles around making her champ when they had not one but two opportunities to strap her. Hopefully she gets her chance with Asuka.
Upon hearing the news of Becky Lynch’s pregnancy, I found myself in shock. Unlike many fans giving her an outpouring of support and congratulations, I found myself despondent and irritable for much of the day after hearing the news. And here in this section, I want to talk to you all a little about why I felt this way.
But first, I’d like to recognize Becky’s own excitement about this news throughout RAW on Monday, as well as her generally positive outlook as told to People magazine. My intent is not to diminish those feelings in any way.
On Tuesday morning after hearing the news, I sought out the unedited segment from RAW the night before containing the revelation. Watching it, I was gutted. Becky looked absolutely heartbroken to be doing what she was in that ring. The way Becky scrunched her face in tears when Asuka took the title from the briefcase told a story. Even after she uttered the word “mother” to end her speech, her smile was quickly taken over by a sorrowful, glassy-eyed stare. She told us that she’d miss us, and then walked away. And in less than 10 minutes, I felt like I knew how Becky was feeling. I knew because like Becky, I, too, want to have children; and I also know that as a woman, it will come at a price.
What we witnessed in Becky’s eyes was fear. Not just any fear, The Fear. The one that any ambitious, career-driven woman with a male partner has in the back of her mind: I’m afraid that once I have children, my career will be over. I’m afraid that when I become a mother, that it will become my primary role and purpose in life.
And that fear, as paranoid and bleak as it may be, is factually still a reality for most women in America with male partners (as I mentioned last week). I was most stricken by this fact when, while looking through the comments on Becky Lynch’s “goodbye” Instagram post after RAW last week, I saw Trish Stratus’ note to Becky.
In her comment, Trish boldly assumes that Becky’s announcement was one of retirement rather than simply hiatus; she goes as far as to say that Becky “ended” her career on a historic note. To see this comment from a legend of Trish’s caliber is not only disappointing, but worrisome.
Trish is one in a long line of women to begin their journeys to motherhood specifically after their time in the ring had ended (Maryse, Brie and Nikki Bella, Beth Phoenix, Michelle McCool, etc.). That isn’t on accident. Someone pointed out to me (rather uncritically, I must say) in the comments to Becky’s post that the average woman’s wrestling career is only about 7 years long. While I haven’t crunched the numbers myself, generally speaking, it sounds on point. Women don’t “last” in wrestling the same way men do. I remarked to this person that it is unfair that men can wrestle into their 40s (sometimes 50s!) with multiple children at a high level, when it is a very near impossible feat for women. If we were to look at the history of women’s champions versus men’s champions, we would find far less women (if any at all) compared to men who had children during at least one of their championship reigns.
Yes, we have women like Lacey Evans and even the new RAW women’s champion, Asuka, who have children. It is important to point out, however, that they had their children before their time in WWE. It is unprecedented for a woman in WWE to conceive a child while still an active performer, no less as the current face of the entire women’s division. My fear for Becky is one that I have for myself and all women who partner with men.
Think of how many wrestling couples there are wherein the man is still wrestling and the woman is a retired wrestler, littering our Instagram feeds with pictures of their babies/toddlers. Again, I understand some of these women may not have had the passion for the business to stay in it after giving birth. And still, I fail to believe that their male partners were willing to slow down their own careers to support their wife’s full-time return to the ring even if she wanted it.
I shudder to think of Becky Lynch as anyone’s stay-at-home mom, and yet this will likely be the choice presented to her when she has her first child with her fiancé, Seth Rollins. Even if Seth wanted to be a supportive partner for Becky by staying home for a few months to allow for some sort of comeback for her, patriarchal power structures in WWE probably won’t allow for such time off for him. In male-female partnerships functioning in the capitalist society we live in, it is ridiculously difficult for both parents to refrain from working for even a month after a new child is born. And because of that, one parent always has to sacrifice more than the other. You know without me even saying it which partner that usually is, because society expects it of them.
The tears in Becky’s eyes were that of a woman who was torn. Torn apart by the reality that plagues successful women in our society.
It is still a reality for women that “Mother” is the title that trumps all. I was and am upset because Becky’s pregnancy and the responses she received from women like Trish reminded me that motherhood is still held and regarded as the apex of a woman’s possible accomplishments.
Becky’s choices are her own. I don’t want to put words in her mouth. But seeing the pain and sense of loss in her eyes last Monday – as a woman, I can only long for a better world for her and all women.
Summer is a mere few weeks away, and the season is known to bring the heat in the wrestling ring. Right now, I can’t help but be worried for what the summer will bring for everyone — wrestlers and fans alike — when states inevitably reopen.
What lies on the other side? Let’s find out…together.
Stay legit bossy,