Much of the same mix of hope and anxiety have continued for me since the last edition of Nylons. And what’s worse is that I (spoiler) have many negative feelings toward wrestling at the moment, for the various news that have come out in the last couple of weeks. From WWE allegedly forbidding Performance Center trainees and their family members from wearing masks — shortly after a COVID-19 case was confirmed at the PC — to WWE’s prompt denial of it. From poor booking decisions in the women’s division to the #SpeakingOut hashtag. And the newest cherry on top: Sammy Guevara’s disgusting comments about Sasha Banks from years ago. It seems that the wrestling industry is getting a long overdue reckoning regarding their shady business practices.
What is done in the dark will always come to light, and in a dark way I am happy that folks are finally smart (or “smarky”) enough to hold the industry accountable for its transgressions.
Of course, the biggest elephant in the room is WWE, so they will be the object of most of my ire this week, particularly with Backlash having just happened. We’ll chat a bit about some curious developments in All Elite as well.
NXT/AEW: The saving grace for both divisions was once again the quality of wrestling. Not as soaring as the weeks we discussed in the last Nylons, but still some entertaining bouts to talk about.
I enjoyed the tag team match on AEW featuring Nyla Rose and Penelope Ford facing Kris Statlander and Hikaru Shida. Kris and Hikaru utilized great tag team offense while also proving individually their in-ring talents. Hikaru’s leg strikes are very convincing as are Kris’, whose athleticism makes her an energetic competitor. I was, however, pleased with Penelope scoring the pinfall victory, as she was a silent star of this match as well. Her quickness and cunning make her a believable heel.
Speaking of heels, I feel redundant singing Britt Baker’s praises, but she continues to be a highlight for me week on week. Both weeks’ segments were hilarious to me. The video package shown that included her wheeling a small barbell plate on a string as “training” only to have her assistant pick it up for her was ridiculous!! And I enjoyed the kidnapping of Britt by Big Swole the next week, in response to Britt calling her out seven days before. Britt in a dumpster was a beautiful site for a bratty heel like her. I am interested to see how her feud with Big Swole continues without the in-ring element.
On NXT, I was very impressed with Kayden Carter’s showing against Dakota Kai. Kayden was a firecracker in this match! One maneuver that stuck out for me was a sick elevated facebuster by Kayden on Dakota. But, I am disappointed that, despite her dominating most of the match, that they still had Kayden lay down for Dakota. They could have elevated her to Dakota’s level and begun a new feud, but instead this will likely just be another notch in Dakota’s belt of dominance rather than a promising victory for a lesser-seen woman.
Lastly, I enjoyed the tag team championship match that Sasha Banks and Bayley had on NXT. The match with Tegan Nox and Shotzi Blackheart was solid because of the NXT talents and a creative finish. The MVP of this match in my opinion was Shotzi. She has such unique offense combined with a fiery presentation, taking the mantle of daredevil from predecessors like Nikki Cross. She dove from the top rope, broke up pinfalls, and did a move that made my jaw drop. What on earth is the Cattle Mutilation??? The Eddie Guerrero-like finish, wherein Bayley framed Tegan as cheating with a chair thus distracting the ref from seeing Bayley’s assist to Sasha for the submission, was chef’s kiss.
Backlash: Speaking of the women’s tag team champions, I also enjoyed their match against Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss and the IIconics. The star of this match for me was Alexa, because of the tear she went on in the middle of this match, taking out her opponents so swiftly. Also, if I haven’t said it before, Alexa’s got one of the baddest right hand slaps in the business. The little lean she does to deliver it…the swagger! I think all six women worked well together and did as much as they could with the time they were given.
RAW and Smackdown: Unfortunately, I don’t have much to say about anything good on RAW or Smackdown this week. We’ll talk more about these shows in the next section. I will say generally that I am enjoying the quantity of women’s matches on both shows each week, give or take.
AEW/NXT: I have little to say about NXT, but I will share that I want to see more of Io Shirai in segments that make sense. She came down to run off Sasha and Bayley at the end of their match against Tegan and Shotzi, but I failed to understand why. Unless this is going to lead to a feud with Sasha or Bayley, I think we should consider alternate means of using Io every week. But, there’s still time for this to happen, as she’s very early in her reign.
In addition, while I was satisfied with the tag team title match on NXT, I wished that both Sasha and Bayley gave more. These women are NXT legends, and to this day are the only women to win the award for Match of the Year in Pro Wrestling Illustrated. They can take it to the mat, hard. And instead, it seemed like they were playing more defense than offense, as they tend to wrestle as a heel team. It was disappointing to have NXT expectations of these two when, through fault of their own or otherwise, they phoned it in for this match.
As for AEW, I am going back to the well I’ve visited before: there needs to be more women’s matches on each Dynamite. The tag match I discussed in the last section gave me a weird sense of deja vu because I’d sworn I’d seen the match just a couple of weeks ago. Even if it wasn’t this exact quartet of women, the fact that the match felt familiar is never a good sign.
We’re still getting new debuts occasionally, and over the last two weeks we’ve seen the arrival of Abadon, a character ripped from a paranormal horror film, on Dynamite. She faced Anna Jay, who got a nice little interview package before the match. In it, she explains concisely what she’s all about between the ropes. I thought this was very nice! I wish all of the AEW women got this in some form before or shortly after their debuts. Even hearing a person talk about themselves can help you to feel more close to them.
And with the above considered, this is my point: AEW needs more women in separate unrelated segments on the show every week so we can put together the depth of the division. We’ve gotten so many random debuts in the nine months Dynamite has been on air. But for many of these debuts, we see them once or twice, and then they disappear. Further to my point, if you were challenged to name ten women in AEW’s women’s division, could you get past the first five without searching deep within your brain to recall the others? Because I know there are more than ten. Barely. But if AEW can’t get a handle on displaying the depth of their women’s division by creating multiple linear storylines for barely a dozen performers, I don’t have confidence that they’ll be able to do it when there are two or three dozen.
Backlash: The title match between Nia Jax and Asuka left much to be desired. I am so ashamed at WWE for how poorly they treat Asuka. She should not be winning on her first title defense by a double count out! There is this unwarranted obsession with making Asuka look stupid or lucky, and it harms her. That being said, the match was not as bad as some have made it out to be.
With the women’s tag team title match, I thought highly of the match as I’ve explained already. And also, I take issue with the representation of two titles in one match wherein only one title is actually on the line. To be cynical for a moment, it again feels like WWE is being lazy by cramming as much as they can into one segment, rather than breaking it into two when that makes more sense. It feels like they strapped Sasha and Bayley because they didn’t want to deal with having to book for a third title. They might have believed that they were furthering the storyline between Bayley and Sasha, but even still, why is it that WWE can never seem to find a way to focus on a main event storyline without burying the women on the periphery? In storyline and in real life, the tag titles are simply props here. Titles are not plot devices. They are hard-fought-for prizes with prestige. Not those belts, though. WWE can’t even be bothered to develop an actual division for the titles.
RAW and SD: Speaking of the tag champs, I will also defend them a bit when it comes to my next point. The IIconics cut a promo on Sasha and Bayley on RAW that referenced their now-infamous blowup backstage at Wrestlemania 35. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay taunted the champions by saying that they were crybabies after they lost their titles. And hearing this, and remembering the recent promos on Smackdown that the Golden Role Models have cut reminding people that they were the inaugural champions that built the division et cetera, I am reminded that even with their success, WWE still apparently holds the belief that we should think of Sasha and Bayley as the bad girls after all.
I never really like when WWE imbues storylines with “real life” drama, because we don’t know how said events made the performers feel when they were living them. Even if the involved parties agree to include said events in the fabric of a story, it doesn’t mean that acting or referencing these things can’t trigger a performer in a real way. The comment was mild, yes. And I still feel that it beats a long-dead horse.
Next, I have a quick observation about Nia Jax in her RAW rematch against Asuka. While I enjoyed the match for what it was, it became evident to me in this match and the one at Backlash that Nia doesn’t really have a moveset. She just sort of bulldozes into people, administers rest holds, and a few bodyslams or leg drops. I imagine this is due to her history of injuring opponents. It is interesting to watch Nia, a wrestler with such power, wrestle almost gingerly so she doesn’t actually hurt people. I’m not sure if this observation carries any merit, but it does take me out of most Nia matches.
Lastly, let’s discuss something relevant to what’s going on in the country right now. On the June 15 episode of RAW, I noticed something strange. There were many Black men featured on that particular episode of RAW. So many that my husband, who doesn’t follow wrestling, noticed it. And I thought huh, maybe this is WWE trying to save face. And quickly that thought turned into a question: where are the Black women?
There are, to be fair, far fewer Black women on the “main roster” brands than there are men. It still struck me hard how — in what I’m sure they thought was a performative victory in showing more Black men — it was not even considered to have Bianca Belair on the show. She and Naomi have been MIA for weeks, but #BlackLivesMatter right? Perhaps WWE could work harder on including more Black performers on the show regularly, so that when it happens we aren’t shocked. And to actually include Black women as representations of Blackness on TV.
On all WWE programming, I have been slightly annoyed by the prevalence of women’s tag matches. The same goes for AEW. Divisions that have singles titles and yet we can’t stop cramming multiple women in a tag match so the men in charge can pat themselves on the back for including more than the minimum amount of women in a segment. In the case of WWE, we have obligatory women’s tag matches and yet somehow there is no women’s tag team division. The lack of intentionality is evident.
Indeed, in WWE it seems that tag matches are given more time than singles matches. With a few exceptions (namely women’s title matches), it seems that the only singles matches that are truly given time no matter what are matches featuring the office’s favorite blonde, Charlotte Flair. Which lands us in the next section.
As promised, I am dedicating the first portion of this section to my latest gripes about Charlotte and her booking. My critique is now colored slightly differently, with news that Charlotte is apparently injured and will be going away for a while. However, most of what will follow remains true regardless of how the writers are now having to take a different direction without her.
Let’s rewind to just after NXT Takeover: In Your House. Charlotte had just lost her NXT women’s title (notably without taking the pinfall), and the night after on RAW she competed in a match against Sasha Banks and Bayley and the IIconics, with Asuka stepping in as her tag partner. Asuka would win this match for the pair, but because of tensions between them, a match later that night was booked between Charlotte and Asuka. And Charlotte won. Thus, it was made clear that Charlotte was somehow next in line for a title shot. On this same episode, an interviewer asked how Charlotte was feeling after losing her NXT title, and she very arrogantly dismissed any suggestion of despair. She said that she elevated that title, and that she wanted Asuka’s gold next. In a short promo, Charlotte effectively buried her time in NXT. And by the end of the night, she’d also bury, directly and indirectly, the women’s tag division and the RAW women’s champion.
Had Charlotte not gotten injured, it is very likely that WWE would have strapped her, having her once again humiliate Asuka. Instead, they’re veering sideways and having Charlotte feud with Nia instead.
Most recently, Charlotte cut a promo on Nia in the ring asserting her independence after Nia suggested nepotism was to blame for her success. Charlotte shot back by pointing out that it wasn’t her dad that accomplished things for her, but rather herself conquering over others. It is a common characterization in WWE when it comes to second- or third-generation Superstars: that their familial legacy actually made things harder for them, as they had to fight to step out of the shadows of their successful parents. I think it’s a crock of lies.
My complaints about Charlotte are always the same; I only get more ammunition as time goes on. Considering that wrestling is not real and that people decide who wins and who loses, it would be foolish to discount the role Charlotte’s father has played in politicking her way to the top of the women’s division. How else do you explain her sometimes nonsensical dominance over everybody else?
I’m so upset that Asuka only beat Charlotte this past Monday because Charlotte had a bum arm. Asuka is a formidable competitor, an internationally renowned talent, that should be able to defeat Charlotte convincingly. But instead, like most anyone Charlotte wrestles, she’s often lucky to get a few licks in before she’s literally stamped out by the Queen. Charlotte’s matches are frustrating to watch because they are so unbalanced. She dominates nearly every segment of a match, and sometimes doesn’t even sell for her opponents. She can be intensely selfish, as evidenced back at the Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay-per-view when she ragdolled Kairi Sane around when she clearly was concussed, just to look dominant.
It’s even worse when you consider how much WWE seems to marvel in writing her character exactly this way: holier-than-thou daddy’s girl who will always prevail in the end. She knows she is the Exalted One, even more so than Brodie Lee does.
We were told that the logic behind having Charlotte go over Rhea at Mania was so that Charlotte could bring more eyes to NXT and, as a secondary goal, elevate the NXT women’s title. Whether or not these were the genuine reasons behind strapping her, we’ll never know. We can only look at the evidence of her reign, wherein she almost never put over the women on the NXT roster, continued to wrestle on the adjacent brands, and lost the title in a triple threat without being pinned. Oh, and the ratings didn’t go up. Read the room, WWE. This was never about the NXT women or bringing ratings up. This was about what I suspected from the beginning: giving Charlotte yet another accolade because they could. This was about further asserting Charlotte’s dominance over every other woman without relenting an inch of credibility on her part.
Now, we may be given the gift of having Charlotte go a way for a while. Perhaps WWE in this time can evaluate the downsides of putting all of their eggs in one basket. But, they probably won’t. By the same token, I hope Ashley Fleihr does some reflecting on her spot in WWE relative to her peers. I invite her to ask the following questions: Why am I only be tall when others are on their knees? Why is my superiority so directly linked to the lack of consideration my peers seem to get? Am I comfortable getting my fill and then some if it means that many of my peers will starve?
I wanted to end this week’s Nylons by honoring the #SpeakingOut hashtag. In the vein of #MeToo, women of the UK wrestling scene have been sharing stories of harassment, coercion, and abuse (physical or sexual) at the hands of mostly male wrestlers. Soon, the hashtag gained traction, and American women and men began sharing stories as well.
When #MeToo started, I wondered when wrestling would join the conversation. It has taken far too long, but now during the largest civil rights movement of modern ages, the time has finally come. While I’m disheartened that this conversation has not made it to the WWE locker room (or perhaps it has, but various contractual obligations or coercive political tactics are forcing folks to be quiet), this opens the door to the future possibility of that happening.
I know people love their favorite wrestlers. But we have to love the safety of women more. And for the men who have suffered, they will benefit from this too. We must be freed from abuses of power, sexism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. These are the pillars of patriarchy. When we begin to dismantle them, all of us will share the wealth.
Stay legit bossy,