Nylons and Midriffs: Clownery (August 5, 2020)

We have so much foolishness to go over this week, pals…

That’s okay; not every week can be a banger. There are some weeks that serve as buffer, and with wrestling not having an off-season, there are bound to be lulls every few months or so.

Let’s start with a review of the matches and segments that were the diamonds in the rough the last two weeks.

The Good
Not much to go over, but here at Nylons we still like to give credit where it’s due.

NXT/AEW: This week is all NXT, baby. I thoroughly enjoyed all women’s matches from the last two weeks of TV. I believe that, for no remarkable reason at all, I’ve grown to really like Shotzi Blackheart. By exposure to her week in and week out and giving her a reason to be on TV, her character and high-octane wrestling style growing on me. She really has that X-factor!

She shines in any match she’s a part of because of her high energy. For example, my eyes were squarely on her for her match against Aliya, although that isn’t to say Aliya was a wet mop. She is another woman I’d like to see more of to figure out exactly what she’s about in the ring. I am intrigued by her relationship with Robert Stone and where it will go, especially considering Robert is such a dramatic, bumbling manager. He’s hilarious!

After the match, Mercedes Martinez caught up with Robert and Aliya backstage to essentially bully her way into a business clientship with Robert. This followed her own beat down of Shotzi after her victory. How she watched Aliya lose her match with Shotzi and decided Robert would be a good manager is beyond me, but it happened.

Image credit: cattieswomenswrestling.wordpress.com

As a result of her new relationship with Robert, Mercedes tried her hand with Shotzi last week, and won in impressive fashion. Find a GIF of Mercedes launching Shotzi across the ring with a release German suplex off the top rope. Not only is Mercedes menacing, but she is precise with her power!

Yet another fantastic match in the NXT women’s division saw Tegan Nox and champion Io Shirai clash with Dakota Kai and Candice LeRae. Once again, Io proved why she is the rightful owner of the women’s title! She exemplifies the importance of giving title opportunities to more than just a few women, because in her first reign I really think Io is coming into her own. Her first segment with Dakota in this match was fantastic! Io’s aerial offense was on point as always; no one delivers a missile dropkick like Io. The height she gets makes her nearly vertical so it’s almost an elevated stomp. Truly a thing of beauty.

The other star of this match was Dakota for me. I appreciate the attention to detail that Dakota shows when she wrestles. For example, whenever Dakota delivers a kick with her knee-braced leg, she often grabs for it once the foot comes back down to the mat. Even if her leg is never actively injured in a match, she is always cognizant of the fact that her knee brace is almost a part of her character’s backstory now. Kind of like Edge or Daniel Bryan or Lita with their nearly career-ending spine/head injuries — such serious events will always follow them in the ring.

I have to say, I may even be pulling for Dakota in tonight’s #1 contender’s match against Rhea Ripley. I do love Rhea, but I love new blood in the title picture even more, and Dakota has been doing excellent work as of late.

RAW and Smackdown: Both shows have generally been a mess as of late, but I must say I have been pleasantly surprised with the promos and backstage segments that have taken place featuring women outside of the title picture.

Image credit: ringsidenews.com

Last week, Sonya Deville viciously attacked her former tag partner Mandy Rose backstage while Mandy was getting ready for a date with Otis. Sonya was sadistic in her attack, shakily cursing Mandy for ruining her life while chopping off locks of Mandy’s hair. I am glad that Sonya is being given material to begin with, and the fact that she ate the material up is a solid bonus. The reality that Mandy and Sonya are best friends out of the ring helped Sonya feel comfortable in truly going there with handling Mandy. Hopefully this translates into an in-ring feud, because I’ve always considered Sonya to be more gifted of the two between the ropes, due to her MMA background.

Just a couple of days ago, Ruby Riott had a heartfelt segment with her former friend Liv Morgan making a return to RAW this week. I was genuinely shocked at the amount of acting Ruby put into this promo, pulling real-life details into her words like the matching tattoos she and Liv share and feigning choking back tears. She apologized for her wrongdoing toward Liv months ago, and Liv forgave her.

I liked this segment because it did something WWE never does nowadays, which is tie up loose ends. The company frequently will turn people heel or face randomly without explanation, and make allies of wrestlers that were enemies mere months beforehand with zero reasoning. Actually showing the change of heart between two wrestlers, and explained so believably by Ruby, will now be a pivotal moment in the histories of those performers and their relationship. Sometimes, it doesn’t take much effort to tell a story. Now hopefully they don’t ruin this by having one of them turn on the other.

The Bad
NXT/AEW: Conversely to the above, the bad stuff lies entirely with AEW this week.

First, I’d like to welcome new faces Ivelisse and Diamante, two Puerto Rican women that went head-to-head on an episode of Dynamite two weeks ago. I absolutely love the diversity we are seeing in women’s wrestling at the moment. The reason we push for inclusion of many different backgrounds in any space is so that we get new attitudes to pull the needle of progress forward. It’s nice to no longer see a rehashing of the same tired ingredients.

Unfortunately, I could not get into this match, even if it was given time. Although I believe the commentators said that both women were something like veterans of the independent scene, what they showed in this match didn’t convince me. There is a Matrix-like, slow motion quality to wrestling when the performers just don’t click, and I felt that sensation watching this one. Too much slapping, not enough chain wrestling to give the match momentum. The bout additionally wasn’t helped by a Big Swole promo that aired in the middle of it. Why??? I hate when promotions do this. How are audiences meant to care about the match taking place when they essentially tell us not to? Here, take a look at this over here. They are depending on our indifference to the action to air the promo. We’ve established how much I hate forcing more than one women’s feud into a single segment.

Image credit: WhatCulture.com

Luckily for Diamante, she was able to redeem herself with a match against Hikaru Shida on the next Dynamite. Again, I unfortunately could not get into this one. I dug the video package AEW aired before the match for Diamante; it helped me to understand the kind of personality a heel like Diamante has in the ring. And yet, I don’t know if it was nerves or something else, but Diamante was less than precise in her movements. What sticks out is a sunset flip powerbomb attempt that didn’t snap. Instead, there was not enough momentum behind Diamante’s swing, so it looked more like an inverted tumble where Hikaru’s legs hit the ropes.

The thing that sucks about being a marginalized identity in wrestling, in this case a woman, is that if you don’t hit every mark when management decides to give you your scraps, you may not be able to eat again for weeks. Meaning, it has been a pattern in AEW for the women that a new woman may appear on Dynamite one week, and be gone for several weeks after — even if you do everything right. I would love to be proven wrong so that Diamante and Ivelisse can both improve.

RAW and SD: I hate being right.

WWE did what I said they would do, and they strapped Sasha Banks with the RAW women’s title. She’s still a Smackdown Superstar, by the way. They did so in a way that surprised even the cynic in my heart, which is saying something when it comes to Sasha, Bayley, and Asuka. I have a lot of cynicism to give when it comes to these three.

When Asuka could taste victory, the titantron projected video feed from the back of Bayley beating the daylights out of Kairi Sane. Kairi screamed in pain and eventually desperation, calling out for Asuka’s help. This broke the Good Samaritan in Asuka, who rushed out of the ring to the back to help her friend. Per Stephanie McMahon’s stipulations the week before, the title could be won by countout, so after a (fairly quick) ten count from the ref, Sasha was declared the winner and new champ.

GIF credit: Tenor.com
Now, you all know how much I love Sasha, but no amount of love for her can stop me from seeing the absolute clownery that took place here. For months, the story we were being told about Bayley and Sasha is that Bayley needs Sasha in order to win, but Sasha can win on her own. In the last few weeks, we’ve seen multiple examples of Sasha also needing Bayley in order to rack up victories. This was really the icing on top to driving this new point home. Now, it’s been established that both women need each other. So when one of them turns on the other, who are we as fans supposed to side with???

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

And Asuka. POOR ASUKA! We must pay attention to the ways in which racism manifests differently for all women of color. Asuka has consistently been made into a joke on the main roster. I feel that it stems from the very xenophobic notion that people who do not speak English are stupid or unhinged. Think back to they days of “choppy choppy pee pee.” She is very easily distracted in matches, and puts on an aloof face for extra drama. Remember the whole James Ellsworth nonsense with Carmella?

And she, as well as other Japanese female wrestlers like Io Shirai, is always yelling. Moments after her loss, Asuka was shown with a despondent look on her face before screaming presumably obscenities in Japanese. There is this barbaric, illogical, and unclever quality about Asuka that often rears its head when she loses that bothers me.

I am unfamiliar with wrestling in Japan, so perhaps fans of Japanese wrestling can tell me — is Asuka’s portrayal genuine to her character across international barriers, or is this a distortion of Japanese people? I’d love to hear from you, as well as Asian wrestling fans to give perspective on this.

Shockingly, there is even more negative to go over here. Shayna Baszler is potentially feuding with…Nia Jax? A feud I didn’t know I didn’t need.

Their altercations last week were so clunky. There was no chemistry whatsoever and I found myself cringing as I watched. I wanted Shayna in a feud, and no disrespect to Nia as a person, but the former deserves better.

This feud won’t work because it is an unstoppable (or “irresistible”) force meeting an immovable object. Both Shayna and Nia are the type of wrestlers that can do one thing — Shayna being the technical ground-and-pound fighter, and Nia being the ultra-powerful giant. In the case of Shayna at least, it doesn’t mean that she’s one-dimensional, it simply means she is exceptional in her one lane. Both she and Nia wrestle best when they are up against a competitor who is more versatile in multiple different lanes. Eamples of versatile wrestlers are Sasha Banks, Asuka, Charlotte Flair, and Candice LeRae. When there is contrast with in-ring styles, a harmony of rigidity and fluidity, beautiful wrestling songs are composed. But when there is too much of either element as there is here, the song will sound a choppy or lethargic mess.

I suppose I’ll let the two show what they can do if this continues, but I’m not optimistic.

The Thorny
There are two things really grinding my gears right now.

Naomi Still Deserves Better. In true WWE fashion, a segment aired on Smackdown addressing the real-life social media trend #NaomiDeservesBetter — but in storyline terms. The narrative they were pushing was that this hashtag came to be because fans felt Naomi deserved better treatment from Lacey Evans, which makes absolutely no sense (surely, they know that, right?)

The obnoxious unfunny pricks that they are, The Miz and John Morrison interviewed Naomi on MizTV, interrogating her as to why fans would be demanding better for Naomi when she lost her match with Lacey. They posited that Lacey should have been the one trending.

Image credit: theringreport.com

Naomi fired back with a heated explanation, saying that her fans made the hastag rather than her, and that they did so because they recognize her talent and the way she’s been busting her butt for a decade. You knew Naomi felt every word of what she said and meant it, but Miz and Morrison proceeded to tone police her, saying that they didn’t expect her to be so “confrontational.” This is a microaggression, everyone. Lacey then came out to further condescend to her. She commented that despite Naomi being in WWE for more than a decade that she didn’t have much to show for it, until Naomi had enough and smacked her.

The following week, the two had a short match, wherein Lacey once again beat Naomi senseless and mangled her braids under various ring equipment. Naomi only won with an out-of-nowhere rollup, without gaining much offensive traction at all in the match. It was almost like they were reluctantly giving her the win.

Jim Ross of all people made a comment on AEW Dynamite that perfectly sums up the idea of meritocracy in pro wrestling. In a Diamante match, J.R. commented on Diamante’s assertion that she had often been overlooked, and presumed that Diamante felt she was cheated out of the “almighty push” she deserved, and said the following: “Here’s how you deserve things — win the match, win THIS match.” I couldn’t help but think this was a pointed, indirect response to the #NaomiDeservesBetter hashtag. When you consider another old-timer, Booker T, making headlines for his tone-deaf assessment of whether or not Naomi deserves better, it becomes crystal clear that wrestling, like real life, runs on the myth of meritocracy.

Here’s the thing: wrestling is fake! Actual people decide who wins and who loses, like you playing with your plastic dolls as a kid. People make these decisions. This isn’t MMA, where the fights are real and the winners win because they gave more. It is theater with wrestling moves, and every development is intentional. If WWE was interested in letting Naomi really wrestle, letting her hold titles, and giving her consistent TV time, they would have done it. For anyone to blame Naomi’s lack of success in comparison to her tenure on a lack of grit or talent is ignoring the giant elephant in the room, which is racism. In this case, misogynoir.

You get better when you are given chances. You are given chances when your superiors see your inherent value. White women like Carmella and Alexa Bliss were called up from NXT arguably before they were ready, and were given titles and opportunities nearly from the get-go. And they kept receiving one or both of these things until they got better. Now, the two of them are very solid in the ring, but it’s important to remember how sloppy or one-dimensional they were when they began. Naomi wasn’t given that luxury because she was not seen as valuable as a dark-skinned Black woman.(We can also fully acknowledge the success that Sasha Banks is currently having and understand that she is being tokenized for the current sociopolitical moment. It is important to consider who is seen as worthy of such tokenization, and skin color definitely plays a role.)

Naomi deserves because Naomi is. If Naomi was given the same consistent TV time over the years as someone like Charlotte, Sasha, or even Mandy Rose, she could have reached legend status by now. It is a testament of victim blaming that the most powerful continue to tell marginalized people to work harder to climb the ladder while simultaneously adding more rungs as they climb.

AEW’s Deadly Draw. AEW is introducing women’s tag team titles to the promotion. Yay, right? Well…

I don’t think AEW needs a women’s tag division right now because they can barely focus on the women’s world championship division. Even more than that, I do not think the women’s division on the whole has been developed well enough for audiences to reasonably care about anyone competing in the tournament. Once all of the teams are laid out on paper, can any of us really pick a clear winner or personal favorite to win?

Not only this, but apparently the cup has already begun?! I was gobsmacked when I discovered earlier today that at least one match (featuring Nyla Rose and the returned Ariane Andrew) had taken place on AEW’s YouTube page. The audacity of them to do this when they aired the entirety of the men’s TNT title tournament on TV, to the detriment of the women’s airtime during those weeks is peak hypocrisy. The fact that AEW can’t find the time on a regular episode of Dynamite to include this bourgeoning division is a stark indicator to me that they are not ready to be introducing it.

In AEW, we are regularly given the sense that many characters, storylines, and promos are written in ways that address in varying degrees WWE’s problems. It seems that the Elite are interested in showing fans the “right way” to push stars and divisions so that titles actually mean something unlike in WWE. And hey, any dragging of WWE is always welcome in my house. But, AEW must be careful to not repeat the same mistakes as WWE in their race to be equal to them. It feels like these tag titles were hurriedly introduced so that All Elite could one-up WWE’s paltry women’s tag division. In the process, however, they are ignoring the faults that exist presently with the women’s division they already have. And they are, just like WWE, pairing singles wrestlers — rather than recruiting bonafide tag teams — after the titles have already been created. If they are not going to recruit true tag teams, they could at the very least let inorganic pairings gain steam as a tag team before throwing them into a cup to determine the inaugural champions.

It isn’t always advisable to act first and come up with a plan later. I do hope that I am wrong, and that AEW gets the last laugh with this one. The women deserve it.


Stay legit bossy,

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