Nylons and Midriffs: War and Peace (November 6, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: newsweek.com

It has been a bittersweet couple of weeks, friends. I feel very conflicted, seeing both the highest of highs as far as women’s wrestling, as well as lowest of lows as far as some of the problematic developments since the previous edition of Nylons.

My suitcase is full of thoughts, so let us start unpacking them together.

The Good
NXT/AEW: I am still enjoying the women’s wrestling of All Elite Wrestling, even if it is few and far between (more on that in the next section). Right now, I feel that with each new woman that shows her face on weekly TV, I’m getting a deeper sense of the holistic identity of their women’s division. Every woman seems to have their own style and in-ring presentation, that makes each woman distinct in a way that’s different than WWE. It feels almost reminiscent of WWE’s Attitude Era in that the women feel like independent and unique entities that choose to compete for a specific company, rather than a company trying to mold them into a specific shape or brand, like NXT intends to.

If you watch WWE long enough, you figure out that their ultimate goal (and some would argue, particularly with NXT) is to make each wrestler signature to their own brand and style. It’s all about getting wrestlers to assimilate to WWE’s specific presentation of “sports entertainment.” WWE acts as a parent that tells you, “You’re free to express yourself — just not like that.”

In AEW, it genuinely feels that the women are not constricted in that way. They feel fluid and rough around the edges. And that, so far, is what I really like about their women.

As far as NXT? OH BABY. For the women, NXT had a near-perfect two weeks. Let me just talk a little bit about each of the best things we saw.

Nylons and Midriffs: Fastlane, or Roadblock? (March 11, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

Life comes at you fast, wrestling fans, hence why we are less than one month away from the show of shows, WrestleMania. As Fastlane was last night, and it’s been a few weeks since we’ve discussed what’s been going on with the women, I think we should just dive right in. Lord knows we have a Marie Kondo-sized mess to sort through. Let’s see what sparked joy in the last three weeks, and what we’re hoping to leave in the discard pile.

The Good(?)
RAW and SD Live: Up until about two hours before writing this, I had decided that I would add the main event feud of Becky Lynch/Ronda Rousey/Charlotte Flair into this section. But, upon thinking about all the developments of the past seven days more critically, I began to question that assessment. On the whole, I do believe that the feud is still good, but boy howdy did we take the most convoluted path to get where we are now.

In the last three weeks alone, we had Becky getting suspended, then violating that suspension twice, the second instance landing herself in “jail.” Meanwhile we had Ronda relinquishing the women’s title, only to be given it back (by a suspiciously willing Stephanie McMahon) before turning heel…maybe?

Image credit: indianexpress.com

And then in the midst of all that, there was Charlotte, arrogantly watching over it all, picking her spots to speak and pounce on her prey. I held out hope in my previous post that the storyline wasn’t going to become over-complicated, but I was unfortunately wrong.

Nevertheless, I think the feud is still on its way to the main event of WrestleMania. What I like about it is that for better or worse, I can’t predict where the story is going. That is rare nowadays in WWE, where we can often see a feud made up of nothing more than back-and-forth matches with 50/50 booking.

I find myself wanting to watch or at the very least keep up with the developments of this particular story, especially as it pertains to real-life events. For example, in the Twitter-beef Heard ‘Round the World, Becky and Ronda went toe-to-toe, blurring the lines of kayfabe and reality. Ronda rubbed much of the WWE Universe the wrong way by calling out things like “scripts” and Becky’s real name. In addition, she called Becky’s finisher, the very finisher she sold months prior, a “fake” move. Whether she was intending to or not, she effectively turned herself heel on social media, forcing WWE to incorporate that attitude into the storyline.

All in all, the feud demands attention, which is the smell of a good WrestleMania feud. It is exciting all the more to see women demand that attention, in and out of kayfabe.

Fastlane: Similarly to my thoughts on RAW and Smackdown Live, I have mixed emotions about the events of last night’s pay-per-view. Nothing really stuck out as amazing to me on the show, as the outcomes for the women’s bouts were largely predictable. The build and execution of Fastlane truly felt more like filler to get to WrestleMania, which is ironically the opposite of what WWE likely intended.

However, I can take two positives out of the show. The first is that all of the right women won their matches and will now advance to WrestleMania. Now that I think about it though, all of them were faces, which usually means that not all of them will win at WrestleMania. But, that’s only sad if you’re fans of all of those women like I am.

Second is that I really like the use of Beth Phoenix as a guest commentator for the big women’s matches on pay-per-views. It adds a tenderness to the matches emotionally for fans of Beth in her prime, but also a female in-ring perspective that women’s matches usually lack. Plus, it’s awesome to hear an equal ratio of female to male voices calling the action, something unthinkable during the era of wrestling I grew up in. Women’s voices didn’t have authority back then. Little by little, they are gaining it now.

Not only that, but it was intriguing to see Beth play a role in the story after the match. I popped internally when she threw that punch to Tamina! Natalya coming to her rescue got me thinking about the possibility of Beth coming out of retirement to team with her BFF at WRestleMania for the titles. While this could have been a one-off for Beth, it would certainly be a ticket-seller to have her on the marquee of a monumental match at Mania.

The Bad

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

RAW and SD Live: On the flipside, a frustrating side effect of the RAW women’s title feud is that it is sucking the life out of the division on both brands. That story is thriving in color, while the rest of the division is muted in black and white. It goes back to one of the most consistent critiques I’ve had about WWE and its treatment of female performers, which is that they have tunnel vision. More than one feud can’t matter at a time, and the success of those “chosen” women at a given moment is almost always at the detriment of all others.

Sasha Banks and Bayley are the new women’s tag champs, but they were simply thrown into a feud with two of the blandest performers on the roster for Fastlane, Nia Jax and Tamina. Alexa Bliss, despite my many qualms about her past successes, is being wasted in talk show segments each week. She’s still thirsting after the likes of EC3 and Finn Balor after being cleared to wrestle. Carmella has been jiving next to R-Truth since the Mixed Match Challenge, even before all of the Corey Graves drama came out.

And then, there’s Asuka. Poor, forgotten, Asuka.

The Smackdown women’s champion was absent from WWE TV for nearly a month after the Royal Rumble. I’d hoped that this was done temporarily for WWE to create a WrestleMania storyline for her, or to buy some time to build up a worthy next opponent for the champion. But alas, neither of those things were happening. She returned to wrestle in a match against Mandy Rose, where she foolishly lost, and then out of thin air was placed into a match with Mandy at Fastlane.

Besides the fact that Mandy’s gimmick and current push are highly problematic (we’ll get to that in the next section), she also has not been given the opportunity to prove her in-ring prowess at the same level that someone like Asuka has. And when you’re feuding with Asuka, you need a strong track record to back up your talk. I hope that Mandy versus Asuka isn’t the WrestleMania feud for the Smackdown women’s title, but I have a sinking feeling that it might just be.

I can only feel bad for the women not named Becky or Ronda or Charlotte at the moment, because they aren’t being valued at their full potential. WWE is wasting the majority of the women on their roster in the build to what will admittedly be a tear-jerking moment at Mania. I suppose it is our job as fans (and mine as a writer) to account for the whole of the story, not just the flashy headlines. We must read between the lines and see through the bullshit. Who fades to the background when stars are born?

Fastlane: The wrestling last night was unimpressive. The Smackdown women’s title match was obviously the most competitive, and Asuka had a good showing. But the tag title match was a little frenzied, certainly sloppy at points. I can applaud Sasha Banks and Bayley trying hard to sell their tag team dynamic. We got to see them expand on their tag team moveset in their match; it will be exciting to see how they continue to develop their arsenal.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

The match between Charlotte and Becky, though….has me scratching my head. I didn’t really understand the point of it. I understand from a storyline perspective why it needed to happen, but going back to what I touched on above, it was making a simple story more complicated than it needed to be.

I don’t like the injury angle for Becky. It doesn’t fit her character, and there should be more effective ways for the writers to gamer sympathy for Becky other than making her an underdog. The classic underdog in WWE is someone who we should feel sorry for because they have a distinct, physical disadvantage compared to their opponents. Or, they have a losing streak behind them, finding it difficult to land victories when needed. Neither of those things fits Becky’s character. Other wrestlers have had kayfabe injuries that they worked through to overcome odds, but it seems unique to this story that it has played so heavily into the proceedings. I almost feel as if Becky’s knee is the fourth person in the feud!

Image credit: WWE.com

Becky is more of a cunning, badass heel. It would make more sense for her to be feigning this injury to get in the heads of her opponents. Or to acknowledge it but not favor it so heavily. But instead, the knee has perhaps unintentionally made Becky look weak. And I don’t think that should be the angle for her going into Mania.

Furthermore, I hate how Ronda continually factors into such important match decisions. There was her debut at the Royal Rumble 2018 (albeit a post-match appearance, it still overshadowed Asuka’s victory), her run-in at TLC in December, and now the match between Becky and Charlotte last night. She single-handedly got Becky into the RAW women’s title match with her interference, which again made Becky look weak, like she couldn’t fight her own battles. We can expect Ronda to get involved nearly anytime something big is going down in the ring concerning her adversaries, and it’s getting a bit annoying and predictable. Sometimes, WWE, less is more.

The Thorny
A huge thorn in my side since before the Royal Rumble has been Mandy Rose (no pun intended). I absolutely hate the way that she has been pushed in the last two or so months. She was randomly put in a feud with Naomi, who is a former women’s champion and WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal winner. The pairing of them on paper is fine, inoffensive. But, the way the story developed between the two was heavily biased toward Mandy, who, remember, was supposed to be the heel. She tried at various points to put a wedge in Naomi’s real-life marriage to Jimmy Uso, doing so by playing into jezebel stereotypes common in the era of yore.

Yet, in nearly every segment with Naomi, Mandy came out on top. In key moments of the “feud,” — the hotel room brawl, the Royal Rumble, even the match last week on Smackdown — moments where the babyface usually gains their momentum back, Naomi was the one left reeling.

The reasoning that Mandy gave for hating on Naomi was that “she’ll never look like me.” My ears immediately perked up at this because of how jarring a reason it seemed when I heard it. I considered that perhaps the line just fit with her Playboy modelesque gimmick.

Image credit: wrestling-edge.com

But, when facing off with Asuka, Mandy repeated the same line again. To another woman of color. That she would again promptly defeat in a throwaway match. Seeing this play out with Asuka as it had with Naomi before made it clear to me and many fans of color that this is dog-whistle racism at its finest.

In Vince McMahon’s world, the pretty, sexed up, blonde white woman will obviously defeat the Japanese woman speaking in broken English and the dark-skinned black woman. It is moments like these where I wonder who is present in the writer’s room where these decisions are being made. Who is present in the Room Where It Happens that writers scripted that line for Mandy, pitched her saying it to only women of color, and thought that it wouldn’t sound offensive in any way?

This is why it is important to have representation not just in front of the camera, but behind it as well. Women of color have been mocked, discriminated against, and made into minstrel in both the past and present based on the very notion that they would “never look like” the standard of beauty in America, the blonde white woman. It is a disrespectful reminder to Asuka, Naomi, and women of color watching that we are not the standard. There’s a reason that this gimmick can only work for someone who looks like Mandy, rather than someone that looks like Naomi. You will never hear Corey Graves fawn over Asuka the way that he does Mandy. And while Mandy did lose to Asuka in the end, her characterization was gross and unnecessary in the lead-up to the match. In 2019, cheap and lazy writing like this should no longer be acceptable. Do better.

***

Seeing the promo during Fastlane that WrestleMania is only 28 (now 27) days away made me laugh out loud because of how absurd that is. The first quarter of any year is truly a blur that doesn’t feel real.

I guess for me, the year really begins in April, and I am only a little ashamed to admit that this is partly due to it being the essential end and new beginning of the wrestling year. We’re almost there, friends!

Stay legit bossy,

AC

Nylons and Midriffs: All the Small Things (Royal Rumble Review, January 30, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Welcome back to Nylons and Midriffs, good wrestling fans!

I hope 2019 is treating you all well so far. I am ecstatic to rehash what went down at this year’s Royal Rumble for you all, as I feel it encompasses all that is going on in the women’s division as a whole — good, bad, and possibly thorny.

This year’s Rumble offered up very memorable moments for the women, with sensible booking and captivating storytelling. But, as I’ll detail in this review, I was most taken by the attention to detail that WWE Creative and the performers themselves put into each of their matches. There will little payoffs for loyal fans of the product that showed continuity in the WWE canon.

I won’t break things down into the usual sections, and instead do a straightforward review of each match that involved women.

SmackDown Women’s Title Match: Asuka (c) vs. Becky Lynch

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

A perfect match to start off the night, these two fan favorites clashed in a battle of one-upsmanship. Each woman moved at a frantic pace to try to outdo the other’s offensive tactics. There were seamless sequences of reversals and pinfall combinations, as well as hard-hitting spots throughout the match. The swinging neckbreaker that Asuka executed from the ring apron was a devastating-looking bump for both women. Becky’s Beck-sploder off the top rope was exciting to see pulled off, especially since WWE rarely allows their wrestlers, especially women, do big top rope spots like that.

Another great aspect of this match was simply seeing Asuka be presented seriously as a competitive champion. We saw intensity from her that we haven’t really seen since NXT, with her scowling at Becky in Japanese and condescendingly kicking her challenger while she was down. It was so great to see given the roller coaster of booking she’s been on since last year’s Rumble. The right woman won, too, as it is far too early to strip Asuka of her title. I also found it fitting that Asuka got Becky to submit with a bridged version of her submission finisher — in a similar way to how Charlotte made Asuka tap at WrestleMania 34 with her bridged Figure 8. While I’m sure this was only a coincidence, it was great to see her triumph in her first title defense in the same way she’d been previously (and perhaps infamously) defeated.

The only dilemma now is who among the SmackDown women will WWE build to challenge Asuka going into WrestleMania? Surely they will need the entire road to the event to do so, as there isn’t really anyone right now that feels main event-level ready to step to Asuka. The good thing is though, there’s potential!

RAW Women’s Title Match: Sasha Banks vs. Ronda Rousey (c)
I was shocked when I read that this match was nearly 4 minutes shorter than the other title match; it was that captivating to watch. I liked that this match was distinctly different than its SmackDown counterpart: while the first match was fast-paced and spot-heavy, this one was more methodical and mat-based. This was due to the stellar in-ring psychology of Sasha Banks. Sasha clearly did some homework to prepare for this match, as she was busting out submission holds not previously seen in her arsenal. Some of those holds actually look as if they would do harm to Ronda’s joints, and that’s saying something in a sports entertainment world.

Ronda as well was no stiff; while her match with Charlotte was probably better in terms of sheer intensity, this match saw her most expanded moveset yet. My distaste for her aside, it is hard to deny at this point that she can wrestle in a WWE ring. And she even won with a pinfall, I believe a first for her on pay-per view. My only gripe with her wrestling is that she has to understand the concept of a finishing move. She hit Sasha with her Piper’s Pit finisher multiple times in the match, so much so that when she did actually pin Sasha for the three with the move, it felt anticlimactic.

Image credit: foxsportsasia.com

But, the ending didn’t damper the rest of the match. If anything, I think this match proved that Sasha Banks is an elite wrestler and performer. Her character work is insane. From biting Ronda’s hand while holding a submission with a sly grin on her face, to undoing the arm strap of her ring gear and using it to gag Ronda in the Bank Statement, Sasha showed intelligence as a competitor both in and out of kayfabe. This match reminded us of who the hell The Boss is and can be. I hope we see Sasha climb back up the ladder of the division this year.

Women’s Royal Rumble Match
I won’t lie, this match from an in-ring standpoint was pretty hard to get through. Put simply, the women need to hit harder, move faster, fight stronger. As much as I would like to not compare it to the men’s Rumble, when you watch them both in the same show, it is obvious that the men are more consistent with their level of energy throughout the match. In the men’s Rumble, almost every 90 seconds there was either an elimination, or an interesting bit of action that occurred to make you forget about the clock running. In the women’s, it looked as if everyone was a bit confused as to what to do to fill the time in between entrants and their inevitable eliminations. Although the division has surely mastered the battle royal match format for better or worse, the Royal Rumble match still needs some perfecting, and that’s okay.

To be fair, many women in the match likely were not used to being in matches for as long as they perhaps were in the Rumble, and in turn not used to cameras being on them for that amount of time either. The first few men’s Rumbles were just as, if not more, awkward to everyone involved. I’m not too worried about this for the women though, because I know it is one of those things that can only improve with time and practice.

However, I should note that I thought the women’s Rumble had the more interesting saves for wrestlers trying to make it back to the ring from the outside. Ember Moon hung on by her toes, Kacy Cantanzaro had an unreal re-entry into the ring using every abdominal muscle she had, and Naomi leaped feet from the barricades to the ring steps. But, it was Naomi’s elimination that annoyed me, as it tied into her god-awful feud with Mandy Rose. I understand that Mandy is trying to get real heat from the crowd and their storyline will continue. However, as we’ll get into in future editions of Nylons, their feud is very unbalanced. Yes, Naomi eliminated Mandy, but that was pretty much her only victory in a string of zingers by Mandy over the weeks. And it was immediately met with yet another squash from Mandy.

Image credit: cbssports.com

The ending of course is what we will all remember. The final three of Nia Jax, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch (replacing an injured Lana) proved to be poetic in more ways than one. We all knew it was coming down to Becky and Charlotte, which is why Charlotte yelled at Nia to “stay out of it” after Bayley’s elimination. Becky got her sweet revenge on Nia by eliminating her, but Nia, Becky’s storied tormentor, pushed her off the ring steps to injure Becky’s leg.

It was in this moment that it became apparent that WWE is actually expecting us to see Becky as a resilient babyface underdog. The rivalry that stole the show so many times in 2018 would be the tug-of-war that would finish the women’s Rumble. Out of the ashes, it was Becky that arose. And everyone popped for her.

And so her road to the main event of WrestleMania begins!

Nia Jax in the Men’s Royal Rumble

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

As I am sure many of us are, I’m still trying to figure out my feelings about seeing Nia steal a spot in the men’s Rumble. I will say that the thought crossed my mind recently that perhaps Nia should wrestle with the men, since it seems much of the criticism she receives from fans is that she is an unsafe worker, not considering that she is nearly three times the size of most of her division counterparts. That absolutely affects her in-ring capabilities, as she can’t truly lean into her moves for fear of hurting her opponents with her body mass. This leads her to look sloppy and clumsy in the ring.

So when I saw her walk to that ring and stare down the likes of Randy Orton and Rey Mysterio, my knee-jerk reaction was positive. It was, on its face, cool to see that visual. I think where my feelings get complicated is the visual of three different men hitting their finishers on her. In the context of the match, I understood it. Considering that Nia catches the ire of so many (male) fans, though, I worry more insidiously that fans may get carried away with the idea of men hitting women that they don’t like. And I also have reservations with how sensitive WWE will be with intergender wrestling if we open up that can of worms.

But, I am curious to see if and how this continues with Nia. Perhaps this could be the start of a larger conversation about the role that gender plays in wrestling. I know it is fairly common on the indies for men and women to wrestle each other, but with a company as big as WWE, the implications of walking this road could be huge. The world will be watching intently, I’m sure.

***

I’ll be back in two or so weeks with the regular Nylons and Midriffs format. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the women’s division on this Road to WrestleMania.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: The Year of the Woman (Year In Review, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

While it’s a bit corny to say, there really isn’t a better time to be a fan of women’s wrestling in WWE. Through the ups and the downs, this year was truly unforgettable for the division and fans who have been clamoring for women’s progressivism since the Attitude Era.

Sure, there are some kinks to work out here and there, as is to be expected when exploring uncharted historical territory. But, the year was a start. It is only the beginning. I truly see it as a new foundation for what is yet to come. With the announcement that there will be women’s tag team championships unveiled next year and speculation that we may see women main event WrestleMania for the first time, 2019 will likely be a sophomore year of sorts — a punctuation mark on the statement that women’s wrestling is here to stay.

Let’s look back n the year that got us to this point. As this is more of a celebratory post from my perspective, let’s do things in reverse this time. We can revisit cynicism next year.

The Thorny

Image credit: EWrestling.com

Catty Characterizations. An underlying issue in the women’s division has always been the way WWE’s female characters are written. This year was no different, as we had many of the most memorable feuds of the year carried by bratty, mean girl antics from heels and faces alike. An example that leaps to mind is the feud between Nikki Bella and Ronda Rousey before Evolution.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tuv7-uVgdJ0&w=560&h=315]

Ronda cut a searing promo wherein she mocked the Bellas for using their men to get ahead, and specifically Nikki for sleeping with John Cena. In addition to that dose of slut-shaming, we had Alexa Bliss bullying Nia Jax for no reason, Ruby Riott mocking Natalya’s actually-dead father, and Carmella being the ditzy, obnoxious heel of our nightmares.

Not only that, but the women were also generally depicted as volatile and shrill. I can’t even count the amount of segments we had this year of women screaming into microphones, over each other backstage, or in cringe-worthy counseling sessions. Again, this is how you can tell that there are few if any female writers backstage. Women were portrayed by how patriarchy caricatures them — as shrieking, hysterical creatures. I hope that WWE learns how to write women next year with realistic motivations, now that they will have to do it for more of them with a growing roster. Speaking of…

The Favorites. A general critique but particularly with the women, WWE has a tendency to rotate the same 5 or 6 women in and out of the title picture on both brands. And it is no surprise that most of these women are blonde and white. The year was dominated by Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, and Becky Lynch. While other women had their “moments” this year — like Asuka winning the Rumble and Naomi winning the already-forgotten WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal — they were fleeting in comparison to the title runs and feuds that the aforementioned women had.

Image credit: slam.canoe.com

The women’s locker room is the most diverse it has ever been, and yet we continue to give the same “kind” of women the top spots. It’s infuriating to watch the most prominent wrestling critics praise people like Charlotte and Ronda when women like them are given the big matches continually to prove themselves and show off their movesets. We saw the likes of Bayley, Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, and Asuka sink to the bottom of the card simply because they didn’t fit the mold.

It’s great that the women will finally be given another set of titles to strive for. This may address this issue head-on. Yet, it won’t fix much if the tag titles are only used to pacify the women who can’t seem to break into the “main event” scene.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Short-Term Booking. We saw so much short-term booking this year. Segments that served little purpose other than to get another women’s segment on RAW or SmackDown Live. As I alluded to in the previous section, the rest of the women’s locker room in the undercard had to make do with the segments or actions written for them. And many of them were…bad. Just bad. And also random.

Image credit: theringreport.com

Asuka and Naomi teamed up for a few weeks and then suddenly stopped. Dana Brooke turned face and then heel again two days later with no explanation. Asuka lost not one but two title matches to Carmella because of nonsensical distractions by James Ellsworth. Sasha and Bayley betrayed one another multiple times this year to simply pretend none of their bickering ever happened after a counseling session. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville fell victim to similar booking.

And in all of these examples, there was absolutely no long-term explanation for the events. No reasons given for the temporary alliances and breakups. It was all pure laziness on the part of WWE Creative. And I know it isn’t the worst thing going on, but it’s still irksome. I want to care! Make me care!

The Good

GIF credit: slyasrai.tumblr.com

Every Single First. I hope wrestling historians took note of just how many firsts there were this year. All of the historic firsts could be written about at length, but I’m condensing them in this point because in total there were just too many.

In case you need a recap, we had the first ever women’s:

  • Royal Rumble
  • Elimination Chamber match
  • announcers: full-time for Renee Young and a guest spot for Beth Phoenix
  • pay-per-view, Evolution
  • Last Woman Standing Match (on the main roster)
  • TLC match

…all within a 12-month period!! That’s insane!

We also had the third women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, which was the best of them so far. Every single one of these matches delivered. Not a single one was bad. We saw what happens when you give women the ball. They don’t just run with it, they shoot and score. And, arguably, they made the men step their game up to deliver high match quality. I know that every subsequent stipulation match listed above won’t be as amazing as the first. But, the women have their foot in the door now, and I have high hopes that they will find ways to be inventive and heighten the intensity of each as the years go on.

The Royal Rumble and Evolution. Yes, I am singling out these two events — because they were that damn good. I still remember vividly watching in utter excitement and pride as Jojo announced the start of the women’s Rumble. I will never forget how hyped I was standing in front of my TV, singing every woman’s entrance theme I knew as they walked the ramp for the Evolution battle royal. I actually got chills just thinking back to those nights. I was never, ever prouder to be a fan of wrestling — a fan of women’s wrestling — than on those nights, watching those pay-per-views.

Image credit: alexablissfrance.tumblr.com

And it wasn’t just because they were firsts. That will obviously play into the fondness that fans hold for those events when we remember back to this era. But these events will also stand out because they lived up to their hype. The women wrestled and entertained as if everything was on the line. In many ways, it was. They had everything to prove, just because they’re women; ’tis the sexism that they face just for existing in wrestling to begin with.

You can read my extended thoughts on both shows in my previous blog posts, but I would also recommend seeking out each of them to watch, because they are absolutely worth your time.

Stone Cold Becky Lynch. Yeah, I went there. There wasn’t a wrestler in WWE this year that could hold a candle to Becky Lynch. Not Seth Rollins or Drew McIntyre. Not AJ Styles or Daniel Bryan. Not even Ronda Rousey. It was all Becky. Period.

Becky proved herself to be a bonafide star this year. She balanced actual in-ring talent with stellar mic skills, and crafted a heel character that was just too cool to boo. She was so over that she had fans jeering the likes of Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey, the two golden girls of the division. WWE tried their hardest to make Becky a detestable heel, but Becky’s Stone Cold-esque rebel spirit forced them to portray her as more of an anti-hero by the end of the year, actually acknowledging that fans love her.

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Even though I have complicated feelings about the idea of “grabbing the brass ring” as Vince McMahon puts it (as it typically connotes bootstrap ideology), there are few other expressions that describe how Becky used the spotlight given to her this year. True to her character on camera and social media alike, she definitely proved herself as championship caliber.

My hope for Becky next year is that she finishes her red-hot feud with Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania, ideally in the main event. The match is almost guaranteed to happen — but the mechanics of how it happens I look forward to watching. I also hope that we see Becky’s versatility after WrestleMania, giving her new opponents to feud with.

Regardless of the future, 2018 will be remembered as The Man’s year. How ironic, during a year that will likely go down in history as the Year of the Woman.

***

And that’s all folks! It’s been a delight to write about women’s wrestling this year. I began it with the Royal Rumble, innocently believing that the women wouldn’t be given anything else for the remainder of the year. I have never been so happy to be wrong.

See you on the Road to WrestleMania!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: TLC Review

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: express.co.uk

Holiday greetings from your favorite wrestling blogger! The Tables, Ladders, and Chairs pay-per-view is in our rearview, and in Nylons fashion, I thought I’d share my thoughts about how the women fared at this show. Because there were only three matches featuring women on the card, I’ll simply talk about the matches generally. Good, bad, and thorny.

Mixed Match Challenge Finals: Jinder Mahal & Alicia Fox vs. R-Truth & Carmella
We all knew this match was not destined to be a classic by any stretch, but you know what? It served its purpose, and I found it entertaining. Although many fans were dismayed at arguably the two least appealing teams being in the finals, as commentary mentioned, these were also two teams that managed to stay together for the entire length of the series. The chemistry that the women had with their male partners shone through in this match, and witnessing interesting chemistries is why we all enjoy the concept of the MMC in the first place.

Image credit: WWE.com

Particularly with Truth and Carmella, you could tell that the two of them were simply having fun. I think this was a good transition out of the heel Carmella persona we saw dominate 2018, as abrupt as it may have been initially. It helped to remind us of Carmella’s likability and great character work, which can often be forgotten when you’re playing an obnoxious heel. It will be interesting to see how over ‘Mella is when she returns to singles competition.

RAW Women’s Title: Ronda Rousey vs. Nia Jax
I won’t lie, as much as I wanted to hate it because of Ronda, this was actually a pretty good match. Nia and Ronda work well off each other and know their roles in the match as relentless heel and valiant babyface.

Image credit: sportzwiki.com

I like that Ronda is starting to evolve her offense. I was beginning to get annoyed that she seemed to be all armbars and armdrags, but in this match she tried new things. That run-up Nia into a face punch looked cool, as did her crossbody. Lastly, her headscissors takedown of Nia to transition into her armbar was wild to watch. For the first time, for me at least, her win felt believable and earned.

I suppose this is what sets her apart from Brock Lesnar. If they’re going to let her sit at the top of the mountain arbitrarily, she better at least do something while she’s up there.

Backstage Segment: Nia meets Becky

Image credit: uproxx.com

This was fantastic! Chef’s kiss perfection if you ask me. This is the continuity we beg for in WWE and especially with the women. Becky and Nia were at the same show, both in matches, so of course they would cross paths backstage. Becky got her sweet revenge with a sick right to the face of Nia. She is such an effective anti-hero — exacting her revenge, saying what she had to say, and then leaving. She’s great.

Smackdown Women’s Title: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

I’ll start by saying that as a match that was put together by three world-class performers, this was about as good as they could have given us. This match was ruthless and desperate as any title or TLC match should be. Each woman had a chance to shine, and it had so many memorable spots that made me genuinely cringe. This is what women have the capacity to do!

Now, to get critical. In short, I feel that Asuka took a bit of a backseat in this match. While I’m not as bothered by this as many fans are, it is worth discussing at length here.

I didn’t feel that Asuka had as many opportunities to hit big spots like Becky and, even more, Charlotte. She sold for so much of this match while Charlotte looked darn near invincible at points.

Image credit: skysports.com

I don’t know why when WWE turns women face they feel the need to neuter their offense. Asuka had one of the longest title reigns (and undefeated streaks) of the modern era. The woman has the capability to be downright deadly in the ring, so I wished she would have had more moments to show this in the match.

And then there’s the finish. Not completely unpredictable, but just…questionable? It makes storyline sense. Ronda has bones to pick with both Charlotte and Becky for good reason. I like that their storyline is being furthered. But this is the second time this year that Ronda has in some way stolen the spotlight away from Asuka. Do we remember what Ronda did at the Royal Rumble? Another historic win in a first-ever match that will have a Ronda cameo in the video packages commemorating it.

Not only that, but Asuka should not have needed outside interference to win. It would have meant more for her character to win this match clean without an asterisk. It doesn’t feel right considering that Asuka is a face.

But, my overwhelming reaction to this finish is happiness that Asuka is finally reclaiming the time that was stolen from her this year. She won the title one year after her debut at this very pay-per-view. She is finishing the year she started by winning the Royal Rumble and losing to Charlotte in her earned championship match at WrestleMania by getting the last laugh and the title to boot. This victory is so sweet, and I refuse to let Ronda’s appearance sour it.

***

I cannot wait to talk to you all about the year in review for the WWE women’s division. Through thick and thin, it surely was one to remember.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Same Old, Same Old (December 3, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: thechairshot.com

Greetings fans and friends. This week I’ll be mostly discussing how I feel as if I am stuck in a looping timeline watching WWE TV every week as of late.

I think around this time of year, WWE Creative starts to get fatigued with storytelling, which is understandable. People are generally less interested in serial TV shows in the late fall and early winter, as most television shows are on hiatus at this time and the holidays are around the corner.

But alas, there is no off-season with WWE TV, and us diehards are stuck watching different variations of the same 5 matchups for the last two months of the year.

As we’ll dive into below, WWE is slipping into repetition and the same convenient patterns they always have with the women.

The Good
As much as I hate to be a downer (hard to believe, I know), I do only have two small things for this section this week. The first is that it seems WWE has leveled out the number of women’s segments on each edition of RAW and Smackdown Live. I’ve noticed that RAW averages about 3 segments per show, while SD Live averages two. It’s good to see that WWE recognizes the women as a regular part of each show, rather than expendable.

The second was Asuka finally earning another chance at the gold at the upcoming TLC pay-per-view. On its face, I am more than pleased that someone as underutilized as Asuka has been given another chance at the spotlight. However, there are some issues about this that we must address in the latter part of this post.

The Bad
There were two glaring problems that I noticed in the last few weeks with the women’s booking. I’ll break them down below.

Throwing Women Randomly into Matches and Feuds
In the aforementioned segments, it seems that once again WWE is resorting to arbitrarily putting as many women as they can into each of them without long term booking in mind. We’ve had the Riott Squad thrown into a segment with Ronda Rousey, Sasha Banks and Bayley jobbing to Nia and Tamina, and every woman on Smackdown entered into a battle royal. It’s exhausting to perpetually try to find ways to care about the women when many of their segments seem to lack passion or planning from Creative. Everything is just very uninspired.

As wrestling fans, we like explanations for the things we see in the product. If a matchup seems random, was there a backstage segment that could explain why the two Superstars want to settle their differences in the ring? If two wrestlers or teams face each other for multiple weeks in a row, is there a larger story being told about why they are seemingly in a rivalry? Although fans are griping about this currently for all divisions, this is a pattern I notice with the women no matter what the season. It’s a recurring problem, one that I hope is fixed sooner rather than later.

Plotholes and Inconsistencies
This is a broad critique, so I’ll give some examples:

Image credit: Official Instagram of Sasha Banks (@sashabankswwe)

Exhibit A: Dana Brooke tagged with the face team of Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon (another multi-woman, thrown together match) to take on a heel team at Starrcade. Two days later on RAW, Dana ran in to assist in a beatdown of Sasha Banks and Bayley with the heels.

Exhibit B: Sonya Deville was eliminated in the battle royal by her Absolution-mate Mandy Rose at Evolution. When this happened, the commentators portrayed Sonya as a helpless victim of a cunning plan by her conniving partner. The two also sold this betrayal in the moment as a breakup. But yet, in the weeks since Evolution, the two have continued to team together, but display tension between them because of Mandy Rose’s antics in various matches.

Exhibit C: When Becky Lynch chose Charlotte as her replacement for Survivor Series, she and Charlotte engaged in a hug in the ring. Moments later backstage, Charlotte declared that she would fight Ronda “for Becky.” However, post-heel turn and post-Becky return, Charlotte would have convenient amnesia about what she’d said before. Not only that, but she would contradict herself, saying that she wasn’t fighting for Becky, but rather herself.

In isolation, these things may be forgiven. But when these things are happening over and over, you have to wonder what WWE really thinks of either their fans or women in general. What does the writers room look like that the female Superstars of the WWE are written so erratically? Not only that, but it is super insulting to our collective intelligence that WWE thinks we won’t notice these plotholes, especially when they take place only weeks apart. Each woman deserves better character development than this, especially those lower on the card like Sonya and Dana.

Image credit: WWE.com

With Sonya and Mandy in particular, their stop-start feud is reminiscent of what Sasha and Bayley endured earlier this year. It is baffling why WWE can’t pull the trigger on some of the most obvious feuds for the women. The sheer amount of inconsistencies in the women’s division speaks volumes to how WWE fails to build a coherent picture of each woman’s motivations, which would help them get over with the crowds.

The Thorny

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

I’m going to revisit one of my old favorites for this section, Charlotte Flair. This past week on Smackdown, Charlotte confronted a returning Becky Lynch and somehow, out of this exchange, received another shot at the Smackdown Women’s Title from Paige. This prompted the rest of the women’s locker room to come down the ramp and criticize Paige for favoring Becky and Charlotte. In my head, I’m saying “Yes! Finally they’re addressing this head-on!”

But, then came the letdown. In response to the qualms of her female locker room, Paige made the match at TLC a triple threat, with the winner of the main event’s battle royal being the third person added to the existing match with Becky and Charlotte.

Although this feeling had left me for a time, I was once again hit with the reality that Charlotte is given preferential treatment by WWE executives.

A logical response to the criticism Paige heard from the women of Smackdown would have been to take Charlotte out of the match entirely. After all, what harm could be done in admitting that Charlotte has had more than her fill of title opportunities? For most other Superstars, this would have been their cue to move to the back of the line. We mustn’t forget that Asuka only got one shot at the title before she was taken out of the title picture, and it took her the rest of 2018 to get back there.

Image credit: thebiglead.com

Since Charlotte has been on Smackdown, she has either held the women’s title or been in contention for it at the top of the division. From a hierarchical standpoint, does Charlotte really have anything to lose at this point by stepping down the card?

Not only is it annoying for Charlotte to be given equal weight to a woman she’s lost to in title matches on more than one occasion, but also to see how consistently being in the title picture has truly stunted her character. Before Becky got injured, we were on our way to seeing some character development for Charlotte. The storyline was set to be about the fracture in Charlotte’s ego after having lost at Evolution. We could have seen how the Queen recovered after getting bested by her former best friend more than once. We could have seen how Charlotte coped when she realized that she couldn’t always be a winner.

Instead, things panned out differently, and we’re back to more of the same.

Add to this some recent reports (albeit rumors) that the reason that AJ Styles was pulled out of the Mixed Match Challenge was to create a clever way around AJ or his partner, Charlotte, taking a pinfall to an opponent. Consider Charlotte’s overall position in the company since she was called up from NXT and you’ll start to see the picture more clearly. She is the Golden Girl. She is protected. And she is a priority in the eyes of WWE execs.

The political side of WWE will never cease to frustrate me, and I’m sure many of you would agree. The very notion of protecting certain wrestlers over others is privilege in action. it’s how specific types of people in the locker room are oppressed or made to only reach certain heights. If you’re going to be a wrestler, my guess is that your ego shouldn’t be so big that you literally become the antithesis of the sport, i.e. rarely if ever taking a pinfall.

I wish I could say that Charlotte’s place at the top of the card isn’t realistic, but as we see too often in society, certain people are always at the top of the mountain. And it’s unfair, both in and out of WWE canon.

***

If this post seemed all over the place, I think that very well represents the state of the women’s division right now. I’m giving it somewhat of a pass due to the time of year, but they need to pick things up for 2019. My eyes are already on the Royal Rumble!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: A Fall from Grace (November 19, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: express.co.uk

How are you doing, good wrestling fans? I hope you all are staying warm and gearing up for the holidays. I have not yet begun my Christmas shopping, as I’m still in disbelief that we are already knocking on 2019’s door.

With Thanksgiving in a few days, I thought this week we could play around with the idea of thankfulness and how that is often a complicated thing for the marginalized identities of the WWE. The women of WWE do have much to be thankful for this year, but in my opinion, just as many things to rage about. Let’s talk about what they’ve been doing since Evolution, although it hasn’t been much.

The Good
Not much of it, folks. I am flabbergasted, albeit not surprised, that WWE has managed to muck up the women’s division immediately following Evolution. I will relent only about an inch for the fact that Survivor Series was so soon after Evolution, so there was not that much time to build feuds for the traditional Survivor Series elimination and title matches. I digress — we’ll get into the bad bits in the next section.

But I have to, as I have for the last several posts, rave about Becky Lynch. The woman is an absolute badass, an amazing heel, and yes, reminiscent of Stone Cold Steve Austin. She just gets it, both in the ring and in promos, and she makes her new attitude effortlessly believable. Not only that, she’s mastered an art of the 2018 era of WWE — social media storytelling. “The Man,” as she has christened herself after Evolution, has been absolutely roasting the likes of Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey on Twitter.

Her added sass and downright smack talk on Twitter only adds to the intensity that she brings to her rivalries. After her bloodied and almost triumphant beatdown of Ronda and the RAW women’s locker room, I crossed the threshold of becoming a full-blown Becky Lynch mark.

Continuing with things Becky does well, I’d like to discuss the subversiveness of Becky calling herself “The Man.” Yes, this is obviously a tongue-in-cheek reference to her beating a Flair. But, I read it a bit differently.

In Ronda’s promo on RAW last week (and boy howdy, we’ll get to that), she lamented Becky’s new nickname for herself and how it was disrespectful to the women’s evolution. Ronda, having made mildly transphobic comments in the past, perhaps understandably finds it hard to reconcile how a cisgender woman can call herself anything other than. [EDITOR’S NOTE: here is another article that supports this author’s view on the Lynch-Rousey feud.] Yet, many of the traits heel Becky embodies — her relentlessness, her driven attitude, her righteousness — are those commonly associated with men. But for those who think like Ronda, such a nickname isn’t possible. Gender is a construct. It bears no actual meaning outside of the attributes we attach to it. If by definition to many, being a man means xyz, and Becky embodies those things, then she’s a man. It’s just words. You can be whatever you want to be, really.

Although I am sad that we could not see the culmination of her feud with Ronda at Survivor Series, I am very hopeful that she will meet Ronda in the future, perhaps even at WrestleMania as the rumor has it.

This year, I am thankful for Becky Lynch. This will certainly go down as her year.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

As I began to detail above, I’m very disappointed in how transparently WWE discarded the women’s division after they had finished making money off of their pay-per-view. The Smackdown women’s Survivor Series team was announced in a 10-minute segment in the aftermath of Evolution, with no build or pomp and circumstance. In the same episode they announced the women’s team, they spent the rest of the episode building and hyping who would be on the men’s Survivor Series team. I could not believe the sexism was that blatant.

On the RAW side, the women’s team was announced the mere week before Survivor Series. Many people have forgotten this detail because the hullabaloo about the RAW team was overshadowed by Becky Lynch’s brilliant work after it. And yes, while all of the women were the main event of the show, in my eyes, it does not make up for the obvious lack of effort put into building to the traditional Survivor Series bouts, even within the teams themselves. Everything outside of the title picture for the women’s division continues to be thrown together without long-term booking in mind, and it is frustrating to no end.

As a woman watching the product week on week, I sometimes find myself in a tough spot. I’m thankful for how far the women’s division has come. But when does thankfulness become complacency? When does counting your blessings become patronizing? The progression of a few does not translate to the liberation of the many. We’ll talk about this more in the last section.

Although this doesn’t necessarily fit with the above, I have to talk about Ronda’s “Millennial Man” promo here.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpRVCVeW_UA&w=560&h=315]

Outside of it sounding superficial and scripted, the content of the promo was also bad. Ronda, a person who after only four months and four matches in WWE became champion, dared to call Becky an entitled Millennial (the irony being that Ronda herself, born in 1987, is unequivocally a Millennial). It was clear that Ronda was simply a mouthpiece for the bitter, older, conservative white men in power behind the scenes, dropping lines about being “offended” and it not correlating to being right.

With Ronda’s position of privilege within the company and the agenda-pushing men likely behind the writer’s desk, it isn’t surprising how tone-deaf Ronda sounded. And at the heart of it, I think that’s what irks me most about Ronda. It seems that although WWE tries to paint her as this badass babyface, often she just comes off as an arrogant outsider — someone that is there to represent what WWE thinks feminism is, rather than what it actually is.

Not only that, but I didn’t think it wise of WWE to play the “snowflake” Millennial card. If WWE thought they were going to get Ronda over using the tired Entitled Millennial card — when a sizable majority of their diehard fanbase are Millennials that grew up on the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras — they were sadly mistaken. We’re keeping the fandom of your product alive, Vince. Best not to bite the hand that feeds you.

The Thorny
Considering the idea of thankfulness as a woman can be a double-edged sword. If you don’t seem thankful enough for what you have, you’re seen as a miserable, power-hungry bitch. If you’re too thankful or passive about what you’ve been given in life, you can create unhealthy power dynamics with people, allowing them to walk all over you. For the women of WWE, I ache for them trying to walk this line in management’s eyes.

I talk a lot here about what true evolution could look like for the women. I don’t think the idea of “equality” can be met as long as all the women are is thankful.

Image credit: Forbes.com

Thankful for getting more segments on weekly TV, but ones that are shorter and still fewer than the men. Thankful for finally being able to wrestle the same amount of stipulation matches as the men. Thankful to now have their own pay-per-view.

Why can’t they ask for more? Or rather, why can’t they demand it? Do all of the new developments of the women’s division mean anything if the division is vapid? Why should the entire division be thankful for these strides toward “equality” when only a few of them will reap the benefits of those advancements?

I’m not sure why Asuka or Ember Moon or Tamina Snuka or Naomi would be excited about women being able to wrestle Last Woman Standing matches now if they know they’ll likely never be written into feuds with enough build to warrant such a stipulation. Or if they do, it will be long after the inception of such matches for the (white) women.

It is upsetting that WWE has myopic vision for female stories. Only two at a time, the rest of you can wait your turn. It is not too much to ask that WWE find headspace to care about women (most often women of color) not in contention for a women’s title. It is not being ungrateful to point out that there is still more WWE can do on a weekly basis to develop female characters.

I say it time and time again. It isn’t progress until everyone can have a seat at the table. I love the work that Becky Lynch is doing. But similar to her counterpart Ronda, she is not the whole division. Give the rest of the women something to be thankful for besides participation trophies.

***

I bet you’re wondering why I didn’t talk about Survivor Series in this post. Quite simply, I don’t have enough thoughts about the show to warrant a discussion of it in this post. It was there, it happened, and it’s too early to tell where things are going in its wake. (And admittedly, much of the booking on the men’s side tainted my perception of the women’s segments.)

Onward to the end of the year.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (October 15, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: Forbes.com

Greetings and salutations good wrestling fans. I can’t believe this will be the last post before Evolution. It is mind-boggling how fast this year is going, and how quickly this “monumental” pay-per-view is approaching. I’m not sure WWE knows this either…hm. Let’s talk a bit about that, shall we?

The Good
Before I become too critical about the lackluster build to Evolution, I would like to take time in this section to discuss one positive: the sheer number of women’s segments on Raw and Smackdown Live over the last several weeks. I’m talking upwards of two to three segments some weeks.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube channel

Nia and Ember wrestling, the Riott Squad continuing to be prominent figures week on week, Bayley and Alicia Fox getting visibility — I’ve found myself actually raising an eyebrow to this increase in segments for the women as I watch every week. Outside of that being pathetic, as this should be the norm, it did give me hope. It does show that WWE can give their female roster attention when they try. Which makes it more obvious that when they don’t, it is a conscious decision.

The Bad
However, now that we are getting to see more female faces on our screens every week, we now get to see WWE’s weaknesses when it comes to female storytelling. Or, more specifically, their inability to focus energy toward multiple storylines at one time.

A well-documented gripe in Nylons, it never ceases to amaze me how the writing teams at WWE can so consistently drop the ball with developing female characters. While I am very happy to see more women onscreen on weekly TV, I scratch my head at the material they are given to work with. Or, the randomness of the matchups they are thrown into.

For example, why are Bayley and Alicia Fox in some sort of feud now? Do they have history? Why don’t they like each other? Were they just arbitrarily made to wrestle each other multiple times on TV because the Mixed Match Challenge needs promoting?

Another example: Asuka and Naomi versus the IIconics. Is there a pinpoint-able reason that the IIconics chose Asuka and Naomi to feud with?

And overarching all of these “rivalries” is the question: why do these women keep facing the same people week after week with no tangible payoff or storyline progression? Matches have to mean something. If people just wrestled every week and then went home, WWE wouldn’t be where it is today, and we certainly would not love it as much as we do. It seems that many of the women on the roster are just wrestling in circles, not getting anywhere.

Also, I’ve had little chance to talk about this in other posts, but it bears mentioning. WWE’s ineptitude with women’s storytelling is also evident with the sudden heel or face turns of certain women in the undercard. Two women that come to mind are Nia Jax and Carmella. Nia was a face in her feud with Alexa Bliss up until WrestleMania, then some sort of tweener in her feud with Ronda Rousey, then she lost the title and was MIA for a bit, and now she’s back on Raw as a…face? Is there a reason why she can’t definitively be one or the other? Carmella is an even stranger case. She was one of the most effective heels on the roster as Snackdown Women’s Champion, but then lost the title, dyed her hair auburn, and is now face in a partnership with R-Truth. (Again, an MMC pairing being brought to weekly TV.)

Image credit: SEScoops.com

When wrestlers are flip flopped between good or bad with no explanation, it robs fans the opportunity to sympathize with their characters. We are not allowed time to understand their motivations, or what drives their characters to good or bad. This is Character Building 101, and it helps audiences care. I desperately want to care about so many of the women in WWE, but to do that I have to be given something to sink my teeth into. I can’t be left salivating without a plate.

The Thorny
We are now only two weeks away from Evolution. We currently have three matches that have been announced (excluding the matches for the NXT women’s title and Mae Young Classic final). This is, to my knowledge, going to be a full-length pay-per-view. The matches that have been announced so far encompass all of the rumored matches and competitors set to headline the pay-per-view in marquee matches: Nikki Bella vs. Ronda Rousey, Trish Stratus and Lita versus Alexa Bliss and Mickie James, and Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte in a Last Woman Standing Match. I’m excited for two of the three of those matches, but more nervous for what the rest of the card will look like. We are down to the wire, folks. If people are going to invest money into buying this pay-per-view, they need to know what their money is buying.

Image credit: skysports.com

What I am getting at here is the idea that certain women are allowed to take up space before others. Some women are allowed to simply take up more space than others.

A good example to illustrate this is the Charlotte/Becky feud. I love the way this feud is unfolding, the work that both women are doing, and how important the women’s title feels on Smackdown Live. Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how vapid the rest of the division feels in comparison. It seems that Creative is pouring all of its ideas into this single feud.

This phenomenon is reminiscent of the Charlotte/Sasha Banks feud that dominated 2016. That feud will undoubtedly go down as one of the best in history, but it also seemed to suck the life out of the division. I cannot recall a single other women’s feud that was happening in the midst of Charlotte and Sasha swapping the gold. I don’t find it coincidental that the common denominator in both feuds is a certain blonde Nature Girl.

It is unfortunate that we’re seeing who WWE will leave behind in the process of putting over the most marketable women. With just 13 days to build the majority of the show, where do the Nias, Embers, and Asukas stand? I want to feel anticipation for this pay-per-view, but despite what WWE tries to convince us, a show is not made by mainstream stars and nostalgia acts. We want wrestling. As a fan, I beg that WWE gives us that.

***

WWE has a knack for surprising us with memorable moments when we least expect them. I am hoping that the secrecy about the rest of the card means that they have something special in store for Evolution. My next post will give you all the blow by blow on the show. Until then!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (October 1, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: WrestleTalk.com

Greetings good wrestling fans. I hope some autumn leaves have blessed your front lawns by this point! Fall is by far my favorite season of the year, and as far as wrestling goes, it brings us closer to 2019 and the illusion of new beginnings for WWE.

With Evolution looming, how are they rounding out the year? Not as promising as I would hope…

The Good
I am going to try something new and find a potential positive in something I’d previously discussed as problematic. In past editions of Nylons, I have said that WWE’s arbitrary creation of tag teams, stables, and alliances was a scapegoat strategy of getting more women on screen with less individual storyline development. While I still believe that to be true, there may be a method to the madness.

I specifically have the team of Asuka and Naomi in mind. Let me first say that not utilizing these women as singles competitors is a crime unto itself. Asuka had a years-long undefeated streak and Naomi is a former women’s champion — their in-ring successes speak for themselves. Their backstage segments have been forced and unfunny at best, and they still aren’t given the time in the ring that they should.

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

But…for some odd reason, I kind of dig the pair of them together. Both women have indescribable auras that make them stand out in the ring and the entrance ramp. Their wrestling styles aren’t actually that different from one another either, with both Superstars making the most of their legs with dangerous kicks. Perhaps both women could elevate each other and re-legitimize themselves as serious competitors? Even better than that, WWE could eventually put them in contention for the yet-to-be-confirmed women’s tag team belts. All of the female pairings on WWE TV can’t just be for show; they must serve a long-term purpose — at least that’s my hope. Which leads me to…

The Bad
The bad this week is that I have no idea what WWE’s long term plans are for most of the women on the roster. Evolution is less than a month away, and outside of a handful of announced or heavily implied matches that will take place (Trish vs. Alexa assuming Alexa isn’t seriously injured, Lita vs. Mickie, likely Ronda vs. Nikki), fans are pretty much in the dark as far as what the rest of the card will look like.

It is not lost on me that we have heard more about the Australia and Saudi Arabia special events than Evolution. I suppose I can understand that to an extent, given that those are special events meant to appeal to very specific audiences overseas. Even still, with the start of October, the clock has already started ticking as far as storyline building for Evolution. It is truly a lost art, building carefully toward a climax of a feud; this is a general critique across the whole WWE product. But it is especially evident (and all the more crushing) when the builds must involve women.

A mere month before the first all-women’s pay-per-view and we had Bayley and Alicia Fox randomly stuck in the corners of two male Superstars for a throwaway match meant to do nothing more than promote the Mixed Match Challenge?

Image credit: WhatCulture.com

What. Is. The. Plan! Why is WWE not at least trying to pretend they care about building memorable storylines and intensely motivated female characters?

This is what I mean when I say that WWE’s feminism is just for PR. The gesture of creating the pay-per-view gets all of the cheap news coverage and applause from the folks that don’t tune in every week while the diehard fans see how indifferently WWE can sometimes treat their women the rest of the time.

The Thorny
Ah yes, the thing I’ve been itching all week to write about. Frankly, you readers are lucky that I did not write this edition of the blog immediately after last week’s Raw, because I could have written a dissertation on Brie Bella’s botch. I had several thoughts on this mishap as well as the Bellas in general, which you can read here, but I’ll try to summarize them in this post.

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

There is first the aspect of the botch itself. I feel it means everything when discussing this particular injury to Liv Morgan that we consider the performer that executed the kicks that gave Liv her concussion. Since Brie Bella has returned, she has almost landed on her head twice in the same match attempting suicide dives, stiffed Zelina Vega on Smackdown Live, executed a sloppy finish at Hell in a Cell with Maryse, and has now concussed Liv Morgan. Not to mention moments later in the same match, Brie stiffed Ruby Riott with a forearm that looked unexpected. Given all of the things that Brie has failed to do correctly in her short amount of time back on the roster, it is evident to me that comparisons cannot be made between her mess-up and say the mess-ups of performers like Seth Rollins or Sasha Banks. The latter two wrestlers are generally safe in the ring, and do not botch with nearly the frequency of Brie Bella in the last few weeks.

Fans of the Bella Twins have jumped down my and other wrestling fans’ throats for pointing out that this injury was Brie’s fault. In my opinion, intentional or not, it is absolutely the responsibility of the wrestler to be accountable for their actions. (Brie reportedly apologized numerous times to Liv backstage, but I feel the fan reaction is more important to discuss here.) We do not live in an alternate universe where if you accidentally drop someone you were carrying over a bed of coals and they hurt themselves, you try to blame the other person for being too heavy to carry or chalk it up to “well, that’s just what happens when you carry someone!”

Screenshots from Tumblr users in the aftermath of the botch.

No. You apologize and figure out where you went wrong, and how to prevent it happening in the future. Brie continually botches moves, and it is clear that she is a danger to not only herself but other people. It would behoove her to take a step back and train a little more before she does something much worse than give someone a concussion. And the same goes for every wrestler.

It is infuriating to watch fans of hers make excuses for her and imply that criticizing her is anti-feminist in some way. It could be argued that the defensiveness many fans are met with when criticizing the Bellas is a product of the brand that the sisters have built for themselves with WWE’s help. Their moneymaker is their likability, and if they lose that, both they and the McMahons lose money.

It is all a game of power, and it is clear that the Bellas are protected because of their net worth. I don’t believe any one person should hold so much power that they are above critique or being humbled by their own mistakes. I want the best for women’s wrestling, and it is regressive of WWE and fans alike to play a game of pretend for the sake of capitalistic gain.

Image should not be prioritized over safety. Feminism isn’t always about protecting women; many times it is learning how to not protect power.

***

I don’t have a witty sendoff this week. I’ll just be waiting for all of the women’s segments on RAW and SD Live to live up to the hype of Evolution.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (July 30, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: auburnpub.com

Wow wow wow good wrestling fans. Have we got a lot to talk about this week! Unlike previous installments, my thoughts for each category this week are more general. I am currently in the midst of a move out of the city (Chicago) to Evanston, so admittedly I didn’t have the sharpest eye to wrestling these last couple of weeks. But nonetheless, let’s get into it.

The Good
All. Women’s. Pay-per-view!

Did y’all hear me?

I popped so hard when Stephanie McMahon made that magical announcement. There is so much good that can come of this event. As per the announcement, all women’s titles will be defended that night, and we will also see the finals of the Mae Young Classic. In addition, female Superstars of the past will join in for the fun as well. The latter is especially exciting, because we could see nostalgia rivalries revived (Trish vs. Mickie anyone?) as well as dream match-ups between past and present performers — can you imagine Lita vs. Nikki Cross?!

Image credit: fanbuzz.com

Outside of all of the dream matches we can imagine in the next two months, the other major good in this is that it will (hopefully) mean that all of WWE’s women will get some screen time, and in turn, a payday. This could be WrestleMania to the women’s division every year, if WWE plays their cards right. Having several hours to work with will allow the women to actually take their time to work through matches, which is a luxury they usually aren’t afforded on pay-per-views with men. Let’s just hope they don’t try to do too much, or else fans will leave Evolution feeling just as cheated as they do any other pay-per-view in relation to the women.

With each milestone the women reach in WWE, I wonder when fans will pull back the curtain and demand that women receive the same pay as men, since they essentially perform at the same level as them now. But that’s a post for another day.

Aside from the historic news, one more good thing I noted these past few weeks was Sasha Banks’ performance in that now infamous backstage promo with Bayley. We’ll get into the promo and the fallout in the next section, but I don’t want people to sleep on Sasha’s performance in that isolated segment.

GIF credit: estboss4life.tumblr.com

People have often criticized the women, and often Sasha herself, for lack of promo skills, but in this segment Sasha showed that she took extra credit courses in Dusty Rhodes’ “promo class” in NXT. The sheer conviction in her voice, the shaky, near-tears intonation of her words — you really felt that she believed the words she was saying, and that’s rare on WWE TV, no matter the gender of the speaker. We need more segments like this for the women, and my hope is that we see them continue, especially in the buildup to Evolution.

The Bad
You know, I almost wish I could have written this post before RAW last week, when I and the rest of the fandom still had a bit of innocence about the Sasha/Bayley segment.

I liveblog RAW and Smackdown Live every week on Tumblr, and let me tell you, the fandom was a mess after Sasha uttered that first “I love you.” In the aftermath of the promo, I was swept into a whirlwind of theories as to where the feud was going. Was this going to be a gay romance storyline? Is this bait for one of them to turn heel? Was this done to spike ratings or re-ignite intrigue in this agonizingly long feud? Sometimes, WWE successfully throws fans for a loop, and regardless of our opinions of what exactly the loop in question is, that’s worthy of some praise.

However, and this is a big however, if the next week on RAW we just have the two squash two other local jobbers and have the announcers heavily friendzone the two in their commentary (using words like “sisters” and “friends”), why are we supposed to care about what happened the last week? We are being told that the two are only “friends,” and yet their body language last week spoke more than platonic.

My question is this: for as long as fans have invested in this feud, if this isn’t leading to a match, why should we care?

We as wrestling fans know that this sport is centered on matches. And anything that doesn’t lead to a match between the rivaling parties is almost always filler. A waste of our time. SummerSlam is truly the last hope for this feud, if you could even call it that anymore. I’m hoping that one of them turns heel and challenges the other at SummerSlam. The sell would be that it is the final match in their saga, in the same city where they tore the house down three years earlier in NXT. It couldn’t be a more poetic end to the feud, and then WWE can finally free each woman to go her own way. But is poetry too much to expect from Creative with this feud? Probably.

The Thorny
For the Thorny section, we venture over to Smackdown Live. I don’t have a fair amount to say about the action itself that took place on either week, but I now have some concrete evidence for the argument I made in this section in my last post.

Image credit: popculture.com

Becky is the new number one contender for the Smackdown Live women’s title. That’s great for her. It certainly has been a long time coming, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts.

But here’s the thing. She’s getting a title shot, and if WWE was smart, they would let Becky take the title off Carmella. They may not do it at SummerSlam, but with Becky’s momentum, it is inevitable in many fans’ eyes. The problem lies in that Becky is getting this shot after Asuka. Becky, who arguably went on a losing streak on the main roster simultaneously with Asuka’s winning streak in NXT, is getting a title shot after Asuka failed for some reason to capture the title. I would have been fine with Becky getting her push if Asuka was the champion, because that would have meant that WWE would have given Asuka the respect she deserved from all of her hard work in NXT. But not only has Asuka lost both title matches she was a contender for, she lost by foolish means both times.

This is what I mean when I say that certain women are not given the same chances in WWE. Between Asuka, Becky, and Carmella, Asuka is probably the superior. This could be argued from a fan standpoint, but in-storyline, it’s a fact. There is no viable, logical reason for Asuka to lose to someone like Carmella, even with interference. Asuka has been buried on the main roster, like so many other women of color when they were becoming just a little too popular.

And before you try to argue me by saying, “Well, white women can be buried too!” — I’d like to point out that while some white women may not be given as much screen time as others, if you look closely, rarely are they ever “buried.” They simply rotate in and out of the spotlight. Becky was in the background for a while, but she’s returning to the light. For women of color, it’s different.

Burying a woman of color is not putting her on TV if you have no plans for her (e.g. Alicia Fox) or her novelty wears off (e.g. Naomi and, inevitably, Ember Moon). Burying a woman of color means making her title reigns short and forgettable (e.g. Nia Jax and Sasha Banks). Burying a woman of color is making her lose crucial matches that would elevate her above her white counterparts if she gained victory (e.g. Asuka). When women of color are buried in WWE, it means setting them up to fail, or reach only modest success at best.

Image credit: gunshyghosts.tumblr.com

As much as I want to be happy for Becky getting a title shot, I have to stop myself. Because I cannot separate her rise coming at the expense of a woman of color being held back. And you shouldn’t either. We can’t say “Oh, I don’t mind that Carmella is champion, but WWE is treating Asuka unfairly,” because those two things are directly related.

If women of color are going to truly be given equal chances, we have to start correlating the success of our white faves with the suppression of our black and brown ladies.

***

SummerSlam is right around the corner, folks! And as certain as it is, I will be back here in two weeks to unpack the lead-up for you all.

Wish me luck on my move!

Stay legit bossy,
AC