Nylons and Midriffs: Brand New? (June 17, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: WWE.com

I think all WWE fans can agree that the product is stale and stagnant as far as storytelling currently. With exception of the bright humor of the 24/7 title shenanigans, I can find little, if any, positive things happening on RAW and Smackdown at the moment. On paper, the main event and mid-card titles for both men and women are on arguably the most favorable people they could be on, with the likes of Rollins, Kingston, Lynch, Bayley, Balor, Joe, and the IIconics representing their respective divisions.

And yet.

Half of these people don’t feel important to their brands at all, and the other half are often eclipsed by multi-man tag matches or non-title feuds (ahem, Shane McMahon).

For the women, outside of Bayley and Becky being champs, there is nothing good, new, or interesting happening. It is the same recipe, just different day of the week it’s being prepared. In a first for Nylons, I am actually going to skip the Good section here.

Times are bleak, friends.

The Bad
I’ll talk about a singular segment that, in my opinion, highlights the core problem with the way WWE writes its female characters. On the past week’s Smackdown, a backstage segment with Ember Moon, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose seemed to set up a feud amongst the trio. In the clip below, Ember essentially loses it because Sonya knocked her handheld gaming console (Nintendo Switch?) out of her hands. There were nods to Ember’s real-life nerdy inclinations, with mentions of heroes and villains.

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

It seems as if this storyline may be going the bullying route, and if that is the case, it would be a disappointing turn for Ember. Remembering the bullying storyline between Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, the bullied character doesn’t exactly benefit from the feud. And given Mandy’s track record, with disrupting the life and marriage of another black woman (Naomi), I don’t exactly have faith that WWE would put over a younger, more subversive black female talent like Ember in the end.

With this probable mishandling of Ember and her gimmick, WWE once again fails one of its performers by misunderstanding gimmicks that bite the mold they are used to. They have the bitchy, condescending white woman down to a near-perfect science. Anything that falls outside of that, especially for women of color, the writers simply don’t know what to do with. And I reiterate, this is why it is important to have diversity in writers’ rooms and higher leadership on any media project.

Image credit: TVinsider.com

As a black woman, I know nerdy black girls like Ember Moon. Heck, to a certain extent, I am one of them! But, for so long, we’ve been fed a certain image of black women, Latinx women, Asian women. That isn’t an accident; it is the working of white supremacy. Many people can only digest women of color if they are a highly specific flavor. People got Ember in NXT because she was allowed the space to explain to us her character, and then back it all up in the ring. Here, on the main roster, she is lost and forced into a very two-dimensional box. Instead of allowing Ember to show her charisma and uniqueness in the ring, we have to see her be picked on as evidence that she is different. It is simply another way to Other her, even if she does come out on top.

In addition, I detest how the trope of the deranged woman applies to any woman who has a slightly out-there gimmick. It works on Nikki Cross — it is even somewhat acceptable with Alicia Fox. But to see it happening, again, with another black woman, is so irksome. “Crazy” is not a stand-in for “eccentric,” and it is possible that women can be aggressive and quirky without being portrayed as unhinged. A man wouldn’t be written to simply scream into the void if someone knocked some of their things down. He would most likely beat the other person’s ass on the spot. Therefore, I want my women written the same way. Human beings, not caricatures.

Also, can we find no better way to set up women’s storylines than to involve catty disagreements? Alexa Bliss’ qualms with Bayley supposedly began because Bayley was mean to her on social media once. Is this a joke? I sound like a broken record, but we would never make this the center of a men’s feud. It is so childish, and I wish with all of my being that people could see women as whole, complicated beings who can handle conflict in sensible ways. It isn’t just inaccurate — it’s insulting to any woman watching to see mean girl antics be the centerpieces of our stories.

The Thorny

Image credit: thechairshot.com

A couple of weeks ago, there was a #1 contender’s match for the Smackdown Women’s championship. Exciting, yes. In a landscape of Kairi Sanes and Ember Moons and Asukas, exciting new matchups were surely right around the corner.

Only in this match, the competitors were Carmella, Charlotte Flair, and Alexa Bliss. And my thought was immediately…of course.

Carmella, to be fair, has had a precarious position in the main event scene since she was called up from NXT. But, because of that, she felt like a decent shot to include in that match. With Charlotte and Alexa, however, there are no excuses. These two have consistently been at the top of the women’s division for the last three years. They’ve never fallen to the back of the line, and if they did, it was because they physically could not wrestle (in Alexa’s case).

We have a field of some of the most talented women on the planet, and WWE thinks, “Yes, let’s continue to push the blonde white women.” Not only that, but the two women with the most championship reigns of all of the women by a long shot. The only woman that comes close in quantity of reigns is Sasha Banks, and look where she is right now. Charlote and Alexa have the most reigns, and some of the longest reigns at the top. I just do not understand why leadership in WWE don’t tire of seeing the same types of women at the top. Well, I do know why, and it’s because of money…and racism. A false sense that women like Alexa and Charlotte are more marketable, and in turn lucrative, and the determination to keep a racial hierarchy in place.

Image credit: wwe.cityblog.ng

Suffice to say, I would be surprised if Bayley came out on top at Stomping Grounds. Perhaps the result of that match will be the launching pad for the next post’s discussion.

***

To you, the reader, I’d love to hear your thoughts on where the product is right now with the women. Or even better, where we can throw our support in the wrestling world to amplify promotions that are getting women right. I’ll be imagining that world for WWE, until next time.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Cards on the Table (June 3, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs
Image credit: sportskeeda.com

It’s time to lay it out, friends. This week, we’re taking a step back for once to consider the women’s and larger wrestling scenes at large. Because it would be nearly impossible not to in my opinion, we’ll unpack the implications of AEW as a startup company — what the brand’s existence may mean for some of the women on the roster.

Full disclosure, I was not able to watch Double or Nothing. I didn’t realize the show would not be available for replay on YouTube. So, my consideration of AEW’s women’s division unfortunately won’t include wrestling. Nevertheless, there are still some general thoughts to share.

Let us waste no time!

The Good
I will start off by giving praise to the woman behind the scenes of AEW, a trailblazer in her role: Brandi Rhodes. I came across a post of hers on Instagram in the midst of DoN weekend, and it made me warm to see that she very much acknowledges the unique position she is in as Chief Branding Officer of All Elite Wrestling.

In her own words, she is one of (if not the) first of her kind: a black woman in a notable position of power behind the scenes of a wrestling promotion. Black women, first and foremost, are lucky if they are featured favorably on any wrestling show. To know that someone with a doubly marginalized identity is holding the branding of AEW in their hands is very heartening, and serves as an example of what true inclusion looks like in the rooms where major decisions happen.

In addition, we were given a glimpse of Brandi’s perspective on “colorblindness” in a clip of her husband, Co-Executive Vice President Cody Rhodes, talking to press about AEW’s plan for diversity. Catching general media attention because of a retweet by one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cody explains in the clip that Brandi helped him to see that colorblindness in terms of race ultimately just erases the specific experiences (and thus, racism) that people of color face everyday. This acknowledgement gave me even more confidence that Brandi is genuine and seems to want inclusion for the brand that she will have a part in promoting. So hats off to you, Mrs. Rhodes!

Back on the WWE side, sadly not much to report. However, there were a few glimmers in the darkness. I want to highlight Becky Lynch, for giving the fire in every one of her matches, no matter how (in)significant it may be.

Image credit: WWE.com

Even in tag matches where she gains essentially nothing from winning, it is fascinating to watch how much she tries to put herself and everyone in the match over. Becky has a natural charisma that it appears she can’t turn off, which is obviously ideal in a champion.

I enjoyed, too, the bits that were done this past week between Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans. I have spoken previously about how similar the two are and, as commentary has as well, it looks like WWE is being more overt in having the two work together. The looks that they served together during their tea time — yikes! Such catty girls, and I feel a little ashamed in admitting that I liked it (despite my feelings about both of them). And, seeing the two turn on each other makes for a potentially interesting story, if the writers should decide to continue it. Although it is rare nowadays, it really does pay off when heels turn on other heels. In my opinion, it drives home even more the reason we’re to believe that they’re bad — because they hate everyone, not just good guys. That is what separates two dimensions from three.

The Bad

Image credit: WWE.com

Here is where the so-called “Wild Card Rule” comes into play. We’ve seen now what this looks like for all divisions, and here is the verdict: it is doing the exact opposite of what it supposedly aimed to fix, which was to make things less predictable on weekly TV.

As we’ve seen, the Wild Card Rule is just an excuse to have the same handful of Superstars appear on both brands, rather than creating any variety in who is shuffled into the mix every week. And for the women, it appears the only people we see partake in the rule are Becky and Lacey. Instead of giving new women the opportunity to fight and feud with women they haven’t before, we are getting the same four or five women in matches in different combinations. And yes, while we see women in other match-ups, they still feel very haphazard. The women vying for the main event titles take leaps of storyline development, while everyone else crawls or even stumbles on any stories they may have going.

Ugh. I hope this “rule” doesn’t last for too much longer.

The Thorny
I want to talk here about the hostile work environment that WWE has fostered, that we as fans have come to expect from the company.

As Double or Nothing aired, obviously, social media was abuzz. WWE Superstars were certainly not exempt from this. I saw a good many stars use their Twitter on the day of the event to either express their good luck wishes to those involved, or live-tweet reactions that vaguely alluded to their marking out at the event.

And maybe it was the algorithm of my Twitter feed, but I noticed that a sizable number of these subtweets came from the female Superstars of the roster. We had Sasha Banks who outright named wrestlers as they went out on the card, Peyton Royce cheering on real-life boyfriend Shawn Spears (formerly Tye Dillinger), Bayley expressing excitement at the future of wrestling, and Naomi flat-out saying that she watched the event. In a strange way, this renewed my hope that these women do, in fact, love what they do. They are simply caught in the crosshairs of a company that refuses to let them go, despite giving very few of them real, substantive pushes.

We had fans making comical remarks under each of these tweets saying that WWE would be soon to fire the Superstar in question over their support of the rival product. And isn’t that twisted?

Some have analyzed this situation at face value as a matter of professionalism. Surely someone working for Pepsi wouldn’t allude to Coke being good on a public platform, right? However, it is my opinion that never speaking positively of your competition, or even demeaning their success, is old hat.

I believe the Superstars of today, in line with their generation of Millennials, are more apt to uplift their “competition” because they recognize that doing so will still ultimately uplift the industry in question. There are exceptions to this, obviously. But, we see this happening every day. Athletes paying each other respect in other sports, influencers complimenting the work of another in a similar field, female writers and politicians and entertainers retweeting and promoting others’ work on their own platforms.

Within the practice of feminism, it is held as a belief that women should uplift other women, especially those in disadvantaged positions. The same applies here, and I think many of the aforementioned women (whether they knew it or not) were embodying this during DoN. Watching other people shine shouldn’t ruin your personal shine. In fact, it should help motivate you to shine brighter.

Why, then, is there a legitimate fear that WWE Superstars and the most vulnerable among them (that being women and people of color) could be putting their jobs in jeopardy simply for being a fan of their own sport?

The insidious thing here is that WWE is asking their talent to be complicit in squashing competition, if only by pretending it doesn’t exist. Knowing that there is another viable option outside of WWE for the women in the locker room can push them to be better versions of themselves or seek out the grass on the other side.

GIF credit: tenor.com

WWE currently is not allowing for either, which is likely creating a bubbling, resentful women’s locker room. My dream for the women of WWE is for them to be allowed to love what they do and actually do it every week, without limitations, without pretending, and without complicity in holding women in other promotions down.

We are not free until we are all free.

***

I look forward to the TV deal that AEW has established with TNT, because it means that I can see with my own eyes what this product is about. Although it is months away, that threat of competition for WWE will surely make my eye more critical week to week. Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Checks and Championships (May 22, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs, Works-In-Process

Image credit: forbes.com

I’ll be honest with you all. My interest in the WWE product has dipped drastically since WrestleMania. As we all know, we were heralded into a “new era” several months ago, with promises of new matchups and roster changes sure to revitalize a bland product. We got this for a hot minute but, as expected, things went back more or less to normal. Even the NXT callups don’t feel special anymore, because the stars are simply forced to assimilate to the formula of weekly RAW and Smackdown TV.

Thus, for the women’s division, I will discuss what this return to boredom has looked like in the last couple of weeks. But, we’ll also talk about the few seeds planted that have the potential to flourish into fruitful gardens — that is, if WWE nurtures them.

Let’s take a look at both Money in the Bank, and what has been happening on the weekly shows generally.

The Good
RAW and SD Live: I see potential in some of the relationships that are forming between paired female Superstars. There’s the ongoing tension between Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose that continues to play out with little snippets of dissension, but we now have an added layer: the idea that Sonya is carrying Mandy, rather than holding her back. I am intrigued to see where this goes, especially if it leads to a push for Sonya, who is arguably the more talented of the two in the ring. In the story, we’ve seen that Sonya also puts her own aspirations aside in favor of getting Mandy ahead, like when she simply conceded a place in the MITB ladder match to Mandy. In this very small backstage segment, we are now led to believe that there is a power dynamic in place between Mandy and Sonya that logically should lead the underdog in the situation to stand down to her domineering friend.

In addition, we have the odd couple of Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss. I’m not sure what this will evolve into, but I’m into it! In their own ways, they both have an unhinged aura about them, although Alexa is more calculating in her ways. This could lead to an interesting story of manipulation on Alexa’s part, or it could evolve into a weird business relationship of sorts, where Alexa has Nikki do her bidding for her (as her in-ring status is still uncertain). Or, they could feud. We just don’t know! But curious pairings like this can definitely lead to memorable storylines.

MITB: The women’s MITB ladder match was excellent! Firstly, I loved Nikki Cross as Alexa Bliss’ replacement in the match. Partly because I will always favor new faces over old ones, but also because she added a factor of unpredictability within the dynamic of the match. There were admittedly some weird parts, like Carmella’s knee injury (it was difficult to tell if it was planned or not, given Mandy Rose’s reactions). But on the whole, I loved every woman in this match and what they added. From Naomi’s creative evasion of certain attacks because of her flexibility and athleticism (still dying over that horizontal splits spot!), to Dana Brooke’s sheer desperation to win, to Sonya Deville carrying Mandy Rose up a freaking ladder — it was all chef’s kiss. Spot of the match goes to Ember Moon, for executing an Eclipse from outside the ring from a ladder to Natalya.

GIF credit: helluvaclash.tumblr.com

Every year as I watch the women’s MITB, I smile. I am filled with joy at how much better the women get at these stipulation matches with each successive year. I will not lie — the men’s matches are still generally better than many of the women’s efforts. However, that gap is closing. Quickly. I love to see it.

Image credit: forbes.com

And also, Bayley! I am SO happy for her, after such inconsistent and arguably disrespectful booking since she was called up from NXT. It seems as if now WWE is more ready to pull the trigger on building her as a top babyface for the women’s division, and fans are starting to cheer her again. We are ready for Bayley. My hope is that this time around, things are different.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: As I mentioned earlier, WWE has returned to their standard formula of booking for the most part. This includes the women and chucking them into single segments every week, mostly on RAW. Women who have nothing to do with one another, who have no chemistry, are being put into one giant segment labeled “The Women!” because WWE doesn’t know what to do with any of them individually. This plays out week-to-week with few longterm plans. The problem with WWE for the last couple of years, but far longer for the women specifically, is each of their segments play out like those plays you did in high school. Everyone comes out and talks when it’s their turn, and hits their marks and says their signature lines, and once everyone has said their stuff, the musical number begins. Er, the match in this case. It just feels over-scripted.

Image credit: WWE.com

Everyone is just sort of there because they were told to be. Most of the women sound like they are acting as an interpretation of themselves (that coming from the writing team) rather than their actual selves as they understand their characters to be. The element of freedom is missing.

Not only this, because of all of the multi-woman matches, WWE has become so accustomed to seeing the women as a monolith that they actually struggle to send women out to compete in matches alone. Few women are afforded the luxury nowadays to simply walk out to the ring on their own, without someone in their corner or interrupting their loss or victory at the end of a match. Too many women are in pairs that are not long-term tag teams, but rather arbitrary attachments, something to “do” until writers can figure out stories for one or both of them. I miss the days when women were singular beings, able to stand alone and that be enough. I’m not sure why it isn’t anymore.

MITB: Luckily, I don’t have too much to report as “bad” from Sunday, but there are a couple of contentious points I think we should consider moving forward.

First is that while I am overjoyed for Bayley, many fans have pointed out that the briefcase win may have been better served to newer faces, such as Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, or even Dana Brooke.

Image credit: womenofwwesource.turmblr.com

Whereas Bayley likely could have recovered from a loss at MITB, many of the women in that match will not, and will slide back down the card. It appears that WWE now uses the MITB briefcase as a plot device rather than a means to put over newer talent into the main event scene, as it used to be. So in this way, Bayley’s win was bittersweet.

Second is the fact that Charlotte won…again. I obviously see why she needed to win, in order to pass the title between Becky and Bayley while keeping both of the aforementioned women over with the fans. But it’s still annoying that Charlotte is racking up title wins for essentially no other reason than to make the babyfaces that eventually beat her look more triumphant. I am of the mind that each title win should be earned within the context of a storyline, and with Charlotte it seems so often that she is the de facto champion when the writers have nowhere else to go. Could we not use another heel woman in her place some of the time? We’re now stuck with the reality that Charlotte is a 9-time champion, which is just an unfathomable amount of reigns in such a short period of time. And that’s not even counting her Divas title reign.

The Thorny

Image credit: picbear.org

And with my discussion of stuffing the women in one segment and calling it a night, I must mention one of the more insidious effects that this is having on a particular division. You may remember that the IIconics won the women’s tag team championships at WresteMania. You may struggle to remember a time where they’ve defended these titles against legitimate opponents in the nearly two months they’ve been the champions. And therein lies the problem.

People are still giving Sasha Banks (less so Bayley, as she’s now being cheered) such crap for complaining about losing the titles. Given how the belts have been treated since then, I’d like to hear the perspectives of those that still justify hating on Sasha for taking a stand. The IIconics were simply not ready to be champions. Not because they are not talented. Not because they don’t have potential. But because WWE is not ready to put forth the effort to make their title reign work.

They are taking pins left and right to women that aren’t even in tag teams. They are fed to women’s championship contenders. And for what? What is the reason? Why did we give them the titles? My hypothesis is this: WWE knew they had their hands full with Sasha and Bayley as champs. They knew that those women had plans for those titles, ideas, passion, and clout. They wanted to make those titles feel important, to the women’s division and WWE as a whole. WWE, put simply, didn’t have time for that. They put the belts on the IIconics because it was a sign marked “Exit” for them. It was an excuse for them to not try as hard, since the IIconics are not as established as performers in the political sense but also in the ring. If they were booked the way that they are now, WWE knew they wouldn’t put up a fuss.

Which brings us back to why this whole situation is still bogus: women, especially women of color, are penalized for demanding more. For reaching for more. Because WWE is lazy, and the women are expendable. And as long as that is their ideology, the division will never prosper the way the men’s does. And it is unfortunate to think that they might actually prefer it that way.

***

Now that the women’s championships are spread evenly across both brands, we should see some new feuds. Should. But we shall see.

Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,

AC

Nylons and Midriffs: The More Things Change…. (May 7, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: est143.blogspot.com

Greetings good wrestling fans. I hope the weather has started to warm up wherever you may be! In the post-Superstar Shakeup world of WWE, things in many ways are heating up. But, for some female Superstars, things are….well, a prolonged winter in May, to say the least.

Unlike most weeks, we’ll discuss how the Good, Bad, and Thorny are somewhat related to each other. I believe that the positives have made the negatives more glaring, and vice versa.

The Good

Image credit: SEScoops.com

The general good happening with the new RAW and Smackdown women’s rosters is that the spotlight is being shone on women in different ways then it had been previously. Particularly on the Smackdown side, we have seen Bayley re-emphasized as a singles competitor, and Asuka and Kairi Sane re-imagined as tag-team partners. We’ve seen these three women featured more prominently on the show since the Shakeup, and I’m sure I speak for many fans when I say that this is a welcome change of pace.

Further, it’s Bayley specifically I am really impressed with. In two consecutive weeks on Smackdown, Bayley faced off against her Four Horsewomen counterparts (the fourth of whom is still jarringly absent from TV), and in each showing she fought with heart and fire that we haven’t seen arguably since her NXT days.

Image credit: WWE.com

It is a shame that I’d actually forgotten just how good she is from a purely in-ring standpoint. WWE as well have allowed her to show more tenacity on Smackdown, which hopefully will translate into a Seth Rollins-esque babyface climb to the top. Only time will tell, of course, but things at least look promising as of now.

To continue with Smackdown praise, the “B” show continues to outgrade RAW when it comes to women’s segments. It feels as if every women’s segment has intention, serving a larger storytelling purpose (even if the quality of said stories isn’t always ideal). When watching Smackdown, I get the sense that the writers see the women as an actual part of the show to be seen throughout, not simply filler between men’s segments or afterthoughts. The majority of the women on the Smackdown roster has at least some sort of story going at the moment, and you can see where things can logically go with each of their feuds. There is Kairi and Asuka going for the IIconics’ tag belts, Becky interacting with Charlotte, even Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose stewing up a rivalry. In varying degrees, most Smackdown women feel important to the writing and pacing of the show itself. In turn, it makes the show more desirable to watch than RAW. And speaking of…

The Bad
It is baffling that on the show with an entire extra hour to work with, there seems to be a problem with making the women feel important rather than obligatory. Without Sasha Banks (and some may argue, even with her), the RAW women’s division is shallow. To add to the shallowness of the division, the writers can only seem to create women’s segments wherein the women featured are only sniping at each other to lead into a two-minute match. It is so odd, and actually a little infuriating when you stop to consider just how much more the women could be given to work with every week in comparison to some of the downright buffoonish men’s segments we see.

Image credit: fightful.com

And in regard to the aforementioned two-minute matches — what are we doing here? It is 2019. The fact that RAW consistently delivers women’s matches (and even segments) in under five minutes should be ridiculed as unacceptable. I can’t say that I am shocked that WWE has continued the legacy of “bathroom break” matches on their flagship show, but it certainly makes evident that the writers have a long way to go in the realm of positive female representation.

The Thorny
Revisiting a familiar theme to this section, I once again must express my boredom for the current title picture for the RAW and Smackdown women’s belts. We have Becky Lynch facing off against Charlotte Flair and Lacey Evans, two physically sculpted, tanned, and conventionally attractive blonde white women. I understand that Becky’s “The Man” gimmick has historically gone over better when her foil is someone like Lacey or Charlotte, a heel that fans can loathe for being exactly what I’ve described. But it continues to be shocking just how lazy these feuds shape up to be. WWE is taking the easy way out by doing what they’ve always done, and the rest of the women’s roster pays for it.

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

In the media landscape of today, we have entered a moment of “meta.” Showrunners work subtle and not-so-subtle racism, sexism, etc. into their storylines and call it an intentional choice to potentially “expose” or portray how commonplace said things are in our everyday interactions and systems. There is a self-awareness that feels almost self-congratulatory; these writers believe that because they are in on their own joke that it nullifies the impact of the representation of whatever oppression they aim to realistically depict.

The problem with this approach is that it is often done without the consultation of the oppressed groups targeted by the negative portrayal. And thus, the depiction only works to confirm in real life the biases being written for fiction. This comes across often in the form of premature character deaths for women, queer folk, or people of color before they’ve satisfactorily completed their story arcs, or invisibility of these people on the shows altogether (looking at you Game of Thrones).

So, in looking at the women’s division, WWE is now smart to the fact that fans have caught on to their favoritism toward blonde white women. They now subtly work our smark critiques of this bias into the character development of these women, and in turn their pushes to the top. But ultimately, WWE now embracing this tendency within the confines of storyline does not somehow negate the effect that this continues to have on a sizable portion of their women’s locker room. A spade is a spade. Oppression on a smiling, joking, knowing face is still oppression. And we should still treat it as such.

***

I am looking forward to Money in the Bank; it is usually a memorable pay-per-view, if only for the ladder matches themselves. For storyline reasons, I’m ready to get it over with, in the hope that something fresh awaits around the corner.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: Boss of Who? (April 22, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: stillrealtous.com

It has been an interesting two weeks since WrestleMania for the women’s division. I know the drama surrounding a certain female wrestler has filled the dirt sheets for the better part of that time (and don’t worry, we’ll get to that), but in the midst of that controversy, there was also a Superstar Shakeup.

Title unification for both women’s titles is ostensibly out of the question for now, so how did things shake out for the ladies? Let us consider together.

The Good

Image credit: newsweek.com

The only real good I saw in the past weeks’ RAW and SmackDown Live episodes was that SmackDown’s division is shaping up nicely. Formerly the smaller division of the two brands, SmackDown finally got some big names to freshen up the matches and rivalries. They got work-rate girls like Bayley, Ember Moon, and Kairi Sane, but also some padding for the middle of the division like Liv Morgan. The roster now feels like it has layers, something it was missing before WrestleMania.

Unfortunately, that is where I will have to end this section. Because while it is good that SmackDown’s division is now stacked, that leads me to…

The Bad
…the RAW women’s division. The worst thing about the Shakeup for the women was that it left the brands severely unbalanced. The biggest name RAW got was Naomi, which is a start but it isn’t great. Sitting to ponder, I am actually struggling to think of significant names that are still on RAW besides Alexa Bliss and sort of Becky Lynch. I just feel that it is odd to add the majority of your big names to the show that has less time to work with.

Image credit: prowrestlingsheet.com

I also noticed that The Riott Squad was split up during this draft, which is a shame. The faction of Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan were never given the opportunity to shine atop the division. They were used as enhancement talent in the most literal sense of the term, only used when WWE needed to portray the dominance of the main event players. But as a unit, they worked flawlessly together, and they had excellent tag team offense. I guess we should have taken it as a sign when they were taken out of the women’s tag team title picture immediately after Elimination Chamber. Despite being underutilized, I do think the Riott Squad deserve a load of credit for making the best of the cards they were dealt from the beginning of their main roster careers in WWE.

Switching gears, an additional negative apart from the results of the Shakeup is the push for Lacey Evans. Yawn. I’m so tired!! Lacey is the same as every other white, blonde, heel woman on the roster, only the twist this time is that she’s Southern. But if you were to compare the heel gimmicks of Alexa Bliss, Mandy Rose, Charlotte Flair, etc. — at the core of their characters, could you truly find that many differences? They are all arrogant, they all think they are “chosen” in some way, they all think they’re the hottest things since Playboy, and they all believe they are above the rest of the women because of either their sass or their class. But each of them have merely found a different trait to fixate on and exaggerate, and/or found a different aesthetic to present their gimmicks. But at the end of the day, they are all nearly the same person. And as I’ve said, it is tiresome to see them constantly in the main event.

In addition, WWE choosing to push Lacey Evans further exposes what I have noticed is another pattern with blonde white women: WWE Creative, and in turn fans, are more willing to be patient with them.

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

WWE is more willing to give white women the ball and let them run with it until they improve in the ring, rather than give the ball to a more ring-savvy woman of color. Many popular wrestling critics online (namely white and male ones) will make excuses for these women when they are gifted their places at the top. When the pushes for these women begin, they will say that they have killer mic skills, or that they ooze charisma, or that they have potential to develop in the ring — even if they are green in the ring at that time. WWE Creative in turn allows these women to skate by on mediocrity, giving them time and space at the top of the card to develop their in-ring skills. They’ve used this strategy with Alexa, with Carmella, with Mandy Rose (until plans changed), and even with the legendary Trish Stratus. Now, they are doing it with Lacey.

Obviously all of these women rose to the occasion after several months of high-profile matches. But I wonder how much more fleshed out the division would look and feel if we afforded women of color that same opportunity to grow at the top as many of the aforementioned women are.

The Thorny
As the wrestling world is well-aware by now, rumors have been swirling since WrestleMania about Sasha Banks’ dissatisfaction with WWE. I’ve followed this story so closely that I am unsure what is even truth or innuendo anymore, yet my opinion has remained the same. I am firmly on Sasha’s side.

As many of you might have deduced by my salutation at the end of every Nylons, I am a Sasha Banks fan. However, regardless of my feelings about Sasha as WWE Superstar or human being, I still believe that to be critical of Sasha in this circumstance is not only malicious, but hypocritical.

Some people have said that Sasha (and Bayley, by association) was acting childishly for her protest against dropping the tag titles, after seemingly being promised a lengthy title run. Some fans have accused Sasha of being entitled by taking a vacation after WrestleMania to consider her future in WWE. But were these not the same fans that dragged WWE through the mud before WrestleMania after one John Oliver segment? Did all of Oliver’s statements somehow become not true between then and now? Because if WWE still treats their performers like employees, even though they contractually are not considered to be, if they still do not provide health insurance — why should Sasha have to smile and be thankful for the mere opportunity to wrestle for WWE exclusively, especially if they aren’t even using her to her full potential? Why should she put up with all of the other crappy technicalities of being signed by WWE if they mostly just keep her around so she doesn’t go anywhere else?

I want to take a moment to step in Sasha’s shoes here. Let’s try to empathize with her.

Imagine you have worked to become a wrestler since you were a teenager. You overcame poverty and living in hotel rooms with your single mother and autistic sibling to make it to WWE. Then, you have an amazing run in NXT where you were at the tippity-top of the division. Once you are called up to the main roster, fans are ecstatic, and they chant “We want Sasha” when they are bored with the women they see in the ring, whoever they may be.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

You win your first main roster title after one year on the main roster, and then you lose it one month later. Okay, can’t win them all. Then you win the title back. Awesome! You’re a two-time champ now. But then you lose it again a month later, again at a pay-per-view. This happens for a third time. The fourth time you win the title, you lose it after just 8 days. After this, you sort of just exist in the women’s division. Fans start to cool off on you.

Then it looks like you might have a feud with your NXT rival. There’s no way WWE could mess this up, right? Only they do. They start the feud then stop it again. They send you to “counseling.” Then they put the two of you in a tag team, and while it isn’t ideal, you make the best of it and actually begin to see a long-term plan: to start a women’s tag division. After months of badgering higher-ups, your dream comes to fruition, and the titles become a reality. You win the titles and promise to defend them everywhere. It looks like WWE is finally going to give you a long title reign.

But then, at the last moment before the biggest show of the year, you find out that not only will you lose the titles, but that the team that you worked so hard to build is being broken up. And the titles are being put on two less experienced in-ring workers. Another short title reign. Another opportunity to shine ripped away before you could even get started.

Given all that you — Sasha — have been through, do you believe you would be anything less than pissed off?

For all of the protest that Sasha and Bayley displayed in the wake of their loss, everything that they feared would happen is coming true.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

The IIconics have the titles, but outside of the first match they worked after Mania (a comedy squash match at that), every match they have competed in thus far on TV they have lost. The belts are merely props for them. We could have had so much more with Sasha and Bayley.

And to those that say they are acting entitled, I say, so what if they are? Why can’t women be entitled to more?

Men in the wrestling industry have been infamously entitled. There are stories of male wrestlers who just flat out refused to lay down for certain people (like Hulk Hogan). There are wrestlers that we praise today that were notoriously awful to work with backstage at certain points in their careers (like Shawn Michaels). There are men that made it a point to stay perched at the top for several years at a time (like Triple H). And there are men today that have openly alluded to their discontent with their booking, such as The Revival and the recently departed Luke Harper, that are applauded for taking a stand. CM Punk is still an urban legend in WWE lore.

So why is it suddenly problematic when a woman does the same? When men stand up against personal injustices, they are martyrs. When women stand up against personal injustices, they are entitled.

And look, as more has come out about this story, I have reformulated my thoughts on it. I do think that Bayley and Sasha, after all that they’ve been through together, might fare better on their own. Their partnership really became codependent, and having to work their gimmicks around each other truly held both of them back. Their characters are simply oil and water, and I think in the long term re-building their gimmicks separately will help to establish them as the strong singles competitors they were always meant to be. And with Ronda Rousey out of the picture for the foreseeable future, for Sasha, this could be her chance to have the substantial women’s title run she’s been vying for.

But, that idea holds true if and only if WWE puts in the work to rehabilitate her character, and put her in a main event feud with a significant title reign. Can we trust them to do that? Maybe we should ask Asuka…

Well. Looks like we’re right back at square one.

***

Now that the Shakeup is over, we can begin the next chapter in all of these women’s stories. Time will tell if for most of them it is a chance to write their stories anew. Or if for others, if they must close the book altogether.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: WrestleMania Review (April 11, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: sports.yahoo.com

WrestleMania “weekend” has finally come to an end and whew! I am just about burnt out on wrestling content!

As I discussed a little before WrestleMania, there were only two women’s matches on the main card. And although they both were given decent time (certainly compared to the last few Manias), I still found myself wanting more, but not in a good way.

This is the first time I’ve had to go back and watch WrestleMania matches in order decide my thoughts on them. I think the 7.5 hour run time caused many of the matches in the second half of the night to become one big blur. That combined with having watched NXT TakeOver: New York two days prior, I had just lost all sense of what good wrestling looked like after several bouts.

Nevertheless, let us discuss how the women fared at the Showcase of the Immortals, so we can put it to bed and look forward to pastures new.

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

Image credit: WWE.com

Ugh. I’m including this match only out of respect for each of the women involved. There is nothing newsworthy to report from this match, besides that Ember Moon made her return from injury in it. The action was sloppy, almost as if the women in the match didn’t really care to be there. (Or maybe that’s me reading too much into things.)

Both the Riott Squad and Absolution (are Mandy and Sonya still called by that name?) predictably dominated the eliminations. Interestingly, Sarah Logan was the choice to nearly take the win, until a hiding Carmella last eliminated her. Which was fine, Carmella is a solid shout. But I think Sarah Logan could have used the win more, and it would have made for a more interesting ego boost for the Riott Squad as a whole.

Women’s Tag Team Match: Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Beth Phoenix and Natalya vs. The IIconics vs. Nia Jax and Tamina

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

This match wasn’t bad by any means. It just wasn’t….great? It was a fairly average match. I think overall the element it lacked was chemistry between the competitors, which was a worry I had going into the match. Each pairing have chemistry with their respective partners, but they had issues translating that chemistry to their adversaries. And that’s mostly due to a lackluster build to this match.

Something weird that I noticed watching this match back was how absent Nia and Tamina were for about 90% it. There is a whole section in the middle where the two of them were nowhere to be found, and I didn’t actually notice this watching the match live. That’s a problem; if the audience doesn’t even notice when a quarter of the competitors are missing from a match, that means that their presence does not contribute to the whole enough for people to care. Which is a shame for both of them. But it only reinforces the opinions of many others, myself included, had about their inclusion in the match: we probably could have done without them involved.

Another aspect of the match that I did not notice as much watching live was how well this match showcased the IIconics’ intelligence as a tag team. The two of them tagged in and out constantly to keep one another fresh for their opponents. They stayed out of the way when they needed, and waited until the perfect opportunity to steal a pin, successfully executed by a sneaky tag by Billie Kay — while Beth Phoenix was setting up for her top-rope Glam Slam — to make herself the legal Superstar.

When the IIconics won, my gut reaction was joy for the two of them. Everyone knew going into this match that Billie and Peyton were the truest, bluest of teams in that match, but no one really thought they would win. Their story of being longtime wrestling fans and friends since high school that trained, traveled, and struggled together is the epitome of a tag team — and life — partnership if I’ve ever heard one. So to see them win after their long journey together, and the ugly crying faces they made when they held up those titles, was so heartwarming.

However, I do worry about Sasha Banks, Bayley, and the future of those titles now. For the two of them dropping the titles after only a couple of months, neither woman had a truly strong showing in this match. Their performances certainly aren’t the caliber we know the two of them can deliver. In my opinion, it would have been more ideal to have Sasha and Bayley have a long inaugural reign for the belts, similar to what Pete Dunne did with the NXT UK Championship (although not nearly for that long, but you get the point) to legitimize the titles and their prestige. I do not feel that we got to see all that Sasha and Bayley could do with their reign, and that is sad for both women. Especially since neither of them were exactly in favorable places on the card before they won the belts. Taking the tittles off both women should mean that they move on to better feuds or title contention — or more salivating, a feud with each other — but I think we know that that won’t happen.

Thus, while the IIconics’ win was certainly a feel-good moment in a Mania full of other such moments, long-term, I worry about where this leaves the Boss and Hug Connection, as well as the future of the titles around the waists of two underdeveloped in-ring Superstars.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Sasha reportedly tried to quit WWE at WrestleMania and is currently on leave from the promotion.)

Winner Take All: Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair

Image credit: tpww.net

Chills. I felt utter chills as the ring announcer said Charlotte, Becky, and Ronda’s names at the start of this match. I have never felt that while watching the main event of a WrestleMania. And yet, it just felt so normal. I thought “Why did this take 35 years to do? Women belong here, they own this spotlight right now.” And I hope that this won’t be looked back upon as a one-time experiment, because I never felt more than in that moment that women can carry a marquee.

We’ll start off by discussing the entrances. Each woman’s entrance told the story of their characters in a brief snapshot of time. Charlotte entered the match with the pomp and circumstance of a peacock, showing us her elevated (literally, by helicopter) status in the women’s division. Ronda showed her laser focus and kill-or-be-killed attitude marching to the ring, with rock legend Joan Jett playing her signature “Bad Reputation” at the top of the entrance ramp; by bringing in another celebrity, WWE reinforced Ronda’s mainstream appeal. And Becky, equally as focused, simply strode to the ring with her theme music and understated steam shooting up at the top of the ramp. Each woman had their role, and they played them to perfection.

This match was actually a lot better than I remembered, but again, at this point in the show on Sunday it was well past my bedtime and I was anxious to just get the show over with. Unlike the previous women’s match, these women had a lot more room to breathe and time to work with, and therefore they could work many more memorable spots. There was Becky and Charlotte’s triple powerbombs to Ronda, Becky’s dropkick to a dangling Ronda knocking her to the floor, Charlotte’s Spanish fly. I think the action in the match logically progressed in intensity as each woman became more and more desperate.

There was a table spot that didn’t quite have the impact the competitors were perhaps hoping for. Charlotte went to spear both of her opponents through a table she’d set up in a corner of the ring, but when Ronda and Becky moved out of the way, Charlotte crashed herself into the table, causing it to break…sort of. We’ve seen similar failed spots in other women’s matches (Charlotte’s match with Sasha Banks at Hell in a Cell is a good example), and it makes me groan every time. There is a reason you rarely see male competitors do dainty table spots like the one in this match. I suppose due to sheer practice and repetition through using tables, superstars like the Dudley Boyz and Hardy Boyz knew that the best way to make a table break with the intended effect (clean in half) was to simply fall into it. I am unsure if the women themselves were responsible for choreographing this spot, or if they were told to by producers to keep it light, but either way, we need to start letting women go for those big spots. Because when the table only cracks upon impact because the Superstar didn’t hit it with enough force or crashed into it at a weird angle, it makes the women look weak. And because the women are smaller than men, they have to be sure to work extra hard to make those tables break.

But, the table spot pretty much marked the end of this match, which is where unfortunately most of the conversation around it has been centered. Upon re-watching this, I can say with a good amount of confidence that the botch in question — Ronda’s shoulder coming up during the three count — was neither Becky or Ronda’s fault. Ultimately, I think the referee started his count too soon. If you re-watch, you will see that Becky does eventually get Ronda’s shoulders down, and that Ronda remains pretty still, but the ref started counting before Becky could roll her leg back to allow Ronda’s shoulder to fall to the mat into the crucifix pin.

Despite coming to this conclusion, I felt deflated when this pin came out of nowhere. It felt almost as if I was robbed of the satisfaction of being able to predict the three count, similar to Kofi Kingston’s win earlier in the night. I did not like that I felt confused as to how Becky achieved the three count with the shoulder controversy. And therein lies my main gripe about this finish. For as well as they built Becky up to be this bad-ass, this lass-kicker, this determined and tough-as-nails woman — they had her win her two titles by what many will look back on as a fluke pin. I, as well as many other fans I’m sure, felt that Becky deserved a more decisive victory over both of her adversaries. I do not believe it fits Becky’s gimmick to win based arguably upon luck and a miscalculation on Ronda’s part. I wanted her to win because she was the best woman on that night. I wanted her to show Charlotte and Ronda not that she was lucky, but that she was that damn good. But it wasn’t to be. While Becky is intelligent and cunning in the ring, I do not think this pin was the correct way to culminate her ascent to the top of the mountain.

But I guess in the end, the result is all that matters. #Becky2Belts indeed.

***

Now that the Grandaddy of Them All is over, I will sit back and survey the developments of this new season of sorts of WWE television. With the Superstar Shakeup looming, I wonder what refreshments it will give to the women’s divisions, if any.

Or, if a potential title unification will throw a wrench in it all…

Tune in next time!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: The End of the Road (April 5, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

We are just about out of gas on the road to WrestleMania, folks, and how did we do on mileage? Well….well……

We’re rolling on two flats, friends.

While things certainly looked promising after Elimination Chamber, proceedings have gotten more than messy since then. So much so that, although I intended to write a shiny new post for you all last week, believing innocently that nothing important would develop in the last two weeks before WrestleMania — I was sorely mistaken.

I will be suspending the typical format to examine the two women’s matches on the WrestleMania card this year, as well as a certain Goddess hosting the show. Let’s begin!

Women’s Tag Title Match: Sasha Banks and Bayley vs. Nia Jax and Tamina vs. Natalya and Beth Phoenix vs. the Iiconics

Image credit: WWE.com

The unproblematic fave of the women’s matches on Sunday, this match is shaping up to be more interesting than I thought it would be. I am first of all happy that Nia Jax and Tamina won’t be singularly challenging for the titles. They are too bland and clumsy in the ring to carry a WrestleMania caliber match with the likes of Bayley and Sasha. That sounds harsh, but it’s true, it’s damn true. Anyways.

As I suspected after Fastlane, Beth Phoenix has thrown her name into the contendership hat with Natalya by her side. And that’s exciting for her! I am all the way here for women stepping back into the ring post-childbirth and motherhood. In the history of WWE, it is such an uncommon thing up until the last two or so years to have a woman leave WWE to start a family and return to the company to wrestle. I want to take this quick second to give props to all the mamas who have done this recently: Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool, Maryse, Maria Kanellis (Bennett), Brie Bella, and now Beth Phoenix. All inspiring women who continue to break the taboos of working motherhood.

So I will be delighted to see Beth wrestle again, especially since she somehow looks more stunning and fit than she did when she did when she was a full-time performer.

Next, we now have to contend with the IIconics, who have made their intent clear: they, too, will be coming for the belts. With home-brand advantage, Billie Kay and Payton Royce defeated the champions, which apparently earned them a place in the inevitable four-way at Mania. And I think it just about sums up the top contenders for the women’s tag titles.

I believe this match will have a balance between skilled technicians and greener competitors, leading to an average to great match at WrestleMania. I do hope these women take the time to choreograph and build chemistry away from the cameras, however, as I think that may be the only thing holding this match back. There are too many women in this match that have never even been in the same ring with each other.

I’d also like to take a brief moment to express one gripe I have about the women’s tag division: it doesn’t really feel like a tag division. It feels more like an assemblage of mid-card women that were stuck together in pairs. The only team that actually shares an entrance theme is the IIconics, which in my mind is an argument for them to win the titles sooner rather than later. They are a team, and this is apparent in nearly everything that they do. Sasha and Bayley still come out to their own entrance themes, and still have their individual gimmicks. While I can see the obvious effort the two put in with their ring gear as well as on social media to portray themselves as a team, they still feel like they should be feuding rather than fighting together. Their individualism shines too brightly. The tag division is the place where you don’t want that to be the case.

To compare the division to the men’s (although I hate doing that), look at the men’s tag teams. Their unification is shown by their team names: The Usos, The Bar, The Revival, War Raiders, Heavy Machinery, The Undisputed Era. Even though there are still quite a few thrown-together men’s tag teams without unified names, there is a stronger case to be made that the men’s teams at least feel like pairings that are codependent. As it stands right now, any of the women’s tag teams could break up tomorrow and we could all say we saw it coming — with the exception of the IIconics.

Hopefully in the future we will see more women entering WWE as pairs to put the “team” in tag team division.

RAW & Smackdown Women’s Title Match: Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair – Winner Takes All

Image credit: WhatCulture.com

I’ve written about this feud at length thus far in 2019, so much that I don’t have very much to critique at this point. But, as a result of all of that nitpicking, I have now arrived at a general opinion about how this story unfolded from the Royal Rumble until now.

While some praise could be given for the unpredictable writing every week, in the end I feel that this feud was overbooked. The story after the Rumble could have nearly written itself, with all three parties having heat with each other in the confines of storyline. Becky was never an official entrant in the Rumble, either, and that could have been played up in the build.

But WWE took several detours to get us here — Vince McMahon’s involvement, the injury to Becky’s knee, that still baffling Twitter beef between Becky and Ronda. It became all very confusing and convoluted, more than it could have been.

I think in the end this feud peaked prematurely. I would be lying if I said that I was as amped for this match as I was as the Rumble went off the air. My waning enthusiasm is due to the saturation of promo segments that strung together the weekly episodes. Looking back, it is a little astonishing how little the three of these women wrestled leading up to WrestleMania. I understand wanting to sell the animosity between the women, but if nothing else, WWE could have utilized the rest of their women’s roster to face the three of them in the meantime. Shockingly, I think the person that wrestled most was Ronda. There are only so many different ways you can say “I deserve to be in this match and I’m going to kick your ass at WrestleMania.” Two months of that got boring.

That said, I also think we could have gone some weeks without seeing Ronda, Becky, or Charlotte. Again, while I hate comparisons to the men’s roster, take the Universal Title feud for example. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but not having Brock Lesnar appear on RAW every week kept Brock feeling fresh and the feud going until Mania. Not having Brock on TV means that we see Seth in more concise segments, and although you could argue this works against the feud, I think it helps fans build anticipation because we’re left wanting more. If Seth was going to cut a promo on Brock, or Brock was showing up to RAW, you knew it meant something; it wasn’t just done for the heck of it. That’s where I feel the Ronda/Becky/Charlotte story went wrong.

But all of my gripes are ultimately minuscule compared to the larger picture of this match. As we all are well aware by now, this match is the main event of the show. When we look back on the great WrestleMania main events, triple threat matches, and women’s matches in WWE history, people don’t recount the meticulous build it took to get to the matches. You remember the matches themselves. There are obviously exceptions to this, particularly if the build to a certain match was great. But shaky build can be forgiven if the match exceeds expectations. And despite how this match has shaped up in the end (and what was sacrificed to make it as big as it is), I do know that this will be a good match. I don’t have any doubt about that.

Yet, outside of the questionable stipulation that was added to the match in the wake of Charlotte’s championship win, something else makes this “victory” for the women’s division bittersweet.

In short, it is upsetting to know that it took an outsider, a mainstream star, to get the division to this point. Not only that, but the flagbearer of this chapter of the Women’s Evolution is a woman who has shown herself to be socially ignorant at best and downright problematic at worst. Someone who thinks that “The Man” is a literal statement relating to genitalia rather than a metaphorical finger to gender politics in WWE. A woman that slut-shamed Nikki Bella for being in a long-term relationship with John Cena. Basically, a woman that, in the one year she’s been with the company, has proven in many ways to be the antithesis of the very revolution she claims to be progressing merely with her presence.

I suppose this was the point of bringing a star like Ronda in, for this to be the payoff. And it is frustrating that credit must be given to her for leading the women’s division to this position on the card. But this credit is only valid if after WrestleMania, Ronda steps to the side and allows the rest of the women to shine. It is undeniable that there has been a hierarchy of importance within the women’s division since Ronda joined the company. If she does not relinquish her place at the top and reach her hand down to pull WWE’s homegrown female talent up, then what she did was not progress the division, but merely carve out her own space on the Mount Rushmore of women’s history in WWE.

It is not lost on me, either, that this women’s main event is also made possible by whiteness. There is no way that WWE would have allowed a competitor of color in the main event of their biggest show of the year. Can you recall the last WrestleMania where that was the case? (Note: I am excluding Roman Reigns from this statement, as his half-Italian ancestry allows him more proximity to whiteness, in addition to being “white passing” in appearance.)

So while I will probably still find myself choking up as this main event starts, one part of my identity will be questioning when women of color will be given this same opportunity. Until we see an Ember Moon or an Asuka or a Zelina Vega in Ronda or Becky’s position, I will not pat WWE on the back too hard. Female liberation is not achieved when white women reach the same level of prominence, success, and wealth as white men. It is attained when that success is feasible for all women. We’ve gotten this far. Let’s not wait another 20 years to make it happen for black and brown women, too.

Alexa Bliss, Our WrestleMania Host

Image credit: wrestletalk.com

I actually was delighted to see that WWE created a role for Alexa Bliss, who has been in uncertain health for the last several months. Similar to The New Day before her, Alexa has the charisma to carry a very long show. She’s funny and bratty and cunning, and the combination of these traits could make for some entertaining segments, or moments of brevity throughout the pay-per-view. And boy howdy, we’ll need them as long as this card is…

Anyways, Alexa will be a great WrestleMania host if she doesn’t hijack the show. Like a good General Manager, a good WrestleMania host should interject themselves into the show at logical points to energize the crowd (and audience watching at home). But, they should still ultimately allow the matches and the show to speak for itself.

I do wonder what’s next for her after WrestleMania, though. Will she return to the ring? Will she continue to plateau as a talk show host? I am not really sure, but perhaps it will become clear during WrestleMania itself.

***

It just doesn’t feel like WrestleMania season. The week before the show is almost exhausting as a fan, as there’s so much anticipation and fantasy booking and predictions and rumors flying all over the internet. I am nervous for some of the outcomes of the matches (men’s included — please let Kofi win), but I’m more ready to see where things go.

I’ll be saving up all of my rage tweets for Sunday! Get your snacks and drinks ready friends — we’re in for a slobberknocker!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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: Between a Chamber and a Hard Place (February 18, 2019)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: thesouthafrican.com

The first stop on the Road to WrestleMania is behind us, and as expected, we’re left with more questions than answers leading up to the show of shows.

In this post, I will revisit how the women’s division has developed thus far this year, as well as run down the hills and valleys of last night’s pay-per-view, Elimination Chamber. But before I do, I did want to flesh out the main event segment of last week’s RAW. You know the one…

Mr. McMahon suspends Becky Lynch, inserts Charlotte Flair into the RAW women’s title match at WrestleMania

Image credit: sobrosnetwork.com

This segment incited a strong response from fans, as I’m sure WWE intended. I had three main thoughts about the angle.

First, I do not like the involvement of authority figures in this storyline. I am a fan that prefers authority figures that take a hands-off approach to their weekly television shows; I find it overbearing when they become integral storytelling devices in feuds consistently. The McMahons, unfortunately, tend to become this whenever they are a part of a feud, often times inserting themselves as characters into the story. So, especially in a feud so organically hot as this one between Ronda and Becky (and now Charlotte), I felt that the McMahons having a hand in the direction of the feud onscreen was unnecessary. These women are more than talented enough to carry the story; there’s no need for hand-holding.

However, I do understand that they have time to fill between now and WrestleMania, and using the McMahons to drag the story out a bit may just be filler in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, despite my preference to keep authoritative interference to a minimum, I see why it needed to be done.

Second, while inserting Charlotte into the mix in this way was more than ham-fisted, she is going to give the match what it desperately needed: a definitive heel. WWE was never going to turn Ronda heel, even if she would have been the de facto heel against Becky in a singles match. Instead, WWE needed an obvious, detestable bad girl that fans would gladly boo more than Ronda, and that woman is Charlotte Flair. It is commonly agreed across all storytelling mediums that the truest heroes are created in contrast to compelling, dastardly villains. Charlotte can be the villainous foil to both Ronda and Becky seamlessly. Particularly by introducing her into the match as the boss’ “chosen one” — which is how many fans see her anyway, myself included to an extent — fans will be eager to see her defeated at WrestleMania. And perhaps above all else, Charlotte is simply a fantastic heel, in my opinion one of the best in the company. I am glad that WWE remembered this in the buildup to Mania, rather than trying to turn Charlotte into a sympathetic babyface as they did for much of last year.

Lastly, as much as I grimace to say it, Charlotte deserves this spot. She truly is one of the greatest performers the company has ever seen, gender be damned. When you’re thinking of having women main event your biggest show for the first time, you call in the big guns, and that is Charlotte. She is reliable and can deliver the work rate required to make the match a classic. Plus, there is the added bonus that she has worked with both Ronda and Becky previously. She is the common denominator for both women, and therefore can reliably make both of them look like stars. All in all, adding Charlotte to the mix guarantees, at least on paper, that this main event will be a solid one.

Now that I’ve exhausted that segment, let’s take a look at how the rest of the women are getting on.

The Good
RAW and Smackdown Live: The best thing happening on weekly TV for the women is that they feel important. Slowly, they are being included in more segments, and those segments feel less like throwaway bits of filler. With the addition of the women’s tag titles, I am seeing the division come to life before my very eyes. I am elated that finally the women who have been stuck in the mid-card have something to fight for. While some tag teams we’ve seen were thrown together, I think the possibilities for female partnerships will outshine this rocky start to the tag division. Let’s not forget that every member of The New Day were at one time singles wrestlers who had no direction. The women will be just fine.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Specifically with Becky Lynch, it is more apparent than ever that she is seen as a top star in the company. She has started and ended both RAW and Smackdown to a chorus of cheers every time. While 2018 was The Man’s christening, 2019 is the year that WWE has started to live up the moniker. She’s given the Seth Rollins treatment, the Daniel Bryan treatment, the AJ Styles treatment. She’s carving her own space into today’s Mount Rushmore of wrestling, and it is so wickedly awesome to witness.

Elimination Chamber: As far as the women are concerned, this Chamber will be remembered for its titular women’s match to crown the inaugural women’s tag team champions. I really liked this match! I was nervous to see how a tag match (ironically with no tagging) would work inside of a Chamber, but was pleasantly surprised to see how these women orchestrated the match.

The sequence toward the middle of the match where each woman successively hit a power move on the next standing woman was incredible and clever. The IIconics were surprising stars of this match, scoring a quick pinfall on Naomi and brutalizing the likes of Sasha Banks and Bayley within the confines. Many fans’ pick to win, I truly hope the IIconics win the tag belts one day, as they are probably the truest partnership in the entire women’s division, and they are steadily improving in the ring.

Image credit: twm.news

The Riott Squad as well deserve a shout, for those stellar crossbodies from the top of a pod and Liv Morgan’s big bump before her team’s elimination. I think their team name finally clicked for me in this match, in that these women are high-risk and chaotic in the ring, rarely showing fear in the face of stacked odds.

The right team won, with great storytelling to boot. Sasha and Bayley showed compassion for one another that is required for a believable tag team duo. I loved the parallelism of this year and last year’s Chamber, the latter of which saw Sasha infamously kick Bayley down when she was trying to meet Sasha at the top of a pod. Sasha, in the same position, helped her partner up the pod this year, showing some character growth for The Boss.

There is more that I could say, but I thought this match was booked well and made this new division look strong heading into WrestleMania.

The Bad

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RAW and Smackdown Live: I can’t recall too many bad things happening for women on weekly TV, but I suppose two booking decisions have irked me over the last several weeks. Head and shoulders above everything is what has been going on between Mandy Rose and Naomi. Where did this feud come from? It appeared on Smackdown one week out of thin air, and since then it’s just been a persistent part of each woman’s every move on TV. The most frustrating thing about it is that for the majority of the feud, Mandy has been coming out on top, even when it doesn’t make sense. With the exception of last night at Elimination Chamber, Mandy always gets the better of Naomi. And even when Naomi does one-up Mandy, such as at the Royal Rumble, Mandy almost immediately squashes Naomi’s momentum. I understand wanting to push someone, but there must be balance, so that we don’t effectively bury someone who is a former women’s champion in the process.

Another bothersome booking decision is how WWE decided to determine the teams in the tag title Chmaber match. While the women on RAW had to qualify, the Smackdown women were simply announced as entrants. This shows such sloppiness and exposes just how unbalanced each roster’s divisions are. They likely did this out of necessity, since there are far fewer women on Smackdown. But, I firmly believe that there should be some consistency and equity between the brands for logic’s sake. But, because everything worked out with the Chamber match, I am willing to forgive this.

Elimination Chamber: I’ll address my more serious concerns stemming from Elimination Chamber below, but the bad from last night was simply the booking for the RAW women’s title match. Poor Ruby Riott! Getting almost no offense in, Ruby Riott lost to Ronda Rousey in a squash lasting only a couple of minutes. I hate when WWE does this, making it apparent that certain wrestlers will only serve as non-playable characters within a main character’s story arc. It’s sad, and there’s just no other way to put it. Ruby Riott deserves some respect on her name. Perhaps she’ll get it when Ronda is out of the picture.

The Thorny
As I alluded to above, the segment that took place after Ruby’s squash to Ronda is what I’d like to discuss in this section. I won’t describe what happened here, because there isn’t much to detail, but if you have not seen it, I recommend watching that first before reading this. In short, I don’t think this angle did Becky any favors after last week’s RAW, and I’ll explain why.

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

To start off, there is the technicality of Becky’s presence at the pay-per-view in the first place. How and why did Becky make it to the arena?! I discussed above that I did not have issues with Becky’s suspension by Mr. McMahon. Along with everything else, I felt this would be a great way to get fans to sympathize with Becky and most importantly, keep her off TV for a while. Doing this would have either tricked fans into believing that Becky was truly out of the main event, or make fans crave Becky’s presence the longer she was away. In both situations, fans would remain hot on Becky and she would keep her momentum.

However, why suspend Becky at all if she can just show up at TV tapings, live events, and pay-per-views with no problem? This combined with Mr. McMahon taking her out of the main event has me questioning the legitimacy of WWE’s kayfabe rules. What is the point of WWE canon if at any time authority figures and wrestlers alike can simply disregard it?

Why is there a Royal Rumble match if Mr. McMahon can simply show up one week and decide he doesn’t like the wrestler who earned their title opportunity, and take it away from them?

Why are wrestlers suspended if they clearly can violate their suspensions with impunity?

I have a problem with WWE bending their own rules to fit a storyline. It makes the product feel inauthentic. And I know that as wrestling fans we are regularly expected to suspend our disbelief to enjoy it. But how much disbelief can we suspend in order to find plausibility in a suspended Becky hobbling into a venue, through a crowd, and into a WWE ring without encountering any barriers to entry? It’s ridiculous!

Related to this logical fallacy is how the segment was addressed by WWE personnel, namely the announcers and security. On the one hand, you had Michael Cole and Corey Graves selling what Becky did as barbaric and even arrest-worthy, despite many male wrestlers (and even Charlotte!) doing far worse without such comments. Hell, we’ve had Brock Lesnar intentionally bust open Randy Orton without commentary scolding him the same way they did Becky.

But, at the same time, security somehow incompetently allowed Becky to make it into the ring to assault Charlotte and Ronda for minutes without interception. And then, once they arrived to intervene, they simply escorted Becky to the back.

To me, it seemed that in a weird way Becky’s gender limited the way this segment could be executed and sold. You had commentary berating Becky for her behavior like a rebellious schoolgirl, but you also had men being hesitant with handling or stopping Becky, almost as if they didn’t take her as a serious threat to people’s safety. In this way, there was unconscious bias at play, and it made the segment come off as forced in my opinion.

I believe that having Becky on TV throughout her suspension is the wrong choice, as it runs the risk of burning the fans out on her. But, if they are going to do it, WWE must be careful not to take shortcuts within their own canon to get from Point A to Point B. Becky is not too big to fall, and in WWE’s venture to make her the next Stone Cold, I hope they do not snuff out the magic that Rebecca Quin has created with her character.

***

I’ll be back again after Fastlane, hopefully with some new feuds to get excited about!

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

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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.

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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