Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (September 17, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Greetings wrestling fans, and welcome to the post-Hell in a Cell edition of Nylons and Midriffs. The last few weeks have been interesting to say the least, in both exciting and mildly worrisome ways. As per usual, I will divide the discussion between the two weekly WWE shows and the most recent pay-per-view.

The Good
RAW and SD Live: Renee Young! As many of us know by now, Renee Young recently became the first woman to claim a permanent seat at the announcer’s desk in WWE. I won’t stick my grubby, cynical fingers into this one; it is simply marvelous news! Renee has more than earned her place among the greatest on-air personalities past and present. I am happy that her consistency and likability has translated into an opportunity that will open doors for women announcers in the future. In addition, I liked how WWE announced this historic event, welcomed Renee to her seat at the table, and kept the show moving. There was no back-patting or repeated mentions of “women’s evolution.” WWE gave Renee an opportunity to shine, and then allowed her work to speak for itself. I wish WWE would do this more with “historic” women’s announcements.

Hell in a Cell: And your NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion…Becky Lynch! This is fantastic!

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Becky had an amazing bout with Charlotte Flair at the pay-per-view. Their chemistry is electric and they play off one another’s movesets so well. And what’s more, I felt different watching this Charlotte match. For the first time in a long time, my gut told me that Charlotte might not win. The action was unpredictable and compelling, and in my opinion, the best woman won. That finish came out of nowhere! Let us hope that this title win only adds to Becky’s heel development.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: Oh, the Bellas…

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WWE is at it again with their revisionist history of events with the retelling of how the Bellas were an integral part of the Women’s Evolution. Outside of the exclusion of AJ Lee from any conversation regarding the origins of this supposed movement, WWE also wants us to forget that the Bellas were portrayed as active antagonizers to the women’s movement when it began in 2015. Many fans recall that it was against the Bellas that Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha Banks debuted.

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

What’s more, it is painfully transparent that the timing of the Bellas’ return coincides not just with the dawn of the Evolution pay-per-view, but also the premiere of a WWE-adjacent reality show they star in. The revolutionizing of the Bellas in WWE is a ploy to fit into their capitalist ventures which, as I’ve discussed many times, is antithetical to feminism. The Bellas represent the “Diva” of yesteryear, and while they can both hold their own in the ring decently enough (Nikki perhaps better than Brie), I think it is disingenuous of WWE to suggest that they measure up to the in-ring capabilities of their peers based off of association alone.

HIAC: In a rare sort of critique, I am going to complain about WWE giving exposure to women when it isn’t actually necessary. Case in point is the insertion of Brie Bella and Maryse into the Miz and Daniel Bryan feud. While even I find it awesome to see couples (and new moms!!!) square up in the ring, the whole angle flopped at HIAC. I understand Maryse being a cowardly heel, but she ran away from Brie at the expense of both women participating in the match in a meaningful way. The men carried about 90% of the action. This might have been for the best in the end, given Brie’s unimpressive performances in her comeback matches before this one. But still, if they weren’t going to be booked to wrestle one-on-one, then why go through the trouble of including them at all? As props to their husbands?

The Thorny
I don’t feel a need to split this section in two, as I have a general critique. In this section, I look at problematic patterns of women’s representation in WWE and discuss how they may hurt fan perception of the product down the line. That idea is what brings me to something I’ve noticed the past several weeks, months even. WWE has arbitrarily putting women in pairs or groups with other women, and they suddenly become factions. You have Sasha and Bayley of course, then Alexa Bliss with her lackeys Mickie James and Alicia Fox. They’ve paired Ronda Rousey with Natalya, and now Asuka with Naomi.

Image credit: foxsports.ph

As fans, we have to see through what WWE is doing. I’m seeing more women on TV in recent weeks, but it still somehow does not leave me feeling more satisfied with female representation. And I’ve figured out that the faction-forming happening within the women’s division is just another lazy way of putting women on our screens without having to write storylines for them or put them in matches. The association game WWE is playing with the women is seriously holding some of them back, and preventing them from shining individually. I understand that not every woman is going to be able to shine at one time. But, it would feel a little better if the writers could at least pretend to recognize the individuality of each woman’s ambitions. I’d hardly like to think that Mickie James’ aspirations upon returning to WWE included being a backup dancer to a bleach blonde rookie.

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Although this post may mot reflect it, I do believe WWE is heading generally in a good direction with the women’s division. Yet, I suppose as a fan you wonder how slowly the ship can move and still call itself progressing forward. Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (August 16, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Hello good wrestling fans. I”m back after a significant move to a new city with some somewhat fresh thoughts about WWE’s women’s division. While I’m sure many of you are hoping for some predictions or speculation from me heading into SummerSlam, I have some general thoughts that have been swirling in my head since my last post that I need to put out into the universe. So, let’s talk about them, in this go-home edition of Nylons before SummerSlam.

The Good
For the first time, I actually have multiple things to say in this section!

First off is the women’s title feuds. For the first time in several months I actually care about the outcomes of both matches. The build to the RAW and Smackdown women’s title matches respectively have created a lot of intrigue, and fans are being given a sense that the victors will actually matter. On the RAW side, you have Ronda Rousey feuding with Alexa Bliss and her new sidekick Alicia Fox. I’m not the biggest Alexa fan, but her heel work with Ronda has been spot on, particularly this past week on RAW. The best heels cut promos where they “have a point,” and Alexa’s was that while Kurt Angle is busy protecting his Universal Title match by constantly intervening in Roman Reign’s affairs, he ignores his women’s champion. Given that comparison, it’s hard to argue that she’s wrong. On top of all of their segments, it feels as if the winner of this match will change the direction of the women’s division for the remainder of the year, so a match that important has to mean something good.

For Smackdown, we have the friendship of Becky Lynch and Charlotte being essentially put on the line in their triple threat with Carmella for the title. In a case where the challengers outshine the champion, this match portrays itself as something that will inevitably stir tension between the two “tea” buddies, if not break them up entirely.

Image credit: Twitter user @2ndNatureFlair

Fans are expecting one of them to win the title and, similar to the RAW match, victory for either woman will set the scene for the division in the next couple of months. Most interestingly is the question of whether Becky or Charlotte will turn heel as a result of the outcome of the match/during the match itself; regardless of which one does, it would be a welcome reset to their characters.

The goodness in all this is that both women’s titles feel important. And in this era of WWE, when wins and losses seem to matter less and less, that is something to be celebrated.

To add to the excellence in storytelling between wrestlers, there is also goodness to note of the women who hold court outside of the ring.

Women in speaking roles have been more visible in the last few weeks, most notably with Renee Young, who not only put on an impeccable performance during that Paul Heyman interview, but held her own as the first woman to sit at the announcer’s desk to call RAW. This move is far overdue in my opinion. Renee has the professionalism of a sports journalist and the eagerness of a fan. She’s serious without being stoic, smiley without being plastic. She seems like a three-dimensional person, which is difficult for on-air personalities and backstage interviewers to achieve in WWE.

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

As well, managers like Lana and Zelina Vega greatly enhance the gimmicks of their male counterparts. We all remember how effective Lana was in getting Rusev over during his first hot streak a few years back, and I hope that pairing the two together again allows them to connect to the audience in an evolved way with their Rusev/Lana Day gimmicks. Zelina Vega, on the other hand, truly sells herself as an asset to Andrade “Cien” Almas. She is convincing as his “business partner” and, often without Andrade saying more than a few words, gets him over as am arrogant, holier-than-thou heel. She asserts herself as a force without taking too much of the spotlight from Andrade, which is what a great manager should do.

Image credit: YouTube user iWrestling

Though it could be argued that having women as simply managers to men is regressive, I believe that in certain cases it truly works to highlight the strength that women can bring as talkers. And I think there’s something to be said about women that are integral in getting men over, because in the real world as in wrestling, it isn’t often that women are given credit for men’s successes.

The Bad
I am actually forgoing this section, as I have more important things to discuss below. But isn’t it pretty much par for the course that WWE is either really great or really problematic, or somehow both at the same time? Seems fitting.

The Thorny
You’ve probably been wondering why I don’t talk much about Ronda Rousey in Nylons. I must admit that I am hesitant toward engaging with her due to some transphobic comments she made a few years back. But it is also because, outside of that, I have needed some time to truly formulate how I feel about her in the WWE. I think I’ve arrived at an initial conclusion.

Yes, Ronda is a star. Yes, she’s got mainstream appeal. Yes, she may even make her armbar look cool sometimes. But…here is where my compliments of her end. My issue with Ronda is the way she is booked.

You may recall in my write-up of the Royal Rumble earlier this year that I predicted that eventually WWE’s hype would get to Ronda’s head, and that she would continue to steal the spotlight away from the other women. WWE proved this to be irrevocably true with the way they promoted Ronda’s first match on RAW last week. The constant mentions of it throughout the show, the the screen graphics seemingly every other commercial break, the backstage shots of Ronda warming up with Natalya…

Image credit: thesportsdaily.com

This woman told us when she joined WWE that she wanted to earn her stripes, and earn the respect of both her peers and fans. In her storyline, we were told that she specifically indicated to Triple H and Stephanie McMahon that she didn’t want special treatment.

And now, only a handful of months later, she is days away from her second title match, only her fourth total match on TV in WWE, where she is likely going to be crowned as champion. She rushed to the front of the line, and we’re supposed to forget all of the promises that she made to us at the beginning?

Where WWE gets its “evolution” wrong is that you can’t say women are “equal” to men if you only treat a handful of them that way. They run picture-and-picture promos for Ronda’s title match during other matches. They flashed her merch across the screen as she entered the ring for her first match. In order for this “empowerment” schtick to work, they need to book ALL of their women this way. They need to push every woman like she’s Ronda Freakin’ Rousey. I believe every woman deserves to feel that important.

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I want intensity between Sasha Banks and Bayley that Ronda shows to Alexa. I want Ember Moon’s merch to flash across our screens when she steps up to the ring. Women don’t get anywhere in society because of a few women who have made it to the proverbial top. Women make it up to men by being uplifted by the women who have already started to climb the ladder. Ronda is ascending quickly, and we’ve seen very little evidence that she is willing to reach back down and advocate for her sisters clamoring to reach her level. She does not equal the women’s division, and we shouldn’t allow WWE to fool us into believing that just because Ronda has achieved the hype that men have always received, that the whole of the division has suddenly “made it.” Your feminism is fake if it doesn’t ride for all of the women behind you.

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I can’t wait to dive into SummerSlam results in a couple of weeks — I like having time to digest a pay-per-view before I form an opinion on it. So we’ll see where things are at after the Biggest Party of the Summer.

Stay legit bossy,
AC