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

Who Really Loses When “Winner Takes All”?

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: Twitter.com (@StoryofEverest)

I thought this year would be the year.

The year when finally, I thought to myself, WWE would give us what we want. For the first time to my knowledge, we were going to have three women’s matches on the WrestleMania card, and we were going to see women of color competing for or defending titles. We would have a black man challenging for a world title.

And then, just like that, the fantasy was ripped away. Charlotte had won — or in actuality, was gifted — the Smackdown Women’s Title in an impromptu match with Asuka. It had been reported (and seemingly corroborated on Twitter by each performer in real-time) that a Fatal Four-Way match was scheduled to take place to determine Asuka’s opponent for WrestleMania. The competitors were to be Carmella, Naomi, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville. That match clearly never happened, because plans changed.

In doing so, WWE accomplished a feat for their golden girl. A less highlighted point in the wake of Charlotte’s win is that by defeating Asuka, Charlotte became an 8-time women’s champion, beating Trish Stratus’ seven reigns for the most of any woman in WWE history. Trish won 7 titles in 6 years, while Charlotte won 8 titles in just 4.

And she did it by beating the woman she handily defeated last year at Mania, in almost the same fashion, merely two weeks before this year’s WrestleMania. And I cannot stress enough that watching this happen was infuriating. I was incensed.

And like me, fans at large were pissed. The majority could not believe that Asuka had been screwed over so transparently, that she was collateral damage in the explosiveness of the feud on the opposing brand. And not only was Asuka cheated out of a title match that any other year she would have been entitled to, but so were the women of Smackdown Live. They missed out on this opportunity, too, and some of them weren’t as shy in expressing that.

I was filled with so much fury for each of those women. I considered the injustice of this move in the context of a larger theme of this past week — WWE doesn’t care about its performers. Having watched this excellently done John Oliver segment on WWE, and then seeing what happened to Asuka, I began to consider the sociopolitical implications of this move to include both women’s titles in the same match. I considered how Oliver, in his critical analysis of the company, did give credit to WWE for coming a long way in women’s wrestling. Although he isn’t incorrect in his statement, that’s just what the public sees. For those of us that care about the entire division, the well-being of women’s wrestling as a whole, us diehards — we know better. We know that there is still a long, long way to go.

And so, I concluded that by throwing away the Smackdown women’s division, WWE proved themselves to be paper feminists — easily swayed by the winds of change, but too thin to weather a storm. WWE exemplified this in three main ways.

First, is the racial aspect of this booking. Once again, we saw how easily women of color are disregarded and sidelined to make room for white women at the top of the card. Since she has been called up from NXT, WWE writers have failed consistently to put some respect on Asuka’s name. Instead of treating her as the world-class wrestler that she is and recognizing her success in Japan — arguably the wrestling capital of the world — in the WWE she is seen as nothing more than a strange foreigner. Something to be gawked at, used for comedy, but never taken too seriously.

I’d previously written about my distaste for WWE’s similar burying of Naomi in her so-called feud with Mandy Rose. The same laziness and unimaginative storytelling is at play here. Naomi and Asuka are guilty not of being bad performers. They are guilty of not fitting the blonde, white, “conventionally” attractive mold that WWE (read: Vince) sees as push-worthy. And while, yes, I recognize that white women were also affected by this decision, most of them have not had careers as long as Asuka or Naomi, whether in WWE or out.

It seems that WWE still enforces a racial hierarchy within their women’s division. If women of color are in any matches at WrestleMania, they are either jobbing to white women, included in secondary matches, or left off the card altogether.

We have to move past women of color being nothing more than transitional champions. They are worth more, and they deserve more.

The second aspect is the sheer sexism of it all. It looks to me as though WWE is keeping a glass ceiling of sorts on the number of women’s segments on the WrestleMania card. If we think back to the WresleMania cards of the last few years, you might notice that there have usually been no more than two women’s matches included. With the addition of the women’s tag titles this year, I suppose this inadvertently nixed the Smackdown women’s title match. Even though this year we may see the most female competitors featured on a single WrestleMania card, to me, the impact is minimized if these women are being squeezed into the same number of segments. Because then it makes it harder for each of them to shine individually, as they will essentially be competing for the spotlight. This tactic makes evident that WWE sees the women as monolithic segments rather than individuals involved in focused storylines.

And that is the crux of my issue here — the women are not entitled to space on the WrestleMania card. Think of all of the men’s singles matches slated to go on on Sunday, both with and without a title involved. You have the boss’s son-in-law, the boss’s son, Randy Orton, AJ Styles, Finn Balor, The Miz, Kurt Angle….the list goes on. Many of these feuds did not come to fruition until Fastlane or after. But yet, the writers found a way to give these men a spot on the card. Because they were prioritized. Their spot on the card was likely never called into question. WWE failed repeatedly to keep that same energy with the women outside of their chosen few. And it becomes apparent in instances like this.

For the women, their matches are always a question. They are the first to go if a card is running long. They are thrown out if the writers don’t feel like coming up with a storyline for them. They are not entitled to space, in the most basic sense. Let us not forget WrestleMania 29, where the only women’s match on the entire show was cut because the men decided to take their sweet time in the ring. (Ironically, this year’s Mania is taking place in the same exact venue. Funny how history repeats itself.) We have been told time and time again that the women are expendable. They are sacrificed for the “greater good.”

WWE Superstar Naomi summarizes what a title march would have meant for the women of Smackdown Live.

Which leads me to my last point of contention: the capitalist undertones of this unexpected change. Many fans and wrestling journalists have provided not an excuse, but a rationalization for adding the Smackdown women’s title and the Winner Take All stipulation to the main event — that it was a wise business decision. The logic goes that by adding both of the women’s belts to the main event, it elevates the prestige of the match, and in turn the credibility of the winner. There is an added impressiveness to the winner of the match doing PR the week following WrestleMania with two belts on her shoulder rather than one. And given that logic, I do actually understand those points.

However, at the heart of that assertion is what is generally considered “good business.” Why does “good business” usually entail doing the morally questionable thing? Why does “good business” almost always disadvantage the most vulnerable members of a business or community? And I’m not naive. I understand that in life, people do not always get their way. But isn’t it about time we start asking why certain people always do get their way? That speaks directly to the idea of privilege, and the privilege of each woman in that main event is a direct threat to the rest of the women in their division, whether they intend it to be or not.

But ultimately, it is clear that all of my complaints will just be echoes in the wind after WrestleMania. Because a good match will make the dudebros of the wrestling media forgive the road it took to get there, and that will transform the narrative. And as much as it will pain me, I know deep down that I’ll enjoy the match. And I hate that. I truly do. I want to carry this bitterness with me through the match, but I know I won’t.

Perhaps we, the fans, are the real losers in this. No matter what we say, we still watch, still engage. But even if WWE gives us the desired result, with Becky holding both titles on the turnbuckle as the screen fades to black, we will feel an ominous pang of guilt, and of loss. We’ll remember all of the women sacrificed for this moment. The months of throwaway storylines, the lazy feuds, the scrapped matches. Even if our girl Becky wins, what exactly did the rest of us lose to get her there?

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

Image credit: diva-dirt.com

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: SEScoops.com

Welcome back to Nylons and Midriffs, good wrestling fans!

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

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

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

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

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: foxsportsasia.com

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

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

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

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

Image credit: cbssports.com

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

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

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

Nia Jax in the Men’s Royal Rumble

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

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

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

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

***

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

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

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

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

The Thorny

Image credit: EWrestling.com

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: slam.canoe.com

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

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

The Bad

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

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

Image credit: theringreport.com

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

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

The Good

GIF credit: slyasrai.tumblr.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: alexablissfrance.tumblr.com

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

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

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

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

Image credit: SEScoops.com

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

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

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

***

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

See you on the Road to WrestleMania!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: TLC Review

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: express.co.uk

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

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

Image credit: WWE.com

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

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

Image credit: sportzwiki.com

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

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

Backstage Segment: Nia meets Becky

Image credit: uproxx.com

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

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

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

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

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

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

Image credit: skysports.com

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

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

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

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

***

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: thechairshot.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: WWE.com

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

The Thorny

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

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

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

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

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

Image credit: thebiglead.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: express.co.uk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bad

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: Forbes.com

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Onward to the end of the year.

Stay legit bossy,
AC