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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: thesouthafrican.com

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

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

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

Image credit: sobrosnetwork.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

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

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

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

Image credit: twm.news

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

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

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

The Bad

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

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

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

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

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: 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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

Image credit: SEScoops.com

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

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

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

***

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

See you on the Road to WrestleMania!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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: We Witnessed An Evolution (Evolution Review: October 31, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: TheSportster.com

I’m still on a high, friends. If you are expecting this to be an overly critical, borderline cynical blog post as is the usual with Nylons, you may want to read elsewhere this week.

In this post we’re going to celebrate the triumph that was the WWE Evolution pay-per-view. Let’s get right into it because I want to gush.

First, I’ll address the elephant in the room and say that undoubtedly, this pay-per-view was thrown together at the last minute. WWE Creative procrastinated on the build for this show like a high schooler on a midterm exam that woke up the day of the test and remembered that they needed to study. The battle royal and six-woman tag match contained SO much talent that deserved more, and even a few that could have feasibly had storylines developed with what little they were doing every week — if WWE actually tried.

But alas, that did not happen, and we had the likes of Naomi, Ember Moon, Asuka, Sasha Banks, and Bayley — any combination of which could have easily tore the house down — stuck into throwaway matches. It was very disheartening to see as fans of each of these ladies.

And yet, despite the lack of build, despite people not being hyped for the show going into it, despite all of the odds stacked against these ladies — they still managed to put on one hell of a show for us. Evolution reminded me why I love women so much. Women throughout history have had to make the best of what they were given and find a way to survive and thrive. We are resourceful creatures that consistently overcome adversity with both grace and anger. And when we do, it is almost always for the betterment of society. If men had to put up with the curveballs and criticism that women do just to navigate the world today, well, frankly I don’t think many of them would be woman enough to handle it.

But I digress. On to the show!

The Good
I wanted to dedicate a small section of this to some of the small details that made the viewing experience for home audiences wonderful. First, whatever the reason may have been for the smaller stage setup and blacked-out audience, I actually dug it. It made the show feel more intimate, like I was watching a private wrestling event, as silly as that sounds. I felt closer to all of the women in the ring and focused on what they were doing, rather than the sea of faces in the arena.

The production was also excellent. One example of this that really stuck out was when Zelina Vega was in the ring celebrating her battle royal “victory,” the way the camera so closely focused on her. This made the inevitable pan over to Nia breathing over her shoulder all the more hilarious when she was finally revealed. The camera angles were on point for most of the night, following the often frantic pace of the competitors in the ring.

All in all, visually this pay-per-view stands apart from every other show, which will likely make it more memorable in the future.

The Bad
The only negative thing I have to say about Evolution itself was the perpetual mention of all of the “men who have supported” the evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE. We were cautioned to not forget about the men who “helped” get us here. And to that I say: bullshit. Excuse my swearing. But on this night, of all nights, women didn’t need to be patronized.

Yes, we know the backstage politics of it all. We know that ultimately, men (namely Triple H) had to be the ones to pull the trigger on pushing the women’s division as a whole. But, it is really disingenuous of WWE to forcefully suggest that there were men supporting this “all along.” There’s no way that could be true, because if it was, it wouldn’t have taken this long to get to this point, when there are entire wrestling promotions across the world devoted to women’s wrestling.

Even if there were men who supported pushing the division, for too long, not enough of them did. Too few men in the course of WWE history were willing to speak up or put their necks out there for the women. Not enough men cared enough to say something.

So that was a minor low in what was otherwise a brilliant night of wrestling.

And now, on to the wrestling!

Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox (with Alexa Bliss)

Image credit: hardiacarrest.tumblr.com

Hearing Lillian Garcia’s voice to open the show and then the infamous giggle of Trish’s entrance music transported me back to my childhood. This was a perfect start to the show, getting an already hot crowd ready for what was to come. Much ado has been made online about Alicia Fox replacing Alexa Bliss due to injury. And I won’t lie, they’re valid, especially given Alicia’s glaring pinfall breakup botch.

But, as many fans know and the announcers mentioned, Alicia is the longest-tenured woman on the roster, and regardless of her in-ring ability (which is still on the whole leaps and bounds better than 5 years ago), that feat in itself demands respect. She deserved a spotlight on this pay-per-view. Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps Alexa’s injury came at the right time to give Alicia her shine. And it doesn’t hurt that it also put a woman of color in a marquee match, something that the show definitely lacked.

It was wonderful to see Trish and Lita in the ring again to hit all of their signature moves. It was fabulous to see Trish and Mickie stand eye-to-eye. Although Lita was less fluid than Trish in the ring, both ladies hit their spots and provided the crowd with a nice, feel-good start to the show.

The Battle Royal
I loved that each woman was given her entrance in this match! Battle royals have truly evolved from the days of the women just strolling down the ramp to generic pop or rock music. In doing this, every woman felt special and worthy of our attention. And the pop for each woman was insane. It was shocking and heartwarming all at once and just showed that people truly love each of these women as the individuals they are. I know I was at home singing along with every theme!

Image credit: WWE.com

As I spoke in the beginning about how women have to make the best of often the worst situations, the battle royal was the biggest evidence of this resolve on the show. By now, the women have battle royals down to an exact science. Even if I wanted more for so many of them, they collectively found a way to make the match inventive and give us at least one memorable spot in each. That quadruple vertical suplex spot was incredible!

The women of the past gave way to the present Superstars and I felt that was fitting, considering the name of the pay-per-view. Ivory in particular was so fun to watch, especially during her “dance break” with Carmella.

I enjoyed that the final four women were women of color, because as I mentioned earlier, significant WOC representation was lacking on this show (consider that pretty much all the women of color on the main roster were crammed into this match or the six-woman tag). Like many fans online, I was pulling for Ember, because WWE has absolutely wasted her since calling her up from NXT. She needed this victory the most, perhaps even more than Asuka. But, in the end I am okay with the result if it means that a competitor I like more is spared from being fed to Ronda. In my opinion, I think Ember deserves a first feud better than just Ronda.

Surprisingly good match overall.

Mae Young Classic Finals: Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai
Full disclosure, I did not watch any of the MYC. But, from fanfare about these two wrestlers online, I was fully expecting a technical masterpiece. And it delivered. A lot of people were disappointed with the length of this match, but I honestly did not consider this in my critique in the match until I heard others discuss it online. To me, it isn’t so much the time you’re given as much as what you do with it. This match felt longer than 10 minutes in my mind because I was so gripped by the action.

The bumps and dives these women took deserve applause. I am amazed that they managed to fit in so much offense in 10 minutes. I have no bias toward either performer, but I do hope that Io gets the same opportunities as Toni in the future, even if she isn’t the young, smiley, blonde white woman that WWE historically gives the world to.

Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya vs. The Riott Squad
While it was the match that probably hurt me the most personally as a Sasha Banks fan, this match was still better than expected. I’d really like to give a shout to the Riott Squad in this match. If you need a match to convince you that the Riott Squad is a legitimate faction that can seamlessly communicate and methodically take down opponents, watch this display. Their teamwork is hardly matched across the product, and I enjoyed watching them work their opponents in their corner.

The faces as well were sharp, selling beautifully for the heels and providing exciting comeback sequences. Sasha looked very sharp, but Bayley and Natalya weren’t far behind. Natalya’s double sharpshooter?! Only a Hart would dream up such a thing!

Despite my ultimate approval of the result, at this point I wonder how much longer the Riott Squad can lose and be taken seriously. Even I feel sorry for them at this point. Just let them win something already!

NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler

Image credit: wrestlingnews.co

Yikes, guys. This match made me cringe. I’ve not seen a female heel like Shayna Baszler in a long time. A comparison that comes to mind is Jazz (“The bitch is back, and the bitch is black!”). She differs from someone like Becky Lynch in that while Becky is hotheaded and simply wants the spotlight to prove she’s the best, Shayna plays up more of a sadistic heel persona. She seems to simply enjoy punishing her opponents. No fame. No glory. Just…mean. And that is exactly what she was to Kairi in this match.

No credit should be taken from Kairi, though, as she was still brilliant and had some great spots, like that crossbody from the top turnbuckle to the outside. Even if her gimmick does not reflect it, Kairi is a serious competitor when pushed to her mental limits.

But for me, the actual star of this match was Shayna. The way she relentlessly wore down Kairi’s arm throughout the match was hard to watch at points. The image stuck in my mind is when Shayna dangled Kairi by one arm for seconds only to drop her effortlessly was just savage. I am okay with Shayna holding the NXT belt and solidifying her reign down in NXT, while I hope Kairi is called up to the main roster.

Smackdown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
Intense. Powerful. Spectacular. Never been done before. Just some of the words and phrases I can use to describe the excellence of this match. This is a Match of the Year candidate, without question. It had everything that makes for a classic wrestling bout: storytelling, emotion, build, climax, and an ending that made sense.

Image credit: sportskeeda.com

Outside of the minor hiccups throughout the match, such as a missed moonsault-through-a-table spot and the referee kicking Becky a chair, the magic of it was that fans truly had no idea who would win. Toward the end, I genuinely thought that they would let Charlotte walk away with this win, Flair princess as she is. But she didn’t win. She lost fair and square to Becky, because Becky outsmarted the Queen. She used Charlotte’s own desperation against her to turn a potential moonsault into a powerbomb through a table. And we all cheered Becky’s win, because finally someone was allowed to be better than Charlotte in the end. Finally, Becky was able to prove that she is that damn good.

Go and watch this match if you haven’t. I honestly believe that it will be remembered with the fondness of some WrestleMania matches from decades gone by. And certainly a landmark in the history of women’s wrestling in WWE.

RAW Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella
To be honest, I don’t have a ton to say about this match. I understand the need to have the first all-women’s pay-per-view end with a face on top, but we all know what the true main event was.

My feelings about the Bellas and Ronda have been well-documented in Nylons, so I’ll spare you the dissertation and try to focus on the match. It was pretty by-the-numbers, with Ronda selling for much of the match to Nikki only to make a triumphant face comeback to win the match. I’ve seen complaints online about Ronda playing defense too much in this match, but I did not mind this. In fact, I welcomed it.

Image credit: SportzMode.com

Ronda can’t run through her opponents in squash matches forever. That will get old, and fans will turn on her at some point. She has to show vulnerability, especially to a veteran like Nikki who, like it or not, carried much of this match. I thought Nikki looked great here and was a perfect opponent for Ronda at her current skill level (I don’t think she would have looked as good if she faced someone like Asuka, for example). I think fans should be equally concerned about Ronda making more experienced performers look weak as they are about killing whatever “magic” Ronda has with her UFC background by allowing her to sell.

I will say this though: Ronda needs to continue to train. WWE is not UFC. The moves are different. The intent of every strike is different. Ronda can’t continue to snap opponents over her shoulder with such carelessness, even if it looks cool. She needs to learn more than just a few power moves from UFC if she’s going to “earn the respect” of the fans like she claimed she wanted when she originally joined WWE. And most importantly, she needs to do it so she won’t seriously injure any of her opponents in the future.

To wrap things up, I think this match was as good as it could be, given the story and competitors involved. It served it’s purpose, and now we can move on to other feuds.

***

So where do we go now? Will Evolution continue to be an annual show that grows every year? Will WWE learn from their mistakes this year and start the build for the pay-per-view earlier next year?

After the sun set on Evolution, one thing has become clear: WWE have an incredibly talented roster of women on their hands. They deserve every ounce of energy the writers can give them every week. The stakes are higher than ever now. WWE needs to prove that the women matter 365 days a year, not just on a single night when they deem them worthy. As Alundra Blayze said, “Evolution is a moving word.” So let us keep moving.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: auburnpub.com

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

The Good
All. Women’s. Pay-per-view!

Did y’all hear me?

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

Image credit: fanbuzz.com

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

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

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

GIF credit: estboss4life.tumblr.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: popculture.com

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: gunshyghosts.tumblr.com

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

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

***

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

Wish me luck on my move!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Hello good wrestling fans. I come to you with devastating news this week. After attempting to watch Extreme Rules yesterday — as I am wont to do using my brother-in-law’s account — I was given an error message upon trying to stream the pay-per-view, telling me that I needed a subscription to continue.

The heartbreak was real, friends, for me and my wallet. WWE figured out the madness behind people sharing streaming accounts. I was forced to subscribe to the network using my own email and payment information. I am recovering, but my innocence has truly been lost. Thanks, WWE. I hope you’re proud of what you’ve done.

In all seriousness, while it is annoying I now have to pay for a subscription, I can’t deny that it will pay for itself in time, or that I won’t use it. Plus, I have a feeling that sometime in the future, WWE will move away from PPV altogether, and the future will lie with the network and streaming.

Anyways, let’s crack on with the nylons and the midriffs. As usual, I’ll divide things between TV programs and the pay-per-view.

The Good

Photo cred: WWE.com

RAW and SD Live: Sadly I don’t have much for this section this week, but I will take time to comment on the matches between Ember Moon and Liv Morgan. Despite the fact that this pairing was likely thrown together willy nilly, the two put on solid matches on two separate RAW shows. I like that these two were given exposure on pretty dense shows, and both women looked good. Even if Liv lost both matches, to me, she looked strong in defeat, and Ember got to keep her momentum still being fresh to the main roster. For Liv in particular, it was good that she was given the spotlight to show off her wrestling skills, as backup members of any faction can easily be forgotten as legitimate threats between the ropes as well as outside of them. Nicely done.

Extreme Rules: None. Absolutely none.

The Bad
RAW and SD Live: Here’s the thing: the weeks leading up to Extreme Rules were just plain bad for the women’s division. The buildup to both women’s title matches sucked, and other women’s segments were either pointless or nonexistent. And so much of what we did see was confusing with a lot of plot holes.

On the RAW side, we have the ongoing saga of Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax, with Natalya and Ronda Rousey as odd third and fourth wheels. I have so many questions:

  1. As mentioned in previous posts, why is Nia a face now when she was acting very heelish only a month or so ago? Is it because they’re both on Total Divas?
  2. Why are Nia and Natalya friends? Is it just because RAW is short stacked for face women to put in tag matches?
  3. Why is Nia being positioned simply as a placeholder for Ronda?

The mystery of Ronda is intriguing, but it becomes apparent every week in her absence that WWE just cannot write logical women’s segments or storylines. And that’s sad because 95% of their women’s roster is, you know, not Ronda Rousey.

And don’t even get me started on the Smackdown women’s division. James Ellsworth and Carmella are almost unwatchable to me at this point with how badly they are written and how sloppily both performers execute the material they are given. And poor Asuka…

Extreme Rules: …who deserves so much more than what she gets week in and week out. She continually is made to look like an imbecile by people who are cartoonish heels at this point. That match with Carmella was awful and you will not convince me otherwise. The booking, the pace, the execution, all of it. It’s matches like that that caused fans three years ago to cry out #GiveDivasAChance. How soon WWE forgets.

Image credit: 411mania.com

I don’t really have anything to say about the RAW women’s title match. I was indifferent to it, but I will say that it was predictable as all get out, especially since we’ve seen the face/heel dynamic between Alexa and Nia so much already at this point. The Ronda interference was fun, but I think it was poorly placed. She should have come out after Alexa’s win to assert herself as her new challenger. Interfering during the match itself felt trigger happy. It would have been more satisfactory if Alexa ate the punishment at the end rather than Mickie in the middle of the match.

The Thorny
RAW and SD Live: And we’re back to the Tale of the Never-Ending Feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley. I can’t believe I, along with other fansm really thought WWE had gotten it together a few weeks ago with that Bayley “heel turn.” There’s first the issue that Bayley was told by General Manager Kurt Angle that she needed to go to counseling to keep her job, on the very same RAW that Braun Strowman turned over Kevin Owens’ car and laughed about it. Not only was this the wrong move to make storyline-wise — because segments like these typically only work if they are comedy acts — but it also was very gendered.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

We do not threaten men’s jobs because they can’t get along with their cohorts. The fact that these women are being asked to essentially perform emotional labor to resolve their issues screams sexism. Men aren’t put in these kinds of segments, and if they are (a la, Team Hell No), we are supposed to laugh at it. And to top it all off, nothing even came of it!

This feud exposes a glaring problem in WWE’s women’s division. It once again proves that WWE is incapable of creating worthwhile storylines between women that don’t involve the title. Here we have two insanely talented Superstars that, lest we not forget, had Match of the Year in NXT and Pro Wrestling Illustrated in 2015 because of their NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn title match, the first time for either that a women’s match had achieved that feat. If any two women could carry a feud without a title, it would be these two.

GIF credit: diva-dirt.com

But WWE is wasting them, because to focus on more than two feuds at one time in the women’s division is too difficult. We are able to create slow-burning non-title feuds with the men. Four matches at Extreme Rules were men’s non-title matches. Why, why can’t we do this for the women?

Extreme Rules: I don’t have anything yet, but only time will tell if the results will have long-standing implications.

***

That’s it, folks. Now we build to SummerSlam, and I’m hoping some marquee matches start to show themselves soon, because the division sorely needs it.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (July 2, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs

Credit: banksselection.tumblr.com

Hello good wrestling fans. I’m not going to beat around the bush with this post, because we have a lot to get through. I want us all to be caught up and acquainted with where things look to be going now that Money in the Bank is in the rearview. However, we’re still going to discuss MITB here, as well as the fallout from the pay-per-view on RAW and Smackdown Live. For post-PPV discussions, I’ll split up each usual section into two parts for the show and the subsequent TV installments. Let’s jump right in.

The Good
MITB: The women’s MITB ladder match was just fantastic. I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish. The match had intrigue, excitement, plenty of spots, as well as suspense. Each woman had a chance to make her memorable mark on the match, and it didn’t seem that any one of them were dead weight (well, except for one, but we’ll get to that).

Credit: kennyomegasgf.tumblr.com

The crowd in Chicago (my city!) was also hot for this match, which only made it more fun to watch live at home. Special shout out to Sasha Banks, who continues to bump harder and sell more convincingly than her peers, male or female.

In addition to the ladder match, I must say that the Nia/Ronda match was well executed, especially considering how lackluster the build was for it.

RAW and SD Live: There were a few little nuggets of goodness on TV these past couple weeks. First, we’ll talk about The Tale of the Never-Ending Feud between Sasha Banks and Bayley. On the RAW after MITB, we saw multiple backstage segments threading through the show, culminating in a final declaration by Sasha that she was done with Bayley. This was good mostly for the execution; I’d love to see more women’s segments like this that seem to build on one another rather than just being one-offs to fill space on a show. It was nice to see some continuity in a women’s segment in a single episode of RAW, even if the actual content of the scenes left a lot to be desired. We’re going somewhere at least.

And then, we had Bayley beat the life out of Sasha the next week, leading the audience to believe she’s turning heel. Again, I’m unsure if I agree with that move — as Sasha makes a far better heel, especially in this rivalry — but I am captivated at the movement of this feud. I’m seriously hoping this culminates in a match at SummerSlam, especially since WWE has missed so many marquee match opportunities with these two. I’ll keep my reservations on the heel/face dynamic after the two go to counseling on RAW tonight *eye roll*.

In other news, Becky Lynch seems to finally be getting a push! This is sorely needed for her, and with Charlotte out of commission for the next several weeks, this is a golden opportunity for Becky and WWE Creative to assert her as a top woman in the SD Live women’s division. Also, the segment between Alexa Bliss and Ronda Rousey was very well done. It felt very Attitude Era, with Ronda storming to the ring to whoop ass and take names later. And her backstage interview after it all didn’t mince words — exactly the way that Ronda should be portrayed.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfJuw5EfXAE&w=560&h=315]

The Bad
MITB: I know a lot of fans (*cough* namely male) didn’t really mind the ending to the SD Women’s Title match, but considering the long term booking….this was bad. If it wasn’t bad enough that she lost to someone who likely couldn’t convincingly wrestle a mop, Asuka, at one time seen as one of the most dangerous women on the roster, was made to look like a fool because someone appeared wearing her entrance garb?

Asuka deserved to win that match. She needed that win after losing her streak. WWE is diminishing her to be Just Another Woman on the roster, and that’s one of the biggest mistakes they could make. When you have something special, you need to tout it as such. Carmella cannot hold a candle to Asuka in the ring. She couldn’t even hold Asuka’s robe. There’s no reason she should have won.

RAW and SD Live: Sort of recapping stories already discussed above, the logistics of the biggest women’s feuds right now are lacking. The Sasha/Bayley feud has been so overdone that you can barely manage to digest it now that it finally is happening. For as long as we’ve waited for the trigger to be pulled, it is disappointing that the timing is too little, too late. WWE needs to act quickly to make up for lost time or risk irrevocably tarnishing these women’s gimmicks for years to come.

In more Fierce Women Who Deserve Better news, Asuka continued to be chumped by Carmella, falling down to a single superkick from the champion.

Credit: lastwordonwrestling.com

I can understand to an extent the point that WWE is trying to make, that the Asuka of old is dead, but must they do so at the expense of logic? If you’re going to do this with Asuka, at least make her opponent someone who can match her between the ropes.

One last thing: Why is Mickie James just a sidekick to Alexa Bliss??? Is she not a six-time women’s champion? She deserves so much more than she is being given. I’m not sure if this is ageism, or Mickie wanting to work a more limited schedule (which I doubt, she knew what she was signing up for), or “waiting until the right time” or what, but given that she is older than the other ladies, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to get the best out of her while you have her? For as long as she has been in the busines grinding, she is owed her crowning final run.

The Thorny

Credit: pinterest.com

No need to split this section up, because I’ll be blunt: WWE’s obsession with blonde white women is ruining the women’s division. Period.

This will likely be a recurring critique in this series, but I’m so tired of it and it bears as much repeating as is necessary. The evidence in this instance is that, once again, two blonde white women are champion over much more deserving women of color (with some exceptions).

It was infuriating to see Alexa win the briefcase and even more so when she cashed in to win back the title a mere two months after losing it. Nia was booked horribly during her short run as champion. I don’t care if the feud between Alexa and Ronda makes sense after this shady booking. It still screwed over Nia, who could have been a monster of a champion if she was booked correctly, literally and figuratively.

Consider that Alexa has been on the roster for only two years but is already a five-time champion. Five times! Like Booker T! At least Charlotte has wrestling ability to justify her reign at the top. Alexa doesn’t have that, and she won the briefcase over women that could have used the push from a MITB win. I’m thinking Sasha, Ember, Naomi, and even Becky who, to add insult to worked injury, looked silly when she was at the top of the ladder fake-fumbling with the briefcase because Alexa missed her spot.

Carmella gets the same critique. She rises when her non-white opponent continues to fall from grace, even if the announcers try to sell us otherwise. Good mic skills should not be able to carry in-ring mediocrity this far, at least not in this era of WWE.

Although WWE promotes a “women’s evolution” within its brand, the politics of it all has stayed the same: the most marketable women are those that match the conventionally attractive and desirable template for white male viewers, and that is blonde and white. When will that empire fall?

***

Whew. That was a long one. But I think we’re all ready to look to the next few weeks before Extreme Rules. Now go back to your Netflix account so you can finish binging GLOW.

Stay legit bossy,
AC

Nylons and Midriffs: What’s Happening in Women’s Wrestling (June 14, 2018)

Nylons and Midriffs, Scholarly Wrestling Reviews

Hello, good wrestling fans!

I’m back with another entry into the Nylons and Midriffs series. Not exactly the same time as I promised in my last post, but ’tis life sometimes. Due to circumstances out of my control, this post is one week later than I hoped it would be. Therefore, this week I’ll discuss the events of the previous two weeks of RAW and Smackdown Live, not including the go-home shows to Money in the Bank. I’ll discuss those in my next post, to talk about everything MITB-related.

With that, let’s jump right in.

The Good

Image credit: WWE.com

I liked that in the weeks leading up to the go-home for MITB, the women were given more time than usual in segments and matches. We saw women receive attention that are typically disposable when it comes to airtime, like Lana, Naomi, and Mickie James. The primary exposure for them were matches rather than segments, and ones that were given at least a commercial break in the middle of them. This is great! I just want to see women wrestle!

And the wrestling was sound. While the pacing and sequence choreography could use some work, the female Superstars have the moves to carry matches. Fans also have new rivalries to daydream about — can you imagine Sonya versus Naomi, Sasha versus Ember, Charlotte versus Becky (again)?

And as one small aside in this section, Becky Lynch picked up a victory over Charlotte! While I have a lot of feelings about the pedestal that Charlotte has been put on during her time on the main roster, it is undeniable that at this point, having her put you over means something. I hope it signals a push for Becky in the future, because that woman is criminally underutilized for her wrestling ability.

The Bad
The most bothersome thread throughout the last couple of weeks has been that WWE is confused on how to make women clear-cut heels and faces. Let’s look at two examples.

The first: Nia Jax. She only just finished a triumphant, anti-bullying feud with Alexa Bliss to win the title, but now she’s in the murky area of tweener against Ronda Rousey. She used a jobber to show off her power to Ronda while cutting a very heelish promo.

Image credit: DigitalSpy.com

Then, the next week, she quasi-injured Natalya, and acts overly concerned for her to seemingly irk Ronda, who we are supposed to believe is Natalya’s actual friend. What? Is Nia the heel or the face? Being less half-assed about Nia’s characterization would really help the fans invest in this feud, because we have schemas for face v. face, heel v. face, etc. Even if it’s silly to turn Nia heel so soon after her feud with Alexa, it would be a lot better than what we’ve been given thus far.

Second: Lana. She is a part of Rusev Day, who WWE are for some reason trying to push as heels. She teased breaking Rusev and Aiden English up when she returned to TV, only to have Aiden give her an endearing song for fans to sing during her matches. When she qualified for MITB, she celebrated with Aiden like a face. But during her dance-off with Naomi, she attacked Naomi after teasing a truce with her. How does this benefit Lana?

Last: Sasha Banks and the Tale of the Never-Ending Feud. One week on RAW, we had Ember Moon, a face, tag with Sasha Banks, a…tweener(?), and Alexa Bliss, a bonafide heel. Why??? I understand that sometimes heels and faces tag together to build tension in an ongoing feud, but a) none of these women are feuding, and b) it only works if the characters are distinct and use that to play off one another. Sasha being lost somewhere between heel and face made this trio very odd.

And then, when Bayley came out to “save” the match after Alexa left to gain victory for the face team, Sasha took the win like a face. But afterwards, when Kurt Angle told the team that they lost by DQ, Sasha instantly hated Bayley again, like a heel. Who is this feud for?! Who is the face? Who is the heel? WWE is wasting some of its best and most unique talents by damning them to purgatory. No one likes you when you’re in purgatory.

The Thorny
I would be remiss in my ranting if I didn’t mention my rage at the Gauntlet Match on RAW a few weeks ago. The announcers spent the whole night touting the match, spewing “historic” and other hyperboles into our ears. And it was all well and good, until we entered the third hour and there was still no match. We got to half an hour before the end of the show, still no match. We got a damned comedy segment about barbecue before we got that Gauntlet Match.

WWE insulted our intelligence by assuming we’d forgotten that the men’s gauntlet match from several weeks before lasted nearly two-thirds of the show. The women’s Gauntlet started at 9:43pm, Central Daylight Time. Twenty minutes. Less than twenty minutes. A match with seven participants, one of which who was in her hometown. This is disgraceful and unacceptable.

Photo cred: CagesideSeats.com

I am glad that we have reached the point of doing. Yes, we now allow women into previously uncharted territory. Now we need to work on the execution, and I don’t mean on the part of the wrestlers. On the part of Creative, producers, and decision-makers in WWE. They need to advocate for women to get the exposure they deserve.

We cannot tout women’s liberation if we are going to only allow women to shine as long as the men shine brighter. That is “women’s empowerment” that fits politely within the patriarchy. If WWE really wants its women to transcend the shortcomings of the past, the company needs to execute the booking of their women’s division in a more audacious way. They deserve to take up space.

***

Through and through, I’m still amped for MITB. My thoughts on the go-home shows are mostly positive in terms of the female Superstars, so hopefully the pay-per-view itself delivers some satisfying results.

Until next time, stay legit bossy,
AC

Taking Back Today: Reconciling Subversiveness with Status Quo in Women’s Royal Rumble

Fan Reviews, Scholarly Wrestling Reviews

Image credit: Vickie Benson (Guerrero) Facebook profile

It began as anyone may have expected it would, with two solid workers from WWE’s women’s division, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, getting the crowd hot for the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble. Both competitors are two of the most memorable women to ever step foot in a ring, with Banks as the biracial, purple-haired cousin of a rap star and Lynch the roughhousing siren with a thick Irish accent. This was as fitting a start as the current women’s roster deserved, especially considering the plurality of women who would follow in succession to the ring after the first bell rang.

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Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/gallery/women-over-the-top-royal-rumble-match-photos#fid-40199616

On paper, the list of entrants reads like a checklist of diversity. There were women of color as well as women over 30, 40, and 50. There were mothers, old and new, women who are married, women that remain single. There were plus-size and fat women, visibly tattooed women, and even one gay woman. In many ways, the women’s Royal Rumble was more inclusive than the men’s roster ever has been. WWE even allowed an Asian woman — a vastly underrepresented, if not stereotyped, group — to win the Rumble. It seems the brand is becoming less and less afraid to roll with the tides of changing times.

The beauty of the women’s Rumble is one that male fans can only appreciate in the most basic sense. Because it was the first installment, it was a celebration and homage to where the women’s division has been over the last 20 years, where it is, and where it could be going. This was evidenced by the large number of nostalgia entrants, ranging from forever faves like Trish and Lita to beloved athletes like Molly Holly and Beth Phoenix.

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Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/article/5-best-moments-2018-womens-royal-rumble-match

Thoughtful recognition of these female legends took form in the fact that more than a third of the eliminations in the match came from women not currently active on WWE’s main or NXT rosters. While usually a tactic that is bemoaned when done on the men’s side, in the women’s Rumble it worked because we can be pretty assured that none of the women who appeared from the past are slated for full-time returns anytime soon. It was all in good, lighthearted fun, and a metaphorical way to say, We see the road you paved for us; you get a piece of this pie, too. As a woman who grew up watching each of these Superstars in their own ways make the best of what they were given, the place of nostalgia in this match was more than heartwarming.

Regardless of the era that each woman represented, one of the better, lesser discussed aspects of the match was the ways in which the women let each other shine. While the match did lag in parts (with the women doing the equivalent of twiddling their thumbs trying to find opponents to pummel), these slower moments allowed almost every woman in the match to get some visibility. We were able to see most of the entrants’ finishers or face-offs with old rivals plain as day, and it felt that this was a calculated move by all of the women.

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Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/gallery/women-over-the-top-royal-rumble-match-photos#fid-40199634

In addition, because of the magnitude of the match, it was one of the first times we were given the opportunity to see how truly unique the characters these women have crafted are from one another. From Kairi Sane to Ember Moon to Carmella to Bayley, there are few women on the roster with identical gimmicks. With increased visibility, standout personas, and a spectrum of female identities, this match was easily the most feminist WWE has ever been with its product, and it wasn’t because Stephanie McMahon was on commentary shoving “history” down our throats. When it comes down to it, feminism is more about doing than saying.

Taking this further, the women’s Royal Rumble had all of the same things that the men’s did. Storytelling, fan-service face-offs, comedy, surprise returns, suspense, and feel good moments. Yet, the women’s Rumble still had a different feel to it, instead of a copy-paste vibe that women’s segments often have. The match felt fresh, and as long as WWE is interested in telling different stories with the women, it has the potential to grow into something out of the men’s division’s shadow.

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Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/gallery/women-over-the-top-royal-rumble-match-photos#fid-40199639

Feminism, in the nuanced sense, is about acknowledging the foremothers who have laid the groundwork for the present, and uplifting other women to create a better future for all women inclusive of race, gender identity, sexuality, and religion. This often takes the form of women trying to achieve the same social and political freedoms as men by subverting structures that have created power imbalances. This is where Ronda Rousey complicates the Rumble’s progressiveness.

With Rousey interrupting Asuka’s moment at the end of the pay-per-view, we were are snapped back to reality. WWE is a product to be sold, and the company needs to make a profit. Rousey is a gold credit card to the McMahons and Rousey knows that she is viewed as such, and therefore expects to be compensated accordingly. Just as the men have a (white) UFC fighter who occasionally wrestles to collect a giant paycheck and “legitimize” the product, so now do the women. Only in this case, the added stinger is that Rousey isn’t even a homegrown WWE talent. Is this the “equality” the women were striving for?

As one Twitter user put it, Rousey’s appearance at the end of the Rumble (arguably dulling the shine of a woman of color’s moment) in many ways felt like a white feminist statement unto itself. Even though she has signed a full-time contract and swears up and down that she’s not in it for the money, fans can assume that eventually her ego will grow with her paychecks.

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Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/gallery/ronda-rousey-crashes-royal-rumble-2018-photos#fid-40199693

Capitalism is the name of the game, and WWE’s biggest stars know this all too well. Feminism cannot thrive if money is the motivation for the people who have the most power, even if those people happen to be women, too. True solidarity comes from advocating for your sisters to get to your spot rather than ascending to comparable power as your male counterparts.

Some have made the argument that Rousey’s star power will bring greater exposure to the women’s division to casual fans, thus elevating it. There is room for that argument, and it may prove to be true. But, it still can’t be denied that if it weren’t for the women who put in the work for decades, Rousey would have never been in a position to “elevate” any division. It is even more metaphoric that only after 30 women fought in a ring for almost an hour did Rousey made her entrance. The work was already done; she was only there to steal the glory.

However, my hope for the division lies in the fact that despite all of the rumors and buzz that Rousey would be in the Rumble — she wasn’t. For once, WWE trusted the women on their roster and the legends that came before them to put on a good show with enough time to do so. The women were able to pull it off without a big mainstream athlete. They did that. If WWE doesn’t fall victim to the same fallacies of the men’s division with the women and actually allow their fantastic roster to shine, they can revolutionize not only women’s wrestling, but wrestling in general, for the better.

From far and wide
And light years away
The one force of nature they call by name
Fallen idols, scream yesterday
Cast from the shadows
Now light my way[…]
I came from tomorrow to take back today
I am the future.

 

Allyssa Capri is a Chicago-based writer and pop culture critic. You can read more of her pop culture critiques and analyses on her blog. Or, you can follow her on Twitter for cultural hot takes and random thoughts at @allyssacapri.

Featured Image Credit: http://www.wwe.com/shows/royalrumble/2018/article/5-best-moments-2018-womens-royal-rumble-match