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

Nylons and Midriffs, Works-In-Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

GIF credit: helluvaclash.tumblr.com

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

Image credit: forbes.com

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

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

Image credit: WWE.com

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

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

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

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

Image credit: womenofwwesource.turmblr.com

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

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

The Thorny

Image credit: picbear.org

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

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

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

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

***

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

Until next time.

Stay legit bossy,

AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

Image credit: est143.blogspot.com

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

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

The Good

Image credit: SEScoops.com

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

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

Image credit: WWE.com

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

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

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

Image credit: fightful.com

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

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

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

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

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

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

***

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

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

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

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

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

WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal

Image credit: WWE.com

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

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

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

Image credit: cagesideseats.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: tpww.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

Tune in next time!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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

Nylons and Midriffs

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

We’re rolling on two flats, friends.

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

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

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

Image credit: WWE.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image credit: WhatCulture.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alexa Bliss, Our WrestleMania Host

Image credit: wrestletalk.com

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

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

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

***

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

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

Stay legit bossy,
AC