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