Hello and welcome to My Pinterest Is Piledrivers. It’s been a busy summer for the WWE. I haven’t checked the “ratings” for Summerslam, nor would I have any idea how to do so, but as far as that sweet, sweet mainstream attention went it seems to have been a rousing success. ESPN was there, they got an actual current summer anthem for the PPV theme, Stephen Amell from Arrow wrestled at the event and Jon Stewart, fresh off his send-off from The Daily Show hosted it. He also turned face by helping Rollins win.
Although, can we be honest? Rollins was up before Cena, he was winning anyway. Of course, the next night John reaffirmed his uber-face status by… giving the Attitude Adjustment to a 52-year-old comedian.
…this, this is not how you write a face, WWE.
And actually, the majority of this column will be about some problems that the WWE writers are having in one of their most important directions as of late, the “Divas revolution.”
I was not always a fan of women’s wrestling, and if you wonder why I’ll just reply “well, did you see any of it in the post-Lita-and-Trish and pre-Four Horsewomen days? Yeah, that’s why.” My memories of it were mainly bra-and-panties matches that even I, as a horny teenager at the time, felt insulted my intelligence. I knew from the occasional spots Lita would do that they could work, but that doesn’t count if they don’t show them working.
When NXT started building their buzz over the past two years or so, one of the big talking points I would hear is “hey, the women can actually wrestle! They steal the shows!” And gradually through YouTube and the free month that let me see NXT Takeover in May, I caught up with “The Boss” Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and Bayley. I also hear good things about Blue Pants (I love that that’s a wrestling name) and that both Emma and Paige were at their best in the promotion.
And it’s true. For once, the hype train (no relation to the Hype Bros) didn’t steer me wrong.
Banks vs. Lynch was the match that left the biggest impression of me in my first Takeover. This is no slight to all the other great wrestlers and matches that night, but this told the best story and had the craziest action.
So with great anticipation and trepidation people discussed when the NXT women would move up, and what would become of them. I can’t honestly say that I, nor I expect many, expected it to happen seemingly all at once and at the behest of Stephanie McMahon.
From the beginning, I think there was a mixed reaction. On the one hand, just from sheer percentages, having these three in the Divas division meant an increase in quality. On the other, there were criticisms that Stephanie, normally a heel figure and not as personally involved in NXT as her husband Triple H, was the one to stand up to Nikki Bella and instigate the revolution as opposed to a more naturalistic, wrestler-focused approach like Paige bringing two mystery partners to a PPV, revealed as Charlotte and Lynch with Sasha doing a run-in at a later match.
The decision itself to have all three debut at once is a little controversial. This meant that the women’s division in NXT is practically decimated, with only Bayley, Emma and infrequent appearances by Blue Pants remaining. To be generous, Alexa Bliss, Dana Brooke, Carmella and Eva Marie don’t appear to be ready yet. This also means that WWE has to get three new talents over at the same time. This can be challenging. Hell, Bo Dallas and Adam Rose debuted in the same month and we see how that ultimately turned out.
And it’s in the latter that they appear to be dropping the ball in most severely. We’re told there’s a revolution… but all we’ve seen so far are different combinations of matches of varying quality depending on how much the NXT crew have to dial it back. So far we have three factions (and no Natalya for some reason.) There’s Team PCB, formerly the Submission Sorority or “Oops, I guess WWE doesn’t have google” which consists of Paige, Charlotte and Becky. They’re the faces, and inspire lots of Powerpuff-related fan art. There’s Team B.A.D. which stands for Beautiful and Dangerous which consists of Sasha Banks, Naomi and… Tamina Snuka. The writers seem to be pushing them as heels, even though Sasha is so freaking awesome of course people are going to cheer for her in a Rock-like fashion, as well as Naomi having her own justified issues with the real heels, Team Bella which consists of BBBBBRRRRIIIIEEEEEEE MODE!!!, “C’mon” Nikki and Alicia Fox. Team Bella are positioned as tweeners despite having absolutely no likability nor redeeming characteristics. Nikki is a champion who never defends her title, openly cheats and states that wins or losses don’t matter, which sort of sends a mixed-message to fans wanting to be emotionally involved in the outcomes of matches. You know, the whole reason people watch wrestling.
Fans, respectful and excited at first, are beginning to get restless. A Sasha Banks-Nikki Bella match was met with derogatory chants, though to be fair they took to the ring 3.5 hours into a four hour show and right before an appearance by the hometown hero Brock Lesnar in Minneapolis. And Charlotte faced a hostile crowd in Brooklyn on a recent RAW. WWE needs to right this ship, pronto.
They can start by giving us more glimpses of the wrestlers as individuals. Right now the new call-ups are “Ric Flair’s daughter” Charlotte, “the one with the accent” Becky and “the promising one the internet loves” Sasha. Give them characters (or better yet, let them be themselves and stand back) and give them some mic and promo time. Charlotte could and should be the dirtiest Diva in the game, who uses her “genetic superiority” as an excuse to step all over anyone who opposes her. Becky is probably the only authentic case of adorkability. She makes Zooey Deschanel look like Vladimir Putin. Seriously, look at this promo-
and this interview-
seriously, I could do this all day. But she’s also got the ring ability to be a devastatingly effective heel who takes pleasure in su-becksing and disarming her opponents all day long. And Sasha? Sasha is probably the purest prodigy I’ve seen in years.
Sasha would be a star in any industry she wanted to be in. She’s legit. You know when something gets hyped endlessly and when you actually experience it, it’s a bit of a let down? Sasha is the complete opposite of that. Whoever signed her deserves a raise. Right now, Banks is probably my favorite wrestler on the roster, including the guys. And in my opinion, I think her and Lynch could be the new Rock-Stone Cold. Sasha seems egotistical but is actually just aware of how damn good she is, and she’s a rock star to boot, where Lynch is earthy, blue-collar and has gone through hardships and heartbreaks to get here. I hope they feud for years.
And that’s what makes it so frustrating when there’s setbacks and disillusionment from the live audience. The ingredients are there, the ingredients are perfect. The WWE has lucked into chicken salad, and those of us who are fans are terrified it’ll be turned into chicken shit. It’s happened so much with male wrestlers (Cesaro’s failed time as a Paul Heyman Guy, Punk taking years to finally be a main-eventer, Bray Wyatt constantly losing), but it’s different with women. They’re coming up against years of lackluster wrestling and an audience that has been trained to treat women’s matches as bathroom breaks. They’ve an uphill slog already, and they don’t need any backstage or creative elements to throw rocks and lava down while they’re climbing.
Lance Storm put a lot of the Diva’s Revolution elements in a better and more knowledgeable perspective than I could, and you can read his take here. I’m with him on making wins and losses matter, and I think everyone is with him on that godawful belt that looks like it was designed by Claire’s. Wait, I just checked out the Claire’s website. They might actually have designed something better.
I don’t want to be too negative. They have been giving the women two segments a RAW, and Becky-Brie main evented a Main Event. All three members of Team PCB had brief promos on their way to their matches this past RAW. There’s been talk that the Diva’s Revolution is a long-game, with a suggestion it’s to go until Wrestlemania. Normally, that’d be a good thing although I don’t really see how they can keep this faction stuff up for the next seven months, and to what pay off they were hoping to get. Although if the pay off is a ladder match with Paige vs. Becky vs. Charlotte vs. Sasha vs. Natalya vs. Naomi vs. Nikki (sigh) I guess it’d be worth it. Because the ultimate outcome has to be singles wrestlers. The goal of all wrestlers should be the acquiring of championships, and while, say, Becky and Paige can be happy that Charlotte is the Diva’s champion, they should also be chomping at the bit to beat her for the championship. But focusing so much on factions takes away from that.
So WWE, you’ve got off to a serviceable start. Three-quarters of the Four Horsewomen are on the main roster. You’ve started the race, don’t stop in the middle. Keep up the amount of segments, but give the women mic time and opportunities to show their personality. Have them interact with Stephanie and Hunter to show that the Diva division matters in the grand scheme of the WWE universe. I know you’re not going to get rid of the term Diva because of your cross promotion with the E! channel… but I still want you to. At least change the belt. You know it looks bad, that’s why you gave Megan Rapinoe the men’s belt.
This is important, WWE. This isn’t just some weird thing you can tank when you realize it’s a bad idea, like the Brawl For All or Kerwin White. You’ve got an audience that’s 38% women (unheard of in major sports), an ocean of enlightened dudes that can appreciate and respect female athletes, and you’ve got the opportunity to create situations like this.
Come on. If seeing little girls interact with their heroes doesn’t warm your heart, then I don’t see how you’re a wrestling fan at all since you must be incapable of joy.
I’m out. Follow me on twitter @TodaysJimSawyer. I also started a tumblr (again) that you can check out here. And I totally missed BD and Jonah promoting this, but if you want to hear how inaccurate I was about some of my Summerslam predictions as well as what DDP Yoga is doing for me, then listen to my podcast experience here.
James A. Sawyer graduated with a degree in English/Creative Writing in 2011. He had a hardcore match with a car, and moved to New York in this economy. Clearly Daredevil is not the only man without fear.
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