On The Streeter – In Defence Of WWE’s Natalya Neidhart

 

“Why would WWE have Natalia [sic] in the first womens match in Suadi [sic] Arabia?’

 

After posting my review of the recent Crown Jewel PPV I went searching for other people’s opinions of the show. It seems I liked it a little more than many commentators, but that’s fine. We all have opinions.

 

However, in the comments section of one these pieces I found the opening quote. There were then a few people who agreed with this person. Quite a few. And no-one really said they were wrong and bothered to explained why.

 

I had more of an issue with Lacey Evans being put in that position than Natalya Neidhart. So, I was close to feeding the trolls, but then I remembered something – I have a forum of my own. Here.

 

She started in the WWE as a valet, but was actually better in the ring in a well-rounded sense than either of the two guys she was paired with. Then they let her out on her own, and she quickly became one of the better female wrestlers on the roster. Okay, sure, the roster at the time was pretty thin in ability (and you can read about it and many of the female wrestlers at the time in this 2013 column), especially when Beth Phoenix left.

 

But what really made me sit up and take notice of her amongst the sea of female faces was when AJ Lee delivered her “pipebomb” Total Divas promo. The full column is here, but I will cut and paste the relevant bits.

 

“AJ Lee at the WWE cut a ‘scathing’ promo on the Total Divas reality shit TV show. It was a good promo, sure, especially for a WWE Diva, but it didn’t seem to push any of the storylines forward and was even hypocritical in some places. And it was almost completely ruined by the Bellas squealing like pigs at an abattoir and seriously bad non-acting from the others. Only Natalya reacted the way a Sports Entertainer should react…

…communication is a two-way street. There is projecting and there is receiving. This is why Natalya stood out. She looked genuinely pissed at what AJ Lee was saying, and let only her body language say that she was pissed. It was really good, and possibly (to me) the best part of the whole promo. While the others were doing banshee impersonations or fake yawning or looking like they were lost in a fog, Natalya was responding like a Sports Entertainer. And while we’re on the Bellas – do you hear Laertes heckling Hamlet during one of his famous soliloquys at Shakespeare in the Park? Did Mean Gene interrupt Hogan et al at Bash at the Beach? Did Cena interrupt Punks’ infamous pipebomb? No? Of course not; that’s because a person is making a speech and you respond to it without taking away from what they are saying. The Bellas were, quite simply, f*****g awful.

 

As the writer of that column said, Natalya came across as more than just a wrestler – she came across as a legitimate sports entertainer.

Natalya v AJ Lee, 2013

 

Now, she is no longer the most skilled female wrestler in the WWE, but she is definitely near the top. However, I feel she is the best Sports Entertainer. Some of her promos are a little stilted (and you just know she’s reciting crap being fed to her when that happens), and she has fallen into the WWE habit of addressing the camera (she is far from the only person to do that). But those are two little things. Her selling is great, her taunt is simple but effective, she can play face or heel and do both well, she can play to the crowd better than many male wrestlers (if they boo her as a face, then she just goes subtle heel; if they cheer her as a heel, then she goes subtle face), and her ring positioning is damn fine.

 

The match at Crown Jewel saw her direct the match between the ropes, and she got Lacey Evans’ best match out of her in the WWE. She helped train Ronda Rousey when the MMA fighter first came to the WWE. She seems to be able to get good matches out of nearly anyone. If there is some genetic component to physical ability, then Natalya got it, in spades, from not only her maternal line, the famous Harts of Calgary, but also her father (one of my favourites) Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart. As the first female to be trained in the Hart Family Dungeon, she puts that to good use.

 

Okay, some say her Sharp-shooter is not done well, but we need to remember she started wrestling in the WWE in an era where she was one of very very very few females who could wrestle. Wrestling the Divas who would take a week off if they broke a fingernail, she had to adapt. And there are still those on the roster who would not be able to take it properly without complaining. I have, though, seen her cinch it in tight when she’s had to, when she’s had an opponent who can take it. But she is not a one-move wrestler. Nice suplexes, a great lariat and many moves based on her being stronger than many are all in her arsenal.

 

I think the best thing about Natalya is her look. She looks like an athlete. She is not a pencil-thin anorexic model wannabe, nor is she a fat Bertha Fay type – she is built like a wrestler, and looks like she could legitimately kill some-one if they pissed her off.

 

I have just spent a lot of words defending Natalya Neidhart. Yes, there are some things that do annoy me. She can phone it in and appear unmotivated at times; I’ve already mentioned some of her promos can be stilted; she has not greatly varied her offence in a few years.

 

Still, I think she has been hard done by in the WWE. She should have won more titles. She should have won the Women’s Tag Team Title with Beth Phoenix. And she should have been in more high-profile feuds.

 

So, look, when people ask me who my favourite wrestler is, I struggle. Randy Savage? Bret Hart? Curt Hennig? AJ Styles? But when they ask who my favourite female wrestler is, I have one answer – Natalya Neidhart.

 

So why was she chosen to represent the WWE in the first ever women’s wrestling match in Saudi Arabia? Because she deserved it.

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