The State of Women’s Wrestling: WWE

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2015 was the Year of the Divas Revolution. 2016 is the year of the Female Superstar.  The debut of the new belt is honestly amazing.  Gone is the ugly pink butterfly belt, replaced by a red, smaller version of the men’s title.

The Bella Twins, who have come a long way from being a pair of catty, mean twins who regularly cheat using one another to win their respective matches, have both retired.   Brie and Nikki were with the company for nine years (excluding a hiatus in 2012.)  In that time, Nikki was champion twice and Brie once.  One of Nikki’s reigns was the longest women’s reign of all time (your mileage may vary if you think that was a choice on WWE’s part to punish previous record holder AJ Lee, who retired abruptly after Wrestlemania last year.)

Brie was in a five-on-five tag (Naomi, Tamina, Lana, Summer Rae, and Emma vs Brie, Paige, Alicia Fox, Eva Marie, and Natalya)  match during the pre-show on Sunday.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this, until you remember that Wrestlemania was five hours long and at times felt it.  She got the win over Naomi.  However, when the women of Total Divas lifted Brie onto their shoulders, and an injured Nikki rushed into the ring to celebrate her sister’s last win, the camera cut away.  To a garbage B-roll shot of the crowd in a hallway.  Making the point that WWE didn’t really care about the retirement of one of their core “divas” after giving her husband a touching, amazing sendoff.  It’s a seemingly unintentional jab at the WWE’s attitude toward the “Divas,” a division that the Bella Twins had come to represent.

The clash over the new Women’s Championship was much less controversial, but not without problems.  The wrestling between Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte (Flair) was fantastic, action packed, and in places brutal.  Becky Lynch in particular ended the match looking as though she had been in a fight, something not normally allowed in the Divas Era.  However, the match ending not on the villainous Charlotte cheating, but rather her father Ric Flair restraining Sasha Banks, threw an annoying cast.  Why was the women’s title match decided by the actions of an old man?  Yes, Charlotte couldn’t win clean and maintain her character, but she should have been the one acting dishonestly instead of her father.

On Monday, Sasha Banks beat Summer Rae via submission, while Natalya beats her tonight on Smackdown (they tape on Tuesdays, the internet tells you immediately.)  Feeding former Total Diva Summer Rae to both women brings up the idea of the line being drawn in the sand between women the WWE believes in as wrestlers (Sasha, Becky, Charlotte, Naomi, Emma, Bayley) and the formerly ornamental women/ reality stars* who may have a difficult time finding their place in the new order of things (Summer Rae-valet for Fandango, Lana-manager for Rusev, Tamina, Alicia Fox, the reviled Eva Marie, Rosa Mendes upon her return from maternity leave.)  Also brought into question are roles for women like Paige and Natalya, who were both serious contenders during the Divas Era and reality stars.  It appears Natalya, at least, is being welcomed into the title picture, creating an interesting storyline.  What happens when the scions of two wrestling families- both talented women in their own right- go head to head?

Is WWE going to draw a line between what they may see as two types of women?  How will the women hired in a time when less skill was required to thrive in the division survive?  How will this affect the terrible but incredibly watchable Total Divas?

WWE seems to be going down a much better road in relation to their female talent, though 2016 has had pitfalls too.  Let’s hope it lasts and improves, and that all of their female talent can thrive in the future.

*I am not saying these women are untalented in any way.  I am saying they have not been utilized or taken seriously as athletic competitors on the main roster.

Royal Rumble: What Went Wrong

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Early in the show, but a good picture of the scene.

Early in the show, but a good picture of the scene.

So far, everyone’s happy.  Great time had by all.  The Royal Rumble Match starts.  The first few entrants come out.  Bubba Ray Dudley returns to an enormous pop.  Bray Wyatt comes out.  He’s scary.   Cue Curtis Axel.  Or not.  Erick Rowan knocks him out and takes his place.  For reasons.  Wyatt Family takes each other out, leaving only Bray.  Wyatt issues an open challenge.  The Boogeyman comes out.  It’s really stupid but incredibly entertaining watching them try to out-scary each other.  Zack Ryder is in at 9.  The audience loves him, because he’s a cool guy who made himself famous without anyone else’s help.  He’s been injured, and everyone was happy to see him back.  He is dispatched much too quickly.

Daniel Bryan at 10.  The fan favorite, the man of the people, the best part of Total Divas.  The crowd is behind him one million percent.  More people enter, no one really leaves.  There were a lot of eliminations early, and then nothing really happens for awhile as more people fill the ring.

Then Daniel Bryan is eliminated.  The audience turns on the show.  Hard.  The entrances of Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler, two other Philadelphia favorites, are heralded as the last hope for the people who don’t want major front-runner Roman Reigns to win.  The final five were Ziggler, Ambrose, Reigns, Kane and the Big Show.  The audience was firmly behind Ambrose and Ziggler, and I suspect would have happily accepted either if it couldn’t have been Bryan.  Naturally, then Kane and the Big Show dispatched Ambrose and Ziggler, laying them carefully beside the ring in a way that caused the audience to curse at the two big men.  Seriously.  Lots of cursing.

Reigns wins the whole thing.  A chorus of boos falls over the arena, violent and furious.  The two big men come back in and start to beat up on Reigns, and the Rock’s music hits.  He gets a momentary pop, and then the audience does something they haven’t in ten years.

Philadelphia booed the Rock.

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Why don’t you love me? (Apologies for poor phone quality. We weren’t on the camera side.)

 

The WWE Universe (as the company loves to call them) saw quickly through the attempt to force the audience to accept a winner they never wanted by pairing him with one of the heroes of the profession.  The fans were insulted and furious with the concept that WWE knew the ending was horrible, did it anyway, and then tried to pull tricks to make the audience like it.  Did.  Not. Work.

The audience left, furious, and some pretty crazy things happened.  I went on a walk around the arena, because there was too much traffic to leave by the time we were out.  Here is what we saw.

  •  Wells Fargo screwed up again and left the walkway that overlooks the buses and talent cars open.  Foolish mistake.  People crowded to wave at the departing superstars, most of whom had a “don’t feed the animals” response that was probably wise.
  • John Cena waved and bowed to the audience, probably pleased they were mad at something that was not him, for once.
  • Randy Orton, who did not appear in the Royal Rumble, was in the building the whole time.
  • Fans outside were going insane.  We watched several people rush Ryback’s car, not letting him leave.  We quickly left that scene, because we were concerned there would be arrests.
  • As we approached our vehicle, we heard a lot of screaming from that area followed by dead silence.  A Google search for “Royal Rumble arrests 2015” thankfully turned up nothing.

The rest of the fallout has made very mainstream news, with Time reporting on the #CancelWWENetwork movement than resulted from Reigns’s win.  The postshow depicted an infuriated Rock stumbling whilst cutting a promo, something I had never seen him do.

Where does WWE go from here?  Only time will tell, since RAW on Monday night was canceled owing to snow.

 

Last note:  Look at that Muppety young lady over Roman Reigns’s shoulder.  I’m finally on TV.

I'm the Muppet.  The Muppet is me.

I’m the Muppet. The Muppet is me.

 

Royal Rumble: What Went Right

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This article grew to be very long.  So I’m splitting it into everything before the Rumble, and the Rumble and aftermath.  The show splits nicely that way.

 

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If you know anything about wrestling, you’ll know that Sunday night did not go well in the city of Philadelphia.  I was there, and here’s what happened.  First off, we didn’t get in until well after the pre-show started, which was poor planning on someone’s part somewhere.  I don’t know if the blame lies with Wells Fargo Center or WWE, but someone messed up.

The night started off great, with A New Day (I’m not really sure what their gimmick is supposed to be at all) and Team CatFacts.  They’re really called Team UpperCATS, but Tyson Kidd’s “Cats”  and “Fact” kneepads make my name vastly superior.  Philadelphia didn’t like New Day at all, but I don’t really understand why. I’ve always enjoyed watching Kofi Kington and Big E (Langston), and Cesaro and Tyson Kidd are both charismatic and hilarious.  CatFacts won the bout, much to the pleasure of the Philly crowd.

Then, the show actually started.  The opening tag match between the Usos and Miz and Mizdow only really served the latter pair.  The Usos kept the belts, and Miz(dow) kept actually having a storyline.  Philadelphia loves them some Damien Mizdow.

Wait.  The Acension beat the New Age Outlaws before that.  No one cared.  New Age Outlaws enjoyed a nice pop when they ran into the ring wearing Phillie Phanatic hats, but once the match started, no one really cared.

The Divas match was low-stakes, and I didn’t really understand the plot behind it.  Unfortunately, WWE’s booking of the women is generally pretty bad.  When did Brie turn evil again?  Why did Brie turn evil?  No one knows.  That being said, both Bellas are improving in the ring, and Paige and Natalya don’t really need much improvement.  The Bellas won, and I wish the prize had been a rewarding storyline for the female wrestlers.

Next was the match of the night.  Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena vs. Seth Rollins.  This was the match of the three-week-old year, and it’s going to be hard to top.  All three men had crowd support in varying factions (Cena with the least and Lesnar with the most.  I’m a Rollins girl.)  Rollins put Lesnar through a table.  Lesnar F5’d everyone.  Paul Heyman yelled a lot.  Cena tried to AA Lesnar five times in a row.  He got to 3.  Womp Womp.  Lesnar retained to the roar of the crowd.

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Seth Rollins, taking a delightful nap.

 

The crowd was ecstatic getting into the Royal Rumble Match…

The Pipe-Bombshell is back!

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Last night’s WWE Raw boasted a series of high-profile and happily met returns.

First, the Miz and Chris Jericho.  Jericho is a fan favorite, putting over young talent while never losing the audience’s love.  The pop for Jericho is always high.  (editor’s note: He also almost hit me with his car, but that is another story for another day.)  Additionally, giving him a feud with Bray Wyatt will serve interesting, as Jericho has a good balance of goofy and intense, and will alternate between mocking and destroying the cult.

Then, AJ Lee, the longest-reigning Divas Champion, returned to take what was hers with fire and blood.  Paige’s run as champion has been admittedly fairly boring, with Paige doing very little.  Paige’s obvious trepidation (and AJ’s prominent wedding ring) were highlights in the pre-match promo, though the match itself was short.  It wasn’t obvious who we were supposed to root for, with Paige seeming far more like a cowardly, mean heel and AJ Lee coming off as a humbled face making a triumphant climb back to the top.  I am not sure how this will affect Paige long-term, effectively making her short 3 month run as champion entirely transitional between AJ Lee reigns.