Women’s wrestling in the WWE is undergoing something of a renaissance inasmuch as that word can be applied in the misogynistic landscape of WWE. That is to say, we — wrestling fans — have known for a long time that the women are under-valued, under-appreciated and under-utilized in WWE. They get two-to-three minute matches. And even then, those matches are recycled and often are multi-woman, which dilutes the potential value. They hardly get on-screen time to talk to the audience (called cutting a promo) or build their characters. Often, those characters are one-dimensional stereotypes, like the crazy bitch or the pseudo-lesbian.
Moreover, WWE made it a habit of hiring “10’s” instead of women athletes and noted, accomplished women’s wrestlers on the independent circuit. That is, they went looking for hot models instead of wrestlers. Sure, some of those models, like the Bella Twins and most notably, Trish Stratus, turned out to be exceptional, most haven’t.
And finally, the women wrestlers have long been told, “Don’t be too physical and don’t upstage the boys.”
The women wrestlers have long been presented as a bathroom break. They are the cool down match on the big shows, meaning they are placed on the card at strategic spots to give the crowd a rest between the more “important matches.” This often means their matches (somehow) get cut down for time even more or cut altogether.
Fortunately, the renaissance has been ongoing since NXT became a hit on the WWE Network. NXT is the so-called developmental organization of the WWE where up and coming men and women go to hone their craft and learn. But over the last two years, it’s really become it’s own exciting entity. And one of the most exciting aspects of it is their treatment, presentation and showcase of women wrestlers.
Women wrestlers are treated seriously, given time to wrestle, have real characters and co-main event or even main event alongside the men. Often, they steal the show. The crowd appreciates them. On and on. Slowly, that plus the Twitter #GiveDivasAChance after a particularly short match on Monday Night Raw has lead to WWE at least appearing to try to treat women differently. But here’s how I would do it if given DA POWAH tomorrow:
1. Drop Kevin Dunn or at least minimize his influence. Seriously. He’s the executive producer of the WWE and the right-hand man of Vince McMahon. Maybe this wouldn’t be a fix-all, but he’s one of the people behind the “10’s” philosophy and treating women like sex objects instead of serious professional wrestlers and athletes. Look at this guy. He’s a weasel (guy on the right):
2. You have to drop the Diva’s Title, the top prize for women in the WWE. It looks ridiculous:
Now compare that to the NXT Women’s Championship:
Or better yet, the retired Women’s Championship WWE used to use:
Now don’t the latter two, especially the last one, look like a real title worth winning? I much prefer the gold presentation over the silver, by the way.
3. In conjunction with the above, you have to stop calling them “divas.” WWE has this thing where they want to make their performers larger-than-life, so they call the men superstars and the women divas. Divas is an outdated term. It sounds ridiculous. Yes, I know they have a reality show on E! called Total Divas, but I’d still change “divas” to “women wrestlers.” It fits more with the mold of today’s age and today’s women athletes. Ronda fucking Rousey sure ain’t no diva. She’s fighter. Let women wrestlers be called wrestlers.
4. Longer matches are key. You have to let those more than capable women wrestlers go out there and showcase what they can do and tell stories. It’s hard to tell a good story in three minutes. There is an unbelievable amount of TV content the WWE produces on a weekly basis between three hours for Monday Night Raw, two hours for Thursday Night Smackdown and their other projects and endeavors. That’s five hours to work with. There’s no excuse not to feature a solid 12-minutes or more for the women on Raw or to, you know, get wild and feature a shocking two women’s matches on one show!
5. To help bolster the above, let these women develop on-screen personas and characters that go beyond crazy bitch and pseudo-lesbian. That means letting them talk, have segments and interactions with each other. It makes the audience care about them. Then it makes the audience care about them when they wrestle.
6. The commentating has to get better. On NXT, the commentators treat the women seriously and build the characters and the feud and the match. Not really so on the main show. You have to let the viewer know that what the commentators are commenting on his serious business.
If you notice, these six suggestions are all about presentation. Presentation is everything, though. For years, WWE through their booking of women and presentation of women has conditioned its fan base to not care when they are on screen. Again, they were and still are the proverbial bathroom break.
Now, there’s more I could add to the above, but let’s move on to what I would like to see out of women’s wrestling in the WWE over the next few years, some “benchmarks” if you will that will signal to me not only is WWE taking women wrestling seriously, but that women’s wrestling has “arrived” in the WWE landscape.
1. The ultimate manifestation of women being taken seriously would be a one-on-one match at WrestleMania for the (hopefully) Women’s Championship. Granted, almost ten years ago at WrestleMania 22 we had the best (in my view) one-on-one women’s match in company history (and story) between Trish Stratus and Mickie James, but that was an aberration in the modern age.
The first two years of WrestleMania featured one-on-one matches for the Women’s Championship. The next one-on-one match wasn’t until 8 years later at WrestleMania X. Then the next one was five years later at WrestleMania XV. Then a catfight at WrestleMania 2000. Then 17 through 20 actually featured good women’s programs, surprisingly. 21 had a women’s one-on-one match. 22 I already mentioned. Then 23 had one. Since then, in the last 8 years, it’s been a lot of multi-woman matches or inter-gender matches. Nothing serious. Nothing well done.
All told, the women’s championship has only been defended at 12 WrestleMania’s. There’s been 31 WrestleManias. No match has gone more than 10 minutes. This is inexcusable. They need to get more consistent with this.
2. Back in 2004, Lita vs. Trish Stratus main evented a Monday Night Raw with a women’s title match. That’s the only time in the near 22-year history of the program that it’s been main evented by a women’s match. There’s no reason this can’t happen again. Women’s programs and matches should be on equal footing with the men and close out a Raw. Along with that, as I mentioned, WWE’s NXT show has featured women well. They have an occasional show called Takeover, kind of like a PPV. Let the women main event one of those, two of those, three of those, etc. Here’s the Lita/Trish match, by the way. It’s awesome:
Notice how the lead commentator (the one with the slight Southern twang to his voice), Jim Ross, puts over what he’s watching as serious and legitimate? It goes back to my #6 suggestion.
3. They need to get more than 10 minutes on a PPV. Again, those events are monthly, three-hour presentations. There’s no reason the women can’t get more than 10 minutes to show what they’ve got. Once I see this on a consistent basis, I’ll be happy.
The ultimate fear is that the WWE is just appearing to give the women better focus right now to placate the #GiveDivasAChance phenomenon and it’ll be business as usual in a few months time, but that would be a tragic miscalculation.
Seriously, give women a chance in the WWE. I love women’s wrestling and I know a lot of wrestling fans, men and women alike, that do. Moreover, it’s clear that young girls look up to the women wrestlers as beautiful bad-asses. That’s neat.