The Problem(s) with WWE’s Divas Revolution

Sasha Banks is the one in the middle holding the NXT Women's Championship.
Sasha Banks is the one in the middle holding the NXT Women’s Championship.

Well, the first problem, among many, is that they keep referring to them as “divas” and the “divas revolution.” Diva is such an anachronistic term that, IMO, is a bit demonizing to women of today. I get that they are all about branding and marketing, so they have “Superstars” for the males and “Divas” for the women, but the first start to gaining legitimacy for women wrestlers is by calling them…women. Yes, they have an E! Network reality program called Total Divas, but in my view, you can 1.) Separate the two, especially because TD is not seen by the wider wrestling audience and 2.) The name “total divas” makes perfect sense for a reality program with artificial drama around women and their relationships. But for professional wrestling as a context? Divas doesn’t make much sense. So, call them women and call it the Women’s Championship. That’s step one.

To recap, a few weeks ago, Stephanie McMahon came out and essentially said because of the popularity of women’s sports at the moment — like with Ronda Rousey in the UFC — WWE was going to have a revolution in the diva’s division. To kick-off that revolution, she introduced the three quite popular NXT women (WWE’s development brand), Sasha Banks (NXT Women’s Champion — see, they get it right down there), Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair (daughter of legendary wrestler, Ric Flair).

Sasha joined up with Naomi and Tamina (daughter of legendary wrestler, Jimmy Snuka) to be known as B.A.D.: Beautiful and Dangerous. Meanwhile, Becky joined up with Paige and Charlotte to be known as P.C.B.: Paige, Charlotte and Becky (it was originally known as Sorority Submission, but well, the porn innuendo axed that). Then there was the already established trio of the Bella Twins, Nikki (the Diva’s Champion) and Brie, along with Alicia Fox, who had recently joined their ranks.

So, we have three teams of three all gunning for each other. After Stephanie’s announcement, we’ve gotten variations on matches, whether one-on-one or tag team action and it’s meant two matches a night for the women. Now, that’s pretty unheard of. Prior to all of this, the women were lucky to get one match a night on a three-hour broadcast and the match itself would be lucky to go longer than five minutes. Now, they’re getting two matches a night that routinely last around 10-15 minutes each.

It looks promising and good, right? Well…maybe. I mean, it’s nice that they are getting longer matches to show what they can actually do in the ring — and they do it well — but you have to understand, WWE fans have been conditioned for essentially the entire existence of the WWE minus a few small blips, that women wrestlers don’t matter. Women wrestlers are merely a piss break. Or filler between the important matches. Or that they’re just tits and ass. Or just models. Or whatever. They are not to be taken seriously.

Well, you’re not going to erase that cultural underpinning and conditioning overnight and you’re not going to erase it merely because you keep shoving “divas revolution” down the viewers’ throat and because you suddenly let the women wrestle a bit longer.

The best way, among many, to actually begin to solidify the transition where women matter in the WWE Universe (what the WWE calls its fan base) is to have strong characters and strong stories. That’s first and foremost. Great wrestling is great wrestling and I can appreciate it on its own, but what elevates the in-ring action is that the fans actually care about the characters in the ring and the stories behind them. What brought them to the ring? What are they fighting for? Why does winning or losing matter to them? Why do they care about this Diva’s Title? Those kinds of questions need to be answered more strongly by the WWE.

Mick Foley, a retired, legendary wrestler, has been one of the most vocal supporters of women’s wrestling and the needed change in the WWE landscape. He’s frustrated, as I am, with the way things have gone in this so-called Divas Revolution. And it’s perpetuated by what occurred last night. In the second of two matches, Sasha Banks was facing the Diva’s Champion, Nikki Bella in a non-title match. It was a damn fine match that actually, somewhat surprisingly, saw Sasha Banks make the Champion tap out to her finisher.

But in the course of that match, the WWE fans in attendance in Minnesota, started chanting, “We Want Lesnar.” Brock Lesnar, the former UFC Champion, is the hometown hero and a big star at the moment. So, yeah, okay. But man, what a blight on this budding Divas Revolution. I was so mad and cringed when I heard that. It’s embarrassing as a wrestling fan. These two women — finally getting a chance to show their stuff — are busting their asses out there putting on a good show for the fans and they’re completely ignoring it and disrespecting it by saying, “We Want Lesnar.” Which I could almost forgive since he’s the hometown hero and they were really playing into that, but then they also started chanting, “JBL! JBL! JBL!” Ugh. Again, it’s that conditioning problem I spoke about.

Fortunately for us, Mick, one of the greatest minds in the wrestling business in the past and now, has a good idea:

We can’t just gradually be SHOWN the revolution. WE can’t have the revolution EXPLAINED to us. We need one of the participants to make us FEEL it. We NEED that promo that perfectly captures the time and place, the pride and passion of this revolution. 

He’s absolutely right. First and foremost, that none of the women have been given a chance to actually run with the “revolution ball,” if you will, since Stephanie introduced the revolution. But more than that, again, we haven’t been made to “feel” for these women to help combat that horrid conditioning. What are their struggles? Their triumphs? Their motivations?

A woman’s pipebomb (so-named after CM Punk’s famous, game-changing pipebomb in 2011 — meaning, a promo that’s a “worked shoot,” which means it seems like it’s not scripted, as the other content is) is needed, as Mick argues, to convey that feeling and that emotion and that motivation. Let one of the women and I personally vouch for Sasha on this front, go out there and speak to this revolution and the need for change in the WWE.

Sasha was recently on Chris Jericho’s podcast (another famous wrestler) and she talked about how she’s wanted this since she was 10 (she’s only 23 now) and that growing up, she didn’t really have women wrestlers in the WWE to look to because it was all about tits and ass and bra and panties matches. But here she is, now, living her dream and she didn’t have to rely on her famous uncle to do it (Snoop Dogg). So, it’s not hard to envision what she would say…

A few weeks ago, Stephanie McMahon came out here and she kick-started what she deemed a “divas revolution.” Well, it’s about damn time. It’s about damn time that the brass in the back realized that women are just as tough, just as bad-ass and just as good — nay, better — than the men around here. But growing up, I didn’t know that. I’d turn on my television, ready to watch professional wrestling and what did I see? Women, beautiful and strong women, reduced to fighting in bra and panties matches. How am I supposed to look up to that? Where were my role models? I had to find them in the male wrestlers, like Chris Jericho and Eddie Guerrero.

And then, I came to this company under the NXT brand and I, along with Paige, Charlotte, Emma, Becky and Bayley, changed everything. We showed the fans and more importantly, the brass in the back that, yes, we can wrestle and we can steal the show and better yet, we can main event a show. We have what it takes. But truth be told, I was worried about moving up to Raw. I shouldn’t have been, right? I mean, after all, this was my 13-year odyssey, my 13-year dream culminating in being on THE show and yet, I was worried. Because I saw the women only getting a few minutes to apply their craft on the canvas.

But then, much to my surprise, Stephanie arrives and ushers in this “divas revolution.” Well, first, honey, I ain’t no diva. I’m a woman and I’m the NXT Women’s Champion. Okay, the women start getting more time to show what we can do. Then what happens last week? While I’m putting on a killer match with the Diva’s Champion, Nikki, and making her tap out, might I add, the fans in Minnesota start chanting, “JBL! JBL! JBL!” and “We Want Lesnar!”

That’s when I realized, the bigger problem isn’t with company brass under-appreciating us and under-valuing us, it was with the WWE Universe not seeing us for what we are: beautiful and dangerous women athletes. They still see us as a piss break, as the filler between what’s deemed important. 

Well, let me tell you something, just as I, along with those other women had NXT audiences chanting, “This is wrestling,” because of what we can do in that ring, I will make it my mission to get the knuckle-dragging WWE Universe to chant, “This is wrestling.'” 

Because women’s wrestling IS wrestling. And I ain’t no damn piss break. I ain’t filler. I’m the Boss and it’s about damn time, indeed.

I don’t know, something like that. I’m fired up. WWE needs to do a full-court press and fire up this revolution and actually put some creative juice behind it. They have all the tools they need — those tools being Sasha, Charlotte, Becky, Paige, Naomi, the Bella Twins and the list goes on — to make it happen.

But I fear that WWE will fall back on old thinking after hearing those chants and gradually, we’ll be back to the proverbial square one with the WOMEN’s division. I hope not.


One thought

  1. That was a great piece, i’ve always been a fan of women wrestling from the era of Sable, to Trish and Lita, and Now AJ, Bellas, Naomi, Paige and with Shasha Banks and Becky Lynch. I believe the women’s Division needs to be built on diffrent story lines not just pilled up around 3 teams and one title, because right now these beautiful and talented ladies like Shasha Banks and Paige make me watch the show oh i also like Naomi and those shoes, plus the power house Tamina.

    Liked by 1 person

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