Friday, August 14, 2020

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A Distinct Perspective for the WWE In Your House Brand and the Women’s Division

The New Generation Era was known for its link between the Golden era and the Attitude era.  A struggling WWE was competing against a strong WCW while building the legacies of those such as Shawn Michaels, Mick Foley, and The Undertaker just to name a few.

One of the most standout events during that time a quarter century ago was the “In Your House” Pay-per-views.  These smaller PPV events helped build the storylines as they headed towards the “Big Four” PPVs in Royal Rumble, WrestleMania, SummerSlam, and Survivor Series.  At that time, King of the Ring was a notable PPV as well. However, In Your House took on a life of its own, being the event that has seen some of the most controversial and iconic moments in WWE history.

Photo: WWE

As a pro wrestling fan who started watching during this time in 1995 (I was 11), I remember yearning to see women in the ring versus being on the outside.  Until 1998, any appearance by a woman was accompanying a talent and being ringside to show their support.  From Sunny to Ivory, their presence remained at ringside during the life of In Your House.

Photo: WWE

Additionally, in the case of Diana Smith (wife of the British Bulldog), her involvement in the Shawn Michaels/British Bulldog feud was a huge deal in 1996 (In Your House – Beware of Dog).  Smith would find herself in the middle of the feud, with the couple claiming that Michaels was making unwanted advances towards her.

1998 was a prominent year for WWF Women’s Division, which during that time, had been disbanded after Alundra Blayze’s infamous Monday Nitro appearance where she dumped the WWF Women’s Championship in the trash can.  Sable was gaining huge momentum as she found herself feuding with Luna Vachon leading to WrestleMania XIV.  At In Your House – No Way Out of Texas, Sable and Luna traded blows followed with Sable standing up to Marc Mero after weeks of being treated unfairly.

Photo: WWE

The first contest ( I say contest, not match) featuring the women took place at In Your House – Unforgiven in April 1998 with Sable and Vachon in an Evening Gown Match.  It was a gimmick match for the women in which back then in WWE’s Attitude Era, sexuality was a big factor.  Unlike the Tuxedo matches that happened prior that were meant to embarrass the loser, did the opposite as Sable took ownership of prancing around the ring in her bra and panties.

Sable took part in two other matches during the In Your House period, both which had little to no merit match wise.  She took on Marc Mero at In Your House – Over the Edge, where he pinned her in 20 seconds by tricking her.  The stipulation was that she would be forced out of the company.  The other match was the infamous bikini contest between Sable and Jacqueline at In Your House – Fully Loaded.

Photo: WWE

The last In Your House match involving a female was Chyna teaming up with Kane as part of the Corporation versus DX members Triple H and Xpac.  That was also the last In Your House brand PPV, St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.  While those contests and matches played a vital part to each woman’s career, the lack of women’s wrestling was very evident. 

Photo: WWE

But how the times have changed for the Women’s Division.  This past NXT: Takeover was branded with the iconic PPV name for its 25th anniversary.  In addition, it’s a quirk for the COVID 19 Pandemic that has swept the globe, forcing many to just stay home.  But, there was more than that. 

Takeover: In Your House had plenty of firsts when it came to the ladies of WWE.  This would be the first In Your House that an actual Women’s match took place, there was the first women’s main event for the event (second Women’s main event for Takeover), and the first time a women’s Championship was contested at an In Your House event. 

The six woman tag match was the opening match with Mia Yim, Shotzi Blackheart, and Tegan Nox taking on Dakota Kai, Raquel Gonzalez, and Candace LeRae.  All six women have been feuding for the last several months, with Yim and LeRae getting involved with their significant others (Keith Lee and Johnny Gargano). 

A far cry from the contests of yesteryear came the main event.  Three women who are very accomplished, astoundingly talented, and well deserving of such a moment.  Rhea Ripley continues to blossom into the next big Women’s Superstar with her bold grit and determination.  Charlotte Flair is the most accomplished woman in WWE with ten Championship reigns on her resume (which was unheard of 25 years ago).  Io Shirai dazzles with her daredevil moves and high flying style. 

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#InYourHouse 🌿

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While the show itself delivered nostalgia and good memories, the main event between Ripley, Flair, and Shirai delivered what the event had been missing from its history.  And whether WWE brings back In Your House yearly or never again, these matches of firsts set the standard of what the women’s division is truly about. 

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Winners & Losers: NXT 08.12.20

NXT's TakeOver: XXX is one week from this coming Saturday and perhaps the most important match of Dakota Kai's career will take...
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