Friday, August 14, 2020

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Women’s Evolution Was Something That Shouldn’t Have Happened

I’m back! It’s been a while my lovely Diva-Dirt readers, and I have missed you! I had to take a mental health break and I hope all you are staying safe during these most trying of times. So…let’s get into it. I know the title reads as a shock, but let’s talk about it, shall we?

So, five years ago, we saw then Diva’s Champion deliver what can be best described as a State of the Unionesque speech in which she had been wanting competition. Stephanie McMahon interrupted and announced the arrival of three women who helped to break ground in NXT (with the blueprint laid out by Paige, Summer Rae and Emma, shoutout to them for their accomplishments!) to shake up the Main Roster. They were heralded, and rightfully so, the future of Women’s Wrestling. They were shown to be the kickstart to the Diva’s Revolution which became the Women’s Evolution. Take a look below for some nostalgia.

That’s all great right? Women got longer matches, better characters, and had a lot of firsts in the last five years. While that’s well and good, this is a movement that should not have even been needed. The women should have always been part of the show and treated as valuable additions. Whenever WWE has a special on the women, they, usually Stephanie McMahon, talk as if they were against the machine to get the women out there and seen, while neglecting to mention that they were working for the machine that sabotaged their women.

WWE neglects to mention that from 2004 to 2014, they began to phase out previously trained wrestlers in efforts to get eye candy and models they could turn into wrestlers. WWE dropped talented women like Jazz and Nidia in favor of Diva Search contestants. Gone were competitive matches, in where bra and panties match, fulfill your fantasy battle royals, and lingerie pillow fights. They had accomplished veterans like Molly Holly job out to Christy Hemme, and this isn’t a knock on Christy Hemme, because she did put in a word and subsequently became a pretty good wrestler, but she at the time was not believably a match for Trish, Molly or Victoria.

In 2005 we saw Molly go, and with Lita and Trish injured, WWE had the opportunity to rebuild their division and bring in new talent that could wrestle, they did not. They let the Women’s Champion Trish Stratus stay champion while not appearing on TV for months, and by the time she came back, she and Victoria were the only two women on the roster who were full-time wrestlers at that point. We did see an influx of models and dancers come in and see them learn as they go.

We saw Ashley, Maria, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Kristal, and company join wrestlers like Jillian, Melina, and Mickie James to re-establish the division. But it was still thin on actual wrestlers between two shows, and we saw the likes of Jillian and Victoria, in particular, get the task of putting these girls over. While the likes of Candice, Kristal, and Michelle would improve leaps and bounds, they didn’t hit that stride until years later.

For those of us who were reading dirt sheets at the time, the rumor was that Johnny Ace, after replacing JR as VP of Talent Relations, decided with Kevin Dunn and Vince McMahon it would be easier to train models to wrestle than the other way around. They signed women like Kelly Kelly and Alicia Fox based on their appearances in a modeling catalog when they were both barely even legal. The women of this era were to be lauded for their looks, not their abilities, but the women still gave the effort.

Look at Mickie vs Melina at Backlash ‘07, Look at Candice vs Melina at GAB 2007, Melina vs McCool, Melina and Beth in an I Quit Match and at the 2009 Royal Rumble, Beth vs Candice at No Mercy 2007 and 2008. There were some standout matches there. From 2007 to 2014, there was a mix of actual wrestlers and then models turned wrestlers who acquitted themselves nicely. However, try as these women did, what did they get? Three-minute multi-diva tag matches, usually in the “death slot”, if there was a match at all. Generic storylines of jealousy or picking apart a woman’s physical flaws for titles and feuds, and women who seemed to be getting pushed because of what they looked like instead of what they could do between the ropes.

There were months when there would be no women on the PPV card, there would be weeks of no women’s matches on RAW and Smackdown, and whose doing was this? It wasn’t the fans, it was the office. There have always been rumors floating around that Vince isn’t/wasn’t too high on women’s wrestling, and he felt they weren’t draws. If that is to believe, then people forget how popular Wendi Richter was in the 80s, how Sunny, Sable and Chyna drew and in Sable’s case, WCW kryptonite. The women of the 1990s showed that they could be on par with the men in popularity. The early 2000s saw the Golden Era for the women, and yet when the likes of Trish and Lita retired, WWE put collectively less effort into their women.

That all changed in 2015, when #GiveDivasAChance trended for days on Twitter, not once, but twice. We were pacified as fans for a few weeks after the initial hashtag, but in the summer of 2015, WWE had gone back to their old ways, and they needed a reminder of what the fans wanted to see. That reminder led us to those three. The women of NXT were killing it while the women on the Main Roster languished. Under Triple H, women on NXT were appointment television. They had distinct characters, longer matches, and actual storylines. It made the fans notice the huge disparity between the women on the Main Roster and those down on the black and gold brand.

We got to see women go on to main event RAW, Smackdown, Wrestlemania, the Royal Rumble. They’ve had Tag Team Titles re-activated. There have been Hell In A Cell, Elimination Chamber, and Money In The Bank marches contested amongst women for the first time. All these wonderful opportunities should have been given to women all along.

The women in WWE have busted their behinds, they worked hard to become legitimate in the sport and they were reduced to next to nothing matches and were instructed to “hit like women” and not have matches good enough to compete with the men’s. They were subjected to being roasted by WWE.com writers who honed in on how some women weren’t wrestling purists and fueled the Wrestler vs Model debate at the expense of models who worked hard at their craft. All things being equal, the women should have gotten their just desserts and their roses when they worked for them, not when the public drags a company for the world to see.

While I do believe that Stephanie did fight, it’s clear she lacked allies in her fight, and sometimes being the boss’ daughter isn’t enough. Everything started and ended with Vince McMahon, and we can have all the revisionist history we’d like. Women were a draw and as talented as men, we saw it in Chikara, TNA, Japan, AAA, Bellatrix, WSU, NWA, they lacked the opportunity to show it, and because of that, being a Diva has become something negative when women worked so hard to make it mean something. Women’s Evolution is great but had an evolution really taken place, it would have happened long ago, organically, on merit, and not because of public pressure.

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Winners & Losers: NXT 08.12.20

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