WITH THE FIRST PICK IN THE 2010 DIVAS DRAFT, RAW SELECTS….
We all thought my friend Matt was the crazy one. Each April at Gettysburg College we would be out celebrating SpringFest – a college-wide party filled with live music, dancing, games, great food, and adult beverages. The party started early and lasted all day. It is one of the best memories from school each year. (Funniest SpringFest memory – my girlfriend (now wife) wanted to step into the inflatable boxing ring with me. I kept saying “no” but after I had had enough of her nagging, I climbed into the ring, put on the giant boxing gloves, and proceeded to punch her right through the ropes and out onto the grass. We laugh about it now, but I remember sleeping alone that night. Truthfully though I had little remorse, “hey babe, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time”. I officially retired with a 2-1 record after some guy challenged me later that same day and turned me into Mankind.)
As fun at SpringFest was every year, my friend Matt always chose to skip it to “prepare” for the NFL draft. He was dead serious. The NFL draft was his favorite day of the year and it usually fell on the day of the party. I can’t tell you how much fun we made of him for this. Aside from being a Bengals fan (which is bad enough), he would compose multiple mock drafts and stress about which trades or picks each team should make, and then watch the draft for 10 straight hours. It was a little bizarre – he didn’t even take his actually classes that seriously. We graduated in 1995. Fast forward to today. He has now been working as a scout in the NFL for 14 years and wears a Super Bowl ring (1999-2000 St. Louis Rams). I’m not even sure how it happened…but he met the right person who introduced him to another person and so on. Next thing you know he is working for the Rams, scouting college football games, and hanging out with the players at summer BBQs. Pretty good for a kid who never really played football. Guess he wasn’t so crazy after all!
I was thinking about Matt the other day as I was piecing together my 2010 Divas Draft. Seemed pretty ironic to me that now I was the one looking at stats, making predictions, and stressing about match-ups and trades. Plus I felt like Stephen King with writer’s block. I kept putting thoughts down on paper, shaking my head, and then dramatically throwing the paper into the trash. This killed several hours at work, which is OK to admit because I’m 145% sure my boss doesn’t read this column (he barely reads the reports I turn). I felt a sense of purpose to get this right. After all, the WWE claims “For the eighth time in WWE history, the WWE Draft promises to realign the stars within the cosmos of the WWE Universe.” The cosmos of the WWE Universe?!? What the hell does that mean? Sounds important though huh?!
Wait, there’s more. “Since its infancy in 2002, the WWE Draft has become synonymous with both shock and unpredictability, sending champions and their titles to different planes of competition, while dividing tag team partnerships and more. In this one night, every Superstar, Diva and WWE personality is subject to a randomized shift in brand. No one is safe, none are excluded.” Wow, how is that for hyperbole?! The “planes of competition”! “No one is safe”! “A randomized shift!” Now we all know there is nothing random about this. What WWE.com should say is “The 2010 Draft: our chance to fix the things in 2009 that didn’t work”. (And I love that there is a “supplemental draft” posted later that night on WWE.com. You can probably find live coverage of it on ESPN27.)
But the upcoming draft does have me thinking about the Divas, and I DO think this is a critical year for the division. Can we all agree that change is needed? Let’s hope the WWE feels the same way because the 2009-2010 “season” was disappointing. Too many bikinis, pillows, and football uniforms, and not enough solid wrestling. I’m a numbers guy, so let’s dig into some actual facts to bring this into sharper focus. Let’s concentrate on Pay Per Views because the WWE really puts their time and energy into building stories that make you want to order these shows. So, are the Divas ever a part of this build? Are they ever advertised as a product to make you call your local cable provider? Not judging by these statistics. (And remember that most Divas PPV matches are not even announced until that weekend, which in the case of the WM 26 mess was probably a good thing.)
For the purpose of this analysis I am counting the past 17 PPVs, from the 2009 Royal Rumble to last month’s Wrestlemania 26. By the way, I went to graduate school for mathematics and I swear I have forgotten every single thing I learned in school. I had to revert to counting on my fingers to figure this stuff out. Glad I still am paying my student loans. For the Divas, on the past 17 PPVs there have been a total of 15 actual matches (and 5 dark matches before the show goes live). Not too bad until you realize that 4 of those matches were meaningless battle royals, huge tag team matches, or Hog Pen matches (I love Vickie as a person, but let’s agree to never watch Extreme Rules 2009 again). So now, in my opinion, we are down to 11 quality matches on 17 shows. Plus 2 shows were double-booked (the Night of Champions 2009 where both Divas belts were defended, and the Royal Rumble 2010 where Beth was a surprise entry) so really the Divas were booked strong on only 9 of the 17 shows, or 53%. These 9 shows featured a total of 7 title matches, but, again, since NOC books both championships, only 6 out of 17 shows, or 35%, featured a women’s title defense. The final tally, 53% of the past 17 PPVs featured a solid Divas match (or two) and only 35% of the past 17 PPVs featured a title defense (or two). As a Divas fan this is pretty depressing.
Another interesting dynamic is the core group of Divas that the WWE “trusts” to book on PPV. To some degree the WWE has tried to grow girls like Eve, Maryse, Kelly Kelly, Natayla, and Layla but they still seem fairly non-committal about giving them a sustained push (i.e. regularly putting them in important PPV matches.) I counted 25 Divas “spots” in the 11 quality matches mentioned above (i.e. Beth vs. Melina at Royal Rumble 2009 = 2 spots). Of those 25 spots, Melina, Beth, Mickie and Michelle were given 17 of them (Melina 6, Beth 4, Mickie, 3, Michelle, 4), which equals 68% of these opportunities. These girls deserve their spots on the roster…they are solid veteran performers who have paid their dues. But where are the chances for the other girls? The remaining 8 spots were divided between 6 girls: Maryse and Gail were each given 2 spots, and Alicia, Kelly Kelly, Natalya, and Layla were each given 1 lonely spot. I feel badly for those girls, not to mention Jillian, Katie Lea, and even the Bellas who don’t get any of these types of PPV matches. (Again, remember I am not counting matches like the nightmarish WM 25 battle royal, which I have decided just never happened.)
The numbers don’t lie. The WWE deemphasized a large portion of the women’s division the past year and a half. Admittedly many of the young stars need a lot of work in the ring, but how are they supposed to improve and show they deserve a push if they aren’t given time under the bright lights (Maria said as much in her recent podcast). Sure the WWE recently gave Eve the Diva’s title, but unless compelling storylines and rivalries are in place nobody will get behind her as champion. In my opinion that was the main problem with Maryse’s Divas title. Did anybody enjoy how they booked her as champion?? And maybe the WWE feels using the Bellas to prop up a RAW guest host is enough to justify their job in the company. This is unfortunate because the truth is the Bellas are decent (maybe better than decent?) in the ring and, along with the other younger stars, should be given the chance to show us. So please Vince, leave the Baywatch bathing suits and pillows behind and feature real women’s wrestling on a consistent basis (like the brilliant Mickie-Michelle match this past week on SD…I’m still buzzing about that.)
So how does the WWE the regain momentum within the Women’s division? I think with proper booking the WWE ladies have the talent and depth to get back on track, to build for the future while still keeping their veterans looking strong. Storytelling is the key. I mean, how much do we really care about the “results” in the ring? Creative, consistent storylines are much more interesting than actual 3-counts. “Piggie James” had a much bigger impact than almost any match this past year (save the great Melina-Michelle match at NOC and 1 or 2 others). Now, you may not have liked the storyline, but it DID get people talking. We need more storylines like that that generate “Must See” TV. So as a public service to WWE, I’m banging out the Ultimate 2010 Divas Draft, which I guarantee will generate renewed interest and competition for our beloved ladies IF (and I know I sound like a broken record) they are used correctly.
DISCLAIMER – If the WWE continues to force random 6-Diva tag team matches down our throat, then forget this whole column. None of it matters because we’ll be stuck with Hornswoggle and Santino crashing their segments and stealing their crowd response. (By the way, can we draft Santino to NXT? I used to love him but I have grown tired of his comedy act. The guy can work in the ring; what a shame to waste him as a Baywatch referee. I wonder if he purposely tried to choke on his whistle last week.)
A few draft rules: I am going to keep the Diva’s Champion on RAW and the Women’s Champion on Smackdown. I think those belts signify their respective shows which feature different types of wrestling programming. So Eve stays on RAW and Michelle McCool stays on Smackdown. Vickie Guerrero will continue to be the official consultant to Teddy Long so she can float between shows as needed. I’m enjoying her role right now. The draft order itself – RAW will pick first, and then Smackdown, and then RAW, etc.
So, with the first pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects…MARYSE. Seems like a solid pick, especially considering Maryse really is more “sizzle than steak” and is a perfect fit for a show that routinely features talking cars, magic tricks, and hot tubs. In fairness though, Maryse does draw great heat from the crowd and is a valuable piece. Plus we need to continue the Eve vs. Maryse feud for the next few weeks to push Eve and to make it seem like Maryse is upset about losing her title. I hope Eve defends her title successfully a few times and then moves on to other challengers. Maryse doesn’t need the belt to grab our attention anymore, just give her more opportunities to show her personality (like when she was on commentary a few weeks ago).
With the second pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…BETH PHOENIX. A no-brainer. If McCool is staying on Friday nights, she needs a hot challenger (hot, as in crowd favorite, not looks…umm…yeah). We should continue the Phoenix – McCool feud over the next several months. It has been built nicely by the writers (again, whether you like the teasing is debatable, but at least the story is consistent.) 2010 should be a big year for Beth on Friday nights now that her face turn is complete (sounds like something out of Star Wars. Yes Lord Vader!)
With the third pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects…NATAYLA. This is her year, I can feel it. She’s my breakout star of 2010. She’s already gaining momentum with the recent surge of the Hart Dynasty (who should be champions soon) and I love the way she works, not just in the ring but outside the ring as well. Once she starts wrestling more singles matches, I think she could have a hot program as a “tweener” vs. Mickie or as a face vs. Maryse (I love their contrasting styles).
With the fourth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…LAYLA. Gotta keep LayCool together for the immediate future, but if / when Layla breaks free she and Michelle could work a great program. Layla seems super versatile and could pull off whatever WWE wants her to do. I think she has a bright future.
With the fifth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects…MELINA. Kind of a wild card here because ACL injuries are tough and nobody is really sure when she will return, but if Melina can come back strong she needs to stay on RAW to work with the young heels on the show. Plus, we’ve seen enough of her vs. Beth and Michelle for the time being. Let’s keep them on different shows. They are like my mother and mother-in-law, distance is a good thing right now.
With the sixth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…SERENA. I didn’t know much about her before she appeared as part of the Straight Edge Society but I am more impressed each week. I like her look, her presence, and from what readers are saying, she can really work in the ring. I love her role right now with CM Punk, but I want to see her wrestle more because I think this girl is going to be a star on Friday nights.
With the seventh pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects…ALICIA FOX. They tried with Alicia in 2009. Her push led to a Diva’s championship match vs. Mickie James at Hell in a Cell 2009, but it seemed to come to an abrupt halt immediately afterward (I did think the match was decent, by the way). I never understood that. Maybe the PPV did a poor buy rate, but I highly doubt that was Alicia and Mickie’s fault. I will say I think Alicia’s “look and attitude” aren’t quite there yet…I don’t completely click with her. But I do think she was dropped too soon and that 2010 is a big year for her. It’s time to put her back into a prominent storyline and see if she can run with it.
With the eighth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…GAIL KIM. Talk about a girl who needs a change of scenery. I love moving Gail to Smackdown to work with the young girls on that show. She doesn’t need the championship to get over anymore, so SD would have a lot of flexibility with how to use her. I think she and Serena could work great matches together. We need to get Gail far away from the RAW guest hosts and into serious storylines. (Fingers crossed!)
With the ninth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects…MICKIE JAMES. Mickie reminds me of movie stars like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. You have already seen them in a lot of movies, but with a good script they can still deliver a solid performance (again, like Mickie’s match vs. Michelle this past Friday night). I have enjoyed Mickie’s run with LayCool but I think she should move back to Monday nights and, similar to Melina, be used to put over younger Divas. I would like to see her and Natalya in the ring together (in rare face vs. face matches).
With the tenth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…KELLY KELLY. It’s not working for Kelly on RAW. The WWE obviously wants Kelly to be a star for the company (she was picked as the only Divas to be on a 7-11 SummerSlam collector cup last year?!? If I were Mickie that would…umm…tick me off) but RAW is not giving her the opportunity to develop a character. She has a long way to go in the ring, but even worse is the lack of improvement in her ability to tell a story. She’s very one-dimensional and I think moving to SD would help her like it helped Layla. It would add layers to her character and give her a chance to reach her potential. 2 minute pillow fights on RAW are killing her and her Nikes.
With the eleventh pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects….THE BELLA TWINS. They come as a package, and really there is no other place for Nikki and Brie. They belong on RAW because they work well with the guest hosts, but I think the WWE is missing a big opportunity with them. These girls can wrestle. I would play them against each other and create a nasty sibling rivalry where they fight each other but bond together when challenged by others. I think these girls have more depth than Vince allows them to show.
With the twelfth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…TIFFANY. Keep Tiffany on Smackdown. She is working with solid pros and has shown marked improvement in the ring. I would piece her with Kelly Kelly and allow these girls to tag against veterans on the roster. Switching Tiffany to RAW would kill some of the momentum she has built (similar to what happened to Eve after being yanked off SD last year. She looked lost on RAW until just recently.)
With the thirteenth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, RAW selects….ROSA MENDES. There is a place for Rosa in the WWE. Sadly it is jobbing to Eve and the Bellas on RAW right now. Her time may come, but it won’t be 2010. And please, no more salsa dancing.
With the fourteenth pick in the 2010 Divas Draft, Smackdown selects…JILLIAN HALL / KATIE LEA. Keep them together. Move them to Friday nights and allow them to work with Kelly and Tiffany on a regular basis. Jillian and Katie may never get the respect they deserve anymore, but they could be very valuable teaching the young Divas how to work in the ring. Being on Smackdown would allow these pros to work matches that don’t involve Leprechauns or swimsuits and to take full advantage of their in-ring abilities. (Random thought – even though Jillian was Diva’s champion for barely 5 minutes, at least she PINNED Mickie in an actual match. There were no lock boxes involved. So Jillian fans, you can always feel good about that…)
So my final rosters would look like this:
RAW – Eve Torres (Divas champ), Melina, Natayla, Mickie James, Nikki Bella, Brie Bella, Maryse, Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes
SMACKDOWN – Michelle McCool (Women’s champion), Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Kelly Kelly, Tiffany, Layla, Serena, Katie Lea Burchill, and Jillian Hall.
Breakout stars of 2010: Eve, Layla, and Natayla
Best feuds of 2010: Natalya vs. Mickie, Beth Phoenix vs. Serena, Layla vs. Michelle McCool, Eve Torres vs. Maryse, and Nikki Bella vs. Brie Bella
I think these rosters would give each show a nice mix of veterans and young stars, a nice mix of personalities, and a great opportunity to freshen up the Divas division with some interesting storylines. Maybe, God forbid, even some matches that the WWE would want to feature on a PPV. So that is my 2010 Divas Draft. What would yours look like? Take some time at work tomorrow to figure it out! After all, we are talking about “the cosmos of the WWE Universe”.
— Mr. Glamazon