Sunday, March 3, 2024

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Making Sense of “Hard Justice-Gate”

For a company with a female president, TNA sure proved that wrestling is still a man’s sport. Despite boasting the most progressive women’s division on national television, TNA’s Knockouts division was not, this time, exempt from TNA’s recurrent reckless booking. Having already shot themselves in the foot several times with stale and lousy booking for its men, the women seemingly had it better. And while ODB is technically the Knockouts Champion, the ‘comedy’ booking which sees Cody Deaner claim the belt as his own, not only shoots TNA in it’s own foot — but they may as well amputate.

If we seriously look at it, I’m sure they have a plan and all will be made right eventually, but in an industry where women are 10:1 to men, fans were rooting for this Knockouts division. Rooting for the talented women in it & rooting for a major company to finally do right by it’s women. TNA has delivered us great women’s wrestling in the past two years, they have given us some interesting feuds — what they haven’t subjected us to is the same brand of immature, exhibitionist and often, exploitative booking we have seen in WWE. The Knockouts division was meant to be a televised alternative, TNA even aggressively marketed itself as such.

But with the most recent swerve of having a man take posession of the women’s belt, a bitter taste and a sense of betrayal has been felt by fans, including Diva Dirt. The Knockouts division seemed an important part of the product, the one thing that continuously delivered when the rest of the product was met with moans & groans, yet this time it was just as susceptible as the half-baked booking that goes into the men’s storylines. Cheap tactics to draw a few laughs & get the crowd to pop — but beyond the surface, this is a division that was built upon serious women’s wrestling and should have been better protected from the cheap, slapstick booking that we saw at Hard Justice and even prior.

There were several indicators that this pay per view match wouldn’t be up to the Knockouts’ usual standards. Despite being the title feud for the division, it was ultimately an afterthought for the weeks leading to the event, with Awesome Kong & Tara and even Traci Brooks‘ return getting more attention. The storyline here seems to have been built on everything but wrestling; slapstick comedy sketches backstage, Cody Deaner kissing the Knockouts… riveting. With such strong effort in the booking, there was little to anticipate going into the match — post-match, the already low expectations hit Titanic-like depths.

Deaner taking posession of the Knockouts Title may provide some ‘entertainment’ for the 5-and-under crowd, but for the mature viewer that tunes into a godforsaken episode of Impact to watch women’s wrestling, what can we expect? Trailer park skits? Jerry Springer-esque fighting between he and ODB? Him ‘defending’ the title against the Knockouts? No doubt, gleaming with pride, despite being creatively castrated [as he already was with the commentators noting how ‘proud’ he was of his accomplishments with scorn]. Gender-bending skits may be funny for some, but in my estimation, it just shows why people look down on wrestling and it’s fans as being ‘lowbrow’.

To come back to my earlier point, I have no doubt that in due course TNA will ‘do the right thing’, returning the belt to one of the girls and ‘restoring order’. But no matter how soon that is, the damage will have already been done. No matter how pretty the bow they attempt to tie on the belt and division beyond this, there will always be those ‘Deaner skits’ that are inevitably to come.

And even exceeding the bounds of the title situation, the old age misogynist booking of this match further negates the great work these women have put into the division. As a woman, I felt extremely uncomfortable watching Deaner force himself upon all three of the Beautiful People, not to mention spanking Velvet Sky‘s ass till it was red-raw. I realise it’s acting, but that kind of stuff may have been acceptable in another time and place, however when you market your women’s division as ‘serious’ and then conform to the same ploys used elsewhere, it again negates the work that those girls put in the ring [not to mention violates the women’s movement].

One of our commenters said it best when they point out that a day removed from serious allegations being made against their top superstar, they have “Cody essentially violate three of their women on live TV.”

Booking to be proud of? With Vince Russo at the helm, many smarter journalists than I assumed there’d be less emphasis on wrestling & more on what we saw at Hard Justice. However it fails my comprehension how a female president of a wrestling company can sign off on this and sit back and watch it. The same woman who, one month ago, made the following comment: “I’m very proud of the Knockouts. As a woman, it’s important to me that these ladies be represented properly.”

I applaud those of you who still have faith in the Knockouts division, because mine has waned. I have the utmost respect for the women in the division and know some of them are aware of this site & may be reading, however I cannot endorse a product like this. If the Knockouts were ‘represented properly’ at Hard Justice, I ask Dixie Carter, what crack pipe is she smoking and may I have a puff?

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