Sunday, September 24, 2023

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WWE Superstars Redux (June 23rd, 2011): Buy One, Get One Free

Wow, two matches on one show? How did we get so lucky? No, that’s not sarcasm. I’m genuinely pleased that there are two Divas matches on WWE Superstars this week, mostly because of the show’s reputation for producing longer, better Divas matches. Let’s see if these two matches deliver:

We start off with a 6-Diva tag team match, the team of AJ, Kaitlyn and Natalya making their way to the ring first. Next is the team of Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes and Tamina. It’s interesting to see the different dynamics of these teams: the babyfaces enter practically arm-in-arm, while the heels are several feet apart. I like it: little touches like that sell their characters.

Natalya and Alicia, arguably the alpha females of their groups (unscientifically known as the one whose music plays during the entrance), are starting off the match. Natalya immediately takes control after the initial tie-up, slamming Alicia to the mat and locking in a side headlock. Quick as lightning, though, Alicia reverses control with a headscissors hold. Natalya leaps out of it easily, and the two have a quick exchange that ends with Natalya lifting Alicia off the ground, slamming her to the mat and attempting to lock in the Sharpshooter. Alicia immediately starts squirming, dragging Natalya along with her to her corner. She manages to tag in Tamina amidst all the thrashing, and Natalya, as she must, lets go of the hold.

The action slows down a great deal as Tamina enters the ring, and the two circle each other. Tamina shoves Natalya, who on the rebound latches on a side headlock. Tamina shoves her off again into the ropes, but this time she manages to take her down with a shoulder block. Tamina goes for the first pin attempt of the match, but Natalya kicks out at 2. Natalya takes another trip to the ropes, but is quick to leap onto Tamina on the return, twisting into a pin attempt. Tamina kicks out, and rebuffs Natalya’s renewed attempt at offense with a knee to the stomach. She takes Natalya into the enemy corner and tags in Rosa.

Rosa takes over and attempts a suplex on Natalya, only for it to be reversed into a delayed vertical suplex. She holds Rosa in the upside down position for a good long while before finally slamming her to the mat. A little slap to the face precedes a pin attempt, which Rosa kicks out of at 2. Natalya full-on carries Rosa to her corner, slamming her into the turnbuckle and tagging in Kaitlyn. Natalya whips Kaitlyn into Rosa, hitting her back-to-front. Kaitlyn picks up Rosa and hits her with a sidewalk slam, going for a pin that ends at the 2-count.

Jeering from the hell corner lures Kaitlyn over there, and Rosa takes the chance to attack her with her back turned. She drags her toward the center of the ring and full-on slams her face into the mat repeatedly, stomping on her stomach for good measure. She then tags in Tamina, who strong-arms Kaitlyn into a clothesline. She then shoves her into the corner and chokes her against the 2nd turnbuckle, her foot on the back of Kaitlyn’s head. The referee objects, and with his back turned while he scolds Tamina, Rosa and Alicia get to work choking Kaitlyn. When Tamina returns to the corner, she tags in Alicia.

Alicia man-handles Kaitlyn a bit before tagging Rosa in. These quick tag-outs are, I assume, aimed at keeping Kaitlyn stranded and weakened, and it’s a nice strategy. She can hardly catch her breath before there’s a new set of hands grabbing her hair. Rosa kicks Kaitlyn in the back and goes for the pin, which Kaitlyn kicks out of. Meanwhile, in the babyface corner, Natalya and AJ are trying to will Kaitlyn to battle back. Rosa holds Kaitlyn in a sitting position, straddling her shoulder and wrenching her neck. Kaitlyn seems to gather strength from her teammates, shoving Rosa off and blasting her with a shoulder tackle worthy of an NFL game. Dazed, both Divas crawl to their corners and tag out: Kaitlyn to AJ, Rosa to Alicia.

AJ is too quick for Alicia, going on a flurry of offense punctuated by a reverse of a tilt-a-whirl slam that ends with her landing on Alicia. She continues to pepper in offense before going for a pin. Apparently, Alicia’s teammates don’t have much faith in her ability to kick out, because they both bust in and break the pin. This brings in only Natalya, since Kaitlyn’s still recuperating, and she manages to take out both Rosa and Tamina single-handely, planting both with a double clothesline. As the mat clears of the extraneous Divas, AJ and Alicia battle for control, performing a series of twisting Irish whip reversals that resemble a strange dance routine. Alicia wins the “dance”, kicking AJ in the chest and attempting a scissors kick that AJ ducks away from, slipping Alicia into a surprise schoolboy pin. The momentum and quickness of this pin earns AJ the 3-count and the win for her team. The babyfaces exit, celebrating while the heels look furious.

I really enjoyed that match: it gave each Diva sufficient ring time. The in-ring work was great and told a story, each Diva’s style showing through: Kaitlyn and Tamina were hard-hitting, Natalya was quick and technical, Alicia showed her long-limbed athleticism and AJ was just plain fast on her feet. These 6 Divas work really well together, and though it’s a pretty standard good-girls-versus-bad-girls story, I like how it gives a decent showcase to each of them. WWE Superstars is a great place for this to play out, since (as we’ve seen recently) massive Diva Tag Team matches on the bigger shows results in few Divas actually getting in the ring, hasty ring work and a jumbled story. This match is proof that a show like this is perfect for Divas matches: the matches (and the Divas themselves) get to breathe. More, I say, more!

And we do get more! This time, it’s Divas singles action. Melina makes her entrance first, followed by her opponent and horrible friend Gail Kim. Before the match can start, the two stand in the middle of the ring arguing. This isn’t your standard trash talking, and you can tell it’s personal because it’s well after the bell rings that they even start the match. Melina rebuffs a handshake, and they circle each other before finally starting with a collar-and-elbow tie-up. The match starts very similar to the way the 6-Diva tag match started, with Gail taking Melina to the mat with a side headlock and Melina taking control with a headscissors hold. Gail, like Natalya, breaks the hold quickly and goes for a clothesline, which Melina ducks Matrix-style. she whips around and slams Gail with a snapmare, going for a pin. Gail kicks out after the 1-count.

Melina whips Gail into the corner and charges. Gail dodges the attack by slipping through the ropes, performing a sunset flip over the ropes to roll Melina into a pin attempt. Melina kicks out, and the two begin to trade blows, Melina being whipped into the corner. She stops herself, using the corner as leverage to leap bakcwards over a charging Gail. She lands on her feet but appears to hurt her left knee in the process. The ref tends to her and Gail, being a true babyface, waits for her to recover. Melina limps into a tie-up attempt, but her knee gives out, and Gail doesn’t attack, holding her up. She gestures to the referee, and this distraction allows Melina to slam Gail face-first into the mat, her knee miraculously healed. What a perfectly executed opossum play!

Melina takes control, battering Gail and hitting her with a dropkick in the corner. She props her up against the bottom turnbuckle, yelling repeatedly, “You were my best friend!” and then “How am I ever going to believe you now?!” She punctuates this with a slap and eventually relents to the referee’s objections, backing off. She hoists Gail up for a body slam, but Gail uses her weight to force the momentum in her favor, landing on Melina for a pin attempt, which Melina kicks out of. Gail immediately goes for another pin, this time with a backslide maneuver. Melina kicks out again. Both get to their feet quickly, and Melina manages to attack first, hitting Gail with a spinning facebuster. This prompts a pin attempt, but Gail kicks out at the 2-count.

Melina quickly latches on a sleeper hold, but with a few well-placed elbows Gail frees herself. Melina regains control though, punching Gail against the ropes and into the corner. Gail eventually battles back, hitting Melina with a dropkick and a flying clothesline, delivering a shoulder to the stomach when Melina retreats to the corner. She jumps and lands on the back of Melina’s neck sticking through the ropes and then scales the turnbuckle, hitting her with a missile dropkick. Both are moving slow after the attack, but Gail tries to get Melina in position for a pin. Melina senses this and hooks her arms around the bottom rope, trying to save herself. She kicks Gail away and goes for another well-placed kick, but Gail ducks out of the way, allowing Melina to land in a split on the mat. In this prone position Gail rolls her over in a cradle, pinning her for the 3-count and the win.

Instead of celebrating, Gail seems more concerned with the look on Melina’s face. Melina looks cold and angry, and Gail tells her that she’s crazy and that she was her friend. It doesn’t look like this match settled anything. Gail doesn’t even seem happy to get one-up on Melina, probably because it’ll result in more conflict between them.

I really enjoyed that match because, like the 6-Diva tag match, it really allowed the Divas to show their true colors and flesh out their styles. Melina was intense and pulled an excellent trick on Gail, while Gail was sympathetic (perhaps unwisely) and quick with her attacks, but not malicious. The story told in this match was great, though we still have no idea why they aren’t friends anymore. Gail seems reluctant to fully hate her, while Melina is clearly wanting retribution for some personal slight. Melina’s evilness was on full display with her playing opossum, and I wonder if she’ll try it again, trying to take advantage of Gail’s sympathy. I can’t wait for the next chapter in this feud, and I hope that they’ll get the chance (whether on the internet or on television) to flesh out the story a bit more and shed some light on why Melina feels so wronged and why Gail thinks Melina needs a straight jacket.

Both matches this week were great, in my opinion. They were similar in a few ways (starting off with similar moves and ending with a surprise roll-up) but both offered different things: the tag match gave much needed in-ring exposure to a good number of SmackDown girls, while Gail and Melina’s match further solidified the rift between those two. I wouldn’t complain if these two storylines continued on WWE Superstars, since it’s clear that the Divas matches on this show will, more often than not, be better and longer than those on the bigger TV shows. It’s kind of fitting that the internet seems to be a haven for Divas, with Gail and Melina fleshing out their storyline on Twitter and YouTube and the internet-only WWE Superstars giving them a place for matches that don’t end in the blink of an eye. I say, use it to your advantage, Divas! The internet is a big place, and Raw and SmackDown are only 2-hour shows. The limits surrounding the Divas somehow seem to be lessened in this light, and I love it.

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