And The Winner Of The 2019 Royal Rumble Is…Women’s Wrestling

2019 Royal Rumble winner Becky Lynch, aka “The Man.” Photo credit: http://www.cagesideseats.com

Disclaimer: This post discusses the progress of gender equality within WWE, a subject that is not not problematic and may require some anti-capitalist context to see the big picture. To get that context for yourself, please read my lengthy “capitalism is bad” preamble.

Introduction

For fans of women getting opportunities in the wrestling industry, and women’s wrestling in general, the last few years in WWE have kind of ruled. 2015 saw the rise of the Four Horsewomen of NXT, including one of the best matches in company history from Sasha Banks and Bayley, and their follow-up rematch in a historic Iron Woman contest. In 2016, the Divas Championship was replaced by the reborn Women’s Championship, which would have to become the Raw Women’s Championship after the latest brand split necessitated the creation of the Smackdown Women’s Championship (for those who don’t recall, the first time there was a brand split, the Women’s title was shared between the two brands). That Raw Women’s Championship was also the focus of an epic series of matches between Banks and Charlotte Flair, including Raw and PPV main events and culminating in the first women’s Hell in a Cell match. 2017 gave us the first women’s Money In The Bank, which was so problematic they did the match again and pretended the first one hadn’t happened, but it also gave us the first Mae Young Classic, which has now concluded its second iteration. Not only has the MYC provided numerous women on the independent scene a chance to shine on a larger stage and a potential pathway to an NXT contract, it has also featured a number of fantastic matches, most notably a contest between indy wrestling legends Meiko Satomura and Mercedes Martinez that was so good it briefly turned Michael Cole into a relatable human being who likes watching wrestling. And kicking off 2018 was the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, a match so historic it got the main event spot for the show, and the evening ended not with some random dude pointing at the Wrestlemania sign, but with the on-screen debut of Ronda Rousey. Pointing at the Wrestlemania sign. So, you know, mostly great.

The second women’s Rumble happened about a week ago, and I was lucky enough to be there in person. The year between the 2018 and 2019 Royal Rumble events has been packed with progress for women (despite it being painfully clear that main roster creative doesn’t know what to do with most of them and doesn’t particularly care) and while the inaugural women’s Rumble was ridiculously fun to watch, I think the 2019 Rumble as a whole is singularly indicative of how far WWE has come, and secretly one of the most important nights for gender equality in wrestling history.

With that in mind, by the power vested in me as a Person What Was In The Audience, I hereby present the following four awards to the 2019 Royal Rumble, each named for one of the people who did really good wrestling things back in 2015 and started this whole thing.

Continue reading “And The Winner Of The 2019 Royal Rumble Is…Women’s Wrestling”

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Twin Tragic

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Brie and Nikki Bella, the Bella Twins. Photo credit: Wrestling JAT Wiki

Last weekend, there was a minor Twitter kerfuffle involving Paige (former WWE NXT and Divas champion, retired, and current general manager of WWE Smackdown Live), Carmella (former WWE Smackdown Women’s champion), and Steven Luke (contributing writer for wrestling website NoDQ.com). It’s the kind of thing I enjoy commenting on, because (a) it involves women’s wrestling, of which I am a fan, (b) it involves the history of women’s wrestling in WWE, of which I am knowledgeable, and (c), it involves a specific question that isn’t necessarily easy to answer: As WWE builds toward the crowning achievement of its revamped attitude toward women’s wrestling in the form of the all-woman Evolution show, is the company wrongly ignoring the female wrestlers who actually created the change, and focusing instead on the ones who, in the past, were part of the problem?

Here’s how the whole thing went down. On Saturday, September 22nd, NoDQ posted an article written by Steven Luke called “How the Divas are damaging the Evolution.” In the piece, Luke stated his opinion that the Evolution show was in danger of being ruined by an emphasis on female stars of the past. Specifically, he called for a renewed focus on the wrestlers who have defined the women’s division for the last two years, name-dropping Asuka, each of the Four Horsewomen, the IIconics, the Riott Squad, and Absolution. He decried the recent return of Brie and Nikki Bella – the faces of the division in the days before the so-called “Divas Revolution” who also happen to be crossover stars with their reality television shows Total Divas and Total Bellas – criticizing their recent in-ring work and saying they weren’t as “crisp” as wrestlers like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. Luke also went so far as the criticize the involvement of wrestling legends Mickie James, Lita, and Trish Status on the Evolution card.

“The Bellas should be nowhere near this show,” Luke wrote. “Lita’s hundredth match with Mickie James should stay at the bottom of the card and no other members of the current division should be wasted against legends like Alexa Bliss is against Trish Stratus.”

Later that day, both Paige and Carmella responded to Luke’s commentary piece on Twitter. “You do realize both these ladies were the OG ladies to help kickstart the #givedivasachange trend?” Paige wrote, referring to the social media backlash against WWE’s poor presentation of women’s wrestling, brought on by a 2015 match that lasted a mere 30 seconds. “I know because I was part of it. They deserve to be a part of everything and more, they are the one of the leaders of the movement. Sometimes matches all won’t be ‘crisp.’”

She also wrote that “it happens with everyone. Crappy article. Not just for them but for the ‘divas’ you described that shouldn’t be a part of it, is an unfair statement. Without the divas, there wouldn’t be superstars. Thanks to all the ladies that paved the way before us.”

Carmella, who held the Smackdown women’s title earlier this year, also weighed in.

“This is an embarrassing article. Every single woman from the past and current roster have made women’s wrestling what it is. EVERYONE is deserving. Enough of the negativity around the ‘diva’ moniker.”

There is so much going on here. Does Luke really think that the Bella twins can be equated in any reasonable way with Trish Stratus and Lita? Does Paige really think the Bellas are “leaders of the movement,” or ever were? Should Evolution, a celebration of women’s wrestling, really be limited to current members of the roster instead of legends of the past? Is it fair to negatively compare the wrestling ability of Nikki and Brie to that of Flair and Lynch? Is there too much negativity surrounding the word “diva?” What are the actual contributions of the Bella twins and their generation of WWE divas to women’s wrestling, and would women’s wrestling have progressed to where it is today without them?

Continue reading “Twin Tragic”

NXT: 4 Evolutions – The End Is The Beginning Is The End (2017-2018)

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The Velveteen Dream faces off with Richochet prior to their Takeover match. Photo credit: GiveMeSport.com

Tomorrow, NXT will put on its fourth Takeover event in Brooklyn, and if it meets the expectations for Takeover shows being set thus far in 2018, it’s going to be something special. It’s also the perfect opportunity for me to elucidate something I’ve been working on for years now, a kind of Unified Theory of NXT, which views the show’s history since the dawn of the WWE Network as a cyclical phenomenon currently in the middle of its fourth stage. Yes, that is how much I love this wrestling show.

This is the fourth in a four-part series being released weekly between now and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV. Part 4 is, just so you know, really fucking long compared to the other three, and that’s because a whole lot of stuff has happened in the past year that needs to be properly parsed in order to come to a true understanding of the history of NXT. In this final installment, I discuss how the NXT roster shook out during a year of transition, and the eight wrestlers who returned the male singles division to the top – only this time, with a couple of twists that speak to the full evolution of this spectacular wrestling promotion.

Continue reading “NXT: 4 Evolutions – The End Is The Beginning Is The End (2017-2018)”

NXT: 4 Evolutions – The Tag Team Takeover (2016-17)

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The Revival vs. DIY in Toroto. Photo credit: Cagesideseats.com

In two weeks, NXT will put on its fourth Takeover event in Brooklyn, and if it meets the expectations for Takeover shows being set thus far in 2018, it’s going to be something special. It’s also the perfect opportunity for me to elucidate something I’ve been working on for years now, a kind of Unified Theory of NXT, which views the show’s history since the dawn of the WWE Network as a cyclical phenomenon currently in the middle of its fourth stage. Yes, that is how much I love this wrestling show.

This is the third in a four-part series being released weekly between now and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV. Part 3 focuses on the NXT tag team division, and how a tossed-together group of jobbers and misfits turned a perennial afterthought into the best and most important part of the show, kept their era going longer than either the main event kings of 2014 or the revolutionary women of 2015, and even took a massive hand in shaping the future that was to come.

Continue reading “NXT: 4 Evolutions – The Tag Team Takeover (2016-17)”

NXT: 4 Evolutions – The Return of Women’s Wrestling (2015)

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The Four Horsewomen of NXT, from left to right: Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch. Photo sourced from http://www.diva-dirt.com

In three weeks, NXT will put on its fourth Takeover event in Brooklyn, and if it meets the expectations for Takeover shows being set thus far in 2018, it’s going to be something special. It’s also the perfect opportunity for me to elucidate something I’ve been working on for years now, a kind of Unified Theory of NXT, which views the show’s history since the dawn of the WWE Network as a cyclical phenomenon currently in the middle of its fourth stage. Yes, that is how much I love this wrestling show.

This is the second in a four-part series being released weekly between now and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV. In Part 2, we focus on 2015, the year that women’s wrestling returned to the United States. By that, of course, I don’t mean that there were no female wrestlers in the U.S. prior to 2015; quite the opposite is true. But it had been almost a decade since women had been treated with anything resembling respect on the WWE stage. Some promotions, such as Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling (now known as Impact Wrestling) had thriving women’s divisions during this period, but WWE is the biggest game in town, and despite the efforts of some members of the talent roster — most notably AJ Lee — it was hard to ignore the fact that the largest wrestling promotion in the world was hiring supermodels and training them just enough to not kill one another while they did battle in Playboy Pillow Fights over a championship that looked like a butterfly or a vagina, depending on who you asked. In 2015, the women of NXT almost single-handedly changed all that, and if the Orlando promotion had done nothing else whatsoever, it would still be worth celebrating for breathing life back into American women’s wrestling.

 

Continue reading “NXT: 4 Evolutions – The Return of Women’s Wrestling (2015)”

NXT: 4 Evolutions – Introduction (2014)

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Sami Zayn, NXT Champion. Photo credit: Smarkoutmoment.com

In four weeks, NXT will put on its fourth Takeover event in Brooklyn, and if it meets the expectations for Takeover shows being set thus far in 2018, it’s going to be something special. It’s also the perfect opportunity for me to elucidate something I’ve been working on for years now, a kind of Unified Theory of NXT, which views the show’s history since the dawn of the WWE Network as a cyclical phenomenon currently in the middle of its fourth stage. Yes, that is how much I love this wrestling show.

This is the first of a four-part series that will be released weekly between now and NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV. In it, I provide an introduction to NXT (and my personal fandom), a brief history of the company (that’s the part with the title “A Brief History of NXT,” in case you were wondering) and an in-depth look at the promotion’s main event picture in 2014. As always, I’ve tried to make my wrestling content as accessible as possible to the newcomer, but I’m sorry, at a certain point you just need to accept that you don’t know who Camacho is and you can trust me when I say you don’t need to.

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Victory Glow: A Brief History of Black Women and Championships in Wrestling

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Source: WrestlingNews.co

I caught the live broadcast of WWE Elimination Chamber tonight. I mention this for three reasons. First, They’d Rather Be Right is kind of boring so far. Second, I did promise at one point (both to myself and to an unspecified and completely theoretical audience) that I would spend time between books doing some actual real person blogging about things that are not award-winning sci-fi. Third, as a UOTM reader (or maybe just “Mind reader”), you deserve to be reminded from time to time that the person behind this blog is a somehow simultaneously a political leftist and a professional wrestling fan who watches one person get a predetermined victory over another person and thinks to himself, “I wonder how this fits into the long and sordid history of race and gender in the wrestling industry?”

So, on that note…

Continue reading “Victory Glow: A Brief History of Black Women and Championships in Wrestling”