In 1999, Chyna became the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble. By the fingers-crossed fictional logic of the contest, we had a 1/30 chance of an intergender main event for the World Title. Now, even the most part time fan recognizes the Rumble as the long con. Feuds are lined up. Pushes that otherwise take weeks are condensed into twenty minutes of plowing through fading glories. Like a building demolished, the Royal Rumble is a chaos so meticulous it is passed off as a surrender to entropy.
There is upset at the Royal Rumble, but there are no upsets. Batista and Reigns’ wins were decried, derided on Vines and viral photoshops–fans canceled the Network en masse in disgust and frustration. That is the behavior of people who feel betrayed, not bewildered. From the moment Daniel Bryan was dumped to the floor you knew Reigns was going to win. If DDP had won, the #CancelTheNetwork hashtag might have never caught steam.
But “Which one of these three or four superstars will go through the fanservice guest appearance and half of the tag team we keep forgetting to book to make it to WrestleMania?!” does not a compelling buyrate make.
To trot the paces of a thought experiment, and indulge the hollow promises of the pay per view’s booking: let’s imagine Chyna won the 1999 Royal Rumble. Maybe Creative wrote themselves into every corner of the room and thought “fuck it, let’s go crazy”. Maybe she flipped the script and eliminated Vince McMahon and Steve Austin–what are you going to do, have security escort her out to an elimination because she wouldn’t lose?
Let’s lose ourselves to the somnolence of “what if”. What if a woman main evented WrestleMania?
But first, two points of order:
Chyna could have probably been a decent wrestler if people gave her fucking time. Every wrestling podcast co-host callously laments Chyna’s choppy ring work. When wrestlers come in from WCW or Mexico, they get a grace period–oh they just haven’t learned that WWF/E style of wrestling yet. But when a woman primarily used as a manager, who occasionally wrestles former models and weightlifters in the eye candy division, has trouble keeping pace with Road Dogg or Jeff Jarrett, oh how they bemoan!
Chyna is a fucking babe. Her first Playboy appearance is the best-selling WWE women’s performer feature of all time, and one of the top five best-selling issues in the magazine’s history. That’s not “oh, I just have a subscription”, or “hey huh huh huh isn’t this weird”? That’s a lot of people, in their rooms, jerking off to Chyna’s naked body. The frailty of straight masculinity requires most men to rebuff her sex appeal–if you like a woman with muscles, you might like men, too!–but the money doesn’t lie.
My hands are bereft of stones: Chyna’s Playboy magazine was the first one I ever bought, despite being four years too young to do so legally.
There. My bias is out of the way. Onward to Imagination Station! Choo Choo!
1. Triple The H, Triple The Threat
Meeting the realistics halfway: The Rock is not going to wrestle a woman at the main event of WrestleMania. I am not alienated from restraint in my fantasy. But not too much restraint: I’m ignoring the obvious chance that Creative would write her out of the main event by having her lose her number one contendership–like they did when she legitimately became the No. 1 contender.
The path of least resistance is to put Chyna up against someone she has a history, in and out of storyline with, someone who can be counted on to sell for her and work the best match he can out of her.
“In real life”, Chyna turns on Triple H the night after the Royal Rumble, joining The Rock in the Corporation. But with Chyna as No.1 Contender, this move yields a net loss in tension and audience investment.
The roles are not interchangeable; Triple H and The Rock have an enmity at the root of their respective careers. Their feud elevated them from the midcard, and would persist into their World Title matches. They’d both rather have Steve Austin as a road trip buddy than be on the same side of anything.
So Triple H is shoehorned into the main event of WrestleMania 15, under the guise of wanting to protect Chyna from harm (as would Eddie Guerrero when Chyna defended her Intercontinental Title against Kurt Angle in 2000). This massages somewhat the perceived detriment The Rock defending his World Title to a woman and inverts the typical “underdog/favorite” dynamic of WrestleMania main events: The Rock must now defend his title against two world class athletes who eat, travel, and sleep together. The real life history of Chyna and Triple H would be written into the storyline because Vince just wouldn’t be able to help him-fucking-self.
Triple H becomes champion. He either turns on Chyna after they dispose of the Rock, just like he turned on Mick Foley after they disposed of the Rock at WrestleMania 2000, or Chyna gets some bogus injury spot and Triple H beats The Rock with naught but grit.
Any which way, Triple H is the champion, Chyna has made a precedent. Does he still go heel and marry an unconscious Stephanie McMahon? Does he force Earl Hebner to reverse Chris Jericho’s World Title win? Who knows. With Triple H, all that’s certain is death, taxes, and those fucking veggie platters.
2. The Greatest Heel That Never Swerved
WrestleMania XV initiates the Rock/Austin trilogy of main events, and arguably the sharpest plot twist in WWE’s history, when Steve Austin caved into his frustration and covetousness at WrestleMania X7, accepting help from his nemesis Mr. McMahon to defeat The Rock, turning heel and putting to bed an era of “man really, really hates his boss” that did it’s damndest to carry WWE through the Monday Night Wars.
If Chyna won the ‘99 Rumble, The Rock and Triple H is the sensible main event picture. Stone Cold is stomping on Big Show or Mick Foley or a half-eaten bag of chips that wasn’t salty enough for his liking on the upper mid card. Maybe he lays in wait for Triple H, and the young champion is beset by the wily, unscrupulous veteran. Or maybe he blames Chyna for putting distance between him and the prize that means everything.
I’m not suggesting every change would necessarily jive with your nostalgia or be “for the better”. It’d be great, while I’m Wonderful Wizard, to just cut out Katie Vick and the Invasion in my fantasy timeline. But it’s not fair to put that on Chyna, even as a thought experiment. She did the best she could with what she had, which at times wasn’t much.
Frankly, Steve Austin would sell out Madison Square Garden wrestling Gerald Brisco on dialysis. He would have found a way to make it.
3. Misogyny Crashes at the Heat Exchange
The effectiveness of roughing up a woman in attaining heat is premised on the expected absence of retribution. It makes you a bad guy because they “can’t fight back”. If Chyna makes it to the main event, she’ll have gone farther than the Dudley Boyz or Jeff Jarrett.
The heat signature of attacking a woman is diminished–in theory. No one will buy Stacy Kiebler challenging the Dudleys to a TLC match as revenge for being put through a table (unless the match stipulation is who can give the best cuddles and chicken soup, which I would watch the shit out of). But the forward motion of one, regardless of interconnectedness, enables the progression of others.
Chyna wrestling a man in 1999 was Jim Ross’ idea of blasphemy. Today, numerous promotions around the world have regular intergender wrestling as part and parcel of their programming. Chyna competing for the World Title at WrestleMania opens the door for women to get their heat back.
Every episode of Chris Jericho’s podcast in which he is not reminded that his storyline involved tying a woman to a chair and beating her with a hammer, recreating Sean Penn’s abuse of Madonna, is a thorn in the side of justice.
4. The Rise (and/or Collapse) of a Women’s Division
At WrestleMania XV, Sable defeated Luna Vachon to win the Women’s Title, despite the objections of everyone not currently masturbating to a picture of Sable (admittedly few at the time) that she was a terrible in-ring performer and was not a believable champion. Vachon had the skill, pedigree, and presence to be a champion–but in women’s competition, WWF erred on the side of fan appeal, i.e. not women.
Some of the most beloved indie darlings of independent women’s wrestling go their entire careers without ever trying out for or considering WWE–it’s been understood for decades that it’s not a respectful place for women. The sight of a woman in the main event picture would incur a diaspora of women’s performers into the promotion. The flourishing influx of talent would elevate the Women’s division–or kill it instantly.
Niche singles divisions have diminishing returns. By putting “World” in front of Heavyweight and making it the focus of your shoes, it inflicts a bias onto other divisions. No one wants to stay in the cruiserweight divsion if it doesn’t mean main event, and once a cruiserweight competes for the actual “World” title, a return to their division of origin is seen as a graceful phase-out.
After two IRL Intercontinental Title runs, Chyna won the Women’s Title at WrestleMania X-7 in a squash match, defended it once, and was dismissed from the company. The women’s division could become a thriving facet of the show, or a river styx where performers who have displeased the company or are set to retire are put to pasture.
(Would either be any worse than pillow fight battle royales and Harvey Whippelman winning the title in drag?)
5. Madusa Miceli wins WCW World Cruiserweight Title Cleanly
At WCW’s Starrcade of the same year, Madusa defeated Evan Karagias for the WCW Cruiserweight Title, after three minutes and a low blow from Evan’s turncoat manager Spice. There’s no doubt that Madusa was the better wrestler and deserved to win. Evan Karagias has never appeared in a wrestling game because three of his five “moves of doom” are “stand still and grimace while someone hits you with a moonsault.”
A lot of hullabaloo is heaved in the direction of a woman cleanly defeating a man. According to Chyna, Jeff Jarrett demanded $300,000 to drop the Intercontinental Title to her. It’s not a stretch to presume that WCW, who advertised the prevalence of run-ins in their matches, had to assuage Karagias with a poorly choreographed interference spot for him to drop the title to Madusa, who is one of the greatest wrestlers alive, regardless of gender or your feelings on barefoot wrestlers.
Madusa wrestling men and winning men’s belts was a clear attempt to parrot the motions of their competitors, if at a fraction of the pace. A woman in WWF competing for the world title could have at least given Madusa the clean win, if not opened her up to competing for other men’s titles.
The greatest good, however, would be setting a precedent to whiny mid-card moonsault fodder that your ego is not greater than the talent and career of women with actual talent and drive for the business.
If given proper training and consistent writing, anyone can get over. The same fans who pop for The Rock’s annual WrestleMania appearance used to greet him with “Die Rocky Die”. I don’t think Batista’s recent main event run went a single match without a “boring, boring, boring” accompaniment. You can hire the biggest men, you can put them at the top of the show–but overness is a collaborative process with the performer, writer, and audience.
Women can be over, if you let them.
Read Part Two Here!