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Steven Universe “Tiger Millionaire”

If I were to tell you that one of my passions was watching television, especially kids’ shows, you’d probably be none too surprised. Most of us have been introduced to the wonderful world of wrestling through watching it on TV at home. My first wrestling match was a PPV that I watched with my dad while eating off brand chicken nuggets and barbecue sauce in his basement apartment. It doesn’t quite compare to seeing it live, but it still has it’s own unique magic to it that many other sporting events can’t compare to over a television broadcast. Another layer of the wrestling world that I love is that which is portrayed within the confines or non sports entertainment related programming. From cartoons that have the characters portraying their own crafted wrestling personas, to in ring wrestler cameos on beloved sitcoms, reality competitions with a pro graps themed challenge, I’m going to be reviewing episodes and determining whether or not they’re title worthy or if they’re no selling jobbers.

Cartoon Network show Steven Universe has been getting a lot of attention and love lately for all the right reasons, and I’m going to continue that love by highlighting one of it’s earliest episodes: Tiger Millionaire. Having returned from a mission in which Steven gets covered in blood polyps due to Amethyst’s recklessness, the gems all get into an argument and Steven ends up falling asleep encrusted by the polyps in the kitchen alone. Amethyst sneaks out of her room to sneak off into the middle of the night and Steven follows hot on her trail.

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Secret Wrestlers

Cut to the Beach City Underground wrestling promotion, The Purple Puma is introduced as the single most hated wrestler in the promotin’s history. Proving to be a force to be reckoned with in ring, Puma defeats the Lochness Blogster with ease. Amethyst leaves the event extra charged and excited when Steven sneaks up behind her and she gives him a snapmare down to the ground. Steven asks if Amethyst is a secret wrestler with the same expression of joy I receive in response to whenever I reveal to anyone I meet that I’m part of a queer women’s wrestling league. If only we could all be secret wrestlers. Amythest’s explanation as to why she’s a wrestler accurately captures part of the beauty of the art: “In the ring, nobody can tell me what to do, and if they try I hit ‘em in the face with a chair!” Maybe I identify well with this storyline because she plays a vicious heel, and well, but it’s even expressed that: “They love it, well, they hate it but it’s all part of the fun, you know. Everyone here gets that.” Feeling babied by Pearl and Garnet is an excellent excuse to give her this outlet to express herself, and Steven, feeling stifled himself, asks to be a wrestler too. Since Amythest has yet to win the tag team belt, the most superior belt of them all, she obliges his request.

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Introducing: Tiger Millionaire!

Steven heads off to prepare for one of the most important parts of pro wrestling: developing your character and choosing your costume. What good is fighting in front of a crowd if you can’t look awesome doing it? He pulls out a dress shirt, some suspenders and ponders over a tiger mask and a little tiny tiger nose before choosing the nose. To get that sleaze factor that all wrestlers need, Steven slicks his hair down with margarine before rushing over to a sleeping Amethyst to show off his new kicks. His back story is meticulously thought out:

Rich feline industrialist from Jungle Island. Once the single child of the wealthy Tiger family, he clawed out his own destiny making money in the coconut mines.

The Purple Puma’s backstory, however, is solely: Pumas are cool.

Back at Beach City Underground we meet the first tag team of the evening: Concrete Heat and Chunk Truck! The crowd meets, and boos, Tiger Millionaire and we see Lars and Sadie speculating on whether or not Tiger Millionaire is Steven and if it’s going to get creamed or not. Before Steven can climb in the ring, Amethyst stops him to alert him that she’s only using Steven to obtain the belt and she’ll do all the fighting. His biggest concern is whether or not he still gets to wear the costume. Puma knocks out Chunk Truck with ease, but Concrete Heat comes in from behind and slams a pylon on his head. Steven expresses with great upset that “That’s not fair!” and the announcer assures him that “It may not seem fair, but hey, anything goes in wrestling.”

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The Heel Turn

Being the sweet kid he is, no one expected to see Steven play a heel, but he takes this opportunity to bribe Chunk Truck into throwing the match in exchange for a million jungle bucks. What an offer! Excitedly ready to take the offer, he rushes over and Tiger Millionaire opens the briefcase in his face knocking him back. Lars jumps up excitedly, and it looks like our contender has his first fan. Puma knocks out Chunk Truck and lifts Tiger up in celebration for having won the match.

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What would a wrestling show be without your obligatory 80s montage? This features cuts of Tiger Millionaire’s most gruesome feats interspliced with shots of Steven and Amethyst trying to keep their wrestling careers a secret from Garnet and Pearl. Ignoring a match while talking on an a cellphone larger than he is, serving coconuts into an opponent’s jaw with a tennis racket, tossing pages of the Wall Street Jungle down on the mat making the opposition slip and fall are among some of Steven’s most menacing moves. But nothing compares to when record breaking heat comes down on the auditorium and Tiger Millionaire buys out the entire soda stand, and instead of sharing it with his thirsty fans he throws all the soda down on the ground and stomps in the puddle with galoshes. Wanting to maintain kayfabe, when approached by Lars to sign his soda cup, Tiger swats it out of the way onto the ground shouting “you couldn’t afford it!” Lars tosses his Tiger Millionaire tie on the ground and sulks away, because Tiger truly is the cruelest creature on the planet.

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Can’t we just wrestle?

Steven has a hard time separating his wrestling persona from real life and how he is perceived. Puma and Tiger are paired up against a gorgeous, hyper masculine tag team duo. The crowd has turned completely against Tiger, including prior fan Lars toting a “Tiger is a jerk!” sign. Garnet and Pearl show up to stop the match, upset that Steven and Amethyst have been sneaking off to this circus of violence. It’s the final straw when Garnet tells them to go home, Amythest pushes her and they have a violent brawl utilizing their powers. Steven attempts to calm things down and make a genuine face turn for the betterment of everyone involved. He picks up the mic to tell us Purple Puma’s backstory:

He was the wildest cat in the jungle, so wild the other cats couldn’t take it. So she, I mean he, went to look for somewhere he fit in, somewhere with other people who felt misunderstood. That’s why we’re all here: to be wild and free, and bodyslam each other, and wear cool costumes, and make up nicknames!

The most important question levied by Tiger is “Can’t we just have this? Can’t we just wrestle?” Taking that sweet, sweet heel spot Garnet steps in to reveal she is part of the Notorious Order of Wrestling Haters and they can’t allow that. This gets the crowd on the side of the Jungle Duo, including the sour Lars. But wait, The Good Looking Gang show up with the ladder, are they going to steal the belts? No! They help the Jungle Duo up and help save wrestling.

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On a list of shows that portray wrasslin’, this one is definitely of main event quality. Heck, they could do an entire spin off series about Tiger Millionaire and The Purple Puma and I’d buy it.

Boys Will Be Bigots

“He hurt my feelings.” “Oh well, boys will be boys.” I truly wonder how many times Vince McMahon, and the majority of the talent within the WWE, have heard this excuse used towards their actions over the years. I’m of the mindset that once is too many, but here we are continuing to wrestle with homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, you name it.

So, here we have a company that totes it’s anti bullying campaign, Be A Star, and does everything in their power to go against what they claim to stand for. Hot off the heels of hugely problematic trainer and alleged sexual harasser, Bill DeMott, stepping down from his position within the company, you’d think they’d want to push away from this troubling pattern they’ve been stuck in for so long. Instead, they pay big money to resign Brock Lesnar as one of their mainstays. This is more than just my personal feeling about his wrestling prowess, or lack there of, but solely aimed at what message they are sending by promoting a vocal homophobe and unrepentant stalker. He has, on the record, stated “I don’t like gays. Write that down in your little notebook. I. Don’t. Like. Gays.” Not only is he still signed with the WWE, but he is their champion and the face that they continue to push. They also spent a lot of money to keep him around, and if that isn’t a glowing endorsement of his behaviour, I don’t know what is.

People are going to argue that one person doesn’t constitute a problem, or point out that them keeping queer talent on the roster shows that they are trying to change. I wish I could believe that was the case, but when Darren Young came out the transparency surrounding their statement and maintaining his career to save face was strong. You had a man who you were trying to push fairly hard, only to bury him in your midcard moments after he came out. Pat Patterson has had his sexuality ‘known’ by the public for quite some time, but he only came out officially on WWE Legends’ House. There has also been some allusion from wrestlers, such as Roddy Piper, towards treatment along the lines of sexual harassment from Patterson in the locker room when they were first starting out.

Let me run down a list of other horrific examples of this problem, past and present, that drive this point home.

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Billy and Chuck

Billy and Chuck became a tag team duo that’s sole purpose was to incite gay panic. How quaint. They would have extremely homoerotic workout routines and eventually were engaged to be wed live on television. Fast forward to their ceremony, they are about to be pronounced husband and husband and there is a freak out where it’s revealed that it was all a huge publicity stunt and they weren’t really gay.

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Mark Henry

Mark’s entire gimmick is based around him being a lady’s man. Upon attempting to woo Chyna, who was having none of it, Chyna’s friend Sammy was sent back to take care of Mark. Here’s where I point out to you that Sammy is a cis man dressed as a woman, his purpose is to trick Mark into having sex with him. In wonderful attitude era fashion, we see footage of Sammy going down on Mark Henry backstage. Mark starts to feel up Sammy and then proclaims “Sweet Jesus! You got a penis!” Sammy rips off his wig to reveal he’s actually a man and Mark Henry runs to the washroom to throw up.

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John Cena

It hasn’t been long since John Cena was still rap battling his opponents before a match, most of which were peppered with slurs and wholly oppressive in nature. It didn’t take long before GLAAD actually stepped in to address this issue and steer them away from this continuing to happen. This is yet another man who the WWE has at the helm of their company, and is supposed to be a role model to children, or at least that is how he’s marketed.

This list can go on and on, and that is really disheartening. There are lesbian panic storylines surrounding Rosa on E! Total Divas, the countless times that Lawler has called someone a fag on commentary, the time that the Godfather called Regal a fag in effort to entice a fight, The Rock saying John Cena’s wristbands make him look like a bloated transvestite Wonder Woman ready to fight crime, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Cheap pops aren’t worth it, and there’s no way you can look me dead in the eye and tell me “But he makes us money” when you’re spending ungodly amounts to keep them signed and have my believe you and condone your actions. Once again though, I’m none too convinced that your real slogan isn’t “WWE: You like what we tell you to like.”

Who’s That Girl? Madusa (Alundra Blayze)

It’s not so often that you get blacklisted by a company for 20 years only to be honoured and inducted into their Hall of Fame afterwards. But, then again, it’s not so often that we come across wrestlers that are the calibre of Madusa.

Madusa, short for Made in the USA, has held 6 separate titles around the world, including the WWF Women’s Championship on three separate occasions. That title is the one that Madusa would later trash live on WCW Monday Nitro stating that this is what she thinks of the WWF Women’s Championship belt. This was an extra huge deal considering that she was brought in to the WWF to help revive the women’s division since that title had been vacant for the three years leading up to her debut. She debuted under the name Alundra Blayze, however, because she had trademarked the name Madusa, which Mr. McMahon didn’t want to pay the license fees for. In other milestones, Madusa also fought Leilani Kai for the title at Wrestlemania X, marking the first women’s match at Wrestlemania since the first one ever.

In addition to all these titles held around the world, Madusa was the first woman ever to be awarded with Pro Wrestling Insider’s “Rookie of the Year” title and was the first foreign wrestler to sign a contract with All Japan Pro Wrestling. Ultimately, Madusa retired from pro wrestling around the time that it was rumoured WCW was going to be bought out by the WWF. The other reason was that she didn’t like the direction that women’s wrestling was headed in being less about actual wrestling and more geared towards strip matches.

One of the strongest matches Madusa ever held was a series of matches in her feud against Bull Nakano. These matches took place in both the USA and Japan, and she actually lost the WWF Women’s Championship Belt to Bull Nakano while in Japan. Her ability to fluidly move from heel to baby face has always impressed me; a lot of what factored in the response to Madusa herself was where the match was taking place in the world. Her style was very fast paced and using finishers that required great agility such as a bridging German suplex or a hurricanarana.

Outside of the ring, Madusa also acted as a manager to several great wrestlers including, my personal favourite, The Macho Man Randy Savage. Here’s to hoping that her induction into the WWE Hall of Fame will help light the fire under their asses they need to build up the women’s division once more. Sadly, they haven’t learned their lesson yet and we aren’t slated to see a title match at Wrestlemania XXXI on Sunday.

Divas Do Double Duty

Monday Night RAW starts and it’s my weekly internal debate of “Do I sit through three hours of poorly booked wrestling or do I follow my twitter feed and live off the recaps from my followers?” I decided to give it a shot to see if Vince was actually going to follow through with his vague promises.

#GiveDivasAChance started trending on twitter 2 weeks ago and it still shows no sign of going away. The WWE tries really hard to be on the ball in terms of staying current, so every week Michael Cole will address anything related to the promotion that is trending on twitter. It popped up during RAW as a result to the Divas match clocking in at less than a minute; that’s right, we have male “Superstars” who have longer entrance sequences on the show than the women were allotted to fight a complete match. Despite all this, the announcers stayed mum. Fast forward to the next day and we see good ol’ Mr. McMahon tweeting the following:

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Does Vince hear us? Is he actually going to take a chance to let us influence the narrative of his product or are we going to see a small glimmer of hope and just slide back into the way it’s been. Their current motto is “WWE: Then. Now. Forever.”; if that doesn’t show a resistance to change, I don’t know what does. Take a skip ahead to last Monday, Michael Cole was given the go ahead to address the hashtag which was trending yet again. He addressed it on air by mentioning that it was trending, but nothing further than that. It seemed your typical RAW with drawn out matches and in ring babbling and added in celebrity appearance since Wrestlemania is just around the corner. This week’s celebrity was Wiz Khalifa who got EIGHT minutes of airtime. The Divas got five minutes total. A five minute match isn’t that atrocious, it’s at least four minutes more than they got the week prior… except this was combined between two matches.

Vince McMahon heard our cry, we kept watching and he “Gave the Divas A Chance” by letting the women have more than one match one the show… but they needed to combine both matches to be shorter than an adequate men’s match. To put some icing on this bittersweet cake, partway through the second match featuring Naomi and Natalya, their husbands (Tyson Kidd & Jimmy Uso) started brawling at ringside and the cameras followed the men. What you’re telling us, Vince, is you hear us but you don’t care.

Who knows if this is a tipping point for WWE in how they treat women, but we need to remember that the buck doesn’t stop with them and they aren’t the end all be all of wrestling. This problem has trickled down to indie level promotions as well. Unless a promotion is all women, such as SHIMMER, League of Lady Wrestlers and Valkyrie, or it’s a women’s event as an exception, it’s extremely commonplace for there to be one women’s match on a card… if any are included at all. Bonus points if your sole women’s match is intergender! There are more than enough talented wrestlers who aren’t cis men that can be booked on your show; what’s the harm in mixing things up?

Women’s wrestling is moving up from what is seen as the mid card “bathroom break” and I will continue to bitch and moan until people like Vince are sick of hearing me and actually make an effort to change. Let’s see if this trend continues and whether or not it’s a genuine effort, or if they’re just pandering to keep us quiet.