Tag Archives: Heel

RuPaul’s Drag Race | WTF! Wrestling’s Trashiest Fighters

I tell everyone the same story about how I got into RuPaul’s Drag Race: on the first weekend that I was free from producing my first sketch show I woke up with nothing to do and decided to marathon the whole show. Imagine my elation when my second episode into the new chapter in my life had a challenge centred around my all-time love, professional wrestling. This episode was guest judged by two basketball players because who else would have a intersectional understanding of wrestling and drag queens.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the format of RuPaul’s Drag Race, it is a reality competition hybrid between America’s Next Top Model and Project Runway featuring drag queens.

At the start of the episode, the sound for the controversially named transphobic slur equivalent of Tyra Mail shows up and RuPaul relays a message filled with fighting allusions to give the queens a hint of what’s to come. RuPaul, out of drag, then emerges with a mini challenge that has the queens putting their padding abilities to the test. The queens are given 30 minutes to make the best bum pads they can and then must present their creation. It’s kind of like in school when you’re put into groups, are given a discussion question, and then need to report your findings to the rest of the class, except with cushions you’re stuffing in your pants. Now the real winners of the challenge may not actually be who you, the viewer, think should win. As mini challenge winners tend to help storylines along, they’re wins for the sake of kayfabe. Phi Phi O’Hara, Willam and Chad Michaels are selected as the winners and are gifted the opportunity to pick the queens they will work a match with, essentially.

The Drag Race faithful are then taught their first pieces of wrestling lingo: faces and heels. Tiny baby me who knows all about wrestling applauds this information. Ru says three guys who were in town for PWG and happened to be SAG members will be teaching the queens a few moves that they will use in their in-ring debuts. The first time I watched this episode I only recognized one of them so I’m really curious to see who I freak out about this time.

Hey! It’s Joey Ryan! He’s here to show us how to train people and not be an asshole like Bill DeMott! So nice to see him with a glimmer of hope in his eyes that one day he’d get a developmental deal with WWE. I still don’t know who Hector Canales or who Ryan “Master of Submissions” Taylor are. So I’m as bad of a wrestling fan as I was in 2013, good to know.

Joey Ryan basically shows them all the moves they’re going to perform and Phi Phi worries about Lashauwn’s performance and if she’ll take it seriously. They’re learning how to wrestle in a day, this stuff will not be on any PWI match of the year lists anytime soon, but at the same time, Lashauwn is not committing to the rehearsal as much as she should be.

Team Willam comes in for training and Joey Ryan tries to get the queens to work a crowd. Jiggly’s heel persona is a lot like one of those out of control teens on Maury, while The Princess has checked out and can’t really get into being a heel. Willam reads The Princess for her muted heel tactics. You’d think that a bunch of catty queens who love to tear one another to shreds would come to light given a challenge that forces them to take the piss out of one another.

Team Chad then comes in and oop! Madame’s ankle! Again! It’s been a constant excuse of her throughout the episode, that and her lack of athletic ability. Despite that, LaQueer’s characterization is really working in the rehearsal.

Now that the practice bit is over with, let’s go back to the workroom where Ru can terrify the girls and make them question their decisions. Phi Phi has booked herself as a babyface and gave Kenya Michaels and Latrice Royale a bearded gimmick. RuPaul worries about the choice, not realizing that over a year after this episode was broadcast, beards would be all the rage in professional wrestling. It’s a good thing RuPaul isn’t a real booker.

RuPaul also says “people watch wrestling because they wanna be excited, they wanna be turned on, they want beauty” and… on the surface I really, really, REALLY want to disagree, but as I recall that I had a boy band crush on The Shield in my day I know that he’s still kind of right. It’s just annoying to have it brought up in the context of … what I guess is supposed to be women wrestling, and women’s wrestling already has a pretty bad rap.

Promos! RuPaul understands wrestling even just a little. Each tag team gets their own backstage segment. Introducing LA’s Finest, a lazy blonde bimbo cheerleader gimmick, and The Bitter Betties. LA’s finest are obviously billed to be the faces but they admit they put hair growing tonic into Bitter Betties shampoo.

tr

Phi Phi and Lashauwn use vanity as their gimmick, which unbeknownst to them is actually a common heel trope. So the story is really not strong enough. Another downside to teaching drag queens to wrestle and expecting them to be ring ready in a day is they don’t know how to sell moves to save their life. Kenya Michaels was really the savior of this group, her energy was right and she was the perfect size for excellent double team opportunities. Phi Phi hits a clothesline like a wet noodle and pulls out a blush brush. This match is no makeup disqualification. The finish has Latrice throwing Kenya onto Lashauwn with a cross body for the win. Highlight of their whole bit was Latrice really owning the “I’m a big bitch” gimmick and tossing tag team partner Kenya into the ring.

Team Willam is up next, and once again the backstage segment does not clear up who is a face or a heel or what the point of the beef is well enough. Willam and Dida are equally a decent promo but Jiggly really has that ruthless agression on lock. The Princess is just there. The match is the same as the segment, Jiggly outperforms everyone in the group, Dida and Willam are doing an acceptable enough job and the Princess is… there.

Team Chad has the first complete heel tag team of the night, classic freak gimmick, angry and everything. Chad and Madame LaQueer are basically Kevin Sullivan and the One Man Gang except in drag and pretty. Milan and Sharon Needles are pretty much playing the pristine, harmless babyfaces with crabs BECAUSE OF KEVIN SULLIVAN AND ONE MAN GANG MAKING DISHONEST MEN OF MILAN AND SHARON’S BOYFRIENDS. IT ALL MAKES SENSE. FINALLY ONE OF THESE MAKES SENSE.

In ring, Sharon is as talkative in a match as a drunk Dean Ambrose in a death match, they probably use the same references too. LaQueer and Chad knocked it out of the park and Milan’s wrestling wasn’t even shown because it was so obvious who the most successful team of the night was.

For myself and many others this episode of Drag Race was a wonderful amalgamation of two favourite things (the middle of the Drag Race/wrestling Venn Diagram is larger than you think), but I learned very quickly that a drag queen’s perception of a character does not a wrestling character make. Both are amplified and often larger than life, but you need more than just “like me ’cause I’m pretty and sassy.”

 

 

Lana Stands Up For Women, Wrestling Fans Are Outraged

Lately, a lot of women within the WWE have been taking to social media their grievances towards gender inequality. This morning, Lana has joined those ranks. This came as a slight shock to me since she is a woman who puts on a heavy Russian accent and is part of an outdated and fairly racist gimmick.

image

She also tweeted about equal pay and the wage gap. What didn’t surprise me about this whole scenario was the atrocious response that she received on twitter, largely from male fans. From stating that women in the porn industry make more money than men, to the wage gap being a myth, to the divas asking for too much; it’s hard to ignore how butthurt some men are when you question their privilege.

image

A large majority of the complaints are that despite her heelish character, her being a woman who stands up for herself and the rights of other women is just not fair. How could she betray you? Are you telling me that she isn’t really Russian and the Undertaker isn’t really undead and that Naomi doesn’t really hail from Planet Funk? You’re right, we’re all just here to look pretty in the ring and for you to jerk off to.

Wrong.

image

This is an issue that doesn’t just exist in the realm of wrestling, but everywhere. Misogyny is around every bend and if you dare stand up for women you will be bombarded with the tears of many a wrestling fan. A woman standing up for herself and acting as anything other than a sex object should not be what garners her the most heat inside the ring or out.

Knowing that I’m going to encounter a wave of aggression and mansplaining every time I stand up for what I believe in isn’t going to shut me up. Although it would be nice to not have to fear for my safety just for ensuring that I’m treated with dignity and respect. Just because you haven’t personally experienced it, doesn’t mean someone else’s lived experiences aren’t true.

Maybe these fans are right though. Lana does make more than they do as a television personality than they do sitting on their couch at home. Gender inequality and the wage gap is a load of hooey.

image

 

Who’s That Girl? Sensational Sherri Martel

A career like Sherri Martel’s would disrupt the otherwise deftly meticulous managing of women’s talent and identity that has become a trademark of the WWE. The first name only gimmicks and over promoting of an underwhelming Divas reality show allows WWE to effectively own the identities and careers of their talent. Should they tire of their five minute snack break matches, WWE can hold the door open to the inhospitable future that lays before them–where else do you think you’ll go? You aren’t properly trained. You don’t even have a full name like a real person. This is where you belong.

Sherri has a career that defies tethering to a brand identity. A 3 time AWA Women’s Champion and one-time WWF Women’s Champion, she has sassed and sashayed her way onto every major American wrestling promotion, even appearing on TNA before her death a year later. She was the standard bearer for wicked feminine wile in the Federation years, managing Randy Savage, Shawn Michaels, and Ted DiBiase, her deviousness accentuated by exaggerated makeup meant to mask her effervescent beauty and entice the marks to  heap hate and judgment on her.

Even the Heenan family would blush at her career-wide retinue–Harlem Heat, Ric Flair, Shane Douglas, Eddie Guerrero, Art Barr.

image

Sherri’s mad mat grappling chops are undeniable, but her ring psychology outshines some of her male contemporaries. Triple H once intimidated a referee into reversing a title change. That sort of heelery seems half hearted hackery when compared to Sherri berating the referee, without ever acknowledging the opponent she is wearing down with illegal holds. “Are you happy now!?” she screams, breaking the hold and giving her opponent a chance for a comeback. Sherri knew, for better or worse (usually worse) how to manipulate what men found aggravating or even offensive about her.

image

Laying a foundation for women to be fierce in and out of the ring, a formula followed for decades by other valets/grapplers, may have also cost Martel her staying power. She wasn’t tied to a single wrestler (like Miss Elizabeth) and didn’t dramatically change her name or persona when coming into a new promotion (like almost anybody who isn’t a main event star who can leverage their star power against a booking committee’s whim). She was often jobbed out or paired with wrestlers doomed to dodder into obscurity (Tatanka, Marty Jannetty). No one could own her identity. This was before WWE Creative would give you a list of acceptable names, including your real name switched around, that didn’t have the name you’ve used your whole career. This was before WWE set up a whole “starter league” to put established wrestlers through curtain-jerking purgatory to remind them of their new place. Thus Sherri was not always treated sensationally by the business she devoted herself to.

She coached champion tag teams. She took bumps from Hulk Hogan. She brawled in the audience on the independent circuit.

Sherri Martel was tried-and-true journeywoman glue, helping keep the sport together, even while her male counterparts nearly tore the industry apart because they didn’t want to share the spotlight with younger, fresher talent.

A queen if we ever deserved one.