Tag Archives: pro graps

Rousey + Rock: Represent + Repulse

It seems that the WWE is on the path to try to win the “put the most oppressive people on a pedestal in the shortest period of time” award, and for some reason the mass market doesn’t seem to notice or care. Right now I’m going to be touting a seemingly unpopular opinion, and normally I wouldn’t mind, but this is a huge issue: Ronda Rousey’s cameo was by far the worst part of Wrestlemania 31. “But Rousey’s a tough woman who knows how to fight!”, I can hear you all screeching at me. Don’t you worry your pretty little heads, you’ll come to understand soon.

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Let’s rundown what happened on this weekend’s PPV, okay? We learned that it was the night of the irrelevant celebrity, and even made a little bit of a drinking game out of it for our Burning Brawls segment, so cue The Rock showing up even though he isn’t on the card. I can smell his personal brand of home cooked bullshit from a mile away, but against my better judgement I leaned in and listened to what he had to hear. In what was surely turning into Staring Contest: The Match between Steph McMahon, HHH and The Rock, we got glimmering moments in which someone would speak and maybe even fight. Except, to no one’s surprise, we got a whole boat load of misogyny from The Rock himself. Steph’s entire legacy is built on that of Mr. McMahon’s johnson, an image that we all definitely needed planted in front of us. This won’t make Steph back down, she can cut through you with a glare, and that’s a talent that I admire. The Rock reminds all of us that he can’t hit a girl, I think it’s because he’s afraid of Steph, but it’s more likely that he’s a misogynist and believes he has an unfair advantage due to his being assigned male at birth. So, bye bye, Rock.

Wow, what a pointless promo that lasted twice of what the Divas division got for an entire tag match. But wait, there’s a very angry looking woman glaring at him from the front row. I get momentarily excited until I realize it’s fellow transphobe Ronda Rousey. If you don’t remember, earlier this week I weighed in on The Rock’s casual use of transphobic slurs, so I’ll just skip over that bit and focus on the current issue at hand. Ronda is invited to the ring, at his side, to join in the stare down to end all stare downs, before she puts Steph into a pretty nasty looking arm bar and then takes down HHH.

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Here’s where it gets difficult to remain impartial. I get it, I’m genuinely impressed that the WWE no doubt attempted to do something right in the name of entertainment. Someone at some level is obviously up to speed in what’s what and who’s who in popular culture and they managed to book someone who is currently relevant in the world of sports entertainment. This is following them having let #DadFight take the stage and show us what old broken down wrestlers who no longer have that it factor look like for more than 30 seconds. They also convinced the WWE to let a woman who isn’t a valet, or related to someone important within the company, step into the ring and have lengthy airtime. And lastly, HHH agreed to take a bump from a woman. (Yes, I’m fully aware he took one from Brie last year.) These are all extremely impressive and I’ll give them their props… but I’m taking them away since they massively fucked it up. Intention isn’t magic, and I know you tried but trying doesn’t always give you a passing grade. And, Ronda Rousey, I’m here to tell you that neither does being a cis white woman.

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This tough little number who just took down HHH is the same woman who won’t pipe down about how it’s unfair for fellow MMA fighter, Fallon Fox, to fight in the women’s division. Her reasoning is because Fallon has made the choice to be a trans woman. You read that correctly. In the expert scientific opinion of Ronda (I hope you can smell my sarcasm), Fallon has made the decision to be trans and therefore shouldn’t be allowed to fight women who have had the fortune of being assigned female at birth. This does not apply, however, to intersex folk because they don’t have control over how they went through puberty. Ronda, among other medical experts such as Joe Rogan, tout statements such as “She can try hormones, chop her pecker off, but it’s still the same bone structure a man has”  as their main talking point in the advantage that Fallon has over the cis women within the UFC. All of this, but she has no issue judo throwing HHH. Because, even if it isn’t about her ability to fight Fallon, it would give the wrong social message.

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WWE, you’re continuing to give me the wrong social message as a queer “fan”, and I use that term loosely. It’s obvious that despite your campaigns and your pleas that we’re not welcome here. The internet’s been all a twitter about the idea of Ronda making yet another appearance on your show, which you entertained on last night’s RAW commentary, and the only acceptable appearance she should make is one where her and Brock Lesnar have a match to the death, and the other one implodes after their success of destroying on of their own kind. My universe, and that of the WWE, will be a much happier place once this comes to fruition. Until you’re ready to reach that point, keep Brock on his kayfabe suspension, and the only garbage people I want to see on screen from this point forward are the following:

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Fan Edition | Grapple Kitty

Each week, we aim to highlight some of the best women in wrestling and that includes the fans too.

Kicking off the Fan Edition of “Who’s That Girl?” is @grapplekitty

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Name: Kitty

Age: 25

Location: New York City

Describe your ringside style: Colourful, casual, and comfortable. I rarely wear t-shirts in public, as I am more of a blouse and sweater person. I actually wore a floral blouse to a wrestling show in 2012. I own only three wrestling related shirts. I just ruined my Sami Zayn shirt, and my other shirt is promotion-specific, so this was my only option for the last wrestling show I attended.

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How did you become a wrestling fan?: I grew up watching wrestling, specifically WWE, with my dad. I think I started watching regularly in 1999, with my favourites being Kane, Chris Jericho and the Hardy Boyz. I began seeking out independent and international wrestling in 2011.

Fave Wrestler: Sami Zayn

Fave Promotion: PWG

Fave Move: Chaos Theory

Fave Match: ever? That’s really hard. I think it’s Edge and Christian vs the Hardy Boyz in a ladder match at No Mercy 1999, just because I’ve seen it so many times.

Dream Tag Team: Sasha Banks and Bull Nakano. They’ll look amazing while smashing faces in.
If you had to choose your own entrance theme, what would it be?
Something goofy. Probably the Miley Cyrus/Notorious B.I.G mashup, Party and Bullshit in the USA.

If you’d like to be featured in our fan edition, please email us (femmezuigiri@gmail.com) with 1 or 2 photos of you to be included in the article and we’ll send over a short questionnaire! It doesn’t have to be wrestling tees, it’s whatever you love to wear to shows!

Slam Dunk

Character is collaborative. You can write every intended spoken line and weeks worth of kayfabe tweets, but you can’t move their mouths or blink their pretty eyes for them. At some point, the wrestler enacts agency.

David McLane’s women-based wrestling promotions GLOW and Women of Wrestling were plagued with setbacks by the bucketful, the least of which was a racist run rampant, practically sprinting.

It’s easy, or rather it has been societally programmed as such, to look at women of color playing out race-baiting pantomimes and fall back on the either/or: they must have full agency over their decision to take the part, or they lack all agency in their participation. The truth is stuck in the mud along the border of the rival states. There is room for enjoyment, satisfaction, coercion, and frustration, for working with the system and being exploited by it, simultaneously–the scenario is universal, but the reaction is case by case.

All this to say that WoW’s Slam Dunk made the most out of a preposterly offensive gimmick. She was set up as a (then) heel inversion of Mt. Fiji–the giant undefeated woman. Supposedly banned from the WNBA for being too violent, Slam Dunk compensated a weak knack for grappling with heel ring psychology and the sort of trash-talking swagger of self-love and confident that white America had come to resent so immensely in young black athletes.

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As a face, Bret Hart insisted he was “the best there ever will be”–he wasn’t even the best wrestler on the roster at time. But when Ali called himself the greatest, the soap boxes lined the streets. People begged and pleaded that someone, out there, would be able to teach Ali some manners and his place in society. Babe Ruth calling his shots is now endearing nostalgia–would we tolerate this from a black athlete?

One positive (of many) in building wrestling shows around non-wrestlers who are trained and learn how to be wrestlers as they go: you can actually sell a leg drop. The roughshod choreography of spots, and Slam Dunk’s imposing size difference over her opponents, makes her leg drop look at the very least unpleasant, if not legitimately painful.

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Most women who get into wrestling are taught how to work the crowd as managers–when they finally get a chance to compete in the ring, it’s hard to translate that manager heat into sustaining the audience’s attention. So they try to stick more moves and repeat botched spots and fall apart into a frenzy of awkward half-bumps when the match isn’t working.

Slam Dunk, wisely, spends more time working the crowd than she does her opponent who is, like her, a wrestler by happenstance. You do the best you can with what you have, and many of the women David McLane wrangled for his schemes weren’t given much in the way of respect or concern for safety.

A towering and obnoxious villainess like Slam Dunk is a staple of a successful fledging roster. You can feed them smaller, less experienced wrestlers for heat, then blow it off with an underdog fan favorite with a convincing half-crab (like Slam Dunk’s rival, Roxy Powers).

She may not have a believable big leaguer, but Slam Dunk had the puckered-lip cockiness and stage presence of a reliable heel menace that could have helped WoW cultivate an acceptable product. At least until they could have afforded to give her a less obvious temporary tattoo. Of a basketball.

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David McLane does not have an entry in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s database and frankly this vexes me.

Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II

At WrestleMania 31 this weekend, the entire Divas division will be compressed into a single tag match with no payoff or forward motion for any of its competitors. This bag of crumbs callously offered to long-suffering believers in women’s wrestling in America will purposely underwhelm in the undercard, making assured shit show stoppers Sting vs Triple H and Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns seem like a stumbling attempt to provide an earnest near-miss of what the WWE audiences actually want.

WWE has gotten hip to the social media, but the overwrought hashtags belie veritable tears in the veneer modernity.

A combined age of 167 in your upper card is not progress. Putting 6 of your 8 wrestlers of color on the pre-show is not progress. Shoehorning women into a tag match whose booking goes contrary to the storylines of the wrestlers involved is not a victory lap for diversity and “reaching the people”. It is a stumbling, begrudged forced march into the dark ages of tone deafness that has sunk the industry again and again.

In 1993, one week after Hulk Hogan won the then-WWF title in a main event he wasn’t booked in, Manami Toyota, Toshiyo Yamada, Mayumi Ozaki, and Dynamite Kansai put on a women’s tag match in Osaka that broke the gender barrier like a shoot kick to the face behind the referee’s back, earning the first Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s Match of the Year for women in the sport.

When brought up, the match is often weighed down by hobbyist wrestling historians as an example of how far wrestling had fallen in that time. And, for real: WWF had shit every bed at the Sleep Train with their non-televised title changes, mismanaged younger talent, and letting Hogan job to a fireball.

But this was the same year that Shane Douglas won and then rebuked the NWA Heavyweight Championship to announce the formation of Extreme Championship Wrestling. AAA put on their first TripleMania and NJPW’s Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome brought in 63,500 attendees.

A bleach-proof blemish in WWE’s history, 1993 was nonetheless a formative year for professional wrestling across the world.

This match is not the low hanging fruit of an industry in decline. It is, even without the benefit of understanding the commentary, one of the greatest matches in the history of the sport. Full stop; fight me.

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To Set the Scene

This match was the second of a trilogy of contests between AJW’s Toyota/Yamada and JWP’s Ozaki/Kansai. While WWF spent the mid 90’s (and really, the whole of their ouevre as an organization) pilfering talent, no matter how useless, from their competitors, fans of joshi puroresu (primarily women) witnessed rival promotions kick and scream through a series of wrestling clinics that cinched Japan’s fourth consecutive Match of the Year award.

David McLane struggles to keep a women’s promotion open in America–there are 12 listed-as-active women’s promotions in Japan, notwithstanding women who appear on the more mainstream “men’s” promotions. The competition in Japan is mayhaps more collectivist than individualist–but it is yet, as Dynamite Kansai’s face will attest, strong style stiff.

Continue reading Foreign Objectification: Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai |AJPW Dreamslam II

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.