By god, a second wind! Last week, we dreamed up a new genealogy of women’s wrestling–how would wrestling be different if Chyna had won the ‘99 Royal Rumble, thus earning the right to challenge for the World Title at WrestleMania.
You can read the first fall of the future Slammy nominee for “Most Indulgent Thinkpiece” here.
6. So I Guess We Have To Talk About “The Hand”
Wrestling has a rigid margin of sustainability for retiring performers, even by the standards of sports. There aren’t a lot of “I’ve been there, let me give you my perspective” analyst jobs for a sport that’s not real. If you can even think straight. If a year round schedule of ladder drops and botched facebusters, rinse and repeated, multiplied by X, hasn’t made your mind a hash of static hiss.
We can’t get jobs with college degrees and years of experience in the field–how are professional athletes supposed to “start over”?
For many retired wrestlers, it’s the slaughterhouse of “real life” or the petting zoo of self-parody.
Ron Simmons was the first black world heavyweight champion in wrestling’s history. He ended his career wandering backstage with a single word printed on his shirt that many watching the show weren’t allowed to say in school.
In the Attitude Era, Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young were featured in a number of gross-out comedy segments. Veritable architects of women’s wrestling competed in swimsuit competitions and complained of the declining virility in American men from under chest-high motel comforters.
Mae Young got knocked up by Mark Henry and then gave birth to a plastic hand. I don’t know how to obfuscate the horror of this in floral verbiage. It is perhaps one of the more egregious excesses of the Attitude Era.
I’m not suggesting WWE would have hit a mental block with new ways to humiliate the women in their employ–or that Fabulous Moolah’s reign of backstage politics that quashed the careers of many younger wrestlers didn’t deserve at least some consequence.
The best women’s wrestler in WWE at the time was wrestling men. The rest were tripping over their high heels in stripteases masked in the trappings of competition. I cannot help but interpret this as a looming assertion, a warning to current and future women’s talent: your body, whether it sexually excite or sexually revulse our audience, is all we will ever make use of.
I like to think Chyna competing for the World Title would, in addition to imploring a new wave of indie women’s wrestlers into WWE, give Moolah and Mae Young something else to do with themselves. Young and Moolah as the bickering grandmas giving Chyna old-timer advice and encouragement in a vain attempt to vicariously recapture their glory might not have “put butts in the seats” but think of how well that would have aged, say, 15 years later, where women are creating hashtags to convey to you the potential of your own roster.
7. Intercontinental Entitled
The WWE IC Championship is a good idea. Titles tell stories. It gives wrestlers, and therefore the audience, something to invest in. If a feud fails to find its chemistry, it can always orbit around the mutually exclusive desire to hold a title.
Cometh the caveat: it’s now completely useless. There are no differing restrictions or regulations between the World Title, the IC Title, and US Title.
The current holder is a former World Champion. In the last 10 IC title reigns, the title was held by a former World Champion 6 times. It is no longer the “up and comer, not ready for main event” championship. It and the US Title are just a holding pattern for a bloated main event roster.
Where’s Jim Ross when someone is actually exposing the business?
Losing the main event at WrestleMania (per my “Triple Threat” scenario in part 1), Chyna slips back down to the card and wins the IC Title. She wasn’t ready for permanent main event status; she’s coming into her own in due time.
Chyna was billed as the “9th Wonder of the World”. In an earlier era, she’d be escorted to the ring by a prancing Jimmy Hart, heralding her unfortunate victim’s poor luck like a crazed carnival barker. As an IC Champion, and one who proved she could work the main event at the biggest show of them all, Chyna cements the true purpose of the IC Title–it’s anything goes. WWE’s first ladder match and first triple threat match were contested for the IC Title. It would blossom, under the reign of Chyna, into an anarchic inversion of the World Title. No contract signings, no “beat these three men and you can have a chance to beat another man” storylines. Just get in the ring.
And this could, in time, lead to women competing against other women for traditionally “men’s” belts. Like the Number 2 headband of Afro Samurai, the IC Title is an open invitation for mayhem.
There is no use for a hierarchy of titles in a sport that does not meaningfully recognize weight classes.
8. Where In The World Is Eddie Guerrero?
I’m not so radical as to, even facetiously, posit myself contrary to the reality that Latino Heat was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. If this were a strictly “general wrestling” site, I would gladly take up a whole article just to discuss how his blend of strong style and lucha libre helped pave a demand for cruiserweight wrestlers in the United States.
Before he came to the WWE, Eddie G was well-respected, but not well written. The greatest hits of his WCW heel run included not being a very effective coach for his nephew Chavo and making his former friend Rey Mysterio Jr wear an oversized shirt as a stipulation of beating him. He formed an analog to the nWo, stocked with luchadores–it, like the actual nWo, came to encompass almost everyone in the division. Far from the direst indignities Vince Russo would force Mexican talent to endure, having a band of Mexicans form a blatant, intentional knock-off of a stable of white Americans is in pretty bad taste.
WWE signed The Radicalz as a pot shot on a staggering opponent. They took WCW’s core of technical wrestlers, gave them their turn on the catwalk helping big bad Triple H in his various schemes , then deftly ushered them to the mid-card. Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn fizzled out after being given bad relationship gimmicks, Malenko the serial adulterer and Saturn romantically involved with a mop. Romance angles are the death knell of the midcarder.
When Eddie Guerrero returned to the WWE in 2001, having missed the tail end of the Attitude Era and the WCW Invasion due to complications of his alcoholism, his career was on a very wet precipice. He’d been off TV for a while, and both of his previous American employers were now bought out by his current boss. There wouldn’t be much for him left in the US if he couldn’t get over.
His relationship with Chyna is probably one of the best romantic storylines in the sport. Eddie had an earnest charm–and good comedic awareness. You could almost overlook his creepiness and obvious intent to betray Chyna the moment it suited him; you believed that they could work. Eddie was smaller than Chyna, and that made his professions of love seem summoned from a place of reverence. He worshipped her, like a god. Most romance angles involve a wrestler dating a diva maybe 1/3 of his size. When Eddie won the IC Title from Chyna in a triple threat with Kurt Angle, he pretended to have “fallen while checking up on her” because he knew she could throw him around if they went toe to toe.
His admiration of his own private Amazonian, and numerous betrayals of her, laid the groundwork for his “Lie, Cheat, Steal” gimmick, which would transcend the face/heel dichotomy and give him an appeal irrelevant of his current booking.
Teaming with Chyna helped Eddie Guerrero prove his capacity to do it “WWE style”–with character.
So what if Chyna’s not in the picture? If she’s wrestling Triple H at WrestleMania in a non-singles match, that feud has a few more months of shelf life. Even if Chyna works the IC Division, even if Triple H has already dropped the belt, they’re having a singles program. It’s just due diligence in booking. A main event “former lovers, now enemies” angle isn’t a load you blow on Judgment Day or Bad Blood. That’s a “Big Four” match. She’s not entertaining midcard suitors anytime soon. Even if she and Eddie are booked together, the focus will be entirely on her and her forward motion.
As Part 1 played out: not all of the changes would be “for the better”. It’s possible, if Chyna was pushed to the main event, Eddie Guerrero might not have had his break in the WWE. Women are not interchangeable props. Think of them more as actors–when you realize their opinions of your script effect how well it’s performed and how readily the fans accept it, you might start to write them better!
9. Valet in the Shadow of Death
It is a time of revolt. After Essa Rios is found flirting with The Godfather’s cadre of sex workers, a jealous Lita challenges him for the Light Heavyweight Title. Test and Albert pass worried glances to Trish Stratus at ringside, knowing if she deems either of them to be the weak link, she’ll just replace them with herself–it’s a marketable acronym any way you spell it. Chyna has shown the way. Turn on your male masters. Take their titles.
In a nameless room backstage, the devil slicks his balding ponytail and quivers his lips, as if savoring the anticipation of his own words.
Vince McMahon clenches–everywhere. Triple H should’ve just stayed down at WrestleMania. Give him federal prosecutors, give him IRS hounds.
“You have a procedural, and frankly a financial imperative, to give my client, Chyna, the proper world title shot she was granted by winning the Royal Rumble. It’s the 21st Century. You can’t deny women equal opportunities in the office. It’s the law. Trust me. I know the law. I’ve been sued more times than the National Enquirer.”
Anything but Paul Heyman.
10. Ring The Damn Bellas
In January 2014, the Bella Twins pushed for a Divas Tag Title. It seems superfluous to have a Divas singles title when any match of any worth will be immediately modified to be a tag team match.
Tag team wrestling is important. It helps tell more complex stories, allows for more complicated spots (or body counts, at the least), helps young wrestlers learn the trade and helps old wrestlers go down swinging. For women to be fully integrated into wrestling, they must have meaningful tag team competition.
Still: confining the Bellas to a single gender tag division might be wondrously under-utilizing them.
They are the perfection of the twin gimmick realized. The Harris Brothers, The Bashams–all heel twinsies strove to have the charm and heat of The Bella twins.
They have personalities, mic and camera presence–and they fight all the time. They look alike but they don’t think alike!
SEE THAT? THAT’S SHIT. THAT’S NOT EVEN 101. THAT COMES IN THE SYLLABUS THAT YOU GET BEFORE YOU EVEN TAKE THE 101 CLASS.
IT IS STILL A BETTER NARRATIVE THAN ANY OTHER TWINSIES GIMMICK IN THE WHOLE FUCKING HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.
With women regularly in the main event, they’d probably already be 2 time champions by now. You’re gonna tell me that even the most ardent of discerning misogynists in pro wrestling couldn’t buy The Bellas legitimately beating The Ascension? Or The Miz & Mizdow?
You’re telling me that The Bellas vs The Usos couldn’t get at least a three star rating, if the Bellas got some actual training?
Just think: more twin magic than David Copperfield trying to make his reflections penis disappear. It’s the storytelling we deserve.
Maybe you’re right.
Teams of smaller, scrappy
wrestlers who sometimes cheat
or have trouble getting along
never go far in this business.
Good thing Jim Cornette didn’t waste his career manag–