Tag Archives: women

Is There a Place for Total Divas in the Women’s Wrestling Renaissance?

WrestleMania 32 marked not only the largest event in World Wrestling Entertainment history but, more importantly, a change for the better in the way women wrestlers—previously called Divas—are perceived.

Up until Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte wrestled for the newly christened—by legendary women’s wrestler Lita, no less—WWE Women’s Championship in Dallas in April, women in WWE had been officially referred to as Divas since the company trademarked the term in 2008. Previously, they had informally been called Divas amidst consternation as to who actually came up with the term: Sunny or Sable, two women of the Attitude Era who helped set the tone as to how women in wrestling would be portrayed for the better part of two decades.

Branding surrounding WWE Divas reached its pinnacle in 2013 when E! premiered an hour-long reality show entitled Total Divas, which chronicled the lives of mainstays Brie and Nikki Bella, Natalya and Eva Marie, and a rotating cast featuring Paige, Trinity, Alicia Fox, Ariane, Summer Rae, JoJo, Rosa Mendes and Mandy. The upcoming sixth season features the inclusion of Renee Young, Maryse and Lana and begs the question: with the women’s wrestling renaissance, is there a place for Total Divas?

After the presentation of the brand spankin’ new Women’s Championship that mirrors the men’s title, a stark departure from the sparkly, pink, butterfly-shaped monstrosity of the Divas era, and the accompanying press release stating that women wrestlers would now be called female Superstars, I was surprised at the announcement that a new season of Total Divas would be airing on E! later in the year.

To many people’s minds, Total Divas has been a blight on women’s wrestling in recent years, with AJ Lee cutting promos about the show in its early days, Sasha Banks dismissing it in a recent interview and, if my Twitter feed is any indication, many viewers only tuning in for a chance to see Daniel Bryan after his injuries eliminated him from WWE TV. Storylines such as Brie’s struggle to get pregnant, Nattie’s family woes and Eva’s ostracision from the rest of the group tick the requisite reality trope boxes, but Total Divas also touches on important issues couched in rote dramatics that tie themselves up nicely by episode’s end: Rosa’s navigation of pregnancy in a male-dominated industry, Nikki’s aspiration to change how women in wrestling are perceived, Eva’s ambition to become a better wrestler, and Trinity, Ariane and Eva’s reproductive health issues. I’m always one to defend the show on the grounds that seeing how women navigate a male-dominated industry is important and it is often rejected as frivolous bullshit, as so many things aimed at women often are.

However, I’m not sure there’s a place for Total Divas anymore. Firstly, and most obviously, brand recognition of name Diva is diminishing. While playing the show’s theme song to promote any women’s wrestling match, regardless of whether the competitors are part of the cast, is annoying at best and sexist and segregative at worst, WWE cannot justify it come the show’s season six premiere when there is literally nothing linking the show’s title and women wrestlers. How will new WWE viewers make the connection between the women’s wrestling match they’re watching and the cross-promotion urging them to check out the competitors on E! and vice versa? And with the negative connotations of the word diva, is the only similarity between it and female WWE performers the tantrums that they’re goaded into chucking for the cameras? The show could have longevity if its title was changed to something else but that’s risking the loss of an already dwindling audience and undoing all prior marketing.

Whereas I don’t think Total Divas can survive in this new era, it’s spinoff Total Bellas has a chance. Nikki and Brie Bella have always been the cornerstones of WWE’s attempt to market women wrestlers to a reality audience so a show dedicated to them makes sense. With both women possibly out of in-ring action for good, Total Bellas is the logical next step in their—and WWE’s—quest to position them as “the female John Cena[’s]”, who also appears in the show along with Daniel Bryan. Total Bellas could feasibly exist separately from the WWE women’s division and Total Divas.

This is not to say that Brie and Nikki are the vapid models who can’t wrestle that they are so often viewed as. Despite their connections to powerful men (not to mention their mother Cathy’s recent marriage to John Laurinaitis!), the Bellas have shown that they’re in wrestling for the long run. As mentioned above, recent Total Divas storylines have shown Nikki striving to reach the top of the industry and be taken seriously. While Brie’s trajectory on the show has been more about her personal life, during her days as an active wrestler, she was sometimes competing on Raw, SmackDown! and PPVs more than her champion sister.

This defence of the Bellas can also be extended to all of the women wrestlers employed by WWE over the past decade or two, whether or not they appeared on Total Divas, who busted their asses with the little they were given. To quote myself as only the humblest of writers do, I wrote recently for the Special Broadcasting Service that “The new generation of women wrestlers should be praised, and rightly so, but not at the expense of the women of the Divas dynasty that were granted opportunities based largely on their looks as opposed to merit or skill. Women such as Alicia Fox, Nikki Bella, Naomi, Natalya, Beth Phoenix, AJ Brooks, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Melina and countless others did the best with the scraps they were given.”

So I give Total Divas to the end of its upcoming season. Barring a complete overhaul of the title and/or the show as a whole (could a more Breaking Ground-esque Total Divas exist on the WWE Network?), I don’t believe Total Divas is a show that can survive in a niche that relied on it being largely the only representation of women wrestlers on TV. Now that Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte, Natalya and others are being given time to showcase the athleticism of women wrestlers on WWE TV, Total Divas is a relic that belongs in a not too distant past that some fans would rather forget.

Skin Tight Bitch Fight

A month back I teamed up with other members of DMG Toronto as part of their Gym Jam and created Skin Tight Bitch Fight.  Now, that game is live for play in your browser on itch.io.

The game is fairly straight forward, although not too easy to win. Your goal is to play alone, or with a partner, and put on a match that will go over with the crowd. If the crowd isn’t satisfied your next show will have to be cancelled.

Give it a try and support it on itch or my patreon if you can. 🙂

 

Meet the women of Skin Tight Bitch Fight

This weekend I got to partake in my first ever “game jam” with DMG Toronto. A game jam is where you have an finite period of time in which to create a video game, and this was my first time ever setting foot near video games. The theme was “GYM JAM” so Femmezuigiri through our hat in and decided to collaborate with some fellow members of Dames Making Games and create a wrestling game.

The game is still in the beginning development stages but will be playable on Femmezuigiri once it’s complete.

Skin Tight Bitch Fight is a visual novel in which you take over for the league booker who has come down with a nasty case of Hulkamania — the most serious of ailments. Navigating through a sea of pun laden wrestling promos you select your fighter match ups and a few of their moves cooperatively with a partner in an effort to please the crowd. But be careful, if the crowd isn’t happy then they won’t buy tickets to your next show and the promotion will go under. Support the fighters and do your best job booking and agenting these matches so the women can afford to continue on with their wrestling careers.

I’ve decided to give you a sneak peek and introduction to the ladies who make up the roster of Skin Tight Bitch Fight. 

 

Hands up for NXT

NXT has been a force to be reckoned with for quite a while in the WWE, and nothing truly displays its staying power than a block of shows outside of Florida. Last week, the WWE began its first round of touring NXT to cities other than its usual home at Full Sail University, and it was a rousing success. Three shows were planned for the initial tour, two taking place in Philadelphia and the third in Albany, New York. I flew into Philadelphia for the Ring of Honor/New Japan Pro Wrestling show, and thus stayed an extra day in order to catch the first NXT show. Initially there was only one show planned, but the original Thursday date sold out so quickly another show was added for the next evening.

Never having been to Philadelphia or an NXT show before, I was unaware of what to expect, and what I ended up experiencing completely shattered my expectations. We arrived approximately a half hour before the show was scheduled to begin, and the line to the entrance was roughly 3 blocks long at this point. That’s when I first realized this was going to be far more intense than I thought. The show was held in an old theatre and there was exponentially more seating than there looks to be at the weekly shows at Full Sail. I believe the show ended up being sold out, or very close to that, and according to the theatre’s website, it seats roughly 3,000 people.

Our seats were quite good, not close to the ring but in a great spot to see the action, and the NXT crowd is very different from many crowds I’m usually a part. The general age range seemed to be mid-twenties and there were far fewer children and families than one normally sees at a WWE show. My group were also the only women seated in our area, and from discussions with those around us, we collectively had been fans and had seen more shows than the rest. The man sitting directly in front of me confessed he had only been watching wrestling for a little over a year but he is now hooked, and the NXT show was his first live event.

I knew early on I was going to enjoy the evening because the crowd was brought to its feet immediately but the lovely, sinister chords of William Regal’s theme. Regal has been one of my favorite wrestlers since I was a child, so to stand up and bow to the man was a dream. He spoke favorably of NXT and the talent, as well as thanking the crowd for attending. Immediately following Regal was the introduction of Enzo Amore and Big Cass. Honestly, I believe the duo got the loudest pop of the night. In the other matches that followed there were some heavy cheering for favorites (Finn Balor and Sasha Banks being the loudest), but it seemed as though no one in the room sat through Enzo and Cass’s entrance. They of course faced Blake and Murphy and put on a very entertaining match, with tons of “SAWFT” and “HOW YOU DOIN?” chants throughout.

Following that was a fun women’s tag match that pitted the team of Alexa Bliss and Bayley vs Becky Lynch and Dana Brooke. Bayley was a hit with the crowd and everyone was on their feet for her entrance. The match was good and really showed off how great Bayley is at interacting with the crowd and keeping them invested in the match.

The next match was one I had been hoping to see, a triple threat for the title between Kevin Owens, Tyler Breeze and Finn Balor. The three are so incredibly well liked by the NXT Universe, and it was less of a “cheer for your favorite” match as it was a “cheer for absolutely everything” type of match. I particularly enjoyed the entire crowd participating in Balor’s entrance and throwing their hands in the air with him with every crescendo of his music. Owens began the match by leaving the ring and taking a seat ringside, which prompted “SIT OWENS SIT” and “CHILL OWENS CHILL” chants. The three of them worked very well together and most of us were surprised it was not the main event (at least until we realized what the main event would be).

After the conclusion of the triple threat, there was a solid intermission. The show started back up with a bang bang (see what I did there?!) and Mick Foley surprised everyone by arriving and giving a small speech about the amazing amount of talent at NXT. Baron Corbin vs Rhyno was next, and naturally, Rhyno received immense “ECW” chants. Corbin was absolutely playing heel in this match and the crowd was steadily against him, going so far as to alter the “New Day Sucks” chant and clap to a “Cor-Bin Sucks” one. People quickly became bored of the match and it devolved into obnoxious chants for a while, including a chant for The Young Bucks and other Ring of Honor stars, which was predictable seeing as half the crowd attended the Ring of Honor/NJPW shows the nights previous. He seemed to perform well in the heel role though, and after successfully pinning Rhyno follow the End of Days, called out Joey Styles at ringside and ordered him to bring more ECW alums to the show the following day for him to take care of.

One of my personal highlights of the night came next, when NXT papa himself, Triple H, made an appearance. The crowd collectively lost its mind, and even I, who have seen Triple H in person many, many times now, found myself jumping up and down and rocking out. The entire crowd joined in singing his theme, which was one of the weird, but oddly beautiful wrestling moments I’ve experienced. There’s something strangely heartwarming about looking at the person next to you and belting out “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GAME AND HOW YOU PLAY IT” as you jump up and down together like 10 year olds. Triple H walked around the ring and took video and selfies with nearly everyone at ringside, including Mick Foley and Joey Styles. He proceeded to enter the ring and say some words about his passion for NXT and for the talent. He then began to announce the main event, Sasha Banks vs Charlotte, which most of us assumed would headline after the triple threat being pre-intermission.

The crowd for the most part was impressive all night with a few snafu’s, the main one being someone trying to start a “No more divas” chant at this point. Thankfully, not only did the crowd boo and shut the person up, Triple H said something along the lines of ‘sorry man, these women are badass and they’re your main event.’ Unfortunately my camera died during this segment of the show so I have no amazing photos of these two phenomenal women, but it was really a blessing in disguise as I was able to concentrate all my attention on the absolute clinic these two women displayed. Both came out to equally loud cheers, and I’m happy to report that the minute the gross and stale “Sasha’s ratchet!” chants began, they were shot down with the loudest “NO SHE’S NOT” chant I’ve ever heard.

The match between Charlotte and Sasha was brilliant, full of great submission and chain wrestling and a few fun bits thrown in. Charlotte at one point broke out her father’s patented face plant and Sasha responded by Ric Flair strutting over her prone body. There were tons of near falls, outside of the ring attacks, and the final submission to give Sasha the win was beautiful. Both women left the theatre to a standing ovation and plenty of “This is Awesome” chants.

Other matches that took place involved Bull Dempsey vs Jason Jordan and Solomon Crowe vs Tye Dillinger. The only things to really note in those matches were the push they seem to be giving Dillinger, as he now has a ‘perfect 10’ gimmick, complete with a 10 scorecard he carries to the ring and raises when he’s done something relatively impressive. I’m not sold on him yet, but he quickly turned the fans on his side and let’s face it, wrestling fans love an easy thing to get hooked on chanting so “10” is a perfect fit.

All in all, the show was a brilliant success and an incredibly fun time. Even leaving the show was pleasant, and I was stopped twice between the exit doors and my train platform by people who wanted to discuss my Chuck Taylor shirt. Our ride back involved an entire train car of people talking about the show we had just seen, and it seemed as though at least half of the attendees of NXT had also gone to Ring of Honor/NJPW shows earlier in the week. It was a great experience and I would gladly throw down money to go again and again, especially if there’s another women’s match on the card that would even come close to the performance Sasha and Charlotte bestowed on we peasants.

Update: Womens’ Wrestling at NJPW Dontaku 2015

Last week, I speculated on the nature of Wrestling Dontaku’s six-person tag featuring Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows alongside their respective husbands and their husbands’ tag team partners. Now that the event has come and gone, let’s look at it.

The backstory is silly, and very pro wrestling: Karl Anderson was obsessed with Maria, and his obsession had led to the loss of the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship for him & Gallows. As a result, Gallows brought in his wrestler wife Amber to try and keep Maria under control in the grudge match. It’s funny that Maria, a professional temptress, gets into so much trouble when she does her job well. Maybe she should tone down her siren song or something.

Let’s take a minute here to examine the dynamic of Maria Kanellis in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Her boys are the champs. Maria has her own t-shirt. Her tag champs don’t. This is in the pre-match video package:

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This is Amber’s entrance:

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This is Maria’s entrance:

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This is Shinsuke Nakamura’s entrance, just as a point of comparison:

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The depictions of Maria & Amber are nearly night and day, though they’re both beautiful women. To be fair, they zoomed in on Amber’s chest a bit as she walked to the ring, but her ring-announced in-ring intro was flashy and athletic. I’m not sure whether Japanese wrestling fans and/or NJPW are so obsessed with Maria that they’d legitimately prefer to film the whole show with a picture-in-picture of her ass, or if the gimmick of Maria-in-Japan has reached some apex of self-parody that they’re just pushing every time they get her on TV. In any case, Maria’s depiction in NJPW doesn’t make me uncomfortable as a female fan — I think it’s hilarious, if a little much. The ass zooming shots went on for a minute or more, when thirty seconds would have been more than sufficient for both lusty and parody purposes.

The match itself was fairly standard. The rules were mixed-tag — when Maria was tagged in, Amber had to be tagged in. The highlight of the entire situation was Karl Anderson daydreaming so hard about Maria that he forgot to do his signature machine gun taunt in his entrance. I was actually shocked, and so were Amber & Doc. So was referee Tiger Hattori.

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The wrestling match was a wrestling match sprinkled with shenanigans. The women hit some nice moves on each other and it looked like Amber wanted to murder Maria. The culmination, as you might have anticipated, was Maria hitting a low blow on Karl Anderson to get the advantage for her team, and then rolling up Amber for a surprise win. Amber went into full-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West meltdown mode, which was another highlight.

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Post-match, Doc and Amber still want to murder Maria, but Karl Anderson protects her. That is, until he SURPRISE turns on Maria, and he and Doc hit the Magickiller on her.

Some points:

  • This wasn’t an intergender match, so Maria was not competing against the men — they’re bad men who just assaulted her post-match (at Amber’s urging) outside the bounds of competition because they were mad that she got the win.
  • It’s reasonable that a bad girl like Amber would sic her men on Maria when she herself couldn’t get the job done.
  • It’s oddly refreshing in entertainment when bad guys are beating up a woman because they’re mad at the woman rather than using the woman to get at the woman’s husband/boyfriend/otherwise associated man.
  • I’m not even sure Gallows & Anderson care about Taven & Bennett at all. Maria’s match, Maria’s belts, Maria’s feud, Maria’s win, Maria’s post-match consequences.
  • I don’t know where this leaves the feud. Reasonably, Amber could want to get her win back. Taven & Bennett could want to beat up Anderson & Gallows for beating up Maria. Or it could just be over for now.

For it being the first time women are featured as wrestlers in NJPW in thirteen years, we’re off to a decent start. Let’s hope this opens up the door for future storylines with women and even more talent.

 

NJPW will feature women wrestlers at Wrestling Dontaku 2015

For the first time in 13 years, women are going to compete in a NJPW ring.  Maria Kanellis, Matt Taven, and Mike Bennett (the Kingdom) have been booked to wrestle Amber O’Neal Gallows, Doc Gallows, and Karl Anderson (the Bullet Club) at Wrestling Dontaku 2015 on May 3. This comes after the Bullet Club suffered the devastating loss of their IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships to the Kingdom, due in part to Karl Anderson’s obsession with Maria (same, Karl, same) and also Maria’s excellent distraction skills.

The last time a woman was featured in NJPW matches was in 2002, when Chyna competed against much of the roster in tag and singles matches.

Sunday’s match is described as a “six person tag team match” but I don’t know whether it’s mixed-tag (the women can only fight each other and a man must tag out to his woman partner if the opposing woman is tagged in) or intergender (men and women can fight each other) rules. We’ll find out for sure come Sunday, but as everyone saw at War of the Worlds last year, even NJPW’s good guy heartthrob ace once in a century talent and most decorated IWGP champion in history  Hiroshi Tanahashi doesn’t hesitate to engage Maria in combat if she enters the ring. 

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This match could either be pretty good and a step toward getting women featured on NJPW programming in a capacity that is more than “look at all the beautiful parts of this very beautiful woman please” or it could be a bunch of Bullet Club shenanigans. I’ll check back in afterward and let you know!  But I have to say, after all the talk about how the Kingdom’s accolades in NJPW are really due to Maria, it’s nice to see her getting a chance to compete for some herself.

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Maria Kanellis and Amber Gallows now have profiles up on the NJPW roster page.

FIGHT! Round 1

Coming from a film background, Jenn Woodall dropped that to move towards her passion of illustration and tough women. She has been working in illustration for quite some time and her newest project is something we here at Femmezuigiri are big fans of. There are just over 24 hours left on her Kickstarter campaign to get Fight! Zine released.

Fight! is a zine project which invites artists to create their own original female fighting game character. Each artist draws their character either facing left/right, and these fighters are paired up throughout the book using spreads to create versus match illustration which mimic fighting games.

I’m, as many of you know, a huge fan of tough women and it’s great to see so many artists getting to shine in highlighting brawlin’ babes. On top of her kickstarter, Jenn will also be hosting a launch party at DMG Toronto on May 6th.

I got to take a sneak peak at the zine and there’s at least one wrestler character featured, maybe more. Make sure you order and support her to find out!

Lita

Arguably one of the most popular wrestlers in the women’s division during the attitude era, we’d be daft to overlook Lita.

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Lita was fairly contentious to say the least since her storyline was heavily sexual in nature. You might remember her from such on screen flings with Matt Hardy, Christian, Dean Malenko, Kane and a “live sex celebration” in the ring on Raw with Edge, when you should be remembering her for her multiple title reigns, fantastic in ring work rate and being the only woman to take part in a TLC match within the WWE.

Her biggest push was part of Team Xtreme alongside the Hardy Boyz, one of which she had an off screen relationship with ‐ Matt Hardy. That relationship was ended to pursue one with Edge and WWE creative hopped on that and made it into an on screen storyline. Utilizing a woman’s sexual prowess to aid their heel turn is tricky business and one that I generally wouldn’t advise. It’s really tough to see someone you admire and respect being portrayed as evil for pursuing her desires and regarded as manipulative and pitting friends against one another. That push tends to be taken from a different angle when it comes to men, HBK for example, who is praised as a ladies man and it’s entirely okay. This wasn’t always used in a negative light, and in her feud with Trish Stratus they used Christian and Jericho’s bet on who could bed their woman first to spur a Battle of the Sexes match since the men were such pigs.

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Lita was a four time women’s champion and held that title for a consecutive 73 days. Lita retained said title in a hardcore match against Jacqueline; and I wish more women would take part in hardcore matches. She is also one of EIGHT women in the WWE Hall of Fame.

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Here are two really great matches of hers you should watch (including said hardcore match):

 

10 Ways Chyna Winning the Royal Rumble Could Change Wrestling: Part 1

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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

Continue reading 10 Ways Chyna Winning the Royal Rumble Could Change Wrestling: Part 1

Fan Edition | Shelly Deathlock

In today’s “Who’s That Girl?” we focus on another fan of pro graps and their awesome fashion sense. This time it’s our very own Shelly Deathlock!

Name: Shelly Deathlock

Age: Play Button (see that’s what WWE made the 31 in “Wrestlemania 31” into because 31 sounds like it’s too old HEY WAIT A DAMN MINUTE.)

Location: Connecticut

Describe your ringside style: Early to mid 90’s heavy metal.

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How did you become a wrestling fan?

I turned on Raw one night in 1993. Yokozuna was delivering several Banzai drops to Crush and Tatanka wasn’t coming out to help him. I was AMAZED. Slippery slope from there, and I began watching all the time. It’s totally a prototypical scene for my wrestling fandom: Good guy is getting murdered by bad guy; good guys friend… isn’t helping? How good can good guys be, then? Good guys aren’t very good. So, murdered good guy joins bad guys, gets to hang out with Mr. Fuji and beat the shit out of Randy Savage. Life lessons.

Fave Wrestler: Shinsuke Nakamura, King of Strong Style and saviour of professional wrestling.

Fave Promotion: NJPW

Fave Move: The… @indiandeathlock. 😉

Fave Match: This isn’t even difficult. Nakamura vs. Ibushi at Wrestle Kingdom 9 this year made most other matches I’ve seen look like they weren’t pro wrestling at all, but some sad shadowy version of it. That match was amazing.

Before that, it was probably Bret vs. Owen at WM X & also their Summerslam ‘94 cage match. I was super invested in those as a baby Owen Hart fan.

Dream Tag Team: Sasha Banks & Kazuchika Okada. $$$$$$$

If you had to choose your own entrance theme, what would it be? 

But then I’d have to also literally bleed black somehow to keep it kayfabe. I’m working on it.

AJ Lee Finally Parts Ways With The WWE

WWE has just issued a “statement’ via twitter that AJ has decided to retire from in ring competition with the company. They felt this so important that I received a push notification from the network on my ipad. I wish I was more surprised that this was happening, and I’m curious as to what this means for the future of her fellow Divas.

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AJ Lee has played a very important role during her time in the Divas division. She is a three time Divas championship title holder and has held that title for the longest reign in the division’s history. AJ also had a short stint as General Manager and did some commentary alongside Lawler, having no problem calling him out for his sexist pig like nature.

The character AJ portrays has a very different feel than more of their roster as of late, and has been helping to push the Divas in a more positive direction, one where the women are seen and respected as fighters. Those in charge, however, definitely had different plans for her and kept trying to pigeon hole her into the typical love interest storylines. AJ was the catalyst for Daniel Bryan’s heel turn when their relationship blew up and he could be painted as the bad guy. A faux relationship with Cena is what ended her position as RAW GM. This pattern continues.

Recently, AJ has spent a lot of time calling out the WWE for their treatment of women, and I admire her greatly for using her platform to do so. In response to #GiveDivasAChance trending on twitter, AJ addressed Stephanie McMahon stating “Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest rated segment of the show several times, And yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster. #UseYourVoice.” She’s also expressed that it was her decision not to take part in the reality show E! Total Divas because she couldn’t handle not maintaining her privacy. This is contrary to many rumours that state she isn’t welcome based on her marriage to ex WWE superstar CM Punk.

It is entirely possible that they have known of her impending departure for a while and it may have been the deciding factor on why there was no title match at Wrestlemania. It’s odd, however, having her win a match at Mania and that be her final hoorah inside Vince’s squared circle.

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I sincerely hope this retirement isn’t goodbye forever from AJ. I’d love to see her pop up in another company and continue to help bring light to the fact that WWE isn’t the end all and be all for professional wrestling. And if they were as skilled at running their women’s division as they seem to be at making the women turn tail and run away, then we’d probably see some of the strongest women’s wrestling there is to be had.

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 | Shield Devotee

In this week’s fan edition of “Who’s That Girl” we are speaking with this lovely cat from Nashville that I, AV Christensen, met during a trip I took down there in the winter. She was my Lyft driver and got really excited when she saw my profile photo was me executing a flawless Boston Cream finisher and asked if I was truly “a bad ass lady wrestler”.

Let’s check in with Audrey and her obvious obsession with a certain faction within the dubya dubya eeee.

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Name: Audrey Killawatts (a.k.a Khaos Reigns)

Age: 21

Location: Nashville, TN

Describe your ringside style: Chaotic Neutral

How did you become a wrestling fan? My best friend introduced me.

Fave Wrestler: A toss up between Dean Ambrose and Dolph Ziggler.

Fave Promo Cut: That’s a tough one, I really loved Dean’s “Ice Bucket Challenge” on Rollins.

Fave Move: Scorpion Crosslock

Fave Match: Um, dude, I have no idea, there are seriously too many. But Rollins v Ambrose early on in the break up of the shield. Ambrose looked so torn over having to take out Rollins. Brilliant.

Dream Tag Team: I miss the Shield…

If you had to choose your own entrance theme, what would it be?

Huge thanks to Audrey for taking part! Can’t follow her on social media since she’s not a twitter gal. But if you’re ever in Nashville she’ll cut your hair, or maybe drive you around if you order something on Lyft!

Women Naturally Hate Each Other, and WWE is Naturally Wrong

Guest post by: D. O’Brien of The Stretch Plum


Last night, like about a billion other people, I tuned in to watch WrestleMania 31, which was a much better show than I was expecting if I’m going to be honest, but one thing really bugged me – and no, it’s not the fact that Lana threw her shoe for apparently zero reason, though those ARE expensive shoes, so girl, what are you thinking?

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No, the thing that sticks in my craw about last night was the commentary team stating on live television before a match involving four women that “women naturally hate each other”, so obviously, they’re going to wrestle about it, right?

WWE is doing themselves a huge disservice perpetuating this bullshit and it’s not just because WWE is a company supporting a costly anti-bullying initiative, which is in and of itself a problem since they’re doing a bang-up job having one sister tell another she wishes she had died in the womb, or having those same sisters steal another woman’s clothes, or having their main female babyface tell other women they don’t look like “real women”; WWE also wants us to Give Divas A Chance and ran a Fight Like A Girl ad, and yet here’s a table full of men saying women naturally hate each other – but does the company even realize they made liars of themselves just as recently as the Hall of Fame induction ceremony for 2015?

Alundra Blayze was inducted by Natalya Neidhart-Kidd, and far from any hatred there everything I saw of the two ladies on-screen and off indicated a great mutual respect and even love for one another. Is that natural hate? Nattie and Naomi took part in the four-way tag match at WrestleMania, albeit in more managerial roles, and yes, they did fight one another at one point but NOT out of any outward obvious hate, but more as competitors watching their respective teams’ backs.

Looking at NXT, which is part of WWE no matter how weird that seems at times, you have more than a handful of beautiful, capable women whose competitiveness is not driven by hate, but sheerly by that: they are, first and foremost, competitors who happen to be women. This isn’t high school and no one, in the year of our lord 2015, should be handing a bunch of little girls the outdated notion that all women are our enemy and we should be doing our best to hate them.

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AJ and Paige, the ever-so-cutely (barf) named “Frenemies” (because I can’t be your friend unless I secretly want to destroy you, right ladies?), won their match last night against the Bellas and left the arena as a team, which kinda downplays the idea that women naturally hate each other – I’m not going to team with you if I hate you. That defies the very nature of the word. Please stop being difficult, WWE. Put women on commentary if you can’t figure out how a decent female dynamic is supposed to work.

WWE is really shooting themselves in the foot if they’re going to have tag teams of women based solely on blood or general dislike for other women. Because let’s think about this: you could have AJ and Paige teaming NOT because they dislike the Bellas, but because they’re both damn fine wrestlers in their own right and they want to wrestle other women who are. Like Nattie and Naomi, who could make a tag team work because WWE insists on overshadowing their gender because their husbands are on popular tag teams. Or have Lana stop being Rusev’s interpreter/morality chain and let HER have some singles matches. WWE has the resources, they just need to quit undervaluing them.

I know no one from upper management at a billion-dollar wrestling company is going to care what a woman says, but WWE, please. Come on. More than ever, women need to see positivity in every field. Your product reaches all over the world, including countries where women are abused and killed simply for being women. Why can’t you opt out of the convenient rhetoric and misconceptions about women and just give us a good healthy dose of solidarity and support?

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Is it really so hard to manage that in this day and age? Because as of right now, the only thing I can say I “naturally hate” is the fact that you insist on marketing women as eternal enemies.

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.

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? 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.

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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.

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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.

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.