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.
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.
When I was in sixth grade, I too wanted to be Intercontinental Champion.
Even when a wrestler’s career comes and goes before a fan becomes a fan, that’s not to say their impact on wrestling is forgotten.
And it certainly helps when said wrestler has a book available to be taken out at your public library, which is how one 11 year old who now has a penchant for typing words on the Internet became familiar with Chyna for the first time.
In the midst of the occasional misspelled wrestler name (Rakishi & Sean Michaels in particular will never be wiped from memory), there was the story of a woman who overcame difficult situations in her early life, found a calling and went for it. In the mid 90s.
Chyna was someone who commanded more than what WWF had to offer in 1996 when she came onto the scene. At that point in the company, there were roughly three female personalities on WWF programming–all valets.
Chyna was no valet. She may have arrived in WWF as an accompaniment to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, but she was no valet. She was a bodyguard and it didn’t take too long to figure that out, be it based on her stature or how very easily she would handle Marlena like a ragdoll.
Other women would also be tossed around by Chyna in her time as a wrestler. She was tall, muscular, and could match Triple H’s weights at the gym. It made sense to have her compete against other men, which in part was due to a lack of competition. But for girls watching the product and, thankfully, paying attention to the wrestling rather than what were surely transphobic comments, it sent a huge message, that we could be competitive, dominant, and the personification of superheroines. Girls in wrestling didn’t just have to be the beauty, they could be the brawn as well.
Sometimes when you’re a kid, you miss things that, as a grown up, you realize was in poor taste or just bad. If you’re captivated by someone on TV, you can immerse yourself in how cool they are and let your imagination run wild. That’s what Chyna could do. That’s why she was able to transcend what it meant to be a woman in the WWF/E in her time with the company.
Chyna’s involvement in DX, especially the early days of the faction, was essential to the group’s chemistry. Comedy needs a “straight” character and Chyna was the one rolling her eyes at the manchildren she called her friends and carrying them away if they ever got into too much trouble.
Ultimately, her departure from the company—and in a general sense the way the rest of her life played out—was not dissimilar to a Hugo novel. If you believe the DX book WWE published a few years ago, Triple H says it was Chyna’s idea for the Triple H storyline involving marrying Stephanie McMahon. Subsequently, she’s spurned by her love, tossed aside from the company, and only acknowledged in passing.
Everything did not dry up right away—after all Chyna, was the first woman to ever compete as a wrestler in New Japan Pro Wrestling, which anyone would probably kill for on their resume.
Sadly, the end of Chyna’s road was paved with neglect, being seen as a sideshow rather than a person with problems.
There will be no redemption song a la Scott Hall (who still seems to enjoy creeping Paige’s twitter… questionable). The door was never open for a prodigal daughter to return. But in spite of what WWE wants and allows, thousands will remember her as an inspiration and a pioneer.
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. 🙂
Come all ye lady fans of pro graps who want an intersectional, inclusive space to share and explore their passion.
It don’t take a call to Mean Gene to know that Femmezuigiri is coming into its own as a feminist menace, with the hot takes and cold blooded critical beatdowns that keep patriarchy up at night. We are growing beyond a niche site into a resource servicing a long overlooked community.
To meet the forward momentum needed to sustain that growth and open a non-re-sealable can of whoopass on the sexist elements of wrestling, we’re looking to bring on some more contributors who can easier take on subjects outside the immediate scope of our current staff.
We can’t pay yet, though our site runners are actively working to bring in advertising and merchandise revenue, which will be distributed amongst all active contributors.
We are very amenable to people with patreons or other crowdfunding models of income using our site as an avenue for distributing your work. The benefits of the team itself and their combined skills/access/connections should also be taken into account!
(If pay is absolutely non-negotiable, send us an email and the editors will see what we can work out.)
We’re looking for:
Lucha correspondent, especially if you speak/write Spanish!
Japanese-speaking puro + joshi correspondent. If you’re not down to write whole articles, please contact doing some translations-for-hire.
Florida correspondent, especially if you attend the NXT tapings.
Roller Derby correspondent. A since estranged sports entertainment sister. Time to reunite the family.
UK-Based correspondent who can also serve as archnemesis to Maffew? And participate in snack exchanges with the US and Canada-based writers? Plz : 3
Wrestling game enthusiast. We’d love playthroughs of Joshi/women’s wrestling games, but we’d be easily sated with a funny review of Superstars of WrestleFest, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
Hit us up over at a.v.christensen at femmezuigiri dot com and doublecakes at femmezuigiri dot com. Let’s make a deal!
Thank you for reading this, for spreading the word, and helping us make this hobby into a maybe semi-part-time profession.
In the wake of social media, where we are all our own independent news sources, the needs and yields of the interview are shifting. Information is abundant. I could ask any wrestler their favorite cocktail; I could also open up their twitter and Control-F “Appletini”. The value of the information we glean from interviews—which may already exist in Facebook posts and Instagram comments—is contextualized by the vulnerability and emotional intimacy shared between subject/reporter. It is something that interviews offer that social media does not automatically guarantee: a captive, compassionate audience.
That vulnerability can be transformative, and more profound than “the scoop”. It can only be cultivated organically—like in dating, you can’t treat people like vending machines that dispense [gratification/resource] in return for kindness.
I don’t know yet if sharing space with Su Yung’s fearless enthusiasm and emotional bareness will make me a better writer or a more respected “reporter/blogger'”. I do know the warmth and courage inspired by her excitable yarn-spinning will linger within me for a while. The way she talked up everyone else she knew—and even people she doesn’t know but just inspired her—heartens the hardened muckraker I like to imagine myself to be.
She is why people fall in this line of work, and stick with it even when it sucks. If every friend in whatever field you’re reporting on could be as charming and affirming as her, you’d be on the fast track to a Pulitzer or a Webby or a Buzzfeed listicle of your quotes.
But I bear no belabored delusions of timidity: Su Yung could probably find more ways to kill me than three years of Remedial College Algebra could allow me to count.
I feel we’re in an emotionally incongruous time in wrestling. On the one hand, we have CHIKARA and PWG and Lucha Underground; wrestling is enjoying itself, and it’s cool to like a product that aims to be fun. But it’s still so rare to see someone in the business having fun, or say that wrestling is fun—even in shoots. Is wrestling still fun for you like it was when you were a fan and in the same ways? Or does the relationship with that enjoyment or satisfaction evolve?
I think I actually get more satisfaction out of wrestling than some other girls because I’ve loved wrestling ever since I was young. Once I started getting into wrestling, and understanding it more, and I really took initiative and applied myself to understand the psychological depth through it, it gave me a little more satisfied feeling whenever I wrestled because I feel like I’m accomplishing something though something I love, versus there are people who love it as a fan, that love as a wrestler, etc—there’s a bigger love when you become obsessed with it. It is an obsession; it’s all I do or talk about.
Has that love ever been tempered by the historic marginalization of women to support roles?
Women’s wrestling, is very motivational and very inspiring, especially watching Lita, Trish, and even Sable. A Sable Bomb on Marc Mero was one of the craziest things I saw as a kid. Chyna battling men was awesome—it kind of opened my eyes more towards the product as a whole because I didn’t just love women’s wrestling; as a kid I actually loved men’s wrestling more than women’s.
I don’t know how to explain it, but I will forever have a special place in my heart for Scott Steiner.
It feels taboo to be talking like this with other people. This is kind of who I am. My first wrestling show was Wrestlemania XIX —my dad bought me a Freakzilla shirt because that was the shirt I wanted out of all of them. I still have it to this day and I wear it randomly.
It wasn’t like later on I fell in love with women’s wrestling more. When Trish Stratus came out with the Stratusfaction, it just made me look at women’s wrestling in another light. I’ve always looked at women’s wrestling in another light from watching, you know, different matches and stuff.
Sometimes, when you’re a kid, you don’t really see anything but what’s put in front of you. It is what it is, you know what I’m saying? You react to it. That’s the truth.
How did you develop your move set? Does it reflect your identity, as either a character or in the context of your background?
To be honest, if I do a wrestling move in a match it’s because I feel like it’s needed there, or I feel like it goes with my character at the time. There are certain moves that I do over and over again, but the only reason I do those moves is because it’s really fun. I know it sounds weird, but I only want to do stuff that’s fun to me.
If we all just wrestled for fun I think that a lot of people would be more invested in it. That’s kind of my motive for a lot of things‑if I’m not inclined, why am I doing this?
National brands are shot and produced in such a way that they present a very homogenized wrestling culture—I sense this doesn’t exist, but lack the context of traveling the country.
The Memphis crowd—those people love wrestling to no end. They’re die-hard wrestling fans. And the area is very known for that, but there’s not many shows that run around because it’s very difficult to get that kind of group of people together. They’re huge lovers of the past, so you have to appease to everybody in your niche.
California has a great fan base there—they’re very polite, they’re very cool, they’re very awesome. In Memphis, the fans believe it so much. When I come out they chant “two dollar ho” to me. That’s them, they’re real about it. They’re in your face about it. A California crowd will be in your face in a different way.
It’s kind of like accents, wherever you go, there’s different accents, and some places you’re like “I’m attracted to that sound.”
My favourite venue to go to is the Mohawk in Texas, that’s where Anarchy Champion Wrestling is. We recently had a Wrestling Prom and people would show up in dresses and stuff for whatever they wanted. And one of the guys there dressed up as a furry! I didn’t know how to—I was just so happy. I’ve actually tweeted out to him recently. I was like “Can you please dress up as Pikachu at this Queen of Queens tournament?” I think that’s a pretty good story. You don’t see that very often at a wrestling show.
So, first I want to say “Thank you for how acknowledging how polite we Californian crowds are, we try.” Second, if you could wrestle a Pokemon—
A fan online said Jessica Havok was like Snorlax. If I could wrestle Jessica Havok dressed as a Snorlax that would be awesome.
But my real answer would be I would want to wrestle a jigglypuff. I would be okay punching a Jigglypuff in the face. I would punch a jigglypuff in the face, especially if they tried to sing me to sleep because ain’t nobody singin’ me to sleep.
That might be the most heel thing I’ve ever heard anyone say.
I know. I love Jigglypuff, but sometimes Jigglypuff needs to sit down.
It feels, within the last few years, there’s been a big burst of diversity in women’s wrestling—there are exponentially more women of colour wrestling than there were through all my youth combined. What would you describe as the impetuous for what has allowed for this resurgence in inclusivity of women of colour in wrestling?
It’s because basically, you know, I feel like within the history of women’s wrestling we’ve been looked at as taboo. But now it’s not really as taboo, and people actually like that women are investing in wrestling. And it’s the passion behind it. If you have that passion behind if you’re going to make it to good places.
Have you ever felt sort of pressured by bookers or the community to try and incorporate more of an “Asian influence” to your wrestling or character?
I always have people encouraging me to do that type of style, or be a certain “way” when wrestling, You’re always going to experience that, wherever you go. There’s always going to be someone pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do, or don’t want to be like. And, you know, you’ve just got to understand as a person you can say no. You can say no, because you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do.
Why break yourself for something that’s not going to break for you? If you’re not gonna be yourself, why would you want to do something and make yourself someone you don’t even know anymore?
As it is as an art form, you have to understand that you can lose yourself in this, and once you do, that’s when you start losing everything.
Wrestling, like every fandom, has that sort of “this house is clean, nothing to see here” reactive denialism to these topics.
No one’s gonna know anything’s wrong unless it’s yourself. Everything that I do, everything that I experience in life, I want to do it for myself. If I ‘m gonna do something, and I want to take on a challenge, it’s because I want to and not because someone’s making me. And there’s no reason anyone should feel forced to do anything.
Where does selling fit into that “doing it for myself” philosophy? Can selling be an indulgence in and of itself?
I feel like within selling, you’re gonna do what’s best for the time. For me, there’s no ego behind it. If someone punches me in the face, I’m always going to react the same no matter who’s punching me.
It’s on you to do your job. As far as selling, it’s up to that person if they want to have a really good match or not. Do you really want to see two people not doing anything in the ring, and not making you feel like you’re part of the action? Or do you want to feel what they’re feeling? It’s all upon how they project that, and that’s just really what it comes down to.
That, for me, has always been one of the most compelling aspects of pro wrestling. There’s always someone pulling their hair at a football or baseball game, screaming “you should’ve made this play, how could you not have made that play, why am I here and not there doing your job for you?” With wrestling, when I saw Pentagon Jr put Sexy Star in that modified surfboard my one thought was “fuck, better her than me, I’d probably die.” It’s the emotional release of a finish—knowing you wouldn’t have fared better.
Exactly. I totally am with you on that. That’s amazing. And I think that’s part of the access of fun. You see them having fun doing it because it looks fun but it also looks scary. That’s the thrill. It’s an amazing roller coaster ride that never ends.
What is a fun move to take?
The RKO is always fun, even if you’re just in a swimming pool. I love stunners. I think those are really fun. I’m a sick person. I like anything really dangerous. I’m down for danger. I really like high risk stuff. But there’s not a lot of people that are willing to do stuff like that.
If you can take a tilt-a-whirl headscissors into a pool, it’s so much fun.
I like it when a girl can do a handstand in the corner and then turn it to a hurricanrana.
People don’t realize how high you are up there when you’re on the top rope. It’s really scary. But once you’re getting comfortable with your surroundings it’s amazing. It hurts though. It really does hurt. But I’m weird.
How do you feel about crowds now? With Botchamania and Twitter, crowds are getting very smart. And they’re making chants that are in jokes, and they’re holding up signs that are very clever; do you feel like that’s a good thing for crowds to be in on the joke of wrestling? Or is it better when crowds just cheer when they’re supposed to?
It’s a very hard question to answer; I do love crowds, but there are times when they’re very spoiled and ungrateful. “If we don’t see what we want to see, we’re mad”. There are a lot of people putting their bodies on the line for your entertainment, or your interest, whatever you want to call it.
Wrestling’s a market—it could be anything. There are some people that honestly invest in professional wrestling because they love the innuendos and sexual parts of it. There’s a lot of different niches in this and it’s hard to go “Well, everybody’s gonna likes this” because there are some crowds that are way cooler than others.
I’m not gonna lie: I’ve seen many different crowds where they’ve been unforgivable and they just wanted to hate everything. But there have also been crowds where they just love the people and are just happy to be there. Normally, those are the ones I like, the ones who are ready for anything, versus expecting something. When you expect something you’re always let down.
You can’t go in and are like “I need to see this”. That’s very mainstream visual/thinking. Whenever people go to a WWE show they’re like “I wanna see John Cena, he better FU somebody tonight.
One of the things that I feel made the indie scene so popular now, and so viable, is that the matches were so unpredictable and non-formulaic—and in turn that’s become the indie formula, you know, when people describe Cena vs Owens as “Cena doing an indie match”.
Everything’s formulated in a way, it’s just not always a 1+1=2. It’s okay to have a 1+1=2 because sometimes that’s what’s needed to be done.
There’s nothing behind passion that can be stopped. If you have the passion and drive for something you will succeed no matter what. You may not succeed in what you expect, but there is gonna be success there. It’s a positive lifestyle thinking, you know?
We respect people who are cynical and jaded and don’t like stuff.
A big person who is positive in this industry is Serena Deeb, She’s a very good positive person who reaches out to the soul. It’s really nice. And Saraya Knight, she is a definite positive person that’s really cool. I enjoy people like that more than people who feel like they are owed things.
You can’t expect things. You’ve got to be happy.
Did you get a chance to play, when you were a kid, the WCW Nitro playstation game?
Remember how you could unlock the weird arenas? The disco club and the North Pole?
I wish they still had stuff like that on the video games sometimes nowadays. Those were so fun.
If you could set up a wrestling ring in some weird locale, what would you want it to be?
If I could put up a wrestling ring in any location I would actually want to put a wrestling ring in the water at the beach. I would want to find a way to make a wrestling ring that is okay to be halfway in the water, halfway out of the water. That would be a phenomenal thing to me.
Can you imagine how sick it would be if someone had a jet ski and they tied someone to it and just dragged them through the ocean like that? That is sadistic, and scary.
You could have one of your matches be interrupted by a giant sea monster.
Like a Cthulu underneath the ring? Oh snap.
And then you’d need to get all your wrestlers out to fight the evil sea monster.
Yes. I think they did that in California, recently. I remember there were a couple of my buddies that went over there and they wrestled a Cthulu monster from under the ring at a show.
I think it’d be crazier if it was a beach show, though.
How do you define success for you as a performer? You had talked about going through the developmental process at WWE—I imagine it can feel like when you do the indies that you’re just doing a lot of the same, and without that national coverage it can feel like there’s not a forward progression. But how do you define success? Is it the pops that you get from a crowd? Is it personal development?
Success in wrestling for me is if I can walk away smiling and I don’t have any worries in my life. I’m grateful for everything I have. That’s successful to me, because there are some people out there, and I’ve been one of those people before, where you had to just scrape by, and you didn’t really have much, and you’re on that struggle life. You didn’t even know if you could make it to the show because you didn’t know if you had enough gas money. And by some miracle you got to the show, even though you’re not getting paid what you thought you were getting paid.
Sometimes I would walk away with nothing—I would get screwed over. They just didn’t think they would have to pay me. There are sometimes that happens and it sucks. It’s real. That’s real life. It’s a big struggle on the independent scene. And girls struggle, but guys struggle worse because they have to work harder, and they have to work better because there’s always going to be someone there competition wise.
There’s going to be 100 guys to one girl in the world of pro wrestling. It’s a bigger market. There may be stigmas of how people view women in wrestling, but there are girls out there that bust their bodies to the ground, just like the guys do, because they’re trying to make it to where one day they can wrestle on a great grand stage‑maybe the grandest of them all.
You can’t let things change you, and that’s the success in my books. If I don’t sell my soul to the devil, I’m good.
Are you familiar with crowd funding? Video games and comics and vloggers are using it to support content hat would otherwise be difficult to be paid for through traditional means. I feel like the PPV is an antiquated model and there’s a dozen independent wrestling shirt companies which aren’t transparent about whether or not wrestlers are paid for their likenesses. How do you feel about wrestling companies and independent wrestlers crowdfunding their content on a site like Patreon?
I feel like if people can give you money, they will give you money. If you need help, there’s people who love you that through hard times will help you, but you don’t need to ask a stranger for something because you don’t know what that stranger is going to ask for in return.
If you want to do a GoFundMe, go ahead. That’s on you though. I don’t do that because I know there’s people out there who work hard for their money, like I do.
I’m not downing anyone who does it, because honestly if people need to be on that hustle, I got you, I understand. For me, myself personally, I don’t want to be on that hustle game because I know that there’s consequences that sometimes come with that hustle game. And I have people who love me and care about me, that tell me “If you need anything, let me know.” Those are people who have my back. That’s my heart and my soul right there; I don’t want to let those people down.
There’s a lot of people who struggle out there and go through job upon job just to even try and make it in this business. And for you to go out and get a GoFundMe that’s just like them getting a job. There’s no difference there, because you are both getting money, it’s how you’re doing it.
It’s just like if someone wanted to be a stripper or a porn star while they’re wrestling, or they wanted to sell wrestling DVDs; there’s no difference there, you’re still making money.
There are people who are like “I’ll never understand that”, but you’re lucky because you don’t have to understand that. That’s the difference.
If you were to form a stable —we’ll say a Trios stable, and maybe you could go to King of Trios or the Lucha Libre World Cup, who would you want? Who do you have that you respect that love for as colleagues that you would want to be part of a bad girl trio?
On my right side I would have Jessica Havok. A lot of people look at me and Jessica Havok as a feud. She and I are kinda Undertaker and Kane. That’s how I think about it. That kind of destruction is amazing.
I would want, on my other side—this is a tough one because there’s so many good girls out there. I would probably want somebody who isn’t afraid of risk, and somebody who isn’t afraid to show who they really are out there. I think it would be really cool to have Athena. I really do appreciate her work. And I think that she does show a lot of passion through it. That would be my team.
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!
Today, we’re sending you over to Ravishly to read up on a piece that AV Christensen has written about her personal in ring and training experience and how being fat, queer and a woman effects the perception in regards to her ability and skill.
“My in-ring experience was written off because it wasn’t “real wrestling.” It seems their deciding factor on whether or not it was real was the lack of men involved, since it was done in a professional ring and with the same moves they were using.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Name: Audrey Killawatts (a.k.a Khaos Reigns)
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
If I were to tell you that one of my passions was watching television, especially kids’ shows, you’d probably be none too surprised. Most of us have been introduced to the wonderful world of wrestling through watching it on TV at home. My first wrestling match was a PPV that I watched with my dad while eating off brand chicken nuggets and barbecue sauce in his basement apartment. It doesn’t quite compare to seeing it live, but it still has it’s own unique magic to it that many other sporting events can’t compare to over a television broadcast. Another layer of the wrestling world that I love is that which is portrayed within the confines or non sports entertainment related programming. From cartoons that have the characters portraying their own crafted wrestling personas, to in ring wrestler cameos on beloved sitcoms, reality competitions with a pro graps themed challenge, I’m going to be reviewing episodes and determining whether or not they’re title worthy or if they’re no selling jobbers.
Cartoon Network show Steven Universe has been getting a lot of attention and love lately for all the right reasons, and I’m going to continue that love by highlighting one of it’s earliest episodes: Tiger Millionaire. Having returned from a mission in which Steven gets covered in blood polyps due to Amethyst’s recklessness, the gems all get into an argument and Steven ends up falling asleep encrusted by the polyps in the kitchen alone. Amethyst sneaks out of her room to sneak off into the middle of the night and Steven follows hot on her trail.
Cut to the Beach City Underground wrestling promotion, The Purple Puma is introduced as the single most hated wrestler in the promotin’s history. Proving to be a force to be reckoned with in ring, Puma defeats the Lochness Blogster with ease. Amethyst leaves the event extra charged and excited when Steven sneaks up behind her and she gives him a snapmare down to the ground. Steven asks if Amethyst is a secret wrestler with the same expression of joy I receive in response to whenever I reveal to anyone I meet that I’m part of a queer women’s wrestling league. If only we could all be secret wrestlers. Amythest’s explanation as to why she’s a wrestler accurately captures part of the beauty of the art: “In the ring, nobody can tell me what to do, and if they try I hit ‘em in the face with a chair!” Maybe I identify well with this storyline because she plays a vicious heel, and well, but it’s even expressed that: “They love it, well, they hate it but it’s all part of the fun, you know. Everyone here gets that.” Feeling babied by Pearl and Garnet is an excellent excuse to give her this outlet to express herself, and Steven, feeling stifled himself, asks to be a wrestler too. Since Amythest has yet to win the tag team belt, the most superior belt of them all, she obliges his request.
Introducing: Tiger Millionaire!
Steven heads off to prepare for one of the most important parts of pro wrestling: developing your character and choosing your costume. What good is fighting in front of a crowd if you can’t look awesome doing it? He pulls out a dress shirt, some suspenders and ponders over a tiger mask and a little tiny tiger nose before choosing the nose. To get that sleaze factor that all wrestlers need, Steven slicks his hair down with margarine before rushing over to a sleeping Amethyst to show off his new kicks. His back story is meticulously thought out:
Rich feline industrialist from Jungle Island. Once the single child of the wealthy Tiger family, he clawed out his own destiny making money in the coconut mines.
The Purple Puma’s backstory, however, is solely: Pumas are cool.
Back at Beach City Underground we meet the first tag team of the evening: Concrete Heat and Chunk Truck! The crowd meets, and boos, Tiger Millionaire and we see Lars and Sadie speculating on whether or not Tiger Millionaire is Steven and if it’s going to get creamed or not. Before Steven can climb in the ring, Amethyst stops him to alert him that she’s only using Steven to obtain the belt and she’ll do all the fighting. His biggest concern is whether or not he still gets to wear the costume. Puma knocks out Chunk Truck with ease, but Concrete Heat comes in from behind and slams a pylon on his head. Steven expresses with great upset that “That’s not fair!” and the announcer assures him that “It may not seem fair, but hey, anything goes in wrestling.”
The Heel Turn
Being the sweet kid he is, no one expected to see Steven play a heel, but he takes this opportunity to bribe Chunk Truck into throwing the match in exchange for a million jungle bucks. What an offer! Excitedly ready to take the offer, he rushes over and Tiger Millionaire opens the briefcase in his face knocking him back. Lars jumps up excitedly, and it looks like our contender has his first fan. Puma knocks out Chunk Truck and lifts Tiger up in celebration for having won the match.
What would a wrestling show be without your obligatory 80s montage? This features cuts of Tiger Millionaire’s most gruesome feats interspliced with shots of Steven and Amethyst trying to keep their wrestling careers a secret from Garnet and Pearl. Ignoring a match while talking on an a cellphone larger than he is, serving coconuts into an opponent’s jaw with a tennis racket, tossing pages of the Wall Street Jungle down on the mat making the opposition slip and fall are among some of Steven’s most menacing moves. But nothing compares to when record breaking heat comes down on the auditorium and Tiger Millionaire buys out the entire soda stand, and instead of sharing it with his thirsty fans he throws all the soda down on the ground and stomps in the puddle with galoshes. Wanting to maintain kayfabe, when approached by Lars to sign his soda cup, Tiger swats it out of the way onto the ground shouting “you couldn’t afford it!” Lars tosses his Tiger Millionaire tie on the ground and sulks away, because Tiger truly is the cruelest creature on the planet.
Can’t we just wrestle?
Steven has a hard time separating his wrestling persona from real life and how he is perceived. Puma and Tiger are paired up against a gorgeous, hyper masculine tag team duo. The crowd has turned completely against Tiger, including prior fan Lars toting a “Tiger is a jerk!” sign. Garnet and Pearl show up to stop the match, upset that Steven and Amethyst have been sneaking off to this circus of violence. It’s the final straw when Garnet tells them to go home, Amythest pushes her and they have a violent brawl utilizing their powers. Steven attempts to calm things down and make a genuine face turn for the betterment of everyone involved. He picks up the mic to tell us Purple Puma’s backstory:
He was the wildest cat in the jungle, so wild the other cats couldn’t take it. So she, I mean he, went to look for somewhere he fit in, somewhere with other people who felt misunderstood. That’s why we’re all here: to be wild and free, and bodyslam each other, and wear cool costumes, and make up nicknames!
The most important question levied by Tiger is “Can’t we just have this? Can’t we just wrestle?” Taking that sweet, sweet heel spot Garnet steps in to reveal she is part of the Notorious Order of Wrestling Haters and they can’t allow that. This gets the crowd on the side of the Jungle Duo, including the sour Lars. But wait, The Good Looking Gang show up with the ladder, are they going to steal the belts? No! They help the Jungle Duo up and help save wrestling.
On a list of shows that portray wrasslin’, this one is definitely of main event quality. Heck, they could do an entire spin off series about Tiger Millionaire and The Purple Puma and I’d buy it.
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
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.
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 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 (email@example.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!
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.
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.
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.
David McLane does not have an entry in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s database and frankly this vexes me.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday Night RAW starts and it’s my weekly internal debate of “Do I sit through three hours of poorly booked wrestling or do I follow my twitter feed and live off the recaps from my followers?” I decided to give it a shot to see if Vince was actually going to follow through with his vague promises.
#GiveDivasAChance started trending on twitter 2 weeks ago and it still shows no sign of going away. The WWE tries really hard to be on the ball in terms of staying current, so every week Michael Cole will address anything related to the promotion that is trending on twitter. It popped up during RAW as a result to the Divas match clocking in at less than a minute; that’s right, we have male “Superstars” who have longer entrance sequences on the show than the women were allotted to fight a complete match. Despite all this, the announcers stayed mum. Fast forward to the next day and we see good ol’ Mr. McMahon tweeting the following:
Does Vince hear us? Is he actually going to take a chance to let us influence the narrative of his product or are we going to see a small glimmer of hope and just slide back into the way it’s been. Their current motto is “WWE: Then. Now. Forever.”; if that doesn’t show a resistance to change, I don’t know what does. Take a skip ahead to last Monday, Michael Cole was given the go ahead to address the hashtag which was trending yet again. He addressed it on air by mentioning that it was trending, but nothing further than that. It seemed your typical RAW with drawn out matches and in ring babbling and added in celebrity appearance since Wrestlemania is just around the corner. This week’s celebrity was Wiz Khalifa who got EIGHT minutes of airtime. The Divas got five minutes total. A five minute match isn’t that atrocious, it’s at least four minutes more than they got the week prior… except this was combined between two matches.
Vince McMahon heard our cry, we kept watching and he “Gave the Divas A Chance” by letting the women have more than one match one the show… but they needed to combine both matches to be shorter than an adequate men’s match. To put some icing on this bittersweet cake, partway through the second match featuring Naomi and Natalya, their husbands (Tyson Kidd & Jimmy Uso) started brawling at ringside and the cameras followed the men. What you’re telling us, Vince, is you hear us but you don’t care.
Who knows if this is a tipping point for WWE in how they treat women, but we need to remember that the buck doesn’t stop with them and they aren’t the end all be all of wrestling. This problem has trickled down to indie level promotions as well. Unless a promotion is all women, such as SHIMMER, League of Lady Wrestlers and Valkyrie, or it’s a women’s event as an exception, it’s extremely commonplace for there to be one women’s match on a card… if any are included at all. Bonus points if your sole women’s match is intergender! There are more than enough talented wrestlers who aren’t cis men that can be booked on your show; what’s the harm in mixing things up?
Women’s wrestling is moving up from what is seen as the mid card “bathroom break” and I will continue to bitch and moan until people like Vince are sick of hearing me and actually make an effort to change. Let’s see if this trend continues and whether or not it’s a genuine effort, or if they’re just pandering to keep us quiet.