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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.

If They Only Knew – Remembering Joanie “Chyna” Laurer

this article was originally published on Wrestledelphia

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.

Space Mountain May Be the Oldest Ride in the Park: Or How Sexual Harassment Has No Room in Wrestling

Imagine yourself all settled in to indulge in your favourite pastime– whether it’s getting all dolled up in your best swag, holding up your meticulously crafted sign or curling up on your couch next to someone you care about complete with snacks- both instances ready to scream your heart out. Your favourite workers have entered the ring and– BOOM! you get a glaring reminder that this place isn’t for you. This is a man’s game and no matter how much you cry out the odds are never in your favour. “This is how it’s always been,” they cry, “Why are you such a killjoy?”, and “Learn to play along, it’s just for fun.” Being in this community is full of constant reminders that this space is not safe and it’s our responsibility to play along if we wish to be included or leave.

All of the above was made abundantly clear during the 2016 Royal Rumble Divas title match in which the audience is blatantly reminded that women are objects who are at the whim of everyone else around them. You’re peeled in to a match that is showing exceptional prowess and mat work that has, up until recently, been unbeknownst to the women’s division but all eyes (read… cameras) keep cutting to Ric Flair. Don’t worry, Charlotte, Daddy’s here. It’s okay, WWE Universe, there’s still a man near the ring so everything is fine and dandy… nothing to see here. But look, they’re doing such a great job! They’re actually wrestling! Ric Flair has to prove he’s still the boss, so in his natural heel state he grabs Becky Lynch, turns her around, and kisses her against her consent. Talk about a jarring moment that filled me with rage and disgust. But it’s all in the nature and fun of pro-wrestling, except it isn’t. The fun was fully removed when you sexually assaulted a woman. Some would argue that Becky Lynch obviously consented to this outside of kayfabe, but take a moment and think about why– if she won’t do her job, someone else will. It is not a woman’s job to be harassed in the ring by men, and it shouldn’t be expected of anyone at this point (or ever). What a way to throw a wrench into the excitement of an otherwise wonderful match and suck any potential fun out of it, making it almost impossible to pay attention to what’s happening before me– at this moment seeing nothing but red. This extends beyond Becky, past her taking one for the team in the most horrid fashion imaginable, losing the match and getting buried with no room for revenge in a storyline. This extends beyond all of the women who are workers in, and outside, the WWE who are constantly put in these spots where we are treated as nothing more than mere sexual playthings. This extends beyond everyone watching who feels violated, who feels sick to their stomachs, who feel a deep and painful empathy because they to have experienced unconsentual sexual behaviour at the hands of others. It permeates into our culture for workers, for fans, for passersby where this is the norm, and the lovely motto of “Just don’t look” can’t be applied here. This affects everyone. Situations like this continue to fuel wrestling being an unsafe space for anyone who isn’t a cisgendered heterosexual white male. Unless you’re the Nature Boy himself, it’s all downhill from here.

Fellow Femmezuigiri contributor, Brittany Meyer, offered up some personal experience with this sort of situation and how toxic and misogynistic this community can be:

I fell out of love with wrestling after I was a valet, one time, for a wrestler I thought I respected. It wasn’t until the gimmick faded and the texts came from the person, and not the character, that I had to come to terms the fact that this is just spandex and dudes living out a dream on whatever ring that will have them. I have not seen him in person in almost three years, and in that time he had held a toxic relationship with a friend of mine, harassed other wrestlings friends on Facebook and Twitter, and has tried to manipulate me back into his life with suicide threats and promises that he’s getting better. With so many incidents proving he was untrustworthy and manipulative, I cut him out of my life. That was one year ago, and I have refused any message or friend requests since.

As a Chicagoan, I felt good about the fact he was seldom on the wrestling scene here since he’s located in Florida. I have gone to many shows in the greater Chicago area and have come to love one particular company, Freelance Wrestling. Freelance was started by some local wrestlers that I have been watching grow since I first moved to Chicago; they’re smart, driven, and produce one hell of show. They have been around for over a year, and I would religiously attend their events, often introducing friends of mine to live wrestling through their shows and having our own designated standing location by the ring so we could be in a good position to high five wrestlers and yell into the camera.

About a month ago, I saw they booked the unstable wrestler who I had pushed out of my life. I was nervous to attend this show, but I also didn’t want to shirk support of my favorite promotion just because he was in the opening match. Hoping the wrestler wouldn’t say anything to me or attempt to reconnect, I thought it would be best for me to not post about it on Facebook or twitter and quietly attend– thus sacrificing any potential world of mouth the promotion could get at the hands of their fans in order for me to have some peace of mind.

With his match in progress, I noticed he didn’t look at me and he mostly stayed on the other side of the ring; I thought I was in the clear. He won his match and I saw him blow a kiss across the ring to my side. It looked as if it went to a girl standing near me and just acted like nothing happened. I then watched him cross the ring and climbed over the ropes on my side. Now, I got nervous.

As a part of his scummy heel character, he usually asks for a kiss on the cheek when he wins a match. I was now concerned with the fact that he may ask me for a kiss and I would have to decline, in front of all the cameras, and audience members who will most definitely cheer him on. I was getting worried.

Once he hopped off the ring, he was just feet from me. He received a borage or high-fives from a friend before I saw him turn to me. Instead of him presenting h12276656_953088474758070_9296646_n (1)is cheek, I saw him lunge, face first, into my face. It looked like he was about to kiss me, and play all of this off as ‘just part of the show!’ Instinct kicked in, and I slapped him with my right hand to get his face away from mine. His lips didn’t touch mine; he just shoved me and ran off. 

I was mortified. I couldn’t believe that a show I love so dearly became a place of harassment for me directly. This left me to attempt to logically rationalize how to go forward– I guess I’ll avoid his shows since he’ll use his heel gimmick to get away with whatever he pleases. The bigger fear is how Freelance would response when I approached them. After approaching others within the community for advice most of what I received was unfortunate, but many of them offered condolences with the caveat that this was the sad reality of wrestling culture. It’s amazing for something that exists purely in the realm of fantasy that this was an acceptable ‘reality’.

The reality I was dealing with was the fact that I didn’t know how I could ever feel comfortable at a wrestling show again. My reality was grappling with the conflicting emotions of how something I love can accept this behaviour and side with the aggressor.  It may have been the reality, but I couldn’t rightly live with it. For myself, and for every person out there that had dealt with a similar situation and was too afraid to speak up since ‘This is just how it is,’ I needed to say something to the promoter. I swallowed painfully and sent out a lengthy message with a fear at the pit of my stomach awaiting the inevitable “Yes, we heard his side and we know you’re crazy; if you didn’t want to see him you shouldn’t have come.” The moment I pressed send, I began to cry. I’ve accepted the fact that I was targeted, harassed and nothing will be done about it. The unwelcome whiny outcast of the Chicago Wrestling community who spoke up and ruined all our fun.

It only took moments for me to get a response, but my heart exploded with joy. A profuse apology from the promoter thanking me for bringing the situation to his attention complete with reassurance that the footage will be reviewed with their team. More tears, now ones of pure joy. I was awarded the rare opportunity of having a voice and a valid opinion. Legitimate shock that I was allowed to enjoy wrestling without disgust or dread. Being believed and listened to was never a response that I could have anticipated, and I honestly cannot thank Freelance Wrestling enough- you have set the bar for integrity and I hope that promotions around the world can learn from your example.

It would be nice if the story ended there, but to no one’s surprise I’m sure, word got back to the worker of the interaction and the ever-changing “stories” began pouring out. He’s just doing his job and if he upset anyone in the crowd then he was doing it well. News flash: harassing women is no longer an acceptable way to gain heat or pops, and it never should have been in the first place. Instead of the story ending here, he took to his own social media to villainize the company for refusing to book him going forward.

Situations like the one Brittany so kindly shared with us are met with a lot of harsh skepticism and a tense request that we keep our mouths shut. This is not just an issue at a wrestling level but for women across the board. The worker currently isn’t being mentioned because of fear of further backlash, harassment and a furthering sense of dread with regards to attending wrestling events. We don’t want to see the promotions that go out of their way to be decent promotions hurt because of scorned men who don’t want to let go of their patriarchal privilege.

We’re finally getting our brief reprieve from having Jerry Lawler on commentary, but we’re not out of the weeds yet. Someone other than Mr. McMahon needs to tear down this wall and let wrestling fans know that there’s no more room for sexual harassment here. That one day, twitter feeds won’t be inundated with men explaining why it’s okay to ask if a female wrestler has breast implants.  Soon rape jokes won’t just be seen as ribs in t
he locker room, or in training centres, that are fun and lighthearted. Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 12.55.15 AMEventually, intergender matches won’t be rife with spots where our opponent drools and gets a huge pop from the crowd by miming that they’re going to fuck us or get their face between our legs. *Insert pathetic wolf whistle here* We’re here to let everyone, including Ric Flair, know that Space Mountain may be the oldest ride in the park, but it’s high time we shut the old guy down and give him a rest– the park is desolate and he doesn’t even go here. We got off that ride ages ago and we’ll do just fine without it.

And the surprise entrant is… — ROYAL RUMBLE 2016 Predictions

It’s that time of year that we all look forward to and end up leaving bitterly disappointed. We decided to go over the card and craft for you how we think Royal Rumble 2k16 will playout.

Pre-Rumble Tag Match

With all our feelings towards ECW it’s with great shock to say most of us are leaning towards a Dudley Boyz win since the pairings of Henry/Swagger and Young/Sandow seem quite far fetched, but it’s be cool to see what they could do with the latter of those teams.

rr_graphicss3Dean Ambrose vs Kevin Owens

Same as before, we seem to be at a draw on who we like more out of the two. There’s been some speculation that it might have to end with a double count out with both men trapped under a pile  of rubble and debris just to continue the trend of Ambrose losing due to hilariously convoluted means in gimmick based matches. If Owens wins then it can lead us on the pathway to the Owens/Sami Zayn title match that we all wish to see at Wrestlemania!

Charlotte vs Becky Lynchrr_graphicss2

Like a plot straight out of Mean Girls we’re going to see Becky show up and burn Charlotte’s diary since she’s just too darn mean. The inventor of the #DivasRevolution, the every woman – Steph McMahon, will then call out for a lumberjack match of the entire Divas division. Becky will call a no contest and snatch the belt and break it into pieces– one for each Diva and all they’ve contributed.

But in reality there will be a win for Lynch with a finish that allows Charlotte to keep the strap all to herself. Becky getting cheated will allow for a triple threat or 4 corners match at Mania between Charlotte, Becky, Paige and Sasha Banks. Becky getting cheated will get the crowd on her side for what will make for a really interesting future for the booking of the main roster women’s division.

rr_graphics2The New Day vs The Usos

Most of our predictions are looking towards how it’s going to play out as part of a Wrestlemania lead up, and this tag team belt match is no different. New Day is going to retain, and they have to avenge Francesca at this point. The only other way for them to do this is to give the Usos the belts so that they can win the rumble as a trio and then turn on another another– and let’s hope that this doesn’t happen. We need a good faction to stay in tact for a little while longer, I can’t handle another Shield upset.

Alberto Del Rio vs Kalisto rr_graphicss

The US Championship belt is almost like a poorly attended game of hot potato, so it’s looking like it’s Kalisto’s turn. It’s be nice to see someone hold onto it for longer than a week this go around.

rr_graphicsLet’s Get Ready to Be Disappointed!!!!!

We all know the only reason to truly watch the rumble is to see who the old school entrant is and we’re going way out of left field with The Great Khali.

As for the surprise entrant will most likely be Triple H. Even though there’s slight whispers of Styles, Triple H is going to come at the end just so someone can beat Roman. Who knows, maybe Sledgie will make an appearance. The smart move, despite our iffy feelings about Bullet Club, is to have Finn invade with Balor Club up from NXT and NJPW. It’ll at least make for something interesting to chatter about. Other things we’d like to see is a Diva entering the rumble, maybe even Natalya, and having them go far or even win.

So there you have it, folks. Don’t forget to follow us on the twitter for all the nonsense during the show where we consistently outshine the official commentary.

 

 

HulkaRacism: When It Came Crashing Down

Today millions of wrestling fans around the world have received a monumental, unavoidable surprise: their fave is problematic.

As you may have seen on our front page, we at Femmezuigiri promote a Hulkamania-free space to grapple with the nasty -isms rampant in professional wrestling. So when the hot button issue of the day is the icing on the red and yellow cake which sent Hulk Hogan abruptly out of WWE, it brought up a lot of different feelings.

If you’ve been anywhere on social media since yesterday evening when warnings of a breaking story — as well as the removal of the Hulkster from WWE’s website — first got out, you’ll probably find most everyone else is at varying stages of processing the information, and are there ever levels to process.

It started last night when a thread on forum site thecoli warned of an audio recording that would be published so full of racial slurs it would lead to WWE severing all ties with Hogan. Several hours later WWE.com had removed as much Hogan-related content from its site. His profile was removed from the Superstars roster, he was no longer listed as a judge on the Tough Enough reality series already in progress, Hulk Hogan merchandise was removed from WWE Shop and Curtis Axel who had been running wild with Axelmania as of late returned to his pre-Royal Rumble incarnation.

Hogan’s first statement on the matter was a brace for impact tweet at 1:00 am EST suggesting what was to come was in the hands of God.

Even before the Enquirer’s article was published word had spread of Hogan’s potential wrongdoing through a misleading article which cited a podcast where Hogan uttered a racial slur. The Enquirer would then publish the content of the recording, thoroughly demonstrating the degree of trouble the Hulkster had gotten himself into.

WWE would soon follow up the story with a statement confirming the termination of Hogan’s contract stating they are “committed to embracing and celebrating individuals from all backgrounds as demonstrated by the diversity of [their] employees, performers and fans worldwide.”

The termination also includes Hogan’s removal from the WWE’s Hall of Fame which he was inducted to in 2005.

Hogan has since apologized, expressing disappointment in using language “inconsistent” with his beliefs. Hogan has also selectively replied on Twitter to fans pledging their continued solidarity to Hulkamania, and standout members of society have been at ready to have Hogan’s back such as MMA fighter and domestic violence enthusiast Tito Ortiz as well as Dennis Rodman.

In a situation where the largest professional wrestling company in the world unsanctimoniously excommunicates the biggest star wrestling has ever seen — and the one who arguably put said company on the map — it comes as a surprise to no one that the news has garnered attention from out there in the real world, and it hasn’t all been pats on the back for WWE removing a racist from its payroll.

Articles from several well known publications’ online platforms have made ample light of the numerous occasions where WWE’s characters, storylines and Chairman of the Board have far from celebrated and embraced cultural diversity. Many of you reading right now can probably count at least five of these occurrences off the top of your head, onscreen and off (take your time, I’ll wait it should only take you a few seconds). On top of that, it is an open secret that POC wrestlers are rarely if ever granted the opportunity to propel themselves to the main event. With the extensive (and The Rock means EXTENSIVE) laundry list of terrible race representation in the WWE, it’s incredibly suspect that only now and in this moment they’ve decided to rise above racism. After all, Michael P.S. Hayes is still employed.

For WWE, this was a case of the receipts being so good they couldn’t not do something. It’s conclusive evidence of one of the most recognizable names in wrestling and greater pop culture being overtly racist. An offensive storyline, gimmick etc. is only a problem when the negative backlash goes beyond the fanbase eg. that fucked up Muhammad Hassan bit on Smackdown (interesting to think about whether WWE would have even backtracked were there no timely real life terrorist attack). If D-Generation X puts on blackface to impersonate the Nation of Domination or another POC wrestler debuts with a painfully stereotypical gimmick a few of the overly-sensitive lefties may go up in arms but WWE figures they’ll be back next week tuning into Monday Night RAW anyway. Once the outer reaches of society uncharacteristically pay attention to professional wrestling for once, then it’s an issue. Then a McMahon has to actually be accountable to someone who has no shares or any ownership of the company.

Because of this, 90% of fans remain incredulous, a little bit puzzled and definitely skeptical that this is a sign of WWE trying to leave the blackface, racist caricatures and glaring inequality on the roster behind. For all we know JBL will be back on commentary saying black wrestlers lack intellect, the Prime Time Players could end up returning to their old spot being a charismatic tag team that’s overlooked by creative and Team BAD may only ever see themselves wrestling on Main Event or Superstars. It’s a horrifying stretch but some would be neither shocked nor appalled, it’s something fans come to expect from WWE.

Despite skepticism on WWE’s policies regarding POC talent, we are still left with the reality that the biggest star in wrestling history has been not only axed, but wiped clean from the records. It’s incredibly difficult to wrap your head around, isn’t it, considering this is someone who main evented seven of the first nine Wrestlemanias, (eight if you count the whole Bret/Yokozuna/Hogan thing at WM IX) consistently drew crowds and admiration, and up until today was praised by WWE for his legacy (read: he got them a buck or two more when he showed up).

Ignoring how weird it’s going to be for WWE to overlook many iconic moments in professional wrestling history, some won’t find it too difficult to adapt to Hulkamania not running wild in the company: the late Lou Thesz did say Hogan “couldn’t tell a wristlock from a wristwatch” and that his “grandmother could do a better leg drop.”

There are still of course, the countless fans who regarded Hogan as a hero, looking up to him during childhood, appreciative of the fond memories his work in wrestling brought to their lives. While the past can’t be erased regardless of WWE redactions, the reframing of what Hulk Hogan means and represents can happen. Remember when you found out that Hogan loved the backstage politics and had a tendency of making it all about him? Similar process, only racism.

If You See Kay(fabe), Or, The Ethics of Unmasking

Wrestling fandom is at times a arms race of disenchantment. If you went to a magic show and spoke over the act’s climactic reveal with running commentary to your date about magnets and trap doors, you’d expect people to be upset with you, or even ask you to leave. Not even the most libertarian-leaning of cinema guests would tolerate a screening of Inside Out punctuated with the scoop on Amy Poehler’s rate of pay.

Smart marks and the wrestling press at times seem bereft of boundaries in sharing space with kayfabe. There is a sort of posturing at play, a competition where your love of wrestling is demonstrated not through your appreciation of it despite it’s fakeness, but by saturating all discourse with self-aware commentary on how it’s fake and you have an intimacy and fluency in that fakeness far exceeding anyone else in the room. It manifests in aggressive chants at the indie show, drowning out performer bumps with enlightened irreverence. I was able to come to the realization of wrestling’s fakeness in my own time as a matter of development; kids who go to CHIKARA events risk being seated next to the smug live tweeter who’s happy to tell everyone around him the only reasonable outcome of the match based on who’s moving on to what promotion after the show.

We don’t, as many might lament, know too much for wrestling to be  fun and exciting anymore. We know too little in regards of when it’s appropriate to share what we know and how to gauge the benefit of its dissemination.

Sharing a leaked WWE memo advising commentators not to use the words “title belt” or “hospital” has a finite community advantage: it allows the press and fans to hold a major corporation accountable. WWE twists and pinches language to squeeze out any semblance of sport or athleticism from their identity, setting forward an industry standard in how it treats their talent. The forced march of the infirm, where wrestlers struggle to walk in their 40’s, will continue unwavered in the wake of WWE’s unchecked apathy for the business they’re actually in.

Revealing the identity of a masked wrestler—one who wrestles under that mask for a promotion aimed at children—does not carry a finite benefit to the fandom. The worth of this information is not shareable. Voices of Wrestling proves itself a little wiser, a little less in love with the business; everyone else forfeits, whether it’s Silver Ant and his privacy or the child fan violently jarred from the dream.

The scoop is defined by its context. Doxing the closeted KKK members in your neighborhood is not the same as doxing a woman who critiqued a video game or a show in a way you didn’t like and has the palpable fear of violent reprisal from a stranger. A leak is not justified just because it proves something. What does what it proves mean to us? How does knowing it allow us to make smarter decisions? How does it better our community? 

Knowledge is not, in this sense, morally or intellectually inert. Freedom of the press is a responsibility; it is up to you, the courier of information, to determine the weight of an item of information and decide if the discomfort or even damage that weight can do if dropped is vindicated by it’s contributions to the community.

No matter how great the demand for a wrestler’s real name or the address of their house or how they like their eggs, that information cannot be conveyed into discourse. A young or new fan being able to sit through an indy show without smart marks inciting chants of in-jokes and telling you how the dish was made before you’ve even tasted will prove a greater yield to the fandom than the page views and controversy you can drum up by telling me whether Hania The Huntress shaved her legs today and whether that means she’s going to Ring of Honor.

It isn’t  the promotions that suffer from this compulsive need to chew on the curtain. It’s funny to do a Braden Walker chant during Chris Harris’ matches. But it was WWE that signed off on that name and produced the segment with his terrible catchphrase—and it’s TNA that is able to prove it’s “realer” by acknowledging Harris’ failure to make it in WWE. But these chants don’t get in WWE or TNA’s heads, challenging their concentration and daring them to fuck up on TV.

Promotions are practiced enough in shitting on their talent. They don’t need help unbuttoning their pants. What power, if any, our “inside knowledge” afforded us has already been ceded to WWE, who have used The Network to overwhelm us with “behind the scenes” access where everyone casually references each other’s real names and forego the inconvenience of even a little acknowledgement of current on-screen feuds and relationships. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain: you can learn more about the birthmark on his ass and how his father left him when he was a child on the new Network special coming up right after RAW.

You are not an alternative if you corroborate, or replicate. Wrestlers are already treated like living IP by promotions; we only compound that forfeiture of identity by tripping over ourselves to throw their real names back in their faces every chance we get. WWE and TNA have made camp in spoiler territory. If we want to resist an oligopoly of mediocrity, we need to start setting boundaries for where Kayfabe can be conserved, if only so young talent and young fans can participate in the sport without being heckled out of the room with our overbearing, overeducated hot takes on overness.

Wrestling took our money by insisting it was real, and now it takes the next generations’s money by cashing on our self-aware participation. If the major promotions wanna stake a claim by saying wrestling is fake, then resistance is to say “only wrestling is real”.

When wrestling tries to sell out, buy in. Preserve the magic where you can, and practice mindfulness when passing on “shoot knowledge” and who it benefits.

It’s this presence of mind and cognizance of consumption that sets us apart from those damn dirty marks.

Be A Star, #WWEqual, #GotYourBack and wrestling’s viral equality facade

Pride week is upon us as summer begins and it’s that time of year when corporations come out in droves supporting the “LGBT” community, never mind the Q, I, 2S, A, and so on. Do they really? Sports has always been an iffy field when it comes to equality and I’m going to put wrestling, as an industry, pretty damn low on the list of those who actually make an effort.

That being said, WWE likes to make the appearance that they are all about equality, but there is transparent hypocrisy right down to the very core. Today, #WWEqual is a hashtag that’s popped up in conjunction with wrestlers tweeting about GLAAD’s #GotYourBack campaign. Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.57.23 PM Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.58.02 PMThis has caught our attention and I’m coloured quite curious right now as to what’s stirring this, other than an opportune moment to get attention. Now, I truly believe the ‘superstars’ who are tweeting as part of this campaign do have the best of intentions; but it’s hard to take anything seriously from a company that has an openly homophobic main eventer, hires transphobic fighters to appear on PPVs and just plain has little respect for women.

This isn’t the first time we’re seeing GLAAD and WWE pairing up, they’ve partnered with Darren Young shortly after TMZ outed him, they’ve reached out to talk to them when John Cena made disparaging remarks in regards to trans people, and there is no shortage of damage control in regards to maintaining their image. It’s an odd image to try and maintain though, since despite these efforts we’re left feeling unsafe and unwelcome in the wrestling community.

Combat sports as a whole, however, are taking huge steps forward with regards to inclusion. We have Fallon Fox fighting with UFC and our first ever openly gay Tag Team Champion in the WWE with the Prime Time Players (Darren Young).

So, how can these efforts to better themselves coexist alongside storylines in which Paige calls Tamina a man and mentions that she’s in the wrong division? Sooner or later these campaigns against bullying need to be effective internally as well as just what they’re spouting out to their fans.

Personally, I really hope that our voices are finally getting through to the big wigs and efforts are being made, but I’ve been burned before. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this hashtag to see if there’s any legitimate partnership or if this is just another bandwagon hop.

I scream, you scream: ‘Where’s my WWF Ice Cream?’

To get you in the mood for this post, I’ve got the background music of choice for you. That was almost my entrance theme for Doughnut Messaround as part of the League of Lady Wrestlers, but I felt that the Mr. Softee motif may have been lost on the Canadian crowds.

jimmy hartSo here I am, sitting at home eating an ice cream sandwich and wondering how much happier I would be if one of my favourite wrestlers was imprinted on it, just for novelties sake. There are days when I describe silly facts like that about myself and am met with the response of “it’s your aesthetic” and no one is surprised. But alas, this ice cream sandwich does not have that magic value that I so desire.

If you weren’t around to revel in the joy of the Good Humour branded treats, you weren’t missing much. They had a bizarre almost slushy like texture, probably caused by freezer burn, but I would still chase the truck down the street to get one if they were around today. Maybe with the current resurgence of wrestling in the forefront of pop culture, WWE and Good Humor will humour us and listen to CM Punks many demands and bring ’em back for a final go. Where in the hell are my WWE ice cream bars?

Back in 2008, WWE magazine even had a DIY page on how to make your own bars in time for SummerSlam. Vanilla ice cream, cookies, chocolate shell and a popsicle stick? Maybe we’ll have to test this out this summer and make LOLW branded ones for our own promotion and see how those fly off the shelves.

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Comic from BotchedSpot.com

 

I am totally on board with ice cream being the official wrestling food, especially in the heat of the summer. So let’s take a look back at the glorious promos all surrounding these not so tasty but memorable treats:

Naomi vs Nikki: WWE Extreme Rules 2015

Tomorrow is the PPV and we’ll see how extreme they allow the Divas match to get.  I think between the ferocity of Naomi and Nikki’s progress we have a chance to see a really good match if the girls are given enough time to work.

Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a fairly steady push for Naomi again, working out of the valet role and back into where she should be in the WWE. In her promo after the unnecessary Battle Royal she pointed out that it makes no sense that she’s kind of been shelved while everyone else gets their run. I think it’s high time Naomi gets a chance to really flourish, and creative would be daft to stifle her at this time.

We’ve also seen Nikki Bella grow and shift into one of the strongest wrestlers the division currently has. Maybe an angle or storyline I don’t personally buy into, but it works for her. Let’s ditch this jealous catty bitches angle and let these girls rip each other to shreds. I’m hoping for a full on hardcore match that we haven’t seen since Lita’s days, but I’ll take what they’ve got to give us tomorrow.

Who do you think is going to take home the belt?

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Someone out there is listening to us. WWE hasn’t quite gotten the picture, but it seems TNA is ready to be on the ball. Tonight at 9pm EST TNA will be broadcasting “A Night of Knockouts” featuring different members from their women’s division.

Normally, I don’t tune in to TNA but I will be tonight. You know everyone is going to be checking their ratings and their social media, so speak up. They are, in their eyes, taking a gamble and doing something that no other major promotions are currently tackling: featuring women front and centre. Now, this has been done before on a PPV, but not as part of their regular broadcast. Tonight, the men are getting the treatment that the women normally do and are subject to one match somewhere in the middle of the card.

We’re going to be seeing a great mix tonight and I have faith that the storylines will be interesting and the fighting will be top notch. The match ups are not your typical fare, and I don’t think we could ask for anything more to start off:

  • Main event between Knockouts Champ Tayrn Terrell against my personal favourite Awesome Kong
  • A fatal fourway between Gail Kim, Madison Rayne, Brooke Adams and Angelina Love! The winner of this match will take on the champ from the main event going forward. Let’s see how this stacks up to the NXT Rival Fatal Four Way from a few months back
  • They are debuting a new faction called the Dollhouse
  • Cherry Bomb and Mickie James will each be making an appearance as well

That sounds pretty great to me. Now, if only the men’s match would be just as much focused on eye candy as the women’s matches usually are, then they would have a recipe for success. That’s how this works, right? The oppression has to be shifted someplace!

Jokes aside, let’s hope that this leads to a huge step forward for women’s wrestling across the board and a larger representation of our talents and for female fans who tune in and want to see themselves on screen.

 

Lana Stands Up For Women, Wrestling Fans Are Outraged

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

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

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

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Fan Edition | I Ain’t Afraid Of No Mark

Name: Marissa @yunatron

Age: 30

Location: Chicago

Describe your ringside style: 

Band shirt, leggings and Adidas Superstars since Chuck Taylors and Docs have already been used…

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How did you become a wrestling fan?

Watched syndicated WWE programming during the 90s. I liked the over the top personalities and crazy moves. Was one of the millions of The Rock’s fans during The Attitude Era.

Fave Wrestler: Macho Man Randy Savage

Fave Promotion: 

I rotate various promotions. Right now I’m into Lucha Underground and Shimmer.

Fave Move: Brainbuster

Fave Match: Backlash ‘99, The Rock vs Stone Cold

Dream Tag Team:

Best and The Beard (CM Punk and Daniel Bryan)

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

If you want to be featured please email us some photos and fill out our questionnaire!

10 Ways Chyna Winning the Royal Rumble Could Change Wrestling: Part 2

By god, a second wind! Last week, we dreamed up a new genealogy of women’s wrestling–how would wrestling be different if Chyna had won the ‘99 Royal Rumble, thus earning the right to challenge for the World Title at WrestleMania.

You can read the first fall of the future Slammy nominee for “Most Indulgent Thinkpiece” here.

6. So I Guess We Have To Talk About “The Hand”

Wrestling has a rigid margin of sustainability for retiring performers, even by the standards of sports. There aren’t a lot of “I’ve been there, let me give you my perspective” analyst jobs for a sport that’s not real. If you can even think straight. If a year round schedule of ladder drops and botched facebusters, rinse and repeated, multiplied by X, hasn’t made your mind a hash of static hiss.

We can’t get jobs with college degrees and years of experience in the field–how are professional athletes supposed to “start over”?

For many retired wrestlers, it’s the slaughterhouse of “real life” or the petting zoo of self-parody.

Ron Simmons was the first black world heavyweight champion in wrestling’s history. He ended his career wandering backstage with a single word printed on his shirt that many watching the show weren’t allowed to say in school.

In the Attitude Era, Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young were featured in a number of gross-out comedy segments. Veritable architects of women’s wrestling competed in swimsuit competitions and complained of the declining virility in American men from under chest-high motel comforters.

Mae Young got knocked up by Mark Henry and then gave birth to a plastic hand. I don’t know how to obfuscate the horror of this in floral verbiage. It is perhaps one of the more egregious excesses of the Attitude Era.

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I’m not suggesting WWE would have hit a mental block with new ways to humiliate the women in their employ–or that Fabulous Moolah’s reign of backstage politics that quashed the careers of many younger wrestlers didn’t deserve at least some consequence.

The best women’s wrestler in WWE at the time was wrestling men. The rest were tripping over their high heels in stripteases masked in the trappings of competition. I cannot help but interpret this as a looming assertion, a warning to current and future women’s talent: your body, whether it sexually excite or sexually revulse our audience, is all we will ever make use of.

I like to think Chyna competing for the World Title would, in addition to imploring a new wave of indie women’s wrestlers into WWE, give Moolah and Mae Young something else to do with themselves. Young and Moolah as the bickering grandmas giving Chyna old-timer advice and encouragement in a vain attempt to vicariously recapture their glory might not have “put butts in the seats” but think of how well that would have aged, say, 15 years later, where women are creating hashtags to convey to you the potential of your own roster.

7. Intercontinental Entitled

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The WWE IC Championship is a good idea. Titles tell stories. It gives wrestlers, and therefore the audience, something to invest in. If a feud fails to find its chemistry, it can always orbit around the mutually exclusive desire to hold a title.

Cometh the caveat: it’s now completely useless. There are no differing restrictions or regulations between the World Title, the IC Title, and US Title.

The current holder is a former World Champion. In the last 10 IC title reigns, the title was held by a former World Champion 6 times. It is no longer the “up and comer, not ready for main event” championship. It and the US Title are just a holding pattern for a bloated main event roster.

Where’s Jim Ross when someone is actually exposing the business?

Losing the main event at WrestleMania (per my “Triple Threat” scenario in part 1), Chyna slips back down to the card and wins the IC Title. She wasn’t ready for permanent main event status; she’s coming into her own in due time.

Chyna was billed as the “9th Wonder of the World”. In an earlier era, she’d be escorted to the ring by a prancing Jimmy Hart, heralding her unfortunate victim’s poor luck like a crazed carnival barker. As an IC Champion, and one who proved she could work the main event at the biggest show of them all, Chyna cements the true purpose of the IC Title–it’s anything goes. WWE’s first ladder match and first triple threat match were contested for the IC Title. It would blossom, under the reign of Chyna, into an anarchic inversion of the World Title. No contract signings, no “beat these three men and you can have a chance to beat another man” storylines. Just get in the ring.

And this could, in time, lead to women competing against other women for traditionally “men’s” belts. Like the Number 2 headband of Afro Samurai, the IC Title is an open invitation for mayhem.

There is no use for a hierarchy of titles in a sport that does not meaningfully recognize weight classes.

8. Where In The World Is Eddie Guerrero?

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I’m not so radical as to, even facetiously, posit myself contrary to the reality that Latino Heat was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. If this were a strictly “general wrestling” site, I would gladly take up a whole article just to discuss how his blend of strong style and lucha libre helped pave a demand for cruiserweight wrestlers in the United States.

Before he came to the WWE, Eddie G was well-respected, but not well written. The greatest hits of his WCW heel run included not being a very effective coach for his nephew Chavo and making his former friend Rey Mysterio Jr wear an oversized shirt as a stipulation of beating him. He formed an analog to the nWo, stocked with luchadores–it, like the actual nWo, came to encompass almost everyone in the division. Far from the direst indignities Vince Russo would force Mexican talent to endure, having a band of Mexicans form a blatant, intentional knock-off of a stable of white Americans is in pretty bad taste.

WWE signed The Radicalz as a pot shot on a staggering opponent. They took WCW’s core of technical wrestlers, gave them their turn on the catwalk helping big bad Triple H in his various schemes , then deftly ushered them to the mid-card. Dean Malenko and Perry Saturn fizzled out after being given bad relationship gimmicks, Malenko the serial adulterer and Saturn romantically involved with a mop. Romance angles are the death knell of the midcarder.

When Eddie Guerrero returned to the WWE in 2001, having missed the tail end of the Attitude Era and the WCW Invasion due to complications of his alcoholism, his career was on a very wet precipice. He’d been off TV for a while, and both of his previous American employers were now bought out by his current boss. There wouldn’t be much for him left in the US if he couldn’t get over.

His relationship with Chyna is probably one of the best romantic storylines in the sport. Eddie had an earnest charm–and good comedic awareness. You could almost overlook his creepiness and obvious intent to betray Chyna the moment it suited him; you believed that they could work. Eddie was smaller than Chyna, and that made his professions of love seem summoned from a place of reverence. He worshipped her, like a god. Most romance angles involve a wrestler dating a diva maybe 1/3 of his size. When Eddie won the IC Title from Chyna in a triple threat with Kurt Angle, he pretended to have “fallen while checking up on her” because he knew she could throw him around if they went toe to toe.

His admiration of his own private Amazonian, and numerous betrayals of her, laid the groundwork for his “Lie, Cheat, Steal” gimmick, which would transcend the face/heel dichotomy and give him an appeal irrelevant of his current booking.

Teaming with Chyna helped Eddie Guerrero prove his capacity to do it “WWE style”–with character.

So what if Chyna’s not in the picture? If she’s wrestling Triple H at WrestleMania in a non-singles match, that feud has a few more months of shelf life. Even if Chyna works the IC Division, even if Triple H has already dropped the belt, they’re having a singles program. It’s just due diligence in booking. A main event “former lovers, now enemies” angle isn’t a load you blow on Judgment Day or Bad Blood. That’s a “Big Four” match. She’s not entertaining midcard suitors anytime soon. Even if she and Eddie are booked together, the focus will be entirely on her and her forward motion.

As Part 1 played out: not all of the changes would be “for the better”. It’s possible, if Chyna was pushed to the main event, Eddie Guerrero might not have had his break in the WWE. Women are not interchangeable props. Think of them more as actors–when you realize their opinions of your script effect how well it’s performed and how readily the fans accept it, you might start to write them better!

9. Valet in the Shadow of Death

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It is a time of revolt. After Essa Rios is found flirting with The Godfather’s cadre of sex workers, a jealous Lita challenges him for the Light Heavyweight Title. Test and Albert pass worried glances to Trish Stratus at ringside, knowing if she deems either of them to be the weak link, she’ll just replace them with herself–it’s a marketable acronym any way you spell it. Chyna has shown the way. Turn on your male masters. Take their titles.

In a nameless room backstage, the devil slicks his balding ponytail and quivers his lips, as if savoring the anticipation of his own words.

Vince McMahon clenches–everywhere. Triple H should’ve just stayed down at WrestleMania. Give him federal prosecutors, give him IRS hounds.

“You have a procedural, and frankly a financial imperative, to give my client, Chyna, the proper world title shot she was granted by winning the Royal Rumble. It’s the 21st Century. You can’t deny women equal opportunities in the office. It’s the law. Trust me. I know the law. I’ve been sued more times than the National Enquirer.”

Anything but Paul Heyman.

10. Ring The Damn Bellas

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In January 2014, the Bella Twins pushed for a Divas Tag Title. It seems superfluous to have a Divas singles title when any match of any worth will be immediately modified to be a tag team match.

Tag team wrestling is important. It helps tell more complex stories, allows for more complicated spots (or body counts, at the least), helps young wrestlers learn the trade and helps old wrestlers go down swinging. For women to be fully integrated into wrestling, they must have meaningful tag team competition.

Still: confining the Bellas to a single gender tag division might be wondrously under-utilizing them.

They are the perfection of the twin gimmick realized. The Harris Brothers, The Bashams–all heel twinsies strove to have the charm and heat of The Bella twins.

They have personalities, mic and camera presence–and they fight all the time. They look alike but they don’t think alike!

SEE THAT? THAT’S SHIT. THAT’S NOT EVEN 101. THAT COMES IN THE SYLLABUS THAT YOU GET BEFORE YOU EVEN TAKE THE 101 CLASS.

IT IS STILL A BETTER NARRATIVE THAN ANY OTHER TWINSIES GIMMICK IN THE WHOLE FUCKING HISTORY OF PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING.

With women regularly in the main event, they’d probably already be 2 time champions by now. You’re gonna tell me that even the most ardent of discerning misogynists in pro wrestling couldn’t buy The Bellas legitimately beating The Ascension? Or The Miz & Mizdow?

You’re telling me that The Bellas vs The Usos couldn’t get at least a three star rating, if the Bellas got some actual training?

Just think: more twin magic than David Copperfield trying to make his reflections penis disappear. It’s the storytelling we deserve.

Maybe you’re right.

Teams of smaller, scrappy

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wrestlers who sometimes cheat

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or have trouble getting along

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never go far in this business.

Good thing Jim Cornette didn’t waste his career manag–

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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):

 

We’re Just Your Eye Candy

Don’t believe women wrestlers are treated and viewed as glorified lingerie models? Try and conduct a Google Image search of one and find a shot of one in the ring fighting, I’ll wait…

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Welcome back. Maybe I wasn’t specific enough? Let’s try searching for Lita and add the word “wrestler” to the end of it.

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Hmm, still a lot of the same. This probably doesn’t come as a shock to any of you, we know this problem exists yet we choose not to acknowledge it. People cling to the status quo, almost desperately as if it was life or death, often without even meaning to. They accept what is, because it is what is. Which, ironically, is how often in wrestling, it’s still very possible to surprise the hell out of everyone. The bigger issue at hand is that if you were to search for most professional male wrestlers you’ll get the following results:

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If you’re even more specific and search “Lita + Wrestling + Moonsault” then you’ll end up getting photos of her executing a moonsault, but it shouldn’t need to be that on the nose to get a photo of a professional wrestler doing what she does for a living‐ wrestle. But it’s been drilled into my head time and time again, the women of professional wrestling are utilized for a bathroom break, eye candy at best. There are exceptions to this google image search experiment regarding women, and of course it’s when you search a less conventionally attractive fighter, someone they don’t believe can be passed off as a sex symbol:

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There are added layers of complexity to this that aren’t solely in the realm of the internet. When you look up anything to do with AJ Lee, a three time Diva’s champion and has the longest reign in the title’s history, all the content that comes up is regarding CM Punk and their relationship. These women are lessened to a sex object, either available for public consumption or via their attachment to the superior male wrestler.

When you attend a live show you hear chants like “C M Punk” for AJ Lee, “John Cena” for Nikki Bella”, “US‐O” for Naomi, and “Yes! Yes! Yes!” for Brie Bella, which is her husband’s catchphrase. It’s commonplace for fans to chant the name of a wrestler who is not in the match if they are bored with what is going on, but this time the message is loud and clear, we are less important; we are only a perceivable physical threat if we are large and ugly. Last year, I decided to try to turn this trend on it’s head. At a WWE Live house show at the Ricoh Coliseum there was an NXT Division match between Sami Zayn and Tyson Kidd. Tyson Kidd happens to be the husband of Natayla Neidhart, of the famous Hart family. Normally, this wouldn’t be an important tidbit but I had hit my wits end and started yelling:

“Nattie’s husband!” *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

A few people around me chuckled, I stood up and started to yell louder. My friends joined in and soon thereafter I had an entire section of the venue chanting along with me. Several of these people went to the live taping of RAW the following week in Brooklyn and began that chant again, it caught on like wildfire. The next day there were posts on social media, made by WWE themselves, asking what we thought of #NattiesHusband last night. They’ve carried this storyline through to their massively scripted ‘reality’ show E! Total Divas, where on a recent episode Tyson through the temper tantrum of a toddler about how he isn’t respected and that he is uncomfortable being overshadowed by Nattie. Nattie used this opportunity to boost her husband’s confidence by introducing him to the world she knows best‐ modelling. To make sure to not further crush his ego, Natalya is back in her place as Tyson’s valet and ringside cheerleader where she rightfully belongs. I’m all for dissent, I encourage heckling and fighting against what is presented to you, but maybe it’s time we dissent towards this status quo where the women are mere arm candy.

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.

Bull Nakano

Here we have a woman who was as stylish in the ring as she was tough. With hair that stands almost as tall as I am, that also barely moves, and the most electifying shade of blue lipstick that would make David Bowie proud, she brought a unique and terrifying brand of beauty to women’s pro wrestling. Bull Nakano started wrestling in AJW at the age of 15, and over time has competed in multiple promotions including CMLL, WWF and WCW. Winning her first title Bull was a trailblazer of sorts, and was CMLL’s first ever World Women’s Champion. Her strongest matches were primarily tag matches alongside Dump Matsumoto, and she has held the WWWA World Tag Team Championship on three separate occassions.

This isn’t to say that she’s not a raging monster in the ring when she’s by herself. When she regained the WWWA World Heavyweight Championship title in a Japan Grand Prix tournament, she remained the title holder for just shy of three consecutive years before dropping the belt to Aja Kong.

Bull is my ideal type of wrestler: she’s slow, strong, throws her weight around and doesn’t give two shits about you or how hard you’re going to go down to that mat. No stranger to technique, she uses a lot of brute force moves to exert dominance over her opponent. My personal favourites are when she utilizes the Moolah Whip landing her opponent flat on their face across the ring, or the ever so arrogant standing on someone’s chest when they’re down for a pin. What’s even more impressive is Bull’s ability to be perceived as a tough, unbreakable monster even when she loses a match.

If she hasn’t scorpion crosslocked her way into your heart just yet, then check out this Joshi match on a SUBWAY TRAIN between her and Yumi Fukawa:

As for a suggestion on what else to watch? I’ve yet to be let down by any match of hers, so internet search to your heart’s content. (But don’t just stick to the WWE).

Steven Universe “Tiger Millionaire”

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.

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Secret Wrestlers

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.