Recently, the following article was brought to my attention. It is called “A Feminist Sensibility: Wrestling Network Chance for Divas to Make Moolah.” The title is misleading, as it has nothing to do with the WWE Network, aside from the author typing the words in without really talking about it. Also, it is an article written by someone who (as she states) is not even a WWE fan.
I will not deny that she makes a few good points, which is what I will call “a broken clock still being right, twice a day.” Some of the points she makes are absolutely clear to pretty much anyone who watches WWE even occasionally. However, she does not have a clear grasp on the clusterf*ck of things that are wrong with the Divas Division, in WWE, or the big picture. Why? She is not a fan, and you can’t really write on things about which you aren’t really knowledgeable. Like I said, some of her points are pretty true, but you need to be even somewhat a fan, to really know how bad it is, right now.
I am that fan.
Wrestling Fan Cred
To give my readers my wrestling fan “cred,” I watched WWE (then WWF), casually, from 1996 to maybe 1999 or 2000. I was in middle and high school, and I was enamored with especially Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I grew disinterested, and turned my attention to other fandoms and hobbies.
Then, in 2012, a now-former friend of mine, invited me to a live stream, where the participators watched Monday Night RAW together and talked about it, among other things. Then, the same friend invited me to a mid-week stream, which was hosted by an avid, life-long wrestling fan and podcast co-host, named Matty Jay. Matty often talked about wrestling during this stream, and he co-hosts a wrestling-focused podcast, called The Wrestle-Cast.
These fellows have a vivid passion for pro wrestling, which is rather infectious, so I started getting curious about pro wrestling again. I occasionally watched Monday Night RAW, and went to the Monday night streams. I went to the mid-week streams every week. Also, at the end of 2012, I attended a Monday Night RAW taping. (Monday Night RAW is usually live, but this was a New Year’s Eve episode, that needed to be taped in advance.)
It was an amazing experience, and from there, I jumped head-first back into the world of pro wrestling, and the rest is history. I now watch Monday Night RAW, Friday Night SmackDown, NXT (WWE’s developmental program), and all of the WWE pay-per-views, no matter how disappointing they have gotten lately. My Twitter and Facebook profiles are full of wrestling fan friends hosts. Even the WWE Diva, Natalya, follows me on Twitter (I have to say I marked out, hard, about that one). I have interacted with several of the wrestlers and commentators, and it’s a lot of fun. One of my favorite things to do is live tweet each wrestling event I watch, with my friends, over Skype. I also tend to follow wrestling news pretty avidly, and try to go to live events as often as I can (there have now been three). So as you can see, I am a pretty huge fan, even if I can’t hold a match to people like Matty Jay.
Simply put: If there’s a day that I’m not talking about pro wrestling, there’s something wrong. No, really.
Now that you can clearly see that I am likely to know what the hell I’m talking about, let’s address what’s going on in the Divas Division in WWE and why most of it is not positive.
The Current State of Affairs in WWE Divas Division
First of all, unlike what the author of the misleading article said, it is all Vince McMahon’s fault. Okay, well, mostly his fault. I will elaborate further, later, but it also has somewhat to do with some of the finnicky, fairweather fans. However, overall, it really is Mr. McMahon’s fault. Some people are apparently still under the assumption that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon run the main roster (Monday Night RAW and SmackDown), because they appear as authority figures (named The Authority) on those shows.
This is incorrect. Stephanie McMahon, whom is Vince’s daughter, is one of the principle owners of WWE, and Paul Levesque (Triple H, whom is married to Stephanie, in real life) is the Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events, and Creative. While they are involved in the creative process, somewhat, on the main roster shows, I’m sure Vince himself has the final say, and it has shown, lately, with some questionable decisions he’s made. As for what Triple H does have creative control over, he is in charge of the developmental program, NXT, which is run a lot better, including the female talent, unlike on the main roster shows.
On Wrestling Talent
So, let’s start in on the issues that the main roster Divas are facing. I think we all know where I am going first. The WWE seems interested in hiring women who look like models, and are better at modeling, than actually, you know, wrestling. I take no issue with the Divas looking good. I really don’t. In fact, I find several of them attractive–especially Natalya (and others, like Eva Marie and Summer Rae, not so much).
Anyway, this works for the key demographics of around 65% males, and an average age of 41.5-years-old. The fact is that it is almost always purely because of how they look, and especially how they look in their skimpy ring attire (with which I also do not take an issue). If more than a couple of them were actually good wrestlers, or in decent storylines (which I will get to later), then the number of people in their key demographics, who watched for just looks, might be slightly skewed.
Then, there are the people who watch for more than just how the Divas look, and they are displeased with how they’re basically there for eye candy, but are in the worst storylines ever. Even though I heard the term more in the past, the term “piss break” is sometimes sill uttered when the Divas’ matches are on, as it tends to be when those people get up to go to the restroom. That’s how uninterested a lot of people are in the Divas matches. Even their good looks aren’t good enough for some people. I don’t blame them.
Who Are the Talented Divas?
Then, sometimes, Divas are more than just a pretty face. I’m not going to lie to you. The number of Divas who are actually good, at what they do is small compared to those who aren’t. On the main roster, the only real talent I see within the Divas lies with Natalya, Naomi, AJ Lee (despite not being a fan), and Paige.
Admittedly, the only one of those whom excels on the mic and in the ring, is AJ Lee. This is apparent by the fact that WWE made AJ their “it” girl for a while. However, as stated in the article that sparked this response, despite AJ’s talent, on her own, she was stuck in storylines that didn’t particularly let her shine only on her own.
I’m going to be blunt. For a while, AJ Lee was passed around like the company bong. To create and further kayfabe feuds between the Superstars, AJ Lee had several “romantic” relationships with WWE Superstars–Daniel Bryan, CM Punk (her now-in real life husband), Kane, John Cena, and Dolph Ziggler. During these romantic endeavors, yes, she had her own Diva storylines at times, but the main thing that she was there for was to make these Superstars look better.
So, on top of being good at what she does, she also made a great puppet, and is likely why she was the “it” girl for a while. Basically, especially in the past couple of years, there’s been one Diva name, and one Diva name only, that has come up more than any other’s name, and that is certainly AJ Lee.
The point is, yes, I know that she has tremendous talent, despite not being a fan of hers. However, WWE tends to get tunnel-vision times. While there are more Divas that are able to shine just as brightly as AJ, if given the chance, WWE seems to only care about one or two Divas at a time, and in the past couple of years, the one they’ve been stuck on is AJ. To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised that not more than one Diva, other than Kaitlyn, has left, because of this–especially excellent veterans, like Natalya.
The WWE and Negative Female Stereotypes
Going along with the above issue of pushes that are mostly for the elevation of WWE’s Superstars of their choosing, let’s also talk about the other negative female stereotypes that WWE likes to promote. I get it. The heels are to be disliked, and the faces are to be liked. The competition is fueled by quarrels and feuds. However, in the age of so-called feminists like Anita Sarkeesian making feminism and gender equality look like jokes, is it really necessary to promote that in the WWE? You would think that by having a women’s division, that it would be empowering for women, not only in the business, but also to female viewers. What are we getting instead?
One big issue has become prevalent, in the form of reality TV. Just when we thought we couldn’t dislike a lot of reality shows anymore, Total Divas came along. It follows the lives of a handful of WWE Divas, including The Bellas, Natalya, Eva Marie, Paige, Naomi, etc. I used to watch this show, with the reason being that I wanted to see the reasons that backed up why I didn’t like certain Divas and Superstars (Natalya, Brie Bella, and Naomi are all married to Superstars, and Nikki is dating one). I stopped watching because I was getting pissed off at what I saw–Eva Marie disrespecting her family (including a cancerous father) and getting married (eloped) to a man she barely knew, after having a blow-up with her family; Natalya and TJ’s crumbling marriage problems being aired; a Bella family intervention behind Nikki’s back, basically telling John Cena to “piss or get off the pot,” with Nikki, etc.
What’s Scripted and What’s Real?
I watch some reality TV, and don’t pick it apart, but this was too much, for even me. Of course, people met me with the argument that most of it is scripted, and not even real, so I needed to chill. That made me even angrier, because we don’t know what is scripted and what is real, so they very well could be fabricating Eva Marie’s dad having cancer, or a looming divorce between Natalya and TJ. That just doesn’t sit right with me.
What’s worse is that they use this show to push one or two of its stars, every time the show is on air. In fact, the current Divas Champion is Nikki Bella, a star of the show since the beginning. They’re using personal drama (whether it’s real or scripted) to further their popularity in the WWE. It annoys me, because it just furthers the stereotype that women are all drama, all the time, and all backstab each other (there are a lot of inter-Divas Division fights on the show). Some of the traitorous plots are fine in the ring, but passing that kind of stuff off as real life, in Total Divas, is total bullshit.
Now, to the in-ring problems. Aside from Divas being pushed because of that garbage they call a TV show, Divas being used to further the careers of the Superstars, and WWE only having tunnel-vision on one or two Divas at a time, we see so much other trash-for-storylines.
So, one within the past year does actually include one of the Superstars and Total Divas, too, but it goes deeper. This one involves the jealous female card.
On Total Divas, Summer Rae, who had been Fandango’s dance partner/valet for a very long time, tried to hook up with said Superstar. It didn’t quiet work out. So, they used it to throw some drama into the mix, for RAW and SmackDown. Summer Rae and Fandango had a public “Twitter war” with shade thrown at each other.
Then, a feud ensued between Summer Rae and Layla, whom replaced Summer Rae, as Fandango’s partner. That crap went on for a while, and I don’t even remember how it ended (it doesn’t matter), but the fact of the matter is that it played up the female stereotype of being jealous (and usually over a man).
The Bellas were also problematic for a while, and are still sometimes. At the 2014 Summer Slam, Nikki turned on her sister, Brie, helping Stephanie McMahon win the match against her. From then on, for a while, The Bellas were rivals, and had a really stupid feud with one another.
At one point, Nikki told Brie that she wished that Brie had died in the womb. Then, for a few weeks, we had a bullshit promo, called “Growing up Bella,” where Nikki recanted all the horrible stuff that Brie had apparently done. It was awful, and insulting to watch. Eventually, the two reunited, and now spend all their time bullying the amazing pale-skinned, raven-haired, talented beauty that is Paige. I could go on and on about the insanely stupid stuff we’ve had to watch lately involving the Divas, but we’d be here for a while.
Therefore, I’ll mention one other thing that I absolutely cannot stand, even a little bit, recently. There is a a current feud between the former Tag Team Champions, The Usos, and the current Tag Team Champions, Tyson Kidd and Cesaro. Jimmy Uso is married to the Diva named Naomi, and Natalya is married to Tyson Kidd. Therefore, they accompany their husbands and their partner to the ring. Sometimes, during a match, they will fight each other. Other times, they will just stand at the apron or ringside and watch the guys fight. Well, for a while now, the scum that is Tyson Kidd (yeah, I’m telling you how I really feel) will get into a pickle against an opponent and use Natalya as a human shield. So, not only are women emotional and mental pawns for the Superstars and against each other, but now, they are literal objects. It does not sit right with me, and WWE should be ashamed of themselves for it.
So, what’s written above, is the typical standard of the main roster Divas Division. It’s awful, and hated by many. However, it seems that even if displeased with the product, most fans just say, “meh,” and don’t raise too much hell about the treatment of the women of WWE.
They’re still too busy chanting the name of a Superstar (CM Punk) who walked out on the company in a really shitty way (I am okay with him leaving, but not how). That is, until the February 23rd Monday Night RAW (the night after the WWE Fastlane pay-per-view). Before commercial break, somewhere near the middle of the show, a Divas match was starting–Paige vs. Brie Bella. Paige’s music played, and she did her entrance. Then, the cameras cut back to commentary, which talked about a look back at Sting.
Then, a commercial break played, they came back to RAW, and a five(ish)-minute long video package about Sting played. Then, a cut back to commentary, who started talking about the Divas match again. The Bellas came out, and Brie beat Paige in a matter of seconds. The match maybe lasted fifteen or twenty seconds, and it was over, with The Bellas taunting Paige, at the end. People finally got pissed about the treatment of the Divas, whether they’re liked characters or not, and took to Twitter. The hashtag, “#GiveDivasAChance” was born, and as of the time I am writing this, it is still trending on Twitter. And apparently, yesterday (Februrary 24th), Mr. McMahon tweeted: “We hear you. Keep watching. #GiveDivasAChance.” I’m not exactly sure what that means, but given Mr. McMahon’s track record of bad decision-making, lately, I think it’s safe to say that we will not see a change any time soon.
I’m glad to see that fans are speaking out against the utter crap that the Divas face, even if it took ages, and it’s only over the brevity of a match, to squeeze in more of a video package about a male wrestler who has only dropped in recently to cause some havoc. (No offense to Sting, by the way, because in a time when WWE is sucky, in general, he’s helping to generate some good hype for Wrestlemania).
However, I wish that they would raise a little more hell, and more often, about other things, too. I often hear the excuse that Vince doesn’t care, and that complaining won’t do any good. You know what? Maybe it won’t, but who can say for sure? Plus, some of these same people are mad about other things within the company, and whether they’ve stuck with it or not (my bet is on not), jumped on the “#CancelWWENetwork” bandwagon.
Perhaps if we raise a little more hell, a little more loudly, and a little more often, it’ll keep getting the attention of the right people, and things will change for the better.
My only concern is the finnicky, fairweather fans. I’ve see them emerge, most often, when a Superstar from NXT, has been called up from the main roster. We often see the same old crap, every week, on the main roster, and bitch and moan about wanting something different. However, when something different is called up, like… let’s say, Adam Rose, those finnicky fans tear them to shreds. Therefore, if they want change, they need to be prepared for it. And if they are prepared for it, by all means, let’s have some hell raised–especially for the Divas. And sadly, while wrestling will probably never be the amazing way it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s (which I often hear from people), if enough change is created, then maybe… just maybe, we can see a different kind of awesome now.
Feminism and Divas
People often forget that true feminism isn’t all patriarch-hating, butch-presenting, one-woman-machine, attitude-having vitriol. It’s not about telling women that their decisions, that they may have very well made on their own, without the input of a man, are wrong.
So, with that thought, there’s this: The main roster Divas Division isn’t great right now. It hasn’t been for a while. However, these women–even the ones we may not like, including Eva Marie (I really can’t stand her), have chosen, for whatever reasons, to do this for their life’s work. They train and promote hard. And they are under contract, so even if they don’t like the way they’re being treated, they can’t really speak up, it seems, without putting their career in jeopardy. Therefore, in the spirit of feminism, and of change, we need to be the voice of the voiceless, and do what we can, to help create change–even if we feel we can’t do it alone, and that it might not come soon, or ever. But we can, at least, try.
To decision-makers at WWE: I hope you wake up and see how you re harming feminism, the Divas themselves, and fans.
You can be better than this. Maybe things are not the way they used to be in the ’80s and ’90s, but there’s no reason why we can’t now have Divas who are tough and talented, like Chyna or others were. Adapting to Hollywood standards, in even sports entertainment, isn’t a requirement. And if things change for the better, even if it shifts sharply from how things are now, I can pretty much guarantee that the fanbase isn’t going to go into a decline. If anything, it’ll grow.
Now, go forth and be sports entertained!