Recently, I’ve been writing more and more about the professional wrestling industry. As loyal readers may know, I’ve been a fan of the very flawed WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) promotion, despite being fed up with the current goings-on, especially in the Divas Division.
However, as a saving grace, my best friend introduced me to a wrestling promotion that seemingly does everything right. That promotion is called Lucha Underground, and it is based in Los Angeles, at “The Temple” (their arena). I’m only a few episodes in (I started watching at the beginning of season two), but I already love it. There is one facet of it, though, that makes it so much more entertaining and awesome than WWE (aside from the competent writers): I love that there are intergender matches.
Lucha Underground and Intergender Matches
Intergender matches are not to be confused with mixed tag team matches. In intergender matches, men and women can wrestle each other head-on. In mixed tag team matches, if a woman is in the ring, her opponent must be another woman. If the opponent tags in her male teammate, then a male member of the other woman’s tag team has to get in the ring. Now in WWE, I’ve seen women get involved with men in the match, and I’m fairly certain that it ended in disciplinary action.
The one that vividly sticks out of my mind was when Naomi was having a non-kayfabe fight with her real then-fiance, Jimmy Uso, in real life, and her anger got carried to the right, where she flipped him rather aggressively.
Aside from these occasional instances, the women in WWE are used in male storylines as, pretty much, nothing more than wrenches thrown into feuds. They’re portrayed as sneaking, conniving, backstabbing, loved and/or scorned, jealous, and a bunch of other negative female stereotypes. Oh and more and more lately, they’re used by the men as human shields (Tyson Kidd was one of the biggest offenders there). Then, there’s disgusting stuff like Ric Flair kissing Becky Lynch, to distract her in her match with his daughter, Charlotte (which they later edited out because they got major backlash). Basically, these women are treated like lesser, second class beings in the promotion. It’s no wonder they derailed the Divas Revolution. It wasn’t living up to their very low expectations of those women.
So, where WWE fails miserably, Lucha Underground picks up and succeeds… so much. In the very first episode of season two that I watched, a tag team, consisting two male luchadors, Son of Havoc and Angelico, and one female, Ivelisse, were made to fight each other for the spot of number one contender for the Lucha Underground Championship.
Ivelisse was the winner of the match. She then used her position, to challenge the Lucha Underground Champion, Mil Muertes, for his title. This is where I got to see the glory of intergender matches. The match for the Gift of the Gods Championship was pretty fantastic, but seeing Ivelisse one-on-one with Mil Muertes, who is one scary dude that I wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley (or lit one, to be honest), was impressive.
Ultimately, Mil Muertes defeated Ivelisse and therefore got to retain his title, but I have to say, I was quite taken with how well she held her own. I saw the same kind of matched talent in another intergender match, in episode three of season two, when Kobra Moon debuted and wrestled Bengala, to win with a submission. These women are incredible at matching talents with their male coworkers.
Could Intergender Matches Help the WWE?
My wish is that WWE would change their boring, played out, inside the box ways, and incorporate intergender match opportunities. Apparently, back in the eighties, there was a brief flirtation with it, when Andy Kaufman offered to reward of a thousand dollars to any woman that could defeat him. He also added, much to my disgust upon hearing about it, that any woman that could defeat him, would also be given his hand in marriage. (What a prize… said no one, ever.) So, that was one thing that made it into a mockery.
Then, when women stepped up to compete against Kaufman, Jerry Lawler interfered, and well, it basically took away from the intergender matches, and led to a feud between the two men. This is secondhand understanding of what happened, as I wasn’t watching wrestling back then. If you’re able to find the documentary, I’m From Hollywood, you can see this era of intergender wrestling documented. I should also mention that despite her being a desperate burnout now, Chyna, who was one of my favorite female wrestlers, was a great example of a woman whom could hold her own in intergender matches. In fact, she’s the only female that ever held the Intercontinental Championship – a title held exclusively by men, otherwise. But the long and short of it is that intergender matches were a thing for a little while, but ended up becoming a joke and ended, just like every other good idea tends to turn out, in WWE. However, if WWE truly cared about staying current and doing new things, to keep our interest, they would try again, and not mess it up this time.
Upon thinking about how they could ease into this, I thought about how the Divas didn’t want to compete with men and could opt out, if they were more comfortable with that. They could open up the opportunity, to see if there were any female wrestlers interested.
In fact, I can think of some of the women in WWE who would be excellent in intergender matches. I mostly consider Asuka and Nia Jax, from NXT competent to take on this opportunity. Furthermore, it wouldn’t just open up opportunities to women who are already in this promotion, but it would also possibly bring in better female sports entertainers. Let’s be honest. Right now, most of the women in WWE, with the exception of a large portion of the NXT roster, are glorified fitness models.
I feel like their employment is based on looks first, and talent second. In Eva Marie‘s case, I don’t know what the hell they base her employment on, as she’s not good at anything. Plus, the main roster matches are pretty much just for show. They don’t really mean anything. The only time WWE really wants us to care about the Divas is when a new season of Total Divas starts.
How Intergender Matches Could Improve Divas’ Images
These women are treated more like reality stars, than they are as wrestlers. And the ones who can be the bitchiest to each other (and in Charlotte‘s case, who has the famous dad) are the top Divas in the company. I feel like that if WWE gave them the chance to have intergender matches with the Superstars, that they would be challenged more, and could earn more respect as performers. And as Ivelisse said recently, in a Huffington Post article, it would help lend more credibility to women’s wrestling, and prove that they can, indeed, fight.
Again, they could allow these women to opt out. But opening up the opportunity to be in intergender matches, could be very rewarding. I’m sure that some of these women would like to be valued for their competitive talent, rather how good they are at being reality television stars. If a female wrestler knows what she is getting into, signing a contract to compete against men, I think that should be good enough.
I don’t think that anyone should tell them, “Oh, it’s too dangerous.” I especially don’t think that the guys should be the ones telling them that. Women already have to face enough of being told what they can and cannot do in their lives and with their bodies, by men. This shouldn’t be yet another thing that’s up for debate, where only the men have veto power. Let these female sports entertainers make their own well thought-out decisions when it comes to their careers.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments!