If you ignore all of the unnecessary self-smoke-blowing from the WWE, then you can come to the conclusion that women’s wrestling is in a very healthy state right now. On Sunday, WWE held their first all-women’s Special on their Network, and my only true criticisms of it were the number of times they had to pat themselves on the back for doing something they should’ve been doing for years.
Every two minutes we heard the words, “historic” or “history-making” or “look! women can do things too!”. Okay, maybe not that last one, but that’s what the sentiment felt like.
I completely understand why, from a business perspective, you’d want to promote doing something like this. In the corporate world of male-dominated entertainment, this is a big step to take. But as someone who has always tried to be a good ally to women, I couldn’t help but wonder if two (or four) more women could’ve had another pay-check, if they’d done one more match instead of the twenty minutes WWE spent giving themselves a reach-around.
That’s probably a poor choice of phrase, and might negate the whole “ally” status thing I decided to thrust upon myself. But it’s there now, and you can’t edit blog posts…
Well that’s the negativity out of the way (for now, it’s always stirring), because the rest of Evolution was highly entertaining. Several matches didn’t receive a whole lot of build, and they were thrown together at the last-minute. These included a six-woman tag and a twenty-woman battle royal. It felt as though WWE wanted all of the main-roster athletes to at least get a small appearance payday, and I can understand that.
Both matches were better than they had any right being. The six-woman tag was fluid, fast-paced wrestling, and above the bar for a regular Raw or Smackdown. This match also solidified to me that the WWE should introduce trios championships for the women’s division. It would make them stand apart from the men, and offer a different kind of wrestling on a weekly basis.
The battle royal was won by a character who they can never quite play right. Nia Jax is a plus-size model, who enjoys success inside and outside of the squared circle. So they play her up as a sympathetic good-guy, someone who tells girls that it doesn’t matter what you look like, you can do anything. Brilliant!
Except for the fact that they have her bully everyone during her backstage interviews, and then expect her to be cheered when she wins matches. It’s bizarre, it’s like they see a bigger wrestler and assume she must have to play the bad guy, but at the same time, WWE want that juicy PR of her being a great role model.
The Mae Young Classic, a 32-woman tournament that took place over the last ten weeks, had its final at Evolution. This was the wrestling purists match, and featured two of the top ten wrestlers in the world (male or female). It wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been, due to it only receiving ten minutes of show-time, but it was technically sound and featured perfectly executed spots.
When the “women’s evolution” began, around three or four years ago, I assumed that it would be all about raising women to the same levels as John Cena, The Rock or Triple H — Larger than life character who know how to tell a compelling story between the ropes. However, I didn’t expect us to see the female equivalents of AJ Styles, Ricochet or Kazuchika Okada — Technically proficient athletes who can do incredible moves to precise execution.
The fact that they’ve done this in the space of four years is the real thing they should be patting themselves on the back for. But don’t tell them that, because this match was far better for being all about the prestige of a tournament.
The three championship matches all delivered in different ways. The NXT title match was more of the technical athleticism we’ve come to expect from the black and yellow brand. And Shayna Baszler (former UFC fighter) captured the belt in what would be the only title change of the night.
The Smackdown women’s championship feud is currently one of the hottest of the year, and it all ended with a Last Woman Standing match. Becky Lynch, who has shown a Stone-Cold-Steve-Austin-like side to her personality in recent months, defeated the hand-picked “WWE Superstar” of Charlotte Flair, daughter of the legendary Ric Flair. This was match of the night. Both women killed themselves to tell a very ruthless-aggression-era style of story. This felt like Edge taking on John Cena in 2006, and it was wonderful.
RAW women’s champion, Ronda Rousey, headlined the show against the B-grade Kardashian, Nikki Bella. This may not have been a perfect wresting match, but the story of fighter vs “diva” was throughly enjoyable. Mostly because the fighter won. I mean, could you imagine the statement WWE would have made if they’d had the old-era, “tits out for the lads, lets slap and tickle each other for ninety seconds” woman win the match?
You could argue that the presence of Ronda Rousey is the only reason WWE have been able to sell out an arena featuring only the women’s roster. The division will take a few years to grow even further, and WWE will need to keep appealing to young girls, the same way they had only appealed to young boys when I was a kid. It really feels as though Ronda is here to give the company the mainstream shot-in-the-arm it needs, so that a few years from now they can survive without her.
I’ve been telling people that Evolution was better than a regular WWE show, but not quite as good as an NXT Takeover, as they continue to be the benchmark for three hours of quality wrestling.
Now we look forward to WWE Blood Money — sorry — WWE Crown Jewel, a show that’s for the Saudi royal family, in Saudi Arabia, this Friday. I kid you not, they’re going ahead with this spectacle, despite what the American people and WWE fans have said. This is going to be a PR nightmare.
On one hand, WWE gives us an all-female show. But on the other, they put on a show for millions of dollars, to a family of murderers, in a country where the women aren’t allowed to perform. One step forward, about fifty-six million steps back.
Today is Tuesday, October 30th and today is 189% less spooky than tomorrow will be. That’s science people.
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