Women have always had roles in wrestling to some degree over its long history. Lately in the WWE we have seen a revival of women’s use in their programming. Raw ended the show on Monday with the official making of the match between Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon for Summerslam in a match that has been teased going back to have roots that go back to even prior to Wrestlemania. It was first a side story to the Daniel Bryan against the Authority and specifically Triple H and Stephanie McMahon.
Brie, who married Bryan on “Total Divas”, also became part of the story. When Bryan became injured, Stephanie forced him to choose between the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and his wife’s employment. Like many women before her in wrestling, Brie stood by her man and took the choice out of his hands and quit her job. She would verbally berate Stephanie in doing so and slap the taste out of her mouth.
Real life made this a moot point with Bryan’s real injury not healing to allow him to continue on as champion. This made the gesture by Brie somewhat meaningless, but they still wanted to make this match happen. So, Stephanie changed her focus to punishing Brie’s twin sister Nikki by booking her in matches she had no hope of winning. Each time pointing out that it was not her fault and that the blame lied with Brie. This would all come to a head with Brie coming to watch her sister and the incident that occurred a couple weeks ago on Raw in which Stephanie and Brie would go at it again. This time, Steph would slap Brie leading to her being arrested for assault. Our very own Brian Fritz and Michael Wiseman were on hand to witness this all happen. Leading to this angle we saw this past Monday, setting up the match between Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella at Summerslam.
You can make the case that this match is in a sense the co-main event. Or if you prefer second most important match on the card and it is being treated as such. Ladies holding such a high profile role has not happened since the likes of Trish and Lita who were a part of a few main event matches on Raw. I don’t ever recall even those two hall of fame ladies being booked so high for a pay-per-view event. You could argue Trish’s retirement match in Toronto at “Unforgiven” in 2006 might be in a similar position.
Now obviously Lita and Trish are on a different level in terms of wrestling ability but the desire of fans to see this match between Brie and Stephanie is just as high. I don’t expect a classic match out of this but it might be better than you expect. Stephanie had matches with Trish and Lita that were highly entertaining despite the lack of skill she may have.
Brie has improved in the ring and is better than she was compared to a few years ago. That said, this looks to be a match dying for Joey Styles to scream “Cat Fight!” in that high pitched voice he used back in ECW. In any case, the majority of fans want to see this match and have been anticipating it. That is something that has been lacking for most women’s matches since Lita and Trish made their exits from the WWE. They along with many other talented women in the “Attitude Era” changed attitudes quite literally. Once heckled with chants of “puppies” thanks to Uncle Jerry on commentary, they quieted those calls and fans just accepted them as competitors.
Maybe the WWE is attempting to go back in that direction. It would be wise because I am sure they might have noticed this girl in UFC named Ronda Rousey who has changed a lot of minds and turned a lot of heads with her dominance in MMA and the UFC. Not that the WWE has found their answer to creating that huge women’s star that can be on par with the guys. But they are giving the women opportunities to succeed and build angles.
A.J Lee, the current Divas Champion, and the former champion Paige is a feud that excited many to see. To say it has been a success to this point would not be totally truthful. This whole idea of Paige not exactly going directly from a face to a heel has hurt this program in my opinion. It has not been the great pairing in the ring as many thought it would be either. It has actually been fairly sloppy and pails in comparison to the best women’s match of the year to date that took place on “NXT Takeover” between Natalya and Charlotte Flair. That was a true clinic in women’s wrestling and had all of the emotion the Brie and Stephanie feud has going for it in a very different way.
I still firmly believe when you evaluate Divas based on the total package of talking and in-ring work the best the WWE has is in fact AJ Lee. What also has been an issue with this feud is someone that has nothing to do with it other than he is married to the champion. This is of course CM Punk and AJ since returning and being known by the world as his wife has drawn CM Punk chants like bees to a bee hive. AJ is a true pro and can handle it, but Paige is like a dear in headlights when those chants come. Turning Paige sort of heel has helped, but it really should have been a full turn and get down to business. While I am critical of this feud, it is head and shoulders above the other two angles involving women currently.
Cameron against Naomi in the break up of the Funkadactyls has been painful. It is for one simple reason and that is the fact Cameron is only not the worst wrestler in WWE because Eva Marie is employed by the WWE. She isn’t being used in an angle though and Cameron is. This girl is just terrible and I honestly think hopeless in terms of being an in ring competitor.
This is a shame because Naomi is very talented and deserves much better than this. End this feud as soon as humanly possible and let’s please move on. The fact they had Cameron win a match over Naomi is just stupid booking in my view. When people can obviously see how horrible Cameron is this makes losing to her a major blow to any momentum you may have. In addition, the looks for these to ladies, since no longer matching having matching outfits has been even more painful than The Shield’s attempts to find new ring gear.
Last and after talking about that I am not sure if I can say least, but it is close to least are Summer Rae and Layla being paired. Lay-Cool is far better than these two could ever be. This stupid love triangle with Fandango has been just awful to watch. You would think if Lay-Cool was good than the obvious blame for why this pairing sucks is on Summer Rae. While she isn’t helping and if this is an indication of her acting ability, I recommend you never watch the Marine 4.
She and the Miz might be just as horrible a pairing, time will tell, but I would bet serious money on it. Layla has been just as terrible in this angle and just makes you realize how good Michelle McCool was when paired with her. These days Michelle is happy being the Undertaker’s better half and honestly if she wanted too could walk back into the WWE and be a big time player. She seems very happy with life after the WWE and I would not expect that to happen. In the end as bad as these ladies have been the biggest loser in all of this has been Fandango. The man that debuted at Wrestlemania beating Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania 29, is now jobbing to the likes of Zack Ryder? Poor Johnny Curtis you deserve better than this.
The WWE has clearly made a move to feature the ladies more and some of the reason for that likely is tied to the success of “Total Divas” on the E-Network. The overall product these ladies are producing is not exactly setting the world on fire and that is being kind. Given the WWE’s history with booking the ladies they may need to improve in quite a hurry if these chances are going to remain for them. The patience level for the women historically has been very low. That is the bad news of things, but the good news is hope is not completely dead. They have shown in the right circumstances a women’s feud can work. Although many will say the fact it involves Stephanie is the huge reason for that.
Still you have other hopes on the way that I would suggest could do well. Charlotte Flair would be at the top of that list. Her growth in the past year in NXT developmental has been truly fun to watch. I also have high hopes for NXT newcomer Alexa Bliss who is an attractive blonde little ball of pixie dust. In addition, while not in a wrestling role, Lana has been a standout in getting over Alexander Rusev and this whole Russian angle on the main roster.
If you are a fan of women’s wrestling and women being used in the WWE in general, you should be somewhat concerned, but hopeful would be my advice. What the real wildcard to all of this is how willing the WWE is to staying committed to giving the ladies both time and angles going forward. The last few pay-per-views or special events have featured multiple women’s matches for the first time in a long time. It is just a matter of what is done with the opportunity on the table from both a creative and in-ring point of view. It is really a huge opportunity that the ladies are being handed and sadly overall they are dropping the ball.
Why this might be I think comes down to a couple things. The creative and in-ring have been less than ideal in three of the four examples here. In addition Trish Stratus back in an interview with Jim Ross on his podcast talked about how back in her era, which was likely the most successful for women in the WWE, the ladies all worked as a team. I don’t get that sense of teamwork from this group of ladies. I get more of a cut throat type mentality, which is not going to help them all get ahead as a group. Something to think about and something I think we do see on NXT with the women working more as a team down there. I don’t have any inside knowledge on this just my impressions as a viewer and a fan. If the WWE is to have a women’s movement so to speak it is going to take teamwork.