Welcome everyone to the first edition of Geeky Vortex, a collaborative column series with myself and Gary from an awesome site called Vortex Effect. In our first edition of Geeky Vortex, we are focusing on the Divia’s Division of the WWE and what we have observed and what we hope to improve in the Divia’s Division.
Send us a comment below with what you think of the column and what you would like to see happen in future articles.
The way this article is set up, the first part are my thoughts and the second part are Gary’s thoughts.
Nikki: I started watching the WWE (WWF at the time) when I was a little girl. Like most little girls, I was always drawn to the female characters in any video game, comic, movie, TV show, etc. and so I was drawn to female wrestlers. Lita was my idol growing up; I wanted to be Lita. I loved her style and that she could hang out with the boys. Now when I say “hang out,” I don’t mean a piece of arm candy that just looks pretty outside the ring. Lita could fight beside the boys and didn’t appear to be the damsel in distress. I also watched in awe as Chyna competed against the men in matches. They were breaking the mold that said “you can’t do that, you’re a girl,” and those were the women I looked up to.
Flash forward to the present day, I stopped watching WWE for a few years and started back up again in 2012. After watching the current product for over two years now, I believe the women’s division in WWE needs to be reworked. I called it a women’s division because the word Diva just adds to the stereotype these women have been placed in.
A “Diva” is a temperamental, selfish, spoiled, and overly dramatic woman and that’s what most of the female wrestlers have become. Even some of their wrestling moves look more like a catfight than a wrestling match. What’s with all of the divas crying in the center of the ring after they lose a match? Watching the women’s division has now become an extended commercial for Total Divas, the WWE reality show centered around a group of female wrestlers on E.
Total Divas can been seen as a small blessing for the women’s division, but it is also its biggest curse. Total Divas gave the women’s division more airtime on RAW and Smackdown, but the creative team has used the show as a crutch for storytelling. The months where the main storyline for the women’s division was the cast of Total Divas vs. the rest of the women’s division was the worst storyline I’ve seen in a while. The only highlight to come out of that period was AJ Lee’s pipe bomb, which echoed my feelings on the matter.
So, how do we fix this? Well I have a couple of suggestions.
First off, stronger women. I don’t necessarily mean physically, I mean character wise. Give these girls more depth. Recently, I’ve read several comics that focus on strong female characters (Wonder Woman, Tank Girl, Catwoman, Huntress, etc.) and wished I could see some strong female character types in WWE as well. The characters from these comics fight alongside the guys and don’t expect to be saved. When I read these comic books I thought to myself, “Damn, these girls are badass! I want to be like them.” After watching some of the backstage segments with Layla and Summer Rae, my thoughts were, “Damn girl, you’re life is a hot mess right now. Go clean off that kitty litter!”
There are extremely talented female wrestlers in WWE that haven’t been utilized properly in recent storylines. I think AJ Lee has great moves in the ring and her mic skills are the best in the division, but in previous storylines she was paired up with someone who did the fighting for her or played arm candy to different male wrestlers. When we did get a chance to see her personality? I like how AJ is a bit of an unbalanced character; she’s the crazy chick. I think WWE could explore that further and push the boundaries on this lovable psychopath. Just look at Bray Wyatt on the men’s side of WWE, and the success of his character since debuting. Instead, I think WWE played it safe with AJ Lee and dismissed her behavior as they do with the other divas.
Another female wrestler to point out is Paige. I absolutely loved Paige in NXT. She was that no holds barred female wrestler that called herself the “Anti-Diva,” and rightfully so. I was extremely excited to see her debuting on RAW… and then she debuted. From the moment she debuted, everything felt off about her. The first night she was on RAW, she appeared weak even though she won the Diva’s Championship that night. The championship match felt sloppy and rushed. Ever since then, I feel like WWE has turned down the volume on Paige. Where was the Anti-Diva that I fell in love with on NXT? Bring her back, WWE!
My next suggestion is the WWE needs to take their female wrestlers a bit more seriously. It has always been the biggest joke that the divas’ matches are used for bathroom breaks for the audience. Even the commentators will at times ramble on about off topic comments during their matches. If the commentator’s can’t even keep interest in their matches, how do you expect the audience to? How many times are we going to see female wrestlers covered in food, drinks, mud, and… kitty litter?
I don’t see the WWE women’s division being taken seriously if they continue to just be backup dance partners/cheerleaders for the rest of the roster. They need to be given a more substantial role and stop always putting them in the damsel in distress role. WWE needs to allow these female wrestlers the chance to build up their characters (more mic time) and develop feuds and storylines.
I think NXT has been the biggest blessing in all of this. Recently, in the past year, NXT has been producing stronger female wrestlers. As I mentioned before, I truly enjoyed seeing Paige grow in NXT, as well as Bayley, Emma, and Charlotte. Watching these wrestlers develop their skills in the ring and on the mic has been so entertaining to watch. Whenever I meet a WWE fan that doesn’t watch NXT, I tell them how much they are missing out. The Natayla and Charlotte match on NXT Takeover was a brilliant match. Watching NXT gives me hope that maybe one day what’s happening at NXT will translate over tot he main roster. Paige and Emma didn’t quite translate to the main roster the way I had hoped for. Investing the time to improve the women’s division would be what’s best for business, and would be what’s best for the next generation of female WWE fans.
Gary: Women’s wrestling in WWE has mostly been an afterthought or simply eye-candy for most of its existence in the modern era, and that’s a shame. Growing up in the 90′s, I became a fan of women’s wrestling in WWE because of talents like Alundra Blaze, Bull Nakano, Luna Vachon, Aja Kong, and Bertha Faye. While Alundra Blaze was attractive, none of those four ladies would amount to “eye candy,” which is what Sunny was being used for at the time. The apex of the women’s division was probably reached at Survivor Series 1995 when a women’s Survivor Series match pitted Bertha Faye, Aja Kong, Tomoko Watanabe and Lioness Asuka against Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari in a 10 minute match. This was a time when WWE wasn’t afraid to bring in “monster” women and/or great talents from Japan, where women’s wrestling thrives.
By the time 1998 rolled around though WWE had largely dropped women’s wrestling and instead focused on sleazy valets until they started fighting. It started with Sunny (though I’d argue Sherri Martel, who was a fantastic wrestler, set the bar in the early 90s in WWE), and got worse with Sable. In place of women’s wrestling, you had the likes of Sable vs. Luna in an Evening Gown match, a bikini contest between Sable and Jackie in which Jackie’s boob slipped out of her nothing attire and sable’s bikini was just painted hand prints. This lead to puppies with bra and panties matches, paddle on a pole, evening gown matches in a pool, tons more bikini contests, wet t-shirt contests, mud wrestling and so forth. Women wrestling was gone and replaced by models with big boobs rolling around on each other while barely wearing anything. WWE had “attitude!”
Thankfully around the time the attitude era ended, women’s wrestling made a come back in WWE thanks to the hard work of an insanely talented group of women: Trish Stratus (who was the model who worked hard and became a great wrestler), Lita, Molly Holly (my all time favorite), Jazz, Victoria, Ivory, Torri, Chyna. When some left, they were replaced with talented folks like Mickie James, Melina, Beth Phoenix, and Natalya. But outside of letting Trish and Lita main event RAW one time in a great match, the division was still never treated with a ton of respect or seriousness. It was always just “women’s wrestling” and an excuse for the male commentators to act like idiots instead of professionals.
Today, it’s still really the same and actually has regressed some thanks in large part to Total Divas. To be sure, WWE still has a great roster of women wrestlers: AJ Lee, Natalya, Paige, Emma, Summer Rae, Alicia Fox, Layla, Naomi, and even the Bella’s improved. But the women are still second fiddle to the men, wrestling over men and acting like kids (see Summer Rae and Layla). When WWE brings up talents like Paige and Emma, they fail to showcase the talents that got them over in NXT to begin with. Emma got turned into a comedy act with Santino, while Paige became the lucky champion who took a beating only to win out of no where. She cried when she won the title (which I actually like), and she cried when she lost it. Natalya cries every time she loses a match.
The sad thing is, WWE’s own developmental system, NXT, is providing a great atmosphere for women wrestlers and WWE squanders it on the main roster. The women are given characters, unique entrances, and some thought put into their stories. Their division there is called the NXT women’s division and the ladies actually go out and wrestle, hard. Paige and Emma put on a great match in February on NXT Arrival. On NXT Takeover in June, Natalya and Charlotte stole the show with a great wrestling match. And anyone who subscribes to WWE Network can watch NXT now, so I don’t understand the disconnect between NXT and the main roster.
WWE should study what they’re already doing in NXT and implement it on the main roster. Give the women real feuds and let them go out there and wrestle. Because there’s good talent waiting to get called up (Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha, Becky Lynch, and eventually Alexa Bliss) that if the current trend continues will fizzle out on RAW because they won’t have anything worthwhile to do. They’ll just be more divas. If WWE took the initiative to present the women as quality wrestlers and gave the audience a reason to take them seriously, I think they’d fine the audience quite receptive. People don’t dislike diva’s matches because it’s women wrestling, but rather because WWE has always booked them to be a joke or eye candy with no reason for the audience to be invested in the ladies or their stories (because they don’t usually have any that make sense or are decent).
WWE certainly has the talent pool right now (and a really amazing trainer in Sara Del Rey, who I’d live to see get at least one match in a WWE ring on national TV or PPV) to transform the division. And they could look at successful women’s wrestling organizations like SHIMMER and SHINE, or overseas to Japan, to find a lot more fantastic wrestlers. Frankly I think it’s a real shame that women like Cheerleader Melissa, MsChif, Ayako Hamada, Nicole Matthews, Portia Perez, Rachel Summerlyn, and others haven’t gotten to compete in a WWE ring.
Triple H runs NXT and is doing a fine job. Considering how many daughters Triple H and Stephanie have (and their lack of any sons), I think it’s a safe estimation that in 15-20 years one of them will decide to enter the family business as a wrestler. I don’t think they’ll be paraded around as eye candy, so that leaves me to believe that once Triple H and Stephanie have full control over WWE creative that the women might be pushed a little more and presented in a more respectable and serious manner, which is what the women deserve and quite frankly what all the fans (women and men) deserve. They already have the blueprint on how to do it, and do it well, so just copy what you’re doing down in NXT.
And that concludes the first ever installment of Geeky Vortex! I want to say thank you to Gary at Vortex Effect for collaborating with me on this column. I look forward to writing more of these articles with Gary in the future. Everyone be sure to check out Vortex Effect! Also follow both of us on twitter for announcements for future articles. Also comment below and let us know what you think!