Back in the day, when my love affair with wrestling was at its climatic peak, there were three kinds of women in the WWE/F. These were the times when, in my eyes, it could do no wrong. Every twist and turn delighted me and I overlooked even the most ludicrous storylines. Ah, memories. As I said, there were three kinds of ladies back then.
1) Girls Who Look Like Boys (The Chynas)
You remember them, right? Overdeveloped, manly, muscle machines with chins that would put Edge to shame. They usually got to work with the guys, because physically they were evenly matched. We’ll call them The Chynas.
2) Pretty-Girl Wrestlers (The Trishes)
The women who seem able to maintain their femininity but still manage to pull off hot-shot, eye popping wrestling moves. Like Trish Stratus. We’ll come back to Trish later.
3) The Fluff (The Keiblers)
I doubt this category really needs any explanation, but basically the girls who look drop-dead gorgeous but have extremely limited wrestling skills. Stacey Keibler: Hot pins, bad at pinning.
Fast forward to today’s bizarre state of WWE affairs and one category, The Chynas, has completely disappeared. Times have changed. Vince McMahon and his production staff’s job is to make money. They seek to pinpoint the most bankable trends in popular culture and apply them to their own product. We live in a celebrity obsessed world. For women, you’re not accepted if you’re not the perfect height, the perfect weight, the perfect amount of pretty, just the right amount of sexy. If you look like this……..
…..you’re not marketable any more. Not to men or to women. That’s why these women have slipped away from the limelight. I haven’t lost any sleep over it. It always kind of bothered me that they were the only ones who got to hang with the boys anyway. Even back in the late 90s when overdeveloped female wrestlers were the norm, they still had to battle for recognition. I’m still not convinced that Chyna would have been involved in any main eventing had it not been for her dalliance with Triple H.
The Trishes, however, have soared. They fit the current bill. Gorgeous creatures that girls want to be and boys was to do. I’m talking Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Natalya, Melina, Mickie James, Michelle McCool, Maryse, Maria etc. (SIDENOTE: If I change my name to something starting with an M, can I join the Trishes?). Their athleticism is awesome and I will argue all the live long day that it is equal to that of the best performing men in the company. I would kill for just an ounce of it. In some cases their fitness is probably superior to some of the male wrestlers. Women are held up to different physical standards to men. It’s alright that some of the guys have a paunch. It’s never perceived as ok for women the lose their training grip.
The Keiblers are still there. Occasionally it bothers me, but not that much. It would be great if every woman employed by Vince McMahon had a fantastic, athletic, in-ring presence, but not everyone is made for taking bumps. They play their roles just like everyone else. The trend seems to be to get all women in to this middle ground of beauty and athleticism. Some just excel at being beautiful but can’t pull off top moves. And that’s fine. The fact that they’re out there trying and giving it their best to entertain makes me really happy. And who could possibly hate Kelly-Kelly anyway? She’s so damn cute. She’s like a cupcake with pink frosting and a cherry on top.
I don’t even mind that guys drool over them. It would be wholly hypocritical of me to be insulted by that kind of behaviour, being that I have a segment in my Smackdown recaps which charts the weekly colours and contents of CM Punk’s trunks.
So what’s my problem? My problem is that when it comes to storylines, screen time and ring time, the women of the WWE are second class citizens. This is not a feminist rant. I just want to see the ladies getting a fair crack of the whip. They are skipped over on several Pay Per Views, they have significantly less time in the ring, bearly enough mic time for us even to know what their voices sound like and non-existent storylines. It’s disappointing and an insult to the intelligence of those us interested in more than just the fact that Maryse wants a man who takes regular showers.
I sometimes wonder if the writers don’t give the women any storylines because they don’t believe anyone would care. Nonsense. People don’t care RIGHT NOW because there are NO storylines. Everyone knows that when wrestling/sports entertainment is good, the balance between dramatics and athletics is bang on. At the moment, there are NO female storylines and a tiny blot of athletics. It doesn’t work.
A short while ago, Trish Stratus threw a cat among the pigeons when she expressed that the WWE Women’s Division is currently disappointing and that there are too many women on the roster all round. She also suggested they should concentrate on developing just a couple of women rather than spreading things too thinly over more talent. She’s got it partially right. I do NOT think, however, that there are too many women in the division. There are just too many women without a public persona or an identity. The matches have no context. With no context, who cares who wins and loses? They’re just pretty, sexy girls grappling with each other. The pendulum is swinging all out of whack. There’s no balance between context and action, and no balance between the investment in to the men and the women. And by investment, I’m not just refering to financial investment. I mean, time and recognition too. The Women’s Division is not taken seriously at all. That’s a real shame, because the potential for business, sporting and entertainment expansion is huge, and completely untapped.
I’m going to use the Smackdown from 8th May as an example. Teddy Long, Rey Mysterio, Chris Jericho and Jeff Hardy spent 14 and a half minutes setting up a match between Jericho and Hardy to take place at the end of Smackdown. Almost 15 minutes of a two hour show, just talking. And it was great. It was entertaining and it began preparing the ground for the PPV matches between Mysterio and Jericho, and Hardy and Edge. The entire Hardy/Jericho match on that particular Smackdown lasted almost 20 minutes, by the way.
On the same show Gail Kim and Michelle McCool wrestled extremely well for five minutes. But that was it. No promo, no mic time, and with no purpose. And that was a good week.
Later in the same show, Cryme Tyme emceed an arm wrestle between Layla and Eve Torres. Why? It had no meaning. And apparently neither woman seemed allowed to speak. Cryme Tyme spoke on their behalf. It was infuriating and utterly pointless, and it was given just as much time as the McCool/Kim match.
Wrestlemania. The grandest stage of the them all. The highlight of the wrestling calendar. Millions of people watching around the world. And who won the Miss Wrestlemania contest? A man in a skirt and a wig with a chin strap. I get the joke. Really. I do. But what a waste. Santino Marella is a great comedian. He’s a natural. I’ve laughed with him at certain points through this whole Santina story. But seeing Beth Phoenix chasing him/her around for the past six weeks is a major let-down and a shameful waste of her talent. She is one of the most accomplished female athletes in the company and yet her skills are bearly tapped in to.
Maybe the WWE believes that female fans wouldn’t support female superstars if they upped their profile and marketed the directly to women. There is this odd myth that all women hate each other and that ladies will only cheer for male wrestlers. That’s incorrect. Those women do exist, but I’d be unpleasantly surprised if they made up the majority. If the female fanbase really is 40% of the entire WWE Universe, give us the same role models and heels the male fans have. Build feuds. Create identities and heroines. Give us characters to look forward to seeing and discussing and supporting. There are some amazing women in the WWE. It would make my day to see little girls wearing Mickie James t-shirts. Those shirts don’t exist. Little girls wear Jeff Hardy shirts because WWE promotes him to that market. Promote the women to women and young girls and I guarantee it will get a favourable response. Allow young girls to see the female wrestlers succeeding in the same way and at the same level their male counterparts do and it will give them a work ethic to aspire to.
I can’t speak for any of the female talent. I don’t know them. I haven’t met them. Even if I did I highly doubt they would be so unprofessional as to air any personal grievances in front of fans. But it’s got to be frustrating for them, hasn’t it? As a woman, the lack or interest the WWE shows in its Women’s Division sometimes makes me feel like it doesn’t care about me either. So, apart from the obvious, why should I keep coming back?