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Sexism in WWE is Over, What A Relief

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As of writing this it has not been a full 24 hours since Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks made history by being the first women to compete in a cage at Hell in a Cell.

Well… *deep breath*

You would be hard pressed to stand in a room of wrestling fans, observing the conversation about booking as it is today, and not to trip over a person who wants to burn the PG era to the ground within the first 15 minutes of chit-chat. For some this is well-meaning. They grew up loving Stone Cold, the Rock, DX, some version of Chris Jericho, the countless other iconic characters that era gave us. It pulled wrestling into the mainstream for the first time and put to rest, for the most part, the bland, one note gimmicks of yesteryear: dentists, doctors, farmers, and worse.

If you fell out of love with wrestling as a teenager, it is easy to romanticize the way it made you feel at  9, 10, 11, and to think that it was all good, it all made sense. But for many self-proclaimed smarks, the PG era is another thing to target in a new wave of supremacy, for the most part white and male, though there are some exceptions. It is a part of the death rattle that encompasses most of America in the year 2016, because storytelling and the mania around it is always indicative of the society it comes from.

Even for those wrestling fans who don’t fully remember how much of an insensitive, racist, sexist, and frankly harmful vehicle the WWE was before the PG era (not to say that it is pure and safe now), there is hesitation to give criticism credence once it’s brought to their attention. When I, at first glance the “cool girl” trope in my ability to go toe to toe with the boys in wrestling talk, bring up how horrible that era made me feel, how dismissive it was of POC, and how those things still rot at the core of WWE today it is usually regarded with an awkward shrug, a stammered “well I’m not talking about that”, or a write off of my keen awareness of the role of media in popular culture and sociology as being “too sensitive”. The thing most used to shut me up by those who want to play “devil’s advocate” (a privilege reserved for those who have not seen professional wrestling devalue them) is the Monday Night Raw main event match between Trish Stratus and Lita.

I, like many other girls, LOVED Lita. I worshipped her. My locker in middle school was covered in photoshoots of the Hardyz and Lita. I cried when I got a pair of black pants with the pink drawstrings for Christmas. I got sent to the office more than once for showing my thong above my pants. And I spent time several days a week with a family friend who wrestled in the southern indie scene, taking bumps on red dirt, and throwing myself to the ground until I fell right.

And every male wrestling fan who watched wrestling from 2000-2007 will tell you they did the same. They loved her, cherished her. No one can compare to Lita.

But let’s take a look at how male wrestling fans REALLY treated her.

Lita’s final match saw her drop the belt to Mickie James. There was no twist, no great moment of grace. Her career was ended with a DDT.

“And down goes Lita… again,” proclaimed Jerry Lawler. And when JR stated that Lita ended her career on her back, Lawler replies, “I’m not gonna say how appropo.”

After all she gave us, she was booed as she came out for her last match. The hey hey, goodbye chants nearly drown out Lillian Garcia’s calls to praise Lita one last time.

Kayfabe is broken for men. Many decry the removal of Hulk Hogan from WWE’s merch and website because of all he did for wrestling. But when a woman PRETENDS to be bad… that’s enough to not respect her.

And then Cryme Tyme, playing the role of one of few racist tropes assigned to performers of color, come out, proclaim that they’re having a “ho sale” and proceed to sell Lita’s panties. And male wrestling fans laughed and cheered and really and truly exchanged cash for her underwear. JBL smells her panties, an exchange that plays over commentary and over the mic held by Cryme Tyme. There are gags about yeast infections, there are gags about vibrators.

And it works because male wrestling fans were excited to throw money at the chance to slut shame her.

It was a different time.

Sure. It is, in fact, not 2007 right now. Thanks.

But we have NXT now.

We do. Because a man, Paul Levesque, Triple H, fought to give women a chance.

I am tired of those arguments. I am tired of them because even the WWE knows that its most vocal fanbase is only really willing to accept the Four Horsewomen and whoever is our current Lita stand in (and by that I mean AJ Lee, I mean Paige, I mean who is currently in dark eyeshadow and alternative clothing, because male wrestling fans think this carefully curated aesthetic means that woman is above caring what she looks like and is just accidentally beautiful and naturally quirky). With the exception of recent developments at Smackdown, the WWE has been giving us Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair, over and over and over again, because they know that won’t cause a ruckus.

If you think the WWE is above all of that, look at comments on social media for Nikki Bella. Nikki Bella has been with this company for near a decade, with her twin sister Brie has created a playing field for women in the way of building an empire from professional wrestling, and has shown up in whatever capacity the company needed her. Like Lita before her, she started as a valet, as arm candy. But it’s not viewed as her working her way up, as her paying her dues. She cheated somehow by being naturally a gorgeous woman. She cheated somehow by dating John Cena.

And that’s another fun thing about the modern era of WWE. Daniel Bryan is worshipped, but will be used as a weapon against the Bellas, because one of them married him. AJ Lee married CM Punk, but that’s different, somehow, and it was considered a “pipebomb” when she told the Bellas that talent wasn’t sexually transmitted (shame, really, because CM Punk is VERY talented, and wow, what a division we’d have).

Sexism isn’t over when hair extensions and a cosmetic surgery are supposed to somehow make all your hard work unworthy. Somehow who you’re dating and your preference of clothing is able to nullify the fact that you’re a walking miracle, returning from a career ending injury and neck surgery in less than a year.

And let me say something about NXT:

It is significantly easier to break through a glass ceiling when Triple H gives you a sledgehammer to do it with. Those women did not fall from the womb perfect Superstars. They were given opportunities. Their matches are handed down from someone else, just as they are on the main roster. Their bits are written by someone else, just as they are on the main roster. There is no doubt that NXT has changed wrestling for the better, no doubt that women there are revolutionizing women’s wrestling.

But they are allowed to. Very often women on the main roster simply are not. And it is not feminist or ally behavior to blame them for that or to hold them to a standard they’re not allowed to strive toward.

It is a miracle that Vince McMahon is alive and two women were allowed to face each other inside steel at Hell in a Cell (in 2014 he told the Bellas no, but thank God we got that Jerry Springer gag). I have already seen countless men try to state that they didn’t really make history or that the match fell short, etc, etc. Many have criticized that the false start was gimmicky. Was that your problem with it? Because my problem with it was that I was worked up into tears because I, with my 26 years as a female fan, couldn’t trust that this wasn’t a swerve, couldn’t trust that those women would be carried off on stretchers, and that the seedy executive producers who have treated women like sex toys for 30 years weren’t going to just pat themselves on the back for technically giving us what we asked for.

I have seen the table not breaking as a reason to not count this as a historic match, as if Sasha repeatedly sacrificing her body against a solid object lessens the historical impact, as if treating minorities as people is contingent upon whether or not a rigged piece of furniture cracks or not. I have seen Charlotte winning, the ending being sad, as a reason why history wasn’t made. How many smarks would ever not count Montreal? How many smarks would ever not count HBK because that match was “sad”?

Those women made history. So many people in the back have been fighting the status quo to make it happen and the chosen chess pieces, Sasha and Charlotte, are so passionate and so aware of what it all means. That is a blessing. We have so far to go in the WWE, in the wrestling world as a whole, but we must acknowledge this milestone. And more important, Sasha and Charlotte, Stephanie McMahon, every woman in the back, as a wrestler, a interviewer, a writer, every single fan, myself…

We DESERVE that milestone.

Lita was tearing up during the match and afterward at Raw Talk. Reread the description of her last match again. Scroll up. Go to YouTube. Use the network.

Lita DESERVES that milestone.

If I have daughters they will be born into a love of this artform, just as I was. And if they want to wrestle? THEY WILL. It’s that simple. It’s now impossible for wrestling schools to keep offering to train you as a valet or “like a girl” and stay in business. It will be harder for people to tell them they’re worried about their safety or that their face is too pretty for fighting. It will be harder for people to tell them that modeling would be easier and would pay more.

And I never thought we’d see that in my lifetime. I have been fighting for it, with my words, with my passion, in every face to face conversation I have with a man who doesn’t get it, but I really feared it would never happen.

Now it has to.

And hey, dudes, if you didn’t like the match, or didn’t like the false start, or didn’t like the ending, or didn’t think it was bloody enough…

That’s okay. Sometimes you don’t like a match.

And guess what?

This isn’t about you.

It’s been about you since February 21, 1980.

We told you the revolution was coming. You just didn’t listen.

image via WWE

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. DjavidF

    November 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

    Article has some good points but only some. After listing to the Tights and Fights podcast a lot of what you said makes no sense. I’ve wrestled for 14yrs the finish wasn’t a botch it was a booking botch. I’m over 200lbs and it’s hard to bring a table. Not at a high angle or falling from decent height it doesn’t happen. The table flops leading to the finish look weak as well as her loosing. If she didn’t drop the title once after her only defense it wouldn’t be bad but twice and hometown is nuts. And Summe Rae really?!

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WWE

Looking at Braun Strowman vs. Tyson Fury

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Last week, at a press conference in Las Vegas, the WWE announced two mega match-ups with Brock Lesnar set to defend his championship against former foe Cain Velasquez, while Braun Strowman will square off against current boxing heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia for the Crown Jewel pay-per-view at the end of this month.

Usually, sports stars that make in-ring cameos are reserved for Wrestlemania, the biggest show on the WWE calendar, but the propaganda campaign that the Saudi government pays for is more profitable so with roughly a month of build up, these bouts will be presented on a Thursday afternoon when much of the domestic audience won’t be able to watch it live for what is basically a glorified house show. As trivial as this might sound, I must note that these type of big matches being used for the overseas events instead of the United States, where the majority of WWE shows are held could be a major misstep, simply because the time slot doesn’t allow for the most exposure to the biggest markets. Would Mr. T’s appearances in the 80s have been as effective if his in-ring bouts aired on a Thursday afternoon? In some respects, it seems like management is cashing in now instead of using this celebrity association to propel the product in the future.

Still, one of the current heavyweight champions in boxing signed for a WWE match is a story and opens the door for some intriguing scenarios if this bout goes well. I penned an article about the upside of Cain Velasquez’s involvement last week, but the Fury equation is a very different situation. First, Cain and Brock have a history to build up that sets up for a natural rematch between the two so the angle was already in place before Velasquez showed up, which allows for a much easier path to get to the match. Arguably the more important aspect is, Cain is well-known for his time as UFC heavyweight champion, despite the injuries that derailed much of the momentum he generated throughout his UFC career. Also, Cain began training for professional wrestling early last year and did well in a pair of recent matches for AAA in Mexico.

On the flip side, Tyson Fury has none of that going for him ahead of this contest with Strowman. A fan since his youth, Fury’s eccentric and charismatic persona suggest that he would fit very well with the world of sports entertainment, but there are a few hurdles to clear for Crown Jewel. Undefeated in 30 fights, Fury has 29 victories and just one draw, a razor-close bout against fellow champion Deontay Wilder last December, on his boxing record. The British heavyweight made his name when he defeated the legendary Wladimir Klitschko for a collection of belts via unanimous decision in 2015. It was the first blemish on Klitschko’s record in nearly a decade as he reigned as the most dominate heavyweight in the sport for much of the previous ten years.

The victory should’ve marked the beginning of a run for Tyson, but months after he claimed the title, a Klitschko rematch was cancelled when Fury tested positive for cocaine. Subsequently, he vacated the belt and his future in the sport was in doubt. Along with the drug test, erratic behavior had many concerned for his safety as well. Tyson took nearly three years away from the ring to seek professional help for mental health issues and drug problems.

Remarkably, Tyson reemerged inside the ropes clean and in better shape with a win in June of last year. He followed that up with another win a few months later before the previously mentioned draw against Wilder late last year. In 2019, he has two victories, including a bout last month that saw him suffer a nasty cut near his eye, a laceration that many thought would cause the fight to be stopped, but Fury pushed forward to get the unanimous decision. Despite the cynical nature of boxing negotiations, the anticipated rematch with Wilder is expected to be inked for early next year.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E3-rP_dr-A&w=560&h=315]

That entire situation is one of the problems for WWE, Tyson Fury simply isn’t a well-known commodity in the United States because of his extended hiatus from the sport after the title win and his limited exposure in America. Secondly, other than Braun’s “get these hands” catchphrase, there’s really no logic behind an angle with Fury. Perhaps, the biggest problem is that Tyson has no experience at all in sports entertainment, and his punches that missed by more than a mile during the recent confrontation on Raw are proof of it. Granted, it’s understandable that Fury wanted to be cautious as to not injury the security, but it might be an indication that the match at Crown Jewel could be a train wreck.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQpNlWn4LLc&w=560&h=315]

At a time when the company is trying to refresh its presentation, is it a wise move to book this match when it will probably garner coverage from other media outlets? If the contest is a total botch, is the potential negative press from it going to help the image of the product? Furthermore, is it really that important to book sports celebrities for the Saudi government?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jzxtzac04Dc&w=560&h=315]

Don’t get me wrong, I hope Tyson Fury does well in the squared circle, and in many respects, he is a tremendous success story, but this particular performance has too many red flags that could led to a disaster if the match is too sloppy. Keep in mind, Fury is not only still a regular competitor in boxing, he also has a mega payday ahead of him for the Wilder rematch. Obviously, he will make millions for this Saudi contest, but he’s still risking legitimate money if he gets injured against Braun Strowman. Hopefully, he can get the chance to practice the sequences of the match prior to the pay-per-view, but with just a week until the show, how much can he realistically train for pro wrestling?

Reportedly, Fury will make an estimated $15 million for the Saudi match, but the return bout against Wilder will earn him even more than that so it’s a tough situation when he and Braun have to at least have something that can be considered a match, but not anything that might jeopardize the boxing payday. All things considered, much like this entire pay-per-view, this match-up is more about what the Saudi government wants than anything that will have an effect on WWE. The deal that brings the heavyweight champion to the country is basically because there’s an initiative to get more boxing there, as another heavyweight title bout with Andy Ruiz vs. Anthony Joshua will take place in Saudi Arabia in December. As much as Fury’s involvement could be used to push Braun, make no mistake about it, Tyson Fury’s angle is nowhere near the same level as Mike Tyson’s storyline two decades ago.

Depending on how this contest goes, it’s very possible that Fury’s persona would translate well to the squared circle for more than a one-off match after he retires from boxing, but at just 31, he will probably continue to pursue his original sport for at least a few more years. In truth, it appears that WWE brass more or less shoehorned Tyson Fury into the pay-per-view to maintain status quo of the mega paydays from these stadium shows. As mentioned, there’s no direct angle or history for Fury in WWE, and there’s no logical reason to risk the millions of dollars on the table for the Wilder rematch other than the major Saudi money for this event.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

For more Pro Wrestling coverage visit FightBoothPW.com

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WWE

What Cain Velasquez brings to WWE

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This month marks nine years since Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight championship via TKO in the first round. Since the bout where referee rescued Brock from further damage and declared Velasquez the winner, each athlete took different paths, but ironically found the same destination.

For Lesnar, the devastating defeat was more or less the beginning of the end of his stint in MMA, as a combination of diverticulitis and an aversion to punches to the face led to the conclusion of his UFC career with a record of 5-3-1 in the sport. Still, Brock was a very wise businessman and often used the potential of an MMA return as a bargaining chip to get a better WWE deal. As I’ve discussed before, the Brock experiment has yielded mixed results and arguably diminishing returns. The repetitive move set and routine set up for angles were stale.

The concept of Brock as a continuously dominant champion the past few years with limited appearances became an excuse for the lack of intriguing booking otherwise. The most important aspect of this scenario is, did the investment into Brock’s hefty contract pay off? More specifically, how many other performers were made bigger stars after they worked with him? Remember when Lesnar mailed in a match at Wrestlemania 32? How about when Brock’s mega push was supposed to pay off and finally get Roman Reigns over as the top star? Does Seth Rollins draw more money since he beat Lesnar twice this year?

The title switch during the Fox debut was more to pay lip service to the network to create some buzz at the start of the $1 billion TV contract. As mentioned previously, the modern era has a lack of legitimate money-drawing stars on the current roster, and Kofi Kingston’s title run is essentially a prime example as to why the ratings boost from nostalgia acts aren’t retained the following weeks with the current product.

Kofi’s moment at Wrestlemania 35 was a very memorable moment that he earned with over a decade under contract. After that win, he was paired against Dolph Ziggler, an entertaining athlete, but used as a glorified enhancement talent in between sporadic pushes so that didn’t do much to elevate his status as WWE champion. His run also played second fiddle to Brock’s MITB win and cash-in. Plus, a few average matches against Orton leaves Kofi’s title reign basically just that tremendous moment at WM. The point being, in the six months that he was champion, Kingston wasn’t spotlighted as the featured star at any particular point during that run. I’ve seen some on social media claim that the flash victory, similar to fast KOs in MMA, paints the defeat as a fluke. I completely disagree for two main reasons. First, one of the advantages that sports entertainment has over MMA is that pro wrestling can make sure the fans get a show instead of a lackluster fight if a contest is one-sided.

Second, if the fluke victory was designed to make sure Kofi wasn’t squashed then there would be a set up for a rematch, but it’s doubtful that happens and it does, would there be any chance management would book Kofi to beat Lesnar? The most simplistic explanation is usually the right answer, and the harsh reality is that WWE brass probably doesn’t have more main event plans for Kingston any time soon. This is emphasized when you consider that the story from the Fox debut is Cain Velasquez vs. Brock Lesnar, not a Kofi rematch.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RG75bcKtjPI&w=560&h=315]

Speaking of Cain Velasquez, prior to and after his dominate win over Brock, he looked to be on the path to become the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport. A smaller, but still powerful heavyweight, Cain’s amateur wrestling background gave him technique and speed that he blended with boxing skills to have a well-rounded style that had no major flaws. But, in the nine years since he claimed the UFC belt, injuries completely derailed his momentum throughout his career in the cage. Shoulder, Knee, and back injuries put him on the sidelines for extended periods of time and saw bouts delayed or cancelled. After two and a half years outside of the octagon, Cain returned to the UFC this past February for a contest against Francis Ngannou on ESPN. Velasquez was clipped with a punch that led to a stoppage in just 26 seconds of the first round. The defeated prompted questions about his future in MMA. Still, Cain is a former two-time UFC heavyweight champion with a 14-3 record.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4C6d2-KcN4&w=560&h=315]

A well-known wrestling fan, Cain made headlines last year when he trained at the WWE Performance Center, fueling speculation that he could make the transition to the squared circle. Eventually, Velasquez did make the jump to the ring when he debuted for AAA at their Triplemania event in August and then followed that up with another match last month. Despite it being his start in sports entertainment, Velasquez did well and garnered rave reviews for his performance in Mexico. The Rey Mysterio attack on Raw was very well done and proves Lesnar could put it into a second gear if he wants to really deliver an impactful segment. That set up very well for the Velasquez debut on Smackdown, as it’s the popular Mexican heavyweight that’s a true fan of lucha libre showing to save the Mexican legend.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEgfm9zlHeE&w=560&h=315]

The contract situation of all this get a little murky. Cain was signed to at least a three-match deal for AAA, but the group cancelled its scheduled Los Angeles card where Velasquez was supposed to wrestle a match. Perhaps the cancelled event voids the deal? As of this writing, the former champion is still under contract to the UFC, but he withdrew from the USADA testing pool last week so it’s very possible that he will retire from MMA. Even if Cain still has a deal with UFC, it wouldn’t prevent him from inking a WWE contract. If Velasquez retires from MMA, he could sign for other projects, but would simply still be under UFC contract if he decides to return to the sport. The WWE side of negotiations get more complex, as depending on their plans for him, Cain might be signed for a Goldberg deal or something more full-time for the company.

Similar to Ronda Rousey, Cain’s notoriety from the octagon makes him a commodity, but if he signs for any major length of time, his inexperience might be considered to avoided exposing any weaknesses. Considering his accomplishments and history with Lesnar, Velasquez can’t logically start his career squashing Jinder Mahal every week on Smackdown. If this is a brief deal then a few well-planned matches are all that are needed, but if WWE is going to put him over Lesnar at any point, you can bet they wouldn’t want him to be able to take that momentum elsewhere. At 37, Cain probably isn’t the next top Hispanic star that Rey Mysterio passes the torch to, but his addition to the company gives them a very valuable boost as the organization starts their major TV contracts.

How much Velasquez can do in the ring and how he develops as a potentially full-time wrestler could answer many of the possible questions about this scenario. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer speculated that the Lesnar vs. Velasquez match could take place later this month in Saudi Arabia because of the amount of money the Saudi government would be willing to pay for the bout, but let’s hope that’s not booked, simply because most of the viewing audience wouldn’t watch it with the random afternoon time slot. If that is the scheduled match then Brock/Cain is basically a one-off match because the momentum of the “rematch” wouldn’t be utilized for the majority of WWE’s audience. Despite the financial aspect of the Saudi shows, Wrestlemania is still the biggest show of the year and could have a bigger impact on the rest product than a random Saudi show.

Cain Velasquez vs. Brock Lesnar should happen at Wrestlemania, but it remains to be seen how management could stretch the feud six months, especially without a match before that. I have to be honest, I was very surprised that Velasquez showed up on Smackdown because I thought he would work regularly for AAA for a while before he made any type of move in sports entertainment. At a time when the show needs it, the former UFC champion brings a lot of star power to the table and gives viewers a reason to watch on Fox. Hopefully, this won’t become a Hogan/Warrior situation where Velasquez was brought to WWE so that Lesnar could “get his win back” so to speak. Unless this angle will be designed to launch Cain as a full-time wrestler, I’m not sure where it goes from here.

Lesnar has worked with and defeated almost everyone that would be considered a credible opponent on the WWE roster, and new stars haven’t been made during that process so what other opponents are there for him? The initial Velasquez vs. Lesnar match will be major money and publicity for WWE, but unless Cain goes over, management will be back to this situation where Brock doesn’t have fresh opponents. If a series of makes with Lesnar solidifies Velasquez in sports entertainment then it creates an entirely new scenario for the product That said, this adds a fresh dynamic to WWE and more importantly, its something new for Lesnar since his run has been stale the past few years.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail drwrestlingallpro@yahoo.com | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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MMA

UFC 234 pre-fight press conference live stream

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via UFC: Ahead of UFC 234: Whittaker vs Gastelum, the UFC will hold a press conference featuring Dana White, Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, Israel Adesanya, and Anderson Silva.

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