The women’s revolution is finished.
There was an attempt to present female sports entertainers on the same level as the guys, which is definitely possible. However, through a series of questionable decisions and undeniable mistakes, the “revolution” is finished. After about two years, female athletes are still portrayed as less important, with the only noticeable difference being that you won’t see talented women being subjected to lame gimmick matches or pillow fights. That’s not a revolution, it’s common sense that should’ve been used a long time ago.
At the dismal Money in the Bank pay-per-view, the first ever women’s MITB match took place, an indication that the female division was given an equal chance since the traditional men’s ladder match was scheduled for the same show. James Ellsworth, the jobber that got smashed by Braun Strowman to the point that he garnered a cult following, climbed the ladder to retrieve the briefcase for Carmella. Yes, the historic women’s MITB match was essentially won by James Ellsworth. The reason for this was probably an attempt to get cheap heat for Carmella, but this soured fans on the bout and created a negative perception as to how WWE brass handled the division. If management couldn’t construct a better conclusion to this ladder match then a women’s version of MITB probably shouldn’t have been scheduled in the first place.
The lackluster booking of female talent isn’t exclusive to Smackdown, as Raw had more fumbles than the Tuesday night show in recent months. Charlotte, daughter to Ric flair, was prominently featured on Raw, including a lengthy feud with Sasha Banks and Bayley respectively. Basically, the title switched randomly and often, diluting the prestige of the title to the level of simply a prop.
Nobody was elevated when they won the belt because instead of a title change being used to punctuate the conclusion of a well-booked feud, the new champion gained nothing from the illogical switch, especially when that particular competitor dropped it shortly afterwards anyway. Granted, the 50/50 booking is a problem across the board in WWE, but the time frame and results of Charlotte, Bayley, and Sasha are a textbook example of how counterproductive it can be to every aspect of a division.
For example, instead of Bayley winning the title at WrestleMania this year to truly capitalize on the underdog storyline, she won it the previous month, which created a rather flat scenario for the biggest show of the year. It’s often said that professional wrestling is about creating moments, not necessarily just the matches. How many major moments were created since management brought the “revolution” to the main roster?
Aside from just the title switches, the Charlotte/Sasha feud wasn’t put into the most productive situations for success either. The concept of a women’s HIAC match is historic on paper, but considering that Banks has a smaller frame of around 105 LBS, was it really a good idea to expect her to be able to crash through tables? Realistically, she doesn’t have the physical frame to go through the tables, a problem that can be avoided if those elements aren’t used in the match. Keep in mind, one of the reasons that Mick Foley was able to survive (and still required surgery recently) the bumps he took on his way to the hall of fame was his unique body structure could absorb the rough landing.
Another major booking fumble from that same match was Banks on the stretcher with a neck brace from an attack prior to the bell. Somehow, Banks popped up with a fiery comeback, showing no effects of the attack after she was on a stretcher just seconds either. That series of events seemed too illogical and made those watching sigh at how unrealistic it was portrayed. In retrospect, the HIAC match was a sloppy contest that probably wasn’t the best environment to showcase the talent of either athlete.
The way that Bayley is being used on WWE currently is almost unbelievable, considering how much momentum she had after her excellent run in NXT. Somehow management took one of the most over babyfaces in the entire company and halted the hype that would’ve put her near the level of John Cena in a few years in terms of popularity and marketability. The series of recent cringe worthy segments, including the “this is your life” with Alexa Bliss, and the awkward interview with Corey Graves are completely counterproductive for her.
I’m still not sure why management hasn’t booked the Sasha/Bayley feud to showcase their electric dynamic to the main stream TV audience because of how successful the formula was in NXT. Yes, I know booking that angle again might be considered somewhat repetitive, but a Sasha heel turn after her and Bayley became allies on Raw would incorporate their history from the developmental brand. You also have to consider that with roughly 1.5 million subscribers, which varies somewhat throughout the year, the WWE network still has a fraction of the viewers that the global television shows draw each week. So, using the background of NXT as the basis for a feud on Raw would be a fresh angle for most viewers.
Don’t get me wrong, Alexa Bliss has done well in her role as one of the “mean girls” of Raw, but the way her angle with Bayley was presented, instead of an underdog fighting for a dream, Bayley was portrayed as a naive fan that didn’t seem to belong in the big leagues.
Why did Bayley’s character work so well in NXT, only to flounder for the most part on the main roster?
Unfortunately, it could be the writing team’s perception of the audience, but most of the time, the content on the main roster seems to target the lowest common denominator. It makes sense to attempt to gear the product to a main stream demographic because ultimately, the WWE is trying to draw as many causal fans as possible. The diehard fans are already consistent consumers of the product and a loyal fan base so management always tries to expand outside of that, which is a smart business move for a publicly traded company. But, there’s a different between trying to reach the general public and insulting the audience’s intelligent.
The NXT brand isn’t subjected to the “standards” of the general public because it’s exclusive to the network, which is why most characters aren’t booked for lame angles on that show. However, a winning formula is a winning formula, and what the writing team booked for Bayley so far seems to be the exact opposite of the booking style that would make her a major star to a global television audience. Make no mistake, Bayley has the charisma and in-ring skills to be one of the most popular stars for years in the WWE. The same could also be said for Sasha and perhaps others in the women’s division.
Instead, the women’s division on Raw is basically a shuffle with no definitive direction right now, and Smackdown has the previously mentioned Ellsworth “controversy.” Not mentioned in the “outrage” of Ellsworth grabbing the briefcase is, was Carmella even the best choice to get the title shot? She’s not terrible, but isn’t established either.
Is there really going to be a major reaction when she cashes in the title shot? The total of the “revolution” was WWE brass finally got rid of the lame pillow fight matches, but that’s not really a revolution, it’s just common sense. The women didn’t need to wrestle in HIAC matches or even ladder matches to get equal opportunity, they just needed a chance to showcase their ability in the ring without being stereotyped or made to look secondary. There’s no doubt that the caliber of matches that Bayley and Sasha had during their time in NXT could main event a WrestleMania. After Ellsworth was booked to win a historic women’s match at MITB, it appears that the revolution has concluded.
Until next week
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta
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