Women in The WWE
To preface this article: I do not pretend to be a super Mark of wrestling entertainment, nor do I pretend to have any professional standards for these entertainers to live up to. I am merely going to expose my perspective on what wrestling I have watched throughout my life.
Jobbers, Attitude, and The Elusive Female Wrestler
I began watching what the WWF provided in the mid/late 90's. This meant The Rock, Rakishi, The Hardys and Stone Cold Steve Austin. I remember the eyebrow, the man-on-man face-sitting, the supposed drug abuse, and a bald guy [who I am now aware of as being nothing but jobber fodder.] I can't really recall much more, and oddly what sticks out the most to me is putting my neighborhood friends in Full-Nelsons and the mod for a WWF video game allowing Big Heads. There's something that has been ever-present within the WWF/WWE, which I have little to no recollection of: female Wrestlers.
Before we get any deeper, here is a brief vocabulary lesson:
- Botch: to blunder or fail at executing a move, sometimes to the point of injury.
- Face: or 'Babyface', is known as the hero, compared to the 'heel'
- Heel: the villan
- Bump: the way a wrestler lands on the mat to reduce risk of injury
- Smark: a portmantaeu of 'smart' and 'mark', referring to a fan who is interested in the back-stage or non-scripted part of wrestling
Tracking down women in wrestling with Marc Mues
I'm sure there are many arguments that could explain why these women are so forgettable or even deemed 'bad wrestlers'. Feel free to enlighten me with these theories in a comment, but honestly, I'm still trying to understand the concept of 'good' or 'bad' wrestling altogether. [My concept of 'good' would include blood, which is apparently no longer encouraged or at least not planned...]
As I've begun to watch the WWE again within the past two years, I've grown more aware as to what the current fans, which are probably the same fans from the 80s and 90s, consider good wrestling. I've learned the terror of 'botching' and the importance of a well timed/positioned 'bump'. Even at some local wrestling gigs I've seen some great blood and high-flying action that really allows me to see the art of this industry. I'll mention this, though, the performers that I remember most were male, not female. My main interest revolves around the women's existence within the industry, but not in my memory.
I wanted to try to get to the bottom of this lack of female resonance in the industry of a mostly-male fan base, so I went to a local WWE Reviewer, Marc Mues. His weekly production of RAWReactions showcases some great blunders of the week's RAW episode, while maintaining a smarky demeanor. I asked him just why he thinks that there is such a cerebral discrepancy concerning women in the WWE universe.
Poll on Wrestling
Which of the following is your favorite subsection of female wrestling?
Mues Productions gives two cents
"The bottom line is that women wrestlers aren't as profitable OR the WWE just simply doesn't know how to market them," he declares, after explaining that a majority of the women are ex-cheerleaders or dancers, both which I would consider very athletic professions for women today.
He goes on: "They simply aren't as talented as female wrestlers from, say, Japan. Also, I'd say the WWE [did not notice] that much interest from the fans through the 90s," which would support why I certainly did not remember any of these lady performers when I was younger.
I was curious as to why he thought that American wrestlers weren't as suited to wrestling as those in Japan: "I think it comes down to the training. I don't know all that much about it, but from what I've seen, [the Japanese female wrestlers] just seem alot more knowledgeable and are far tougher." This made me wonder if that had much to do with the martial arts roots of the country, which probably isn't far off.
Finally, I wanted to know what he thought about the fans and their need for sex appeal in the WWF/WWE. He had this to say: "The audience is as stupid as people seem to believe. Sex was a major selling point in the late 90s, but as the WWE changed to a PG product, they've tuned it down substantially. No one is coming to a WWE show in 2013 for sexy Divas."
Some of this was news to me, I hadn't really imagined things to be as cut and dry as this, even if I DID know what ratings meant. Even then, I am going to go out on a limb and say that the BIGGEST of fans did not start watching for these women, nor did they stay for the women, and furthermore, wouldn't be heartbroken if they were no longer included in weekly line-ups.
I will not suggest that this supposed eradication would be any kind of improvement, from what I can tell it's as if they weren't there to begin with [aside from rather shoe-horned story lines that probably make some of the female audience members feel as if they're watching a soap opera].
Beth Phoenix, Bull Nakano, and The Bellas
According to Mues, there are several note-worthy female wrestlers from over the years: Bull Nakano, The Jumping Bomb Angels, Beth Phoenix, Luna Vachon, and Mickie James. I only recognized one of these names, Beth Phoenix, because she is [or was] on the current roster. Another instance with her stands out, too, when she was delivering what was supposed to be a sympathy-grabbing spot.
At the time, there were some scripted reckless wrestlers attacking without mercy, and her reaction to these happenings was to express that they're "girls" who are scared for their lives and if it didn't stop, then something vague would happen. I know, this anecdote is not very specific, and I don't even have too much to say about it, it's just one of the few things that stands out to me from recent events involving female wrestlers.
There's more to it than just a memory, though. When she referred to the amassed female wrestlers as "girls," I was disgusted, but also enlightened. Within the WWE universe, and in the year 2012, these entertainers are merely girls. They fight each other with little to no flying action, and an abundance of hair-pulling, slapping, screaming [thanks Bella 1 and Bella 2], and from what I can gather from the fans, little talent to be showcased. During the interview, Mues adds that "It just seems more talent and ability driven where major American promotions focus on story lines." They are often scripted to be vapid, slutty, or emotionally weak.
Thanks to Mues Productions for letting me use this video
My Opinion: in a nutshell
I believe that the WWE universe doesn't take the fans for fools, they know that the audience doesn't stay for a Diva's [did I mention that they're referred to as 'divas'?] match because it's good, they stay because it's basically a half-time show, and they're waiting for headliners. To say that I picked out one of the 'good' wrestlers and picked out one word she said as the downfall of the Divas in WWE wouldn't be a stretch, it's what I have done in my mind.
The women in WWE have a new place in my mind. They don't mean much to me because they're not written to mean much more than a vapid, flailing group of females in the ring. I have, in passing, seen some successfully brutal female wrestlers from the 80's, some women with nearly masculine faces, those which could have been on Juice, and some who are far from the sexual tigress that we have on the set today.
This is my theory: the less attractive of a woman you are, the more dangerous moves you're allowed to do. Is that such a reach? If you have less of a face to save, then your contract doesn't have to save much if you're body-slammed from a ladder into a table. An extension of this theory would be that the more attractive you are, the more contractually obligated you are to, quite literally, save face.
Attractive or not, these women are still dedicated to the industry they're in. I will not suggest that these women don't try to perform well, but are typically not allowed the moves to show off their finesse. Those who are found botching simple spots, it's doubtful that they're given the time in training to tighten their skills. Much like women in society, the Divas in the WWE are limited by the context of their industry. There is still a glass ceiling in a lot of work-places, and I'll be happily waiting for one of these strong 'girls' to get the ladder and moonsault through it from the top.
What do you think about the Divas? What about AJ, you ask? What do YOU have to say about her?