Under My Auspices

Listen, WWE. I’m sticking with what I said yesterday – that it’s still you and not me, but now I have a really good example of why.

I watched Monday Night RAW last night. I know I said I wouldn’t, but then my phone blew up with people screaming about the return of Shane McMahon so I had to find out what in the holy hell was going on. I ended up watching almost the entire episode (I will admit to missing whatever happened with Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch because a friend needed a ride, though.) But three segments on this show that I did get to watch gave me some big things to consider in regards to what I was arguing in yesterday’s post.

After taking some time to digest it, the feud between Brock Lesnar and Dean Ambrose is absolutely perfect. In fact, I’m shocked that WWE has managed to give us something this good, considering how badly they’re struggling with just about everything else on the program. When you stop to consider all of the components of this particular storyline, it’s hard not to be enthralled by the potential. The story they created leading to the triple threat match at Fastlane was never REALLY about Dean and Roman’s relationship. It was about the Lunatic Fringe getting into the head of The Beast – a job Ambrose has pulled off magnificently. Brock Lesnar is not a person who is frightened of anything – he has no reason to be, he’s the baddest dude in any room he enters (including an arena full of a 100k screaming fans) so there was no chance Ambrose was going to intimidate him. The only thing the unpredictable ex-Shield member could bring to the table was the element of surprise. Imagine what was going through Lesnar’s head when Ambrose kept asking for more. He climbed into the ring and got in Lesnar’s face before Fastlane, he took F5’s just to find out what they felt like. He caught a serious beat-down before RAW, and then came back to challenge Lesnar to a match that (while Dean’s choice) doesn’t favor the former Intercontinental and US champion one bit. He’s going to be beat to a (hopefully bloody) pulp and continue to get up. I have absolutely no idea how Lesnar’s going to beat him, and that makes me ecstatic, not just as an Ambrose fan, but as a fan of good wrestling psychology and storytelling. Oh, and if that didn’t sell you, we’re going to get five weeks of Ambrose/Heyman promos. I may not even survive until Wrestlemania 32 – my heart my explode from joy before then.

ON THE OTHER HAND

Shane McMahon is back on RAW after six years away. I could not believe my eyes when I turned on my TV – Shane O Mac, in the ring with his father (who is apparently shrinking, I don’t remember him being shorter than Shane) and his sister. Not something I would have predicted, to be honest, and being surprised (as my friend Nat says) is better than the show being predictable. The boss’s son cut a killer promo on his sister, and then demanded control of RAW from The Chairman, after Stephanie left the ring. Of course this was an opportunity to make a deal, so Vince told Shane he could have RAW if he participated in a match where Vince chose the venue, the day, and the opponent, which Shane agreed to. That’s when it was announced that Shane would face The Undertaker inside Hell in a Cell at Wrestlemania 32.

Wait. What?

This match – this program – is in forty days. There is plenty of time to lay out a solid story and get everything we need to become hooked as an audience. But that’s not what WWE did, so now we’re left speculating. Why on Earth would Undertaker take this match? Because Vince said so? Nothing we know about The Undertaker in recent years leads us to believe that he is beholden to Vince in any way – he has chosen his own opponents as far as kayfabe is concerned. He picked Brock Lesnar. He agreed to take on the challenge put forth by Bray Wyatt. Why would he fight Vince’s battle for him? Surely this will be explained, but it shouldn’t HAVE to be explained – it should be clear from the beginning. Part of what makes the Lesnar/Ambrose feud so brilliant is that the feud is a natural product of who the characters are. Lesnar is a beast who likes to cause pain, and Ambrose is a masochistic freak who is always looking for a fight. Really, they were MEANT for one another. Now, it’s fair to argue that a portion of the WWE Universe probably has no idea who Shane McMahon is, aside from what his promo told us, and doesn’t understand the history (google him, people) but there are certain details that those of us who are long-time fans know. And we all know who and what the Undertaker is. There are plenty of ways this whole thing could have made more sense. The first one that comes to mind is having Vince tell Shane he gets RAW if he wrestles in one match on one night, but doesn’t tell him when or against who. You could end the episode with Vince frantically trying to think of who to use, going back to his office where we see that he is in obsession of The Urn, the one guaranteed way to control Undertaker. Maybe the following week we get a backstory that Undertaker traded The Urn to Vince in order to get Lesnar as an opponent at SummerSlam in 2015. But WWE hates backstory – or through lines, for that matter. So instead they force themselves into a situation of setting matches/feuds up and then having to explain to us why they make sense. Have you ever heard of anything more backwards? But it’s not even the worst thing they’re mucking up. The number 1 ongoing feud in WWE is:

WWE vs. THE AUDIENCE

If I was the kind of person who understood how to make memes, I would take a picture of Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls and write the phrase “Stop trying to make Roman Reigns happen. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.” I’m not sure why they refuse to give in to the audience, but creative is locked in one hell of a stalemate against the WWE Universe. In the past, some of the greatest character developments in the history of the company have come from creative turning the character (or allowing the character to turn naturally) in accordance with the response from the crowd. But they are either going to get Reigns over as a face or absolutely kill his career in the process. They have glimpses of success (the RAW after TLC comes to mind) but they are so inconsistent in booking him that they can never sustain his success. In an attempt to repeat what they had back in December, Reigns is embroiled in a feud for the WWE World Heavyweight championship against Triple H (who has thankfully shed his Brooks Brothers look to return to The Game persona we all know and love.) Trips has been a heel for a long time as part of The Authority, so it seemed a clear win to put him squarely in Reigns’ path and allow us to cheer him. Except that the loudest people in the audience aren’t kids who want to see Reigns overcome, it’s the adult fans who are nostalgic for the cocky badass version of The Game that we’re clearly getting now. He’s our hero, not the guy who can never be successful for more than five minute increments. Who wants a champion like that? Who wants to watch Roman Reigns overcome THE AUDIENCE? Not those of us sitting in it, believe that.

One thing that’s clearly an issue with the opening and closing segments that isn’t an issue with the Lesnar/Ambrose feud is that the characters themselves are not clearly defined. Who are these characters? What do they want? Why do they want it? How are they going to get it? Shane McMahon has almost all of these questions answered, but it’s not clear what he was willing to do to get it back BEFORE his father set up the match at Mania. The Undertaker really only has the “who” part answered. Reigns has always been vague for me on his “who”, but we know that he wants the title in order to provide for his family (I think.) His “how” keeps changing in terms of what he’s willing to do to get what he wants. Triple H has a huge problem in his “who” because sometimes he’s Corporate Trips and sometimes he’s The Game and sometimes he’s NXT Dad and that’s a problem. Because all three of those characters have different answers to the “what/why/how” questions.

As Shane O Mac put it last night, we can’t know what we don’t know. But know this: if WWE could clearly lay out for us the characterization of these four men, the feuds would tighten up as a natural result. It happened so easily with Lesnar and Ambrose; just let the plan fall into place.

– The Lady J Says

 

 

Mad As Hell

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” – Howard Beale, Network

I was already wound up about WWE’s Fastlane Pay-Per-View hours before the show actually got started. As a dedicated Dean Ambrose fan, I felt sick at the thought that WWE had worked hard to create doubt – they took Ambrose’s Intercontinental Title on Monday, thus making us believe he had a real chance to win last night’s Number 1 Contender-ship match – but knew they had no intention of actually paying that doubt off. But the show as a whole was largely unappetizing to me, and I ended the night angrier than I have been with the promotion in months.

The last time I was this aggravated, it involved all of the same characters that are giving me a headache now: Ambrose, Roman Reigns, The Wyatt Family, Charlotte. Back then my argument was basically the same – WWE has absolutely no idea how to build an organic story and pay it off. They have no idea how to develop strong characters. They have no idea how to write compelling dialogue, or create parameters where their performers can improve exciting promos. It occurred to me after Fastlane was over and I was snuggled warmly in bed that I only tuned in to see how bad they could screw the whole thing up. The answer was “spectacularly”.

Don’t get me wrong – there were other problems with last night’s show. There were several messy in-ring errors that were terrifying to watch, particularly with all of the recent discussions surrounding concussions and other injuries. It is not just WWE’s responsibility, but the responsibility of the wrestlers to protect not just themselves, but their co-workers as well. If we’re going to openly discuss these things, then you need to be prepared for your audience being sensitive to certain types of moves. Besides that, there is also an atmosphere to PPVs that was seriously lacking last night. Was watching Roman Reigns get booed out of the building in Philadelphia at the 2015 Royal Rumble ideal? No. But it was an incredible sight to behold – and any reaction is better than no reaction, and no reaction is what we got out of Cleveland for most of the night.

Professional wrestling is a unique thing to be a fan of. It’s like sports, but it’s not sports. It’s like scripted weekly television programming, but it’s not. It’s like a lot of things, but the only thing it is, truly, is itself. There are a lot of ways to produce a pro-wrestling show, and no one way is right or wrong. But, like with any good art form, self-awareness is key. What makes Lucha Underground so popular, for example, is that it has hard and fast rules about where the parameters of the world it occupies are. The world of LU includes magic and mysticism, but does not include current events or even an expansive connection to its location (they never, for example, shout out the local sports team.) There are no titan-trons in the same space as the ring, so no one in the Temple should/could be privy to the backstage segments that the television audience gets to see. There is a certain amount of continuity that fans can rely on.

None of this exists in WWE. The issue that I am always going to have with WWE is that I am a writer, a storyteller by nature, and WWE does everything in its power to flagrantly disregard the rules that have been drilled into me. These are rules I’ve learned not just from years of schooling, but from experiencing the work of great authors (playwrights, screen writers, etc.) who created compelling and all-encompassing worlds for us to explore. There are a lot of arguments I’m hearing about letting yourself get worked, or giving in to the story line in front of you and not to think you’re smarter than the people who run the company. That’s a fair argument – one I’ve actually made myself. I know I’ve referenced before that I always think of my late grandparents – my grandmother telling my grandfather, who was voicing his displeasure and confusion at her preferred daytime soap opera program, that he didn’t “know how to watch this.” That could be a valid argument for someone who doesn’t like LU, because it has magic in it. But it’s not a valid argument for WWE because they don’t know how to tell a story at all anymore.

The “tweener” nature of just about every character on the roster, and the loss of faces and heels is a problem. Tweeners are useful, but not if you have a whole roster of them, because you’re not telegraphing to the audience who you want them to cheer for. (Not that you can guarantee who the audience will cheer for, but it’s hard to turn someone in order to fit the crowd reaction when they have no true affiliation to begin with.) The imaginary world in which what goes on backstage on Monday Night Raw is not projected for the entire arena to hear is a problem, particularly when this is a rule that is regularly broken. How often do we see backstage segments in which people make reference to things announced in the ring that they were not present for? If you can hear in-ring announcements backstage, isn’t it fair to say the wrestlers in the ring can see what happens backstage and is projected onto the titan-tron? Running a website in which you regularly run kayfabe and non-kayfabe stories side-by-side is a problem. The “fake” world of your wrestling program is not something that should be placed over reality, like a painted transparency. I have never once been confused by Ricochet tweeting about something that Prince Puma did on Lucha Underground. And why is that? Because it’s clear he is a performer portraying a character. Insisting that performers where there in-ring personas all of the time creates more problems than it solves in this day and age. The fact that WWE runs programming on the network where kayfabe and reality crash into each other, shows like Breaking Ground that are half shoot and half work, is a testament to their dedication to their 21st century version of kayfabe. What could be sillier than taking something that doesn’t work and doubling down on your efforts?

Of course last night’s main event was just the latest in a long line of scenarios that highlight WWE’s inability to conceptualize the trainwreck they’ve created by continuing the involve the actual owners of the company in the main event (or really any) storyline. The Big Bad Businessmen are always going to be heel characters, whether it’s Triple H or Vince McMahon at the heart of it. Therefore, anyone they’re up against are babyfaces. But if we as fans know how hard those same people are working to create storylines (including involving themselves, like we saw with Vince back in December/January) we have to assume the people they are trying to get over are associate with the higher ups, and thus heels.

“Easy, J. Just separate the Paul Levesque the businessman from Triple H of the Authority.”

I could. But you know what? THAT’S NOT MY JOB. It’s theirs. It is the job of the company to clearly define the characters, to give me a story I can follow. No, all of the stories they are telling don’t have to be geared to me as a fan. But they should be something I can understand. If I wrote a story, a novel, where my characters had (what basically equates to) multiple personalities, the book would be panned for being an analytical mess, impossible to untangle. And that’s what WWE is – a gigantic maze of overlapping stories inside and outside of the product that create more confusion and frustration than excitement. To be considered a successful wrestling promotion, I expect you to be selling seats, yes. But I also expect your product to be interesting and something I (or anyone) can become invested in. There is no reason for a new fan to become invested in the WWE main roster product. Yes, there are great matches, but if you’re just looking for good matches there are plenty of other places you can go. A company that makes as much money as WWE does should be able to pull off something more balanced: high production quality, clear storytelling, interesting characters, AND good matches. And if you think that’s me asking for too much, then you have given up on WWE being a quality product and have settled for the sub-par trash they’ve been spoon-feeding us for years. And that’s not my problem.

For those of you who made it all the way down this far, thank you for reading! I am going to take another break from things like Monday Night RAW and SmackDown (sorry, Mauro. I love you!) and focus my attention on NXT (which I recently haven’t had the time to keep up with) and Lucha Underground. For those of you who follow me on Twitter or read this blog on Thursdays, you’ll know that my girl Sarah and I have been live-tweeting LU on Wednesday nights. We’ve been having such a good time with it, we decided to start podcasting about it. So “Facelock Feministas” is going to debut as a podcast, right here on The Lady J Says blog this Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Hopefully y’all will enjoy it (and so will we) and it can become a regular thing. Keep your eyes peeled for that, while I put my Explicit Ambrose hoodie in a drawer for safe keeping.

Listen, WWE. It’s not me – it’s you.

– The Lady J Says

 

 

Riding the Wave

I have a lot of tattoos. At this point in my life, I probably have about 30 or so hours of tattoo work on my body. My favorite, by far, is a still-unfinished tidal wave done in traditional Japanese style. I decided on a tidal wave for many reasons. I grew up on Long Island, and the ocean has always been a part of my life. Also, a month before my first sitting for this piece, a friend of mine lost his life in a scuba-diving accident so my tattoo is both to commemorate his life and what a lovely friend he was, as well as a reminder of how powerful the ocean can be. Beyond either of those very personal reasons, my tattoo is a reminder to simply ride the wave; let life take you where it will. It’s a hell of a lot easier than fighting against something you can never conquer, like the tremendously powerful tides. Stay true to yourself, but otherwise go with the flow.

I’m trying to remember to do just that, every day. It’s not easy – the world around us does not make it easy. Being a level-headed person and attempting to rise above the din is important. It’s probably as close to enlightenment as we’re going to get in this day and age. The internet in particular is an occasionally wonderful and often terrifying place to be, so when I logged into Twitter this morning and saw the latest development in the WWE/Michelle Beadle/Mark Madden story, I had to take some deep breaths. I talked to some friends. I read some articles and a whole lot of tweets. I formed my own opinions, which I’m going to share here, and then I’m going to move on with my day. That’s how I choose to ride the wave.

For anyone who may have missed it, back in May of last year, Michelle Beadle (current host of Sports Nation on ESPN) publicly discussed why she was no longer a fan of the WWE after Triple H had shown support for Floyd Mayweather, a boxer who had been convicted on multiple occasions of domestic violence. This past Monday, Beadle was shown on-camera during RAW sitting in the audience and then tweeted afterwards that she’d had a long-overdue conversation with Stephanie McMahon and Triple H backstage. Since then many people have been asking (demanding, even) that Beadle make a statement explaining what occurred to encourage her return to the fandom. She’s also now embroiled in what may be the silliest Twitter feud I’ve ever seen with Mark Madden regarding a direct message conversation they had on Twitter and whether or not Beadle needs to explain her reasons for appearing at a live WWE product.

I’ve been reading all of the reasoning behind this insistence that Beadle give a reason for her being at RAW. Basically, all of it comes back to the fact that she left her fandom in such a public way, so her return should also be public. That’s a fine reason, I’m not arguing with that. Beadle is a well-known public figure in the sports world who was trying to bring attention to a grave disconnect in our society when she left her WWE fandom: the intersection of current public focus on domestic violence issues and the idolization of sports figures, regardless of their domestic violence history.

Floyd Mayweather certainly isn’t the only one, either. WWE has had its own issues with domestic violence on the roster, including in the anchor’s own self-professed favorite wrestler, Stone Cold Steve Austin. This in particular is a fact that is thrown around often – why was Beadle choosing to make a stand at that time and why was Triple H the object of her ire? Here’s the thing: it doesn’t actually matter. Standing up and doing the right thing is something we should be doing consistently in our lives, but if everyone who ever stood up for something was forced to explain why they hadn’t done it sooner, no one would ever advocate for anything. Did I know what a devastating disease Alzheimer’s was before my Mom got sick? Sure I did. But I didn’t become such a staunch advocate for the victims of the illness and the people who care for them until I became a caregiver. That doesn’t mean I am not aware that people were suffering long before Alzheimer’s affected my life in such a direct way. I’m here now, and that’s what matters.

What is most important here is that Michelle Beadle did make a stand, and she wasn’t afraid to say “I love this thing, but if the people who make and run this thing are going to support someone who has been convicted of domestic violence, then I can’t be a part of it anymore.” Now everyone expects her to publicly explain what could have possibly transpired to bring her back. It’s not that simple, though, is it? We all have people in our lives we disagree with – some on fundamental issues that constantly drive a wedge between us – but that doesn’t mean you can’t reach an understanding that allows your friendship to continue. Granted, most of those relationships aren’t as public as the one Beadle has fostered with WWE, so what transpires between us and our friends is usually not up for discussion on social media. But Beadle chose to avail herself of the pulpit she is afforded her by her job, and thus we feel the outcome should be offered up for public consumption as well.

No one knows what happened backstage at RAW. If we are to believe (and I do) that Beadle is as passionate as she appears on this issue, then whatever did transpire was enough for her, which should be enough for the rest of us as well. And if it isn’t, it’s not her responsibility to change our mind. For anyone who turned away from WWE for similar reasons, it is not her job to present you with information on why you should return. It is entirely up to WWE to prove themselves as advocates for victims and not violent offenders. In the same way, it is their job to show anyone who may turn away from the product because of the issue of concussions that they are working diligently to protect their performers. My only hope is that Beadle was afforded the opportunity to encourage Triple H and Stephanie to put WWE squarely on the side of the victims of domestic abuse and express to their fan base at large that they do not promote individuals in any profession, or of any gender, who have been convicted of such a crime.

In the midst of all this, Beadle has gone head-to-head with broadcast personality Mark Madden, who has made it his personal mission to keep this story at the forefront of the news cycle. After a personal conversation between (supposedly initiated by Beadle) was posted on her Twitter, Madden made the story about himself and how unprofessional it was of Beadle to do such a thing. In case Mark has forgotten, he was talking to her on the internet, a place where we are so often fooled into thinking things are private. It seems mostly that he is displeased that he can’t shake Beadle, she almost appears to be enjoying his frantic raging. As they say, there is no such thing as bad press, so as long as Madden and the rest of the media are discussing both Beadle and WWE, there is no real loss.

Do I want to know what happened between Michelle and Triple H on Monday? Sure I do. Like many WWE fans, I am fascinated by the world just beyond the thick black curtains of gorilla. But more so I am glad to see politics stopping at the water’s edge, and in this age of adolescent tantrums people can still sit down privately to talk things out as human beings with differing opinions and let whatever happens next happen. Good for you, Michelle. Ride the wave.

– The Lady J Says

A Love Letter

Dear Professional Wrestling,

We’ve been fighting a lot lately.

Some of that is on me – I tend to get frustrated when I think the people in my life are resting on their laurels and not rising to their fullest potential. This feeling usually manifests itself as being pushy, aggressive, and argumentative. I pick fights. I call people I love out on what I perceive to be bullshit. I know I am not perfect – will never be perfect – and I see many of my own weaknesses as unconquerable. I turn my attention to the people around me, because I’d rather emphatically encourage you to blossom in a phenomenal way than confront the vast ocean of my own failings. Maybe that could be the one thing I do right – help others to become all they aspire to be.

So, you and I fight. We fight about business practices and gender bias. We fight about inclusion and bad storytelling. We fight about character development and marketing. We disagree over and over, and eventually I get so frustrated with your unwillingness to bend, with your indignant attitude, that I walk away from you. I spend some time seething, trying to ignore the phantom-limb feeling that comes with the distance. Inevitably, I find that I miss you too much and I return. I sit quietly in the back at first, but eventually find myself in the throws of my brash, contentious behavior and we fall into our routine. Between the moments when you challenge and surprise me, you still drive me mad with your tendency to return to your tired old habits. The cycle continues.

When I’m cutting promos on you or arguing with other people who try to stick up for your outdated drudgery, I am still being passionate. If I didn’t care so much, I wouldn’t bother. But I care a great deal – perhaps too much. Even in the moments when I am incensed, I still love you.

Yesterday, I was reminded why. I saw a man who loves you in a way I never could say goodbye. I saw him make a choice – a choice for himself, for his family, and for his future – to walk away from you in order to survive. He had to give you up so that he could live a full and long life. Fans like myself demand so much of the men and women who perform for us, so it is our responsibility to also support them when it is time to turn in. I sat and sobbed while I watched this man tell his story and say his farewells. He drank in every chant and every cheer, and in the end what he gave back to us was gratitude; not just his own, but the reminder that we must all be grateful for what professional wrestling has given us.

And I am so very grateful. Being a fan has given me a great deal. I have something that incites passion within me. There is a place I can go that makes the gears in my head turn, that extends the tendrils of my imagination further than they could ever go without it. I am a better writer because of it. Over and over I have been forced to explain myself – to delineate both what my views are on professional wrestling as well as why I am a fan to begin with. I’ve learned some patience. I’ve learned to let go and enjoy the ride. There were times when things in my every day existence were too much to bear, when perhaps even the mere thought of existing was too much. Those were the times that wrestling appeared to me – once when I was very young, and again as an adult. Someone or something lead me to happen upon an episode of RAW or Smackdown, and I became immersed in the program. For those two or three hours, I wasn’t me anymore. I was not being crushed under the weight of my life – I was free.

But it is not simply the ways in which I have been personally altered that I am grateful for. My gratitude is overwhelm for the people with whom I am connected because of this thing we call professional wrestling. I am lucky to be blessed with friends whom I have reconnected with or formed stronger relationships with because of it. These are the people whose texts flooded my phone yesterday afternoon and last night. I am floored by the people it has brought directly into my life – whether it was people I developed an intense bond with after relocating to Virginia from New York, or the people who were brought to me through Twitter and blogging, many of whom have become like family to me. These are people who encourage me, who argue with me, who love me fiercely, and who I would give absolutely anything for. I have met writers with whom I can lament the days the muse has abandoned me. I have met other women who struggle to wage war when our voices seem so small. I have met people whose histories mapped a concurrent path to my own, and people whose lives are more foreign to me than anything. I’ve met people of all walks who infuriate, stimulate, and challenge me – people I have fallen desperately in love with in every sense of the word. I suppose my love for them is rivaled only by my love for you – this all-encompassing thing that you are.

When I returned to watch WWE in 2013, the first face I saw on the screen of whatever early-summer episode of Monday Night RAW I was watching was Daniel Bryan’s. After asking who the hell he was (I’d been away for eight years) I asked where my favorite from the early 2000’s was – Edge. I had missed him. I had missed the majority of his singles career, and his retirement. I wasn’t there for him as a fan, and so I missed out. But I didn’t miss out on Daniel Bryan. I got to be there for him, just like he was there for me. Just like most of the wrestlers are – giving me a place to disappear into with my best friends. A place that can be better, yes, but a place that does, in fact, belong to me.

This is your love letter – the wrestlers, the bookers, the roadies, the stage hands, the writers, the interns who run the twitter accounts, the valets, the coaches, the make-up and hair people, the costume designers, everyone who works in the venues, the people who answer the phone at headquarters, the fans, the fansites, the kids, the podcasters, my friends – you have my utmost gratitude.

Gratitude, for the broken teeth and broken hearts
you stood and saw me through.
Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”
– I Am the Avalanche

– The Lady J Says

Let’s Hear It From the Boys

I took the time this morning to actually watch the video of Stephanie McMahon on GMA. It was a very nice, completely pointless little interview in which the WWE (and to some degree Stephanie herself) was portrayed as something other than what they are. Naturally, I took to Twitter to vent my rage. I never expect anyone to answer me (much less at 10:30 in the morning) but the people who did took me by surprise.

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In the interview, Stephanie made the claim that more than 40% of the WWE’s audience is women, and that families make up an equivalent portion of live audiences. If that’s true, how come the WWE product doesn’t seem to be even 40% fair to its female wrestlers? I mean, there MUST be a good explanation for this, right

 

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Yes, of course. When there is only one woman with any semblance of power within a company, it’s hard to imagine that company is paying close attention to how its female characters are portrayed/treated, much less what message they’re sending to their female fans. But Stephanie McMahon is in a unique position, as the daughter of Vince and Triple H’s wife that no matter what opinion she voices, it would take a hell of a lot for them to fire her. Why is she throwing around feminist jargon in a morning television interview (guess what percentage of GMA’s audience is female, by the way) instead of using the same jargon to get some changing happening behind the scenes at WWE?

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Sean has a point. Stephanie is not as active in the booking of what happens on WWE television (the way most of us consume WWE as a product) as she once did. Stephanie shows up more at conferences for women in business, or at charitable events for things like WWE’s Be-A-Star campaign or Connor’s Cure. I’m not going to go so far as to say any of those things are bad (they’re not) but if WWE is looking to put a more positive spin on what they do by associating themselves with charitable organizations that focus on children, maybe they should also be trying to format their television product to draw in an audience of younger people of all genders. Stephanie mentions in the interview that the women of the #DivasRevolution are women that young girls can look up to and aspire to become. I hope none of those young women get wind of Total Divas, as their behavior is often portrayed as catty, entitled, and over-dramatic. Is that really what we want our daughters to aspire to become?

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Of course I noticed. And please don’t for a second thing this was something GMA did without Stephanie or WWE’s permission. You know who gave them those clips. There was a brief appearance of Charlotte and Becky Lynch, but only because a clip of Paige was used from when she was a still a part of Team PCB. And that clip in particular was quite fleeting. Mostly the images we saw if the female wrestlers were Brie or Nikki executing some kind of move on Paige (including the Rack Attack, which I would prefer never to watch again, knowing what it did to Nikki’s neck.) And why is that? Because Total Divas is what they’re pushing right now. Brie Bella is about to get a match (for the title, which I don’t understand) at Fastlane later this month. The video interview of Stephanie actually aired yesterday morning, the same day a new episode of Total Divas was set to premiere. Don’t forget who Total Divas is for, too. It’s not the wrestling fans. It’s for the fans of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, who WWE is trying to court out of their hard-earned dollars. In fact, this interview wasn’t about real girl power at all, it was about a hashtag – a movement that WWE could put its brand on. She made sure to convince everyone that WWE has answered the call to be better to their women (they haven’t) and that she is steering the ship toward more inclusion (she’s not.) But I have a suggestion for her:

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Ouch. Poor AJ. All that woman ever wanted to do was wrestle, and she gave it up to stand by her principles. Talk about a martyr for the cause.

In the end, I came away from this morning’s discussion with two feelings: female wrestling fans have a large cross-section of advocates in the IWC, regardless of gender-identity, and absolutely none inside of WWE. I’ll let my boy John sum it up for you. I’ve had just about enough for today.


– The Lady J Says

It’s All About Perspective

Here’s a little tidbit about The Lady J that will shock absolutely nobody: I like to argue. I don’t meant to say I like to fight – I’m not looking to hurt anyone. But I like when my opinions or ideas clash with someone else’s and we can have a healthy debate. In the world of mud-slinging politics, I know this sounds counter-intuitive. What is a healthy debate anyway? I’m talking about being respectful but thorough. I’m talking about actually listening to other people when they speak. I’m talking about being open to something new. As a firm believer in the phrase “smart people surround themselves with other smart people who disagree with them,” I think it’s important to consider new or opposing concepts in everything I do. I wasn’t on a debate team growing up (though you can bet I would have if my school had one) but I know one of the key exercises in debate is to argue opinions or ideas that aren’t in line with your personal beliefs. It’s not just a strategy exercise, it opens up your mind to new perspectives.

In between fainting over excellent Ambrose promos and wanting Michael Cole to catch an actual beating during RAW last night, I decided to try to spin my perspective around on a few things that were happening during the program. I received a bit of push-back, so I wanted to further explain myself. Try as I may, my writing style simply does not lend itself to a 140 character limit. (Note: a time limit in a debate might have also taught me to get to the point faster. Thanks NYS public school system.)

First of all, let’s be clear on one thing: I am usually not analytical during episodes of RAW. I like to let myself get sucked in when I can. Starting the show off with a promo involving Paul Heyman and then adding in Dean Ambrose was a perfect way to get lost in the excitement of being a professional wrestling fan. What both men were saying felt very organic, as though neither of them were given a script. You can bet they don’t tell Heyman what to say, but there is clearly a difference between promos where Ambrose is scripted and ones where he gets to go out there and shoot from the hip. Anyone who follows me on Twitter can tell you I was pretty much beside myself with glee during the whole thing (which didn’t even last a full ten minutes. News flash: good promos don’t have to take up a sixth of the show.) I was also excited by the possibility that WWE was actually booking women has level-headed human beings by letting Sasha Banks leave Team B.A.D. to chase the Diva’s championship while still maintaining a friendship (or at least a modicum of respect) with Naomi and Tamina. It seems we’ve been saying forever that it’s offensive for women to only be portrayed as catty backstabbers, so here was an opportunity to show a strong woman going after the title while not burning every bridge she’d ever built along the way.

By the end of the program, I had come full swing on both angles – from completely stoked to utter disappointment when all that came out of it was Sasha getting jumped (and Becky Lynch getting herself involved) while The Lunatic Fringe found himself on the receiving end of an F5 to close the show. I walked away from my TV not feeling great about the whole thing (not how you want to be left feeling after watching three hours of programming) so I decided to give myself time to decompress and let my mind wander. I came out on the other side of two new perspectives in the process and today I feel a lot more like myself and less like a petulant brat.

As a woman who has been constantly aggravated with the way others of my gender are treated/portrayed in WWE, it’s hard to take a step back from the crusade. But what we are fighting for (in and out of professional wrestling) is equality. We want balance. The issues that we complain about within the women’s division are often echoed with the men (though that stuff with Ric Flair is next level – that’s it’s own thing and very specific to women.) The WWE fanbase is often disappointed with how quickly feuds are changed or discarded entirely. We are often frustrated as characters rapidly move through alliances, with no clear build or establishing of relationships. In the women’s division it’s more pronounced because there are just fewer individuals and because there is already a stereotype that exists that women behave this way outside of the wrestling universe. Is WWE intentionally trying to perpetuate that stereotype? I’m not entirely sure. I think it is more likely that they are trying to do what they do with the men with the women and it’s failure is simply more amplified.

Was Charlotte turning on Becky Lynch shocking? No. Was it useful in getting Becky Lynch over? Yes. Is separating Sasha Banks from Team B.A.D. going to be good for her in the long run? Yes. Now it seems there are three female individuals running on their own (Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha, 3/4 of the NXT Four Horsewomen) and three female teams (Brie Bella with Alicia Fox, Naomi with Tamina, and Paige with Natalya – only one of whom actually came to the main roster from NXT.) When you consider this, WWE has actually set up a brilliant design to the women’s division. They could, in theory, pit Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha against each other in different ways for several months, keeping the championship at the heart of everything. Meanwhile we could get separate team-based story lines from the other six women (and hopefully Paige, Naomi, and Natalya can elevate the skill level of the other three, but that’s a whole other issue.) At the very least, Sasha Banks being on the wrong side of her Beautiful And Dangerous sisters could eventually spell a complete split and bury the team concept within the Divas for good. Is Sasha going to have to wrestle a program with Naomi to get there? Probably. But it certainly isn’t going to be a bad match.

As for the main event of Fastlane, you have to be willing to tumble down a really dark Lady J rabbit hole for this one.


  
  
  

It’s easy to watch what happened on RAW last night and assumed WWE managed to build and kill my favorite character in one three hour period. But part of that assumption is based in this concept that WWE is trying to screw its fanbase. I’m not sure when we got into the mindset that WWE hates us. I know it may seem like they do, but what good what that do them? WWE might be trying to tell everyone that they’re catering their product to a different audience – to families, to the mainstream – but really, they’re nothing without people like us. They need fansites, they need bloggers and podcasters. They need those of us who still remember how to get worked and are begging them for it. What if we all stopped waiting for them to screw things up and instead start looking for how good it could possibly be?

I believe they call this optimism. It’s still new to me, too. I’ll let you know when I get it comfortably worn in.

– The Lady J Says