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.