An Artist Debuts

This past weekend was an absolute whirlwind of wrestling for me. It was my first time making the trip to see two separate promotions in two separate cities on back to back days. If you’re interested in checking out NOVA Pro’s NOVA Project 2 pre-show, that’s up here on the Facelock Feministas YouTube channel. If you caught Chikara’s The Black Goodbye either live or on Facebook, just know I’m going to do a blog post about that later on in the week.

My friend Kate (who most of you know as MakeItLoud on Twitter, and from her fabulous RAW Breakdown Project) and I have had plenty of time lately with all of the long car rides we’ve been taking to discuss wrestling at great lengths. We’ve talked about bookings, about promotions, about storytelling, about women as wrestlers, creatives, and fans. But the topic we seem to keep returning to is the unique relationship between the performers themselves and the fanbase. In wrestling, the way we as fans interact with promotions and wrestlers is unlike the way the fans of just about anything else interact with the things they are a fan of. Not only are these individuals and companies available to us through social media and video productions that are widely accessible, but also through live and in-person performances and interactions. Many fans feel a connection with specific promotions or performers, and while most often that manifests itself in terms of admiration, some cool fan art, and really wild cheers at live shows, it can also contort into a sense of entitlement and ownership.

Spoiler alert: I don’t know any wrestlers personally. You could argue my most direct connection to any wrestler is through attendance at the NOVA Pro shows and through doing the podcast. I don’t know anything about these people’s personal lives and we don’t socialize outside of that environment. I am just a fan. But I feel a deep sense of pride in them when they achieve something within this industry – even without titles or tournaments. When they have a particularly stupendous match and you can see it on their face afterwards how proud they are, it’s infectious.

I’m a lady with a blog and a podcast. I like to discuss the performance aspect of wrestling (see also: my Facelock Feministas review of the Weapons of Mass Destruction match on Lucha Underground.) I like to discuss the gender biases within the industry and within the fanbase (see also: the #PWGrrrlGang.) I also like to have fun, which is why – if you are a wrestler – there is a chance you’ve heard me talking about your butt on Twitter. Sorry. (#NotSorry) I am deeply appreciative of the fact that the first (and hopefully only) person who has called me out on this in person is Cedric Alexander.

I’ve seen Cedric Alexander perform live in three different promotions now: I saw him at AAW in Chicago back in June, I saw him wrestle at Chikara’s King of Trios earlier this month, and for the better part of this summer, Cedric was appearing at the monthly NOVA pro shows, wrestling our own fan favorites as well as outside talent, like Shane Strickland. Cedric never once had a bad match with anyone. Cedric’s style, his presence both in the ring and outside of it, and his willingness to interact with fans whether they are lining up for an autograph and photo or yelling Kota Ibushi’s name at him while he’s wrestling, paint a picture of someone who is truly dedicated to his art form. That’s the best way I can describe Cedric: he’s an artist.

When he was announced as being a part of the Cruiserweight Classic, it was natural for me to cheer for him. Before a single episode had aired, none of us were 100% sure what the outcome would be – not only who would win, but what the prize would be. I had hope that Cedric would do well, whatever the bigger picture might have in store for all of the participants. So to then discover that while he did not win the tournament outright, that he WOULD be debuting today, September 19th, on Monday Night RAW as part of the new Cruiserweight division made me incredibly proud. Not all wrestlers have the same goals or aspirations, but we as their fans and supporters hope that they make their craft sustainable; we want them to be able to do nothing but wrestle and feed their families through their art. We know that for many of them, working with WWE is not only a childhood dream, but the place where money and wrestling come together to create that sustainability.

From my tiny place within this giant industry, all I can hope is that hardworking individuals who genuinely love their fans and want to create a body of beautiful work with a variety of opponents are the people who reap the rewards. The current list of cruiserweights making up this new division is quite diverse – the styles and background of each competitor speak for themselves – but I feel strongly that Cedric will rise as a leader among them. I look forward to what their division will bring as a whole to RAW, and who they may inspire to pursue a career in wrestling. They have also left a sizable hole in the independent scene, and I eagerly anticipate who will fill the space they’ve left behind. (I’ll also be keeping an eye out for the new best booty of the indies, of course. Don’t think I’ve totally turned into a mush.)

It is hard to be a wrestling fan a lot of the time. It’s an expensive fandom to exist in where your heart will be broken, bad decisions will be made, other fans will make you crazy, and people you care deeply for will get injured. You can often feel like a tiny, unheard voice shouting amidst a sea of other opinionated characters, with just as much passion or fervor as the next person, but no one to listen. Sometimes the nonsense that goes on will make you want to walk away from the whole thing. Kate & I have joked we should make a shirt that says “Your fave is problematic and your fave is pro wrestling.”

I’m so very proud to say my favorite isn’t problematic.

Mine is Cedric Alexander.

– The Lady J Says

 

 

 

The Tale of Two Districts

The school district on Long Island that I attended from first grade through senior year of high school was huge. It’s one of New York State’s largest, not only in number of enrolled students, which currently exceeds 15,000, but it’s also sprawling in terms of square miles. When I was still very young, the district set about redrawing the borders of the areas that fed into our twelve elementary schools to accommodate what was considered an influx of school children in our area. To prevent one school, for example, from ending up with class sizes close to forty while another had classes with only 15 students, they shuffled everyone around. This meant that when I was 9, I lost half of my classmates to other schools, and started fourth grade with a classroom full of unfamiliar faces.

Then in sixth grade, the district voted to make even larger changes: they were going to build a second high school and a fourth middle school. This meant we ended up with double of everything: sports teams, music groups, extra curricular clubs, etc. Everyone in the district predicted we’d eventually fully split in half (as it is, half of the students never meet the other half.) At some point it would become clear that the newer houses with the wealthier families were feeding into one high school and wouldn’t want to pay taxes to the other school where the lower income families lived.

I couldn’t help but see the similarity of my old public school district with what is currently happening in WWE. It seemed entirely sensible that as the roster grew, not just the main roster but the NXT roster as well, it was necessary to accommodate that by creating more unique screen time opportunities to the performers. What better way to do that than to separate the two programs of Monday Night RAW and SmackDown Live into independent programs with entirely separate rosters. Now there were more chances for each wrestler to  actually perform for the WWE Universe, both live and at home.

What this split, at first, was lacking in was the ultimate goal any wrestling promotion needs to move the action along: something worth fighting for. Storylines regularly can create motivation for wrestlers, but in the end it is the promise of being a champion that drives everyone. Immediately after the draft occurred we were presented with the following issues: the tag teams and female wrestlers on the SmackDown Live roster did not have a title to compete for, and the men on Monday Night RAW did not have a major title to set their sights on.

The day after Battleground, Mick Foley and Stephanie McMahon announced Monday Night RAW would have it’s own major title, the Universal Championship, which was crowned at SummerSlam in August. This past Sunday at BackLash, the first SmackDown Live exclusive pay-per-view post-brand split, a new Women’s Champion and Tag Team Champions for the Tuesday night program were crowned. With the coming of the Cruiserweight Division to RAW in the next few weeks (and what is a new division without its own title?) it is likely that WWE will have two major brands, with a combined roster of 86 performers and nine titles. NINE TITLES.

A lot of arguments were made before the WWE draft happened about the benefits of dividing the roster up in a myriad of ways, not the least of which was having certain divisions, like the women or the tag teams, being exclusive to one program. It was clear, though, when the rules of the draft were released that the rosters would essentially be mirror images of one another. For the first few weeks this felt fine, but now that there are an equal number of titles on each program, it feels like an exact replica of my school district.

The rosters, at this moment, really are still carbon copies of one another: two serious, strong willed women divisions with ex-NXT stars as champs; two tag team divisions based in being the comedy act of the roster with violent heels challenging for the titles; mid-card men’s singles titles held by individuals with pretty blonde wives who’ve held other titles and are not in their first reign, turning previously silly storylines into vicious battles; and two ex-Shield babyface/tweeners who have been cheated out of their main titles by indie sweethearts and are now looking for redemption or revenge.

Of course, the stories aren’t EXACTLY the same, and there is something or someone worth watching on both programs. However, two problems immediately jump out. First of all, the limited rosters per division mean the potential for recycled storylines or never-ending feuds between performers. Second, what is the value of one championship when another just like it exists somewhere else? What do I mean by this? Well, let’s look at the tag divisions.

Currently, the RAW tag champions are The New Day, and the longest reigning tag champions for that particular belt (previously the WWE World Tag Team Championship which was, ironically, developed for the SmackDown roster in 2002.) Alongside Big E, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods are only 4 other tag teams: Enzo Amore and Big Cass, Epico and Primo of the Shining Stars, Goldust and R-Truth of the Golden Truth, and Karl Anderson and Luke Gallows. Meanwhile, on SmackDown, the newly-crowned champions of Heath Slater and Rhyno have 6 potential opponents to face: Aiden English and Simon Gotch of the Vaudevillains, Chad Gable and Jason Jordan of American Alpha, Fandango and Tyler Breeze of Breezango, Jimmy and Jey Uso, Konnor and Viktor of the Ascension, and Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley of the Hype Bros. Keeping this in mind, why wouldn’t it be in, say, The Hype Bros best interest to ask to be released from SmackDown in order to hedge their bets at RAW? Or if Anderson and Gallows find that being outnumbered by the New Day to be unfavorable, why not just roll into SmackDown and take the tag titles from Slater and Rhyno?

Also of note: the way the talent was distributed between the two promotions. Arguably all of the tag teams on the SmackDown roster have elevated their division and have found success in getting over with the crowd, with perhaps the Ascension being the only exception. On RAW, New Day, Anderson and Gallows, and Enzo and Cass leave Golden Truth and the Shining Stars in the dust in terms of being over. With such a small division, you’d expect them all to be over, or at least at the same level, instead of there being such inequality with the crowd. Considering all of this, it’s easy to see the brand new SmackDown titles as the more important ones, even though RAW‘s titles have more history, because there’s more talent, more general popularity, and more potential for diversity in booking.

Now, if WWE had decided to keep their WWE World Heavyweight championship on RAW, maybe alongside the tag titles and the incoming Cruiserweight division, while elevating the IC title on SmackDown with the US title and the entire women’s division, there would still be something for every viewer on both programs, but no need to create new titles (except, as previously stated, one for the cruiserweight.) Then, between 86 individuals there would only be 6 titles – a far better ratio, in my opinion. Also, having one title per division means there is a best – there is one goal. All of the women fight for one title. All of the tag teams fight for one title.

There’s some things I didn’t mention in my comparison between WWE and my school district. First of all, both high schools compete as if they are in their own district. Any time there is cause for competition – whether it be in sports, test scores, music competitions – the schools are going head-to-head. But to the outside world, they are still one district, and as such a win for one is a win for the whole district. The difference here is that WWE isn’t in competition with other companies, not really anyway. While many other wrestling promotions have found successes for themselves and wrestling as an industry becomes popular again with mass markets, no one is functioning at WWE’s level. That could be a good reason to pit two version of the main roster against one another, but not if they rarely face off, and have enough titles on each program to basically be self-sufficient.

I also didn’t mention that in the time leading up to my generation’s influx of children in that area, the district was working on paring down their expenses, because there was less of a need. Not too long ago, WWE was spending a lot of time unifying titles and cleaning up the remnants of a time when there were two rosters, or competing companies with rival titles. Also, some [redacted] years since my graduation, the tide has turned again. The district has closed down two elementary schools and that middle school they built during my time there. As much as WWE’s roster split is fitting for the massive roster they are currently sporting, it is only a matter of time before that changes, too. It will likely be years before we see the WWE roster shrink enough to warrant a move away from two unique programs, but that possibility still exists in the future, at some unpredictable time. Then what?

There’s one major issue with the two rosters that can’t be drawn in parallel to anything else, though, and that is the sheer volume of wrestling content that exists in the world right now. Most large promotions have some sort of online or DVD components now so you can check out what they’re doing, regardless of where in the world you are. Live in Texas but want to check out Chikara? No worries. Live in the UK but want to see BOLA? Not a problem. When we step back and look at how the industry is absolutely flooded with content, it becomes hard to motivate yourself to check out a second night of WWE doing the same basic thing. If the rosters had unique divisions, that would be a good incentive to tune in on Tuesday – to see the Women, or the Tag Teams, or the Cruiserweights. But to see a carbon copy of the way WWE books shows, just with different wrestlers…that’s not motivation to do anything except be anywhere but my couch on Tuesday nights.

I think it’s human nature to try to solve the problems that exist before us without worrying too much about what is coming down the pike or how our problem fits into a greater, global community. If we do, it’s easy to become totally overwhelmed by the prospect of every possible outcome. However, a lack of foresight cannot be considered a virtue when the realities of single-mindedness are standing right in front of you  – back to back on Mondays and Tuesdays.

– The Lady J Says

 

 

A Woman of Honor

When I started doing the Facelock Feministas podcast with my friend Sarah, we were so infatuated with the Lucha Underground product for a myriad of reasons. A major one was how they treated the women who worked for them. They were involved in well-developed storylines and intergender wrestling matches were utilized to demonstrate that their women were on par with their men, not secondary to them. The past few weeks worth of podcasts has highlighted how that seems to have shifted. We have not had a woman in a match in two weeks on Lucha Underground, and we’re now seeing female characters in more stereotypical roles than before. And frankly, I’m disappointed.

This seems to be par for the course in pro-wrestling, though. Just when we think we’ve made strides for women as wrestlers and as fans, we take two steps back. WWE changes the Diva’s Championship to the Women’s Championship in a theatrical presentation in front of record crowds at Wrestlemania 32 and then gives us months of pitifully short segments and matches for women on RAW, not to mention their inability to create more than one storyline involving female wrestlers simultaneously.

Another example is Ring of Honor, a promotion that has Women of Honor on a weekly YouTube segment, but does not have women’s wrestling during their televised broadcasts. Today it was recommended to me that I check out an interview Joe Koff, the COO of ROH, did with Jim Ross in which Koff says “I doubt if our roster will ever be a third [female…] We’re not that deep and […] I’m not even sure that the fans have necessarily the appetite to sit through two or three women’s matches which you would have to have to have that kind of people, to use them, and to let them make a living.” What? You don’t think the audience has an “appetite” to sit through two or three women’s matches? Where does this data come from?! Also, your fan base will rise to whatever you set before them provided the wrestling is of a certain quality. And Koff has something to say on that, too:

“But I think, at the end of the day, the women are not quite at the level, even though they’re getting there. Their matches are very fast and they’re very exciting, and I think some of the Japanese women that I’ve seen that have come over through New Japan are unbelievable. I think people like to talk about women’s wrestling because we’re a society where men like to look and let’s face it a lot of men are pigs when it comes to stuff like that. […] But at the end of the day, they want to see good action. So as the women’s quality gets better, I think we’ll see more women’s wrestling.”

What I’m taking from this quote is mostly that Mr. Koff doesn’t think women wrestlers are as good as men, but ROH puts them on TV in the capacity that they do in order for male to ogle them. Congratulations, Ring of Honor, you just made the top of my shit list. (Never thought someone would oust Striker, but here we are.)

What seems to really be at the heart of the problem is the absolute refusal of the people in positions of power (almost all men) in pro-wrestling to invest both time and money in women as human beings. There is a mass cyclical oppression happening in this industry (and film, music, art, sports, politics, science, ad nauseam) in which the lack of women in the ring discourages both a larger female fan base and potential future female wrestlers to invest in the product. In the same way (though admittedly on a smaller scale) that people of color are grossly underrepresented in film and television roles, the representation of women in pro-wrestling wildly skews the impression on the viewer that women can’t or shouldn’t wrestle, and that the product is not “for them”. To encourage the hiring of female wrestlers, to encourage the hiring of female writers and technicians and designers, is to encourage the diversification of professional wrestling both in product and in audience.

While watching Lucha Underground over the past 19 weeks, I have appreciated that the women were treated as equals to the men and given the same opportunities: the chance to be silly, to be violent, to be cheered, to be booed, and to be rewarded. The recent removal of the Catrina character from TV (though this is canon and will likely make sense in the future) married with the current status of Kobra Moon as a weird stalker girl and Taya as simply Johnny Mundo’s tagalong is a reversal of that. Lucha Underground was doing things with their female talent that no other promotion, save for all-female ones, were accomplishing in terms of equality. I have seen arguments that their women’s roster is much smaller than their male roster, and therefore it’s harder to get them screen time without overworking the female talent they do have. I don’t refute that, and agree that I would prefer not to see the talented women of LU out on injury due to working too many matches in a day of tapings. My response is far simpler: hire more women.

When I’m told the lack of imagination in storylines for female performers is based in the lack of women on staff, my response is the same: hire more. Do all women have the same experiences in life? No. I’m not suggesting that female writers should be creating content exclusively for female wrestlers. Having a diverse writing staff (and I mean to include gender along with diversity of race, religion, age, sexual orientation, etc.) creates an environment that will naturally breed a wider variety in plots. If everyone on the creative team at WWE was different from one another in all of the aforementioned categories, imagine the refreshing, boundary-pushing content they could be presenting to their audiences, even within the constraints of the TV-PG rating. It could potentially rival the Attitude Era in the way it would revolutionize the company and perhaps the entire industry.

I am regularly met with resistance when I discuss the issue of women in and out of the squared circle. I’m told the industry will never change, that some things are what they are. I’m asked time and time again, why do I bother? Why am I a part of an all-female wrestling podcast, why do I blog and write articles for other sites about representation and booking? These questions always seem silly to me, as they have a very simple answer. It’s because I LOVE wrestling. I love it. It has been there for me when I really needed it. And now I want it to be better. I want to give back to it, not just with my money or my time but with my voice. I want to encourage it to evolve and to change with the times and grow.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with me outside of the pro-wrestling world, I went to college to become a playwright. I wanted badly to be a female Aaron Sorkin (who many of you probably know from TV shows, but who got his start writing A Few Good Men as a stage play before it became a tremendously successful film). In my favorite television show The West Wing, which Sorkin was the showrunner for during the first four seasons, one of the main characters is deciding whether or not he should run for congress as a Democrat in an overwhelmingly Republican district – a district that hadn’t elected a Democrat in a dog’s age. In arguing for his running, the character tells the following story:

“I worked in a State Assembly race in Manhattan in a district where Democrats outnumbered Republicans 16 to 1. But everywhere we went, there’d be one lone poster of a right-wing nutbar who wanted to eliminate the income tax. And he was holding up signs and canvassing everywhere and bugging the local reports until we had to comment on it. So I introduced myself to his campaign manager, and I said ‘what are you doing? Your candidate doesn’t have a chance and neither do your issues.’ He said ‘this is what I believe. And no candidate gets to run in my district without speaking to my issues.’ I came this close to voting for him.”

I am a pro-wrestling fan. So are all of the members of the #PWGrrrlGang, and thousands more men and women like us. We believe women should be hired more, booked better, and should be more well-represented in this industry. We believe female fans deserve a fun, inclusive, and safe environment in which to be spectators. If you produce pro-wrestling events, you will address our issues. I intend to make sure of it.

-The Lady J Says

Manic Monday (Night Raw)

A host of things have been whirling around, creating something like a tornado of both pleasant and not in my personal life. I got to spend the weekend finding places for all of the random items strewn around my room, and in the process helped to find homes for all the random thoughts floating around inside my head. One of those thoughts was about this blog, and about wrestling in general. I was thinking about how much I look forward to Lucha Wednesdays (as I’ve taken to calling them) and not just because I get to spend my evening hanging out with the hilarious and lovely Sarah Slam. I actually enjoy the Lucha Underground product. For one hour every week, I’m just a fan, getting sucked into an entertaining program. How Sarah and I discuss the show afterwards on our podcast, The Facelock Feministas, is more analytical, but we work within the limitations of our knowledge. We speak as wrestling fans, not as bookers, and we also speak as women. Our opinions are colored by the experiences we have had in life.

This week, I tried (once again) to go into watching of Monday Night RAW with a new attitude. If you follow me on Twitter (which you should, as I am wont to do silly things like recording videos of myself lip-syncing to oldies music) you know that when I get excited about something, I cannot be stopped. I am likely to tweet curse words (sorry children, please unfollow Auntie J) and things in all-caps. But in those moments, you can be certain I am a happy wrestling fan. Whether or I am angry or thrilled, anything that instills that kind of extreme emotion in me as a fan is good.

The emotion I experienced most watching the opening segment between Shane McMahon and his father was nostalgia. I remember watching the younger McMahon when I was in middle school – doing crazy stunts and fighting with his dear old dad. I am not opposed to the story line currently running between them because I like Shane. I like his promos and he works well with Vince. I don’t imagine his match against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 32 will be bad. Whatever the prodigal son and The Deadman cook up will be exciting to watch. As I’ve mentioned before, the real issue for me with this feud is the use of ‘Taker as The Chairman’s minion, fighting someone else’s fight. It makes no sense and has yet to be satisfactorily explained. Also, it has been years since we’ve seen Mr. McMahon and The Phenom interact, making it impossible to infer motives based on characterization. While this is a glaring issue (one that is epidemic throughout the WWE as a whole) it is not enough of a deterrent to keep me from smiling when Shane-O-Mac’s music hits, or when his promo is interrupted by the ominous sound of a gong.

Another thing that broke out a tremendous grin on my face was a ring occupied by former NXT champions Neville, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn. There is no combination of participants in this trio that creates a bad match – ever. Owens and The Man Gravity Forgot put on a clinic last night (complete with a phoenix splash off the second rope executed with ease and a moonsault off the top rope that stopped my heart) and after the Intercontinental Champion picked up the win in typical heel fashion, the UK high-flyer was saved from a nasty beating by none other than Shinsuke Nakamura’s NXT Dallas opponent, Sami Zayn. Seeing the potential of these three being on the main roster could make any dedicated fan proud. We have been waiting for a long time to see the next generation of top-tier talent, and this is it. Three different styles, all of them at the top of their game. My hope is that, as a unit, they can get themselves over in a big way, and then move on to elevating some other NXT talent, or people further down the card on the main roster. A feud between Neville and fellow-high flyer/current US Champion Kalisto could be a stunning program, though potentially dangerous. What I did take away from this match (and the aftermath) was that the “newer” guys are choosing to push the envelope by expanding their move set, and working in different styles. While I had been feeling lately that the WWE was shorter on high-flyers than they had been in the past, I forget that big guys like Kevin Owens, Luke Harper, and Ryback have been experimenting lately with more aerial moves. Assuming they are being trained safely and only attempting moves they have become comfortable with, it will certainly make for an exciting future!

I want to make sure I talk a bit about the women’s matches we seem to be setting up for ‘Mania. We already know for sure that Diva’s Champion Charlotte will be defending her title in a triple threat match again Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. As a whole, this has been set up well. WWE successfully “broke up” the friendship of Charlotte and Becky (not without its misogynist shortcomings, of course AND I AM LOOKING AT YOU RIC FLAIR) over the past few months, and when Becky lost her title match against Charlotte at Royal Rumble back in January, Sasha injected herself into their story in a natural way. The Boss had her sights set on the title, and knew how to get an opportunity at it. When The Boss and The Irish Lasskicker ended their number one contender’s match last Monday with a double count-out, we all knew they were setting us up for a triple threat that would likely bring Dallas to its knees. Regardless of the outcome, these three women are going to set the bar for Wrestlemania 32. I can’t imagine them being out-done by anything else currently on the card in terms of sheer ability. They are elevating not only the level of match everyone should be having in WWE, they are also raising the profile of women’s wrestling for the masses. I am very proud of them.

On the other hand, there appears to be another women’s feud heading into the Showcase of the Immortals – something is brewing between Brie Bella and Lana. Last night, Lana made her way down to the ring after Brie lost to Summer Rae and hit the Total Divas star with one of her own finishers, a sitout face-buster. But why? Even the commentary team seems mystified, continually reminding the audience we have been given no reason for this feud whatsoever. There is no motivation, and (to my knowledge) Brie and Lana have never crossed paths in character before. Typically, I would take a moment to lament that WWE seems capable of only creating ONE fully-developed story for women, but they don’t seem to actually fully-develop ANY of their stories anymore, so maybe the fact that we got one whole women’s feud is a Mania Miracle.

In terms of wrestling that really had me enthralled, I would have to say I found myself mostly glued to the fight for the Tag Team Championship – that is, right up until the end. I thought the match itself was exciting and fun, and made me cheer Chris Jericho for once (amazing, really.) But it also seemed natural that The New Day, who have been a tag team for well over a year, would triumph over Y2AJ who have only been together for a half of a second. I am not such a fan of Jericho’s turn on AJ Styles after they lost the match, though. I’m tired of Y2J – I have been for a while. And to think that The Phenomenal One seems trapped in some sort of never-ending program with him is infuriating. Unlike Shane McMahon, Jericho does not bring me warm, fuzzy waves of nostalgia. He has shown up too often on WWE programming to ever really make me miss him. On his regular stops back in WWE from playing rockstar with his band, Fozzy, Jericho inevitably overstays his welcome. I cannot wait for him to leave us again, and for Styles to move on to what is my dream feud for him: Styles/Owens.

Someone on Twitter asked me my thoughts on the fact that WWE seems to be keeping Roman Reigns off of TV lately. The truth is, I didn’t notice. Two weeks in a row, the guy who Triple H is wrestling in the Mania main event – the last guy to hold the title – wasn’t on TV. And I forgot. I forgot I was supposed to care, or be worried, or tweet about it. Instead, I was focused on the beautiful promo work happening between Trips and my boy Dean Ambrose. Granted, I feel sure The Lunatic Fringe (who lost at Fastlane) is doomed to lose both this Saturday on the WWE Network’s program Fastlane against The Game for the title and in his No Holds Barred Street Fight against Brock Lesnar in Dallas. But watching him kill himself trying to so much damn fun. Before he gets his ass beat, he is surely going to be a massive thorn in the side of both Triple H and The Beast, and we are sure to see him verbally spar against Paul Heyman (which, lets face it, is a dream The Lady J has had before.) Is Ambrose’s feud with these men doing anything for his Shield brother? No. Is it possible that keeping Reigns off TV and giving the audience a chance to fall in love with Ambrose going to keep them from booing Reigns when he returns? Absolutely not. If anything, the fire against him will be hotter. If WWE has any sense they’ll either turn him heel, or at the very list, let Shane bury him when the brand (hopefully) splits. Roman Reigns is pretty, and arguably better in the ring than my Explicitly Violent favorite, but he’s no John Cena. He’s not even polarizing the way Cena is – the vast majority of the people showing up for RAW hate him. Vince can push back against the WWE Universe all he wants, we’re just too loud.

All told, I enjoyed my three hours of RAW last night. Would I rather it be shorter? Yes. Would I rather never have to look at Chris Jericho (or listen to a promo from Ryback) ever again? Yes. Was it fun? Absolutely.

Is it Lucha Underground level awesome?

Hell no.

– The Lady J Says

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

 

 

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

 

 

Preach

Things have gotten out of hand in the nearly two weeks since I wrote my last blog post. DC is still shut down from the blizzard, so I’ve had a lot of time to be on Twitter as well as watching old Rumble matches in preparation for yesterday’s PPV. I really appreciate all of the positive feedback I got on my thoughts as I made my way through 18 of the 28 Rumbles – y’all are too kind.

Most of you.

Some people were heard complaining that the Royal Rumble is an outdated or boring gimmick, with no place in contemporary professional wrestling. I saw a lot of tweets that people weren’t excited to watch because they knew what would happen. I think what they meant was that they knew the finish. Surely they didn’t know the intricacies of the entire match, and managed to boil down the excitement and significance of an hour long match into the last two minutes. These people should feel free to continue being the type of individuals for whom nothing is ever good enough, and really wonderful things can be spoiled by the smallest unpleasantry. Best of luck in life.

Some of the people waited until the actual PPV started and came at me about my Ambrose fandom. Yes, I am a Dean Ambrose fan. Yes, I have been unhappy with his character lately. Yes, I was extremely invested in the Last Man Standing match for the Intercontinental Championship. Even though my expectation (based on my, let’s face it, limited knowledge of how wrestling booking works) was that Kevin Owens would win, I was ecstatic to see Ambrose triumph. I was even more pleased to see him in the final two of the Rumble match, alongside Triple H. Do I think the version of Ambrose who crosses himself when he wins a title is my Ambrose? No. My Ambrose is the one who started the 2014 Hell in a Cell main event match against Seth Rollins on top of the structure. My Ambrose is more Moxley, but I want him to do well because he’s my favorite. That doesn’t make me fair-weather, or wishy-washy. If you are incapable of being flexible and enjoying the ride as your favorite wrestling character ebbs and flows, as they navigate the rollercoaster of their career, then you should do yourself a favor and get as far away as humanly possibly from professional wrestling. Do it now.

Some Twitter users seemingly exploded with glee when I went off on the Ric Flair/Becky Lynch kiss. There are people who take a great deal of pleasure in further rustling your already sufficiently-upset feathers – these people are called “Trolls”. Some of the people who ended up in my mentions really disagreed with me – those people should feel free to unfollow me. Some of them, however, just wanted to see how far they could push me before I exploded. So I had to slam on the brakes and just lay it all out there:

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This isn’t my “über feminazi” side showing through. This isn’t me being overly PC. This isn’t even about being too sensitive (what the hell does that even mean?) This is about a stupid, pointless booking decision that made a large portion of the audience feel uncomfortable with absolutely no pay-off. When WWE did the Reid Flair storyline with Charlotte and Paige you could MAYBE (and this is a big maybe) argue that at least they got sizable media attention from all the heat. But it was still gross and bad, because it’s real (and we all know it’s real) and wrestling isn’t. What makes this incident so egregious is that there has always been a sense in the community that Ric Flair has a wandering eye; that it would wander to his daughter’s ex-best friend, a woman 38 years his junior who has in ABSOLUTELY NO WAY invited his advances is disturbing. Maybe Flair is the schmoozing promo-cutter, maybe he is the dirtiest player in the game, but neither are appropriate here. Are you suggesting that Flair is a hapless, drunken old pervert, or are you suggesting that he is a vicious, aggressive rapist? Regardless, are either of these suggestions that belong in a product that is supposed to be considered TV-PG? Of course not. They will likely never discuss it again (it didn’t come up on RAW, Flair stayed at the top of the ramp when Charlotte ran in to break up the Becky/Sasha Banks match) and poor Becky will have had to subject herself to that for no reason.

Speaking of RAW, some of you called me a turncoat for waking up to the reality that The Rock is a bullying, disgusting character that I wish Dwayne Johnson would put down like a ten-ton sack of shit and walk away from forever. Being a conniving smooth talker is fine – I like Paul Heyman. Being an unapologetic dick is also fine – I like Kevin Owens. Being a clown in a unicorn horn is even tolerable. But watching one of the most successful people in the world return to the place that made him a star and start running his mouth like nothing he says has consequences makes me wish he’d stay away forever. Rock’s 25 minute promo made my skin crawl. I wanted to change the channel, but I wasn’t the only person watching it in my house. I thought I was a Rock fan. He was never really around when I watched all those years ago. He wasn’t on SmackDown when I was watching and I never caught RAW back then. When I returned to the product in 2013, Wrestlemania was already over and I’d missed him. I caught him the few times he was on WWE TV since I came back, but it was always a short, focused (in Lana & Rusev’s vile) attack on someone and then he was gone again. I felt unprepared for how repugnant he is, and want him off my TV as quickly as possible. You should feel free to disagree with this opinion, but you should also know that the Earth is, indeed, round. Society is changing, evolving, and people aren’t tolerating nonsensical prejudice and hate-speak anymore. Not even from fictionalized television characters. If you want so badly to relive the Attitude Era, you can do so whenever you choose on the WWE Network. That time is over, and I don’t want even the slightest trace of it in WWE programming today.

And then, some of you people are the actual problem – the top of the food chain-type heinous villains. When RAW started and Triple H joined Vince and Stephanie out in the ring, I was thoroughly enjoying the nuclear heat that he got by saying he was going to keep the WWE World Heavyweight Title as long as he wanted, because he’s the COO and he can. Until, of course, I realized that what he was saying was completely true and completely poisonous to the entire company. I have been saying for a long time (and hearing it from others as well) that the main issue with last year’s Rumble match being won by Roman Reigns was with WWE creative and not the wrestler himself. If we all know Vince and Triple H make the decisions, and their on-screen characters are heels, then anyone they decide to push should also be a heel. So if Reigns is getting the push and wins the Rumble, he’s The Authority’s chosen one and deserves to be booed. It’s a vicious cycle that was masterminded by the perpetuation of The Authority as kayfabe storyline characters. If we never saw Stephanie (which would be a shame) or Triple H on TV anymore and let the heels and babyfaces have no on-screen interaction with the business side of WWE, we could maybe start viewing them in a more clear way. Instead, we’re forced into this weird fiction/non-fiction cycle controlled entirely by the people in charge. If they really want us to stop getting on the internet and pretending we know how they’re going to book the show, maybe they should stop showing us how they do it. Imagine if the head writer of your favorite TV show wrote themselves into the story as the main villain. Good luck unraveling the knot that comes of crossing reality with fabrication. Not only is it confusing and infuriating, it makes it nearly impossible to enjoy the program. Now I loved watching Royal Rumble. But none of the matches the proceeded the actual Rumble had anything to do with the Authority. It wasn’t until the Rumble itself happened that we were reminded the real Big Bad of WWE isn’t Brock Lesnar – it’s Vince.

So to all of these people, know this: you are not going to ruin this thing that I love, not for me and not for my friends. We are not going to let you. I will wait in the tall grass for all of you, because it’s people like you who are killing professional wrestling.

– The Lady J Says

Vienna

I had a very interesting experience yesterday. I was getting ready to go and meet a friend, and I was listening to a playlist of Billy Joel songs. I’m a Long Island girl by birth so I have heard his entire discography over and over again. And yet, here I was, a New Yorker in her Virginia bedroom, listening to “Vienna” and actually hearing it for the first time ever.

Thestranger1977.jpg

If someone had asked me to quote lyrics from that song, the first ones that would pop into my head (and, surely, many people’s heads) are “Vienna waits for you.” But, out of the context of the rest of the song, that sounds like Joel is telling us that the whole world is available to us, just waiting to be experienced. Get out there and grab it, kid! But that’s not the purpose of the song at all. “Slow down, you crazy child,” he sings. “You’re so ambitious for a juvenile. But then, if you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?” This is not a song about running out and experiencing all of life as fast as possible. It’s a song about remembering the slow burn – to savor things, to give them (and yourself) room to breathe. It’s a song about learning how to live with yourself, and how to love yourself in those quiet moments. Everything else can – and will – wait for you, not the other way around.

It’s about patience.

Patience takes hard work to cultivate, and even more hard work to properly exercise. In professional wrestling, we seem to have completely demolished the idea of patience altogether. We don’t want to wait for anything. I suppose this is not unique to pro wrestling as an industry – we exist in an instant society, and we want everything right now. As the days and weeks stretch into months and years, it becomes more and more clear that WWE in particular cannot teach itself patience.

The slow burn of Daniel Bryan going from angry “short” guy to WWE World Heavyweight Champion was the last time in WWE that I can pinpoint as having a successful and satisfying long-term storyline. Granted, the past three months have been injury-plagued for WWE, but their inability to plan or plot anything out in advance makes it impossible for fans to become invested deeply in the stories being told.

Kate, of the Raw Breakdown Project, and I were talking about the Diva’s division on Twitter tonight. She was commenting on the fact that we got roughly four minutes of this division during RAW this evening. I thought this was because there ended up being no match, but thought the four minutes we DID get definitely progressed the Diva’s championship story involving champion Charlotte and Becky Lynch. When Kate suggested we could have benefitted from a match earlier in the night, I mentioned the Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch match from a few weeks back, which wasn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination but was booed by the Brooklyn crowd. WWE fans don’t want to watch matches just for the sake of seeing wrestling. If you want to watch solid matches with less storylines, you should absolutely support your local indie promotion. If you are watching for the big, intricate storylines, you come to WWE. But they’re currently refusing to deliver even on that. There is no reason why there can’t be two concurrent, though unrelated, women’s feuds happening in WWE. Except to say that doing so would require thoughtful planning, which WWE seems to be allergic to.

As a fan, it becomes hard to get invested in anything, as all storylines are subject to change for no apparent reason. And the other side is that, should fans start to show interest in something, it is likely to be done over and over again with very little change, in an effort to “keep fans happy.” That becomes stale and the fanbase will likely tune out from storylines and matches that grow old. What would make us the most happy are evolving storylines that move and generate slowly over time so that we can naturally deepen our investment in them. Great turning points – things like Seth Rollins’ heel turn on The Shield or Roman Reigns hitting everyone with a chair at the end of TLC last month – are important, and WWE does them well. But a turning point is worthless without a story that eloquently builds to it.

I don’t know if WWE has a real slow-burn story in them right now. I think they’re gun shy of planning ahead with all of the random injuries plaguing them. I think it’s always hard to see past Wrestlemania. But I also think even such a big event can benefit from some long-term storytelling. A pay-off at Wrestlemania, like Daniel Bryan’s, is epic and will never be forgotten. But a pay-off at Summer Slam can be equally as satisfying if we have been denied a moment of glory for long enough, while still telling compelling stories along the way. If WWE can take a step back from what it thinks is best, look at all of the moving pieces they have at their disposal, something glorious might just present itself. It will, however, take patience. And never forgetting what Billy Joel said:

“Vienna waits for you.”

-The Lady J Says

 

 

 

Reality Check

The first ever live WWE event I attended was Monday Night RAW at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, NY. It was two weeks before Wrestlemania XXX which meant there were a lot of big stars in attendance that night. I was with a big group of friends and we all found ourselves sucked into the chants that erupted, like the first ever “Let’s Go Harper” cheers for Luke Harper who was wrestling John Cena that night. I had such a great time.

As a native New Yorker watching episodes of RAW that are being held in Brooklyn on TV, I hate the crowd. That’s the same crowd I sat in nearly two years ago, but it’s also not. It appears the “joke” of hipsters in Brooklyn is not entirely untrue, and only furthers my distaste for an audience insistent on getting itself over. How does this audience dare to call Sasha Banks vs. Becky Lynch “boring”? It took them almost the entire six-man tag match to start a boring chant, and that match was more drawn-out and painful than waiting of Novocain to kick in before dental surgery. There is, of course, no real fix for this. You can’t control thousands of New Yorkers (many have tried) so you have to find a way to combat their masturbatory tendencies with a quality product.

That’s not, however, what they did last night on RAW.

Now don’t get me wrong; there were good parts to the show. I am all for R-Truth coming out and getting confused. I am all for Becky & Sasha to throw down. I am all for Kevin Owens to demolish people. But that’s not enough to make the show good. Maybe it’s enough, in some people’s eyes, to keep it from being a complete train wreck, but it’s not enough to make it good. As far as I’m concerned, there was so much rotting awful on this program that this blogpost could be pages and pages of me gutting it out like a pumpkin. But I won’t do that to you, dear reader. Let’s just focus on one thing.

The opening segment of the December 28th, 2015 episode of Monday Night RAW involved Vince McMahon throwing some serious derogatory comments at Roman Reigns that were based on Reigns’ ethnicity, and then Vince getting angry (about what I’m not sure) and putting his hands on someone portraying a police office for the segment. Vince was subsequently “arrested”, and tossed into a police car while his daughter shrieked about police brutality. Those are the plain and simple facts of this segment. I know a lot of people were getting down on the PC Police last night, coming in to ruin wrestling by saying what’s allowed and what’s not. Here’s the thing, though. It was a bad segment.

There was no way to rewrite this segment and have it not be bad. The Chairman and his brat daughter were not on their game last night. The segment was slow, the dialogue seemed bizarre and out of place, and as a viewer I couldn’t for the life of me understand where any of it was going in terms of the storyline between Mr. McMahon and the WWE World Heavyweight champion. In terms of a professional wrestling promo, it was badly done. It appeared as though they decided (for the third week running) to change the opening segment in the last moments leading up to air. The past two weeks this has worked to WWE’s advantage, but still was clearly identifiable as off-the-cuff and unrehearsed. This week took that concept to a whole new level and had me regularly questioning if everyone in the segment actually knew what was going to happen next.

When you also consider the societal implications, it was in truly bad taste. On a small scale, the relationship between the New York Police Department and the people who actually live in the five boroughs (not the white-collar commuters that regularly push in to the city Monday through Friday) is one matchstick away from a bonfire. Also, in light of the news which came out within the hour leading up to RAW that no charges would be handed down in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, it’s impossible to consider this whole section of the show entertaining as it is in direct contrast to reality. WWE is a fictional, scripted product that has regularly connected with its audience in an intense (and lucrative) way by commenting on the state of our society. Part of what made Stone Cold Steve Austin such a beloved character was his standing up to The Man, and refusing to be held down by his boss. Why, then, would WWE attempt to stage the arrest of an affluential white billionaire at a time when the reality of our society is that people of color live in fear of the constabulary, and more specifically black people are regularly being killed. Art imitating life is one thing – art spitting in the face of life is something else entirely.

The Lady J Says