Crackpots and These Women

On Friday, New Zealand-based wrestler Evie posted this story from local publication Newshub, written by Verity Johnson, on female wrestler Tabitha Avery. The article spends entirely too much time focusing on Avery’s physical appearance, how much wrestlers get paid, and whether or not wrestling is, in fact, “real”. In Evie’s subsequent tweets, along with follow-up messages from fellow kiwi wrestler Dahlia Black, the ladies bemoaned Avery’s attitude on what makes a good wrestler and where one’s focus ought to be as the art form (and women’s role in it) progress.

As a woman who writes about wrestling, allow me to provide an additional perspective (though an equally disgusted one, to be fair). The problem with this article does not entirely lie with the interviewee, as a great deal of fault belongs to the author and the publication itself. We are in a time of great change for women in the wrestling industry, and every time something like this happens, it’s hard not to feel as though we take two steps back for every one forward.

When publications wish to offer content on any subject to their audience, they should (at least) have the decency to find a writer who is somewhat knowledgeable about the topic. Wrestling is more popular today than it has been in a long time, and I find it hard to believe it would be too difficult to find someone with even the most basic knowledge to write about it. If a publication is looking for diversity in their staff, or if they’re looking to provide an outsider’s perspective on the art form, they can at least hire someone who will do their share of research first so as not to misrepresent an entire community, which is precisely what Johnson does in her article.

While a video does accompany the article and includes parts of Johnson’s interview with Avery, it is clearly edited and does not provide the full text of their conversation. Therefore, we have no way of knowing whether or not Tabitha Avery is being accurately represented (albeit, the content they do provide from her interview is fairly damning). What we do know is what Johnson thinks of wrestlers, and female wrestlers in particular. She offers no examples of the financial or physical struggles of training or the strain on personal relationships as one travels all over to work (as Avery does mention the New Zealand scene is not as big as the wrestling scene in other countries). She paints no picture of women with varying body types pushing back against a society that is still trying to romanticize one specific female figure and disregard the multitude of others. Johnson does not contextualize the importance of the young women today who are pushing back on decades of stereotypes of female athletes, and wrestlers in particular. Instead, she feeds into those misconceptions of overly-sexualized valets and under-trained models providing the audience a place on the card to take a bathroom break.

A revolution in women’s wrestling starts in the ring. It starts with treating the female wrestlers the same way we treat the men in terms of booking, pay, and marketing. It means diversifying the individuals in roles behind the scenes as well, like promoters, lighting designers, camera operators, road agents, trainers, etc. Beyond the actual promotions and events, we need more women writers, vloggers, and podcasters covering women’s wrestling. We need women who grew up with a very different idea of what our role was in wrestling to give context to the story of women wrestlers now. We need people asking hard questions, questions that get people talking – not just in articles or videos, but in locker rooms and on message boards. We need journalists who want to help bridge the gap between fans and performers, who want to connect promoters who put on all-female shows with a diverse audience who need to feel welcomed at wrestling shows to feel safe.

There are a lot of women out there like Evie and Dahlia who are working hard to change the entire idea of women’s wrestling. How are we helping them achieve this seemingly-insurmountable task? Are we watching their matches, buying their merch, and sharing their work with our friends? Are we covering them regularly and passionately on message boards and fan sites? Are we interviewing them directly on podcasts and vlogs? Are those of us who have access to publications pitching their stories to our editors? If these women have the strength to stand up and passionately represent themselves and their art, we have a responsibility to them to portray them as accurately as possible in the press.

There is a reason we call this the “Internet Wrestling Community”. It’s time we started acting like one.

– The Lady J Says

Advertisements

Safety & Inclusion: A Crowd-Sourced List

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-1-08-08-am

This is how we started off tonight. The response was so overwhelming it took me FIVE HOURS to get through all of the suggestions. A great big thank you to all of the fans, and all of the promotions that participated in the conversation. Hopefully we can continue to add to the list and it will be a constantly evolving resource for fans of all walks of life.

The list currently contains just under 30 promotions in the UK, US, & Canada. Each promotion (where possible) includes information about where they are located, what their Twitter handle is, whether or not they book women & how they do, and whether or not they are family friendly. As more first-hand accounts come in, I’ll include some quotes from people about their experiences there.

If you have any questions or comments about this list (if you felt unsafe at a promotion and think they should be removed from the list, or if there is a promotion you would like to see added) please feel free to comment, email me (theladyjsays at gmail dot com) or DM me on Twitter.

The PWGrrrlGang Promotion List

– 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

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.

img_4702

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

 

Yes, img_4704

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?

img_4712

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?

img_4710

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:

img_4706

img_4708

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

All Heel Everything

I like to think I am open to a lot of things. Unless your argument is baseless, disrespectful, or downright cruel, I like to think I will hear you out. I can’t promise we’ll agree at the end, but I will hear you out.

Today was a weird day. I went into work feeling disjointed and off. I decided to drink too much espresso to make up for it and spent most of the afternoon vibrating. I ended up talking a co-workers ear off and trying to get into Twitter battles. Beware of Lady J looking for a fight.

My fight of choice was about Eva Marie. After hearing that she came out after Bayley beat Alexa Bliss on NXT last night and announced a title match for herself next week, I wanted to vomit. I can’t stand Eva Marie. I never liked her on Total Divas and she was garbage in the ring during her main roster run. I’m told she has improved quite a bit since going back down to developmental (which, let’s face it, is different then NXT at this point) but I wouldn’t know since I skip over any match she’s in. I understand people’s attraction to her physical form, but there’s something about her that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t believe in slut-shaming anyone, or putting another women down for the way she chooses to dress, but there’s something about her that makes me want to turn away. I suppose that’s my problem, though, and not hers.

No one did end up engaging me in a fight (thank you to all of my Twitter followers for not taking the bait when I’m being a jerk) but my poor co-worker listened to me rant and rave. And then they listened to me try and talk through it on my own. Now, I would boo Eva Marie if I could be bothered watching anything she does – which is great, because she’s a heel. Has she earned the right to a title match? I’m not sure. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that anyone who is pro-Eva Marie thinks she has. She is also currently aligned with the Big Bad of the NXT Women’s Division right now, Nia Jax. So she’s an über-heel with a heater. She’s pretty much the perfect opponent for Bayley, too. Bayley is not a traditional “diva” – she is a beautiful, strong woman, but not necessarily overly sexualized like Eva Marie is. Bayley’s friends have all moved on to the main roster, while Eva Marie is only starting to form her alliances. While Bayley had to work hard to prove herself and become the champ, she has worked some amazing matches – matches that will go down in the history books – while Eva Marie still struggles to prove herself worthy of the championship or even a place on the NXT roster, for some of us.

I don’t think Eva Marie winning the title off of Bayley on a regular one-hour episode of NXT is a good idea. (Note: I write these blogs assuming you don’t read spoilers. Feel free to assume I don’t either.) I think Eva Marie losing by some technicality is good, because it gives her a chance for a re-match, probably at NXT Takeover: London. This would be a great venue for Eva Marie to win and go back to a Women’s Title heel regime. She could conquer people with the help of Nia Jax until it was time for her to move up to the main roster. Then she could write off people like Becky Lynch, Naomi, Alicia Fox, & The Bella Twins – none of whom could say they were ever NXT Women’s Champion. I would tune in to watch her get in Brie’s face and say “when they told me I sucked, I went down to Orlando to get better. They’ve been telling you that you suck for years, and what have you done about it?”

For me, the problem (besides my own personal discomfort around her) is that she isn’t a very good promo. I know some people might blame the hostile, selfish NXT Universe. There is nothing, it seems, that the NXT live audiences love more than to hear themselves screaming ridiculous phrases. Sometimes I think the NXT audiences just want to see themselves get over and not the wrestlers. But after watching the promo between her and Bayley from last night, I did feel a bit sorry for her. It’s no good for a heel when the babyface has to try to calm the audience down – and they don’t even listen to her because they despise you so much. But here’s the thing anyone who ever gets in the ring to cut a promo should remember: you have a microphone. I have seen gifted actors fall apart in front of live audiences because they don’t get the reaction they were expected. I spent months with a cast of The Rocky Horror Show who were as tight as you can be, but the second the audience started calling things out, they fell apart. When you’re cutting a promo, and the audience gets rowdy, DO NOT ADDRESS THEM. It’s precisely what they want, and then they know they have the power. Instead, just keep talking. Maybe they won’t be able to hear you – but the only person who needs to hear you is your scene partner if they are going to respond. Otherwise, your microphone is going to pick up your voice just fine. I would like to see Eva Marie come out one night and just stand in the ring, let the audience boo her and scream a bit and then cut her promo and leave. Eventually people will pipe down to hear what you have to say. And your TV audience (who, let’s face it, makes up more of the people watching you than your live audience does) will ALWAYS hear you.

I’m not an Eva Marie fan. Maybe I’ll change my mind about her. But right now – I’m willing to wait and see what happens. I spent quite a while last year shrieking on the internet for Lana to get her promos (and her extremities) under control. Guess what? She did. So there’s hope.

The Lady J Says

How Much Prosecco Was in There, Exactly?

I don’t usually day-drink, but one of my friends invited me to brunch and I had a mimosa. And then we started talking about wrestling. I started yelling so much that a couple at the other end of the bar interrupted us and said “I’m sorry, did you just say ‘Roman Reigns’?” We promptly got into a discussion about whether or not they should bother watching this past Monday’s episode of RAW. They left not long afterwards, so it’s possible I frightened them.

During this passionate tirade, my friend started talking about the women of WWE. We started talking about whether or not Sasha Banks should be getting more of a push right now (she should not) or if Charlotte should lose her title at Survivor Series (does it really matter?) and that now-infamous PTO on the announce table after Paige’s match with Becky Lynch.

This is when I was struck by pure genius.

(Fantasy bookings are just that – fantasy. I don’t necessarily subscribed to any of the statements I post below, they’re just things I think would make this story play out better.)

Currently, the Diva’s Championship picture looks like this: Charlotte beat Nikki Bella for the belt, and is now in a feud with former PCB team-mate Paige who keeps bringing up the fact that Charlotte is Daddy Flair’s little girl, which pisses Charlotte off because she earned her place in WWE. This is, of course, complete and total nonsense. Charlotte spent all of her title run as NXT Women’s Champion announcing to anyone who would listen that she was Ric Flair’s daughter. Whether it be in her entrance music, her merchandise, her finisher, or every time she insists on making that ridiculous “woo!” noise. If Charlotte had the common sense of a field mouse, maybe she would turn the tables on Paige, who also comes from a wrestling family, though hers were never as famous.

Bingo.

Both Charlotte and Paige are legacies in their own rite. Charlotte may be the daughter of a 16-time champion, but Paige would likely not be in the position she is now if she hadn’t been born into a wrestling family back in the UK, so who is she to talk? Legacy vs. legacy. Saraya Knight’s Daughter vs. Ric Flair’s daughter for the WWE Diva’s Championship at Survivor Series. But the match ends in a DQ when the final member of team PCB has had enough – Becky Lynch. Becky had to earn her place in WWE, she was no one’s legacy, and she wasn’t a wrestling thoroughbred like some people.

Beautiful, strong, talented Becky Lynch has had enough of living in the shadow of all these prissy Divas who are too busy arguing over who’s blood line is purer to train as hard as she has. But she finds she’s made more enemies than friends, because Charlotte and Paige aren’t the only Divas who were born to wrestle – so were Tamina and Natalya. And they don’t appreciate some Irish nobody insinuating that they haven’t earned their place in WWE.

There’s nowhere for Becky Lynch to turn. She’s certainly not finding solace in the arms of Tamina’s teammate Naomi or the Bella Twins – all of whom are a bunch of roster-fucking wannabes, anyway. None of them came into this business with any true talent, so they decided to sleep with or marry high-profile stars or members of prominent wrestling families. Even The Boss herself, Sasha Banks, thinks Becky Lynch has isolated herself. When Banks tries to remind Lynch to keep her nose down and not mess with women who have been in the business twice as long as she has (in a way that only Sasha Banks can, without seeming like she’s actually concerned) Lynch reminds her that it was Banks who asked Becky Lynch who she could depend on if not herself? Doesn’t she understand what it’s like to be surrounded by silver spoon-sucking primadonnas? Weren’t they great together once? And couldn’t they be great together again? And so begins another powerful alliance.

Putting Becky and Sasha together while Becky chases the Diva’s Championship (a prize she so rightfully deserves) is a great way to set up the next title feud (which would clearly be between them) and a series of amazing matches, culminating at Wrestlemania in a women’s match the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. Or maybe ever. But first Becky Lynch has to find herself as a character and get herself aligned with someone who isn’t just dead weight like Charlotte.

Go get ’em, Becky! Bartender, another mimosa, please.

The Lady J Says

The Future’s Unstoppable – NXT 5/20/2015

Just when you think NXT can’t get any better…it does.

Tonight’s live show, NXT TakeOver: Unstoppable, was a testament to what NXT as a part of the WWE brand truly is: a fully formed, safe-haven product for performers to grow in front of an audience of dedicated wrestling fans. Everyone in the audience at Full Sail University tonight knew the history of each of those performers, and not just as their NXT characters. They knew their true history – who they were before they ever signed on the dotted line of a WWE contract. This is their house.

(Just a quick reminder for new readers: I don’t critique matches because I’m not well-versed enough in wrestling technique. My expertise is in story lines and promos.)

As a whole, Unstoppable was not perfect. It came in waves of excellence. But there is nothing that was unworthy set before us. The opening match, originally a triple-threat match between Hideo Itami, Finn Balor, and Tyler Breeze to be the #1 contender for the NXT Championship, was altered when a video was a shown by a “fan” of an injured Hideo Itami in the parking lot. The video shows Kevin Owens walking past Itami, saying his injury was a shame. Were we, as the audience, meant to believe Owens had something to do with this injury? Did he take out Itami because Owens felt he was the only real competition in that three-way match?
When the match did get under way, Tyler came out to a new entrance with female counterparts holding phones. I, personally, think the phones don’t make the gimmick – the projection of the front-facing camera does. But we didn’t get that. Instead, on the titan-tron was a large, stagnant, typewriter font “TYLER BREEZE” on a white background. *snore* Meanwhile, Finn Balor’s entrance is only getting better. Today’s episode of “Talk is Jericho” feature Balor as a guest in which he explained to Chris Jericho that his name comes from a Gaelic “One-Eyed Demon” called Balor, and Balor’s nemesis, Finn. Balor’s body-paint and ring gear has altered since his first NXT TakeOver appearance, but I think he’s still growing into his WWE persona. I don’t like the dreadlock-hat, but I did like the spiked back piece and the eye hiding beneath it, as well as the slash marks on his legs. I also think the bat wings were okay, but a longer cloak might be more impressive, and if he’s going to wear a headpiece, something with horns is more fitting of a demon. Just a thought.
In the end, the outcome of the first match pits Balor against Owens once again as the #1 contender for the NXT championship. Let’s hope we don’t play this story out the same way as last time.

Following this match was a diva’s tag match pitting Charlotte & Bayley against Emma & Dana Brooke. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch most of this match, it just didn’t hold my interest, which is a shame, because I really enjoy Charlotte & Bayley. But I would much rather them be opponents then have opponents that are unworthy of them. I am not sure what the point of pitting Emma against Bayley is, and I’m not too pleased Bayley is taking her bait. This type of booking makes Bayley seem petty, like the girl in middle school who gets picked on and lashes out. Bayley is a grown woman who is talented and shouldn’t be falling for Emma’s taunts.
And just in case you, fine reader, do not follow me on twitter, this is my feeling on Dana Brooke:

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.49.27 PM
Moving on.

As a tattooed freak of a lady, I was on the bandwagon for Baron Corbin from the very beginning. I liked when they developed his Goldberg-esque gimmick of squash matches (and by “they” I mean The NXT Universe did it themselves) but I always knew the character needed to grow beyond that. Baron’s story line with Bull Dempsey was probably a try for that, but I never felt that Bull Dempsey was anything more than a Rhyno wanna-be, short on the mic, big with the punches. When their feud, culminating the last NXT live “PPV” event, fell flat, they needed to try something else to reconnect Corbin with the audience. So why, exactly, did they choose to pit him against the REAL Rhyno, a guy not known for his stellar promos or his in-depth story lines? He’s fun to watch in the ring, but there’s more to wrestling than “I want to gore someone, I pick you!” What Corbin needs is a chance to be challenged. We need to see more of who he is. One of the things that makes the main event picture so great is because there is history and back story to Zayn vs. Owens. We need Corbin to become 3 dimensional – he needs back story. Nobody starts out a lone wolf. What happened to this guy to make him what he is, the bringer of End of Days? He needs to be picked apart. This would be a great opportunity for a Bray Wyatt type, or a Leo Kruger (just sayin’).

I was and was not disappointed by the tag team match. I am a HUGE fan of Enzo Amore and Big Cass, and not just because I’m from New York. Enzo is undoubtedly the #1 stick man in WWE. If (heaven forbid) Enzo should ever get hurt, he needs to be a manager. Him vs. Paul Heyman in a promo-off. (Book it!) Enzo & Cass have made a connection with the audience: their characters are recognizable, they are over-the-top and fun, but they’re still humans and they make mistakes. They try to do the right thing. Blake & Murphy (reigning NXT Tag Team Champs) are ridiculous. They remind me so much of the New Age Outlaws, which is fine. They’re not my favorites – they remind me too much of guys I went to college with who did molly and had black lights in their dorm rooms. But when you get all four of these guys together, they tell you a story. They got Carmela involved, which is very important. Why have a valet if she’s not part of the story? And in the end, she WAS the story, as Enzo & Cass lost the match when Alexa Bliss came in and attacked Carmela from behind, thus aligning herself with some of the worst hair WWE has ever seen. If Alexa Bliss is turning heel, can we fire Dana Brooke? Please? I love Alexa Bliss, regardless of her face/heel status.

The Women’s Championship match was unbelievable. I spent the entire 20 minutes on the edge of the my seat. There was balance to what happened in the ring. They told a beautiful story. Just watching them made me feel exhausted. But everything leading up to this match made sense as well. Becky Lynch was never on Charlotte’s radar when she was champ. To get herself into what (at the time) was the Holy Trintiy of the NXT Women’s division, Charlotte, Bayley, and Sasha Banks, she had to make some changes. She ended up aligning herself with Sasha which worked until her hunger for the title got too big. On the last NXT TakeOver, we saw Becky face Sasha, as well as Charlotte and Bayley, in a Fatal Four Way for the title, which Sasha won. But now Sasha’s ex-minion wanted her chance in the limelight, and boy did she ever shine. The story felt very complete to me, it arced nicely and I would like to see Sasha and Becky move on to face other opponents. They definitely had the match of the night, no question.

The main event was not what I was expecting. The story that has been unfolding between Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn has revealed a side of Sami Zayn we’ve never seen before. Kevin Owens came to NXT as a cold, collected, and vicious fighter. Sami was a fan-favorite, a good guy, a solid worker. When he took that horrible beating from Owens and lost his NXT Championship, I thought they were moving him to the main roster – but no. Sami came back, after a time, and demanded a chance to redeem himself. Owens wasn’t having it. In Zayn’s absence he had turned his attention to other things, bigger fish, like his upcoming match with John Cena at Elimination Chamber in a week and a half. But Sami knew all the right buttons to push. I have never seen Sami Zayn cut promos like the two he cut, one to get the match and two last week. Sami pulled out all the big guns – that everything Owens did has Zayn’s name attached to it and that Owens had to put Zayn down because Owens’ son was a Sami Zayn fan. You NEVER mention a guy’s kid – and definitely not this guy’s kid. But in true resilient Sami Zayn fashion, he held his own until the very end. And when it seemed all hope was lost…

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 11.53.02 PM

Some big things are happening in NXT. It’s a great time to be a wrestling fan.

The Lady J Says

The Lady J “To Watch” List:
1. NXT Women’s Division (minus Dana Brooke)
2. Kevin Owens vs. Samoa Joe
3. Samoa Joe vs. Kevin Owens
4. Uhaa Nation is in NXT!
5. Me, passing out from excitement