Last time you were better for only three seconds.
September 27, 2015 11:12 AM   Subscribe

"It's fake and its real, and sometimes, when the stars align, something happens that is both real and fake simultaneously." Mat Ricardo, a professional entertainer, describes a moment from the professional wrestling scene.
posted by emilyw (17 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
"I fake it so real I am beyond fake." Courtney Love
posted by jonp72 at 12:25 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am so glad to see this. The current women's roster on WWE is fucking awesome. The men are tedious by comparison.

As the article says, WWE has had more than a few great women performers in the past (I paid to see Mickie James twice; everyone else was just extras), but they almost never did anything good with them. It's great to see times change.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:45 PM on September 27, 2015

What was wrong with my comment to get it deleted, I wonder? I was serious. That weird quality of not being quite real or fake is exactly what Harry Franfurt describes in his essay On Bullshit. Didn't mean to make the comment as crude drive-by snark, if that was the problem. Definitely agree that's the beauty of wrestling as an art form.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on September 27, 2015

Mod note: Definitely the difference between taking a paragraph to explain that relationship in your mind vs. a glib-seeming "Yeah, ..." one liner, especially right out of the gate. Thanks for clarifying.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on September 27, 2015 [3 favorites]

I am so glad to see this. The current women's roster on WWE is fucking awesome. The men are tedious by comparison.

As the article says, WWE has had more than a few great women performers in the past (I paid to see Mickie James twice; everyone else was just extras), but they almost never did anything good with them. It's great to see times change.

It is worth drawing the distinction between WWE's WWE women's roster (the big leagues) and WWE's NXT women's roster (the developmental fed). The latter is slowly being folded into the former, but there are still prominent distinctions.

WWE's women's wrestling has been a joke with occasional bright spots for a long, long time. Many years where matches lasted three minutes, full of hair whips and botches and ending almost invariably with roll-ups, many years where women were hired strictly on looks rather than ability, many years where they've had one or two women who could go being asked to carry a bunch of stiffs and fitness models, many years where it didn't even appear on TV at all. Many female wrestlers got TV time at all only by being folded into the men's storylines; girlfriend of wrestler X, accompanying wrestler Y, girlfriend of wrestler Z. (Or sometimes by actually BEING girlfriend of wrestler X in real life.)

In NXT, the top female talents are not only getting opportunities to wrestle against other talented women but are being given TV and PPV time to do so, where they can show off moves and psychology on par with male talents. That's HUGE from a WWE standpoint because it's portraying them as wrestlers first, attractive women second. On the main roster, the current Divas' Revolution angle is a start but it's shoehorning nine women (including four NXT vets) into one campaign, one still focused around the Bella Twins (who HAVE improved over the years, but are passable at best), still putting on short matches in general and putting them in teams for some reason, making it difficult for supporting cast like Becky Lynch to build and display personality and character.

The WWE has been in a holding pattern for quite a while with the ladies once AJ Lee decided to leave; Nikki Bella got the belt for nearly a year mainly to erase AJ's "longest reigning Diva's Champ" record from the books. Now that reset button has been pushed and Charlotte is champ, albeit with her legacy status as Ric Flair's daughter highlighted at every turn, and Paige's heel turn sets up a proper NXT-vet-versus-NXT-vet feud. We'll see what comes next. Will they get more than eight minutes on PPV? Will they get even a temporary respite from a Bella behind every corner? Or will they get lip service while Bayley and Sasha are getting half-an-hour main events?
posted by delfin at 2:43 PM on September 27, 2015 [4 favorites]

As an interested outsider, the connection my brain makes is that Ronda Rousey's success and visibility may be accelerating this change in how women's wrestling is perceived and marketed. Thoughts, WWE/NXT insiders?
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 5:57 PM on September 27, 2015

The WWE has always used whatever they could to ingrain themselves into Pop Culture. Wrestling was huge in the 80's because Vince McMahon had the idea to not make it seem like a bunch of backwards hicks watching a bunch of flabby dudes beat the shit out of each other. So he made all the wrestlers bright and colorful and Characters, and then packed Wrestlemania 1 with so many guest stars, that it'd be part of the culture no matter WHAT you followed. When wrestling became huge again in the late 90's it was a direct result of the culture taking everything XTREEME!, so he borrowed the playbook from a local dude in Philly and suddenly wrestling had Barbed Wire Baseball Bats and Boobs and Butts. Not necessarily in that order.

So yes, Ronda is most assuredly part of the reason, and it's why they made sure to get her In The Ring for the last Wrestlemania. If this means the end of Bra And Panty matches, it'd be a far better show, for everyone involved.
posted by WeX Majors at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's definitely accelerating it -- Rousey's participation in WrestleMania 31 (the biggest WWE card of the year) got more air time on the broadcast than the only women's match on the card, and certainly got more mainstream media attention. But at its base, it's because of the WWE/NXT divide, which delfin talked about. And the reason for that divide is incredibly, depressingly simple: Vince McMahon doesn't have anything to do with NXT. It's the sole province of his son-in-law, who has eschewed the WWE's history of pushing attractive women over more in-ring-talented ones. It's still too soon to tell whether they're going to be allowed to continue to do so once they're promoted, though.
posted by Etrigan at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2015

Triple H has three daughters. I know that doesn't guarantee enlightenment, but I suspect it does influence his thinking.
posted by Eikonaut at 7:17 PM on September 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

Three daughters, and evidently one that wants to be a wrestler.

The Bayley-Banks match wasn't just the best match of the night, it was miles better than anything that happened the next night at Summerslam, better than anything that happened at Raw the night after that. It would be nice if a storyline like Bayley's could be given the time to develop and the space to breathe it would need on the main show, but so much of the main roster story lines are about retreading the same thing week after week, month after month, without even properly blowing them off at pay per views.

And sadly, the divas revolution is pretty much already failing. Charlotte one the belt, and Paige turned on her, because jealous. There's more than enough at work between Paige and Charlotte, more than enough material to work with to have a realistic feud between two workers at the top of their game. With five hours every week of air time, they could easily be doing more than five matches on Raw, could introduce non-title feuds between other female wrestlers. I'd love to see it.

On the other hand, I can't wait until Banks gets her title run. It's going to be fantastic.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:02 PM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

I only started watching wrestling less than 2 years ago, so I don't have a lot of the history with the genre that others my age typically do. When I first started watching, I really could barely care about the women on WWE. I liked Natalya because she (relatively speaking) had a body with meat on her and looked like she could go (though they barely gave her a chance.)

Then I started watching NXT. I have weeped actual tears watching the women's matches. Yes part of it is the respect they are given--the title is the Women's Championship not the Divas Championship and the belt isn't a pink butterfly. They're given time in the ring to show their stuff.

But more than anything, it's that their characters are as fully developed as any male character. They're allowed to tell stories, in ring and in promos and backstage segments, that don't rely on any men at all. They have their own motivations and strengths and flaws. I bawled during the 4 Horsewomen fatal 4-way, and I cried when Bayley won the title (and I'm a Sasha mark!!)

The only problem is it's ruined me for women's wrestling. I now am more interested in watching the women on Raw or Smackdown or the PPV of the month than I am in the men, but the "main roster" (or more accurately, the booking and storytelling) has yet to live up to its little sister developmental product. It's getting slightly better, but when I know and have seen just how much better it could be, it's hard to wait for such slow, incremental improvement.
posted by misskaz at 8:09 PM on September 27, 2015

Even though a lot of fans still have great affinity for the "edgier" Attitude Era, I've been surprised to see how progressive online fans at least are with today's product. They'll even call out John Cena for his tendency to make misogynistic jokes at female "heel" characters.

So like everyone else here, the general mood has been great enthusiasm for NXT, both the men and women's side
, and a general sense of dread that they'll get called up to the WWE level and just have their talent wasted (which is probably shared by the wrestlers themselves).

All the blame is placed on the WWE brass -- McMahon and his cronies --who are seen as being too old-fashioned, and dismissive of women actually wrestling. Matches would be brief and have endings where outside distractions lead to cheap roll-up pins. It didn't help that the characters were often portrayed as "crazy" or catty. And the Bella Twins' "mean girls" shtick is just so tired.

The three NXT callups have made things a little better, though they're still held back. It's likely that Bayley will get called up in a couple months (along with Sami Zayn and Finn Balor on the men's side).

There was a great moment at the end of the match discussed in the OP's link, where not only Charlotte and Becky congratulated Bayley, but so did Sasha (somewhat breaking character). They did a curtain call, as they had collectively been known as the Four Horsewomen (a takeoff of an old group called the Four Horsemen). I'm guessing Bayley and Sasha's rematch wasn't planned yet, which makes me wonder if they would've held the curtain call for later.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 8:37 PM on September 27, 2015

And sadly, the divas revolution is pretty much already failing. Charlotte one the belt, and Paige turned on her, because jealous. There's more than enough at work between Paige and Charlotte, more than enough material to work with to have a realistic feud between two workers at the top of their game.

This ... is not unexpected.

AJ Lee came up through NXT where she was awesome - a mic worker who was a more than adequate wrestler (nothing wrong with that at all - between wrestling skills and mic skills, the mic is probably the more important and the only better wrestler in the division at the time IMO was Natalya). She then, to get her face known by the fans, spent a while barely wrestling. Instead she was GM on RAW and involved in a love tangle with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk, and Kaine at the same time.

She basically has been phoning it in however since her real life husband (Phil Brooks, better known as CM Punk) was fired by the WWE on their (real life) wedding day. (And the mishandling of CM Punk by the writers is a whole diferent rant)

Paige also came up from NXT - the first NXT womens champion at a time when it looked like AJ Lee was about to take a leave of absence. And other than taking the belt on her first night (silly plot but a fun one with an arrogant heel getting her comuppance) they tried to shoe-horn her into AJ's role. For that matter they are still writing Paige with scripts better suited to AJ.

Paige is a pretty decent wrestler and second generation, but is far more interesting out of character. When you can see a second generation wrestler who's been wrestling since she was 13 getting buried by the script and writers, knowing she's getting buried by the script and writers - and using every trick she can think of to put herself over with the fans despite that from asking to appear on Total Divas to twitter wars. She'd also be a much better wrestler if she'd had more competition.

Emma? Emma also came up from NXT. Paige vs Emma for the first NXT womens championship was the first time Stephanie McMahon had ever heard a "This is awesome" chant for a womens match. (It wasn't in the league of Sasha Banks vs Bailey recently, but was almost certainly the best womens match in the WWE since Trish Stratus retired). And going into the main roster would have turned her into a joke without the shoplifting. She headed back to NXT (and was fed to Bailey as a warm-up for Bailey vs Sasha).

Summer Rae? Another NXT graduate. Her persona didn't change much for the main event - it just got turned into a caricature, replacing feuds with cat fights.

So I'm shocked, shocked to discover main roster writers are trying to bury excellent talent from NXT. It's not as if the Bellas didn't bury Paige and Emma in a 30 second match earlier this year. (Nikki Bella claims it was her idea - that they were offered a two minute match so decided to really make it a ridiculous match - but one of the rules of Kayfabe is that any public statement made by a wrestler might be scripted.)

Oh, and don't discount the fitness models entirely. Trish Stratus was a fitness model hired by the WWE with no wrestling experience I'm aware of and who decided if she was going to be a wrestler she was going to do the job right. End result: Trish Stratus vs Lita headlined WWE Raw.

where not only Charlotte and Becky congratulated Bayley, but so did Sasha (somewhat breaking character).

Not breaking it that much tbh given the reason they were feuding; the feud was Sasha saying that Bailey wasn't good enough and needed to get tougher and meaner and Bailey demonstrating otherwise. It was about respect and Bailey won it. (It certainly wasn't a The Kliq Curtain Call).
posted by Francis at 3:50 AM on September 28, 2015

One of the biggest differences between the product in NXT and the main roster (for both men and women) is the audience. NXT is available only* to subscribers of the WWE Network. Their audience consists of wrestling fans that are more often than not, in it for the duration and whose fandom isn't satisfied with simply catching a segment or even an entire program when it airs on cable. Raw and Smackdown however have to catch and keep the attention of people flipping through the channels. So whereas the former is recorded in subscribers, the latter is recorded in 15 minute intervals. If they do a Divas segment and it loses viewers one week, then they concentrate on other parts of the show and the women get non-existent story lines and the ratings in the segments drop and the cycle continues.

One of the things that made the Bayley story line work was that she failed. Continually. She'd work her way to the top of the women's division, lose to the champion of the time, be it Banks, Charlotte, or whomever, and then have to work her way back into the title picture which led to the current story of Banks claiming that she wasn't and still isn't ready for the main event. When you're trying to capture the casual audience** and forced to show recaps of events that just happened five minutes again, you just can't put together that kind of story.

*It's 2015. Let's not kid ourselves.
** I think this is what's really wrong with the WWE today. If you write engaging, entertaining stories, those people will come around.
posted by dances with hamsters at 5:42 AM on September 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

For the record, you can also watch NXT legally on Hulu Plus.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 5:46 AM on September 28, 2015

Bayley and Banks's follow-up match this week -- a 30-minute iron man match (the first featuring women in major-federation history) -- was absolutely incredible (Jezebel coverage, AV Club coverage). My only complaint was that, when the entire roster came out to applaud the two, they brought flowers. You can guess whether that has ever been done for an iron man match with men.
posted by Etrigan at 7:42 AM on October 9, 2015 [1 favorite]

Etrigan, I wonder if the flowers aren't one of those things where NXT is trying to glom on to things from other promotions. At the Beast in the East special, they had bouquets presenting to Balor and Owens before the match, for example. And there's also hints of Ring of Honor style handshakes/hugs post bout that have been happening a lot more recently. Maybe they wouldn't do the same with men, say Zayne and Owens (Owens would probably do the same thing he did in Japan). On the other hand, it feels like the women in NXT have managed, to some extent, to transcend the traditional heel/face setup. Banks is an amazing heel, but at the same time, she's incredibly well respected at Full Sail. Bayley and Banks have developed as utterly believable, utterly human characters that can have motivations past the standard crazy/jealous/someone's girlfriend characters on the main roster.

In other words, I don't see them giving flowers to the men, because the male wrestlers on the show simply haven't earned flowers yet. Bayley and Banks earned an ironman match, which is still a rare and pretty prestigious match, and it was rightfully a big thing. The Cesaro/Zayne two out of three falls was a classic, but Bayley/Banks transcends it in every way.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:15 AM on October 10, 2015

« Older This Goes All the Way to the Queen   |   Wildlife Comedy Photography is a thing Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments