After many years away from the predetermined sport, I decided to start watching WWE again following a hangover that bordered on biblical. I found myself immediately sucked in, thanks in no small part to the captivating Shield vs Wyatt Family angle going on at the time.
With the much-delayed release of the WWE Network in the UK, I took it upon myself to take a look back at some of the best feuds and matches I might have missed over the past ten or so years. The Summer of Punk, Taker vs Michaels, Michaels vs Jericho…the list goes on and on.
Trawling through pay-per-views from the past decade, something became apparent: the women’s wrestling division was only ever an afterthought. A match to fill a few minutes, bring the crowd back down to earth and a good excuse to go for a toilet break. Not only were these matches short, but they were also poorly executed, highlighting WWE’s propensity to hire models and worry about the wrestling later.
So, when the Divas Revolution angle was revealed by Stephanie McMahon in the most ego-rubbing Raw segment ever, I was instantly cynical.
The wrestlers who would be promoted to the main roster had all taken part in a scintillating Fatal Four-Way on NXT just a few months prior, stealing the spotlight from the male performers in the process. They were given the chance to show what they could do and neither Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Becky Lynch or Bayley (who is now NXT Women’s champion and still on that roster) disappointed, winning themselves plenty of fans in the process.
As soon as they left NXT and made the step up to the main roster however, they stopped being female wrestlers and became Divas.
Whichever way you paint it, a diva is someone that is hard to work with and materialistic with little substance to them as a person. For the world’s largest wrestling organisation to classify their whole women’s division as such, the distance between athlete and entertainer grew wider.
Rather than empowering or championing the division, WWE have instead cast the majority of their talent as jealous, squabbling women who care more about looking good than performing in the ring. The likes of Eva Marie and Rosa Mendes are two perfect examples of this and belong on Total Divas, not the squared circle. Whenever they do decide to awkwardly bumble around the ring, it’s usually just as a cross-promotion to big up one of the “storylines” on the “reality” show.
Early signs were good for the Divas Revolution: the fans were certainly into it and the graduates made an impact in the ring almost immediately. Following a hugely disappointing Summerslam event however, it looks like WWE has fallen back into old habits.
What was once a group of ringsmart individuals who weren’t there to simply fill up a cast have now been given shorter matches, less screen time and promos that just make them sound like, well, divas. At the first signs of trouble after the crowd was less than keen on the weak team angle they were working, the writing team has panicked and reverted to type with their women’s wrestlers.
What doesn’t help is the pressure put on these rising stars by the company – every five minutes we are reminded that they are the future, that we should be supporting them. The modern wrestling fan is savvy; we don’t just get behind who we’re told to. Just look at Daniel Bryan. He was never meant to be an A+ player, but with enough ring talent and hard work, the fans saw him for the phenomenal wrestler he was and not just another walking storyline. They need to let the women tell their stories in the ring.
WWE has made decent progress with the depiction of their female employees over recent years (bra and panties matches, anyone?), but they seem too scared to follow the lead of NXT and out them on a pedestal side-by-side with the men, for the time being anyway.
It’s a wrestling dynasty, one built on the success of your Hulk Hogans, Stone Colds and Bruno Sammartinos. The time may one day come when your Charlottes and Paiges are held in the same esteem, but until they are willing to take risks, people aren’t going to piss themselves to watch WWE’s Divas anytime soon.