I’ve waited a fair amount of time to talk about WWE’s “Divas Revolution.” This movement is something that I personally feel deeply invested in and have fully supported for years. I say years, because there have been several female performers prior to this summer that have attempted to revolutionize pro-wrestling for women. WWE and Stephanie McMahon seem to almost take credit for this revolution, which is basically a sudden cash-in on the large positive shift in female sports seen with the 2015 Fifa Women’s World Cup, Serena Williams, and Rowdy Ronda Rousey.
The change for the WWE Divas so far seems to consist of longer matches, more TV time, introduction of a new roster (only three women added), and more interesting story angles. That sounds amazing, but the true women’s wrestling revolution is so much more that that, and this has been something that I’ve felt needed to be cleared up. It’s tough to pick a place to begin with, and there’s a lot that bothers me about WWE’s “Divas Revolution,” but I’ll start with…the name “Divas.” Stop calling them divas! They’re WRESTLERS! How can equality exist in the WWE when the men are called Superstars and the women, Divas? Maybe the women should be called Superstars, too? Sure, the term “Divas” can be looked at as women owning the word “Diva,” but I see it as disrespectful, sexist, and purposely portraying the women as arrogantly superior. The sad thing is that for years, a lot of the women working for WWE TV seemed to embody their haughty personas. WWE has spent a large amount of time disrespecting women in their “sport.” Don’t believe me? Look up P.M.S. which is a fucking acronym for Pretty Mean Sisters. Also, look up “Bra and Panties” matches, Diva search, and maybe do some research of what women competed for prior to past Wrestlemanias. In fact, don’t bother. I’ve got ya covered. Men wrestle in the Royal Rumble, a huge 30-man battle royal, in which the last man standing would be awarded with a main event match for the WWE title, two months later at the superbowl of pro-wrestling, Wrestlemania. Did the women have their own royal rumble match? No way, but they did have a tournament (for a couple of years only) that gave the winner the chance to pose for playboy! What!!! The!!! FUCK!!!! is that!?! It bothers me to shed light on this because I love pro-wrestling with all my heart, and I’m a HUGE supporter for equality, a feminist, yet will most likely revert my non-wrestling friends further away from giving it a chance. That’s fine, but trust me…it’s A LOT better now! Nowadays the women are treated with a lot more respect and strides are being made to create true equality in the product. We’re still not there yet, but change is coming. Trust me, I’ll get to it. My gripes with this proclaimed revolution is that the credit is being given to the wrong people, while simultaneously not truly having a revolution on TV, and that the “Revolution” label is misplaced. Let me take a breath.
Ok, let’s do this!
WWE has given several of the female wrestlers (hell, even writing female wrestlers strikes a jolt of pain in my brain because I shouldn’t have to include the word “female” to identify them as what’s not normal men in tights, but I’m doing it for clarity to readers) TV time to talk about who’s responsible for this movement. Some say Triple H, because he gives the women down in NXT (WWE’s developmental indie-like branch) opportunities to wrestle 20-minute long matches, which gives them a chance to create connections with the audience. Triple H sure deserves some credit, because he proved that the women can outshine the men, as they did in NXT repeatedly. But did he actually prove this? Maybe he just gave the opportunity to someone? This is why I feel that Triple H can’t receive the credit.
Other wrestlers have given themselves credit, like Paige did on Stone Cold’s Podcast, saying that she and Emma started the revolution in February 2014 with the NXT Arrival special event on the WWE Network. The match was absolutely fantastic, and I think should get some partial recognition, but no…Paige and Emma DID NOT create this change. The Bella Twins have said that they created this Revolution. while Stephanie McMahon said that she helped spark this change, to which I say BULLSHIT!
Nikki Bella DID play her part, but not in a positive way at all. Afterall, the #GiveDivasAChance all started after the Bella Twins were booked in a 30-second match against Emma and Paige (two highly experienced wrestlers), to which Nikki Bella defended in an interview after fans complained on social media of the poor use of women in WWE. Her response bothers me a bit.
“What’s funny about that is we were given about three minutes. Three-to-four minutes. And us four girls who were in the match, we put our heads together and said, ‘look we can either give them a two minute match, or we can give them nothing and get Brie and I so much heat and tell a great story.’ We’re not going to give people three minutes of BS, and it ended up being a big story. It ended up turning into #GiveDivasAChance trending worldwide for two days. We could have gone out there; done a few moves and called it a day, but we were like, ‘How can we tell a great story?’ And at the end of the day, that’s what we did. Brie and I got good heat at the end of it. We got trended for two days straight, and it was like, ‘whoa. we’re storytelling now.’ And that’s what puts the Divas on the next level. Instead of just going out there and doing moves, let’s storytell. Because that’s what the boys do, and that’s what we need to do.”
The only story that was told to me in this match, a long-time viewer, is that the female competitors aren’t worthy of even a minute on a three hour show. This is the current Divas Champion by the way, who is merely days away from possibly being booked to become the longest reigning Divas Champion of all time, beating AJ Lee’s reign of 295 days. AJ Lee, now SHE is the person most responsible for this movement, as she is the true revolutionary, rebelling against the WWE machine, being a gifted wrestler with an independent background, a life-long fan, an advocate for change in women’s pay, sporting a unique look that strays away from the traditional WWE plastic supermodel look, a strong actress, and damn good on the mic.
Here’s AJ with her infamous PipeBombShell promo on the cast of E’s Total Divas,
Additionally, the #GiveDivasAChance was really brought to life after AJ Lee spoke up to her own boss (Stephanie McMahon) on social media for everyone to see, after Stephanie publicly supported Patricia Arquette’s Oscar awards speech,
Immediately after this brave and ingenious attempt to expose the issue, AJ tweeted simply #GiveDivasAChance. Two weeks later, the Divas wrestled normal length matches, and shortly after, AJ returned for a brief and final run with the company. I was there live for her last 3 matches, including her final Wrestlemania tag match against the Bellas…sigh. The wound is still fresh. By the way, the Divas Champ and self-proclaimed founder of the Divas Revolution Nikki Bella said this in response,
“We all make the exact same percentage, so it’s like, sell more merch if you want to be like the guys. At the end of the day, we’re in a man’s world.”
AJ wasn’t just speaking out against her boss on social media and co workers through promos, she was also a damn good wrestler, and a fan first. That to me is what this “revolution” is all about; girls who grew up loving wrestling so much that they HAD to devote their lives to it. Here’s AJ as a kid meeting her favorite wrestler, Lita.
It doesn’t get more real than that.
A lot of the women in NXT have loved wrestling for their whole lives, too. Women like Bayley, Sasha Banks, Paige, and Becky Lynch are loved by the more hardcore fans because the fans live vicariously through them. These women had a dream of being a wrestler (like a lot of us fans), accomplished that dream, and are so grateful and humble (Paige doesn’t seem too humble but that’s aside the point). I think that the core fans notice this and can see through the synthetic hollow people that are only there to do a job, or take a detour from their recently failed aspirations. The Bellas wanted to be super-models, failed and found themselves in WWE. Eva Marie wanted to be a super model, was failing and WWE made her rich and famous. The core fan hates this in the same way they hated the idea of Roman Reigns main eventing Wrestlemania. Today’s social age allows for the fans to truly control the product and voice their opinions loudly about who should have a more televised spot. We like people who are entertaining, have earned their spot, love wrestling, are authentic, and who represent us, and I believe that this is the true meaning behind the women’s wrestling revolution. With that being said, Nikki Bella’s title reign cannot surpass AJ Lee’s if all this is really what WWE says it is. It should’ve been Sasha or Charlotte debuting and winning the title, ending the reign, but it wasn’t. Nikki held on to the title and used mic time to remind us that their months’ worth of tag-team matches were meaningless. Now us core fans, have to watch nervously on Monday night, hoping that the title changes hands before the BellaTron runs out of time.
The forced TV segments on Monday Night RAW and poorly booked match at Summerslam that featured the three new Divas, are just that… forced. While Charlotte, Sasha, and Becky were show stealers in NXT, they have been shoved down our throats as revolutionaries on WWE TV. They were definitely THAT, along with Bayley, in NXT but only because the movement happened organically. I’ll never forget the juxtaposition between the TV-forced revolution and the true organic revolution with Bayley vs. Sasha’s 10 out 10 match at NXT Brooklyn, and the following night’s awkwardly booked Divas tag match at Summerslam. The real women’s revolution is happening in NXT. Plain and Simple.
Those aren’t “Divas,” they’re wrestlers, show stealers, and the future of the sport.
Also, WWE JUST announced that the next TakeOver special event, taking place on October 7th, will have the Women’s Title match as the main event, in the first ever 30-minute iron-woman match between Sasha Banks and Bayley. That’s fucking badass and will certainly be a show stealer. After watching Brookyln’s Women’s title match, I felt sure that I had just seen the Match of the Year.
Let’s recap a bit, a lot of people are taking credit for shaking things up, but while some do deserve credit here and there, AJ Lee and the women of NXT deserve the majority. This revolution is NOT about having a a below-average performer as champion just because they’re dating John Cena, or being forced-fed change through poorly booked matches just because they’re longer, and it’s not about having a few more women on the main roster. No, instead this revolution is about women who love pro-wrestling, are achieving their dreams, and being rewarded for their hard work, outshining every other performer, speaking out and rebelling against the oppressive and sexist machine while fighting for equal pay, it’s about having a woman like Sara Del Rey help train new talent, it’s about having a championship title that says “Women’s” on it and not “Divas,” and mostly about giving all viewers new stars to shine through. No longer do kids only have John Cena or other male performers to aspire to be like, but finally women, too. This is the change that needs to happen, identifying with wrestlers of any gender. Now, that’s a revolution.