An amazing and wonderful thing happened Monday night: on your regularly scheduled “Monday night RAW,” the bare-midriffed and well-coifed Team Bella of the Divas division were issued a challenge from COO Stephanie McMahon.
For the past year or so, the women’s component of the WWE has consisted of a slow-moving match with one of the Bellas or other Divas being bumped to valet status (sometimes glorified valet–please note all the times Natalya has wrestled El Torito during her husband’s matches) to watch anxiously from just outside the ring as their beloved fought. But now, in the past few months, women have popped up in a stronger presence in all of sports, whether it’s soccer or tennis or UFC.
In light of the “revolution with women in sports happening right now,” Ms. McMahon said, “I want this revolution here in the WWE.” And with that, she welcomed NXT (WWE developmental league) stars Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks to the ring. Becky and Charlotte teamed up with former Divas champ Paige, and Sasha Banks with established Divas Naomi and Tamina Snuka. The new teams were left in the ring with the current champ, and pounced.
And. It. Was. Awesome.
The best wrestling “Monday Night RAW” has seen in a long time ensued, culminating as Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks locked and held submission holds against Team Bella at the same time, creating a gorgeous tableau of new talent taking over the main roster. My husband cheered. I gasped. The women who could previously get away with some flips of their hair and slow rope work punctuated by grunts were now faced with formidable opponents, jumping and flipping and kicking their asses.
Yes, bros, as much as we all enjoy women in wrestling being regulated to pouts and high heels (we don’t), we’re hopefully looking at a new day (and I don’t mean New Day) in women’s wrestling. I watch wrestling because it’s like gymnastics with punching, and I want the women to be doing just as much of it as the men. More even, because women’s bodies can be more capable of more impressive flips and flights. In fact, in the 1990s, Japan’s Joshi Puroresu was more popular than anyone in the male division, had a better draw, and received international acclaim.
The WWE has relegated women’s wrestling to simple slapping and busty costumes just because Vince McMahon does not think women can draw. But they can–if you have powerful women. We’ve been disappointed to watch a lifeless band of weaksauce ladies call each other names instead of demonstrate their athleticism. To steal from the poetry of the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” theme song, those females are strong as hell. It’s about time the WWE executed on the power they’ve got in the stable instead of the sex appeal of Sable.
So let’s Bro’s Guide it, and you can jump right into this new cast of characters. Forget the Divas because bro – now women are in the ring. Take a look:
Brie & Nikki Bella
They’re two separate people, yes, but they have been linked by the WWE forever (despite an unfortunate plot line where Nikki accused Brie of wishing her dead in the womb? Sad. And probably made for an uncomfortable Thanksgiving.) The twins are former beer models from New Mexico, and the current faces of the WWE reality series “Total Divas.” Nikki, in fact, proclaimed herself THE total diva last night prior to Steph’s entrance. That show gives them a ton of leverage in the WWE, where they have been more or less high intensity slap-fighting until now. Perhaps not even worth noting, but: Brie is married to former World Champion and fan favorite Daniel Bryan, and Nikki has a big fancy house with current US Champion and the granter of the most Make A Wishes ever John Cena. But let’s not define them by their relationships. Let’s define them by the fact that they are mediocre wrestlers coasting on their model good looks and reality show ratings.
Your mileage may vary on Paige. Her heavy black eyeliner and gaudy extensions Goth gimmick distract from the fact that she’s a capable wrestler. She entered the WWE more than a year ago from NXT and very nervously won the Divas Championship belt in her first official match. In one year, she’s gotten markedly better on the mic, developed crazy presence in the ring, but has not really had opportunity to wrestle anyone as talented as her since the departure of A.J. Lee. Paige comes from a lady wrestling dynasty (her mother is Julia Hamer-Bevis,) and she is only 23 years old. It’s honestly thrilling to see her finally get to do something cool. Like a Scorpion Crosslock (pictured below).
Naomi & Tamina Snuka
Naomi has had a tumultuous couple of years in the WWE, going from NXT domination to one half of the Funkadactyls until her partner Cameron decided to peace out back to NXT. She then spent some time bouncing around in handicap matches and accompanying her husband Jimmy Uso to the ring, occasionally getting to fight another wife. Recently though, she took up a vendetta against the Bellas. After lost chances to win the championship thanks to those pesky Bellas, Naomi turned heel and popped back up with friend Tamina Snuka. Yes, she is the daughter of “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka. Though Tamina has appeared mostly as Naomi’s lackey, she has a great heel history–and history with the Usos–so she is sure to provide some interesting drama for the newly formed heel team.
She signed with the WWE after ten years on and off the independent circuit, including a couple years off after a pretty serious cranial nerve injury. She’s been feuding with Charlotte for the past couple of years in NXT, so seeing them band together to arm bar the Bellas will be particularly satisfying.
Also only 23, she’s been wrestling professionally for the past five years. She’s also Snoop Dogg’s cousin (Snoop LOVES the WWE.) Plucked from a WWE tryout camp in 2012 and sent to NXT, she soon made herself known as “The Boss of NXT” under the tutelage of Summer Rae (who is now reduced to Rusev’s lady friend.) Her gimmick is that she is ratchet as hell, and with finishing moves like “Bankrupt” and “Bank Statement,” she is crazy fun to watch. Popping her onto the heel side of this new Divas division is going to be a ball.
Let’s get it out of the way: she’s the “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s daughter. Whether it’s growing up in the industry or simple genetics, she is an amazing athlete. She flipped and cartwheeled her way into her introduction on Monday night, even before actual fighting started. And she finished with her father’s signature figure-four leg lock heightened into a Figure Eight. Yes, she has a leg lock on her opponent while she is in a backbend. (Note: Bray Wyatt’s big gimmick is that he can do a backbend at all. Charlotte holds a submission pose in one.) She is tall, strong, and flexible, and is undoubtedly one of the most incredible wrestlers in NXT right now, man or woman.
Thank you, WWE, for maybe listening to the #GiveDivasAChance movement on Twitter or maybe just doing some early promotion for the rumored Ronda Rousey appearance at the next Wrestlemania, but regardless, making the Divas match more than an excuse for a bathroom break. It’s a chance to show how strong and wonderful women in wrestling really are, and highlight their athleticism instead of their hair. Now just bring Natalya back to the main roster, and let those women fight and flip. I can’t wait to watch it.