With the uprising of women’s wrestling in the WWE, it is hard to even think about looking down upon the associated product, even when it is at its worst.
In the opening of SmackDown Live this week, it was at its worst.
Sasha Banks alluded to days gone by when the WWE creatively chose to make women’s wrestling focus on the bodies of those in the ring rather than attempt to produce a solid story in the ring. Evening Gown Matches, Bra and Panties Matches, and those with similar stipulations did not exactly put athleticism on display, but served its purpose as WWE was fighting an eventually victorious ratings war against Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling.
Make no mistake; the current brand of women’s wrestling being provided on SmackDown is a far cry from degradation display through the aforementioned situations, but it has been creatively degrading for the ladies involved nonetheless. WWE seems to have forgotten that it was not adolescent insults that allowed Bayley, Charlotte, Banks and Becky Lynch to lead the charge in bringing women’s wrestling to the forefront of WWE programming. Rather, it was dynamic storytelling being artfully written in the ring, accompanied with athleticism unlike anything (with the exception of Lita and Gail Kim) the WWE has ever seen.
For weeks, the female competitors on SmackDown have received a plethora of television time, with much of it being on the microphone. Instead of showcasing what each of these ladies can do in the ring, they have been prattling off sophomoric, schoolyard sandbox insults that belong in an early-2000s Lindsay Lohan movie instead of the wrestling ring. One would think that this juvenile rhetoric would be reflective of their in-ring work, and that could not be further from the truth. All six women can flat-out wrestle, so just let them wrestle.
However, instead of letting the in-ring ability that each lady possesses being on display, that are instead held to spewing undoubtedly pre-written lines that make those regurgitated on a fifth grade class field trip sound like Voltaire. Carmella has literally repeated her ring entrance lines each time she entered the segment; apparently she is not “always ready to go” with new material. Becky Lynch is fierce in the ring and an unquestioned trailblazer for women’s wrestling, but her microphone work would be create less cognitive dissonance with less Red Bull. Surprisingly, the worst of the bunch is Nattie. She could run an in-ring class at the WWE Performance Center, but would be in the corner wearing a dunce cap during promo class. I sit on the edge of my seat each time she has a mic in her hand waiting for her to ask “I know what you are, but what am I?”
As Naomi and Nikki Bella have not been on the mic much, the lone verbal standout is Alexa Bliss, who plays the stuck-up cheerleader to perfection. She is what The Beautiful People could have been in TNA with more in-ring polish.
The professional wrestling industry is littered with the corpses of hopefuls that could put on clinics in the ring, but were never able to become noticed due to a complete lack of personality. In an ironic twist, these female wrestlers have all shown that they can be at the very least adequate on the mic, but their awful pre-written format seems to stall them from allowing their individual character to reveal themselves in order to create deeper storytelling. They are speaking as if they have completely forgotten that the current revolution in women’s wrestling is even taking place. Women’s wrestling is being given borderline main event attention on SmackDown Live. Rather than focus on the fact that she has the chance to be a titleholder in a time of women’s wrestling trailblazers, WWE has the competitors in the Six Pack Challenge at Backlash acting like they are fighting over the last slice at a bowling alley birthday party.
Women’s wrestling has evolved beyond the days of female performers being displayed like either objects, or in stereotypical gender-defining roles. WWE is not going to promote a Bra and Panties Match any time in the near future, but it also must be realized that having these ladies display cattiness rather than skill is still a degrading creative choice. The New Era has become known for providing new opportunity to new competitors. Women’s wrestling has been at the forefront of this movement, but the recent programming on SmackDown Live finds it taking two steps backwards.