Currently in the WWE there are two divisions of wrestlers that are equal in poor quality. The divisions in question are the Tag Team and Diva variants. Both receive little to no TV time and are so shallow in actual talent they make you wonder if WWE should just call it quits on them.
The current state of both divisions means it is going to take some incredible work to turn them around from obscurity and back into the powerful sideshow attractions they once were. For now, however, I am going to focus on the Divas and how I think WWE could improve the quality of the female performers.
Most believe that purely increasing the talent within the division—i.e. hiring more professionally trained wrestlers such as Beth Phoenix and less models like Kelly Kelly—is going to instantly boost the WWE's female programming.
Unfortunately, this just isn't true. Even if tomorrow morning WWE re-signed Lita and Trish Stratus, they would maybe be given a few matches of reasonable exposure before being quickly relegated to three-minute fillers.
The lack of in-depth talent is a problem, but it is an issue that has only been brought on by the fact that in the end the WWE creative team doesn't care. Or maybe I should say they don't have time to care.
I may be wrong, but as far as I can piece together, the structure of the WWE creative team is something like this:
There are two teams for Raw and SmackDown, and they generally come up with most of the ideas for most of the wrestlers. They are answerable to heads of their respective shows. These heads then report directly to whoever currently green-lights what goes onto TV and the McMahons.
It can't be easy to plan out an entire roster's career. But in all honesty, when you have tight deadlines to meet on a regular basis, the order in which you would deal with the roster is going to be pretty clear.
First, you would sort out the main eventers. After all, these are the guys who draw the most and technically need the best stories. They draw in PPV buys and TV viewers—it makes sense to devote around 75 percent of your time to the top guys.
Next, your going to focus on the midcard. This contains the largest number of guys on the roster and the stars of tomorrow. Even if time is tight, one or two worthwhile stories need to be squeezed out in order to establish talent for the fans of tomorrow.
Divas would probably be slightly ahead of the tag division in importance purely based on the fact that their sex appeal is easier to sell than a well-choreographed two-on-two matchup.
Still, there is barely any time to put together a decent story for the women. Even then, it's dependent on if there is time left for them to devote.
Sure, this week will see Kelly Kelly vs. Eve on Superstars, but on Raw the women were completely excluded other than a couple of brief cameos during backstage segments.
Prior to leaving WWE last September, we all remember Gail Kim eliminating herself on live television from a battle royal on an episode of Raw. While we can debate the ethics of this action, it was an interview with Kim after her departure that made me realize how little the company cared for the female performers.
Kim posted on Twitter that after she told a member of senior management, only referred to as Mr. Yes Man (presumably this is John Laurinatis), that he just laughed it off. So why should creative care if they know there will be no consequences for poor programming on the Diva side of the job?
This is why WWE needs to take the women out of their major TV programing on Raw and SmackDown and give them their own show to present their talents.
This of course would only be achievable when (or should it be if?) WWE manages to get their network off the ground and running. It is unlikely, in the division's current state, that any major TV network would be willing to give the Divas even a light 30-minute show, let alone WWE's basic 60-minute format.
Even then, a network willing to take on the show would want it to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Even on PG TV, this is sadly sex appeal when it comes to women.
This brings us to the third in an unholy trinity of what is keeping women's wrestling in WWE down. WWE don't want us to change the channel at any point during their programming. Even during the Diva matches that they care so little about.
This means that when they are on screen and have to command the attention of the audience, the creative team are always going to take the quick and easy path so they can concentrate further on their duties with the male performers.
Sex appeal has and always will sell, even when the appeal has been reduced from the Attitude Era of having women compete in next-to-no clothing to women in very tight, skimpy clothing.
So how does separating the women from the men have the prospects of improving the Diva's division if no one cares? It's a bit of a vicious cycle, unfortunately, as WWE will only start to care if the fans do so. But the fans don't care because it's quite apparent WWE don't. It's up to the WWE to break this cycle and turn their women into moneymakers.
So the first step would be to give them their own show on WWE's network. Once on their own network, WWE have a different audience to cater to. Instead of the general masses that watch SyFy and the USA Network, WWE will be preparing for an audience that is watching for wrestling (or at the very least Sports Entertainment).
This works out the least worrying trend in the big three kinks. While WWE will still play the sex-appeal card to gain some attention, it would hopefully no longer be the dominating factor behind the division.
Giving the women less restrictions on how they can perform (according to Kim, sometimes they would be told not to punch and kick each other) will allow room for "proper" matches.
If they are allowed to have proper matches, the new girls can be trained a full-move set. What's the point in teaching someone like Kelly Kelly a complete move set if she's only going to be allowed to do 70 percent of the moves?
I'm not saying that it's going to make the ones unable to pick it up any better, but it should let the women who want to do their best improve to some significant amount. This helps wearing down the second-biggest issue in WWE women's wrestling, the lack of in-depth talent.
The biggest issue, though, as I mentioned, is that no one in the WWE creative team cares. It doesn't matter what the women are going to be allowed to do or how much time they are given to perform if in the end they just won't matter to the people who turn out the material they work with.
A recent trend in wrestling is that if creative has nothing for you to do then the wrestler purely just "isn't right for the company." Once upon a time, if a writer gave that excuse, that guy would be looking in the paper for a new job.
The problem today is that creative wants to save their best ideas for a guy they know it will work for. This is a practice that the company supports, too.
So the solution on the creative side is to give the Divas a completely different team to work with in the first place. Of course, Vince McMahon is not going to pay out for the top writers for what is perceived by the company as a lesser division that can't draw under its current condition.
The thing I've always wondered when it comes to creative team members is that if a wrestler has to work his way to the top by going from developmental to the midcard to main eventing, then why shouldn't creative members?
Sure, it might sound bad at first. I can understand that taking WWE Divas out of main programming and giving them green and unproven creative members seems rather sexist and discriminatory, but there is a method behind the madness.
Do you think Stan Lee, the famed creator of Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and all those amazing comic book heroes we hear about today started off writing flagship books for Marvel? No, he did not. At first he was hired to merely assist, and when he was granted the chance to write he would only work on filler.
Yet despite doing what was deemed to be a lower form of storytelling in a comic, Lee put out some cracking stories, and in his text-only story for Captain America, gave him one of the character's best-known traits, the ricocheting shield.
If WWE put aside a small group of creative team members and told them that if they wanted to write for Raw and SmackDown they'd have to prove themselves, then the quality of stories for the women would naturally improve.
The goal would be clear and the set of writers would want to prove that they can cut it and thus wouldn't hold back on big stories, just in case that better future moment comes along. If they don't show their worth during their time with the Divas then they should be replaced.
Using the Divas as some form of creative talent pool would still have some rocky moments. After all, new guys can still produce garbage, but it would be better if they actually had stuff to work with rather than nothing like they get most of the time now.
The Divas could also be used as a sort of filtering system. The new writers could use their time with the division to understand how to write for a wrestling program and to hone their craft around it.
I feel one of the biggest problems with the creative team today is that they are not wrestling writers. Too many are TV talent that don't understand that writing for sports entertainment is different from any other show. The live aspect of the show can make or break a story. Writers need to learn how to play to a live audience and not just the people at home.
Before this article is wrapped up, just let me clarify something. In no way do I think the women should be separated from the men in the first place. For several years, WWE managed to have both genders perform with each other perfectly on Raw and SmackDown.
The problem is that the division has been run down so badly recently that it needs a complete revamp to be revived. Fixing only one of the issues will not do, as they all need addressing.
Its not as simple as saying WWE needs to hire more trained wrestling females. The creative teams will still only give them enough time to put on filler matches.
Think back to Trish Stratus. When she joined in 2000, she couldn't wrestle. But a year later she was improved to the point where people thought she was a competent Women's Champion. The next year she was believable. By 2004, many considered her to be one of the best. She improved because people cared enough to help her improve.
Can you blame the Divas that depart after a few years when they have to work in an environment that just won't help no matter how much you ask?
As for the creative team not caring, you can't just make them change their attitude. Therefore, you have to bring in new people who do, and unfortunately, experienced TV writers would be too snobbish to do so. This leads to unproven talent being required to fill that gap.
Currently there are 14 Divas on the WWE rosters. Within a 60-minute show, you could get at least eight performing each week. Realistically, three writers could be assigned to them. One head that puts the stories forward for green lighting and two that work on a couple of stories each week. In addition to this, they can be tasked to have a PPV rivalry going at least every couple of months.
I know that WWE would currently never put this much effort into the Divas division, but when (if) they get their own channel running, who knows? A dedicated audience could mean a dedicated program.
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