Welcome to Week 4 of Diva Debate.
Last week's article was the most successful edition of D.D. to this point and I would like to take this time to thank everyone who read and commented.
This week, I take a look at third-generation Diva Natalya and why someone as talented as she is has yet to really make the impact on WWE television so many expect she can.
Other topics inside this week's article center on former TNA Knockouts Champion Brooke Tessmacher, "The Billion Dollar Princess" Stephanie McMahon, and a special profile of Terri Runnels.
Most importantly, inside you will find the nominees for the first-ever Diva Debate Year-End Awards.
So what are you waiting for? Click that "next" button and enjoy Week 4 of Diva Debate.
Before we get started with this week's debate topics, let me take a moment to announce the nominations for Diva Debate's year-end awards. With six individual categories, there is a real opportunity for you, the readers, to let your voice heard in regards to your favorite Divas, Knockouts, matches, and moments from 2012.
Voting begins immediately after you're done reading this week's Diva Debate and will conclude just prior to the TLC pay-per-view on Sunday, Dec. 16. The winners will be announced in a very special edition of Diva Debate later in the week. Below are the official nominees. Voice your opinion by voting in the comments section below.
Don't see the Diva or Knockout you think deserves to win? Write them in. Your vote matters.
Future Star Award*:
*To be given to the next breakout Diva/Knockout
Fan Favorite Award*:
*To be given to a Diva/Knockout that you loved, even if their creative teams did not
Moment of the Year:
Kharma returns in the Royal Rumble (Royal Rumble, Jan. 29, 2012)
Eve Torres turns heel (Raw, Feb. 20, 2012)
ODB marries Eric Young (Impact, April 12, 2012)
Brooke Tessmacher wins Knockouts gold in her hometown (Slammiversary, June 10, 2012)
AJ (almost) marries Daniel Bryan (Raw 1000, July 23, 2012)
Stephanie McMahon returns, attacks Paul Heyman (Raw 1000, July 23, 2012)
Match of the Year:
Divas Championship Match: Tamina vs. Beth Phoenix (Elimination Chamber)
Kelly Kelly & Maria Menounos vs. Beth Phoenix & Eve Torres (WrestleMania 28)
Knockouts Championship Match: Brooke Tessmacher vs. Gail Kim (Slammiversary)
Divas Championship Match: Layla vs. Eve Torres (Night of Champions)
Divas Championship Match: Kaitlyn vs. Eve Torres (Survivor Series)
Natalya vs. Beth Phoenix (Smackdown, September 28)*
*Added due to reader demand
Knockout of the Year:
Diva of the Year:
The Bella Twins
One of the most curious cases of a woman entering World Wrestling Entertainment and underachieving is the third-generation Hart family member Natalya.
A member of the WWE roster since 2008, the extremely talented in-ring competitor has yet to truly reach the level of success critics, former and current Superstars, and fans believe she deserves. She has a single Divas Championship reign to her name but it was very short, lasting only from Survivor Series in 2010 until the following January's Royal Rumble pay-per-view in 2011.
Since then, Natalya has been cycled onto and off of WWE television, never really allowing her to gain any momentum. In the past year, she has even been reduced to participating in an all-time-terrible farting gimmick, that may very well have killed any credibility she had with the casual audience.
Why is it that a woman that has shown tremendous ability between the ropes, has the pedigree of one of the greatest wrestling families in the history of the industry, and has a solid fan base been allowed to achieve so little?
There is a belief amongst those in power that Superstars and Divas are expected to look a certain way. Superstars are to look muscular and handsome, the type of person the company can plaster all over posters.
Divas, it seems, are too look like something the common fan would see in a catalogue. It is a very shallow way of determining who can and cannot achieve great success in the business but it has been a reality for close to 30 years (with a few very prominent exceptions).
Natalya does not fit those guidelines. She is very beautiful, but she is not beautiful in the way McMahon and Co. expect their top women to look. She is incredibly fit and fairly defined but, again, does not have the body of a woman that just stepped out of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.
Equally important to looks and wrestling skills is the ability to cut a promo, something Natalya has not had a lot of experience with in her four-year WWE stint. When she did get the opportunity, she has solid, if not spectacular. Where Eve and AJ have exceeded expectations with the time they have been given on the microphone, Natalya has been merely good.
There has been speculation over the years that Vince McMahon's seemingly love-hate relationship with the Hart family has led to Natalya seeing any push she may be enjoying come to a crashing halt. While McMahon has shown petty tendencies in the past, considering his good standing with Natalya's uncle Bret in recent years, it is unlikely that plays a factor in the stagnant nature of her place on the card.
So why has Natalya not quite met expectations four years into her career? There is no viable, valid reason. The body image excuse gets thrown out the window when one takes into consideration that Beth Phoenix was tremendously successful for the company and Kharma was originally slated for a huge push before her pregnancy sidelined her.
The promo ability excuse has some legs to it but, taking into consideration that only a few women actually get any time to speak on television, it seems unlikely that could play a role. The McMahon-Hart family rivalry? Forget it.
At this point in her career, much like Molly Holly and Katie Lea before her, Natalya may simply be a talent Vince McMahon has no idea how to use. She simply does not fit into what the company is doing so, rather than releasing her, the company keeps her on-board, occasionally giving her something silly or stupid to do in backstage skits.
A shame, considering Natalya is in the prime of her career.
Have a theory as to why Natalya has yet to truly achieve great success in WWE? Tell the world in the comment section below.
Earlier this year, Brooke Tessmacher appeared poised to become a legitimate breakout star for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. While she had spent nearly a year on WWE television, she was the closest thing to a home-grown Knockout the company had seen since the heyday of the Beautiful People.
Tessmacher received a hard push and, more importantly, caught on with the fanbase. She consistently improved in the ring and, after a series of matches with Gail Kim, was rewarded for her strides and newfound popularity with a Knockouts Championship win over Kim at June's Slammiversary.
Then the company made a curious move. Brooke dropped the title in short order to Madison Rayne, the sole purpose being the furthering of a romance storyline between Rayne and referee Earl Hebner. She would win it back, quickly, but would almost immediately drop it again, this time to her mentor and friend, Tara.
Then, the once-surging Tessmacher disappeared from television.
Allow me to start by saying I have all of the respect and admiration in the world for Tara. She is an extremely talented and tough woman and, at age 41, is still one of the hottest women in the sport. And Madison Rayne is a tremendous talent, as well.
With that said, when you have a talent with the potential to be the face of an entire division, such as Tessmacher, you cannot afford to sacrifice her growth by having her lose the Knockouts title just to further two comedic storylines.
That is what the Knockouts tag titles are for.
There is no denying that the sudden lack of television time for Brooke has certainly hurt some of the momentum the stunning Texan had enjoyed throughout the summer months.
\That does not mean any chance of succeeding in the company has ended. With the right amount of television attention, she can be rehabbed and return to the level she was at a short time ago.
Unfortunately, given TNA's recent insistence on sticking with the Tara-Jesse storyline that has, for the most part, been a failure, it remains to be seen just when the time will come for Brooke to return to Impact Wrestling.
It has been a very long time since there have been as many strong female characters on WWE television as there currently are. AJ Lee, Vickie Guerrero, and Eve Torres have had spectacular 2012s and appear poised to ride some of that momentum into the new year.
Not since the days of Stephanie McMahon, Lita, and Trish Stratus in the early-2000s have women been featured in such prominent roles on World Wrestling Entertainment's weekly programming, which makes one wonder if there is still a role on television for the aforementioned Stephanie.
With the company seemingly fixated on having a female character in the role of Raw authority figure, it would be fitting for the payoff of the AJ Lee-Vickie Guerrero power struggle to feature the return of Stephanie McMahon to a role she was very good at in 2002-03 on Smackdown.
Imagine, if you will, the potential showdowns between Stephanie and a crazed AJ. How about Stephanie and the always-loud, annoying Vickie character? Maybe even an interaction or two between the "Billion Dollar Princess" and Divas Champion Eve? All three of those situations are viable and all three would immediately elevate the talent opposing the boss' daughter.
Say what you will about the McMahon family and their tendency to hog television time whenever they become involved in a storyline, but those that work with Vince or Shane or Stephanie always see their importance elevated in the eyes of the fans. It is still a big deal to work with a McMahon.
There are, as there will always be, drawbacks to the idea of Stephanie returning. The hogging of spotlight being one. Also, she would almost have to come out on the winning end of any rivalry she would be involved in, perhaps stunting the growth of her opposition.
In the case of Eve and AJ, who have taken such tremendous strides in 2012, that could be irreparably damaging.
Stephanie's return would not have to be relegated to feuds with Divas. Further interaction with Paul Heyman, who she memorably pounced on and assaulted earlier this summer, would make for entertaining television, as would anything involving WWE Champion CM Punk.
Remember, it was not all that long ago that he publicly called her Vince's "idiotic daughter."
Whatever the case would be, Stephanie's return to television would be welcome. As fans can see from any of his recent appearances, Vince is finally beginning to show his age, and having his daughter take over the handling of "official business" in a storyline fashion would introduce a whole new audience to a performer who, love her or hate her, was one of the more entertaining aspects of the early-to-mid-2000s.
The horny little she-devil. Yes, she called herself that.
Terri Runnels made her debut with the then-World Wrestling Federation at the 1996 Royal Rumble, under the name Marlena, accompanying then-husband Goldust to the ring for his Intercontinental Championship match against Razor Ramon. A mysterious woman, she puffed on a cigar all match long and celebrated with her man when he captured his first championship gold.
Described as Goldust's "director," Marlena added a new wrinkle to the Goldust character and was a key piece in the storyline that would eventually have the controversial performer accepted by the audience.
Triple H had spent months courting her and when she finally turned him down for the last time, he debuted his new bodyguard, Chyna. The amazonian woman brutalized Marlena, bear-hugging her and tossing her around like the proverbial rag doll. The rivalry built to a memorable WrestleMania 13 match, where Hunter and Chyna once again got the best of their foes.
A storyline with Brian Pillman, in which Marlena was forced into serving the former WCW standout as a result of a Goldust loss, prematurely came to an end in October when Pillman passed away just prior to the Bad Blood: In Your House pay-per-view.
In late 1997, Goldust and Marlena split, on-screen, when the former turned heel and adopted his ultra-bizarre Artist Formerly Known As Goldust persona. It would be a year before she returned to WWE television.
As the valet for Val Venis, and going under her real name, Terri would return to television, tormenting Goldust/Dustin Rhodes on a weekly basis with new videos of her sexual exploits with Venis. It was a story befitting the edgier, unlimited nature of the Attitude Era and introduced millions of new fans to her.
Having been dumped a few months after her return, Terri took to partnering with Jacqueline, forming a duo known as "Pretty Mean Sisters," or "PMS," for short. The deadly, stunning duo would attack other women and regularly interfere in the matches of the men who tossed them aside, gaining a measure of revenge. The duo split in 1999.
For much of 2000, Terri would feud with The Kat, competing in a string of matches against one another that can best be described as truly horrendous from an in-ring standpoint but also extremely entertaining. Their rivalry concluded at SummerSlam 2000, when Kat defeated Terri in the first (and only) "Thong Stink Face Match."
Yes, that match actually happened.
Terri would spend the rest of her WWE career as the valet for the likes of Perry Saturn and Raven before taking over hosting duties of short-lived program Excess. A Raw draftee during the brand extension of 2002, Terri would serve as the backstage interviewer for the brand until 2004, when she exited the company.
A former Hardcore Champion, Terri was a true company girl. She did whatever was asked of her, no matter how embarrassing or bizarre, and gained herself a fanbase because of it. Enjoying a six-year run with the biggest company in the industry, it is a testament to Terri's go-getter attitude that she had the success that she did while others fell by the wayside.
Determination fueled her to find success in any role she was asked to fill. She remains one of the standard bearers for Divas in the Attitude Era.
Raw (Nov. 26, 2012):
Tamina Snuka def. Alicia Fox
TNA Impact Wrestling (Nov. 29, 2012):
Mickie James def. Gail Kim
Unfortunately, it was another light week of women's wrestling on television, with only two matches contested on Raw and Impact Wrestling, with none on Friday Night Smackdown.
On Raw, Tamina Snuka continued her road back to relevance with a win over Alicia Fox. Tamina was kept strong, which was necessary, while Alicia had one of her best showings of the year. The match solidified Tamina as both a heel and, perhaps, the company's new dominant Diva.
Over on Impact Wrestling, Mickie James kept her recent roll going, picking up a win over former Knockouts Champion Gail Kim.
Mickie looked sharp, crisp, and impressive as she heads to Final Resolution to challenge Tara for the Knockouts title, while Gail reminded fans why she may be, pound-for-pound, the best female worker in the business. The best match of the week, by far.
Outside of the ring, the John Cena-AJ Lee-Vickie Guerrero-Dolph Ziggler saga continued as Cena addressed the WWE Universe and, once again, locked lips with AJ. While the storyline has been, at times bumpy, it continued AJ's monumental 2012 and added another layer to her feud with Vickie. Hopefully, in the near future, there is one final showdown between the two.
In an eerily similar storyline, the "maybe, maybe not" Bully Ray-Brooke Hogan relationship continued to get play on Impact, with Austin Aries taking every possible verbal shot at the Hulkster's daughter. While it may be one of the weirdest pairings in quite some time, there is something refreshing about seeing the typically-hard-nosed Bully Ray display feelings for someone.
In next week's Diva Debate, find out why I believe WWE dropped the ball with Alicia Fox.
I will also discuss the probability of a return to WWE for Kelly Kelly, the Bella Twins and Beth Phoenix.
With a depleted roster of Knockouts, and the same faces used and re-used over and over again, is it wise to keep Taeler Hendrix on the sidelines and in developmental?
And finally, I set the "way back machine" and debate where Sable or Sunny was more important to the late-1990s success of Vince McMahon's wrestling empire.
You will find all of that, plus all of the normal coverage from the week that was in Divas and Knockouts action.
The title of this article features the word "debate," and now it is your turn to let your voice be heard in regards to any one (or all four) of the topics discussed in this week's Diva Debate article. Leave a message relevant to anything discussed inside.
Also, your feedback is incredibly important. If you have any suggestions or constructive criticisms of the article, feel free to let me know in the comment section. I look forward to hearing from you all, as together, we build what will hopefully become a long-running weekly article here on Bleacher Report.
And don't forget to vote for your year-end award favorites. Your choices cannot win if you do not vote, so let me and the rest of the Bleacher Report community know who you think should win and why.