There‘s no doubting the buzz that WWE Raw has gotten in the pro wrestling world. The brutal NXT Invasion (including the off-camera status of Bryan Danielson), an influx of prepared tag teams, Bret Hart as GM, and a slew of mid-carders ready to elevate themselves to push out a depleted stable of main-eventers that’s aging anyway. But if the WWE is going to usher in a so-called “Attitude Era II,” there’s one element that’s missing, or certainly lacking at the moment from “this fan’s” perspective: The Women.
In the Attitude Era, the WWE was able to establish superstars like Trish Stratus, Lita, Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Chyna, Sable, et al. that helped take the WWE to that extra level it achieved. But if they’re going to do it again, I question if the current crop of talent is capable of it.
A couple years ago, I wondered if some of the newer divas weren’t models at heart just using the WWE in a mutual use plan to extract more coin from Hugh Hefner. Candice Michelle, Maria, Ashley, Christy Hemme, they all had their pushes, took it off in an issue of Playboy that sold an extra million copies, then took the money and ran. Talk about being “jobbed.” It was us fans that got ultimately jobbed with a terrible void in the female talent.
The current “champions,” Eve and Layla, make me want to send get-well cards to Beth Phoenix. The Bella Twins are about as useful as the Coors Light twins. Gail Kim, a very capable wrestler, has been jobbed to the women’s equivalent of mid-card status. Tragic. Serena has been relegated to valet status. Other than Maryse and Beth Phoenix, none have had much chance to develop any distinct character or let whatever skills they have flourish.
Then again, the WWE has never really given the women their full opportunity to develop, as wrestlers or as characters. Aside from the first Attitude Era, Mr. McMahon seemingly has wanted the women to basically look pretty and not threaten any of the men in the spotlight. When Wendi Richter began drawing Hulk Hogan's numbers in arenas, the “Spider Lady Screwjob” was executed, driving her out of the company forever. Even this year, the very popular Mickie James, was unceremoniously booted from the company with a silence that has been eerily deafening.
In the state of the women’s game, there is one tough question: How much talent do they really have? I’m no expert, but I can tell the difference between an entertaining match and one that’s not. For the most part, I haven’t been that thrilled with the actual matches. Moves are okay, but they have the occasional noticeable slip-up. They’re also not very long, leaving few to stand out in my mind. Overall, either they don’t have the talent, or it’s not being displayed sufficiently.
If the women of the WWE are going to take any spotlight, how should they do it? Most certainly, the in-ring talent isn’t wowing anyone. The first solution would be that if they have talent, make room for it. They signed them, so they might as well put all that training to use somehow.
Even while they are deciphering if the talent is there, that still leaves character development. Should it be based mainly on sex appeal? On a short term, this wouldn’t be half bad. However, over a long haul it can’t go very far. It needs to escalate. In order to do that on sex appeal alone, you might as well make Howard Stern the Divas GM.
(Taking a moment of fancy to let that idea lapdance through my head. Ahhh. Now back to reality. )
In the end, working on straight sex appeal doesn’t work for long. All the women of the Attitude Era had it, but it always got eventually surpassed by their character/wrestling abilities. In fact, if you want to develop sex appeal, you have to fall prey to one sad male secret that we don’t like to admit that beauty’s only skin deep; in the end, it’s the in-ring skillz that pays the billz. The better they perform in the ring, the better we imagine them in the sack.
I could easily offer solutions (see below ), but I, just as much as most of you, can’t really act on anything. None of us can walk into the creative departments and start rewriting anything. Not to mention most of us are unaware of any planned developments currently under wraps. But I find it ironic that Raw is on a network that claims that characters are welcome, yet its flagship program has a whole gender of them that seems disallowed.
Now, my two-cent ideas.
Put Maryse and Melina in a better version of TNA’s Beautiful People, which was exposed for lack of in-ring talent and shallow character. They have the talent and the depth of character. Let them jumpstart things by assisting each other to the two title belts, have internal difficulties that they get over, but let them separate the wheat from the chaff.
Turn the SES into a tag team, which would allow Serena to hold her own against Natalya and Tamina, both of whom could counterbalance the overuse of sex appeal by the Divas Division.
Break up LayCool. As I said above, Maryse and Melina could do better. Or at least give them a face turn.
An intense feud between Alicia Fox and Gail Kim could definitely find out which one’s worth a push down the road.
Remember how on occasion, masked tag teams would illegally tag in when the ref wasn’t looking, or switch in with each other during a singles match? Helloooo! Bella twins! Maybe that’s how they can establish themselves without having to actually get hurt too much.
Someone wrote a column suggesting a French-Canadian coupling of Maryse and Edge. First, I think she’d be much better off with Drew McIntyre on an extended thread, but the idea of Divas indirectly “sleeping” their way into the spotlight doesn’t sit well with me. However, I see nothing wrong with using some of their feminine wiles to play mind games on certain male talents.
Absolutely avoid the weekly Halloween Costume contest that the TNA Knockout Division has become. Or at least wait until the talent is established in the ring before beginning a gimmick.
When Beth Phoenix comes back, she will stunt the development of younger talent. Use that aspect wisely to assist with weeding out any chaff on the roster. If there’s not enough to rise to the occasion, let her dominate the division as her own version of a Triple H, being neither face nor heel - just a been-there, done-that vet who looks at all the younger, wild-eyed talent and thinks “Awwww. They’re so cute at that age.”
Lastly, there’s the Victoria/Tara question. As her stint in TNA showed, she also has that jaded, veteran “been-there, done-that” side that Beth could come back with. As any Maryse/Melina axis could set the standard for image, these two can set the bar for wrestling ability. She and Beth would make a formidable team - or a helluva a feud. She would also stunt emergence of new stars, including the undeserving ones.