Diva Debate No. 11

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 2, 2013

Diva Debate No. 11

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    It has been an eventful week in sports entertainment for the women of World Wrestling Entertainment and Impact Wrestling.

    It was a week that showcased both the great and the terrible that has often surrounded the WWE Divas. Perhaps the greatest female performer in the history of the sport was rewarded for her achievements with news of a Hall of Fame induction.

    Meanwhile, the very company that recognized its greatest Diva was responsible for one of the worst segments in the history of its women's division.

    Over on TNA Impact, the company's most popular woman took the next step toward her second Knockouts Championship.

    In the "Greatest Diva Ever" tournament, the finals were set and an unexpected blowout shook things up, setting the stage for a last-round matchup that will undoubtedly see fans lobbying for their favorite to take home the (imaginary) crown.

    As usual, this week's Diva Debate 11 will cover the week in review as well as the top stories in the sport. So sit back, relax and start your Super Bowl weekend off the right way by getting your fill of everything Diva and Knockout related.

Special Thanks...

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    Before we get started, I want to take this time to thank Dani over at Victoria-Web.org for the above image. Beginning next week, it will be the official cover image for Diva Debate.

    Dani's work is greatly appreciated and will only help to make Diva Debate the article I hope, and want, it to be.

    Thank you, Dani!

    To check out some of Dani's other spectacular graphics, head over to Victoria-Web!

Change of Plans...

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    Last week, I mentioned plans to include a "fantasy booking" topic in this week's Diva Debate. Breaking news stories and analysis, most importantly Trish Stratus' Hall of Fame announcement, have forced me to push that off until next week's article.

    I apologize for any inconvenience. Until next week, enjoy the lovely Rosa Mendes, pictured above.

Trish Stratus to Enter the Hall!

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    On Monday night’s Raw, Trish Stratus was revealed as the latest inductee into the WWE Hall of Fame, class of 2013. The induction is a tremendous honor for one of the sport’s most decorated female performers.

    The former seven-time WWE Women’s Champion, Hardcore Champion, three-time “Babe of the Year” and Raw Diva of the Decade completely changed the perception of what a former model could achieve in the wrestling industry if she worked hard and was determined to succeed.

    Debuting in spring 2000, Trish became the manager for the team of Test and Albert. The duo would have memorable feuds with the Dudley Boys and the Hardy Boys, but it quickly became clear Trish would be the breakout star of the act.

    Within one year of debuting, Trish would be the centerpiece in a torrid love affair angle featuring Vince McMahon. That led to a feud with Stephanie McMahon that produced one of the most intense, entertaining women’s matches of all time in February 2001 at No Way Out.

    Trish and Stephanie far exceeded expectations and, despite only a year of experience between the two, delivered a hell of a match.

    By the time Survivor Series in November 2001 rolled around, Vince McMahon and his company had decided Trish would be the woman they built their newly reintroduced Women’s Championship around. The moment the beautiful blonde from Toronto hoisted the title overhead on that November night, World Wrestling Entertainment’s “golden era” of women’s wrestling began.

    Over the years that followed, Trish would engage in rivalries with the likes of Molly Holly, Jazz, Victoria and Lita. The last of those would produce the greatest, and most beloved, women’s rivalry in the last twenty years.

    The matches that resulted from those feuds were completely different from those that came before them.

    Trish was a complete performer—one who could both talk and wrestle. She also proved her versatility when, at the height of her popularity, she turned heel.

    Not only did the turn work, but Trish also became one of the most entertaining performers on the roster as the sarcastic and devious villain. She poked fun at Lita’s misfortunes, mocked the Diva Search competitors and wasted little time making Chris Jericho’s life miserable.

    Unfortunately, an ill-timed back injury put her out of action in April 2005. It also ended the heel turn. Fortunately, a rivalry would be waiting for her upon her return that would wind up producing one of the all-time great Women’s title matches at the following year’s WrestleMania.

    The Trish Stratus-Mickie James rivalry, which culminated with Mickie’s title win at WrestleMania 22, was one of the most entertaining in WWE history. It instantly created a star in Mickie and gave Trish one last truly great program to work with before retiring in September 2006.

    It also made for one of the hottest matches, in terms of fan reaction, at that year’s event.

    Since her retirement in 2006, Trish has made a number of appearances on WWE television.

    She appeared as Raw guest host in 2009. She teamed with John Cena to defeat Santino Marella and Beth Phoenix. At WrestleMania 27, just as she prepared for the debut of Tough Enough, Trish teamed with Jersey Shore star Snooki and John Morrison to defeat Dolph Ziggler, Michelle McCool and Layla.

    On April 6, the WWE Hall of Fame will welcome the sport’s greatest female performer into its fraternity.

    She is the prototype for what is possible when a performer, no matter how green, has the opportunity to succeed. A number of women on today’s roster would be wise to become familiar with Trish’s story and do their best to replicate her drive and determination.

    Congratulations to Trish for her latest, perhaps greatest, achievement. This writer was lucky enough to watch her from the moment she debuted on Sunday Night Heat to her retirement match at Unforgiven 2006 to her return to WrestleMania in 2011. It is a joy, as a fan, to watch a great performer grow and evolve and improve the way Trish did.

    It will be an even bigger joy to watch her enshrinement April 6.

What Does Trish's Induction Mean for Other Past WWE Divas?

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    Stratus’ induction into the WWE Hall of Fame immediately creates questions regarding the fates of some of the industry’s most talented or prominent women. She opens the doors for other women who made a tremendous impact on the sport, as either in-ring talents or trend setters. 

    Lita is the most obvious of potential candidates for induction. A performer as popular as many of the men during her days with World Wrestling Entertainment, Lita made it cool for the company to feature women’s wrestling again.

    With her high-flying, death-defying offense, Lita was a female wrestler unlike any who had stepped foot in Vince McMahon’s promotion. She revolutionized women’s wrestling in the 2000s and opened the door for the hiring of other talented in-ring performers.

    Her heel turn in 2005 also helped give Edge the, well, edge needed to take that next step to the main event level. Their relationship helped cement the Toronto native as the “Rated R Superstar” and led to both him and Lita becoming featured stars on WWE programming.

    Lita retired from in-ring competition in 2006 and, outside of a rare return, has been away from the spotlight for the majority of the last seven years.

    Alundra Blayze, better known to some as Madusa, was a tremendous in-ring performer whose sheer toughness was on display in matches against the likes of Japanese great Bull Nakano, Luna Vachon and Bertha Faye.

    In the mid-90s, Blayze was the face of a revived women’s division within the then-World Wrestling Federation. She reintroduced women’s wrestling to a North American audience whose last real exposure to it was in the days of Wendi Richter, Rockin’ Robin, the Fabulous Moolah and Sherri Martel.

    Unfortunately, Blayze would jump ship to World Championship Wrestling in late 1995 and toss the WWE Women’s title in the trash can, showing great disrespect to it and her former employer.

    As one could imagine, there was great heat between her and Vince McMahon’s promotion for years, but in recent months, it appears hostility has calmed quite a bit, and her potential inclusion in the Hall no longer seems so far-fetched.

    Sable was a pioneer for today’s Divas. Regardless of whether one likes her or not, during the Attitude Era, she brought sex appeal to the forefront and, as a result, became one of the immediately recognizable women in the sport.

    She was everywhere, from talk shows, to television shows, to magazine covers, most notably the April 1999 issue of Playboy

    Whereas Sunny was the first female breakout star in the 1990s, Sable took female involvement in wrestling to a new level. She was a star on par with the Stone Cold Steve Austins, Rocks and Undertakers of the era, and for that reason, she deserves consideration for Hall of Fame inclusion.

    Finally, Beth Phoenix carried a Divas division through very dark days in the late 2000s and early 2010s. She was the one consistent amid a ton of turnover and easily the most talented in-ring performer of her time.

    A three-time Women’s Champion and Divas Champion and 2008 Diva of the Year Slammy winner, Beth starred when the company had no idea where, if anywhere, it wanted to take its women’s division.

    Beth was the epitome of consistency and, more importantly, she was a legitimate role model for girls and young women. She was beautiful and sexy, but also strong and confident.

    She had a body chiseled from stone and would not back down from men's threats, as evidenced by her brief, yet explosive entry into the 2010 Royal Rumble.

    Like Chyna, who also should be inducted but will not because of her post-wrestling ventures, Beth proved that a successful woman did not have to be a toothpick model type. She could be whatever she wanted and still achieve success.

    All of these women, as well as a handful of others who made significant contributions to the sport, deserve recognition in the Hall of Fame. Thanks to Stratus’ entry into the Hall of Fame, they may finally get what they have earned.

WWE Drops "Top 20 Divas Countdown" DVD Plans

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    In what can only be disappointing news for fans of the WWE Divas, World Wrestling Entertainment has reportedly dropped its planned Top 20 Divas DVD, originally scheduled for release in September. Replacing it will be the first Mid-South Wrestling compilation.

    Yes, the decision not to release the DVD as scheduled is disappointing, but it should not be surprising.

    It is no secret that today’s World Wrestling Entertainment does not believe its female performers are as marketable or valuable as the men on the roster. It is the reason their television pushes have been so inconsistent over the past four years.

    It is the reason AJ Lee in 2012 was the first breakout female performer in that time.

    One would assume that the success AJ (and, to a lesser extent, Eve) enjoyed in 2012 would have opened up opportunities for other women to see their roles expanded on television.

    Kaitlyn appeared poised to break out but has been afforded little opportunity since capturing the Divas Championship on the “20th Anniversary” edition of Monday Night Raw.

    The failure to release the scheduled DVD is a failure to capitalize on Trish Stratus’ impending Hall of Fame induction and the increased exposure some of the great women in wrestling history will enjoy because of it.

    The work of Lita, Molly Holly (pictured), Jazz, Jacqueline, Victoria, Michelle McCool, Mickie James, Stacy Keibler and a number of other very talented female performers deserves to be celebrated.

    The tabling of the DVD does those women, as well as their fans, a great disservice.

NXT Diva Injured?

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    According to WrestlingInc.com (with credit to PWInsider.com for the original report), NXT Diva Paige may have been injured during Thursday night's NXT television tapings. At that show, Paige competed against Summer Rae.

    If the injury did take place, it is a major setback for a young woman many consider the future of the WWE Divas roster. A highly talented in-ring competitor, whose mother and father are both well-known and well-established in the United Kingdom, she has turned heads with NXT.

    Labeled the "anti-diva," Paige has prided herself on being different from the typical WWE and NXT Divas, and as a result, fans have been drawn to her. She is one of the most popular women in the company, despite not being on the main roster.

    One can only hope that if Paige is actually injured, that does not keep her sidelined too long. There likely will be a number of developmental call-ups following WrestleMania, as is usually the case, and it would be devastating for Paige to miss her opportunity to make a major impact in 2013.

Week in Review: Raw Roulette Leads to Disaster

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    On Monday’s Raw, Kaitlyn met Tamina in a “Las Vegas Showgirls Lumberjill” match, as determined by the Raw Roulette wheel. Typically, Lumberjill matches are far from quality affairs. What fans bore witness to Monday, however, can only be considered an atrocity.

    The match between Kaitlyn and Tamina became secondary to the beautiful women surrounding the ring, decked out in their showgirl finest. Minutes into the match, the Divas around the ring spilled into it, creating a chaotic scene and ending the match prematurely.

    No winner was announced, and rather than following up on what the audience had just witnessed, cameras cut to the next segment—but not before the ringside commentators, led by Michael Cole, managed to mock the “match,” and deservedly so.

    It was a sham, a complete and utter disgrace and an embarrassment for the women involved and the creative team that thought it would be a good idea.

    More importantly, it was a major setback to all of the work put in by Kaitlyn, Eve Torres and Layla in recent months to make fans take the Divas division somewhat seriously.

    There is major potential for this debacle to cripple women’s wrestling for the foreseeable future, but it can be easily forgotten if the company follows it up with a real title match between Kaitlyn and Tamina that fans can sink their teeth into.

Week in Review: Velvet's Sorry...About Tara's Damn Luck

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    On Thursday’s Impact, Velvet Sky continued her rivalry with Tara by challenging the Knockouts Champion and her boy toy, Jesse, to a mixed tag team match. She claimed to have found a partner, and found a partner she had.

    “Cowboy” James Storm joined Velvet Sky for the tag match, and the duo dominated their competition. Sky pinned Tara following the “In Your Face” and moved closer to another Knockouts Championship opportunity.

    Velvet is easily the most over woman on the TNA roster and appears on her way to capturing the Knockouts Championship many believe she should have by now.

    She is the most popular woman on the roster, and the company should capitalize on it by featuring her as such. She is a major merchandise seller for the company, and there is no reason to believe she could not be the star of the division, at least until a younger Knockout with potential to do the same comes along.

    Until then, the company should use Velvet Sky to help rebuild a Knockouts division that was once the highest rated aspect of the show.

"Greatest Diva Ever!" Tournament Finals

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    TAfter weeks of interesting match-ups and results, the finals of the “Greatest Diva Ever” tournament are upon us.

    The semifinals featured two very tight match-ups that appeared to be closer on paper than they actually were.

    Mickie James and Melina could both be considered surprises to have made it as far as they did. Their fans, however, turned out in droves to ensure that they made it as far as they could. Now, only one will continue on to the finals.

    Trish Stratus and Lita were the complete opposite. Most expected them to advance as far as they did. They are widely considered the greatest Divas in World Wrestling Entertainment history, but only one could make it to the last round of competition.

    Without further ado, here is your final round matchup:

    • Lita vs. Mickie James

    In the most stunning development in the tournament, Lita easily handled Trish Stratus in the semifinal round to advance to the finals. Similarly, Mickie did the same to Melina, leaving no doubt about her place in this matchup.

    Lita revolutionized women's wrestling in North America, making it cool to be a featured part of WWE's television product in the early 2000s. Mickie, on the other hand, carried the mantle for women's wrestling in the days after Lita and Trish Stratus left.

    She and Beth Phoenix did everything they could to keep the Divas division alive despite WWE's reluctance to feature it as it had in the past.

    This is an interesting match in that both women have very loyal and vocal fans. Those fans appreciate their uniqueness. Neither woman is the prototypical Diva, but each succeeded anyway.

    Now, they are faced with the opportunity to be named Diva Debate's "Greatest Diva Ever." It is up to their fans and DD readers to determine which will lay claim to that title.

    As always, you can leave your votes in the comment section below. If you cannot or do not have a Bleacher Report account, you can Tweet your votes to me @ErikBeaston.

Next Week...

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    Inside next week's Diva Debate, the winner of the "Greatest Diva Ever!" tournament will be announced. That woman, be it Mickie James or Lita, will receive a full profile of her greatest feuds and matches.

    Also in next week's article, I will take a look at the week in review, as well as potential WrestleMania matchups involving the WWE Divas.

    Until then, enjoy the Super Bowl, regardless of whom you are or are not rooting for.

    Oh, and go Ravens!

    As always, I encourage feedback from all Diva Debate readers. If you have comments or questions regarding any of today's topics, or you have any suggestions for future articles, let your voice be heard in the comments section. If you do not have a Bleacher Report account and cannot comment, feel free to get in touch with me on Twitter at @ErikBeaston.

    Also, do not forget to vote for your favorite in the "Greatest Diva Ever!" Tournament. Lita and Mickie James are deserving candidates and neither can win without your support.