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WWE Makes Small Step in Showcasing Divas Division, Needs to Take More

Ryan Dilbert@@ryandilbertWWE Lead WriterMarch 3, 2015

Credit: WWE.com

Unless you're in a Franz Kafka novel, metamorphoses don't happen overnight, as we saw with WWE's response to the recent backlash over the mistreatment of the Divas division.

The company did address the issue of undervaluing its women on Monday's Raw, but we are a long way from where that division can and should be.

Paige and Nikki Bella had more time to work with than the roster's women are used to. One of the night's biggest moments came courtesy of a former Divas champ. WWE needs to realize how successful those elements were and continue to make them part of its programming.

A 31-second match last week set off an online firestorm. #GiveDivasAChance trended as fans voiced their frustration over WWE's women getting just scraps of airtime, the Divas being treated like filler and how often talent goes to waste if it belongs to a female.

Vince McMahon acknowledged the outcry and hinted at changes:

Vince McMahon @VinceMcMahon

We hear you. Keep watching. #GiveDivasAChance

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Fans watched Monday's Raw intently. Would the company do anything different, or was this just lip service?

The first step was a good one. WWE booked a Divas title match, offering Paige another crack at Nikki.

It's been since last June that the Divas Championship was on the line on Raw. That match lasted just over one minute, per CageMatch.net.

This time out, the women were allowed more space to ply their craft. PWMania's Jason Solomon had his trusty "Divas stopwatch" set. He clocked the bout at over six minutes longer than last week's infamous 31-second contest:

Jason Solomon @solomonster

#DivasStopwatch, big improvement from last week with Paige beating Nikki by DQ. And AJ Lee returns! #Raw http://t.co/GAOCmGrzmk

As a result, it was better than the Divas action audiences are used to seeing.

Having more room for the in-ring narrative aided both women. Paige had more of an opportunity to show off her hard-hitting style. And her comeback toward the end of the match had more impact as the story leading up to that point wasn't rushed.

Nikki had a chance to display her heel prowess and power. She overwhelmed the challenger at times, smacking her to the canvas with a powerbomb and grinding her knee into Paige's back to wear her down.

Nikki Bella in control of Paige.
Nikki Bella in control of Paige.Credit: WWE.com

This was no classic, but it was an engaging, quality match. The women can deliver that more often if they aren't forced to try and cram a beginning, middle and end of a match into the time it takes fans to walk to the fridge and back.

Next time, though, WWE should avoid having a commercial break cut the match in half and have too much of those six-plus minutes be ads rather than action.

To go along with more ring time, the announcing also provided a positive that needs to be repeated. McMahon clearly delivered a message to the men behind the announce desk.

Will Pruett of ProWrestling.net pointed out the difference in how Michael Cole and company handled the match:

Will! @itswilltime

Well, the commentary team is definitely calling Paige vs. Nikki in a more serious manner. That’s a great step forward.

When the announcers focus as they did Monday night, the wrestlers benefit greatly. Rather than ramble about something else entirely or do more bantering than play-by-play, the commentators injected emotion and energy.

As Paige looked to lock in the PTO, Cole got louder, the excitement obvious in his voice. He said, "Here we go! Paige! The Paige Tap Out!"

This is what the Divas division needs tons more of. Stop treating the women's matches like jokes. Start treating them like battles between warriors. 

It can only enhance what happens onscreen.

In addition, if WWE is serious about not letting its Divas division be a constant disappointment, it also needs to give the women more stories and memorable moments. We saw a glimpse of that on Monday in New Jersey when AJ returned in exciting fashion.

She charged out to the ring to save Paige from a two-on-one beatdown. The Bella Twins went from ambushing Paige to feeling the sting of AJ's fists.

AJ Lee attacks Brie Bella.
AJ Lee attacks Brie Bella.Credit: WWE.com

WWE wisely had AJ come back to action in her home state, assuring a louder reaction. An intriguing alliance is now formed as well. Fans have to wonder if these two enemies can work together or if an implosion is on its way.

Most importantly, this is a wrestling story, not a Divas story.

Too often, WWE has handed its women narratives about being in Playboy, fighting over men or silly stuff pulled from Total Divas. This time, WWE had AJ's motives center around injustice and bad blood.

More of this please.

The Divas don't need to borrow from the world of soap operas; they need to have their disputes built on the same kind of emotions that fuel the males: the hunger for revenge, the desire to prove one's self, the pursuit of championships.

WWE can make what unfolded during and after Paige vs. Nikki the beginning of a shift toward smarter usage of the Divas division. It can let it be the first step in a long journey to presenting women's wrestling the way it should be.

Or else, it can be just a blip, a brief departure from the disheartening norm. 

The choice awaits McMahon and the creative team. The women are armed with more excellence; they just need space to fire it off. 

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