Image credit: thesouthafrican.com

The first stop on the Road to WrestleMania is behind us, and as expected, we’re left with more questions than answers leading up to the show of shows.

In this post, I will revisit how the women’s division has developed thus far this year, as well as run down the hills and valleys of last night’s pay-per-view, Elimination Chamber. But before I do, I did want to flesh out the main event segment of last week’s RAW. You know the one…

Mr. McMahon suspends Becky Lynch, inserts Charlotte Flair into the RAW women’s title match at WrestleMania

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This segment incited a strong response from fans, as I’m sure WWE intended. I had three main thoughts about the angle.

First, I do not like the involvement of authority figures in this storyline. I am a fan that prefers authority figures that take a hands-off approach to their weekly television shows; I find it overbearing when they become integral storytelling devices in feuds consistently. The McMahons, unfortunately, tend to become this whenever they are a part of a feud, often times inserting themselves as characters into the story. So, especially in a feud so organically hot as this one between Ronda and Becky (and now Charlotte), I felt that the McMahons having a hand in the direction of the feud onscreen was unnecessary. These women are more than talented enough to carry the story; there’s no need for hand-holding.

However, I do understand that they have time to fill between now and WrestleMania, and using the McMahons to drag the story out a bit may just be filler in the grand scheme of things. Therefore, despite my preference to keep authoritative interference to a minimum, I see why it needed to be done.

Second, while inserting Charlotte into the mix in this way was more than ham-fisted, she is going to give the match what it desperately needed: a definitive heel. WWE was never going to turn Ronda heel, even if she would have been the de facto heel against Becky in a singles match. Instead, WWE needed an obvious, detestable bad girl that fans would gladly boo more than Ronda, and that woman is Charlotte Flair. It is commonly agreed across all storytelling mediums that the truest heroes are created in contrast to compelling, dastardly villains. Charlotte can be the villainous foil to both Ronda and Becky seamlessly. Particularly by introducing her into the match as the boss’ “chosen one” — which is how many fans see her anyway, myself included to an extent — fans will be eager to see her defeated at WrestleMania. And perhaps above all else, Charlotte is simply a fantastic heel, in my opinion one of the best in the company. I am glad that WWE remembered this in the buildup to Mania, rather than trying to turn Charlotte into a sympathetic babyface as they did for much of last year.

Lastly, as much as I grimace to say it, Charlotte deserves this spot. She truly is one of the greatest performers the company has ever seen, gender be damned. When you’re thinking of having women main event your biggest show for the first time, you call in the big guns, and that is Charlotte. She is reliable and can deliver the work rate required to make the match a classic. Plus, there is the added bonus that she has worked with both Ronda and Becky previously. She is the common denominator for both women, and therefore can reliably make both of them look like stars. All in all, adding Charlotte to the mix guarantees, at least on paper, that this main event will be a solid one.

Now that I’ve exhausted that segment, let’s take a look at how the rest of the women are getting on.

The Good
RAW and Smackdown Live: The best thing happening on weekly TV for the women is that they feel important. Slowly, they are being included in more segments, and those segments feel less like throwaway bits of filler. With the addition of the women’s tag titles, I am seeing the division come to life before my very eyes. I am elated that finally the women who have been stuck in the mid-card have something to fight for. While some tag teams we’ve seen were thrown together, I think the possibilities for female partnerships will outshine this rocky start to the tag division. Let’s not forget that every member of The New Day were at one time singles wrestlers who had no direction. The women will be just fine.

Image credit: WWE’s YouTube

Specifically with Becky Lynch, it is more apparent than ever that she is seen as a top star in the company. She has started and ended both RAW and Smackdown to a chorus of cheers every time. While 2018 was The Man’s christening, 2019 is the year that WWE has started to live up the moniker. She’s given the Seth Rollins treatment, the Daniel Bryan treatment, the AJ Styles treatment. She’s carving her own space into today’s Mount Rushmore of wrestling, and it is so wickedly awesome to witness.

Elimination Chamber: As far as the women are concerned, this Chamber will be remembered for its titular women’s match to crown the inaugural women’s tag team champions. I really liked this match! I was nervous to see how a tag match (ironically with no tagging) would work inside of a Chamber, but was pleasantly surprised to see how these women orchestrated the match.

The sequence toward the middle of the match where each woman successively hit a power move on the next standing woman was incredible and clever. The IIconics were surprising stars of this match, scoring a quick pinfall on Naomi and brutalizing the likes of Sasha Banks and Bayley within the confines. Many fans’ pick to win, I truly hope the IIconics win the tag belts one day, as they are probably the truest partnership in the entire women’s division, and they are steadily improving in the ring.

Image credit: twm.news

The Riott Squad as well deserve a shout, for those stellar crossbodies from the top of a pod and Liv Morgan’s big bump before her team’s elimination. I think their team name finally clicked for me in this match, in that these women are high-risk and chaotic in the ring, rarely showing fear in the face of stacked odds.

The right team won, with great storytelling to boot. Sasha and Bayley showed compassion for one another that is required for a believable tag team duo. I loved the parallelism of this year and last year’s Chamber, the latter of which saw Sasha infamously kick Bayley down when she was trying to meet Sasha at the top of a pod. Sasha, in the same position, helped her partner up the pod this year, showing some character growth for The Boss.

There is more that I could say, but I thought this match was booked well and made this new division look strong heading into WrestleMania.

The Bad

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RAW and Smackdown Live: I can’t recall too many bad things happening for women on weekly TV, but I suppose two booking decisions have irked me over the last several weeks. Head and shoulders above everything is what has been going on between Mandy Rose and Naomi. Where did this feud come from? It appeared on Smackdown one week out of thin air, and since then it’s just been a persistent part of each woman’s every move on TV. The most frustrating thing about it is that for the majority of the feud, Mandy has been coming out on top, even when it doesn’t make sense. With the exception of last night at Elimination Chamber, Mandy always gets the better of Naomi. And even when Naomi does one-up Mandy, such as at the Royal Rumble, Mandy almost immediately squashes Naomi’s momentum. I understand wanting to push someone, but there must be balance, so that we don’t effectively bury someone who is a former women’s champion in the process.

Another bothersome booking decision is how WWE decided to determine the teams in the tag title Chmaber match. While the women on RAW had to qualify, the Smackdown women were simply announced as entrants. This shows such sloppiness and exposes just how unbalanced each roster’s divisions are. They likely did this out of necessity, since there are far fewer women on Smackdown. But, I firmly believe that there should be some consistency and equity between the brands for logic’s sake. But, because everything worked out with the Chamber match, I am willing to forgive this.

Elimination Chamber: I’ll address my more serious concerns stemming from Elimination Chamber below, but the bad from last night was simply the booking for the RAW women’s title match. Poor Ruby Riott! Getting almost no offense in, Ruby Riott lost to Ronda Rousey in a squash lasting only a couple of minutes. I hate when WWE does this, making it apparent that certain wrestlers will only serve as non-playable characters within a main character’s story arc. It’s sad, and there’s just no other way to put it. Ruby Riott deserves some respect on her name. Perhaps she’ll get it when Ronda is out of the picture.

The Thorny
As I alluded to above, the segment that took place after Ruby’s squash to Ronda is what I’d like to discuss in this section. I won’t describe what happened here, because there isn’t much to detail, but if you have not seen it, I recommend watching that first before reading this. In short, I don’t think this angle did Becky any favors after last week’s RAW, and I’ll explain why.

Image credit: wrestlinginc.com

To start off, there is the technicality of Becky’s presence at the pay-per-view in the first place. How and why did Becky make it to the arena?! I discussed above that I did not have issues with Becky’s suspension by Mr. McMahon. Along with everything else, I felt this would be a great way to get fans to sympathize with Becky and most importantly, keep her off TV for a while. Doing this would have either tricked fans into believing that Becky was truly out of the main event, or make fans crave Becky’s presence the longer she was away. In both situations, fans would remain hot on Becky and she would keep her momentum.

However, why suspend Becky at all if she can just show up at TV tapings, live events, and pay-per-views with no problem? This combined with Mr. McMahon taking her out of the main event has me questioning the legitimacy of WWE’s kayfabe rules. What is the point of WWE canon if at any time authority figures and wrestlers alike can simply disregard it?

Why is there a Royal Rumble match if Mr. McMahon can simply show up one week and decide he doesn’t like the wrestler who earned their title opportunity, and take it away from them?

Why are wrestlers suspended if they clearly can violate their suspensions with impunity?

I have a problem with WWE bending their own rules to fit a storyline. It makes the product feel inauthentic. And I know that as wrestling fans we are regularly expected to suspend our disbelief to enjoy it. But how much disbelief can we suspend in order to find plausibility in a suspended Becky hobbling into a venue, through a crowd, and into a WWE ring without encountering any barriers to entry? It’s ridiculous!

Related to this logical fallacy is how the segment was addressed by WWE personnel, namely the announcers and security. On the one hand, you had Michael Cole and Corey Graves selling what Becky did as barbaric and even arrest-worthy, despite many male wrestlers (and even Charlotte!) doing far worse without such comments. Hell, we’ve had Brock Lesnar intentionally bust open Randy Orton without commentary scolding him the same way they did Becky.

But, at the same time, security somehow incompetently allowed Becky to make it into the ring to assault Charlotte and Ronda for minutes without interception. And then, once they arrived to intervene, they simply escorted Becky to the back.

To me, it seemed that in a weird way Becky’s gender limited the way this segment could be executed and sold. You had commentary berating Becky for her behavior like a rebellious schoolgirl, but you also had men being hesitant with handling or stopping Becky, almost as if they didn’t take her as a serious threat to people’s safety. In this way, there was unconscious bias at play, and it made the segment come off as forced in my opinion.

I believe that having Becky on TV throughout her suspension is the wrong choice, as it runs the risk of burning the fans out on her. But, if they are going to do it, WWE must be careful not to take shortcuts within their own canon to get from Point A to Point B. Becky is not too big to fall, and in WWE’s venture to make her the next Stone Cold, I hope they do not snuff out the magic that Rebecca Quin has created with her character.

***

I’ll be back again after Fastlane, hopefully with some new feuds to get excited about!

Stay legit bossy,
AC

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