Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Guest Post: Dissecting the Divas

Last week on Kick-Out!! Radio, I mentioned a new idea coming to the site: guest columnists. WWE has their guest hosts, Kick-Out!! now has Guest Posts. Each week, I'll highlight a different columnist, blogger, fan, etc. to discuss a topic of their choosing, with the only restriction is that it (obviously) has to somehow relate to wrestling. I got a lot of submissions already (keep them coming!), but for the first week, I wanted to go a bit outside the box. Our first Guest Post comes from someone not inside the "internet wrestling community," but rather from more of a political realm. A big thanks to RosieRed23, who runs the thought-provoking Spare Candy blog, for being the first contributor to Guest Posts:

A little background is necessary here: I didn't use to watch WWE programs. Ever. I've had a vague knowledge of high-profile wrestlers in the past (Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, The Rock, Randy Savage, etc.) and that's about it. Then, a little over two years ago, I started dating someone who happens to be a big WWE fan. Happily, we're still together, and as a result, I've been watching WWE for most of two years now. (I am an excellent girlfriend.)

Since I've been watching WWE, it's had its ups and downs, but overall it is pretty entertaining. I don't watch all four shows every week, but I do usually see at least two of them (Raw and Smackdown). One thing that has disappointed me nearly ever week since I've been watching, however, is the WWE Divas.

The biggest disappointment is the lack of talent. Yes, there are a few Divas who actually can wrestle -- Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Natalya, perhaps Gail Kim -- and it's my understanding there have been others in the past who could as well. But if you compare the Divas division to the men in WWE, the overall drop in wrestling talent is severe. We all know there are women out there who can wrestle, WWE-style, but for some reason* those women aren't in WWE. Instead we get a few with talent, and some who have potential to be decent, and others who, so far, are just painful and/or boring to watch. When you put a good Diva in the ring with one who isn't, it's obvious, and dangerous.

If Divas matches are known as "bathroom breaks" at live tapings, that's a problem. If we are fast-forwarding through half the Divas' matches, that's a problem. On last Friday's Smackdown, there wasn't any Divas match -- we saw Eve and Natalya for a minute, ringside, and that was it. No Divas match, and I doubt anyone really cared. The match between Mickie James and Rosa Mendes on Raw this past Monday was awful. There's room in WWE for a good, exciting women's division, but what WWE is presenting right now isn't it.

I almost hate to do it, but I have to talk about their looks. There's nothing wrong with how the Divas look, per se, but it is a lot of saline/silicone, hair extensions, fake eyelashes and push-up bras to take in at once. And by "a lot," I mean nearly every single Diva is sporting multiple "fake" or "enhanced" parts. So much so that I have wondered, out loud, how much of that is the Divas' choices, and how much is "encouraged," because it sure is a big coincidence.

Let's be honest, most of them look fake -- and how can they not, with all that going on? Their outfits leave very little to the imagination, and I think when you put it all together, it can be hard to take them seriously, even if you try. I have a hard time looking past all this stuff when they're wrestling to even notice if the match is any good -- and I'm a woman. No doubt many men see them as eye-candy and nothing more, and while I don't think that's right, I can hardly blame those men at this point. That's how the Divas are usually presented: not as serious wrestlers, but as serious eye candy. Thin, long hair, big boobs, lots of makeup, scraps of clothes, who sometimes wrestle each other. In the recent past, they have literally been reduced to being bikini models and Santa's "helpers" on the show. (And worse, I'm sure, but again, I've only been watching for two years.) They have "relationships" with the male wrestlers that get more air time than their matches do. The ringside announcers (all men) constantly talk about their looks and about how they "want" the Divas. WWE's Web site is full of photo galleries of the Divas posing in bathing suits or other tiny clothes. There's a new gallery daily, in fact. The emphasis on their looks far outweighs any emphasis on their talent, with perhaps Beth Phoenix being the exception. Beth Phoenix, however, is the only Diva who has what I would call serious muscles, so she probably falls outside "the look."

*Is this the reason we don't see more talented women in WWE? They don't have "the look"? My guess is yes, that's exactly why. And that's a shame. Hasn't the novelty of the current Divas' look worn off enough by now that WWE can bring in women whose talent trumps their looks? I'm not saying every Diva has to be an ugly ass-kicking bitch ... but wouldn't it be more fun if one or two more were at least able to kick some ass? It's hard to watch women who are so thin wrestle and not think "Um, hello, I could beat her."

I'm also having a hard time coming up with any Diva whose on-air personality isn't presented as ditzy or bitchy, sometimes both. There's nothing of substance presented in their personalities, despite the "smart, sexy and powerful" tagline that is used to describe them. Smart? Where? And why aren't any of them smart? Their feuds are often reduced to fighting over guys, if they have any feud storyline at all. Why?

There's this line that WWE seems to be walking with the Divas these days -- they have to be pretty, and they have to wrestle. In that order. It's time to either raise the bar, or drop the division. Either get to the point where most of the women aren't just watchable, but actually good, or have the women actually be "just" eye candy. This current incarnation of the division isn't working. WWE, after all, is about wrestling and entertainment. The Divas' looks might "entertain" some people for some amount of time, but after that ... what?



Read more from RosieRed23 here: Spare Candy


If you'd like to be a part of Guest Posts, please e-mail razor@kickoutwrestling.com with the topic you'd like to discuss and a link to a writing sample.

6 comments:

  1. Completely agree, but...

    Sex sells, Sex sells, Sex sells.

    Vince has known this for ages and even though the product has toned down the "raunchiness" of the women's division (you can still make a point about that today, but not as much as it use to be in the past), however STILL like Rosie said "Their outfits leave very little to the imagination."

    It's all about the $$. I don't see it changing any time if ever in the WWE. Yes the Beth Phoenix's and Natalya's can flat-out wrestle, but WWE will always be known as a "Eye candy first Women's business".

    If you want great women's wrestling, just check out SHIMMER. I just don't see it happening anytime soon in WWE.

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  2. It's a perfectly acceptable point that's been brought up many times before, but it's not like it's JUST the Diva's that have to be attractive, out of the ordinary, girls you wouldn't normally see walking around.

    The entire WWE is built around this, where every performer on the roster is someone you wouldn't really see just walking around. In recent years we've had some more down to earth looking guys (Edge, Punk, Christian) but if you look at the majority of the roster, past and present, you've got guys like Big Zeik, Hogan, Undertaker, Batista, Triple H, all with these larger than life looks that separate them from the rest of the world, which is what the WWE wants.

    I mean let's face it, if you can wrestle but you don't have a good look, no one's going to be interested unless you're working ROH or some independent company. When it comes down to it, WWE programming is just that, television programming, and unless you're a fan of reality show's, you're not watching for something you can see every day.

    I'd love to see more competitive diva's, and I think TNA (of all companies...) has proven that you can have a division filled with attractive women that can wrestle well, but the problem is... there's just not that many of them.

    I'd imagine that's why WWE has a tendancy to take in these models with dancing and athletic backgrounds, because they can be taught how to wrestle and with ability and looks, they'll get over. But I can tell you now, just like if a run of the mill, average looking guy who could wrestle well came onto WWE TV, any woman that doesn't look like a model isn't going to get over just because they can wrestle.

    Part of it I think comes from the fact that this is how WWE's always been, larger than life characters fighting one another. But there's also the fact that, well, it just plain wouldn't be that interesting to watch normal people throw one another around the ring.

    I think the best solution is to work a lot more on TRAINING these women that they pick up to become better wrestlers. I think it would've been wise to keep Victoria or another veteran diva on the staff and have her head up a Diva Training Division of some kind, so that these girls have someone to work with them to teach them how to get over and work a crowd etc.

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  3. It's a vicious circle with the WWE Divas. The writers give them no real wrestle time, don't build feuds/storylines and skip over them at most PPVs. The fans, in turn, have no interest beyond the 'eye candy' factor. The fans aren't interested, so WWE gives the women no time.... and round we go again.

    There isn't even any merchandise for the Divas beyond sexy photos and posters. I would like to see little girls wearing Diva t-shirts in the crowd, but there are no real characters for them to latch on to, so merchandise probably wouldn't sell.

    Much as I cringe watching TNA, at least they allow their female roster to develop personalities and don't require that all their ladies pop out of a generic mould. I don't have a problem with good looking people wrestling. Far from it. But they at least deserve some clever storylines.

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  4. Jake, are the women actually bringing in $$? Maybe they are, but I don't see how. Web site visits, posters ... and ? I have no idea. Also, perhaps "sex sells," but this isn't "sex." It's wrestling. And women's bodies aren't "sex." They're women's bodies. A Diva isn't "sex." Maybe "women's bodies" sell, but in this case I don't see any evidence that Divas alone bring people into WWE. I'm open to hearing otherwise, however.

    TKz, I understand that the men in WWE generally have to be some sort of "freak of nature." Big muscles, tall, extremely athletic, etc. But they do not HAVE to be attractive to be in WWE. And there are still a number of fairly normal-looking guys: CM Punk, Matt Hardy, Ted DiBiase, etc., don't really fall into the "freak of nature" category. Nor do all male wrestlers have to be thin. The current Divas roster looks like every single "women in bikinis" calendar ever made. It's a joke when WWE pretends some of these women can beat someone like Beth Phoenix.

    "But I can tell you now, just like if a run of the mill, average looking guy who could wrestle well came onto WWE TV, any woman that doesn't look like a model isn't going to get over just because they can wrestle."

    You mean like CM Punk? He's totally average looking and can wrestle well. How do you know a woman who doesn't look like a model can't get over? Are there really no WWE fans who can put wrestling talent over looks? I refuse to believe all fans are that shallow.

    Completely agree though about the training. Some of these women are so far behind their competition that it's downright ugly. Way too many mistakes getting on air.

    Ray, great point with the vicious circle. And I almost brought up little girls and looking up to Divas in my post, I definitely agree with that point.

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  5. It's interesting that you mention this, because during Monday's Token Women's Match (a contest so forgettable that I actually had to look at who was involved), I started thinking more and more about the division. While I disagree with your assessment that the feuds are mostly about the guys (although that's the case on Smackdown right now for sure), there's a curious dichotomy going on in WWE right now.

    This has been a year that, by and large, has seen WWE take a number of interesting risks, whether it be giving breaks to non-traditional WWE wrestlers like Yoshi Tatsu, weaving in real-life issues and personas with Jeff Hardy, or programming lower-card talent like Miz with top draws like Cena. The WWE product right now is very different than the Innernetz would like one to believe it is.

    In spite of all that... WWE seems absolutely incapable of taking risks with women's wrestling.

    I'll use Raw as the example, because I... I just can't watch that /thing/ on Smackdown, which is barely even a division. Right now, Raw's top program is Mickie James vs. Alicia Fox. No real reason has been given for this feud. We as fans have no reason to dislike Alicia Fox other than the fact that she's teamed with heels like Beth Phoenix and Rosa Mendes (And... why is Rosa Mendes even a heel? She's not devilish, and she's barely a rulebreaker. She looks so HAPPY all the time, and in a warm and lovable sort of way.). We're supposed to want to boo her because she's opposite Mickie James, the top lady do-gooder in WWE right now. The entire thrust of the angle has been Fox winning one match to earn a shot at the degrading-looking title, followed by a whole lot of evil starin' goin' on.

    Compare this to Raw's other top feuds. Compare it to Jericho and Show vs. MVP and Henry, which has been built with promos and clashes of personalities. Compare it to the US Title feud, which has involved title theft, double-crosses, heels backstabbing heels, and a noble babyface caught in the middle. Compare it to Legacy vs. DX, which is about pride and respect between the stars of yesterday and tomorrow. Compare it to Orton vs. Cena, which is by all accounts a clash of icons with plenty of thoughtful segments (the ending to Monday's show) to build tension to a fever pitch.

    Fox vs. James has been built largely on the premise that Fox is the only heel on Raw who hasn't yet fought for the belt... besides Rosa Mendes, who isn't ready for the position but will likely be the next opponent for James by default anyway.

    To me, it isn't even about silicone and skimpy costumes. WWE is going to load the division up with cheesecake as it is. But I for one would like a thick juicy steak with that cheesecake, and it's just not there. WWE has given me no reason to care about either of its women's divisions. It isn't because of an emphasis on T&A; it's because of an emphasis on nothing. Instead of being treated like a viable division (which TNA has done masterfully in the past), WWE treats its women like a sideshow attraction. It's irritating as hell, frankly.

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  6. TNA has shown that it's not that hard to have a real women's division: they took a bunch of unknowns and the first diva search winner and created a division that consistently had higher ratings than any other part of the show. They had varied, defined characters (well, except Roxxi who was a generic babyface with a voodoo name), and gave enough TV time for them to cut promos and develop things outside of the ring.

    But WWE uses the women's division as midcard filler: maybe 5 minutes of the total show, no angles, no storyline, just some new combination of divas fighting. Also where is the love for Melina? While it's weird to see her as a babyface she is hugely underrated in the ring and has a commitment to everything she does that a lot of guys on the roster don't have. Her PPV match with McCool was way better than it had any right to be. But the only reason the divas are on TV is you can have basically no storylines and still draw higher TV ratings than just throwing on some superstar and a jobber (which is why that is saved for ECW).

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