Rob Bonnette digs into the shift how WWE is presenting the women’s division over the past 12 months. Spoiler: it ain’t pretty.
(Editor’s note: Ember Moon, pictured above, to illustrate a female talent not being utilized by WWE since her call-up to the main roster.)
Women’s wrestling was all the rage in WWE last year, but in 2019 it’s really taken a step back and that isn’t cool. It started after the Royal Rumble, when then-Smackdown Women’s Champion Asuka totally vanished off of TV for several weeks after beating Becky Lynch on the first pay per view of the year. Then the rest of the Smackdown division got mostly pushed aside while Becky and Charlotte started working both shows to hype up their match at WrestleMania with Ronda Rousey.
There was a bit of a bump at Elimination Chamber when they did the Chamber match for the Women’s Tag Team Titles, and Asuka showed back up on TV to gear up for a match at Fastlane with Mandy Rose. But that program fizzled out pretty quickly as Mandy didn’t do so great in the Fastlane title match (I’m being generous here; I don’t think she sucks but she clearly wasn’t ready for prime time at that moment). And then came Black Tuesday, two weeks before WrestleMania. That’s when Vince made the decision for Asuka to lose the Smackdown Title to Charlotte and essentially cancel the whole division’s WrestleMania spot just to put both Women’s singles titles up for grabs in the main event, which was in my opinion a lousy decision.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. Since WrestleMania it’s been pretty common to have only one women’s match on both Raw and Smackdown, and some weeks there aren’t even that. The Women’s Tag Team Titles haven’t been defended on pay per view since WrestleMania and as of this writing may not be defended at SummerSlam either (it’s presumed to be added but hasn’t been announced yet). And there are several women who have been either relegated to WWE Main Event like Dana Brooke and Sarah Logan or just left off TV entirely like Liv Morgan.
For the year as of this writing there are 26 WWE wrestlers that have 20 or more televised matches (h/t to @ChrisMNovak for some kick ass statistics work), and only three of them are women – Becky, Bayley, and Nikki Cross. Now to be fair Carmella has 19 while Peyton Royce and Rose have 18; had Asuka kept the Smackdown Title through WrestleMania there’s a good chance Mella and Mandy would be over 20 and had things not gone awry with the post Mania plans for the Women’s Tag Titles Peyton would probably be over 20 as well, but still that’s 6 women at or around 20 televised matches. That’s not enough, ok?
There are way too many talented women on the roster, even with Ronda and Sasha Banks gone after Mania, several people out with injuries for stretches (Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Ruby Riott, and Ember Moon), and Charlotte off of TV for almost two months, to have that little representation in televised matches. Why is Naomi kept on ice so much? Or Sonya Deville? Or Asuka or Kairi Sane or Morgan or the Iconics? Now I know you can’t get everyone onto TV every week, but surely we could have done without Shane McMahon segments on both shows just like we didn’t need Charlotte and Becky on Raw and Smackdown every week heading into WrestleMania. When there’s a redundancy in one week something can be cut to give more women more space, be it on Raw or Smackdown.
But Rob, weren’t people complaining about all those six woman matches before?
Yes. In 2017, six woman tags on Smackdown happened so much they became a cliche, and the same took place on Raw in 2018. And while it was a joke having the same combinations of women in often meaningless tag matches against each other it at least got them on TV every week. Now with larger women’s rosters on both shows you can do the tag or 6 woman tags and actually swap people in and out. Or you can have….wait for it….a non title feud, something that was done on Smackdown right after the 2016 brand split. There’s some stuff that can be cut back, especially on a three hour Raw broadcast every week, to make room. So do it already!
Now you know I can’t end without tasking us fans with something. Namely, you gotta support the stuff that we do get. The default position of every wrestling company from WWE to AEW to ROH is that there just isn’t any big money in women’s wrestling on it’s own, that it’s a supplement to the men’s side or a component of the show but not the main piece. Impact has been the exception and has put women’s wrestling in a much more prominent and respectful position for a long time, but unfortunately they’ve never been rewarded by fans for it. So if you want the other wrestling companies to get a different message, then you have to send that message.
You gotta watch the matches that are made available be they on Raw, Smackdown, or Main Event. If you watch the YouTube clips of stuff later in the week in addition to TV then make sure you watch the clips of the women’s matches. If you buy any merchandise buy some of the women’s stuff, too. In reality there’s no reason that you can’t have cards with more women’s matches than men’s matches if that side of the roster is stronger, which was definitely the case late last year. But in order for that to happen we need to put some actual money and attention behind our words.
There is a brief sign of hope, at least for the coming week. We’re getting three women’s matches at SummerSlam, and two women’s matches at Takeover Toronto for the first time in what feels like forever. The women had a really long showcase on Raw. That’s worthy of talking up and we need to make sure they hear us this time. Talk this stuff up, support it, and show support for the women involved. And don’t let them fall back into old habits afterwards, because the ladies deserve better.