By Bayani Domingo, Associate Editor
There’s probably a very small cross section of wrestling fans who bothered watching the Golden Globes last week. It’s hard to imagine that there is a large percentage of people caught in the middle of that Venn diagram. But there is a large percentage of fans who are on social media, if that’s the case you couldn’t have helped but seen #timesup trending across the interwebs. It’s a movement which has sprouted out of the #metoo movement and the overall reawakening of feminism that has called for the end of workplace sexual harassment, assault, or abuse.
Say what you will about the “Libtards”, “Femi-Nazis”, and “Hollywood Elites” behind this movement, it’s relevant, and it’s valid. But what took me by surprise is when I decided it would be a great topic for a column about its roots and relevancy to the wrestling industry today and the big bad company that has sensationalized and promoted this kind of behavior in the past. Yes, Vincent K McMahon has built an entire empire on sex, violence, and pushing the PG-13 as far to R as could possibly be shown on cable television, but if you look at today’s product, you’ll notice a very different portrayal of women in the workplace. I know, I’m just as surprised as you are.
There was a time in the annuls of WWF when work place harassment, violence, assault and abuse was a regular part of storylines. From the Miss Elizabeth being used as a constant plot device to spur Randy Savage feuds, to Stephanie McMahon being kidnapped, Lita being “Knocked up” by Kane, only to suffer a “miscarriage” due to Snitsky, multiple women being put through tables by the Dudley Boyz, etc., etc., etc. This isn’t even mentioning the loads of storylines where Vince himself was supposedly cheating on his wife, or banging various women on the roster. The program involving Trish Stratus and Vince was just cringeworthy on many levels. Women were more tools to further stories and angles than treated like actual wrestlers and the WWF consistently normalized harassment, abuse, and assault of them to a degree that it was overly gratuitous. Then…they got the “F Out” and the era of PG came to pass. Since then it’s been like night and day.
I was racking my brain trying to find recent instances of storylines where women were being portrayed as victims of violence or sexual harassment. Perhaps the most current example would be James Ellsworth interfering in Carmella’s matches, resulting in some physicality with women wrestlers, or the short lived intergender match angle he ran, but that’s fairly mild and it was the women that would constantly dominate him. There has been the occasional bump that a woman has taken in a match that their men or stable mates were involved in like Alicia Fox or Dana Brook, but for the most part they’ve kept the women and men apart. Not only has this made female wrestlers more viable as performers and not simply “eye candy”, but it’s limited the number of ridiculous angles involving “romantic pursuits” they have become a lazy booking tool. Two birds, one stone, no abuse.
Ironically, the company that has done the most to make women look like equals to men in the ring ran one of the more egregious angles last year. Lucha Underground has routinely booked intergender matches and has had women go over men on a not too infrequent basis, just look as the success of Sexy Star as a past champion. Violence against women were generally in the ring during a match so you could easily look past that. However, the angle between Marty “The Moth” and Melissa Santos was all kinds of uncomfortable. It involved an employee of the company, not a wrestler, being stalked, harassed, and assaulted by a wrestler both inside the ring and backstage, with management doing absolutely nothing to stop it. Kind of a cheap way to work a titillating escalation of the situation into a feud. Something you’d expect to see from the old WWF.
I wrote this column this week because I’d like to give credit where credit is due. Even though there are real life cases of possible sexual assault or harassment, like in the situation involving Michael Elgin allegedly turning a blind eye to his former student’s misconduct, there is a sense that the industry is changing. There are new women’s titles being born in Indy companies around the country, the term “Diva” has been stricken from the vocabulary, and women in general are being hired and pushed based more on their skills than their Barbie Doll appearances, although, don’t get me wrong, they’ll always be a place for them in wrestling. I never thought I’d see the day when good ol’ fashion wrasslin’ lead the way in terms of their portrayal and treatment of females, surpassing the bleeding heart liberal Hollywood elite. It’s crazy, I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried, right….oh wait.
- Bill Goldberg is being inducted into the 2018 WWE Hall of Fame. Not to be outdone, Gillberg is being inducted into the “Wing Dome 2018 Wall of Fame” for eating 12 Wings O’ Fire in under 30 mins.
- Seems like rumors of Paige’s retirement are true. After taking an errant kick from Sasha Banks during a match that Paige may not have been prepared for, she will not be cleared by WWE doctors to wrestle again. This is indeed a sad and tragic end to a young and promising career for Paige, and it is TOO soon to go making jokes at her expense.
- Okay, now that some time has passed…the injury occurred when Paige took an unfortunate Mule Kick to her upper back. Paige said that had it landed on her lower back she would’ve been fine since she’s using to things landing all over her lower back anyways.
- Paige is now officially done as an in-ring performer, she is hoping she can still represent the company as either an on-air personality, manager, trainer, or as a social media and on-line ambassador like WWE.com, Twitter, or Brazzers.
- And for anyone who is going to get all BUTT HURT over these jokes, don’t. In fact, take a cue from Paige herself…she’d NEVER be butt hurt…I mean, what was the point of all that practice and lube anyways, amiright?
- Mark Henry is also retiring from the WWE. Henry has said will not be bored in retirement and has a ton of things to look forward to like spending time with his family, continuing to be an ambassador for the WWE brand, and diabetes.
Henry already has his next gig lined up, endorsing Denny’s new “World Strongest Grand Slam Breakfast”, the meal includes 2 stacks of hot cakes, 6 stripes of bacon, 6 sausage links, 8 eggs, and a beach towel to wipe your brow between bites.
- John Cena recently responded on-line to a question about whether he would want to join Bullet Club if extended an offer. Cena was sheepish about potentially joining the group. I myself, can’t imagine seeing any “Cena Club” shirts: Hustle, Loyalty, Not bringing great shame upon your ancestors.
- Meanwhile another Bullet Club split has been teased when Kenny Omega defended former tag partner, Kota Ibushi, against an attack post-match from Cody Rhodes. An on-line poll was launched asking fans regarding Bullet Club “Who’s the Boss?”: 57% said Omega, 34% said Cody, 3% said Tony Micelli, and only 5% correctly said Angela Bower. There was, however, a strong Mona write-in effort.
- The E is potentially turning Daniel Bryan Heel to suppress his marketability on the Indy scene if he doesn’t re-up with the company when his contract expires. Because…Indy fans only want to see wrestlers who were Faces in the E? That makes about as much sense as “swiping left” on a chick because she wrote “DT-EFF” on her profile and you think it’s a waste of characters.
- It looks like NJPW is doing a short tour in Australia this year. I hope they don’t try any Battle Royals while they are there. I just assume every time you try to throw a wrestler out of the ring…they just come right back in. Bullet Club will also be selling a special Bad Luck Fale “Down Under Boss” t-shirt for the tour.
- Chris Jericho vs Tetsuya Naito looks to be the next big program involving the WWE vet. For those unfamiliar with Naito, it should be a real…eye opener.
- Eddie Edwards apparently suffered a serious injury at the IMPACT Tapings. Edwards was reportedly busted open “the hard way” on accident and was taken to the hospital. Shoot, if they’re shooting all their shows in Canada, I’d expect IMPACT to take even more risks with their works since there is free health care there, so no big deal, right? “Flaming Barb Wired Tampon on a Pole Match? Well looks like the Knockouts championship match just got taken UP a notch”.
- AJ Styles has been named the PWI Wrestler of the Year for the 2nd year in a row. Just NARROWLY beating out Mojo Rawley by…..ALL the votes.
- Lio Rush is teasing a split from NXT on Twitter, possibly ending a run in NXT so short and underwhelming that it could possibly be Dana Brook.
- Jason Jordan has been nursing an injury on house shows and hasn’t competed alongside Rollins and Reigns. The E didn’t tell the audience they had cut Jordan out of the match, they referred to it as bisecting him. #mathjokes
- IMPACT wrestling is going back to a 4-sided ring from a 6-sided ring after their move to Canada. Boy…that exchange rate really HAS turned itself on its head.
- Samoa Joe has a foot injury and will be sidelined indefinitely with no timetable for return. I assume the foot injury means that when Joe returns he will experience a Face Turn, because for the time being he can no longer work heel.