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By Will Pruett
There were 51 ladder matches in WWE prior to Money in the Bank 2017. There have been 19 TLC matches. There have been a total of 70 matches where a ladder is climbed to retrieve an object in WWE history prior to Sunday. All of these matches involved men as participants. Never has a non-participant in any of these matches climbed the ladder and retrieved the object.
Last night in the first ever ladder match in WWE history to involve women as participants, WWE had a man climb the ladder and retrieve the Money in the Bank briefcase. This has happened 0 out of 70 times in men’s ladder matches. This has happened in 100% of the women’s ladder matches in WWE.
If you can’t see how this is some sexist bullshit, I’m not sure what to tell you. If you can’t see how this completely invalidates the entire idea of the ladder match (one of WWE’s most compelling special matches), I’m not sure how to convince you. WWE dealt damage to their company, their ongoing “women’s revolution,” and my personal affection for them last night.
Let’s start at the beginning. WWE was telling us all about how women were about to make history. We were seeing the gradual movement of WWE towards equality take another massive step with women being in one of the more dangerous and exciting matches. I was excited. I was telling friends about it. I love when these big moments happen and the wrestling world that I saw promote inequality for decades gets a little more equal.
The video package before the match played and in a couple moments, I felt the emotion of it. Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Tamina, Carmella, and Natalya all seemed ready. This was exciting. My wife, who long ago gave up on watching WWE with me (because it’s bad and long) was even excited for it.
The match seems to be getting into gear when James Ellsworth climbs into the ring. He tried to ascend the ladder, but I assume it’s just to take a huge fall from it. He doesn’t.
WWE, a company overly consumed with optics and how it’s perceived at every turn, allows the “history making first ever women’s Money in the Bank match” to be won by a man. A man climbs the ladder while the women around him can do nothing but look shocked and disappointed.
There will never be another first women’s ladder match in WWE. There will never be another first Money in the Bank match for these women. There will never be the final moment of a first women’s ladder match with the eventual winner struggling to get to the briefcase and finally making it. We will never share in the true thrill this match should have provided.
Is it worth losing these epic moments to get James Ellsworth over? Is a low-rent character like Ellsworth really worth this logic-violating effort?
Now, before you tell me to wait until Tuesday night to be mad about this, know that they could have the best f—ing ladder match in history in the main event on Smackdown and I’d still be mad about this. Before someone tries to explain that WWE is telling a story, please know I would have no issues with Carmella having won this match with help from Ellsworth. She could have been on his shoulders in a fun callback to Rhyno helping Edge and Christian. This isn’t a situation where anything gets better through a wait and see approach.
The evidence from WWE suggests to me that they would have never pitched this finish for a men’s ladder match. They’ve had 70 opportunities to do so and it has never happened. If this had been the 15th women’s ladder match in WWE history, it might have been acceptable (but still quite dumb and infuriatingly illogical). It wasn’t. It was the first.
To call this anything but a sexist and tone deaf storytelling decision from WWE would be a mistake. WWE has shown an institutional bend towards sexism for as long as the company has existed and, despite using feminism (a word too dangerous for WWE, so they say “Divas Revolution,” “Women’s Revolution,” and now “Women’s Evolution” to soften the impact) as a marketing device.
This was a bad storytelling decision. This was a bad public relations decision. This was a bad wrestling decision. There is no excuse for the horrid ending to the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank match and WWE should publicly apologize for it.
Will Pruett writes about wrestling and popular culture at prowrestling.net. Of interest to him are diversity in wrestling and wrestling as a theatrical art form. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.