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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 email@example.com.
I think this was the reaction WWE was going for. Carmella was not over as a heel and they hoped having her “man”ager ruin the historic match would get her there. I don’t think it was the right move, they could of tweaked it where she hurt her leg and barked at him to go get it for her. That way the heat is on her where as the way it was done the heat is on him.
“While Ellsworth might makes sense from a storyline perspective, it simply kills off the very idea of what they advertised. A history-making match! And another milestone for the women no less. That is wasn’t. If anything, it resides comfortably in Santina Marella-territory, where a comedy guy was put over 25 women all at once. I was quite hesitant to buy into the hype about this match, simply because I have lost my passion to a certain degree, especially after Bayleys horrendous treatment. But this? As a female viewer, I feel offended. And believe me, I have accepted poor match endings for storyline reasons way too often. But in this case, it was the wrong moment to do it. It sends a message, that is not very encouraging. So after 24 years watching, starting at the age of 10, why bother anymore?”
Go cry about snowflake.
Trolls who can’t even troll in complete sentences are Vince’s target audience.
Thank you for this well-written comment 😉 You really gave it much thought, huh? 😉
While Ellsworth might makes sense from a storyline perspective, it simply kills off the very idea of what they advertised. A history-making match! And another milestone for the women no less. That is wasn’t. If anything, it resides comfortably in Santina Marella-territory, where a comedy guy was put over 25 women all at once. I was quite hesitant to buy into the hype about this match, simply because I have lost my passion to a certain degree, especially after Bayleys horrendous treatment. But this? As a female viewer, I feel offended. And believe me, I have accepted poor match endings for storyline reasons way too often. But in this case, it was the wrong moment to do it. It sends a message, that is not very encouraging. So after 24 years watching, starting at the age of 10, why bother anymore?
I have to agree with these comments. I am convinced this booking move was not meant to sexist but my sympathies with those who thought otherwise- the symbolism of a man retrieving the briefcase in the 1st women’s ladder match is too strong to ignore. It made perfect story line sense for Ellsworth to help Carmella win, but there were plenty of ways to do that and they chose the worst one. In fact that move was not just tone deaf, it also put heat in the wrong place- Ellsworth instead of Carmella. If the goal was to get people to talk about this on social media, they succeeded I suppose. On a side note, WWE’s preoccupation with ‘making history’ is not merely annoying but it is clear they don’t care about it beyond relying on it as a marketing gimmick. That’s why each and every PPV is advertised as changing history. Just doesn’t work.
I think playing the sexist card is stupid honestly. Get back to me when they have a few more and they all end in the same manner. Until then, this was how they went for controversy and heat. Some people may turn away out of disgust. But there will be some who will tune in to see what’s next. Besides, WWE said they would have a historic match. They did that. The ending was absolutely horrible.
I am in no way defending the decision. I was afraid they (WWE) would go this route. I had hoped they wouldn’t because it’s just a dumb story to tell in my mind. So yes, it is stupid. I’m just not sure it’s sexist. Not as much as you would make it out to be.
I like a lot of what you have to say, Mr. Pruett. I respect your opinions. However, rather than discounting the effort of the women in the match and focusing on what WWE got wrong, why not be pleased that progress was indeed made. True success is forged in the fire of failures.
Was that booking decision the decision of a sexist guy? I don’t know tbh. And as many say, Ellsworth interfering was to expect anyway. Why don’t send him flying as many suspected? A little fun on a show dominated by heels most of the time? And again, promoting this match the way they did(almost any woman on the WWE roster touted her opinion about it), that ending didn’t do it justice. Even if it leads to stuff on TV, that won’t make it worthwile for me since the women, despite their effort, got shoved aside for a comedy sidekick. Just imagine the visual of one of those 5 women, grabbing the briefcase, struggling to get it(like Corbin did anyway ;)) before finally hoisting it up in the air. Your typical “moment” that they love so much. But no. And ask yourself this: Would they EVER allow a manager, a woman no less, to actually grab the briefcase in a MITB-match involving the guys? Sexist, careless or whatever motivation was behind it, to me it was just a deflating, weak finish. Those women deserved better.
I agree that they ruined the “moment”. I hate that. I just don’t believe the idea was sexist. I’ve been encouraged by what WWE has been doing with their women. But this was a step back. Not because it was sexist. It was just stupid. I don’t believe an apology would really make anyone feel better. The best solution now, is to live and learn. And maybe have a rematch on TV. With a legitimate winner this time. There is absolutely no debating the finish. It was a total letdown. And the moment I saw it, I was angry. It wasn’t the finish we deserved as paying customers. It certainly wasn’t what the women in the ring worked for.
“Would they EVER allow a manager, a woman no less, to actually grab the briefcase in a MITB-match involving the guys?”
I could absolutely see Maryse grabbing the briefcase for Miz. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise.
Its so pathetic that this site has a couple of guys who insist on being self-righteous and politically correct. Its WRESTLING. Not “real life”. Jesus. Get off your liberal high hors and remind yourself of that. Or, maybe in the future the WWE can have “safe zones” in the arena’s for powderpuffs like his guy.
Thank you. Just go look at Pruitt’s Twitter profile pic. It’s like his whole life is devoted to being the most stereotypical SJW douchebag possible.
I totally agree with your piece here. Well written and you’re right – no matter what we get next, they blew it here and they can’t rewrite it. If I was one of the ladies on the roster, I’d be pissed.
Remember when Lita and Rhyno and Spike Dudley all tried to help their teams win the ladder match at Wrestlemania? Or when Matt Hardy returned to attack Edge? I realize that not all of them were Money in the Bank…but one of those was for the titles, something even more important then a briefcase! I am actually surprised they haven’t done this before or had someone not even in the match come out and grab the briefcase and leave ending the PPV with everyone wondering can he do that?
This was a HEEL MANAGER helping their HEEL CLIENT win a match, it’s not the first and it’s not the last.
I’m not gonna call anyone stupid for voicing their opinion but saying this ruined the match because it was the first ever Women’s MITB match is about as asinine as saying WWE ruined the first ever Hell in A Cell match when Kane interfered and allowed HBK to cheat to win.
Seriously, people claim WWE doesn’t do anything to put real heat on heels anymore and when they finally do something people bitch and moan because “it’s not fair” How about it’s pro wrestling and this was a great time to get Carmella and Ellsworth over as heels, WWE wanted them to get over, they have, and so mission accomplished. Just because it was the first ever match doesn’t mean WWE should have to pass up an opportunity to get a heel over because someone’s feelings might get hurt.
Not that this makes what happened better, but I remember in one of the smackdown vs raw video games having a storyline where your manager was Trish Stratus and she climbed the ladder to win the world title. So it’s not like wwe had never thought of this type of storyline before, but it is disappointing to see it done in this manner.
To call this sexist is cheap, lazy, stupid, and wrong. Just like the finish of the match.
Sorry Powell, but I’m done reading your site until this ignorant POS “writer” is gone.
Not a word from you about WWE pretty much erasing AJ Lee from history after she called out Stephanie McMahon for the company’s bullshit treatment of women. In fact you criticized her after she announced her retirement. Nice selective outrage.
“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.”
Publicly apologize? You are REALLY overreacting here. It’s wrestling, for God’s sake. Chill out.
I completely agree with the piece’s thesis. I think the best way to understand how problematic the finish to the MITB match and the subsequent follow up on Tuesday is why the WWE thinks that a great way to obtain heat for a character is through exploiting symbols of sexism, even though this isn’t a great way to garner heat. Just look at Jinder Mahal’s title reign. As it has been mentioned on this site, WWE is using typical foreigner heel to exploit underlying racist and xenophobic thoughts from it’s fanbase. However this doesn’t make Jinder a compelling villain it makes him flat. Just cause there is an easy way to gain heat for a character, doesn’t mean a company should go down that route. Obviously , the state of women’s wrestling has markedly improved form where it’s been in the past, but flaws are still apparent that have roots in sexism. You hardly ever see the male competitors bicker and scream and talk over each other. Yet every week on Smackdown we see the female superstars do just that as if WWE still believes in the nagging woman stereotype. I couldn’t help but think of that stereotype this past tuesday, as the women in various segments plead with Daniel Bryan to reverse the decision of the match. Women begging a male authority figure to reverse a terrible outcome of a women’s only match caused by a man. The bottom line is Wrestling promotions shouldn’t feel compelled to use racism and sexism as the base of their angles feuds operating under an ends justify the means basis. Sure we’re all excited about the Rematch next week, but what indication do the fans or the female wrestlers as well have that these angles won’t be exploited again in the future. Sunday conjured up bad memories of the WM25 Ms. WM battle royal where a match dedicated to women was overshadowed by a man, and just like that angle is remembered for being trash, i’m worried history may have repeated itself. For those who have a hard time understanding what sexism looks like, it’s simple: if the male wrestlers were to do what the female wrestlers did and it would confuse or frustrate you because the angle would not make sense, then that’s what it looks like.