By Haydn Gleed
Wow! The Women’s Money In The Bank match threw up some conversation starters and controversies, didn’t it? It was already going to be a memorable evening. It was supposed to be the next step in the evolution of women’s wrestling and women generally in WWE, but the finish resulted in backlash from some fans and analysts with accusations of sexism amongst other things. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read the blogs that Will Pruett and April Lavalle wrote prior to Smackdown, as they provided excellent presentations of why they feel the way they do about it.
My gut instinct at the time was that it was just a bad finish without WWE realizing the connotations that could be derived from it. It made logical sense for the James Ellsworth character to do this for Carmella based on the way he’s been written previously, and this was something else he wanted to give her. If WWE wanted to fully portray men as being more dominant than women, they would have had Ellsworth lay out all of the women around the ring and climb the ladder to prove that even a weasel of a man is better than any woman. But that’s not what happened, it was a character who wants the attention he’s getting from a woman out of his league to continue by giving her the ultimate gift. Ultimately, the only person James had contact with was Becky Lynch and that was only after a sneaky move by pushing over the ladder at the last minute. Don’t get me wrong, I still hated the finish as I hate any “hanging above the ring” type match that is won by a non-competitor (see my rants a few years ago about Velvet Sky taking the Feast or Fired briefcase for Robbie E in TNA). But a display of sexism? No.
I’m not for a minute saying that the opinions of Will, April or others are wrong. After all, anyone who doesn’t cast a critical eye over the way women have been treated in WWE are just naïve. I was a teenage boy during the mid to late ’90s and I remember some of the positions WWE put the women in and how they objectified them, so I wouldn’t put any prejudice or misogyny past them. I have so little faith in the track record of WWE when it comes to the ladies on their roster that I held off from writing my thoughts until after the follow up for fear that I may have misplaced faith in WWE on this occasion. After watching Smackdown, not only have they convinced me that they were not trying to hold back the ladies, but the finish of the match was ultimately a good thing.
Smackdown has always felt like the more progressive brand of the two main roster brands, and so it proved on Tuesday when the show was dominated by the storyline coming out of the PPV/Network Special. Not only was the storyline front and center, but the reactions of the characters to what had transpired for me empowered the women and showed anyone who doubted it that the ladies of WWE are true sports competitors. It proved that Ellsworth is nothing but a cowardly, weasely, heel and Carmella is nothing but a chancer. It showed that Charlotte and Becky Lynch are true athletes who feel the agony and pain of defeat especially in unfair circumstances. Without the controversial finish, would any of that not only happened but have been portrayed as effectively? No. After Smackdown, I felt each of the ladies came out looking better and stronger than they did going into the weekend thanks to the finish. I do concede that WWE could have booked Carmella to win the briefcase in some other sneaky fashion with or without a smaller amount of help from Ellsworth. However, I firmly believe that the finish was seen as a means to get to Smackdown without thinking what symbolism a man standing tall over women would mean.
Going into Money In the Bank, I was looking forward to the historic moment that women’s wrestling in WWE took another huge stride, but in all honesty I was looking forward to the men’s match more from a pure in-ring and storyline perspective. I found myself for the first hour or so of the show on Tuesday forgetting about the men’s match due to the writing and performances of the storyline and that’s the legacy I’m taking away from this. I fully agree with Will’s take that you can only get one shot at doing something for the first time and that the first time should be memorable. Although perhaps Charlotte or Becky winning the match would have been a more fitting finish to the match, after all the opinions and discussions over the last several days, I think it’s safe to declare the entire MITB scenario as memorable.
As always you can find me on twitter @haydngleed or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.