By Will Pruett
There are a ton of feelings to parse through after quite a long few days in professional wrestling. We’re going to stay on-brand for me and keep talking about the Women’s Money in the Bank match and Smackdown’s dealing with the fallout from it. To do so, I need to divide my thoughts into categories.
- Carmella absolutely killed it in Smackdown’s opening segment. She rose to a level in that promo I never expected her to reach. It was stunning. Smackdown’s writing team brought Alexa Bliss to surprising prominence and helped her find her voice. Carmella seemed to get a similar boost here. Kudos to her on an amazing performance.
- Becky Lynch also had a standout performance on Tuesday night in her earnest backstage segment with Daniel Bryan. I’m all about Becky having any opportunity to show the sincerity she brings like no one else on the roster.
- In the rematch, we should see a great spot where James Ellsworth gets killed by Becky Lynch.
- The ending from Sunday still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I can’t shake the idea that it has never happened and likely will never happen in a men’s ladder match. It honestly ruined the show and the week in wrestling for me. There is no getting a first time ever back and WWE blew it for no real reason.
- Carmella giving up the briefcase feels like it may have been her peak. While it was great to see her rise in this way, I worry that she won’t have a chance to do so again. Getting heat on Carmella in this situation and keeping it on her is complicated. Part of me, after watching Tuesday, wanted her to keep the briefcase because she did so well.
- Sunday’s ending still permanently breaks the concept of the ladder match in WWE. Why wouldn’t 20 people run in and try to interfere? Why wouldn’t everyone run up the ladder at WWE TLC and steal the WWE Championship? It does long lasting damage to WWE’s storytelling.
- This, and everything in WWE’s
Diva’sWomen’s RevolutionEvolution feels more like corporate branding than it does an actual effort to generate equality. It’s hard to get past it simply being marketplace feminism and more for marketing than anything else. Andi Zeisler writes about this phenomenon in the broader culture in the essential We Were Feminists Once:
Within a very short span of time, feminism has come to occupy perhaps its most complex role ever in American, if not global, culture. It’s a place where most of the problems that have necessitate feminist movements to begin with are still very much in place, but at the same time there’s a mainstream, celebrity, consumer embrace of feminism that positions it as a cool, fun, accessible identity that anyone can adopt.
(There is so much more in this entire book about feminism as marketing as opposed to feminism as a belief and I cannot recommend reading it enough, especially if you desire to understand exactly the tightrope WWE is attempting to walk.)
The Confusing and Complicated:
- There is no good way out of this situation. Carmella rose to an amazing level on Tuesday night and I believe she deserves a run with the briefcase, if not a run with the Smackdown Women’s Championship in the near future. With this said, allowing the decision to stick would be awkward as well. The only real way out of this situation is not to get into it, which WWE should have assured. I worry that handing back the briefcase doomed her character for the foreseeable future.
- The rematch happening in the main event of an episode of Smackdown will have more viewers, which is great. It will also not have the prestige of happening on a WWE Network special, something WWE would never do with other marquee matches (like a WrestleMania main event). Does the increase in viewers necessitate the longterm damage to essential storytelling mechanisms?
These are most of my feelings coming out of the week. I do like that we’ll see a real conclusion to the match, but I don’t like how WWE is getting there. I wish this whole situation hadn’t occurred and WWE had just had James Ellsworth hold Becky Lynch’s leg while Carmella retrieved the Money in the Bank briefcase. It’s all very unfortunate.
In the follow-up, I hope we see a continued focus on the complete women’s roster on Smackdown with multiple one-on-one or two-on-two feuds. WWE has done a good job fleshing out this roster with distinct personalities and I would hate to see that fall by the wayside and become like Raw’s abysmal division.
This week’s essential viewing:
For the purposes of this column, this week will be presented as Thursday-Wednesday.
Shinsuke Nakamura and AJ Styles’ exchange at WWE Money in the Bank (June 18, 2017) – If you couldn’t tell from my earlier writing, I was in a bad mood by the time this match rolled around. This was the only thing on this entire show to snap me out of it for a moment. Not only did this match contain the best version of Shinsuke Nakamura we’ve seen on the main roster, but it also gave us a fun preview of Nakamura vs. Styles. I’m all in on this exchange. The rest of Money in the Bank can and should be skipped.
Samoa Joe vs. Roman Reigns and the return of Braun Strowman from WWE Raw (June 19, 2017) – Not only was Strowman returning a great moment (I’m all about opening ambulance doors and yelling in rage), but Joe and Roman were having a damn good match. This was better than their encounter when Joe debuted on Raw. It was really well done. I’m looking forward to more from these two wrestlers sometime someday soon.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
This awesome art with Ms. Marvel meeting Mustafa Ali –
What more needs to be said? Both Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and Mustafa Ali are great. Also the artist, Nadia Ramlan, produces a ton of awesome wrestling art, so she’s totes worth a follow.
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat from Marvel Comics – This week is a little inaccurate, since this awesome series was cancelled by Marvel (Marvel tends to cancel good things rather often). I recently read the first two trades of this and it’s brilliant. There’s a great sense of humor and heart combining to make something special. This series is also delightfully inclusive. Kate Leth made something really special here and y’all should check it out.
Apparently I’m in a very Marvel comics mood this week.
Got something to say/react to in today’s piece? Write to me at email@example.com or on Twitter @wilpruett. Just let me know whether you’d like your name attached to your statement or not. Alternately, there’s a comment section just below this article, so comment away (preferably not like a garbage human, but I can’t stop you from being one)!
People had a lot of words to say about my piece from Monday morning about the inherent sexism of the Women’s Money in the Bank match. Let’s dive in and read how upset some people get when the word “sexism” is used. Please note, the typos in any of these comments are the from the writers of them.
Alissa had this to say:
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 it 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 Bayley’s 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?
Alissa, thank you so much for adding to this conversation. This gets to the heart of the matter, as does the excellent blog from Dot Net’s April Lavalle from Tuesday. It is reminiscent of the Santina Marella moment at WrestleMania 25. While the followup to this has surely been better than the followup to that, it still feels wrong. It’s hard not to lose faith when you’re getting jerked around so much. I hope they begin to get it right.
I know I was asked in the last few days why I still watch wrestling when it gets so many things wrong. There are still those moments of transcendence beyond anything else in entertainment. When the crowd is rallying behind someone and everything clicks, wrestling is magic. I watch for those glimpses of magic.
Tony is adamant about letting me know:
This was a HEEL MANAGER helping their HEEL CLIENT win a match, it’s not the first and it’s not the last.
You’re not wrong. It was exactly that. It was a heel manager helping a heel client, but why was this the first and only time in about 70 Ladder Matches in WWE history a non-participant in the match took possession of the object to win? Could it be that WWE would never do this with their main event males, but didn’t mind it with women? Why didn’t Maryse ever grab the briefcase for The Miz or Rhyno for Edge and Christian?
Someone who comments as “Reality” had this gem to add to the conversation:
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.
First of all, thank you for making me think of The Powerpuff Girls. They rule.
Second, how is it pathetic for a wrestling site to present different points of view? Please explain to me how awful it is for someone to want wrestling to be better than it is. I know it must be hard for you to think of how wrestling might affect others with all the “Reality” (and typos) you’re bringing, but maybe you should give it a shot. This is the last time your asinine comments will be mentioned in this section.
Assassin V, on the Dot Net Member’s ad free website (it’s a great way to experience this site, y’all) commented:
Agree 100% and nothing brought it home to me in how upset my girlfriend was after it. Here is someone who is a very casual fan and they have ruined something she was looking forward to experience.
The only other part I would add is this clusterf— feels to have the fingerprints of Vince all over it. Something this heinous going through and not getting fixed could only have been green lit from the top with no one having the balls to stop it.
I do not think even a public apology would even suffice because in some parts they do not even suspect they did anything wrong. It will take a lot to come back from this grievous error of judgment.
I know I was excited about this, but I was surprised by my wife’s eagerness to see these five women fight in a ladder match. She was into it, right up until Ellsworth pulled down the briefcase. Then she was mad. She was really mad. She doesn’t care about professional wrestling in the same way I do and she doesn’t hold it to the standards I try to. She was just as mad about this as I was. There’s no way to fix this. That anger directly translates to not wanting to watch anymore, not excitement about a rematch.
Max opened his comment with this:
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.
That’s the thing, Max. They have had one. It ended this way. Another women’s ladder match hasn’t happened in WWE (I know one is on Tuesday). I purposefully called this sexism because that’s what it is. It’s sexism when men can have over 70 of these matches and nothing like this happens, but when women have one, it does. The strong reaction from people trying to say “it was dumb, but not sexist” has been obnoxious. Why do people feel like calling WWE, a company with a history of sexism and sexist treatment of female wrestlers, sexist is wrong?
Charlie felt the need to add his response to a cavalcade of stupidity saying:
Go cry about snowflake.
Words are hard, Charlie. Better luck next time.
There are plenty of other ignorant comments and vows to never read prowrestling.net again, but I’ll stop now. I’m all out of f—‘s to give.
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
This week’s wrestling reading:
From time to time, I want to highlight some of the best wrestling reading I’ve found over the past week.
We’re Done Here:
I had a lot to say this week. I know this approach to wrestling isn’t for everyone. I know some people would rather wrestling wasn’t examined on a deeper level. I’m not about that life though. Any entertainment worth enjoying is worth examining. I’ll leave you with another gem from Andi Zeisler’s We Were Feminists Once:
As someone who honestly believes that pop culture is a force that can, and has, changed the world, I want to at least entertain the thought that a culture half-changed by feminism can harness that power and finally go the whole nine.
Have the best week, everyone!
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.
The new edition of the Pro Wrestling Boom Podcast with Jason Powell features ProWrestling.net staffer John Moore returning for an in-depth discussion on NXT, AEW, Impact Wrestling, MLW, and the NWA, and more...