By Will Pruett
The Mae Young Classic has come and gone and WWE accomplished something great with it. All of their Network-specific tournaments (MYC, CWC, and UK) have been presented fantastically, but the Mae Young Classic was more than that. It took a population under-represented in WWE’s own programming and showed what they are capable of. It created and added depth to characters WWE can use for years to come. It was great. With the Mae Young Classic over, I want to look at where WWE is in terms of presenting women.
First of all, to talk about the Mae Young Classic, and not offer a heaping helping of shade to throw on the commentary would be a disservice. Jim Ross offered the least compelling commentary performance I’ve heard in decades while describing women’s wrestling with a severe lack of passion. At Tuesday night’s MYC finals, he didn’t recognize any of the women who had competed in the tournament, describe Asuka as “a fan” at ringside, and embarrassed himself at just about every turn. Ross was atrocious. Lita, to her credit, kept Tuesday’s show above water by trying to rescue Ross from himself. This was disappointing and one would think Ross, who knows every college football player from the last 50 years by heart, would have taken the time to learn the names of the women involved. I’ll go ahead and chalk this one up to casual sexism before moving on.
With that out of the way, how is WWE doing in their presentation of women? One of the best ways to gauge this is time. WWE has an absurd amount of time to dedicate to whatever they want on their weekly shows. Raw and Smackdown total to equal over five hours of wrestling television in a week. How much of that time is dedicated to women? Well, I use Kate Foray’s Raw Breakdown Project to keep track of such things and (unlike Kate’s graphic designs) it’s not pretty.
This week, Raw’s three hours and four minutes had four percent of its total time dedicated to women, while Smackdown’s two hours had only seven percent. To remind you, women make up about 50% of the total population of earth. So, why not dedicate a significant portion of a wrestling show to them?
Alright, so maybe women aren’t getting enough time, but are they represented elsewhere in WWE’s empire? What about on commentary, a place where anyone with a voice can repeat Rocket League plugs? WWE has five men calling Raw and Smackdown with absolutely no women. Surely, NXT has women calling matches though? I mean, they are the forerunner and training ground for WWE. Well, there are no women calling matches in NXT either. Women are seriously underrepresented at WWE’s announce tables.
With this evidence staring me in the face, I have to dive deeper. While WWE doesn’t release the statistics, I would still love to know how many women are working in the creative process at WWE. How many of their writers are female? What about the production department? These things matter just as much as seeing female talent in front of the camera. From simply looking at WWE’s track record with writers and production personnel, I’d be willing to bet both departments are largely, if not completely, male.
WWE has come extremely far from Diva Dodgeball, women sitting on pies to impress The Rock, and a butterfly and/or vagina shaped belt, but they still have a long way to go. WWE made a big deal out of Sasha Banks vs. Bayley main eventing a NXT Takeover and Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks main eventing a WWE pay-per-view, but both NXT and WWE’s main roster have not featured a special event with women in the main event since.
I’ll give WWE a ton of credit for the Mae Young Classic, but ignoring the ongoing problems with the presentation and representation of women on their television would be wrong. Take a victory lap, WWE, but please get to work. These are problems WWE has created themselves and problems they could easily fix.
Last week’s essential viewing:
What matches/segments/moments do you need to see from the last week of wrestles?
Shayna Baszler vs. Kairi Sane in The Mae Young Classic Finals (September 12, 2017) – First and foremost, watch this. It’s important. For life. Sane vs. Baszler had quite a bit working against it. Unlike the CWC finals, it was tacked onto an episode of Smackdown. It took place after a major angle with Vince McMahon and Kevin Owens. Fans in the arena seemed hesitant to dive into this match (and I’m sure some left). Sane and Baszler managed to capture the imaginations of fans, bring them to their feet, and compel the fans to roar by the end of this match. It was great! Kudos to both women for making this a match and tournament to remember.
John Cena vs. Braun Strowman (WWE Raw, September 11, 2017) – This was the first time ever match between two of the biggest stars in WWE today. It was also just a ton of fun. Cena knows his big man spots by heart at this point and performs them well. Braun has an otherworldly charisma I’m delighted to see on display. This was a great little treat from these two.
Vince McMahon and Kevin Owens (WWE Smackdown, September 12, 2017) – Kevin Owens grew up watching “Don’t cross the boss” era Vince McMahon, so this had to be an especially fun moment for him. McMahon and Owens had a very compelling segment leading to Owens assaulting the ever-aging chairman. This was surprisingly physical and vicious. Owens continues to get opportunities I never thought he’d have years ago and it continues to make me smile.
The Usos vs. The New Day (WWE Smackdown, September 12, 2017) – Do these teams ever not deliver? Switching the Smackdown tag team championship back and forth is an interesting storytelling strategy, but if the matches are this good, I don’t mind! The Usos and New Day are magic.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
Experiencing Wrestling with Friends – If you read what I write often, you know I get caught up in the intellectual side of wrestling. I admit to overthinking and overanalyzing wrestling fairly often. Hell, a couple weeks ago I wrote about Brechtian theatre and wrestling, which is a little ridiculous (don’t get me wrong, it was some great analysis, but still…). This week, I went to Raw with a good friend and had the chance to catch up with him. Wrestling is about community and giving people space to connect. This was a great experience and a really fun time.
If you enjoy getting a little bit of what I love in wresting each week, check out my new YouTube series called “What I Love About Professional Wrestling!”
What I absolutely positively love in the world this week:
Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi – This book served as a nice reminder of the importance of disconnecting and letting oneself get bored. It’s too easy to never feel boredom with 27 wrestling streaming services, Netflix, and all of the great things we can watch, listen to, and experience. Zomorodi creates a wonderful case for letting your mind wander and gives you ways to do so. If you’re ever feeling like you’re super busy but never productive (or just overwhelmed by all the things) this is a great read and experience.
This Week’s Essential Reading:
Is WWE Finally Recognizing the Buying Power of Women and Girls? by Scarlett Harris
The Best of the Mae Young Classic tournament by April Lavalle
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
We’re Done Here:
You did it! It’s the end of another piece by me and almost the end of another week. Time to ride triumphantly into Friday like Triple H on his weird ass tricycle from this year’s WrestleMania… Also, for Sunday, Go Pack Go! (Editor’s Note: Vomit)
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 see his video series “What I Love About Professional Wrestling” subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.