By Will Pruett
After Survivor Series, WWE made a massive effort, across both Raw and Smackdown, to bring some new blood into Women’s Divisions that could quickly grow stale. With just about seven or eight women per brand, it looked like nothing new was on the horizon for both divisions right up until Paige, Mandy Rose, and Sonya Deville came out a couple of weeks ago. The trend followed on Smackdown, as Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Liv Morgan made their main roster debuts as well. WWE has a shaky history with groups and this effort with two groups on two brands is certainly interesting.
First of all, kudos to WWE for bringing more women into the fold. The main roster divisions have been too small for a long time and with an abundance of women in NXT, WWE needed to bring some fresh faces to the main roster. Bonus kudos to WWE for bringing Paige back and a very rough year for her personally. I’m excited to see the what she brings to Raw’s revamped women’s division full of fresh faces.
The first thought I had after both Raw and Smackdown debuted factions of three women on back-to-back nights was a rough flashback to the “Diva’s Revolution” era of WWE. The hackneyed creation of three three-woman factions built to war with each other for no apparent reason was one of the worst ideas I’ve seen WWE produce. With these new factions, I prayed they would learn.
It seems like those in power have figured a few things out. First of all, neither group is fighting an established group. WWE isn’t trying to create a faction wars scenario here and it helps. One group per brand feels fresh. Two groups per brand would feel strange. We are seeing loose collectives of wrestlers attempting to deal with the new force in their divisions, but we aren’t seeing them instantly become best friends forever a la PCB, Team Bad, and Team Bella.
We are also seeing some unique personalities stand out on these teams. We aren’t seeing the women all dress the same. We aren’t seeing the women all wrestle the same. This is not Alicia Fox suddenly becoming a Bella. While we’re just two weeks into these runs, the door is being left open for original personalities for each of the five recent call ups. That is huge.
I do have to critique the originality of doing both of these factions debuts so close together. It makes it easy to think one was just a “copy and paste” command from Raw to Smackdown. It feels like the writers could have come up with something more original for one of the shows, but chose not to. It could be intentional to have these factions feel so similar upon debuting, but it could also be a lack of effort.
Along with the similar debuts, the leadership defaulting to the pseudo-goth or punk member of each faction makes me pause for a second. While Paige is an established talent and it makes sense for her to be the current centerpiece of a group upon return, why should Ruby Riott (now with an additional T) lead her’s? Couldn’t the Smackdown group of women take a cue from The Shield’s original approach and be without a leader? It might be more distinct, if not a better story altogether.
The choice of wrestlers to call up is also interesting. This wasn’t the top of the NXT women’s division being cleared out, as it was when Stephanie McMahon randomly announced and formed three factions because women play sports in 2015. This demonstrates the depth WWE has added to NXT’s women’s division in two years. The top of the card is not the only place to look for main roster ready performers.
Moving forward, WWE has greater depth for women on the main roster now. How will they use it? I’ve advocated for at least one brand introducing a tag title for women. Perhaps the other brand could use a midcard championship. WWE needs more than just one prize per brand for their women, or they risk only telling one story at a time. There is too much television to only represent women in a small portion of it. WWE has to know this and they took a major step toward fixing it here.
What I absolutely positively love in wrestling this week:
The Breaking of Matt Hardy – We all saw Matt Hardy produce creative gold and stretch the medium of professional wrestling in 2016. It was really neat. It was a disappointment to many fans when he didn’t bring the same genre-bridging joy to WWE at WrestleMania this year. While I understand both the legal and creative reasons for starting with a Hardy Boys nostalgia run, WWE let the nostalgia go on a little too long. I’m looking forward to seeing how WWE brings the Broken (or Woken) character and universe to life.
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:
Lady Bird – Sometimes a film comes along that feels loving, comfortable, enjoyable, and altogether great. This is Lady Bird. Greta Gerwig wrote and directed a loving portrayal of a woman’s senior year of high school in Sacramento, California in 2002. Saoirse Ronan plays the title character impeccably, creating an instant bond between the student and the film’s audience. For me, what was particularly perfect, was this film’s portrayal of high school life in 2002, something I lived through myself. See this movie. Enjoy this movie. It’s worth it.
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!
A person named Barton commented:
“STFU. You’re literally everything wrong with humanity wrapped up into one self-aggrandizing douchebag.”
Hi there, Bart. I have no idea why you’re referencing the former name of John Cena’s STF submission finisher, but to each their own. Are you one of those people who have to call wrestlers by their old names as well? Are you breaking out “Kevin Steen” at your wrestling viewing parties? I sincerely hope not. Let’s all be better people than that. As for the rest of your comment, I hope you have a wonderful day and you’ll cease being angry enough to say such mean things. Here’s a gif of Ron Swanson dancing to cheer you up:
“It’s amazing how a show goes from skippable to must see in such a short amount of time. There are a lot of matches that can steal the show and, if one doesn’t care about the lame “brand loyalty” thing, the build of the RAW vs SD rivalry has been pretty solid (except the weirdness of The Lone Wolf chanting Smackdown Rocks). I like that Owens and Zayn were the only two guys that didn’t care about it. And talking about it, I never thought Sami was going to be so good as a heel, I hope he keeps his over the top dancing in front of Shane.”
Right?! This was a pre-Survivor Series comment, but so much of it resonated with me, I had to respond. While Survivor Series suffered from many of WWE’s common issues (pay-per-view length kills me), it was a really fun show. Brand loyalty doesn’t matter at all, but almost everything on Survivor Series was compelling. I have no desire to see red and blue t-shirts for a month out of the year, but it worked this year.
And Sami Zayn has been truly wonderful as a heel. I didn’t think it would work this well, but he’s been a highlight of Smackdown when he’s allowed to be.
SSMGOTW (Superfluous Shane McMahon Gif of the Week):
We’re Done Here:
One small gripe from wrestling this week: criticism of how Roman Reigns carries the Intercontinental Championship is really dumb. It’s absurdly dumb. It’s wasteful of everyone’s brain space. The Rock and Steve Austin dragged their prized championships on the ground. We all love Tetsuya Naito’s discard for any title he holds. There is no reason to get made a wrestler who loosely carries a title over their shoulder. If you’re going to get mad at Roman, get mad about how his hair always looks so perfect, not title carrying.
Anyways, have the best week ever, folks!
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.