By Will Pruett, ProWrestling.net Co-Senior Staffer (@itswilltime)
Sunday night, as I sat down to watch my favorite WWE show of the year, the Royal Rumble, I was delighted. For the third year in a row, WWE rose to the challenge of creating a compelling women’s Royal Rumble. What seemed impossible five years ago is commonplace now. At the same time, as I watched the women’s Royal Rumble match, I was distressed. So many of these women were surprise entrants or women without a real story being told. WWE has seven hours of first run television per week, yet so many women are lacking a story.
Then it hit me, WWE has this wealth of talent, but only four prizes for them to fight over across three shows. The depth of WWE’s women’s roster is too great for only one title per brand. WWE needs more storytelling devices to properly serve this roster and their fans. The time is now for WWE to give their women mid-card titles.
First, I want to discuss roster depth. Some people erroneously believe WWE hardly has the roster depth for the three singles championships and one tag team championship their women have now. These people could not be more wrong. When I look at the total roster in all of WWE, I am amazed by just how many women they employ. There are 50 women across the NXT and WWE rosters. Add to that massive amount of talent being stashed at the Performance Center for the future like Santana Garrett and Mercedes Martinez. The depth of talent is better than it has ever been. WWE’s women’s roster is the best roster of women ever assembled in wrestling history.
Now that we’ve conquered the depth argument, let’s move on to one of WWE’s major problems: the lack of upward mobility in their mid-card. For this example, let’s talk about Becky Lynch. Lynch debuted on the main roster as one of the “Four Horsewomen” of NXT, was given a lot to do at first, was made the first ever Smackdown champion, and then faded into obscurity. In this time, Becky was mostly making jokes about quinoa online. While she certainly dug her way out of this hole, how many women will never get the chance? With just one or two segments per show dedicated to women, how is Sonya Deville going to break out?
This idea is about boosting opportunities for women to perform. All of WWE’s shows are seriously imbalanced, despite them boasting the best roster of women in history. Even NXT can’t fit more than one women’s match on 90% of their NXT Takeover specials.
A mid-card title would give a meaningful storytelling device to women who may not make it into the major title picture. Natalya should not be the main champion on Raw or Smackdown, but Natalya as an almost impossible to beat Intercontinental Champion would rule. Sarah Logan is not ready to carry a brand and have main event matches, but Sarah Logan as an up and coming star with the United States Championship is believable.. Not every wrestler can be a world champion, but every wrestler can tell a compelling story. WWE is denying a massive portion of their roster this opportunity.
I would not be writing this if WWE was capable of telling non-sexualized non-title stories with the women they employ. They should have writers capable of making stories matter for women the same way they do for men. It’s been years since Randy Orton has been in a title match, but Randy Orton always has a story. Where is Naomi’s story? Where is Nikki Cross’ story?
While WWE produced another compelling Women’s Royal Rumble match this year, I hope this is the last year where the majority of entrances are story-less surprises. I love seeing women from the past pop in. I love seeing surprise entrances from NXT. These are part of what make Royal Rumbles magical. I also love consistent storytelling and a well-used roster.
WWE has the greatest roster they’ve ever assembled, so it’s time for their storytelling effort to match.
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 content subscribe to his YouTube channel. To contact, check him out on Twitter @itswilltime, leave a comment, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.