By Colin McGuire, ProWrestling.net Staffer (@McGMondays)
“Equality is equality. Equality is not ‘I want my own show.’ Equality is not ‘We have to have our own program.’ If I told you I was making an all men’s program and I didn’t want women on it, it would be criticized.”
Those were the words of Paul “Triple H” Levesque last week during a media call. From the second I read them, there was only one question that kept circulating through my mind …
He can’t be that tone deaf, can he?I mean, I get it. By all accounts, it seems like the reporters on the call got Ornery Levesque, and that’s as fun a Levesque as any out there, but a comment like that? At a time like this? When the NWA is staging its own women’s pay-per-view and Ring of Honor already has a weekly all-women’s online show? Really? He’s going to ostensibly tell us that women in WWE don’t deserve their own show and then spout off about equality?
You can’t define equality for the sole purpose of fitting it into your own parameters. And you certainly can’t define equality if you’re projecting your own thoughts onto an entire gender and that gender also happens to not be your gender. There’s ignorant, and then there’s stupid. Those comments are both.
And why is that?
A CHECKERED HISTORY
That’s because Levesque doesn’t know what it’s like to be a woman in the wrestling business. For that matter, neither do I. But with that in mind, it’s not necessarily hard to look at the unfair discrepancies between men and women in wrestling when you look at the history of it.
Back when Levesque was making dick jokes and crotch-chopping his way to the top of the card, women in WWE weren’t called women — they were called Divas. There was not a 30-minute iron-woman match concept. Instead, it was a combination of bra and panties matches and gross storylines that objectified pretty much every female on the show in one way or another.
And let’s not kid ourselves. This wasn’t 100 years ago. People barely old enough to legally drink alcohol in the United States of America could have memories of seeing those things on television. It wasn’t all that long ago when women in WWE were viewed as sex objects and very little more. To recognize that every single woman has had to fight – and I mean fight – her way to be something more than what the brass at WWE wanted them to be is paramount to understanding the plight of women in that company.
The thing is, Levesque’s comments suggest he doesn’t understand that very reality. In turn, his words suggest a guy who views women’s wrestling as a placation – something that he knows they have to do because so many women have broken down so many walls over the last 20 to 30 years – but not something that he entirely believes in nor cares about. And yeah, that might sound harsh, and I’m sure there are many Levesque apologists out there who have story after story about how much he’s helped this woman or that woman further her career, but let’s go back to the “We have to have our own program” jab …
You know what Levesque can do that very few other people can do in WWE? Change things. And when you have that ability in that company, you also have a responsibility – a responsibility to those around you, a responsibility to be an agent of evolution. If Levesque wanted to, he could stage a yearly all-women’s pay-per-view. If Levesque wanted to, he could put more than one or two women’s matches on every TakeOver. If Levesque wanted to, he could produce a weekly television program akin to what Ring Of Honor is doing now.
But he’s not doing that. And if you claim to have the best women’s division in the world at WWE, which he did, then why wouldn’t you want to showcase that more often? Why does it feel like the women’s matches in WWE are often little more than an afterthought?
Oh, wait. You don’t think that company treats women’s matches like afterthoughts?
If that’s so, then why do we get rematch after rematch after rematch on both Raw and Smackdown each week? And why does that 50/50 booking feature matches that almost never go beyond four minutes? Why didn’t Bayley, who deserves a medal of honor for carrying WWE through the pandemic, get a WrestleMania match? Why doesn’t creative ever seem to have anything for can’t-miss Rhea Ripley on the main roster? Why did it take 35 WrestleManias before women headlined one of them?
Saying that you don’t think having a women-specific program is essential to equality in your company is insulting to every woman who ever played a part in moving that division forward. That’s because equality is just that: equality. Equality doesn’t bend. Equality is not relative. Equality is, by definition, something like this: If you have four matches that feature men on a show, you then must have four matches that feature women on a show. Equality is not this: If you have six matches that feature men on a show, the women just better be thankful that they even got two matches on a show.
How this appears to not be understood baffles me. It also leads me to this …
As Zack Heydorn of Pro Wrestling Torch pointed out Sunday night on Twitter during NXT’s TakeOver: In Your House, Raquel Gonzalez has no opponents left after she defeated Ember Moon to retain her women’s title. The curious thing about that? Levesque insisted that NXT has the best women’s division in the world.
It’s subjective. But if it does, why hasn’t anyone at NXT taken the time to build any one of those tremendous performers up to a level where it would feel like she was a true threat to Gonzalez’s belt? It should also be pointed out that this was Gonzalez’s first TakeOver since winning the title in April. We’re two months into a title reign and we’re already out of potential credible opponents for the champ? How does that work? While a victim of the same thing in the men’s division, at least Karrion Kross blasted through four other challengers Sunday night. I can’t even think of four women in all of NXT who I’d believe could provide any type of drama in a match with Gonzalez right now.
And make no mistake about it: The fault for that does not land on those women in that division. Those women are great and from top to bottom, that list of performers is like a call sheet for should-be stars in wrestling. Instead, the blame falls on the people running the show. Cough. Levesque. Cough. That’s on those who call the shots behind the scenes. If they have all this amazing talent – and they do – why not use more of it in more substantial ways?
When Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Asuka were in NXT, it felt like each time any of the four were in the ring, be it with one another or against other opponents, nobody knew who would come out on top. Asuka’s streak was incredible, Bayley and Banks had one of the best series of matches that promotion has ever seen, and Charlotte’s star power alone made her appearances can’t-miss. These days … I don’t know?
I guess Dakota Kai is going to turn on Raquel at some point?
For having such a loaded women’s division, it sure would be nice to utilize it a little more, don’t you think, Mr. Levesque?
And so it must be asked: Why did WWE give up on “Evolution,” the company’s all-female pay-per-view?
The further we get away from it, the more it makes me wonder if WWE only did it because Ronda Rousey came in and Nikki Bella came back. And while it was a great idea in theory, and the show was even better in execution, I do think it’s fair to at least question if the company would have done it had Rousey never scratched her wrestling itch.
And that’s a shame because while she’s a marquee name, there are so many women that could have carried that show then and could carry that show now. Such is why Levesque’s comments last week are, as much as anything else, deflating. They are almost like a white flag, an indication of surrender when it comes to the momentum and the hope that WWE once gave its women’s division.
What’s worse is the reality that, for decades and decades and decades, WWE did, in fact, put on all-men’s shows. For years, if you ever saw a woman on WWE programming, it would be in a valet role, and that was it. These days, women’s wrestling has grown into its own entity and any women’s match anywhere on any card has the ability to give any other match on the card a run for its money when it comes to match of the night honors, no matter the gender.
WWE has helped cultivate that through the years and as a whole, it should be given credit for stepping up in that department. But if you’re going to address equality in the way that Levesque did last week, and you’re going to sound as dismissive and derisive as he did, you’re now taking two steps forward and one step back.
And that’s not good for anybody, let alone an entire division of wrestlers . Wrestlers who have earned chances. Wrestlers who demand attention.