In last week’s Roundup, I posted a bit of a rambling vent about the booking of the Divas and (mostly) the Knockouts. While it received support, it also received criticism, saying that it implied that all the fault of the poor state of women’s wrestling in TNA and WWE was entirely down to the writers and promoters, and didn’t take into account the actual wrestling ability – or in many cases, lack of it – of the performers involved. So for the sake of fairness, I’m going to put the actual wrestling skills of WWE Divas and TNA Knockouts under the microscope…
Before we go on, there’s going to be a lot of criticism here, and names will be named. I’m just calling it as I see it, and it’s just one man’s opinion. If you don’t agree, that’s fine – I’m not saying that my word is gospel, and you may enjoy what’s presented to you. If that’s you, great, and more power to you. However, we at Ringbelles have committed to being honest, even if it’s not a popular opinion.
And for anyone who may say that I’m in no place to comment as I’ve never been in the ring before, that also means that my compliments are not valid either, as I’ve clearly never been in a ring – unless you count a few ring announcing gigs.
I feel we need to start with WWE, as it’s the biggest company and thusly receives the most viewers for its women’s contests. For the most part, the criticism is focussed on the women who are plucked from outside the wrestling world to try and turn them into wrestlers – for example, Kelly Kelly, Maryse, Alicia Fox and the like. All of them are beneficiaries/victims of the success that WWE had with Sable, and to a great extent, Trish Stratus – two models who the company managed to successfully train up to be the torchbearers of the division at their respective times. With Stratus in particular, WWE caught lightning in a bottle in that she was beautiful, sexy, athletic, eventually developed into a great character and could hold her own as a top-line Diva. Sure, she wasn’t flawless – for the first three or so years, Stratus was pretty poor – and sometimes cheapened women in wrestling by accepting to be part of storylines where she allowed herself to be humiliated – the prime example being when she was ordered by Vince McMahon to strip to her underwear, crawl on all fours and bark like a dog in the ring – but because of her willingness to do those things, she was given WWE’s full support, as she was a “company girl”.
However, since her retirement, WWE has tried and tried again to try and find another rough diamond. Each time, they have failed. Michelle McCool was the closest that they got, but while she was technically sound and arguably a better wrestler than Stratus, she never really connected with a crowd and will not be seen in the same light as the aforementioned Trish.
Lita was another woman who did well for herself with a wrestling style which was at best, ropey, and at worst, downright dangerous to herself and her opponents. Personally, I found it hard to enjoy her matches as she always seemed to close to killing herself with that damn moonsault. That dive she performed out of the ring on Trish on Raw in 2005 where she ended up almost breaking her neck was one of the most reckless and scary things I’ve seen.
Since they both decided to quit wrestling, we’ve seen Christy Hemme, Eve Torres, Kelly Kelly, Ashley Massaro, Maryse, Fox, Candice Michelle, Torrie Wilson and many more trained from scratch with varying levels of success (Candice was on the way to becoming better than Trish before she fractured her collarbone), but none that would provide bona fide great matches. This is confusing though, as they are in a company with a dedicated farm system in Florida Championship Wrestling, which they could ask to go to every day that they weren’t on the road if they so wished. Kurt Angle did that back in 1998 and moved away from then-wife Karen for more than half a year while he honed his craft and got good. McCool likely got so good at wrestling as she was getting a 24/7 education at home with her now-husband, The Undertaker. But there’s no reason why Kelly, the Bellas or even Tamina couldn’t do the same thing and trade in the celebrity and media appearances to get good at wrestling. To Hemme’s credit, she did ask to be sent to Ohio Valley Wrestling to get further training, but was released by WWE while she was there for reasons still undisclosed.
Last year on NXT, a match between Kaitlyn and Maxine was pilloried for being terrible, and rightly so, as it was. The excuse Maxine gave was that they didn’t have time to rehearse it, as the ring was in use before the taping. Some argued that if you’re a proper wrestler, you shouldn’t be able to go out there and just do it without rehearsing it. While I can understand that point of view, I don’t care how mechanical a match may be and how long it took to put together – as long as it comes together on TV, that’s all I care about as a viewer. Sure, it may not be the art, but as long as everything’s alright on the night, does it matter? Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior’s WrestleMania VI match was apparently gone over multiple times beforehand to make sure there were no mistakes, and that was just fine when it came to the day.
I know, it’s a ridiculous suggestion that Divas would want to go and get more training than the company thinks they need as they’re on TV anyway, and as long as they look good, they’ll get shoved out through that curtain and keep their profile high. I suppose it depends on if they have sights set on life after WWE, and want to keep their celebrity stock high by keeping their face out there. If they wanted a WWE job for life, they could knuckle down and learn their craft, but I imagine many know that the gravy train won’t last forever, and have seen the success that Stacy Keibler, Stratus and Maria have had on TV shows that don’t have McMahon as an executive producer.
However, that’s an avenue that the remaining Divas like Natalya, Gail Kim, Beth Phoenix and even Melina probably do not have. Sure, their matches are better, but according to WWE, their looks are less aesthetically pleasing, so have to work twice as hard to get as far as less experienced but more photogenic girls. But let’s be honest – WWE doesn’t really care about putting on good women’s wrestling matches. As long as they’re not injuring each other, I’m sure they’re not that fussed. TNA, on the other hand, could afford to have loftier ambitions, but the reality is probably more disappointing.
Nearly every female wrestler that TNA has on its books trained as wrestlers and were hired by the company for their body of work, rather than them signing up someone after flicking through a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. For that reason, we should be expecting more from them… so it’s an even more crushing blow when we’re let down again and again.
Last week, I pointed out that most of the efforts put on by the Knockouts on PPV in 2011 have been pretty poor, and in some cases, horrific. This shouldn’t be the case. Girls like Winter, Mickie James and Velvet Sky have been wrestling for close to a decade and shouldn’t be bombing so hard on TV – apparently it’s better on the house show circuit, as reports suggest Winter and Tara have been having some decent contests on the road – so it’s maddening that they are now mediocre in the ring. There have been some decent reminders of the heady days in 2008 when Gail Kim and Awesome Kong would tear up rings – James v Tara in a cage would be an example – but they’re few and far between, and that’s a pity.
Even wrestlers like Mickie James seem to have lost that spark since bedding into TNA, which I think is indicative of the vibe in the promotion. Winter’s character doesn’t lend itself to being an exciting wrestler. Angelina Love used to be a fair enough worker, but is a shell of her indie self, and it seems that only Madison Rayne and Miss Tessmacher have that fire still left in them, though we haven’t seen the former for a while, and the latter may be still full of beans because she’s new to the ring and is being pushed. Look at her in a year and we’ll probably have a better assessment.
In fact, Tessmacher may be indicative of the direction that TNA wants to go in – fair enough, they can bring back ODB and Jacqueline, but Brooke Adams is the one getting a lot of time on TV before she’s ready, much like Divas such as Maryse, Fox, Kaitlyn and Tamina have received in WWE.
I accept that TNA doesn’t have the training facilities that WWE has, but there’s the Team 3D school nearby where Leva Bates trains, and there are a load of veteran wrestlers in that locker room that they could get feedback from. I’m not sure if they’re asking for advice or constructive criticism, or if they’re asking but getting bad advice or no advice at all, but something’s just not right.
It’s a shame really. For whatever reason – the booking, the money, apathy, the atmosphere, the company backing or the lack of encouragement – a potentially hot women’s wrestling division is flat and lifeless. I slated the booking last week, but that shouldn’t stop the Knockouts from trying to make chicken soup out of chicken shit by having a great match and then showing up how dumb the booking decisions dictating their matches are.
And before anyone argues the point, I’m not claiming that everyone on the independents is awesome and more deserving of being signed. Sure, there are some great wrestlers out there, some who should accept that their lot is about as good as it’s going to get, some who are green as grass and some who are downright awful – but I give them a bit more slack, as they’re not on international TV on a weekly basis and giving a potentially massive audience an impression of what all women’s wrestling is like. I just wish that instead of deciding to change the channel, go for a piss or mentally tune out, viewers and attendees of live shows sit there with an open mind instead of closing it and waiting to see if the girls can take that crowbar and prise it open.
And then, having written all of that, Kelly Kelly goes and wins the Divas Title on Raw, pinning Brie Bella after the fans voted her into a title match over Eve Torres and Beth Phoenix – and before anyone starts saying the vote was rigged, it would be more than WWE was worth if they were caught deliberately rigging it, though I understand there was an error in the voting for one of the polls.
First off, I know this is what Kelly has wanted for years, so congratulations to her, enjoy the moment and the feeling. I’m sure those tears at the end of the match were legitimate too, as she has been in the company for five years – pretty much all of her adult life, as she was signed up at the age of 18. Like Eve, she’ll be a fine ambassador at the titleholder, and seeing as the SummerSlam hype is picking up, I’m sure she’ll be doing the Hollywood rounds in Los Angeles to promote the event and any films WWE has coming up. The problem is that she has the belt, Kelly now never has to improve in the ring if she doesn’t want to.
Before, the promotion could have dangled that title in front of her like a carrot on a stick to encourage her to get better. After all, recently she’s been pretty sloppy out there, with many pointing out that she is probably the worst person in WWE for simply running the ropes. In fact, I’m struggling to recall if she ran the ropes once during last night’s show. But now that she has the championship, it’s essentially WWE telling her that she doesn’t have to get any better – as long as she doesn’t bomb, she’ll stay on TV.
But then, in the grand scheme of things, does it all matter? She is the most over woman they have and generates a legitimate pop when her music hits – something that Torres can’t do, no matter how hard she tries to improve. If people care about her, they may pay money to see her, and for a business, that’s really all that matters, right?
So if that’s the case, why hotshot the belt onto her on free TV, instead of waiting until a PPV to extract a few dollars from Kelly fans? As mentioned, the belt is pretty worthless in the grand scheme of things due to the quality of the action, characters and storylines taking a dip, but that’s no reason to stop trying. Would it not be better to build up a sustained storyline over a couple of months like they did with Natalya and LayCool and then give Kelly the title – and then when you do so, have her decisively beat Brie instead of getting a roll-up, which could be construed as a stroke of luck instead of her being the better competitor?
I’m probably thinking too much about this – as we know, the girls “don’t matter” in WWE – but I wish that some writer would ask to be given the Divas as a pet project and work with them to bring out their strengths, both collectively and individually. Still, this isn’t a perfect world, and if you want to see great women’s wrestling, WWE probably isn’t for you – though there’s a world of options out there as an alternative.
The best of the rest
Makoto, who suffered a neck injury before an Ice Ribbon card two weeks ago, says she will be back for the SMASH card on July 15. that means she’ll still join Tsukasa Fujimoto at CHIKARAsaurus Rex: King Of Sequel… Meanwhile, joshi veteran Mima Shimoda has been added to those CHIKARA shows. The 40-year old has been wrestling full-time for CMLL in Mexico since 2006… In a poll of the greatest wrestling managers in WWE Sensational Sherri was ranked the top female in 5th place. Sunny was in 11th; Miss Elizabeth was in 13th… Stacy Carter’s been added to K&S Wrestlefest’s A Hot Summer’s Night in Philadelphia on August 27th… Another first round match in the ACW American Joshi Queen of Queens 2011 tournament on June 26th will be Christina Von Eerie v Rachel Summerlyn… Candice Michelle was forced to miss the Philadelphia Comic Con last weekend after being struck down with gastroenteritis… Though not announced for the card, Portia Perez is on the poster for the ACW American Joshi Queen of Queens tournament. ACW says she will be there in “some fashion”… There were FIVE DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Title changes on the Ice Ribbon show last Wednesday. It’s got a 24/7 rule like the old WWF Hardcore Title… Jesse Neal tweeted last week that his girlfriend Christina Von Eerie recently lost her job after allegedly being sexually harrassed… The first names announced for SHIMMER’s October tapings ae the usual suspects: SHIMMER Champion Madison Eagles, SHIMMER Tag Team Champions Daizee Haze & Tomoka Nakagawa, Sara Del Rey, Cheerleader Melissa, and Serena Deeb… Trish Stratus was backstage at a TNA show in Toronto on Friday to visit friends, according to Prowrestling.net… The Winter/Angelina Love storyline is expected to carry on until the autumn. Jesus… A follow-up of new wrestlers not coming up with original names: there’s a female wrestler out there calling herself Nicole Matthias… On Saturday’s WAVE show, Toshie Uematsu announced that she will retire in April 2012… KC Cassidy has been claiming the PWWA title as her own while current champion Madison Eagles has been living in the US… Mickie James, Angelina Love and Velvet Sky all stepped out of their TNA storylines to team with Sexi Star to beat Fabi and Mari Apache, Lolita & Cinthia Moreno at AAA’s TripleMania XIX on Saturday… Jillian Hall made her return to the ring last Saturday – her first match since being released from WWE last year. She beat Santana at a Pro Wrestling Xtreme show in Orlando. One fan went onto PWX’s Facebook page to criticise Hall for leaving without signing any autographs. Terri Runnels was there with her boyfriend New Jack… Kalamity has seemingly turned babyface after last Saturday’s nCw show in Montreal. She helped LuFisto retain her Femmes Fatales title over Angie Skye, and punched her and Skye’s manager Joey Soprano. LuFi and Kalamity shook hands afterwards… Get well soon to former WCW, ECW and XPW valet Gorgeous George who’s reportedly doing well after suffering a seizure on Saturday… Layla will reportedly be out of action for another eight and a half months. WWE officials are hopeful that she will be back in time for WrestleMania 28… This whole revolving door of managers storyline that Tyson Kidd is in the middle of will reportedly be ended when NXT 3 contestant Maxine will become his full time manager.
June 13: CMLL (Puebla, Mexico) – A*YU*MI, Luna Magica & Marcela b Amapola, Princesa Sugei & Mima Shimoda
June 14: CMLL (Guadalajara, Mexico) – Amapola b Lluvia
June 15: Ohio Valley Wrestling (Louisville, KY) – CJ Lane b Epiphany Jones
June 15: Ice Ribbon (Saitama, Japan) – Emi Sakura b Remi Nagano 1-0; Tsukasa Fujimoto b Maki Narumiya, Meari Naito & Nekko Nitta; Hikaru Shida b Chii Tomiya; Choun Shiryu & GENTARO b Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi; Emi Sakura b Masa Takanashi to win the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship; Remi Nagano b Emi Sakura to win the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship; Hikari Minami b Remi Nagano to win the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship; Emi Sakura b Hikari Minami to win the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship; Masa Takanashi pinned Emi Sakura to win the DDT Ironman Heavymetalweight Championship
June 15: WAVE (Tokyo, Japan) Kagetu b Nao Komatsu; Misaki Ohata b Nagisa Nozaki; Tomoka Nakagawa b Ryo Mizunami; Yumi Ohka & Cherry b Moeka Haruhi & Kayoko Haruyama; Mio & Io Shirai & Kana b GAMI, Toshie Uematsu & Sakura Hirota; Mio & Io Shirai & Kana b GAMI, Toshie Uematsu & Sakura Hirota; Mio & Io Shirai & Kana b GAMI, Toshie Uematsu & Sakura Hirota. That’s not a misprint.
June 16: Impact Wrestling (Orlando, FL) – Rosita & Sarita b Velvet Sky & Miss Tessmacher
June 17: Phoenix Pro Wrestling (West Bromwich, England) – Chrissy Valentine b Bacardi & Pollyanna
June 17: 19 Pro (Saitama, Japan) – Tsukasa Fujimoto v Remi Nagano went to a 5 minute time limit draw; Hikaru Shida b Chii Tomiya
June 17: Firestorm Pro Wrestling (Mentor On The Lake, OH) – Sassy Stephie b Annie Social
June 18: British Wrestling Evolution (Braintree, England) – Pollyanna b Janey B & Rhia O’Reilly
June 18: TNA BaseBrawl (Buffalo, NY) – Tara b Winter
June 18: AAA (Mexico City, Mexico) Ashley & Sexy Angel b Dashuri & Keira
June 18: Northern Championship Wrestling (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) – LuFisto b Angie Skye
June 18: Ice Ribbon (Saitama, Japan) – Chii Tomiya b Hikaru Shida; Emi Sakura b Maki Narumiya; Choun Shiryu v Ray went to a time limit draw; Tsukasa Fujimoto, Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi b Tsukushi, Hikari Minami & Riho in an elimination match
June 18: Pro Wrestling Xtreme (Orlando, FL) – Jillian Hall b Santana
June 18: Ring Wars Carolina (Fayetteville, NC) – Mia Svensson b Kimberley Spades
June 18: WAVE (Hiroshima, Japan) – Sakura Hirota & a local male wrestler b Kana & another local male wrestler; Cherry b Ryo Mizunami; Ayumi Kurihara b Mio Shirai; Manami Toyota, Moeka Haruhi & Mika Iida b GAMI, Command Bolshoi & Io Shirai; Toshie Uematsu & Ran Yu-Yu b Yumi Ohka & Misaki Ohata
June 18: AAA TripleMania (Mexico City, Mexico) – Mickie James, Velvet Sky, Angelina Love & Sexi Star b Fabi and Mari Apache, Lolita & Cinthia Moreno
June 18: Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling (Vancouver, BC, Canada) – Billy Suede b Nicole Matthews
June 18: NWA New Jersey (Mays Landing, NJ) – Kimber Lee b Brittany Force
June 18: New York Wrestling Connection (Deer Park, NY) – Nikki Sixx b Brittany Force & Violet Stevens
June 19: Ice Ribbon TEENS (Saitama, Japan) – Hikari Minami & Riho b Hamuko Hoshi & Mochi Miyagi; Kurumi b Dorami Nagano; Tsukasa Fujimoto b Tsukushi; Hikari Minami won a 6-person Battle Royal last eliminating Tsukushi.
June 20: WWE Raw (Baltimore, MD) – Kelly Kelly b Brie Bella to win the Divas Title
June 25: Ballarat Professional Wrestling (Wendouree, Australia) – Shazza McKenzie v Eliza Sway
June 25: Women Superstars Uncensored: Uncensored Rumble (Union City, NJ) – Mercedes Martinez v Brittany Savage; The Belle Saints v The Boston Shore; Serena v Nikki Roxx; Alicia v Jessicka Havok; Sassy Stephie v Rain; Cindy Rogers v Allison Danger; Kristin Astara v Jillian Hall; Niya v Barbie; Amy Lee, Jamilia Craft & The Soul Sistas v Rick Cataldo, Allysin Kay, Jennifer Cruz & Monique
June 25: Riot City Wrestling (Adelaide, Australia) – Miami v Melodi Summers
June 26: Anarchy Championship Wrestling American Joshi Queen Of Queens (Live Oak, TX) – featuring Serena Deeb, Amanda Fox, Mia Yim, Christina Von Eerie, Rachel Summerlyn, Athena, and Daffney
July 6: WAVE (Tokyo, Japan) – Sawako Shimono v Mika Iida; Toshie Uematsu v Cherry; Kana v Tomoka Nakagawa; Ayumi Kurihara v Nagisa Nozaki; Yumi Ohka v Mio Shirai
July 8: Destination One Wrestling (Charlestown, IN) – Jimmy Feltcher & Trash Cassidy v Mad Man Pondo & Mickie Knuckles
July 15: SMASH (Tokyo, Japan) – Serena Deeb v Tomoka Nakagawa; Makoto v TBA
September 3: Pro Wrestling Women’s Alliance (Sydney, Australia)
September 17: IndyGurlz (Boonton, NJ)
September 24: IndyGurlz (Worcester, MA)
October 1 & 2: SHIMMER: Women Athletes (Berwyn, IL)
October 8 and 9: Pro Wrestling: EVE v Ice Ribbon (Doncaster, UK)
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