Natalya’s doomed

Anyone been keeping up with the antics of Natalya on WWE SmackDown recently? If you haven’t, let me bring you up to speed…

The former Divas Champion is currently the focus of a flatulence gimmick (which started last week and continued on Friday’s episode), where she would be passing gas by accident and other wrestlers would be reacting to it, embarrassing her in the process. Apparently, this is a storyline designed to get the third generation wrestler over, in order to push her in the future, as if the Pin-Up Strong gimmick with current champion Beth Phoenix was not enough of a basis to do that.

While Natalya is being the good company girl and putting a positive spin on it, her uncle Smith Hart took to his Twitter this weekend to complain about the storyline, saying that he is “appalled by this ridiculous flatulence gimmick given to my niece Natalya. Anyone that knows Natalya, knows she is a radiant and incredibly inspirational person deserving of so much more.”

Now, this storyline is insulting, don’t get me wrong. It’s pure “Vincertainment” – a term used for stories, angles or gimmicks that are likely to amuse Vince McMahon, but everyone else believes is dumb or counterproductive – and will eventually lead to fans coming to shows with “THE FART DYNASTY” signs or something equally “witty”. Besides, this isn’t a case of WWE messing around with the 29-year old over the last few weeks – WWE has been messing around with her for six whole months – to the day, in fact…

“The days of the cute, perky little princesses are over.”

No joke, that’s what Natalya said on the mic while standing over a prone AJ, whom she had just beaten the tar out of following her submission victory on the August 2, 2011 taping of SmackDown that was broadcast on August 5. That was her heel turn, following in the footsteps of Beth Phoenix turning on the previous episode of Raw. Between them, they vowed to rid the Divas division of fluffy model wrestlers and bring a level of credibility back to WWE as part of their new tandem, christened the Divas Of Doom (though this was later altered to the Sisters Of Salvation and eventually evolved into Pin-Up Strong). Phoenix was scheduled to challenge for the Divas title against then-holder Kelly Kelly at SummerSlam, which this writer at the time hoped would lead to a resurgence of the women’s division, pushing wrestlers like Kelly so it brings the best out of them, as well as give the Divas a strong storyline to get involved in for once (a topic that we discuss at length with former WWE writer Alex Greenfield in the latest Women Of Wrestling Podcast). This writer was wrong.

While Beth took three attempts on pay-per-view to win the title (including having to suffer one defeat in her hometown of Buffalo, NY) Natalya was playing the supporting role on the outside, which didn’t seem to do much good. On the mild plus side, the Divas Of Doom were still getting the wins on free TV over combinations of wrestlers like Kelly, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox, AJ and Kaitlyn, but were still missing the centrepiece of their revolution – the Divas title. Consider for a moment if Hollywood Hogan had needed a few bites of the cherry to win the WCW World Championship after turning heel at the Bash At The Beach 1996 and kicked off the New World Order? It would have undermined the nWo from the very beginning and fans would have taken the angle a lot less seriously. And that’s exactly what happened here, as the DOD were made to look weak before they had even hit their stride. Phoenix eventually won the title from Kelly at Hell In A Cell at the start of October, which worked for her to restart the angle, but Natalya was still playing second fiddle. And by this point, the losses were starting to rack up…

As part of a team with Beth, Natalya was still picking up wins, but when it came to solo outings on TV, she was staring at the lights on every single occasion since her heel turn, and on house shows (where she was teaming with SmackDown talent like Tamina or Rosa Mendes as Phoenix was on the Raw circuit), her name was mostly in the loss column. According to cagematch.de, in the eight matches following August 2, Natalya was on the losing end six times. In September, she lost eight out of ten; October, nine from ten; November saw eleven defeats from fourteen outings, and in December, she lost all thirteen matches. To put it into perspective, Natalya hasn’t won a singles match on TV since siding with Phoenix and has only won two on the house shows (both against AJ in the last month). Make no mistake, Natalya has been getting the negative treatment from the bookers for a long time, and it has been made very clear to the audience that without Beth at her side to get the win, Natalya is not good enough to be a solo force. This has been rubber stamped with her getting her arse handed to her by Tamina recently, losing in six seconds to Aksana last week and Beth leaving Natalya in the ring on her own after their win over Aksana and Tamina on this week’s SmackDown.

Phoenix was off TV for more than a month while Natalya was suffering loss after loss, with many – including us – wondering if Beth was being punished for something. One would have to wonder if the questions were being aimed at the wrong person – could WWE have taken her off TV so she would be somewhat disassociated from the jobbing machine that Natalya has become? And if she has done something to piss off the top brass in WWE, what could be so monumentally horrible that it required her heel run to be such a damp squib, and then have to play out a storyline which would put her in such a horrid position to recover? Let’s face it – this flatulence gimmick is straight out of the career killing file, and follows up the losing streak situation, which in itself does nothing to help out a wrestler. There hasn’t been many situations where a wrestler who can’t get the win ends up more over as a result, and if it does have a positive upswing it never lasts for long, as it has been instilled in the audience’s mind that the wrestler is primarily a loser. In this case, it’s a loser with what is possibly an intolerance to lactose.

Considering that WWE bangs on about its BA STAR (which I’m pretty sure is missing a D on the end) campaign all the time in an effort to beat bullying, and how the company was pilloried last year for its treatment of Vicki Guerrero‘s looks on TV, it is mind-boggling that it is belittling another character with a farting gimmick which is designed to induce ridicule and scupper their career as a result. Let’s not pretend that this is a push like WWE is claiming it is – this is an on-screen smear campaign, and it’s more overt than the run of losses so even those who missed the subtle burial can see what is going on.

Natalya is keeping a dignified silence over the whole thing, which is probably the best thing that she can do in order to remain in WWE. However, by eating shit with a smile, she is allowing this kind of treatment to continue. It is a tough situation to find yourself in, knowing that your career and livelihood is being toyed with, and short of quitting, you are powerless to stop it. Taking a stand or challenging the bookers is not encouraged in WWE, and can be career suicide. It just depends if the harsh treatment and burial is worth the salary. Personally, I’d say no, but it’s not me in that situation. However, Natalya has launched her website this week, called nattieneidhart.com. Curious that she would set up her first website under her real (and indie wrestling) name, rather than under her WWE moniker. Kelly Kelly set her first site up under her real name of Barbie Blank before being “encouraged” to rename it to wwedivakellykelly.com. It will be interesting to see if the same thing happens on this occasion.

The last time I wrote an article with “doomed” in the title, it was directed towards Melina, who was released from her contract less than a month later. I hope that the same thing does not happen to Natalya, but one must wonder if she is heading down the same road. Even if it does not lead to her being let go, it is one hell of a tarnish job that may be impossible to undo. I would like to be proved wrong.

- Lee Burton

Chris Huschek says:

In the early to late 90′s WWF seemed to have some respect for women’s wrestling. Bull Nakano, Alundra Blayze, Aja Kong just to name a few all wrestled in WWF. Then something changed and the women are half naked rolling and dancing around in the ring doing things that have nothing to do with wrestling. In my opinion I think it’s fear. Fear that if they put together an actual, respectable women’s division that it might become more popular than the men, it almost happened in TNA. So they take Nattie and make her look like a joke which in return makes the whole division look like a joke. Since they can’t do their BS bra and panties matches any more because of their new PG attitude they settle for a farting gimmick.

WWE has long been a mysoginistic organization with no designs towards creating a vibrant, diverse women’s division with a real role in its onscreen product.

What worries me is Nattie leaving — not for her, because I know she’ll find work, but for WWE’s remaining “Divas”, since Beth Phoenix is WWE’s only other exceptionally-talented “Diva” (Kharma isn’t listed as a “Diva”, so she doesn’t count).

Women already get a bare minimum of screen time in WWE even with Beth and Nattie standing atop the division as the “Divas of Doom”; what’s going to happen when all WWE has left in its women’s division are dangerous or otherwise untalented peformers?

I abhor Nattie’s new “farting” gimmick, but I hate how she’s been made to look like a complete joke even more. Going to TNA is often seen as career suicide for men, but for women…well, at least Nattie might get some damned respect down in Florida.