This past Saturday night saw a fight between two athletes headline a national TV show – a fight that not only was very real, but was built up as a proper grudge between two combatants who didn’t like each other. One was the determined, serious champion, one was the mouthy, charismatic upstart. The public cared. Newspapers gave them front page coverage. The internet was ablaze with interest. Step forward Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey – who proved that, while their gender was certainly part of the reason why the fight got such publicity, they were justifiable main eventers, and they delivered with a stunning fight which saw “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey utterly destroy Miesha Tate’s arm with a first round armbar to go 5-0 and become the new face of women’s MMA. Now, we don’t cover MMA here at Ringbelles, but the lessons are there to be learned. I believe, much as Alex Greenfield said in his recent appearance on the Women of Wrestling Podcast, that “Women’s wrestling is something that can generate real dollar business”. In the aftermath of the Tate vs Rousey show, I had a brief twitter exchange with fellow wrestling podcaster Mike Sempervive (of the Adam & Mike Big Audio Nightmare and Wrestling Observer Live over at WrestlingObserver.com) about whether WWE would learn anything from (a) the simple, old-school but effective build of Tate/Rousey as compared to ridiculous “Sports Entertainment”, or (b) the fact that women were presented as main draws. Semp tweeted “While the look of the messenger changes, it’s always the story that hooks people. And those donks lost that plot a long time ago”. Sadly, he’s not wrong. So here we stand, just a few days after a high-water mark for women’s combat sports, and also less than four weeks away from the biggest show in wrestling history, and rumours are currently swirling that (at the minute), there is *no* women’s match scheduled for WrestleMania. Now, one thing we as fans of (and commentators on) WWE have learned a long time ago is that Vince McMahon is an infinitely fickle man, and Raw shows are often written, re-written and re-written again even on the day of the show – so there’s every chance that by the time I’ve finished writing this article and uploaded it to the website, it’s already out of date – but with under a month to the big show, let’s consider the options for WrestleMania.
Beth Phoenix vs Kharma for the Divas Title
This was the seemingly glaringly obvious route to take for ‘Mania, and I fully believe it’s still the route we’ll end up going down… but is it a WrestleMania match? After a brief period where she was back on TV and mattering again, Beth has suddenly dropped off the face of the earth to make way for the Eve Torres angle. They’ve kept her strong, but they’re clearly struggling for ideas for Phoenix (to the point where they even elevated Tamina for a PPV title match out of nowhere just to give her something to do) until they can have Kharma ready. Although she looked great at the Royal Rumble, the story was that Kharma (who gave birth in December) isn’t quite ready to return to the ring (and the road) just yet – and while Phoenix vs Kharma would undoubtedly be the best quality match that they could put on for ‘Mania, it’s entirely understandable if Kharma isn’t ready that they don’t rush her back. That being said, a WrestleMania payday would certainly go down well for a new mother. The thing is – this is not a match that needs a long buildup. Beth has already established her opinion that she’s beaten everybody and has no competition left. A simple one-time appearance of Kharma to walk to the ring for a staredown with the Champion would be more than enough to elicit a reaction for a “first time ever” matchup, and they can go from there. That all being said, this is also a match that is crying out to get some time, and with ‘Mania likely to feature several matches that will get “as long as they need”, perhaps showcasing Phoenix vs Kharma in a sub-10 minute match at ‘Mania *isn’t* the right way forward at the minute. We’ll see.
Beth Phoenix vs Natalya for the Divas Title
I don’t know what Natalya did to deserve her current flatulence gimmick, but it is sucking the life out of her credibility and making one half of previously impressive Pin Up Strong into a comedy character. Whatever it is, it’s certainly a punishment for some perceived incident – whether she broke wind in front of the wrong person or they just want to embarrass her for some other reason, it’s clearly not something that is specifically intended to enhance Natalya’s star appeal. It seems a split of the Divas of Destruction is nigh, as they’ve already teased a slight dissention between the still dominant Phoenix and the increasingly comedic Natalya – but would they really reward Natalya with a spotlight at “The Showcase of the Immortals”? As the late Gorilla Monsoon would no doubt opine, “Highly Unlikely”. Had WWE played their hand better, Phoenix vs Natalya would and could have been a tremendous hard-hitting bout, worthy of a WrestleMania spot, but while I see the match happening sooner rather than later, I really don’t think it’s got WrestleMania potential.
Eve Torres vs Kelly Kelly
This is really the only thing that has been hinted on TV so far. Say what you will about the execution of Eve’s turn, but it’s taking. It’s not sustained Vickie Guerrero heat, but people are seeming to genuinely care about Eve Torres in her new role as evil seductress and are enjoying giving her heat. I’m more than happy with this turn of events, as I’ve always had a soft spot for Eve and it’s about time she’s been given a character. Okay, it’s a fabulously trashy character right out of a melodramatic soap opera, but dammit, it’s fun to watch and if she can really grow into her role, she’s got a lot to work with. Following her appearance on Raw last week, we had a horribly acted backstage skit where Kelly Kelly seemed hurt/appalled/disappointed (I’m not sure, but she glared at Eve nonetheless). I suppose we’re meant to empathise with Kelly that she’s been blown off by her best friend. Either way, there’s clearly a match coming between the two. Will it be at WrestleMania? It’s a weak grudge, and a weak match on paper – but they are WWE’s two “golden girls” when it comes to hotness and marketability, and there are at least a few powerful names in high places at WWE who see women’s wrestling as little else than an excuse to have hot girls on the show. One thing is for sure, Eve has suddenly moved to the front of the line for a WrestleMania slot. If not Kelly, then what else?
Eve Torres & ??? vs Zack Ryder & ???
This seems quite likely if Zack Ryder’s latest “injuries” don’t keep him off the show (and let’s be honest, if Zack’s purported catalogue of injuries were legit, there’s no way he’d be at WrestleMania) and if WWE can find people to fill the ??? spots. Rumours started a couple of weeks ago that former champion Layla was close to returning (and as a former Miami Heat dancer, WrestleMania in Miami would be a sweet time to return), and that she may fill the spot as Zack’s new girlfriend for a series of mixed tags. Okay, that works. But who to put with Torres? One suggestion I saw recently that I liked was Alberto Del Rio. As a rich and successful man, it makes plenty of sense that he’d be right in Torres’ sights – and quite frankly, the Del Rio character would probably work well with a “Trophy Wife” (especially one who could also play off against the loyal but hapless Ricardo Rodriguez) – but as much as Torres is flavour of the month in WWE, I can’t help but wonder if WWE would feel they were dropping Del Rio’s stock too far by associating himself with a midcard feud like this? If not Del Rio, who else? Maybe Kane? Unless they ret-con the production snafu that saw Eve casually strolling into the back of an ambulance as “proof” that she and Kane were in cahoots all along (presumably as some sort of “Biblical” heel team?), this makes no sense at all… which ironically makes it one of the most likely scenarios. Speaking of “most likely”…
Ah, the old standby. I was actually in the building for the last women’s Battle Royal on WrestleMania (WM25 at Houston) and it was terrible, and seemingly existed only to allow the Divas to shake their thangs to Kid Rock on the entrance ramp en route to the ring. I had to legitimately go to Wikipedia to remind myself who won… and having found that it was (the thankfully forgotten) Santina, I wished I hadn’t. Anyway, here’s a way to get everybody on the show. Beth Phoenix can have her Hogan/Warrior-style staredown with Kharma, Kelly Kelly can get her hands on Eve Torres, Layla can get her hometown pop, and there’s still room for perennial Vince favourites The Bella Twins, last month’s PPV challenger Tamina… heck, you could even use this as an opportunity for a Funkasaurus dance and have Naomi & Cameron compete.
There are options there, but again, as the sage Mr Sempervive said, “those donks lost the plot a long time ago”. Raw tonight may give us some sort of indication (or it may not), but I’ll still lay dollars to donuts there’s more chance of a Divas match at WrestleMania than there is of Miz having a match on the main card.
Man, it sucks to be Miz.
- Stew Allen