The Indie Corner: Gender Synergy

Sara del Rey (Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein)

The Chikara/Ring of Honor Synergy doubleheader took place this past weekend to rave reviews. People who went to both shows couldn't stop raving about them, and for good reason. For those like myself who have to wait for the DVDs to be available, the lineups themselves were enough to cause the salivary glands to start churning and bubbling. Matches such as Kevin Steen vs. Eddie Kingston, Steen and Jimmy Jacobs vs. El Generico and BJ Whitmer, the Briscoe Brothers vs. Jigsaw and Hallowicked, the Young Bucks vs. Darin Corbin and Arik Cannon and Generico vs. Sara del Rey would be welcome additions to any card around the country.

The Chikara half of the card contained Kingston/Steen and del Rey/Generico. Given that the former match was for Kingston's Grand Championship, one might think that would be the main event of that slate. Nominally, it was, but as the card played out, it ended up that it was 7th on the card. One of the minor criticisms that I have about Chikara is that sometimes, their match order will tip their hand as to how the matches are going to play out. As a family-friendly company, they usually like to send the crowds home happy, and having Steen get disqualified by low-blowing Kingston is not a finish that Chikara has been known to close a show with.

Of the rest of the slate, only one other match really had the chops the Chikara scheme of things to put an exclamation point on their half of the show. The Generico/del Rey match closed the show as it should have. In fact, I'd say that the booking of the whole card set up two key things. The first was a continuation of hostilities between Steen and Kingston. Those two are among the marquee performers in all indie wrestling, and one match between the two is not enough. The second one probably isn't something Chikara will admit to publicly, but seemed to me to be as big a reason as the first. It was to prove a point to ROH and to the entire indie world that had been watching Chicago Ridge during the weekend that Sara del Rey's gender was not all that important in terms of her ability to carry her end of a high-level wrestling match and show.

It's a brilliant troll at the very least and a major statement in the state of gender equity at most. It was also the right statement to make. Let's face it; while women's wrestling flourishes in Chikara, Anarchy Championship Wrestling and other scattered independent promotions, and while the women enjoy their own segregated success with SHIMMER, Absolute Intense Wrestling's Girls' Night Out events and Women's Superstars Uncensored, the state of their gender on the whole is still pretty dire. WWE treats women like garbage, and TNA ignores for the most part what they have with women. ROH might be the worst offender of the bunch, not because of what they do, but because of what they don't do. One might think they would end up treating women the best because of where they are, but lately, women's wrestling has been ignored, and worse, the only women associated with the product are either backstage interviewers (Veda Scott) and arm candy (Mia Yim). By the way, both Scott and Yim are great performers even if they're both still within their first couple of years experience.

The argument is that women don't draw, and given how well-attended SHIMMER tapings are, how big a deal WSU has become over the years, the numbers that TNA's Knockouts did once upon a time and how popular del Rey has become within Chikara, that argument holds no water whatsoever. There's absolutely no reason why she, and Yim and Scott, shouldn't be tangling with the men on ROH television and at house shows, but people will continue to argue against it. However, seeing is believing, and the best arguments are always visual ones. When del Rey tore the house down with one of ROH's most seasoned and bankable attractions in Generico, the bigwigs in the company who were there had to have seen it. They had to have seen the reactions and the adulation she got, and if a wheel didn't start turning as to how they could harness that goodwill and that edginess, then they were blind at best and misogynist at worst.

The key word there is "edge". ROH at one point was once considered the cutting edge as to what wrestling was all about, but somehow, they either lost sight of what that edge was or they've misjudged it. ACW gets it; they've been booking women with men for as long as they've been open. Chikara gets it; in the last year, del Rey as well as Madison Eagles, Manami Toyota and Daizee Haze, have all tangled with the men. Even CZW gets it. One of their most acclaimed series of the year featured Yim going up against Greg Excellent. Hell, TNA is flirting with the idea of having ODB go up against the men, and say what you want about her alleged masculinity, she's still a woman potentially going up against the men.

ROH has already gone from the edge to the middle of the pack. While they can't reclaim that edge, they can help reinvent themselves and perhaps start doing the intergender stuff not only at a high level, but at the highest level of what is televised nationally.

The Synergy event was meant to be a dually symbiotic relationship between the two companies. Chikara's benefit will ultimately be monetary, but ROH's is almost certainly critically. Part of that critical influence needs to come from rethinking what gender roles in wrestling mean. The braintrust in Chikara knew that, and I have to think that's why they put the matches in the order that they did.

I don't want to bury ROH too much here, but at the same time, I criticize them because I want them to succeed. Part of that success in 2012 means courting females and integrating them in a way that's better than just talking to people or being wrapped around the arm of a manager.

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