While watching the Payback PPV a few months back I noticed this image and quickly paused the video.
This, as you well know, is a still of the classic, "Please DO NOT try this this at home" phrase, only the words "DO NOT" are not visible.
I thought it was funny and so I took a screenshot with the intention of sharing with y'all -- only to realize that "Please try this at home" would be an awesome name for a recurring wrestling blog.
Thus, I pocketed this jewel for myself with the intent of unleashing it on the debut of said future recurring wrestling blog. Plus, I do enjoy how most the FanPosts here have gimmicks applied to them -- as a wrestling blog should, right?
And so here we are. Somewhat coherent ramblings on a range of wrestling-related topics. Hopefully once every few weeks or whenever I feel like I have something interesting to say that is too long for a comment.
I am a complete amateur. I have no training. I am really lazy. I'm probably naked right now.
This may or may not be entertaining. The hazards are not real. You will not break your neck. You will not tear an ACL. I've never had surgery. Though I did once have a root canal.
At any moment, I may stop caring about this blog altogether. In an instant, you may stop reading. Anything I can do, you can do, too. I am not special in any way.
So, if you ever feel so inclined, then, please, try this at home.
This is a two part post. The first part discusses a hypothesis I have on the Bella Twins' performance. The second part looks at the general reaction to the Bellas and examines why those reactions occur. Plus, with AJ's "pipebombshell" criticism of the Bellas as a catalyst, what might the future of women's wrestling hold?
You're all marks and you don't even know it... (a hypothesis on the Bella Twins)
Johnny works for WWE Creative. He's backstage with the Divas going over their post-match segment one last time before they head out to the ring.
Johnny: Okay girls, so, here we go. First, Bellas, tell me about your characters.
Brie: Well.... we are super-annoying, high-pitched, drama queens who think our shit doesn't stink and the world revolves around us.
Nikki: Oh, but the world totally does revolve around us.
Brie laughs as the two hi-five each other (see how easy this character is?).
Johnny: Excellent. AJ, what's your character here as you cut the promo?
AJ: I'm super over among the IWC. They love me. I'm a geek at heart and I wear MARVEL t-shirts in my online promos to reflect that. Wrestling fans are pretty much geeks, too, and so they love me. I speak my mind and say and do crazy stuff when I feel like it. I don't have big fake breasts or appear on "reality" TV because that's just not me. I'm more real than that.
Johnny: Perfect. So if the Bellas are typical WWE Divas, in the way the WWE is now pushing Divas, then what does that make you?
AJ: The Anti-Diva.
Johnny: Okay, great. So, while AJ is cutting her promo, we have to remember, you three in the ring -- Natalya, Funkadactyls -- you are faces. So we need you to stand in the ring looking very offended, but don't make too much motion or noise. Stand there like you can't believe she's calling you out like this. We aren't going to have any cameras too near you, and we won't have you mic'd as loud. So if you say something occasionally, it's no big deal. But we don't need you drawing negative attention to yourself in that way, because you're still good guys in the eyes of the audience. Eventually, you'll probably "see the light" and "convert" to AJ's side of things or whatever. Got it?
They nod their heads.
Johnny: Fantastic. Now, Bellas, your characters think the world revolves around them. You are heels and we want to draw negative attention to you. So what are we gonna do here?
Nikki: Try to talk over AJ. Generally just be loud and obnoxious, to further the stereotype of us as annoying, oblivious bitches.
Johnny: Yes, good. Because we're going to have you set up close to a mic and give you a fair amount of on-screen time to get your annoying behavior across to audiences. Just imagine the dichotomy, ladies. AJ on the stage, essentially shitting all over each and every one of you, and the Bellas won't shut the heck up for even one single, solitary second while she's doing it. They just keep blabbering. It's going to really drive the point home. And, when AJ is finished, how is the IWC going to react to this?
AJ: They're gonna love me.
Nikki: And they're gonna think we're even more dumb and fake than ever.
Brie: Yah, they're really going to hate us.
Johnny: Exactly, which is gonna get us tremendous freakin' heat that the Divas division rarely sees these days. And you might actually get legitimate boos when, somewhere soon down the line here, you take the title off AJ thanks to interference from Nikki.
Brie: People might actually boo us as legitimate heels instead of going to the restroom during our matches? Wow, that makes sense if we can pull this off right. But, what if... I don't know... people start appreciating Nikki and I for our performance as heels, and they start cheering us?
Johnny: That's impossible, Brie. The IWC doesn't see you as performers. They think this is how you really are. We even have a fake reality TV show that, even though the IWC knows it's scripted, they still take your superficial onscreen personas as real. All we're doing is taking that perceived reality and integrating it more cohesively into a WWE storyline for the purpose of building you girls heat.
Brie: So they hate us even though they know it's scripted?
Nikki: Doesn't that make them... what's the word... marks?
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Where is my evidence for such a hypothesis? I may be giving the Bellas too much credit. But I think the IWC as a whole is giving them too little.
Just take a look at the recent RAW reaction thread to see how pissed 100% of you were the other day about the Bellas. I may have missed a comment or two, but it did not appear to me that one single person even stopped to consider the idea that they were TOLD to act obnoxious during AJ's promo -- that it was part of the scene. Everyone immediately assumed they were either (a) incompetent or (b) selfish (or perhaps both).
This is dirt-sheets, TV, and "reality-era" booking playing to the IWC's prejudices on a level that HHH can only dream of.
To figure out if this hypothesis had any merit, I had to go back in time and find a video of them speaking from their pre-WWE days. I managed to find this, which appears to have aired on some sort of twin competition show.
Now, since it's still a TV show, they may still be "in character" in a certain way. But notice their voices are not nearly as annoying, they seem way less oblivious, and, actually, much more real.
The Bellas on our TV screens now are full-blown characters. Playing the "dumb, bratty blonde" is not that difficult, so I won't give them any more credit as actresses than is needed to pull that much off. But I am at least willing to give them that credit for pulling it off. Brie has improved in the ring and this storyline might actually provide her some real heat if she ends up being pushed to take the title.
And, of course, the Bellas are the most perfect foil imaginable for a character like AJ and the revolution she may be seeking. They deserve some credit for that.
Gender Roles Imply Multiple Genders
What does that mean? It means we don't have roles except as ways to differentiate between things. Cats have roles in relation to dogs. Women have roles in relation to men. The sky has roles, but only because it is sometimes dark and sometimes light. And so on.
Where roles suddenly disappear, or become less relevant, you know you've moved towards homogeneity -- or, in the case of genders, equality.
For example, when was the last time you watched a WWE storyline involving men and thought, "Typical men. Always doing aggressive male stuff."
That rarely happens. And not just because you're a man (if you are, indeed, a man). I doubt even many female fans view it that way very often (though, for you females reading this, I'd love to hear what you think).
That's because gender roles imply multiple genders. In a storyline that revolves around men and only features men, there is no need to reference gender roles. They become a non-factor because there are no women in the feud.
This is where men have moved beyond gender roles, and have not become defined by them -- because they are given time in WWE rings to develop feuds that are completely unrelated to women.
In fact, much more than that, men are given feuds where it is acknowledged -- or at least implied -- that winning gold is more important than a woman. When's the last time you saw a female WWE feud that involved women fighting over something other than a man? When's the last time a woman held up a title, all on her own, and said, "This is the most important thing to me."
Oh, that's right. It happened on Monday.
AJ: 1. Gender roles: 0.
Going back to the Bellas to illustrate more points, there appears to me a sort of sexism in the idea that a man can play a heel role and it will be perceived as performance, but when a woman is a "bitch" or "shallow" or "slutty" or "annoying" it somehow reflects her real-life persona.
Part of that is the fact that female characters in the WWE don't really have "gimmicks" in the way that men have gimmicks. Men are allowed to be silly dancers who demand their name be said a certain way. Men are allowed to be redneck-ish cult leaders who speak in mysterious riddles. Men are allowed to be intellectual saviors, or hide their ugly faces behind a mask, or be borderline-racists, or be terrible funk dancers. Male gimmicks not only cover much of male personality in a real way, but extend beyond it in unrealistic and imaginative ways. This is not something typically allowed to women.
Even as you now start to think of examples where I am wrong about women lacking gimmicks, you may think of someone like Summer Rae. She is certainly perceived as a "performer", and it's obvious -- but her character is only blatantly seen as such because she is perceived through her male partner, Fandango, who himself is a blatant character. In the WWE world, what is a female character without a man to provide the gimmickry and the depth?
Female "gimmicks", therefore, are left to rely on more reality-based story-telling -- someone cheated on someone, someone is sleeping with someone, someone is a "crazy slut", someone's best friend broke someone's heart, etc. Instead of women portraying caricatures, the female figure itself becomes caricatured. None of the female gimmicks are "gimmicky" in the way male wrestlers are portrayed as "gimmicky", and notice none of it ever has anything to do with the Divas Championship.
(we may now interpret the storyline relevance of AJ using Big E to embarrass Kaitlyn, revealing her as a woman in need of a man and weakened by them)
None of it is ever, even, over the top in a ridiculous way so that you are allowed to differentiate between the performance and the performer. This means you run a greater risk of reality and fiction blurring in female storylines than you do in male ones (for the most part).
That is what makes what happened on Monday night absolutely amazing on two counts:
(1) This is a reality storyline feeding off itself, but also criticizing itself. It shows a self-awareness of the state of female wrestling in the WWE and an attempt, through AJ, to elevate it.
(2) This is a storyline that does not involve men.
Sure, yes, AJ did mention the fiancee thing, and there is still the idea that the Bellas "sucked...... up" to the right people (i.e., the right MEN -- and an amazing freakin' line, by the way; with perfect delivery). But those are important parts of criticism that reference Count #1 above.
What, of course, was the main criticism? AJ accused the divas quite directly of not being women in any real sense. Of being bound by the behavior of their male counterparts. This is therefore a feud about women, by women, for women. This is a truly female feud (so far, at least).
We know as much because there were only women out there. For the first time in a long time, with no men to help them, no male gimmicks to rub off on, there were women on our television sets providing a story that we might actually care about in the WWE.
The most poignant example of this "shift" to female independence comes through AJ herself. She did not appear with Big E. She came on to the stage alone, not as an extension of a man, but as a woman. Alone and proud and strong.
Perhaps, even, a role model? And when's the last time girls in the WWE Universe had one of those?
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
What follows is yet to be seen, but the company can go a lot of directions with this to really turn the gender roles in the WWE on their head. Whether they do that or not... I won't hold my breath... but is it any coincidence that the next step for women's wrestling is the inclusion of gimmicks and that what makes the females in NXT so interesting is their gimmickry? Someone can talk more about this who knows more than I do about NXT, but I believe you have the goth girl, and the funny dancing Australian one, and the serious loner, etc.
Those are gimmicks in the real sense of the word. They don't rely solely on a woman being female and having tits and an ass, or portraying "typical female behavior", but being a human being with an over-the-top, unique identity. If AJ is ushering in the era of the new NXT female wrestlers, then she needs to first overcome the reality of gender, so that women can stop being seen exclusively as women (i.e., woman, the opposite of man) and start being seen as their gimmicks. Then, even the Bellas can be seen as bad actresses who are in it for the 15 minutes -- rather than bad actresses who are in it for the 15 minutes, if you follow me.
With the right amount of WWE Creative follow through, AJ can play the Bryan-underdog role to the Bellas "reality/fake/best-for-business" role and usher in a new era. Having AJ come out on top can be a "big win" for girls in the same way that Bryan's eventual overcoming of the odds stacked against him will be relevant to little kids with big dreams all across the world.
AJ can also be seen here as the CM Punk of this revolution. Punk started the more recent one in the male realm, but he broke the glass ceiling for others to follow him. Punk, after all, could never be the guy to take Cena's spot on top. Bryan is a bigger draw and more convincing as a baby-face. Punk could only serve the role he did to oppose Cena in that tweener, anti-authority way. Remember, folks, they tried to give Punk a baby face gimmick in opposition to Johnny Ace and it was pretty dreadful. The only kind of baby-face Punk that is endearing and real is the one who calls people in the audience fat-asses if they interrupt him -- and that's not the kind of face you can have replacing Cena.
Bryan, meanwhile, delivers as a good guy and has for months. His tweener elements are much more restrained and fit better into the WWE mold for a face.
AJ can be the one to start this, and she started it full throttle on Monday, but she likely won't be the one to benefit the most from it. Which intrigues me as to who will take up the torch in the next few years if this thing plays out the way it hopefully will.
And now that I've taken this exclusively female story and analogized it through exclusively male ones to help us all better understand it, we can sit and wonder aloud: just how far does the women's division have to go? And just how far can AJ Lee take it?