When Xavier Woods appeared on Monday Night RAW and tried to recruit Big E and Kofi Kingston for his new "movement," the cynic in me couldn't help but read it as WWE's madcap attempt to counterbalance this hit piece from The Atlantic, which skewered the organization's handling of black performers.
As a result, what looks to be a "Nation" redux has been haphazardly assembled and hurried into place, so that black Internet writers will perhaps A) calm down or B) pat themselves on the back (a la Barry Horowitz) for creating "change."
In reality, Woods, E, and Kingston are little more than mid-card Monica missiles aimed at squashing what little rebellion there is about race and pro wrestling.
But conversely, I believe genuine progress is being made for the ladies.
That's not to suggest any present or future mea culpa could ever undo the years of misogynistic behavior, but we have to play fair and recognize when the product delivers. The general consensus coming out of RAW? It was a spectacular show with exciting new angles.
And two of them -- big ones -- involved women.
AJ Lee and Paige are currently embroiled in a fight for the Divas championship. What's interesting to note is how Lee was the resident anti-diva, one who pipe-bombed her fellow females and refused to take part in anything relating to Total Divas. And she still owns one of the best social media posts of all time.
I don't take selfies because I have selfie-respect.
But now Paige is showing her what it really means to go against the grain, and the fact that the NXT import is even here and afforded the opportunity to perform on RAW says a lot about the direction of the division. Champ and challenger got off to a rocky start at Battleground, but I'm confident they'll deliver a terrific program over the next few weeks.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Elsewhere on the show, Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella had a captivating brannigan that ended with the new Mrs. Bryan getting her grill slapped shut. Her reaction? She called the police and had her attacker arrested, in a move that validated the power of brains over brawn.
Why is it a big deal?
Because it demonstrated depth in storytelling, as opposed to, "Go out there and be catty." As a fan, having sat through countless hours of mud wrestling, hot lesbian action, and whatever other demeaning filth WWE could drum up, it's refreshing to see a program with legs.
Which brings me to Lana, and what she has been able to accomplish.
Sure, her gimmick is one-dimensional, in a Frenchy Martin sort of way, but she gets airtime on the flagship program -- as well as the pay-per-views -- and manages to maximize every campy minute. I also think her femme fatale look reveals just the right amount of skin.
Sex appeal should not be condemned and has its rightful place in this industry, but there is a very fine line between admiration and exploitation when it comes to the treatment of women.
Believe me, I'm no monk. When I see a beautiful woman, I sit up and take notice. That's built into my genetic code. But the attractiveness of a female should not be directly proportionate to her value as a performer; meaning, if she's hot then I'll pay attention and if she's not, then I won't.
During the entire segment involving AJ Lee and Paige, as well as the one with Stephanie Mac and Double B, at no time was I thinking about their physical appearance, or how cute they looked in their outfits. Not because they aren't beautiful (they are), but rather because they were being utilized in a program where looks were inconsequential.
The story came first, the players came second.
It really is that simple when it comes to leveling the playing field and yes, we've had our share of male sexploitation, too. When the creative team sits down and tries to concoct a story by starting with, "We have a couple of hot Divas, what angles can we give them?"
But when the conversation begins with, "We have a couple of hot angles, what Divas can we give them?"
We all win.