The Diva Revolution does not exist.
That one simple declarative sentence has been a hard pill for many to swallow, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
In the weeks immediately following the dawn of the so-called revolution, I wrote a column warning the masses not to whip out the fireworks and noisemakers just yet. WWE’s history of presenting unadulterated and, more importantly, compelling women’s wrestling has been less than stellar to put it mildly. Furthermore, the forced presentation framing the so-called revolution raised a series of red flags in my head. Something just didn’t feel right.
The reaction I received was less than complimentary.
Fast forward a few more weeks and, painful as it may be, I was proven right.
That proof came towards the conclusion of Monday night’s episode of Raw in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A series of unflattering chants began emanating from the live audience, eager to see their de-facto hometown hero, Brock Lesnar, and not so eager to enjoy the match between Nikki Bella and Sasha Banks booked directly before the homecoming.
Chants of ‘This is boring’ quickly turned into ‘This is awful’, before transforming yet again into, ‘We want Brock’ and were clearly heard through the television broadcast, even after audio levels were noticeably adjusted by the WWE production crew.
Was it bad booking?
Was it in poor taste?
Does it come as a surprise?
Not to me.
In order to achieve a revolution two vital components must be present, the first of which is actual revolutionaries.
WWE has an abundance of revolutionaries.
The current crop of female talent including, but not limited to, Charlotte, Paige, Becky Lynch and the aforementioned Banks, is among the most diverse and talented group of female performers ever assembled in one major promotion at the same time. Everything from the way they look and sound to their distinct styles in the ring make them different from any other generation of female wrestlers in the history of the industry.
The second necessity is action.
This is where a large portion of the problem lies.
Telling the audience a revolution is underway is not a revolution, showing the audience a revolution is underway, that’s a revolution.
The Continental Congress, progressive and intellectual as they were, did not spark the American Revolution, men with guns and a steady aim did that. Without the actions of men on the battlefields of Lexington and Concord, founding fathers like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would have been reduced to nothing more than political philosophers executed for treason.
Whether the revolution is over civil liberties or the presentation of competent and compelling women’s wrestling, the point remains the same. Actions always speak louder than words. Since the introduction of the Diva Revolution angle, WWE has saturated its audience in rhetoric but failed to deliver the goods.
Unlike these United States, however, the WWE universe is not conducive to democracy. It is the intellectual property of Vince McMahon, an entrenched emperor who is barely subject to accountability from stockholders let alone his performers. The current influx of female talent is not, nor will they ever be, in the position to demand revolution. If revolution is to come, it must be done at the command of the very emperor whose misguided views created the need for revolution in the first place.
That said, McMahon has willingly pulled the revolutionary trigger on more than one occasion in the past. Since assuming ownership of WWE from his late father in 1982, he’s displayed an innate ability to mold his product according to the ever changing pulse of both the wrestling industry and popular culture respectively. The straight-laced style of the 1970s was replaced by Hulk-a-Mania. Family friendly content was replaced by Degeneration X. Cartoonish and over the top characters were replaced with the likes of Steve Austin and The Rock.
Each one of those course corrections can be labeled as a revolution and serves as indisputable proof that McMahon does, in fact, understand how to produce a revolution with real meaning. Yet, here we stand.
It is obvious to any logical thinker that the lack of any meaningful revolution as it pertains to women’s wrestling is directly correlated with McMahon’s refusal to acknowledge that one is required in the first place. Otherwise, it would have occurred long ago and materialized in a much different fashion than the revolution in name only taking place as we speak.
The roots of this so-called revolution were planted in soil made fertile by the insurgence of compelling women in athletics, from Mo’ne Davis in the Little League World Series and the Women’s World Cup soccer team to Ronda Rousey’s and Serena Williams’ dominance in the UFC and professional tennis respectively. The gap between men’s and women’s athletics, both collegiate or professional in nature, has never been so close.
Ask yourself, if WWE’s intensions were as pure as they like to portray, how on earth can a Diva Revolution, designed to highlight the talent and worth of women on a real level, share the same space with Lana and Summer Rae, whose storyline continues to devolve into nothing more than a stereotypical cat fight between two women arguing over men placed in a more dominant role? The two angles are in direct contradiction with one another, the latter of which almost appears to have been intentionally written into television to compensate for the phony revolution being highlighted to the degree that it has.
Faced with those discouraging but accurate truths, is it really any wonder why a true revolution has failed to take shape?
While the bulk of the blame can easily be placed on the shoulders of WWE’s vociferous emperor, there is, without question, another guilty party in play, the WWE audience.
This is, perhaps, the most difficult of all truths to accept but a cold, hard truth nonetheless.
For over 30 years McMahon has viewed women’s wrestling as nothing more than a tantalizing appetizer at best and a useful palate cleanser at worst, that is his sin to bear. For over 30 years the WWE audience has widely accepted that misguided view, an equally destructive sin but one far less recognized by those who should know better.
Where was the outcry of support for trailblazing women like The Fabulous Moolah or Mae Young, who defied social conventions of the 1960s and 70s to make a name for themselves in an industry dominated by men? Where was the demand to see them involved in meaningful stories and matches on a more regular basis? No such outcry ever existed. Years later, during the Attitude Era, the legacy of these pioneers was further sullied by a new generation of fans completely oblivious to the level of disrespect these proud women were forced to endure. Instead, they cheered as Young was power-bombed through a table and Moolah was characterized as a sex hungry grandmother.
In the 1980s, during the height of the feminist revolution, where was the demand for women’s wrestling to be positioned higher on the card? Despite the talents of amazing performers like Wendi Richter, The Jumping Bomb Angels, Rockin Robin, Judy Martin and Leilani Kai no such demand existed. The audience didn’t bat so much as an eyelash as these women were presented as a special attraction, more closely resembling a condescending sideshow act.
In the 1990s, who questioned the puzzlingly sporadic existence of the women’s division, which seemed to disappear and reappear at random, despite WWE having talented women like Alundra Blayze, Bull Nakano, Sheri Martel, Luna Vachon and others at its disposal at a time when few other promotions had any female talent at all?
During the Attitude Era and the birth of the Diva’s Division, (Double D, how quaint) who rejected the notion that women like Trish Stratus, Lita, Jacqueline, Victoria, Sable, Ivory and so many others were better served running around in their underwear than in a pair of tights and wrestling boots?
Certainly not the audience.
In recent years, a lifetime of misogyny and incompetence has been subtly revised by WWE to create a narrative much more marketable. WWE is in the business of making themselves look good, even if that means rewriting history, and they should be. The audience, however, many of whom have been around long enough to recognize truth from deception, sits idly on the sidelines, distracted by the comforting lure of nostalgia, avoiding the sharp and painful truth at all costs.
After decades of ambivalence it should come as no surprise that the #GiveDivasAChance movement was severely flawed and all but doomed to fail from the start. The WWE audience, who inexplicably decided to take offense to an issue it served an active role in creating, suddenly demanded action.
Give Divas a chance, they ever so politely asked.
Not exactly on par with Patrick Henry shouting ‘Give me liberty or give me death’.
Give Divas a chance, really?
In the history of revolutions, whether based in reality or fantasy, how many came after a simple request like, give Divas a chance? Ask a question and you may not like the answer, make a statement and you can alter the course of history forever.
This vague and fundamentally unsound request was quickly confiscated by WWE and manipulated into the poor excuse of a revolution that intellectually honest individuals like myself have seen through since day one.
The introduction of the NXT women, combined with the rebranding of the Divas already on the main roster, was neatly packaged, wrapped in shiny paper, topped with a bow and hand delivered to the audience by Stephanie McMahon herself.
Suddenly all was right with the world.
Instead of one Divas match on Raw every week, we now have two!
Instead of the same four divas fighting one another over arbitrary issues, we now have nine fighting over arbitrary issues!
Instead of one stereotypical group of characters, we now have three!
The Divas have been given a chance!
And now, in less than two months, what was once exiting and fresh to most in the audience, has already returned to being an afterthought, an annoying obstacle on the road to the main event, as evidenced by the actions of the crowd at Raw this week.
The ultimate truth of the matter is this, no matter how trendy it may be to use #GiveDivasAChance on Twitter, the majority of the WWE audience is not invested in the success of women’s wrestling. It never has been and likely never will.
Making women’s wrestling a prominent part of WWE’s product was a cause-of-the-day movement. And like so many movements within society today, what began as a real call to arms quickly became a blurred message, hindered by an impure mob. A mob that was easily satiated because it didn’t even understand what it was it was asking for. And just like that, the cause is lost to those who actually cared in the first place. This ugly truth is difficult for those of us that actually desire real women’s wrestling to accept but one that we ultimately must come to terms with.
The talented women on the WWE main roster and in NXT will undoubtedly have terrific careers, full of exciting and entertaining moments they will look back on one day with pride. They will earn an honest living and fulfill their dreams. They just won’t do it as part of a revolution.
Writing this column was not an enjoyable experience. In fact, it was the most painful and regrettable piece of material I’ve ever composed for public consumption in my 12 plus years as a writer. Telling the truth is an agonizing undertaking sometimes, if it wasn’t, people wouldn’t avoid doing it on a regular basis.
The truth about the Diva Revolution is that it does not exist.