There have been a lot of things for fans to debate regarding WrestleMania 34 - from real world issues like the legacy of Fabulous Moolah to more storyline-focused ones like the build to Roman Reigns likely fourth straight main event.
One that hasn’t received quite as much press as either of those but which has been controversial among internet fans is Raw’s Women’s Championship feud. The turning point in the relationship between titleholder Alexa Bliss and #1 contender Nia Jax came when Jax found out her real-life friend was using her in kayfabe, and insulting her appearance as a plus-size woman.
The discussion has reached Jax herself, who was asked by The Mirror about participating in a storyline which has parallels to her own experiences dealing with bullying and body shaming:
“I think it’s amazing. I think it’s something that people know but they don’t want to talk about it, they always want to keep it hidden. I feel like we’re tackling it head-on and it should be [tackled]. Young women and young girls, and boys, should actually be hearing this and seeing the conflict that we go through and seeing somebody stand up for themselves and not have to allow somebody to bully them, because of the way they look, what their shape is, or the colour of their skin is. You should always stand up for yourself. So I think it’s amazing. I’m very honoured to be a part of it.
You know, growing up... it’s crazy how real this storyline is to my real life. And especially with Alexa being such a close, best friend of mine for so long, she has seen it. She [her character] has hurt me [my character], because I’ve confided in a lot of these stories that have happened to me. It surprises me that it has become such a big storyline in WWE, because it relates to me completely.
Growing up I was made fun of for always being bigger. I specifically remember, at one of my junior high basketball games, a man, a grown man was making fun of me and my size, as I was playing basketball. They didn’t realise that my Samoan father [Joseph Fanene, first cousin to Peter Maivia, grandfather of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson of the Anoaʻi family] was in the audience. And he, he err... beat the crap out of them, but that’s a whole ‘nother story! But yeah, that’s something I’ve dealt with my whole life, people making fun of me and my size. Everything from having a huge forehead, to the size of my feet, and not being able to wear the same size shoes as my friends, definitely.”
This debate will likely continue, as it has in other artforms where the ability or right fiction has to present hateful or hurtful attitudes, even from villainous characters, has been questioned.
As a long time wrestling fan, part of me is bummed WWE has Superstars explaining kayfabe instead of letting the story speak for itself. At the same time, I’ve been watching long enough to know the company could be blamed for putting themselves in this situation with past storylines where the bullying characters won in the end or were even presented as something other than villains.
This quote from Nia won’t settle any arguments, but hopefully it helps to know the woman playing the character who’s being insulted is enthusiastic about telling this story.
Check out The Mirror’s entire exclusive interview here.