The hot topic on the internet at the moment, other than Roman Reigns looking a lot better coming out of “Monday Night Raw”, Brock Lesnar walking out of the show this past week or the return of Randy Orton, has been the Divas. Twitter has seen “Give Divas A Chance” trending for days now and Tuesday night, AJ Lee tweeted to Stephanie about how unfair it was that the Divas aren’t given the same amount of TV time or pay as their male counterparts. This ties into the speech given by Patricia Arquette at this week’s Academy Awards, talking about gender equality. Today we’ll look at why this isn’t such an easy fix.
Before we get started, for the sake of clarification, I’ll only be using the word Divas to refer to the girls primarily on the main roster.
Let’s start with the two most recent Divas matches, which took place on “Monday Night Raw” and at “Fast Lane 2015”. The TV match was a tag and the pay per view match was a singles with the two combining to run 6:05. The tag match lasted 31 seconds and was a continuation of the pay per view match, where Divas Champion Nikki Bella grabbed Paige’s trunks to steal a pin. Their feud was fooled by the Bella Twins spraying Paige with tanning oil and stealing her clothes.
For a comparison, let’s look at the NXT women’s division. Their most recent big women’s match was a four way title match at Takeover: Rival with Women’s Champion Charlotte defending against Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch. The match ran just under 12 minutes and saw Banks pin Charlotte after realizing her submission hold wasn’t going to make the champion submit. This four way feud was over everyone’s desire to win the title, as well as Banks and Lynch injuring Bayley’s knee.
The comparison between these two division should show you every problem with the main roster Divas. Above all else, it comes down to how the divisions are treated. The common solution to the Divas division seems to be “just bring up the NXT girls.” That’s an idea that sounds good on the surface, but when you really think about it, the idea doesn’t practically work.
What people overlook is the talent itself doesn’t matter. I would agree that for the most part, the NXT girls are more well rounded in the ring. That’s not to say the Divas don’t have talent, but there are way too many of them that just don’t cut it in the ring. For every Natalya or Paige, there’s an Eva Marie or a Cameron who come off as more of a glorified joke than a serious act. Of course there are some less than serious characters down in NXT, including Blue Pants and Carmella.
However, for the sake of argument, let’s say you completely swap the rosters and send the NXT girls to the main show and the Divas down to NXT. This isn’t the grand solution to everything that people like to think it is. If you bring up Sasha Banks, Charlotte and company and have them in quick, meaningless matches and fighting because one of them stole the other’s purse or sprayed perfume on her or whatever else the main roster writers come up with, the results are going to be the same as you get now: fans not caring and tuning out whenever the girls are on screen.
The same is true if you go the other way. If Natalya, Paige, AJ the Bellas etc. were sent down to NXT where they were allowed to have serious storylines and longer matches, the fans would eventually get behind the presentation. The girls on the main roster are a lot better than they’re given credit for, but you can’t see that in matches that only last a minute or two. Again, the opposite holds up as well. If the NXT girls weren’t given ten to fifteen minutes for their major matches, it’s very likely they wouldn’t be nearly as beloved and appreciated as they are now.
What it boils down to is how differently the two sets of girls are presented. Over the years, the main roster Divas have been treated as a sideshow act whose only job is to fill in a spot on the show so the fans can go get popcorn. It doesn’t help that Michael Cole spent the better part of a year talking about how boring the Divas are and how much he’d rather be watching anything else. Throw Jerry Lawler’s constant sexual jokes about them on top of that and there’s no reason to look at the Divas as serious.
Look at the NXT girls again. Are they ever treated as anything overly sexual? Yeah they were fairly revealing outfits, but it’s nothing that’s ever focused on. It’s such a different atmosphere and the girls are treated as serious wrestlers fighting for an important title and they just happen to be female.
So how does WWE solve the problem on the main roster? Well above all else, it’s going to take time. The fans see the Divas as nothing more than a lame act to kill time. Before the Divas are something special, they have to be seen as good. For a way to get there, let’s look back at Jesse Ventura and “Survivor Series 1987”.
On that show, a female tag team called the Jumping Bomb Angels put on a clinic and defeated the Glamor Girls, the reigning WWF Women’s Tag Team Champions (a horrific idea in today’s product). Ventura’s reaction was full of respect as he compared them to Ricky Steamboat and Randy Savage, capping it off by saying that it was fantastic and he enjoyed it.
That’s the kind of respect the Divas NEVER get today. Instead it’s usually something about what’s going on with “Total Divas” or whatever shenanigans the girls are up to. It’s rarely about their athleticism or anything serious with the commentary often not even paying attention to what’s going on. If the announcers don’t respect what they’re seeing in the ring, why should the fans?
A second major change is to have more serious stories. So often anymore the Divas are fighting over something that sounds like it’s out of a summer camp. I mean, stealing clothes so Paige has to dress like a fairy princess? That’s a serious issue? Or Nikki being angry at Brie for something she did back in high school? One of the most serious stories in the past year was Alicia Fox going insane, which went all of nowhere. There’s no reason to care about most of these stories and they don’t make the short matches any better.
That’s the last big part: the length of the matches. Last year at “Summerslam 2014”, Stephanie McMahon and Brie Bella had a match at lasted 11:06. Do you know when the last time a pay per view singles match between two Divas broke ten minutes? That would be “Unforgiven 2006” when Trish Stratus beat Lita in 11:34. That’s over eight years ago. John Cena won his third WWE World Title that night, the Spirit Squad was defending the World Tag Team Titles and the Divas Title was nearly two years away from being created.
That’s just ten minutes. There are twenty minute matches almost every month on free TV. The Divas however, save for some Survivor Series elimination tags, literally went over eight years between getting ten minutes for a match. In the first two months of 2015, there have been 16 matches breaking ten minutes on “Monday Night Raw” alone. Yet somehow, the Divas getting ten minutes on a pay per view is something that took eight years. That’s quite a leap.
Now that being said, there is the argument of “but the Divas are boring.” I can agree with this to a degree, but are they boring because they aren’t skilled, or is it at least partially that they’re never given time to do anything? John Cena vs. CM Punk for the WWE World Title in the main event of Wrestlemania sounds great on paper, but if they’re only given six and a half minutes with the announcers treating it as a waste of time, the results aren’t going to be there.
In order to fix this, the fans have to be given a new idea of what the Divas are. Instead of just having them do stupid stories with short payoffs and a big focus on “Total Divas”, turn them into girls who can have entertaining matches that people want to see. Look at Ronda Rousey in the UFC. She’s an attraction because she beats people up, not because she gives the fans a breather.
If you want a WWE version, look no further than AJ Lee vs. Paige. Their feud in 2014 received rave reviews, even though it wasn’t anything all that great. What it was though was treated as something more serious and based (mostly) what happened in the ring. It also helps that Paige and Lee are two of the better female workers in years. The same is true of the NXT girls. When they’re given time and training to get better, they become an attraction that people, including myself, look forward to. Treat the Divas as something serious and the attention will eventually come.
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