At a glance, and even to those who watched, the WWE’s first attempt at an all-women Royal Rumble was a success. Simultaneously celebrating the past performers with the current roster of talent, the WWE managed to find the correct balance. However once the scene faded as the company’s women champions, Rumble winner, and Ronda Rousey it felt all for nothing. What should have been a celebration of the handful of successes, and the potential of, the women’s division is, the women’s Royal Rumble felt like so everything else the WWE presents as of late. Hallow.
It’s no shock that the WWE has a mixed reputation when it comes to women in wrestling. You can point to groundbreaking moments like Chyna and Beth Phoenix entering the Royal Rumble match in 1999 and 2010 respectively. Or the lengthy lineage of women’s champions spanning decades. Or the change from women wrestlers to models, the women renamed to “divas”, and the sudden onslaught of upskirt camera shots and bra and panty matches. The WWE, as with many things, managed to do terribly and wonderfully for it’s women’s roster.
That’s why when a string of 30 something year old women entered into the Royal Rumble is became apparent how talented, and misused, the women have been in the WWE. Each woman looked fit, capable of wrestling, and enjoying every minute of their time in the match. Old feuds and matches, despite probably being trash, were mixed with nostalgia almost making the drink enjoyable to taste. The WWE has a wonderful past amongst the ashes of history and they all too often choose to ignore what burned it all down. It’s a shame that so much talent has flowed through the WWE women’s division previously, and only now do they get real recognition for the strange time in women’s wrestling they lived through.
A murky past was obvious, but a clear and talented future was even more so. For every legend who got her chance again in the spotlight, the WWE had a current roster entry to match them. It’s amazing to see the WWE’s ability to grow and develop new female talent. From a tattered and desperate division just a few years back, now there is a roster full of potential.
Asuka’s win is tremendous for the division too. Building Asuka up will eventually help another roster spot go over. Run down the list of names in that company and you could easily make a case for any of them finally ending Asuka’s streak. Unlike the unstoppable Brock Lesnar, Asuka could be the unbeatable champion who actually shows up to shows. Always taunting the current roster, until the build up lets another woman finally climb that mountain. It’s a smart way to make the women’s division seem viable, competitive, and alive.
That is unless...
Politics and wrestling rarely mix well. Ronda Rousey’s personal politics however are absurdly gross. Despite her successes in UFC women’s division, paving a path to make female fighters not only visible but respected, her statements in the past shade her terribly. She’s made transphobic comments, questioned if the Sandy Hook school shooting were all truth, and admitted to committing domestic violence on an ex-boyfriend.
It’s no shock to find out that a wrestler, or public figure, has differing views or even a controversial past. But as Ronda Rousey strolled to the ring and set herself next to current and future champions, it became clear who the WWE wanted to be in their future. Asuka’s win was tremendous, but Ronda Rousey was who mattered. On the same night that Stephanie McMahon was rewriting the women’s division history to add her name a few more times, Rousey was preparing drafts for future chapters.
In the main event spot, the women’s division in the WWE never looked better. Unlike any other company the WWE has a chance to set themselves apart. NJPW and ROH, possibly the closest thing to competition the WWE has, don’t truly focus on women, if they do at all. The WWE does. However if the WWE only views their female performers as tools for headlines and appearances, then it’s all for naught. At least this time fans can hopefully hold WWE responsible for their mistakes since they’re claiming this is a revolution.