What an incredible last few days to be a wrestling fan. NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn made history by becoming the biggest sell-out for an NXT-exclusive show and gave us a serious Match of the Year Contender between Bayley and Sasha Banks – the highlight of an overall great card. The next night at SummerSlam, WWE took full advantage of the media coverage offered by Jonathan Coachman and ESPN by booking two very screwy – but buzzworthy – finishes for both their co-main-events. Last night on Raw, the surprises kept coming as The Dudley Boyz (!!!) returned to the company to take out The New Day, a new member of The Wyatt Family was revealed and even Sting made his television return to close the show. This past weekend felt like WrestleMania weekend, and for $9.99 (plus whatever amount my mom pays for cable), I couldn’t be more satisfied.
Unless, of course, you’re one of the divas involved in the #DivaRevolution on the main roster. If your name is Paige, Charlotte, Nikki Bella, Alicia Fox, Naomi, etc., the past three nights probably didn’t go off without a hitch. First they had to sit back and watch two NXT talents in Bayley and Sasha Banks go out and have arguably the best women’s match of ALL-TIME (sorry, Trish vs. Mickie). That’s right; eight out of the nine women involved in the “Divas Revolution” were upstaged by two ladies who have spent the majority of their wrestling career on NXT. If you haven’t seen Sasha vs. Bayley from TakeOver: Brooklyn yet, then what the hell are you waiting for?
Going into SummerSlam, there was quite a fair amount of hype for the triple-threat divas elimination match which was nearly two months in the making. Team PCB vs. Team Bella vs. Team B.A.D. had the potential to steal the show, or at the very least, prove to the critics that women wrestling had finally turned the corner. Instead, thanks to what I may call “sabotaged booking” (which I’ll explain in a second), the triple threat was a huge letdown and felt like the divas portion of the Pay-Per-View had resumed its status as the ‘piss-break’ moment of the show.
The straw that broke the camel’s back, I believe, took place on Raw twenty-four hours after SummerSlam went off the air. After a MizTv segment featuring Team PCB and Team Bella – which I looked forward to seeing the ladies finally get some decent promo time – we got another multi-diva match which the Brooklyn crowd took a MASSIVE dump on. The audience was so bored and disinterested with the six-woman tag match they resorted to Orton vs. Sheamus post-WM 29 levels of trolling (loud “CM Punk” and “We Want Sasha” chants; they even started doing the wave). At least one member of the two teams was clearly ticked off at the crowd’s reaction to her match, as Paige took to Twitter afterwards and issued the following:
”You helped us create change and then did your best to disrespect. Niceeeee jobbbbbbbb!”
While I certainly understand the lovely Paige’s frustration, I’m not too sure the Brooklyn crowd is really to blame here. Yes, chanting “We Are Awesome” is extremely lame and egotistical, but I feel they have good reason for turning on the match the way they did. As evidenced the past three nights at The Barclay Center, Brooklyn is otherwise known as ‘Smark City’, which can be a bad thing when the crowd decides to make the show about themselves with the aforementioned “We Are Awesome” chants. HOWEVER, the good thing about these crowds is they are never afraid to let the company know what they really think about the show. How many times have we seen crowds in other cities sit on their hands during boring matches (i.e. anything involving The Big Show)? WWE can’t get away with that in cities such as Brooklyn. The fans are going to let management know that, to respond to Sheamus, they are NOT entertained.
At TakeOver: Brooklyn, they were VERY entertained. The NXT crew pulled out all the stops to give those fans their money’s worth by bringing in Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger, having Blue Pants side with The VaudeVillains, and booking an incredible double-main-event. The fans, in turn, responded with countless “This Is Awesome’ and “This Is Wrestling” chants. At TakeOver, the fans got to see one of the best matches of the year – and an all-time best divas match – when Bayley defeated Sasha Banks to finally achieve her dream of becoming NXT Women’s Champion. It was simple, too: in the weeks leading to up to TakeOver, have Bayley earn her title shot by over-coming her rivals and divas who got in her way in the past, such as Emma, Charlotte and Becky. All of a sudden, the audience has someone to root for. At the actual event, make the match feel important by giving both women plenty of time to work with, a flashy entrance, and bill the match as important, must-see. NXT knows it’s not that complicated.
Unfortunately, the ones in charge of booking NXT are not spear-heading the #DivaRevolution on the main roster. On the SummerSlam pe-show, JoJo interviewed Stephanie McMahon backstage and asked her what was at stake for the winner of the triple threat elimination match. Steph simply replied, “To the victor goes the spoils,” or a future divas title shot (one would assume). Fair enough. The problem was, whoever was calling the shots at SummerSlam decided to place the women’s match immediately after the ‘Winner Takes All’ match between Seth Rollins and John Cena. No way can that be a coincidence. Love him or hate him, every John Cena match drains the crowd, and offers a tough act to follow. The divas had the near-impossible task of following the fantastic title match which concluded with a Jon Stewart heel turn, and predictably, they failed to impress. It didn’t help that the rules of the match were confusing from the get-go (I thought Lilian announced that every member of each team had to be eliminated?). In any case, the highly-anticipated divas warfare went down with a whimper, especially with Bayley vs. Sasha immense shadow’s still being cast in the arena.
Last night on Raw, the fans had enough. Despite Steph more or less promising a title shot to the winner of last night’s match, Becky’s victory over Team Bella was basically swept under the rug and we had a rehash of the same match we’d been getting since the Diva Revolution started – two teams going at it with nothing on the line. The fans aren’t stupid (which I suppose is why we’re referred to as ‘smart marks’); they know WWE wants Nikki to break Aj’s record. Nikki used to defend her title multiple times per month. It has now been two months since Nikki last defended her belt on TV. Last month, Ryback was forced out of action due to a staph infection, and he’s already defended his Intercontinental Title before Nikki has defended her championship. The fans are well aware of this and they decided to let WWE have it on Raw last night.
To be clear, the six divas who were in the ring on Monday did not deserve the reaction they received. It’s not their fault WWE has no clue how to properly book the divas division. It’s not their fault Sasha Banks wasn’t booked to appear on the show that night. They’re not the ones lobbying for the same matches week in and week out. And, really, that’s what it all comes down to: repetitiveness and laziness. As we saw down in NXT, throughout Bayley’s rise to the top, the only way Bayley received a shot at Sasha at TakeOver was if she could beat the opponents GM William Regal put in front of her. Therefore, Bayley’s matches had something along the line. Meanwhile, on the main roster, as the commentators even admitted themselves, even though Team PCB got the win at SummerSlam, big deal – Team Bella got their win back on Raw, so Team PCB’s victory is moot. In other words, why should fans invest into matches with nothing on the line, no connection with the competitors, and no story being told?
You know why Brooklyn booed Sheamus and Orton out of the building two years ago? Because they were wrestling each other (again), wrestling the same match they had wrestled before, had nothing on the line, and there was zero investment in either guy’s character at the time. So I understand why Paige and her co-workers must be fuming mad right now, but don’t be mad at the fans: direct your anger towards the people booking your matches every week, since they clearly don’t care (which has a rippling effect on the fans).
Maybe I’m being a bit premature in saying this, but I honestly feel that the #DivaRevolution died in Brooklyn this week on Raw…at least on the main roster. As Triple H said in an interview over the weekend to promote TakeOver, “We don’t put the girls in the main-event; they ARE the main-event!” Translation: “The girls deserve to be in the main-event, but the higher powers [Vince McMahon & Kevin Dunn] disagree.” If there is going to be a true Divas Revolution in the WWE, it’s going to have to happen from within, and not in the storylines. In this case, kayfabe must become reality if Sasha and Charlotte’s dreams of one day main-eventing a PPV (let alone WrestleMania) are to ever come true.
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