Sunday 18 March 2012

Girl Power

I’ll usually be among the first to criticise WWE’s approach to the booking of its Divas division but I have to admit that in the last couple of months they have displayed signs of actually booking the women under contract properly.

Last year’s push of Kelly Kelly was a decent start. It may have fallen flat because she has no discernible personality and can’t wrestle but at least the promotion was willing to give a female performer a chance to stand out again. I think they were hoping Double K would leap out of the pack as the next Trish Stratus. That that hasn’t happened doesn’t mean the company should give up their search and in their defence they haven’t.

The biggest positive about the Divas division (and I’m using the term “division” fairly loosely) right now is that Beth Phoenix is the champion. Phoenix can talk when she has to and is a fantastic wrestler. She’s also a good size for a champion in that she can realistically work with anyone. If you’re too big or too small it limits the options of the booking team when it comes to opponents (male examples would be Rey Mysterio and Big Show).

With ‘The Glamazon’ at the helm I feel the Divas have a shot at earning back some of the TV time they’ve lost over the years.

Tamina Snuka’s brief push last month was also a positive. It may not have lasted long but Jimmy’s daughter was permitted to look competitive against a woman who had been positioned as the top star for months. Phoenix made Snuka look like her equal before she beat her, which is exactly the right way to elevate a talent when they have to lose a match. Tamina also deserves credit for improving her wrestling skills so much over the last year or so. She’s gone from a valet who looked incredibly wooden and uncomfortable to someone who can work a long match (by WWE women’s standards) and feels confident enough to do a splash from the top rope.

Two of the best female performers currently in WWE

The recent elevation of Eve Torres may seem like one of the more soap opera aspects of wrestling (because it is) but it’s also WWE making the most of a character development that has seemingly come about as a side effect of a bigger story. That too deserves praise. If Eve is handled right she could be successfully elevated to a feud with Phoenix. That would require ‘The Glamazon’ to turn face or play tweener, but she’s shown she’s capable of doing both.

With Kelly Kelly having announced her dissatisfaction with Eve’s recent heelish ways a feud between those two could be written into storylines with ease. It may not produce the greatest matches in the world but it would provide the division with a mid-card feud while Beth Phoenix continues ploughing through challengers. She could possibly get involved herself for a three-way feud. That would be something different for the Divas.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that if WWE spent enough time planning things out now Eve Torres could be the company’s lead heel Diva in six months’ time.

The rest of the Divas all have something to offer. Alicia Fox has shown that she can wrestle competent short matches when provided with the right opponent. The Bella twins have well defined characters and work well as a tag team (because it hides their weaknesses and allows them to pull the “heels that look alike switching places” trick). Kaitlyn is one of the best options WWE currently has for elevating someone to the top for a run with Beth Phoenix, but for some reason they seem reluctant to make that move. For now she seems to be stuck on NXT. That show has also given us Maxine, a decent talker who wrestles well enough to warrant a raised profile within the company. If built up properly she could work as a heel champion sometime in the not too distant future.

Speaking of the future I believe that if Daniel Bryan loses his World Heavyweight championship at WrestleMania we could see a storyline develop in which he blames on-screen girlfriend AJ for the loss, eventually leading to him slapping the LeBell lock on her. If that happens it will likely lead to her ending up as the on-screen girlfriend of a face like Big Show or Sheamus, but it could be used as an opportunity to boost the Divas division: give AJ a couple of months off to sell the devastation of the hold before making a courageous comeback to the ring to chase the Divas championship. The timing could be worked out so she captures the belt at SummerSlam.

The final women to mention are Natalya, Kharma and Layla. Kharma and Layla are still on compassionate leave and the injured list respectively, but when they return they will be capable of making a big difference to the female roster. If WWE makes use of the talented women they currently have access to then they could have a decent division up and running by the time both ladies are back on television.

Alongside Phoenix, Natty Neidhart is the best female worker WWE has under contract. That she’s been saddled with the tedious gimmick of “breaking wind” in “amusing” backstage segments is a perfect example of WWE getting things wrong. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed though: just stop filming that arrant nonsense and give her matches instead. Simple. If given time to breathe as a performer Natalya can be one of the best female workers in the history of the promotion.

They are getting things right with the women, which is a good sign. Talk of a Divas TV show of some description airing on the WWE Network is also a good sign that the women will get more attention from the writing team. The company just needs to keep pressing on with the good work and continue giving the women things to do.

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