Tuesday 31 July 2012

Woman's Hour

WWE’s obsession with hiring models for its Divas division, as opposed to women with a passion for wrestling, is finally beginning to prove ill-considered. By loading up on women who were persuaded to join the group because it could offer them fame and fortune WWE gleefully failed to think about what would happen when that fame and fortune was achieved. The likes of Kelly Kelly and the Bellas have done their best to make it as wrestlers and are now “taking time away from WWE” to pursue other ventures.

“Taking time away” can be taken as a euphemism for “leaving until they’ve exhausted all other options.”  At that point the girls will put a call in to WWE safe in the knowledge that they can get their old jobs back.

This wouldn’t have been the case years ago. WWE has always had a spot on its roster for attractive women. It’s part of the nature of the modern wrestling business. But a decade ago these women would have been limited to roles at ringside. Only women who could actually wrestle would have been booked in proper matches.

Things have changed. During John Laurinaitis’s time as Head of Talent the company hired more and more models and less and less women with actual wrestling experience. Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria (now Tara in TNA), and Mickie James all left the group for various reasons. It’s unfair to blame that solely on Johnny Ace. However, it was his job was to either entice these performers to stay or find replacements for them. He did neither and so must be considered at least partially to blame for the current state of WWE’s female league.

There’s still hope for the Divas yet. The recent rumours of WWE signing Sara Del Ray are promising, and will be a step in the right direction if it turns out to be true. ‘Death Ray’ is one of the most accomplished grapplers in the world with years of experience and solid matches on her resume.

That Kharma has been released may be disheartening for both her fans and people hopeful of a Divas resurgence but it’s important to remember that while she may be gone there is still every chance she will return to the company at some point. I’m of the opinion that this could be a similar situation to the one Daniel Bryan went through after the Nexus formation angle and that she will be rehired by the company whenever she is ready to return to the ring full time.

Kharma would be ideal for a WWE Divas show

The forthcoming WWE Network will provide an excellent opportunity to rebuild a worthwhile women’s division. A one hour weekly show is exactly what the Divas need. Create some interesting characters, put them into logical storylines that fans want to follow, book matches that last longer than two minutes and you’d have a Divas show with every chance of success.

I’m not condoning shuffling the Divas off into a corner to be forgotten about. The top names in the division could and should still appear routinely on RAW and SmackDown. Think of the Divas show as a chance to give some of the younger names a chance to get noticed (both by fans and officials), with the women appearing on the bigger shows helping to draw in an audience.

Sort of like NXT, but for female performers only.

Character-wise WWE is already in a deceptively strong position. It may have lost the Bellas and Kelly Kelly (for now) but they still have some well-rounded female roles on our screens. Eve Torres is a shining example. She may not make an ideal regular wrestler for a Divas show but she would be perfect as a heel authority figure. Her work earlier in the year as John Laurinaitis’s Executive Assistant proves that.

AJ would be a perfect candidate to construct the show around, at least during its early stages (read more on this here). She has been involved in a top programme that has seen her rub shoulders with the WWE champion (CM Punk), an accomplished, well-respected veteran (Kane), and arguably the most over man in the company (Daniel Bryan) over the last few months.

She is a star. On top of that she is passionate about being a wrestler. Her first show as RAW GM left me feeling that the WWE writing team are unsure how to best use her in the role. Maybe it could be made a short term arrangement with her resuming active competition in a few months.

AJ is currently the RAW GM but she'd be better used as a babyface wrestler

They may have had their pushes decreased lately but both Beth Phoenix and Natalya have had solid character work done in the past. Natalya could be pushed as a babyface looking to proudly continue the Hart legacy while ‘The Glamazon’ can simply be pushed as a strong, dominant ass-kicker. While I think the focus of the show should be restoring some honour to the Divas title after six months or so a tag team championship could be introduced. The Divas of Destruction would be an excellent choice for inaugural champs.

As mentioned above Kharma has finished with WWE for now. Assuming she does return it would take very little effort to establish her as an unstoppable monster. She could be fed (not literally) a jobber each week for a few months before gradually being pitted against bigger names, gradually moving her towards a proper programme for the Divas championship. Think Ryback with ovaries.

The development system is currently home to women who would benefit greatly from a programme such as this. Raquel Diaz (daughter of Eddie Guerrero) springs immediately to mind. Her Exfoliating Ugliness Tour is an interesting gimmick that warrants more screen-time. She is unlikely to get that on NXT but she would get it on a Divas-only show.

Meanwhile the likes of Tamina, Kaitlyn, Alicia Fox and Layla would all benefit from not playing second fiddle to their male counterparts. All have had rough personas sketched out for them, a new show could help flesh them out a bit. Perhaps if this show had been around a few months ago Layla wouldn’t have flopped as Divas champion.

To create a worthwhile show WWE would need to bring in some more talent. Del Ray would be a good start. She could have excellent outings against the Phoenixes, Natalyas and Kharmas of the roster. Both Angelina Love and Velvet Sky have just finished up with TNA and Sarita is rumoured to want to leave too. They would all fit in nicely on a WWE Divas broadcast. The Beautiful People could have an excellent tag team feud with Phoenix and Natalya.

The Beautiful People could help to establish a Divas tag division by feuding with the Divas of Destruction

WWE also has the option of asking Trish Stratus and Lita to be involved. Lita has commentary experience working alongside Jonathan Coachman on Sunday Night Heat. She wasn’t the best in the role but she would be an interesting choice for a female-only in-ring product. Trish could be tried in the role too. Both women are busy but a show such as this would likely follow the NXT format of being taped at a regular venue once a month. I’m sure they could fit that in.

I’m sure both women could be persuaded to make occasional appearances in matches. A bout involving either of them (Trish in particular) could attract a ratings spike if promoted in the right way.

There are plenty of women plying their trade on the independent scene. WWE could easily afford to bring in three or four of the best to flesh out the lower portions of the roster, with an eye to rewarding those who do well with a push once the show is firmly established. The promotion could even hold some women-only try-outs to scout for new talent. Their bank account affords them plenty of options.

A Divas show could create programming with a different sort of appeal for the WWE Network and help WWE create some new, bankable female stars for the future. It wouldn’t be quick or cheap, but it would be worth it. The company can afford it and will soon have an entire channel’s worth of time to dedicate to the venture.

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