Thursday 30 July 2015

Revolutionising the Divas Division

The July 13 RAW saw the main roster debuts of Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. Hardly breaking news at this point I know, it's taken me a while to get a post together on the call-ups. Not doing a post simply wasn't an option: the significance of the three women being promoted from developmental simultaneously cannot be understated.

Paige and her NXT allies, the unofficially dubbed Powerbuff Girls.
Moving a number of women from NXT's women's division is a sign that WWE management recognise change is needed in the way women are presented by the company. Having them be three of the four best wrestlers (the fourth, to clarify, is Bayley) is a sign that this isn't just a case restocking a depleted division but a drive to improve quality. Had the former been what the company desired they simply could have gone with utilising existing bit part players Alicia Fox, Cameron, Summer Rae and Rosa Mendes. That wrestlers who have been receiving critical praise were chosen to join the division tells us that creating a competitive, layered and compelling division is the goal.

As does, of course, the manner in which the three were promoted. They were introduced by Stephanie McMahon. Having a McMahon hype you up before your first appearance is a big deal, because they're the owners of the company and if they're going out of their way to talk you up it sends the message that you're worth attention1. Te same goes for interacting with a champion in your first segment. Basically everything about the way the women were introduced was designed to let anyone unfamiliar with them know they're a big deal and reassure people who've enjoyed their work in NXT that they'll get the same kind of opportunities on RAW and SmackDown.

Naomi versus Banks could be great. Just saying...
Since the call-up the company has stuck to its guns on the revamped Divas scene. Charlotte, Banks and Brie Bella wrestled an eleven and a half minute three-way at Battleground. The following evening's RAW saw Charlotte defeat Brie in a nine minute match and Naomi and Banks topple Lynch and Paige in a little under fifteen minutes. The July 23 SmackDown saw a thirteen minute tag match, and the Monday 27 RAW a fourteen minute singles match between Paige and Banks. The newcomers haven't been booked to steamroll their more established counterparts but they have been made to look competitive, an intelligent approach that considers the long-term future of the division.

I'm not claiming the matches have all been classics. They haven't. The only one that can accurately be said to be n above average affair was the Banks versus Paige match, and that was at least partly due to Banks being the reigning NXT women's champion and 'The Anti-Diva's' history in the developmental league (and with that title) making for an interesting background to the meeting. But they have been longer than the average Divas match of the last few years, and they've been wrestled like the people involved have something to prove, presumably because they do.

The decision to form three factions is what I like most about the restructuring of the division. It keeps things simple and gives each Divas match a reason for happening. Going by the numbers there are now twenty-seven singles matches, eighteen tag combos, three six women tags, and the obviously climactic three-way trios collision that can be cycled through. That's easily enough to keep the division feeling fresh and exciting for months. If things are paced properly and the story is told right WWE could do something special with Nikki Bella edging closer and closer to becoming the longest reigning Divas champion ever2.

Can Nikki Bella become the longest reigning Divas champion ever?
A strong maybe from me.
Whether Nikki achieves this feat or not, and personally I think she will because she seems liked within the company and the people that run the company are vindictive enough to want to take the chance to take an accolade away from AJ, she'll lose the title at some point. When she does it will be to a member of a rival faction, because these are the women who will form the focal point of the division for the foreseeable future. When that happens it opens up longer term stories of rivalries between people who are currently allies. Charlotte winning the title could set up a friendly series with Paige, for example, while Banks and Naomi seem destined to clash over "leadership" of their BAD stable.

It's taken WWE far too long to get back around to presenting its women wrestlers as athletes who have the same athleticism and competitive drive as their male counterparts but at least they got to it eventually. It was at least worth the wait as the situation they've created by going with three promotions at once has given us the most promising Diva line-up in years and dozens of potential storylines, matches and feuds. If they can meet half of the potential they'll be doing okay.


1 we will at this point overlook the fact that Steph, while great on the mic, is nowhere near the level of her dad, the one and only Vinnie Mac.

2 As things stand right now she will surpass AJ Lee's current 295 day record on September 15. That's the Tuesday before Night of Champions. It seems reasonably safe to assume that if Nikki leaves August's SummerSlam with the butterfly belt she'll make it NOC as champ, breaking Lee's record.

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