With the Mae Young Classic hitting the Network yesterday, it made me think… amongst the buzz and ballyhoo of the “women’s revolution” in wrestling, has that much really changed?
Now, before any pitchforks are aimed this way, let me clear something up – I’m not talking about “has the perception of women’s wrestling improved?”, because to an extent, it has. Although WWE’s “women’s revolution” has somewhat fizzled out, thanks in part to the way certain names from NXT have been handled, things have changed a little on the independent scene.
Looking at the UK scene, quite a few of the major promotions have brought in a women’s title in the past two and a half years: Southside, ICW, OTT and PROGRESS, to name the more notable ones. Whilst you could argue that there are some notable holdouts, it’s also worth calling-out that those are usually promotions that don’t usually have women’s matches on their cards. Case in point: ATTACK! Although they have had Nixon Newell and Lana Austin hold their 24/7 title, that promotion tends to dabble more in intergender matches on the rare occasions when the fairer sex are involved. Ditto Fight Club: Pro, especially since Nixon left for pastures new.
Elsewhere, you’ve Rev Pro, whose Cockpit shows typically have featured women’s matches – albeit in the form of “Jinny vs. this month’s challenger”. Seriously: she’s been involved in all but one of Rev Pro’s matches since they brought back anything resembling a women’s division. In March 2016, Rev Pro agreed a working relationship with Pro Wrestling EVE… but as of writing, despite that agreement seeing Rev Pro “recognise” EVE’s title, the closest we’ve seen of an EVE title match has been when Rhia O’Reilly challenged Jinny earlier this year (before a broken ankle put paid to that).
The thing is, most promotions still tend to limit things to “one women’s match per show” (if that), which is awfully restrictive for development. For a major men’s title, would your main storyline be the carnival-esque route of “watch our champion against this week’s challenger”… and little else? Of course not! You’d at least have matches on the undercard that build up potential challengers, so that fans would be able to get behind a new face and believe that they could well usurp the champion.
Instead, what we’re getting in a lot of promotions is the “conveyor belt” approach that seems to be the norm – with only OTT building up to a title match by having a semblance of a storyline or “warm-up matches” (albeit for the title). Now, whilst I am a fan of EVE, I’m not saying that the likes of OTT or PROGRESS should hold women’s only shows, or even introduce a “quota” (informal or otherwise) for their cards. What I am saying is that if you’ve got a women’s title, perhaps a little more focus should be given to those who aren’t established as being anywhere close to championship level.
In the past week, that issue’s reared its head elsewhere, with WCPW’s latest reboot seeing their women’s scene fall away, largely because their champion (and main rival) are touring in Japan. Whilst that’s not an issue, quotes attributed to their head of creative saying that they opted against having a women’s match because the people they wanted were either unavailable or “not yet established enough” just comes across as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Having more than one women’s match on a card, or indeed, women’s matches that aren’t directly tied to a title seems to be a novel concept. But it’s one that’ll actually create a proper division. Multiple characters at different levels on the card, rather than everyone being at a similar level and “can beat anyone on their day”. If there’s not enough talent that’s “ready”, then in-ring time will help them develop further, rather than cultivate a picture that is purely “here’s our challenger, if you’re lucky they’ll win a number one contender’s match before they get a shot, and then fade away”.
It’s not something that’ll happen overnight, but if you are going to stick with just having the “token” match, then perhaps it may be an idea to dial down any statements about being a part of a revolution… when in reality it’s the same-old tokenism!