The Divas Revolution hit a major roadblock in Brooklyn this week as the six woman tag team match between Team PCB and Team Bella from this past episode of Raw got the “Chant-a-mania” treatment. Those of you who remember Sheamus Vs. Randy Orton from the night after Wrestlemania 29 know what I’m talking about. In order to express boredom and apathy, the fans chanted for everything they could except for the performers in the ring including (but not limited to) the announcers, themselves, wrestlers no longer with the company, and wrestlers that are dead. Considering the recent mission statement has been to make women’s wrestling a relevant and important part of WWE programming, this has to be seen as a major setback. It is also interesting to note that Sasha Banks Vs. Nikki Bella from last week’s Raw got a similar reaction as the women felt the brunt of fans who were anxious to see Brock Lesnar. They chanted his name to indicate they’d rather get to see him rather than the match at hand.
There will be and already have been multiple explanations for what happened. Some will say Raw is simply too long and the girls feeling the frustration of the product’s over-saturation. Some will say that NXT women aren’t ready for prime time and blame them. Some could simply say that the WWE crowds are full of people that are simply not interested in watching women’s wrestling, and I am sure there are people that would go as far to label them as sexist. However, that is far too easy of an answer and easily disproven when you see the reaction that Bayley Vs. Sasha Banks got just two nights earlier in the same building. I’ve already highlighted the Orton/Sheamus Post Mania 29 example, which shows that crowds are just as willing to treat men’s matches the same way. The reason for why they would display such a lack of interest in a match goes beyond gender or even the ability of the talents involved. When the fans don’t care about the match, there is a strong likelihood that the fault lies with creative failing to give them a reason to care.
Going back to the earlier Sheamus/Orton example again, my argument at the time was that the fans reacting that way was an indictment of the WWE babyface and how WWE at the time did such a poor job of presenting their faces. The fans reacted to them with either hatred or apathy, and Sheamus and Randy Orton felt the full force brunt of it. Here, the Divas Revolution is suffering from the simple fact that these matches that are part of the Divas Revolution storyline are not moving a story forward and the story as a whole appears to have no defined direction or end game.
The goal of creative was to make Women’s Wrestling on the main roster relevant. That is an admirable and ambitious goal. They had the talent to make it work with the highly regarded and respected women from the NXT developmental brand. The problem fell in implementing their plan. They didn’t craft an evolving story for these matches to be a part of. I get the suspicion that they saw the matches from the NXT Takeover specials and just assumed all they had to do was insert talented ladies to the main roster, let them have longer matches, and they’ll get the result they wanted.
The main difference between NXT and the main WWE show in their handling of the women is that I am given reasons to care and invest in the women beyond just being good workers. Sasha is nasty and ego driven and was perfect as the top heel champion. Charlotte is a thoroughbred that is near unbeatable. Bayley is the loveable underdog that is determined to reach the top. Becky was lurking in the shadows and had to form a partnership with Sasha to break out, and ultimately became her own woman and earned everyone’s respect. Carmella is a hair dresser turned wrestler that was thought to be using Enzo and Cass to gain attention, but it turned out she actually was loyal to them when push came to shove. Emma was a goofball that failed on the main roster and became jaded by her experiences. I could list other examples as well, but the point is, the women in NXT are treated as people with thoughts, feelings, goals, and desires that evolve.
Now pretend you’ve never seen NXT before and you know nothing about the divas they brought up. What have you found out about them since coming to the main show? You know that Charlotte is Flair’s daughter and that her, Becky, and Sasha came from NXT. That’s about it. If they provided any more information than that, then I am not aware of it.
The problem is that there are so many questions that have not even been addressed. Why are Charlotte and Becky aligned with Paige? Is it just because Stephanie said so? Forgive me for saying so, that is a pretty flimsy reasons for all three girls to be on the same team. Why would Sasha join up with Naomi and Tamina? Again, is it just because Stephanie said so? It certainly appears that way. Why wouldn’t someone like Sasha, a commanding and ego driven ‘Boss’, be in charge of the other two and whip them into shape? What exactly is the beef that all three teams have against each other? Do all the teammates on all three teams get along? Why or why not?
This ‘storyline’ has been going on for a month and all I can figure out is that they want to dethrone The Bellas. How they achieve that goal has not been explained. If they want the Divas Title, then shouldn’t they be competing to determine a number one contender? Do they want The Bellas to be eliminated from the company? If that is so, then how is having an endless series of tag matches with outcomes that don’t change anything going to achieve that?
So little thought went into the story that it feels like there is no story. It is just 9 interchangeable characters having the same matches over and over again, and it doesn’t matter who wins because the next week they’ll just be doing the same thing. It is just matches for the sake of matches, and eventually, the repetitive nature will result in what you saw on the last episode of Monday Night Raw. Sure the long and boring interview segment where nothing of value was said didn’t do them any favors, but the crowd reaction the match got was the result of falling into a trap that has been set up more and more with each consecutive week.
Simply put, the talents themselves are not to blame, and I mean that for all nine of them. The Bellas often get a bad critical reception from the internet community, but debating the level of their ability is a different topic entirely. My point is that their talent level and the talent level of all the women involved are immaterial. I think very highly of the three call ups from NXT and I do think they can be great if given the chance, but if they are just told to go out there and have matches ever week with no context or evolving story (which was key to their success in NXT), then there isn’t much they can do to fix it. You can go out there and have 15+ minute matches on every single show, but if those matches don’t have the proper meaning or context and its outcome has no impact, then it will not matter.
And as I stated before, the response is not the fault of the fans either. They can’t be forced to like something no matter how hard you ram it down their throats, and how can they be expected to care when they aren’t given a reason to care? I personally have been singing Charlotte, Becky, and Sasha’s praises for a long time now, and even I can’t be bothered to care about their matches on Raw because I know the outcome doesn’t matter and they’ll just be having the same matches next week anyway.
Once again, this is in such stark contrast to what is going on in NXT that it is an example of how amazing it is that both Raw and NXT come from the same company. The polar opposite of this incident from Raw is the NXT Takeover special from Saturday night. Why did Bayley Vs. Sasha from two nights earlier get met with cheers, (good) chants, emotion and just an overall passionate response? A large part of it is that both characters were well defined. Bayley’s storyline was executed in a way that made every match along the way to build her up was important, and Sasha seemed like she couldn’t be beat between her squash matches on weekly episodes of NXT and her successful title defenses. And it also helps that they have such unique and distinct personalities, which becomes even more apparent when you see how much they are different from one another. Both characters felt like real people trying to achieve a well defined goal. The story had a beginning, middle, and end, the fans understood that story and its characters, and the performers delivered at an optimum level. What you saw from Bayley and Sasha last Saturday is a perfect example of what happens when you have the talent and the creative complimenting each other and delivering in front of a receptive and excited crowd that cared about the outcome and the journey to get there.
The writers of the main WWE show should borrow more from NXT than just the talents that were developed. WWE creative should take a good long look at the weekly programming and handling of the divas and discover what it is that made the division work so well. On NXT, you have the great on screen and in ring talents to make it work and fortunately they were put into a good creative system to complete the package. On the main WWE roster, you have talented women given nothing of substance to work with.