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Just Business presents #102: Chapter 6.2 ~ The Outcome of the Women’s Revolution
By Samuel 'Plan
Jul 23, 2017 - 12:19:19 PM

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Just Business presents #102: Chapter 6.2 ~ The Outcome of the Women’s Revolution

The Revolution on the main roster was subtle to begin with, difficult to detect. Matches failed to live up to the NXT standard of the time, but in their own small ways were edging towards the more sophisticated presentation of women we now know as a status quo. Just as it was set to snowball, it began suffering set-backs, largely thanks to WWE’s fumbling of the situation in the summer of 2015. By early 2016, however, thanks to an impressive WrestleMania season for the women, it seemed the Revolution was back on track.

Having covered these origins in the last instalment of the series, and considering my opening proposition last time that the Revolution has been over for some time and we now exist in the new post-Revolution world, we must now turn to asking the question, “When did the Revolution end?” Perhaps more appropriately, “When did the Revolution succeed?”

To answer this, we must first consider just what the Revolution was about. It is my belief that the majority fan base mistakenly predicates the success and / or failure of the Revolution on something as simple as match quality. It is understandable why. For the longest time, the Revolution walked hand-in-hand with excellent ring work. It was the steady stream of great matches being had in NXT, for example, that provided the very foundation upon which the rest of the Revolution was then built. The fact that, in 2017, the women are yet to compile anything remarkable has therefore fuelled accusations of the Revolution’s failure.

But the Revolution was never about match quality. It was about changing the way women were presented on WWE television. It was about ridding the company of suffocating gender identity and ensuring an even playing field of opportunity for male and female performers alike; equal opportunity to succeed, but also the equal opportunity to fail that comes along with that. When considering the outcomes of the Revolution, then, we must not obsess over match quality as much as we should over presentation; achievement; intention; and other such underlying issues.

When we do so, the only conclusion any logical analysis can draw is that the Revolution absolutely did succeed, and the clues as to when lie in what happened after WrestleMania 32: Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks.

Together, Charlotte and Banks continued to break ground, wrestling a series of firsts with one another and being given plenty of time to compile their best possible work. The length of their feud proved an issue for some – myself included – but the content of it no doubt sought only to build upon the shards of shattered glass from the ceiling-breaking ‘Mania Triple Threat.

Two matches stand out in particular. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks from the 25/07/16 edition of Monday Night Raw (MNR) watches very much as a post-Revolution match might – it’s physical, varied and wrestled with a grandiose sense of importance, all of which feel utterly normal. It is presented as special, but not as surprising; singular, but not subversive. It speaks to the newly won equality for WWE’s female contingent.

But perhaps the more prominent example is Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks at Hell in a Cell 2016, and for obvious reasons. For the first time, women both main evented a main roster pay-per-view and wrestled inside of the Cell structure. It is a match in possession of fresh freedom, with the last limitations having been finally shed and a powerful, infectious sense of relish elicited by those involved.

These two bouts are simply the tip of the iceberg, raised here to indicate that, if the Charlotte / Banks feud is anything to go by, then the Revolution absolutely did succeed, and came to its head at Hell in a Cell 2016 with the aforementioned match.

This is not to say it was smooth sailing from ‘Mania 32 onward. Problems remained. Indeed, the centricity of Charlotte and Banks was as much a problem as it was a benefit, with many other women being left out in the cold and unable to contribute. This meant that even great matches like Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at Clash of Champions 2016 continued to be addled by the unhealthy focus on The Queen and The Boss. Despite its arguably greater cerebral approach compared to the more famous ‘Mania Triple Threat, it remains obsessively a Charlotte match, imposing a glass ceiling all its own.

In fact, one might argue the obsession over Charlotte and Sasha Banks (and Bayley later) only served to replace one glass ceiling with another; an issue that would plague MNR’s women’s division after the Second Brand Extension for quite some time, having been rectified only recently.

What’s more, Charlotte and Banks were far from perfect in the ring. Even in their best moments, there were glaring missteps. In their MNR match mentioned earlier, for example, Banks’ characteristic over-ambition almost derails the action on more than one occasion. Even their grand accomplishment in the Cell watches as unoriginal in parts; sometimes to a near plagiaristic extent, in fact. So too does it flirt with a regression back to the self-conscious styling of the summer of 2015, that so threatened to destroy the Revolution before it gathered real steam on the main roster.

It is important we account for these latter day stumbles, because to paint the Revolution as a 100% success would be to spread a falsified history. Generally, though, it did succeed, and we can see that in a small, unsuspecting women’s match to take place on a Smackdown Live (SDL) pay-per-view several months after the Cell bout: Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James at Elimination Chamber 2017. It is a totally unremarkable match by current standards, and such is the point. It is an unassuming pay-per-view mid card curtain jerk between two established characters, free of gender identity, grand purpose or rhetoric, and solidly wrestled. But put it in 2014 and you’d have a different story on your hands.

Perhaps the Cell was the conclusion of the Revolution then; the breaking down of the final barrier that said women could main event a pay-per-view and were as deserving as big bouts as the men were. Perhaps it was in the Cell that Charlotte and Banks, building on everything that came in the year and a half before, finally established the new status quo: that remarkable women’s wrestling in WWE was an unremarkable turn of events.

Truthfully, though, I don’t think the end point of the Revolution is really the most must see moment of its time. I think its peak is, and that peak is much easier to identify, bringing together every issue that burned at the heart of the Revolution. I mentioned it in passing in the last instalment, in fact: WrestleMania 32’s Triple Threat Match.

Have you ever imagined what might have happened had Charlotte, Banks and Lynch failed outright to deliver on that night? It’s hard to tell, but I doubt the same successes would have been enjoyed by the women as the year went on. It was a do or die moment with the pressure on and those three women, in perhaps the most important match of their careers, delivered, not just for themselves but for women wrestlers throughout WWE; and for us fans too, who so longed to see something more than we had been given.

What’s more, even removed from its important need to succeed for the sake of the Revolution’s ongoing health, the match proved many points. It was presented, wrestled and celebrated like a WrestleMania main event, proving that the women really could one day close out the Showcase of the Immortals. It incepted a new Women’s Championship, ridding the division of the final vestiges of its ugly stereotyping. It stole the biggest show of the year from under the nose of some of the most talented male stars in WWE history. It even put in an argument for being one of the better Triple Threats in WWE, and in ‘Mania history, thanks to its original content, groundbreaking philosophy and wildly entertaining high points.

The Revolution was about more than match quality, and about more than one match. But if you could distil every positive about it – from its intentions, to its achievements, to its quality – and create just one match from that, it would watch a lot like the Triple Threat at WrestleMania 32: the night the women succeeded when the women needed to succeed. There’s no women’s match more must see than that.

From revolution to revolt, next week I’ll shift gears to take a look at an element of WWE’s product since Summerslam 2014 that has proven to be just as emotive, if not more so, than the Women’s Revolution: the story of Roman Reigns and his rise to prominence.

Until then, you know the drill folks; leave me your thoughts and conclusions in a comment down below or over on social media!

This mini-series is a spin-off of my first book, 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die, spawned from the acclaimed LOP column series of the same name. So for more of the same, click below to pick up your paperback or e-book copy today!

Click here to pick up your copy of 101 WWE Matches To See Before You Die from Amazon.com

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