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Posted in: Oliver's Twist
Oliver's Twist: Fixing The Divas Division
By Oliver
Feb 19, 2014 - 11:30:00 AM

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Welcome back, friend, to Oliver’s Twist! Now, I suppose I should start this off with a confession – I’ve always been a bit of a mark for women’s wrestling. I wish I could tell you why, but even back when I first started watching wrestling I enjoyed two women going toe to toe. I’m not even sure I had a reason for liking it, to be honest with you – given that I started watching in late ’97 or early ’98, I was more likely to see Sable’s boobies than I was two women trading wristlocks. Maybe it’s because, at 11 and 12, any boobies were greatly welcome to my eyes, but there it is – I liked women’s wrestling for some undefined reason. While I have vague memories of the Sable vs Jacqueline/Marc Mero feud of 1998, my first vivid recollection is the secretly terrific Sable/Tori storyline from early 1999, particularly their match from Mania XV with the debut of Nicole Bass.

It was yesterday whilst I was recording with Mazza, Joey and Maverick for The Right Side Of The Pond (which airs on Friday at 9pm GMT, or 4 pm EST I think) about Raw and the upcoming Elimination Chamber that I realised there hasn’t been a Divas match on WWE television for over a week. Indeed, rather than pushing the champion of the division WWE seem hell bent on masking the true abilities of both Summer Rae and Emma by booking them as coincidental dancing characters/girlfriends when in fact they could tear it up for ten minutes and completely change the perspective of women’s wrestling for the common or garden fan. Meanwhile AJ Lee, the champion of all the women in WWE, hasn’t been seen since hardly doing anything in a six Diva tag and has been stuck for the past six months taking on a revolving door of ‘Total Divas’ where the initial promise was pissed away in the wake of the pipebomb she dropped last August. When you look at what has happened since that fateful night, there’s been no change from the norm and no advancement of the division whatsoever. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything, but it looked like we were finally going to have an interesting storyline for the women, with a number of potential challengers and a really heated back story to it all. It should have given us a thrilling six to eight months of storylines for the Divas but instead we had interminable rematch after rematch, and some were absolutely…well, shit, frankly. Survivor Series and the Raw on the night after should stand as a nadir for the history of the division, as the two 14 women matches were absolutely dire. The division seems like an afterthought more often than not, given minimal time and attention on screen. It almost feels like a disowned family member that you fear seeing at Christmas rather than something people would pay to see.

But what if WWE were to try and fix the Divas division? What if they were to bring it up to something on a par with the Intercontinental title scene? Or even something above that? In theory, there is no reason why the women’s division could not operate on the same level in isolation to the men’s divisions, at least in terms of storylines. I wrote recently on the forums of this very website that in the women’s division WWE have something that ‘could and should cater to a select portion of their market’ but they’re wasting it. It’s true, too – there are people out there (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) who would happily part with some money to watch some women’s wrestling. I’ve even done it in the UK, going to a couple of Pro Wrestling:Eve shows on a weekend to watch the likes of Shanna, Nikki Storm, Kay Lee Ray and Emi Sakura go at it. I’m perfectly satisfied to watch the women and not go to the toilet when they’re on the screen if they can give me a storyline to invest in – indeed, when they do give them a story to play with the women’s division becomes something that people want to see. Remember Mickie vs Trish? Six months of excellent television building up to a WrestleMania pay-off that people wanted to watch. To my mind, there are one big step that should be taken to repair the recent damage done, and they could reboot the whole division. It immediately clears up all the issues with the division as a whole, and would allow more focus on the division as a whole.

WWE should create a separate show for the Divas.

It seems simple on paper because it is, but just look at the problems that this would rectify. In a single hit, you immediately give the division the opportunity to breathe and fix all the problems that currently exist within it. To my mind, there are three main issues with the division as it stands:

1. The lack of a divisional system

I wrote a little on this in a recent Raw Live thread in the forums of this very website, but the lack of divisions in the women’s roster doesn’t allow for the performers within it to truly shine. Looking at it now, I think my words tell the story just as well as I could by rewriting it:

…unfortunately, even Alicia Fox can't make the Bella Twins or Cameron look above average. I think the problem is that there's no divisions - it means that the people that should be your top tier (AJ, Alicia, Natalya, Summer) are unfortunately trying to get something good out of the Bellas, Tamina, Cameron etc etc. Like, if you put Titus O'Neill in the ring with Daniel Bryan for five minutes, you might get something approaching three stars, but it'll never be the best match Bryan ever has because he's against someone who is the drizzling shits. Put O'Neill in the ring with Camacho and you'll get shit, put Bryan in the ring with Cena you get gold. Putting gold next to shit doesn't make gold - it just makes gold and shit. The good Divas don't have a chance to look good because they're working with bad Divas.

That’s pretty much the upshot of it. But in establishing a separate show for the women in WWE you get to create these divisions, and in doing so WWE would live by an old Paul Heyman motto and accentuate the positives. Too many of the good wrestlers are exposed by having to wrestle terrible wrestlers on a regular basis, and nobody has suffered more than AJ on this title run. By booking her against the Bella Twins or Funkadactyls constantly, she hasn’t had a chance to really cut loose with what she can do. Her match with Natalya at TLC was undoubtedly the best defence she’s made recently, and that speaks volumes about what happens when you put two wrestlers together who know what they’re doing.

Creating a show exclusively for the women would immediately allow the creation of a two tier system. Obviously, some work would have to be done behind the scenes as some hiring would likely have to be done to bulk out the roster a little but that’s easy enough to rectify. The world isn’t short on good female wrestlers, after all, and given the propensity of WWE not to even care if they can wrestle or not hiring an extra five or so people shouldn’t be too complicated. You’d also need to create some kind of tangible female midcard – either a tag team or, more likely, a TV title would be the sort of thing I’d go for. WWE has shown that with the right way of putting it together they can pull out a fantastic 45-50 minute show on a regular basis with NXT – it’s not a leap to assume they could do something similar here. Replacing the pointless Main Event or Superstars with a show that actually means something would be welcome, as well.

2. Removal of the damaging commentary team

I’ve got a real bee in my bonnet about shit commentary recently, and no more has this buzzed me off than when I watch the women wrestling or doing anything. Look at it this way – the commentary should sell the product you’re watching. They should tell me why I should pay attention, what the key facts of the match are as they unfold, and build the characters of those in the ring.

None of this happens on Raw or Smackdown when the Divas wrestle. None of it. Jerry Lawler sits there with a perma-semi cracking jokes about wanting cha cha Summer’s choo choo or some shit, JBL is normally so drunk by the time the women get their weekly two minutes he’s descended into crazily shouting ‘conspiracy theory! Flying goat! Makkle! Makkle!’ whenever someone pokes him and Michael Cole, bless him, tries his best but gets dragged into just giggling about some other crap at ringside. It’s bullshit. You want me to take the women seriously? Give me a serious announce team. One of the things I love about NXT is that Renee Young turns up to commentate on the women’s matches. It’s nothing major, and sometimes even she gets dragged down by the piss poor witterings of Alex Riley and Byron Saxton, but between them Young and William Regal try their best to put over what’s happening in the ring. Are they perfect? No – Regal regularly derails something into a fairly pointless anecdote about the ‘slapper’ he’s arranged to have sex with later (I assume it’s sex but it might just be dinner, I guess) but they put over what happens in the ring more often than not. Establishing a separate, serious commentary team for the new show would be a must. Whether it be a Regal/Renee two man booth or WWE chose to continue their fascination with three people sitting at ringside, I don’t mind – I just don’t want pervy Uncle Jerry to be anywhere near it.

3. More ring time

Excluding Survivor Series and only looking at TV shows, Brie Bella hasn’t spent more than six minutes in the ring since October. Nikki Bella hasn’t spent more than that time in the ring since last May. AJ Lee has only broken that barrier five times since August. Now, I’m not saying that more time automatically equals a better match, but it does allow for a story to develop and wrestling is a storytelling business. When matches are rarely exceeding six minutes, and commonly getting less than half of that, the problem is fairly self-explanatory. It’s impossible to know which current Diva might be the next MsChif or Sara Del Rey because they’ve got no time to operate in. Given that most of those six minute matches were multi-women anyway, they’re still not giving over enough time to each performer for them to establish themselves as an in ring force.

With a reformatted division, giving rise to a 45 minute show on a weekly basis, the women would get time not only to show what they could do but also to learn what does and doesn’t work in a longer match. It’s a simplistic formula, but something like a ten minute opener, followed by a shorter match in the middle and a twelve or fifteen minute headline bout would easily work as a format and give the Divas a chance to really show what they’ve got. Add on top of that the possibility to build characters through backstage segments as well as the wrestling and all in all a new show would really revitalise an ailing division that could, and should, be able to thrive.

It seems like a simple solution, but with WWE currently putting out two hours of filler TV, not to mention with an entire Network to fill after next Monday, finding an hour to dedicate to a show that would enhance a much maligned division should be a no brainer.

What steps would you take to fix the Divas division? Or do you even want it saved? Leave me a comment below, or drop me a Tweet (@MrOlliB) or an email using the link at the top of the page. Until we twist again, stay safe when crossing the road and drink more hot chocolate! So long!

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