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Ask 411 Wrestling: When Will the Women’s Revolution End?

November 27, 2019 | Posted by Ryan Byers
Becky Lynch WWE WWE Smackdown

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.

If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

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Mohamed is pulling no punches:

When will the divas revolution come to an end?

It’s driven away more fans and gained less women and casuals who don’t what their wresting. It’s overhyped and overrated.

Wow, tell us how you really feel, Mo.

Honestly, I don’t see the current women’s movement in WWE ending anytime soon. The company has invested quite a bit into hiring female talent with legitimate athletic backgrounds, and they’ve been working quite hard to integrate them into the fabric of WWE. Things couldn’t go back to the way that they used to be without the promotion having to let a lot of talent go before replacing them with men to fill up the roster spots currently occupied by the ladies. Besides, WWE is very image-conscious at this point, and it strikes me that they would not want to weather the critics who would call them sexist if they suddenly pulled the plug on their women’s division.

Also, I think that you’re completely off base about the impact that increased women’s wrestling has had on television viewership. There’s no data that I’m aware of which indicates the matches featuring female wrestlers do any better or worse in terms of ratings than similar segments which involve male wrestlers (though the demographics of the people watching may change slightly depending who is on the screen). If you watch the ratings patterns on an average episode of Raw, for example, viewers tuning in and out has a lot more to do with the duration of the show than it does the gender of the competitors who are in the ring. And, though it is true that WWE viewership overall has dropped precipitously in recent years, that was a pattern which began before the women’s revolution, not something that started as soon as the ladies’ matches got more attention.

If there were going to be any changes in how women are handled in WWE, I would think that their being spun off into their own shows would be far more likely than their just disappearing altogether.

Jeremy spoke out in this column today:

When Jinder Mahal won the championship in 2017, there was actually a pretty cool segment/championship celebration that highlighted Bollywood culture in a positive light. Considering the fact that other non-American cultures are portrayed as jokes or villainous, has WWE, or really any other promotion, had good segments that highlight positive aspects of foreign cultures?

Though wrestling and xenophobia often go hand-in-hand like Donald Trump rallies and, well, more xenophobia, there have from time-to-time been legitimate instances in which American wrestling promotions have given proper respect to a foreign culture.

Probably one of my favorite examples of this occurred circa 1997 in WCW, when the promotion seemingly gave Mike Tenay free reign to produce a series of short segments that aired on Nitro called “Lucha Libre and the Mexican Luchadors,” in which Tenay explained the history of lucha in a surprising amount of detail, including shout-outs to other wrestling promotions the sort of which you would never see on WWF television at the time.

Some might say that this was just a discussion of professional wrestling and not highlighting a foreign culture as Jeremy asked about, but I’m willing to count it because lucha is (or at least was) far more woven in to the fabric of mainstream society in Mexico than professional wreslting ever has been in the United States.

The majority of those segments are up on YouTube:

Jared used to be a friendly neighborhood garbage man but then got possessed by a demon from the seventh circle of hell:

Every wrestling fan has had a conversation about drastic gimmick changes, such as Isaac Yankem to Kane (by way of Fake Diesel) or One Man Gang to Akeem. Here is a twist on that classic conversation starter. What are some of the most drastic gimmick changes while wrestling under the same name? For example, Crush transitioning from the Demolition gimmick to the Kona, Hawaii surfer. Whatcha got?!

The very first name that popped into my head was this fellow:

Bob Backlund started his career as a white meat, steak and potatoes babyface, the kind of guy who spent his time outside of the ring checking out books from the public library and then helping little old ladies across the street. Then, some twenty years later, when a comeback to the WWF wasn’t working out too horribly well, they decided to turn him in to a ranting, raving lunatic who put any number of innocents into the deadly cross-face chicken wing. This was beyond a normal heel turn. This was taking a 1970s era character and providing him with a more over-the-top persona in line with what we were used to seeing in the 1990s. Granted, he did start insisting that everybody call him “Mister” Backlund, but that’s not a name change as much as it is demanding a bit of decorum.

A very similar change in gimmick happened in early 2008 in New Japan, when Takashi Iizuka turned on his tag team partner Hiroyoshi Tenzan and also transformed from a plain jane sort of babyface to a bald, bearded weirdo whose moveset consisted mainly of biting people and hitting them with chairs, to say nothing of his trademark “Iron Finger” weapon, which looked incredibly goofy but still somehow managed to get over.

Then there’s Konnan, who was very much a generic luchador when he first started making appearances in the United States, but, over the years, became a freestyling, pants-sagging gang banger. His in-ring style and physique changed quite a bit around the same time, as he relied a lot less on flips and wacky submissions and his once-chiseled physique (which is what earned him the name “Konnan” in the first place) became a lot less defined.

Much like Konnan, the Sandman also ditched a far more colorful and kiddy-friendly gimmick for something on the extreme side when we got in to the blood and guts era of the 1990s. He began his career as a surfer who talked about partying on the beach and hauled his board around with him everywhere before he morphed into the foul-mouthed, beer-swilling, chain-smoking, Zubaz-wearing mess that we all know and love today.

I went back and forth on whether to include Sting in this answer, but ultimately I decided that I had better do it because somebody would call me out for ignoring him if I didn’t. Of course, everybody knows that he transitioned from the blond “surfer” Sting to a more gothic look based on Brandon Lee’s movie The Crow, but I have a hard time calling that a change in gimmick as opposed to a change in outfit, because, once the “Crow” Sting started talking again, he behaved almost exactly like the original Stinger did, despite dressing a man from the dark side.

Oh, speaking of a man from the dark side, the Undertaker inexplicably went from being a zombie with magical lightning powers to a regular dude who liked motorcycles and then back to a zombie with magical lightning powers.

That will do it for me on this question, but I’m sure that there are several more examples that didn’t cross my mind, so feel free to drop them down in the comments.

Michael K. is oozing perfection:

I’ve always thought the way Razor Ramon and Curt Hennig won their first IC titles was fairly lame in the regard that they not only won a vacant title but they beat guys that were on the downside of their careers and clearly not title threats anymore. Razor beats Rick Martel(who I always thought was great but he was pretty much an afterthought by this point) and Hennig beats Tito Santana, who is now known as “El Matador,” in a tournament. Neither were exactly big names to put Razor and Hennig over and make them even more legit. It always seemed they could’ve won the title over bigger names. Thoughts?

Regarding Razor, I don’t know that you could have had him beat somebody with much more credibility to win the Intercontinental Title, because, in late 1993 when he won that championship, the WWF roster was just about as thin as it had ever been. Aside from Shawn Michaels, who you couldn’t have Razor beat for the title because they were building to a feud with him, your other options for heels were Yokozuna, who was tied up with the WWF Championship, and your next-hottest heels were probably Bam Bam Bigelow, IRS, and Doink. IRS and the Model were probably on about the same level at that time, and Doink was still being established, so I don’t know that you would want to beat him. I suppose that you could argue that Razor beating Bigelow would have meant something more than Razor beating Rick Martel, but I still don’t see that being a huge edge.

As far as Mr. Perfect is concerned, the roster in 1990 when he won the belt was in a lot better shape than it was in 1993 for Razor’s win, but there still weren’t a lot of options for faces to put over Hennig. Obviously Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior weren’t going to do it, which really leaves you with Brutus Beefcake, Jim Duggan, Jake Roberts, and Dusty Rhodes as prospective opponents. Any of those men probably would have been a step up from Santana at that time, but I don’t know that any of them would be a *huge* improvement. Besides, Brutus was used as one of Hennig’s first regular opponents for the IC Title on the house show loop, so you could take him out of the equation right away.

JM has his fists a-flyin’:

Not too long ago I was listening to an old clip of Jim Cornette dishing on his dislike of Kenny Omega as a performer, and one thing he highlighted was Omega’s weak working punches. Since then it’s become something I’ve started paying more attention to–now that we’re so far post-kayfabe it seems like a lot of the fundamentals of working tend to get a little glossed over. I was wondering if you have a short list of the best-looking punches in the business? I always thought Triple H does a great job of looking like he’s really laying his punches in, and Kerry Von Erich always looked like he was lighting people up when he made contact as two examples.

The two answers that I perpetually give to this question are two guys who actually had quite a rivalry with each other back in the good old days:

Jerry Lawler and Terry Funk

These two men were always engaging when they threw fisticuffs, bringing a perfect blend of realism and showmanship. Lawler in particular did a great job of “winding up” some of his dramatic haymakers without making them look unnecessarily cartoony.

I will say, though, that I disagree with Cornette’s implication that a wrestler has to be able to throw good worked punches in order to be a good professional wrestler. You don’t HAVE to throw punches to be a top notch in-ring performer. Go watch a William Regal or a Chris Benoit match. They were great, but, for the most part, they threw chops and uppercuts as their strikes of choice. Nobody ever looked at their bouts and said, “Hey, these could be so much better if they would just punch one another!”

Besides, closed fists are technically illegal in professional wrestling anyway, so . . .

Bryan is painting with all the colors of the wind:

Pro wrestling is an art. So who do you think is wrestling’s:

1) Norman Rockwell
2) Picasso
3) Jackson Pollock

Norman Rockwell was a totally competent painter, though his work didn’t push a lot of boundaries and is remembered in large part because it appealed largely to working-class consumers in the middle of the United States. People who were “art snobs” turned up their noses at him. That sounds like John Cena to me.

Picasso had a lengthy career which was divided into distinct eras, with his work becoming more experimental and bizarre as time went on, though his later work often referenced back to his earlier work. In writing that description, I was reminded of Dustin Rhodes, who started off as a very traditional professional wrestler but in his later career began to spin off into more unusual personas and matches, like Goldust, the Artist Formerly Known as Goldust, and his TNA character Black Reign, who once wrestled with a barbed wire Christmas tree.

Jackson Pollock was known for simply splattering paint on to a canvas, creating results that were visually stunning but often derided by traditionalists who thought he was making a mess and ignoring the conventions that defined “real” art. His critics failed to see that what he was doing took a fair amount of talent, even if it was different than the type of talent that his predecessors possessed. That sounds like the Young Bucks to me.

That will do it for this week’s installment of the column. We’ll return in seven days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected].