Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Taking a look at the WWE divas

This post is also featured at Kick-out!! Wrestling. Be sure to check it out there and see the discussion. Thanks to Razor for allowing me to guest post on his great site!

A little background is necessary here: I didn't use to watch WWE programs. Ever. I've had a vague knowledge of high-profile wrestlers in the past (Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold, The Rock, Randy Savage, etc.) and that's about it. Then, a little over two years ago, I started dating someone who happens to be a big WWE fan. Happily, we're still together, and as a result, I've been watching WWE for most of two years now. (I am an excellent girlfriend.)

Since I've been watching WWE, it's had its ups and downs, but overall it is pretty entertaining. I don't watch all four shows every week, but I do usually see at least two of them (Raw and Smackdown). One thing that has disappointed me nearly ever week since I've been watching, however, is the WWE Divas. (For those who don't watch, the Divas are the women's division of WWE. And yes, they really are called the Divas. That alone speaks volumes about their role in the company, if you ask me.)

The biggest disappointment is the lack of talent. Yes, there are a few Divas who actually can wrestle -- Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Natalya, perhaps Gail Kim -- and it's my understanding there have been others in the past who could as well. But if you compare the Divas division to the men in WWE, the overall drop in wrestling talent is severe. We all know there are women out there who can wrestle, WWE-style, but for some reason* those women aren't in WWE. Instead we get a few with talent, and some who have potential to be decent, and others who, so far, are just painful and/or boring to watch. When you put a good Diva in the ring with one who isn't, it's obvious, and dangerous.

If Divas matches are known as "bathroom breaks" at live tapings, that's a problem. If we are fast-forwarding through half the Divas' matches, that's a problem. On last Friday's Smackdown, there wasn't any Divas match -- we saw Eve and Natalya for a minute, ringside, and that was it. No Divas match, and I doubt anyone really cared. The match between Mickie James and Rosa Mendes on Raw this past Monday was awful. There's room in WWE for a good, exciting women's division, but what WWE is presenting right now isn't it.

I almost hate to do it, but I have to talk about their looks. There's nothing wrong with how the Divas look, per se, but it is a lot of saline/silicone, hair extensions, fake eyelashes and push-up bras to take in at once. And by "a lot," I mean nearly every single Diva is sporting multiple "fake" or "enhanced" parts. So much so that I have wondered, out loud, how much of that is the Divas' choices, and how much is "encouraged," because it sure is a big coincidence.

Let's be honest, most of them look fake -- and how can they not, with all that going on? Their outfits leave very little to the imagination, and I think when you put it all together, it can be hard to take them seriously, even if you try. I have a hard time looking past all this stuff when they're wrestling to even notice if the match is any good -- and I'm a woman. No doubt many men see them as eye-candy and nothing more, and while I don't think that's right, I can hardly blame those men at this point. That's how the Divas are usually presented: not as serious wrestlers, but as serious eye candy. Thin, long hair, big boobs, lots of makeup, scraps of clothes, who sometimes wrestle each other. In the recent past, they have literally been reduced to being bikini models and Santa's "helpers" on the show. (And worse, I'm sure, but again, I've only been watching for two years.) They have "relationships" with the male wrestlers that get more air time than their matches do. The ringside announcers (all men) constantly talk about their looks and about how they "want" the Divas. WWE's Web site is full of photo galleries of the Divas posing in bathing suits or other tiny clothes. There's a new gallery daily, in fact. The emphasis on their looks far outweighs any emphasis on their talent, with perhaps Beth Phoenix being the exception. Beth Phoenix, however, is the only Diva who has what I would call serious muscles, so she probably falls outside "the look."

*Is this the reason we don't see more talented women in WWE? They don't have "the look"? My guess is yes, that's exactly why. And that's a shame. Hasn't the novelty of the current Divas' look worn off enough by now that WWE can bring in women whose talent trumps their looks? I'm not saying every Diva has to be an ugly ass-kicking bitch ... but wouldn't it be more fun if one or two more were at least able to kick some ass? It's hard to watch women who are so thin wrestle and not think "Um, hello, I could beat her."

I'm also having a hard time coming up with any Diva whose on-air personality isn't presented as ditzy or bitchy, sometimes both. There's nothing of substance presented in their personalities, despite the "smart, sexy and powerful" tagline that is used to describe them. Smart? Where? And why aren't any of them smart? Their feuds are often reduced to fighting over guys, if they have any feud storyline at all. Why?

There's this line that WWE seems to be walking with the Divas these days -- they have to be pretty, and they have to wrestle. In that order. It's time to either raise the bar, or drop the division. Either get to the point where most of the women aren't just watchable, but actually good, or have the women actually be "just" eye candy. This current incarnation of the division isn't working. WWE, after all, is about wrestling and entertainment. The Divas' looks might "entertain" some people for some amount of time, but after that ... what?

Note: I had pictures of Divas in this post, but have since removed them as Google image searches for WWE Divas have taken over my site. FFS.

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