I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was a little girl. Some of my earliest memories revolve around wrestling. My dad was really into it, so he would watch on the weekends and take us to the shows when they came to town.
Going to wrestling matches at the old Kiel in St. Louis was the best. We always had to take a nap beforehand, to make sure we’d stay up for the night. I can remember being in bed in the middle of the day, where I was supposed to be sleeping because my stepmom told me to, but peeking out the window and seeing my dad in the driveway. He waved and grinned at me. I waved back, then flopped down on the bed because I heard my stepmom coming.
I remember running up that long flat, spiral walkway in the Kiel to get to the nosebleed section. We sat that far up because my dad had several tickets to buy, so sitting any closer was out of the question. I remember pouting and asking why I never got to get in the ring and dance with Junkyard Dog or get Bret Hart’s sunglasses and my dad laughing and saying they weren’t going to come all the way to where we were sitting to pick a kid.
I remember leaving the arena and being stuck in the crush of people all trying to get out at the same time. And my dad would hold my hand super tight to make sure I didn’t get swept away by the crowd. And then later in the parking lot, the honking of horns and people shouting out their truck windows who their favorite of the night was. There were a lot of go Dusty chants.
I remember watching Hulk Hogan on Saturday mornings (talking only, the champ didn’t wrestle on plebian regular TV), then going outside to see my dad carrying his big red tool box and telling him that he was as strong as Hogan. I remember when Hogan was crushed by Earthquake, I wrote him a get well letter, my stepmom mailed it, and I got a thank you post card in return.
These are all wonderful, good memories. I don’t have too many memories of women in wrestling from that time, other than the saga between Elizabeth, Macho Man and Scary Sherri. And that’s okay. As a kid, it didn’t occur to me to question that. It was what it was. I didn’t know any better.
I stopped watching wrestling for a while, mostly because WWE switched to RAW on Monday nights and I didn’t have cable at the time. Then, I got back into it around 1998, in the middle of the Attitude Era. And I loved wrestling again. The characters were crazy. They did outlandish things like riding tanks (Jeeps), spraying beer on their boss, and kidnapping women to sacrifice to errrmmm… I’m not clear on who Stephanie was being sacrificed to.
As a teenager/young adult I thought all of that was awesome and funny and cool. I didn’t like the bra and panty and pudding matches much, but I wasn’t angry about them. And I have to admit, I thought the Godfather’s Hos were hilarious. In fact, on one of the WWE’s trips to town I heard an advertisement on the radio to come down and audition to be a Ho. I wanted to go, but didn’t have enough confidence to do it so I skipped it. I was young and didn’t know any better.
But when Chyna, and later Lita, came on the scene, I perked up. What? This woman can protect HHH & HBK and kick the men’s asses? I loved Chyna’s signature low blow, and she looked so bad ass in her leather, dark tights and gloves. And what? This woman can flip off the top rope onto the boys and do a sassy hair flip afterwards? How cool is she? I thought both women were amazing. And as a female wrestling fan, it meant something to see women doing more than standing ringside and looking concerned.
Then I stopped watching again. You can thank the Stone Cold heel turn for that. When I came back to wrestling – CM Punk gets the thanks there – I was a fully formed, logical, mature and empathetic adult. And there were some things about wrestling that didn’t sit well with me.
Minority characters still weren’t getting much shine (that’s a whole ‘nother post). And the women “wrestled” but were clearly seen as a joke. Their matches were two minutes. They slapped each other on the ass. *side eyes Layla* They pulled hair, were bitchy, called each other fat, fought over boys and had a sparkly butterfly belt that Barbie is too mature to wear. And I gotta say, I didn’t like it.
These women were supposed to be athletes. They are in the same ring and on the same show as the men, so why aren’t they having the same types of feuds and matches? I’m not saying no woman behaves the way the Divas did. But c’mon. I played roller derby. It’s a hard core full contact sport. Yeah, I wore fishnet tights and glitter eyeshadow, but I’d also lay a motherfucker out on that track. I didn’t train for three days a week to go out there, spank an opposing player on the butt, yell at her for stealing my man, then skate away after pulling her hair for two minutes. What I’m saying is this: Women can be typically feminine with sexy or cute outfits (the men most often wear way less anyway) and ALSO kick ass in the ring.
It was frustrating to watch this thing that I loved with my adult eyes, and see it being so problematic. Then the “women’s revolution” came along. It hasn’t been perfect but things have improved. The women are getting way more time than before. I haven’t seen any of them slap each other on the ass in over a year. They’ve main evented and that pink belt is no more. All good things! Yay! Loud noises! Confetti explosion! But. We still got a coupla issues. Like Enzo.
What the fuck, Enzo? I can forgive a lot in wrestling, because I understand it’s all nonsense. But why does Enzo, who for all intents and purposes is a good guy, behave the way he does? He makes no attempt to be a normal polite human being and cover his naked junk when he runs into Lana. After saying he wants to help her get through her problems, he rolls his eyes and makes it clear he doesn’t actually want to hear her talk, he wants to do other things. *wink-wink* He goes to a married woman’s hotel room. He doesn’t see why he might need sensitivity training. And he hits on a woman in the workplace, when she’s just there to do her damn job. (FYI, don’t do this. We’re polite because you’re the customer, so we have to be. But it makes us feel trapped and uncomfortable) And Enzo’s not the only good guy to be a jerk to the women on the show.
Cena has said some questionable things to the women on the roster and he’s the baby face of all baby faces. The Rock’s comments to Lana were so nasty I get sour faced even now when I think of them months later. If Enzo were the bad guy, I wouldn’t have (as much) of a problem with him being a dick to Lana, because like Noam Dar, it would make sense for his role. But he’s not! He’s the cool, crowd-sing-along, Schmoney dancing guy.
Even after his bad behavior, Enzo is presented as sympathetic since he keeps getting beat up by the evil foreigner. And it’s wrong. It helps validate the culture of men hitting on women who don’t want to be hit on. Of people shaming women for being sexual. Of women valued only as the property of their menfolk. I don’t want to see this, especially with it being a real life problem in our real life world.
It also perpetuates the attitude of some male fans that women who are into wrestling are all rats. That the only reason we watch is for the oiled up half-naked dudes. Spoiler alert, I don’t sit through three hours of wrestling for naked dudes. I can barely make it through five minutes of oiled up dudes in gay porn before I’m bored. I watch wrestling for the wrestling. The muscles are a side bonus.
I don’t come to this make-believe show where everyone is greased up and rolling around in their underwear to be presented with people like my old boss, who thought women should have long hair and wear make up to work, or of the guy who called me a stuck up bitch because I had the nerve not to stop when he ran up on me with his ‘Hey, baby’ routine as the good guys. (Another FYI, that shit is scary. Don't do it.) And no, the solution isn’t to “stop watching.” Fuck that. If we’d stopped watching after Nikki rolled up Paige in twenty seconds we wouldn’t have gotten a bloody faced Sasha tapping to Charlotte after a thirty-minute Iron Woman match.
People were so mad at “Roman Reigns being shoved down our throats” and Batista winning the rumble that there was a Cancel the Network movement. People booed and whined in wReddit Squared Circle, and on WWE’s Facebook posts, and Twitter, and podcasts about it so damn much, that Daniel Bryan was put into the main event of Wrestlemania (Yeah, Trips says that was the plan all along. But he be lyin’) People are still booing Roman in arenas. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a RR fan. I think he’s bland and he’s not the type of wrestler I favor, so I get it. So how is it okay to express your displeasure in that storyline and character, but attack feminist fans when we don’t like something?
The point is, I love WWE wrestling. I have since I was a kid. I love texting with my Dad about it. I even plan on going home to St. Louis during Mania just so I can watch it with him. I’ve got a drawer full of t-shirts, I pay for the Network, I attend live events, and I’ve gone to several meet and greets. They are getting my money just like everyone else’s. All I ask in return is for them to get fully on board with the “women’s revolution.” And for certain fans to try and understand why their attitude and treatment towards some of the women on the roster bothers us so much, instead of calling us cunts and telling us to stop watching.
Be adults. Have empathy. Maybe the flaws in the Enzo/Lana storyline aren’t a big deal to you. And that’s fine. But it might be a big deal to the next Sasha Banks, Bayley, or Charlotte who is watching at home and thinking she might want to become a wrestler. That girl might change her mind when she sees Lana being likened to a whore, or sees male fans on Twitter calling women fans bitches, social justice warriors, rats, and cunts.
So don’t be an asshole, okay? We love wrestling just as much as you, and would like to watch it without seeing the equivalent of real life jerks touted as cool baby faces on screen. Being called names and generally made to feel like shit for daring to express our displeasure in a storyline sort of takes the fun out of wrestling. And it’s supposed to be fun, right?
Thanks for reading. Enjoy RAW.
My rambling and not at all edited thoughts on romance novels, writing, and pop culture.