RAW Deal: The WWE’s misguided brand of feminism

Joe 'the Grappler' Marsalis
RAW Deal: The WWE’s misguided brand of feminism
The women's Money in the Bank match would’ve been a great moment to do things as the fans would’ve wanted, instead of swerving them for a heel reaction.

It was supposed to be a story not unlike many that have cropped up this year: women all around the world are finding empowerment from the most prominent of sources, and it seemed like the first ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder match would be another step in that direction. A step the WWE needed after their own women’s revolution stalled somewhat.

But that didn’t end up being the case. Last Sunday, June 19 (Monday Manila time), the whole world saw a man winning that historic match, and inadvertently stealing what was supposed to be a legendary, mythic moment for women around the world. Yes, even if James Ellsworth is subservient to SmackDown superstar Carmella, even when he ended up dropping the briefcase to her (because it was her match to win) he still robbed her of what should’ve been an iconic visual.

It’s the story still being talked about across the worldwide wrestling fandom. A good number of fans are up in arms that a woman didn’t actually unhook that white briefcase, and the WWE twisted the knife in deeper when, in an attempt to try and make things better, they decided to take back that result and hold a rematch of the Money in the Bank match.

Essentially, we’re getting two of the first ever women’s Money in the Bank ladder matches in the span of two weeks, pretty much diluting the essence of this entire endeavor further.

Let’s take a closer look at the things that happened. There are people who claim that what Ellsworth and Carmella did is just what heels do. Villains will do villainous things, especially if they draw a real reaction from the audience, and on a fundamental level I don’t disagree with that. Fans are starting to cheer things they like and respect regardless of whether they’re supposed to cheer for these things and these people, and sometimes you need to jolt them out of self-awareness with something truly dastardly. I get that.

But as with all things, there’s also a need to look at the big-picture wisdom of why to make these moves. This moment needed to be as big as the hype they were putting into it. For once, this would’ve been a great moment to go and do things as the fans would’ve wanted, instead of swerving them for a heel reaction.

On any other day, this would’ve been okay, but since it was historic, Money in the Bank could’ve been the WWE’s version of DC’s success with Wonder Woman, empowering girls further into believing they could do things just as well as the men do. What we got instead was unfortunate tone-deaf messaging that completely ignored the fact that the company’s own women’s renaissance needed something big to concretize it.

That’s one chapter of the story, though. What’s done is done, and technically, you can’t go back and undo the past. You can still fix things in the future, and maybe take back what happens as long as there’s a way to do that, but the ideal thing to do in pro wrestling is usually to take the lemons and make some damn lemonade. It seems as though that’s what they were going to do with Carmella moving forward, but in the interest of making things right, they decided to scrap the original match and just hold another one on SmackDown next week.

It’s technically the right thing to do, but as I said earlier, a second ladder match in two weeks just feels less special. It would’ve been better to work hard on the follow-through and make everyone react, and just build up to something better next year. Instead you make Carmella, who was supposed to be pushed as a heel, seem even more sympathetic because you take away a win that wasn’t really illegal to begin with—it’s just not what people wanted to see.

It all seems paradoxical, wanting something different one moment and then wanting the original thing the next just for continuity’s sake, but trust me, there’s a point to all this. It’s—on my end, at least—demanding the WWE to hold themselves accountable and do things with some damn integrity. It’s demanding them to do better, and at least make something worthwhile out of a terrible situation. The more you let them do whatever they want, the more they’ll think inconsistency is a feasible approach to business. It’s not. All you can be at this point is work hard enough to do right by your fans as much as you can. 

As for WWE’s attempts to be feminist with this whole women’s revolution thing, I will say that as far as SmackDown is concerned, the feminism isn’t fake. They do try to give their women’s division as many opportunities as possible to shine, and they try hard to maximize their relatively weaker star power to the point that some members of the RAW women’s division get jealous. What the Money in the Bank fiasco really was is a misguided attempt to draw some sort of reaction from the crowd—perhaps a Vince McMahon directive, or maybe even from SmackDown creative themselves—when all they had to do was play it straight and give any of the women an honorable victory.

That is, a victory they get for themselves, no matter how they achieve it. We’ve all still got a lot of learning to do. – Rappler.com

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