Monday, March 3, 2014

On Cameron, Melina vs. Alicia Fox, and WWE's Divas

Maybe Alicia Fox was the best representation Cameron had
Photo Credit:
Cameron appears not to be that good in the ring. One does not have to possess an acuity beyond plain sight to come to that conclusion. Her series so far against AJ Lee for the Divas Championship has shown she has a far to go before she can even reach a basic level of competency, which puts her on the same level as most women who have populated the main roster historically. WWE right now is flush with women who are good wrestlers though, so why would Cameron get the nod over someone like Nattie Neidhart, Summer Rae, Emma, or even Alicia Fox? The attachment to Naomi, who was originally to get the shot before she got her orbital bone cracked by Aksana.

Speaking of Fox, she's become somewhat of a punchline thanks to Cameron. When she was known as Ariane Andrew during the one-season revival of Tough Enough, she infamously claimed her favorite match of all-time was Fox against Melina. The answer made Steve Austin facepalm, and she became a meme within the wrestling world. Granted, as a longtime, hardcore wrestling fan, I can't fathom the idea of someone liking a standard issue WWE Divas match the best throughout the annals of the art's history. Conversely though, I do not have the same problem that Cameron does.

My race, gender, and sexual orientation have been well-represented throughout history. In fact, as a white, straight male, my demographic has pretty much DOMINATED the ranks of wrestlers, stars, and Champions.

Granted, some of my favorite performers, both historically and currently, are outside of the demographic, but the point isn't to say that one can only be a fan of someone who looks similar to you. However, the fact that I could tune in and see Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, Jim Duggan, the Ultimate Warrior, Jake Roberts, Earthquake, and other similar titans of the squared circle didn't really hurt the dream that if I wanted to, I could be just like them. Who has Cameron ever had to look up to as a fan, no matter when she started out as one? Fox is one of a scant few of black females who have been in featured roles in the company, or in wrestling in general.

Wrestling fandom on the average level is more about emotional response, and that response is more easily attained when the fan has someone with whom he or she can connect. With that in mind, Cameron becoming the meme feels like it could have a lot of adjectives describing it. Fair is not one I would use, however. If anything, shouldn't the indictment be on WWE? The company gave Cameron scant few demographic fits for her to look up to, scant few gateway performers that would have opened her up to liking the entire gamut of superstars. Even ignoring the paucity of women of color, the fact that WWE has done disservice to strong women characters of any race or creed is troubling.

The cycle continues today. Those who watched NXT ArRIVAL thinking that Emma vs. Paige is the future will be sorely disappointed until a culture change happens on the main roster. While Emma, Paige, Summer Rae, Bayley, and Sasha Banks get showcase matches on NXT, Lee goes weeks without being on television sometimes. Matches are still laid out with the same three-minute layout that treats women's wrestling it's something other than any other kind of wrestling presented. Those standouts in NXT won't have the chance to shine and provide examples when they're cast as wrestlers' girlfriends upon arriving to the main roster.

And more bitterly, Cameron herself won't get better until she gets a chance to get more and more reps in a live ring working matches that every wrestler, male or female, should work. Fox, Melina, Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, and every other "Diva" who came before them should have had those opportunities too. Since they didn't, and since the best gateway for any fan into the art is seeing people like you partaking it, the best entree for Cameron to get into wrestling was Melina wrestling Alicia Fox.

Making fun of Cameron might seem cute, but it actually feels sexist. The blame doesn't rest with her; rather, the system that keeps women constrained to work a style that demeans them needs to be put under scrutiny.