Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sara Amato and What WWE Needs to Do to Let Her Cement a Legacy

Amato might be doing good work at the PC, but if WWE doesn't change, it'll be wasted
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In the summer of 2012, Sara del Rey wrestled titans. Her matches against El Generico, Hailey Hatred, and Eddie Kingston, among others, would be spoken of with reverence, although they were tinged with emotion, as she would soon be headed to Orlando, FL for a WWE developmental contract. Like her peers who were signed before her, not much was heard from her at first, but while Claudio Castagnoli became Antonio Cesaro and Bryan Danielson Daniel Bryan in short order, del Rey never resurfaced with a name generator-given appellation or a NXTified character. News broke that she had become a trainer, trading in the gear with which she trailblazed in the indies for a role as a molder of character to the future Divas of America.

Little was seen of her from her signing until decided to run a feature on her, under her real name Sara Amato. She'd pop up in random pictures here and there, and she made a cameo appearance on Total Divas in its inaugural season. But Amato has kept a low profile since jumping from active practice to the instructor's role. While I'm disappointed that I may never see another Sara del Rey match again, I have no idea what it is she wants to do with her career. The Dot Com article corroborates rumors I've heard that she wants to be trainer over a wrestler, but the point of this article isn't to bemoan longingly the lack of her presence on television.

Still, regardless of her desires in her career, I would argue her impact is already being felt, at least in NXT. Whether women are signed from the independent ranks like Emma, Paige, Sasha Banks, and Bayley, or whether they come from other backgrounds like Summer Rae, the quality of women's wrestling has risen dramatically from what it was - and in a lot of cases still is - on the main roster. Even on RAW, Smackdown, and Main Event, the quality of work from the female sex has been on an uptick. No longer do the Bella Twins look lost and dependent on "twin magic" to generate heat, and Alicia Fox has gone from face in the pack to a perfectly cromulent worker. Amato's guidance has been a steadying influence on the roster.

However, stratification exists between the layout and attitude towards women's wrestling on each level. In NXT, the only difference between the men's and women's divisions are the genitalia possessed by the respective competitors. In WWE, the layouts and match times are still seem like vestiges from the regrettable HLA era. Sure, their lot has improved, but by how much? The Championship has been in limbo on AJ Lee's waist, and oftentimes it has taken a backseat to promoting Total Divas, and some wrestlers, Cameron to be specific, need more than just intensified training in order to get their shit together.

Point being, WWE needs more than Amato providing better training in order to fix their women's wrestling division on a larger scale. The company needs to give her students more tools to succeed, and those include longer matches, characterization on par with the males (which might not sound like much given how shoddily WWE's men get their personae cultivated at times, but still...), feuds over things other than jealousy, and most importantly, the ditching of the awful habit that the company has of making every other marketable babyface into a wrestler's girlfriend.

I know the Dot Com has a certain degree of autonomy to the point where it might appear to tell a different narrative than what happens during the average telecast. However, if the two entities would sync up, then the Creative team, most specifically Vince McMahon, might see just through the pictures posted the power of what Amato brought to the table as Sara del Rey. She stood toe to toe with not only her peers, but with the men on the scene as well (including Antonio Cesaro in one of the most unforgettable matches I've ever seen live). Hell, McMahon himself brought over Aja Kong back when he pretended to give a shit about women as more than just sex appeal, and boom, the pics (taken by Scott Finkelstein in part!) show del Rey going toe to toe with her.

WWE doesn't need to reinvent the wheel, although I don't think doing so would hurt them at all. Amato's trailblazing past should serve as an inspiration to WWE for how it should proceed going forward. Matches featuring women need to be laid out the same way they are for the men. Women need to have the same character sets available to them as the men. They need to be able to exist independently of romantic attachment. In short, women need to be treated like people. I mean, they are people, so why dumb down the art for them? The audience is inexplicably 35% women despite the fact WWE seems to do everything to make them objects rather than role models.

Until that culture changes, Amato could turn water into straight muscle mass and teach Aksana to wrestle as well as Daniel Bryan, and not a lick of it would make a difference. Presentation matters above all else, and if the women of WWE can't use what Amato teaches them constructively, then she'll have taken this job in vain.