Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Evolution of Women's Professional Wrestling

WWE's women can do just as well as the men if given the chance
Photo Credit: WWE.com
Women’s professional wrestling got its start in the carnival circuit. As time went on, women found their niche in pro wrestling in the 1940s with the likes of the Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, and Gladys Gillem. These women were tough as nails, ladies outside of the ring, but tough and brutal inside of it. Gillem, being one of the toughest among the lot, even wrestled alligators and bears. She was even a lion tamer at one time. Somehow, I cannot fathom any wrestler of today, those the WWE deems “Divas” or even the men, would even consider wrestling a bear or an alligator.

As is the case with so many things in the biz, there are high points and low points throughout history regarding women's wrestling.  The '40s and '50s were very good for women in the ring. When World War II broke out, men went to war, and wrestling was one of the jobs that women took up. With the decline in popularity after the war was over, women's wrestling became an afterthought. However, the '80s saw resurgence for women in the wrestling industry.

Enter the valets. Sunshine, Precious, Missy Hyatt, Baby Doll, and Miss Elizabeth, all come to mind. There were also wrestlers such as Leilani Kai and Wendi Richter along with the Fabulous Moolah.

Right around this time a movie called All the Marbles, starring Peter Falk as Harry Sears and Laurene Landon and Vicki Frederick as the California Dolls, came out. This movie was about two women wrestlers trying to make their way to the top. I loved this movie. Receiving it as a gift recently, I had to watch it again, so I made sure all things were done to give the movie my undivided attention. It literally gave me goosebumps. It took me back to to a time I wanted to be in wrestling. I did not at 13 want to be a wrestler like Kai or Richter, but a valet, a woman who takes care of the male wrestler, like how Sunshine and Precious were there for Jimmy Garvin, and like Cyndi Lauper was for Richter. To all of those that read this and think Hulk Hogan was the only reason for the upick in wrestling, I would definitely argue that Lauper and Richter had a lot to do with its rise popularity as well. I am not saying Hogan didn’t have his followers, but I, like many in the MTV generation, was all aboard the Lauper and Richter's Rock 'n Wrestling.

Women were wanted in the industry again. In 1986, a show dedicated only to women wrestlers made its debut. GLOW, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, was the creation of Matt Cimbor and David McLane. Sadly, it only ran until 1990. The promotion had its hokey gimmicks, but overall it worked. How I wish there was a show like that now. Later in the '90s, WCW introduced the Nitro Girls who danced around each week. The troupe reminded me of GLOW, where they danced and sang as well as wrestled. I was a very big fan of WCW, but I hated when the dancing was the only thing they borrowed. The WWE has had their talented women as well. Lita, Trish Stratus, Sunny, Sable, even Fabulous Moolah, and Mae Young did their thing in WWE.

The Divas of the WWE has me conflicted. I am a women's wrestling advocate and want it to be around until the end of time. However, Court Bauer recently talked about doing away with the women's division in the WWE on his August 1 podcast on MLW.com. He suggested doing away with women and bringing in even more men in the form of a lightweight division. WHAT? Are you kidding me? I would love to sit down with him and go over the women's division exclusively at some point in time. I have my issues with how WWE treats women, but I do not want to see it disappear. I would love to see it revamped with vigor and vitality. 

I do not like the word “Diva” pertaining to wrestling. When hearing the word DIVA, I think of the woman lead in an opera. I think soft and fluffy, not strong and, for lack of a better term, kick-ass. I have issues with the pink butterfly belt as well. However, I do have suggestions. Firstly, rename the division. Secondly, create a new belt reflecting a new image. Thirdly, and most importantly, WWE Creative needs to be just what its name says it is and get flipping CREATIVE! The women have talent. I have read people's opinions on whether or not these women can wrestle, but those that think they cannot, can you? I am sure if given the chance to shine, the women on the roster can and will. Better storylines equals better content equals better ratings. This goes for the men as well as the women. It’s a no-brainer. Give these women a chance to shine.

Maybe I am coming off too harsh on the butterfly belt. I love butterflies, but when I think of wrestling, I think of those pioneers mentioned above. It was a tough mountain to climb, and women are still climbing it today. I would love to see more women's matches. I am sure I am not the only one. I would also love to see tag team champion belts come back. I mean the women in the WWE are getting paired up in tag teams so why not bring this back?  As far as the butterfly belt, it fits the name Diva, which I have already voiced my opinion on but what would I do differently, what image would I use instead of a pink butterfly? I would use a lioness or tigress because both are strong, dominant, and also beautiful and nurturing animals. Women are so many things, we can be ladies when need be but we can also be very strong and independent. There are so many ideas floating around in my head that I would love to share with anyone in WWE Creative if given the chance. I really want to see the women's division continue to grow and be stronger and better than ever.

This post was written resourcing the Lipstick and Dynamite movie and website.