Monday, November 27, 2017

On a Women's Royal Rumble

Are the new debuts a portent for a women's Rumble?
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If you want a trendy rumored explanation for why Liv Morgan, Ruby Riot, Sarah Logan, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose were brought up to the main roster to do exactly the same things just on different shows, it's because WWE wants to do a women's Royal Rumble match at some point. Whether it's in Philadelphia at the actual Rumble or in New York, either at Barclay's Center or the Hammerstein Ballroom during the RAW 25th Anniversary Special, the hot topic is to bring gender equity to the thirty-wrestler over-the-top staggered-entry battle royale in the same way the company did for the Money in the Bank ladder match.

As it stands right now, with the five new entrants on the roster plus the returning Paige, the number of active female competitors on both RAW and Smackdown stands at 21. If you remove the two Champions, you're left with 19 competitors. You don't get to 30, but it's not a reach. Say both Bella Twins come back if just for the Rumble match, some Mae Young Classic competitors get an easy paycheck, more NXT women come up even in a soft-debuting Rusev/Sami Zayn capacity, and someone like, say, Kaitlyn makes an appearance, and one can easily imagine 30 wrestlers filling out the match. WWE literally has no barriers left to putting on a female counterpart to its most prestigious gimmick match on the calendar.

Obviously, not everyone is happy at the suggestion. Out-and-out sexists probably have come out of the woodwork with complaints, but because I don't habitate in sections of Twitter where people that gross populate, I'm not seeing them. I don't feel like tilting strawmen in this post. However, one argument that I have seen that has been thrown around by heavy-hitters like Ryan Satin is that having another Rumble match would dilute the efficacy of the original. It feels like a concern troll, except on a philosophical level, I agree, just not for his reasons. However, if it's taking WWE at face value, it's not a good argument to make.

If WWE is to be serious about women's wrestling, everything the men should have, the women should have in equal amounts. Men have the Rumble? So should the women. Men can headline pay-per-views and television shows? Women should too. The roster split should probably be somewhere close to 50/50, maybe 60/40 men-to-women if you're going to play to the percentages in your audience. Women should probably have tag titles, maybe even a secondary title too. Of course, the hypothetical reaction to that is "hrrrr, it'll just dilute things even further," which is just a condemnation of how WWE has evolved the male side of its business. Too many years of brand extension meaning two of EVERYTHING for male wrestlers and women getting a token match where they weren't demeaned to using pillow cases as weapons will do that.

No, the real problem here is that separate but equal is an incredibly horseshit way to run anything. I would be gauche if I compared the current slate of WWE gender politics to the Civil Rights movement, but at the same time, the same principles are at play here. Keeping everything separate but equal never means that things are kept equal. The men are always going to get play over the women except in situations where Stephanie McMahon wants to either get in the ring and wrestle or wants to pat herself on the back for the revolution she "started" (despite the fact that any time she deigns herself to talk to female wrestlers on the roster is to yell at and condescend to them).

So, unsurprising to longtime readers of TWB, I am obviously advocating for the dissolution of gender barriers altogether, the recognition that gender is a work, and the unification of rosters and titles so that the distinction between men's and women's wrestlers is obliterated like matter entering a black hole. The only thing keeping men and women from competing on the same plane is societal structure to enforce gender norms from a long forgotten time. Oh, and the sponsors, HOW CAN ONE FORGET THE SPONSORS he said clutching pearls so hard his hands started to bleed. The truth is though, sponsors will get behind something if they feel it's profitable and popular.

Until that day comes when WWE ceases acquiescence to heteronormativity and starts embracing how limitless the boundaries of pro wrestling really are, then no, having a second Royal Rumble with all women would not be overkill. It would be absolutely necessary in order to establish the fact that women are in fact wrestlers and not some novelty gimmick trotted out to give WWE neoliberal corporate diversity brownie points. That is, of course, if WWE actually decides to go through with a women's Royal Rumble in the first place. The cascading vomit emanating from the waterfall of sewage that is the pro wrestling rumor mill seems to indicate that Vince McMahon brought up the NXT women to "shake up" the stale rosters. I wouldn't get your hopes up too much, just in case these call-ups are just to bring more "excitement" to the female rosters that months of terrible booking centered around multi-women title matches as the only feuds going couldn't provide.