The Salt Mine

The Salt Mine: So They Call This Equality

Hello again wrestling fans, Jordan here, and after a few weeks away, I’m back with another edition of The Salt Mine. This week I would like to talk about the idea of what is accepted in wrestling, in 2016, to do with your female talent. So right off the bat I would like to state that I have zero problems with women’s wrestling in so far as the talent is concerned. Women like Sasha Banks and Bayley are two of my favourite WWE talents.  Outside of WWE, Lucha Underground has regular talents such as Sexy Star and Ivelisse, who are talented enough and exciting enough to have me coming back each and every week. So the sport of women’s wrestling is, in my eyes at least, there to be watched and, from an athletic standpoint, enjoyed. It is when we then take a closer look at women’s wrestling, both on the grand stage of WWE and the indie scene, that we really start to see the cracks and why women in wrestling are struggling to find a way to be seen and treated like equal talent to the men.

So first off the bat I would like to talk about some things that have been done well in WWE. This year’s WrestleMania triple threat, for a start, was the first time I personally felt that the so called “women’s revolution” had actually made it onto the show. All three woman had clear story lines headed in; had a reason to fight and fight hard for what was at the time the Diva’s championship (may its butterfly bedazzledness never return). Becky Lynch, Sasha and WWE Diva’s champion Charlotte were all noticeably different in both wrestling style and personality, something that has been lacking from the women’s division in WWE for quite some time. And then, much to my untold delight, WWE Legend Lita unveils the new WWE Women’s Championship, the Diva’s belt having been done away with and in its place a belt that answers the men’s heavyweight championship in every way but colour. And our three competitors then put on what, for my money, was one of the better matches of this year’s Mania. Along with this, on NXT not long beforehand, we had Sasha Banks v Bayley for the NXT women’s championship headline a takeover event, and at least that belt has gone from strength to strength to still being one of the best things to watch each and every special. Fast forward to now, and so ends what WWE have done well with women’s wrestling.

Since WrestleMania and the Woman’s Championship being reborn, WWE creative have gotten lazy, with each and every week the return to the sort of writing that amounts to the feud being who can be the cattiest. Now this is fine if you’re Charlotte and the Women’s Champion and a heel, but when the faces of these feuds all sound the same as well, it’s like the writing is all done by one person in the back who possibly has met a woman just one just once, and from this interaction has decided that all woman must talk and act exactly the same, because the idea of clearly defined roles and of woman being diverse has seemingly gone out the window. Now, at best this is lazy and negligent; at worst this is how WWE want their women to be presented intentionally. Rather than the giant step forward taken at Mania, they want to return to the days of the past when each and every woman was interchangeable. (Editor: aside from Chyna!) When you couple this with the fact that few matches have lasted longer than a standard ad break, and that there is often only one a week, it’s pretty plainly obvious that, as sad as it makes me to say, the women’s revolution has fallen by the wayside.

So now I would like to move on to the idea of intergender wrestling in the modern day. WWE, with their PG rating and family friendly entertainment values, along with backing from Mattel, have taken the stance that man-on-woman matches are a thing of the past and are not coming back for the foreseeable future. Given the talent of the women’s roster, some of the wrestlers have been outspoken in the idea that they would be happy to go back to this; Paige and Charlotte have both gone on the record and said it would be fun and something interesting to do. WWE have, of course, made no comment on it but given the fact that we have not seen it even hinted at this seems to be a stylistic choice to not bring coverage of man-on-woman violence to a modern audience and normalise it in young people’s eyes. Given that kids watch wrestling – and I know from my own time watching as a kid, children find wrestling easy to imitate – this is probably a good idea for WWE despite the fact that I feel they could do it well and make it look good.

From here we move into the final bit of this week’s rant, and on this one I am, I hope, understandably pissed right off. So first of all I would like to say I don’t get a chance to watch a lot of indie wrestling, partially because what I talk about on here is mostly American wrestling and I am Australian, and partly because it is not always easy to get it online. However, recently brought to my attention, via Lucha Underground and the power of Youtube, came Joey Ryan. Now, Ryan’s gimmick is that of a 1980’s pure machismo and misogynist. He comes to the ring with an over the top bad tan, oiled up, and, unlike most male wrestlers, hairy as all hell. Now you might be thinking ‘but Jordan, this is an article about women’s wrestling’ and yes, I am getting to that. So, Ryan works for and part owns Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, an independent promotion out of South Carolina, and the promotion, along with a few others Ryan wrestles for, has no problem with intergender wrestling. However, in the case of Ryan in particular, we have an issue here.

So the man comes to the ring oozing everything 80’s and get into what tends to be tag match, in my experience. As the match goes on, things look normal, and then, as the female wrestler gets to her feet groggily from whatever has just been done to her, you hear it. Ryan calling to the crowd for the Boobplex – a German suplex where Ryan actually grabs his opponent in the middle of the ring, in front of a crowd, and sexually assaults her in the name of entertainment; grabbing her breasts and often, before the throw, grinding his groin on the competitor. As if this were not bad enough, he also has a move that he does called the youpornplex – a “suplex” where he forces his opponent, male or female, to grab his crotch and he “suplexes” the opponent with his penis. Now to some reading this, these things might sound funny, and to anyone who does find it so, I say simply this. Go away. Go somewhere else, read something else, I don’t want you here. The idea that this is not only ok but funny actively offends me, and I hope anyone reading this agrees. The idea that it is ok to sexually assault a woman competitor for laughs, and that this is something to be laughed at is actually very scary for the world of wrestling; it encourages the idea that not only is violence against woman perfectly acceptable, but that sexual assault is actively something to be made light of and to see as normal.

So with WWE totally not doing it, and with the independent scene at least in part promoting the idea of sexual assault as funny, can intergender wrestling be a thing in 2016, and a thing that is done well?

The answer is, simply put, yes. Yes, it can, and I encourage anyone who wants to see it and see it done well to watch Lucha Underground where their first ever tag champions included a woman, and where the Lucha Underground championship has been put on the line in intergender matches. If equal opportunity and intergender wrestling is something you want to see, then, ladies and gents, I can say look no further then here, because in this one promotion it has been shown to be done with absolute perfection.

I’ve been Jordan, this has been The Salt Mine, and I’ll be back with more scathing commentary next week.