A few days ago, a story surfaced on what I will charitably call “news sites”, with the emphasis heavy on the quotation marks, that Dana Brooke, part of the Raw women’s division was causing some tension backstage. This, they said, was due to a new beau in creative, who was the reason behind her “huge push” lately, and that she was sleeping her way “to the top”. Again, note the quotation marks. What’s wrong with that, you might ask? Surely these sites have a right to talk about news, and backstage rumours are always flying about this or that, why would you have a problem about these ones?
Well, for a start, they’re not rumours – they’re lies. We can all be pretty sure who Dana Brooke is dating, and unless I’ve missed this announcement, Dolph Ziggler isn’t writing for Raw creative, he’s on SmackDown, busy defending the Intercontinental Title and looking damn good while doing it. They’ve spent Thanksgiving together for the past two years, and their tweets to each other are wonderfully flirty, with her putting him in his place at every turn. I mean, maybe I missed the bit where Dolph Ziggler retired and became, once more, Nick Nemeth, donned a suit and turned up in Raw creative meetings, maybe Dave Meltzer hasn’t picked up on that juicy piece of news yet, and somehow all these other places did.
But putting all that aside for a moment, let’s say Dana Brooke’s dropped the Show Off, and is having a dalliance with someone in Raw creative. What makes that into something shameful, what about that suggests she’s sleeping her way to the top? If she was seeing someone in creative, couldn’t she just be in love with them, or having a relationship? What about this says that she’s only doing it for the advancement of her career? Which, frankly, was doing perfectly fine when she was dating Ziggler and in NXT?
The reason these rumours take hold is simple. A lot of men don’t think Dana Brooke is attractive, or that she fits their idea of what a female wrestler should look like, and therefore think that her place on the Raw women’s roster has not been earned. Now, personally I don’t think Brock Lesnar is attractive, but I dislike him because he failed drugs tests in UFC, he smashed Randy Orton’s head like an egg, and he’s literally said he doesn’t care about wrestling, just about the money he gets from it. I don’t judge male wrestlers’ ability based on how bangable I find them, and any guy on the internet would crucify me if he thought I did – and they do, on a daily basis, to women who enjoy watching Roman Reigns. Yet it seems totally okay for men to spout a load of rubbish about how Dana’s clearly sleeping her way up the ranks, because how else would she be getting airtime on Raw?
Well, firstly, she’s a damn good wrestler, she’s got incredible athletic prowess, she looks amazing, and she holds her own in matches with the best. I don’t think I’ve ever sat through a match with Dana and thought the other woman was carrying her, or that she wasn’t bringing her A game. She’s got great flexibility, some unique moves involving her acrobatic and gymnastic skills that look really interesting and take skill to pull off, and her trash talk in spectacular. Is she a little green, could she have done without Emma’s injury, meaning they could have stayed as a team and worked together for a while? Sure, but things happen, she was thrust into the spotlight as Charlotte’s protégé, and she worked that angle with everything she had. It’s not coincidence that she’s present on Raw, that she had a place at Hell in a Cell – it’s a culmination of hard work, effort, skill, and talent.
Now, is there anything wrong with having a favourite wrestler based on how attractive you find them? Absolutely not, that’s a perfectly valid reason to enjoy looking at someone. But there is something wrong with assuming that people are deserving or not based on how attractive you subjectively think they are. Women in wrestling are not good or bad based on how attractive you think they are. More so, women in wrestling do not care how attractive you think they are, that’s not what they do this for, that’s not what it’s about. They wrestle because it’s something they love, something they have a knack for, something they enjoy working to improve at, and not because a bloke in the audience shouts ‘show us your tits’ at them. They wrestle despite that, despite you and your rumours, despite you and your sexism, despite you and your arbitrary decisions about who you think is attractive.
I work with children, and there’s a little girl who I teach, she’s about nine or ten, and she loves Dana Brooke. She practices one-handed cartwheels and flexing outside the pool where I teach her to swim, she tells me every week what Dana did that she loved, and what she’s learning to do next. She told me she wants to grow up to be like Dana, to be strong and brave and not have to be nice to people just because she’s a girl. That’s what women’s wrestling is all about, it’s about little girls looking at Dana and seeing something they want to be, something they admire, something they look up to. It’s not about your dick. It used to be about your dick, so I get why you’re confused, but through years of women fighting through exactly the sort of sexist bullshit you’re spreading with these rumours, it isn’t anymore. It never will be again.