Originally posted on www.TNAwrestlingnews.com on 4/21/09.
Presentation is Key
I often hear the question asked (usually by really stupid people) -- what makes the TNA knockouts division superior to the WWE divas division?
For me the answer has always been very simple: TNA presents their women’s division like it actually means something and the WWE does not.
Scott Hudson said it best when he said that what the WWE did with their women at Wrestlemania 25 was a joke. Instead of having (god forbid) a women’s championship match, the WWE divas competed in a 25 diva battle royal to crown the first ever (pardon me while I gag) Miss Wrestlemania.
Forgoing their individual entrances, all the women played second fiddle to Kid Rock’s performance and walked to the ring in one big group while he was singing.
WWE also invited divas from the past to take part in the match. Frankly, I’m not sure why they bothered. I heard Sunny and Molly Holly were in the match somewhere, but I couldn’t pick them out of the crowd for the life of me.
The match was nothing but a big schmoz. It was won by Santino Marella in drag.
For some this may have been entertaining. It wasn’t for me. Personally, I was thinking this was a great way for WWE to piss all over their women’s division. To me, it just felt like a slap in the face to the divas. It was like Vince Mcmahon was saying in not so many words, “Sorry, girls, but this is all you’re good for.”
On Raw the night after Wrestlemania, a 10 woman interbrand tag match was booked for the show with the divas of Raw vs. the divas of Smackdown. Two things about this match really stood out:
1) only 4 of the women in the match actually got in the ring and wrestled (Gail, Melina, Natalya, Mickie).
2) you could hear a pin drop in the audience.
Considering who some of the other women in the match were, I probably should’ve been thankful for that first thing, but I wasn’t. I was too busy noticing the second.
This is not a rare occurrence in WWE. In fact, it happens on pretty much every show. They can have a bad match, they can have a good match, but the end result is always the same. Fans might pop for the entrances, but when the divas are in the ring the people sit on their hands (unless Mickie James is in the match. She seems to be the exception).
This is not the case in TNA. With the recent exceptions of some crowd-killing performances by Rhaka Khan and Sojourner Bolt, the iMPACT Zone crowd is always hot when the knockouts are in the ring.
Have you ever wondered why this is?
It’s because, in the WWE, the divas are presented as filler and sex appeal. That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing else. And if anyone out there disagrees with that then you’re either a complete idiot or you simply haven’t been paying attention.
When she was in TNA, I would mark out for a Gail Kim match every time. At the time of this writing, she’s been back in the WWE for only a few weeks and I’m officially bored with her because the WWE’s presentation of Gail has caused her to completely fade into the crowd. I couldn’t even pick her out during the Miss Wrestlemania battle royal match. What a waste of a great talent.
The divas have no identity. More often than not, pushes have nothing to do with how well they perform in the ring and everything to do with how good they look while doing it. Ex. Nattie Neidhart. She can wrestle circles around 95% of the other divas, but because she doesn’t have “the look” she’s languishing on ECW as a manager. If they don’t think she’s going to draw, that’s one thing, but they didn’t even give her a chance to prove them wrong before banishing her to the C show.
It wasn’t always like this, but the days of Trish and Lita are long gone. The WWE fans barely pay attention to the divas these days because for a long time now, the WWE has conditioned the fans to think that the divas are not important. And how? By presenting them that way.
Blink-and-you-miss-it matches, one-dimensional feuds, meaningless championships, flat characters, one cheesecake photo shoot after another. Not to mention a bland and boring roster filled with women so generic you can barely tell them apart. Granted, some of the divas do stand out from the crowd. But Kelly Kelly, Maria, Maryse, Michelle ‘McTaker’ McCool, Tiffany; are there any real differences between any of these people? Not really. They all look the same, they all act the same, they all wrestle the same, and it is BORING.
Before signing with TNA, Angelina Love was in the WWE developmental system and since then has had some bad things to say about the experience. According to Love, there are only a few women there at any given time and they train only with each other so they all end up learning the same skill set. The end result is that you have a roster full of women who all work the exact same way in the ring, except for ones like Gail Kim and Beth Phoenix who were trained elsewhere.
TNA has taken a much wiser approach with the knockouts. Not having a developmental system, the majority of TNA’s talent comes from the indies and the women are no exception. Nearly all the knockouts come from the indies and cut their teeth in places like Shimmer, Chickfight, Japan, Mexico, and have a wealth of experience that can only come from wrestling in many different places with many different people.
Plus, unlike the WWE divas, no two knockouts are alike. Awesome Kong, Daffney, Taylor Wilde, Roxxi, ODB, the Beautiful People. Every one of them has a different gimmick, look and wrestling style that is unique to them, which makes for a very diverse roster. That is many things, but not boring.
The knockouts title is also made to look very important as well. The title has existed for over a year and half now. In that time, how many women have held it? Four. And they were all great. The standards of the knockouts championship are extremely high. It’s a title coveted by many, but very few are good enough to actually hold it.
Compare that to the WWE diva’s championship, which gets passed around to whoever Vince Mcmahon’s current flavor of the month is (McCool, Maryse).
In general, the knockouts are better performers, more diverse characters and just flat out more interesting than the divas.
So why the need for this particular column?
Lately, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend in the knockouts division. I’m beginning to see some ‘diva-esque’ qualities in how the knockouts are being presented. Not in the characters – nothing has changed in that regard – but in other areas.
The matches are way too short. PPV matches have lackluster build up (ex. Queen of the Cage) and they don’t always deliver the goods anymore (Kong vs. Bolt at Destination-X was atrocious).
I used to always get excited when the knockouts came out to the ring for a match on iMPACT. Now I often find myself worrying that the match won’t be good or that it won’t be given enough time to have a chance to be good.
Also, many of the women are not being used correctly anymore and are being put in spots that are all wrong for them. I appreciate that Christy Hemme has been working hard to improve in the ring, but she was obviously not ready for the huge push she received at the end of last year and she hadn’t been built up at all when she got it. Instead of building up Hemme’s character organically first so she could be a BELIEVABLE opponent for Awesome Kong, the writers took her from 0 to 100 within the span of 5 seconds. At Final Resolution, Hemme didn’t look strong for going toe to toe with Kong, she made Kong look weak for not being able to beat a woman who hadn’t won a match in over a year.
A few months later, Sojourner Bolt received a title shot against Kong at Destination-X despite the fact that a blind person could see that Bolt had not delivered a single good match since signing with TNA. I don’t think I need to remind you all what a train wreck that match turned out to be.
I don’t know what’s causing it, be it the writers getting bored or something else entirely. But whatever the reason, TNA just doesn’t seem to have the same interest in the knockouts that it used to. The division as a whole has no direction right now. It feels like they’ve just been treading water aimlessly for months.
Maybe it’s because of TNA’s ridiculously short TV matches and bad booking. Or maybe we’re finally starting to see the real effects of Gail Kim’s departure -- if that’s the case then hopefully things will get better once Sarah Stock debuts, if she ever does (how bad could her paper work issues possibly be? It’s been months now!).
Either way, something needs to happen. I don’t want to see the knockouts become a carbon copy of the WWE divas because their superior women’s division is one of the main reasons why I enjoy TNA more than the competition.
So, TNA, get off your ass and do something about this already. Do what you have to do to generate some excitement about this division again.
Because I’ve got news for you: you’re not the only game in town when it comes to great women’s wrestling on mainstream TV anymore. If you present the knockouts like divas then I’ll just switch over to HDnet and watch the women of honor instead.