Originally posted on www.TNAwrestlingnews.com on 12/07/08.
Christy Hemme: Yay or Nay?
“Why? This is going to be brutal. Hopefully it’s quick and painless. Christy Hemme just can’t work.”
-Jason Powell, prowrestling.net, on Awesome Kong vs. Christy Hemme at Final Resolution.
Two months ago I read an article on this very website which stated that since Gail Kim departed there were people in TNA management who thought Christy Hemme could become the face of the Knockouts division like Gail once was. While I’m not going to ponder how much truth there is to this, Christy’s inexplicable recent push on iMPACT does beg a very important question:
Christy Hemme? Seriously?
First, we should probably examine what “face of the Knockouts division” really means because it has two very different implications.
Christy is an undeniably beautiful woman and one of the most photogenic stars TNA has, she’s got loads of personality, she’s a former Playboy cover girl, she looks great on a poster, she’s on the cover of the Knocked Out DVD. Put all that together and it adds up to a pretty marketable lady. So from a business and promotional standpoint I can understand where this is coming from.
There’s just one problem: Christy is not a good wrestler.
Is she a terrible worker? That depends how high your standards are and after watching Gail Kim tear the house down in the 6 sided ring for the last year my standards are very high.
I’ll be generous and say that she’s better than she used to be. She seems to have been training -- in her recent iMPACT match against Raisha Saeed she displayed a couple moves that I didn’t know she had in her repertoire. So obviously, she’s working to improve her game. She hasn’t been content to rest on her laurels and get by on her looks. She gets points for that. However, progressing from terrible to competent does not make one a good wrestler and it doesn’t make one championship material. Not in the TNA Knockouts division it doesn’t.
Despite showing improvement, Christy’s still not where she needs to be and her execution is still sloppy. A recent errant clothesline of hers injured Angelina Love’s throat. You can file that under “Wrestling ain’t ballet” if you want, but it shows that she hasn’t quite mastered the art of protecting her opponent yet and that’s a very important skill to learn; just ask Bret Hart.
She’s gotten to the point where, on a good night, she can get through a match without any major problems -- her match with Velvet Sky on the Las Vegas iMPACT show was decent enough -- but that doesn’t mean she’s all that much fun to watch in the ring. And this leads us to…
Over the last year, the Knockouts division has been the one thing about the TNA product that pundits and fans alike have always been able to point to and say, “They do it better than the WWE.” A big part of that is how TNA presents their women, but mainly it’s due to the simple fact that the Knockouts just have much better matches than the Divas.
-the fatal 4-way at Genesis.
-Gail vs. Kong at Final Resolution.
-Gail & ODB vs. Kong & Saeed at Lockdown.
-Taylor & Roxxi vs. Kong & Saeed at Turning Point.
You don’t see the WWE Divas delivering matches like that. You just don’t.
TNA has been able to hold on to the perception that the Knockouts are superior to the Divas for several reasons (the lesser talented women are enhancement talent, they don’t put the Knockouts title on just anybody), but the most important one is that, in general, they keep the focus on the best wrestlers, on the ones who can deliver the best matches.
Can Christy Hemme deliver a match of that caliber? If she can, then she’s never displayed that ability on television. I’ve never read any reports of Christy blowing the roof off the iMPACT Zone with Cheerleader Melissa (Raisha Saeed) in dark matches at the TV tapings. If she’s ever really had to put her skills to the test it’s news to me. So I’m going to answer that question with an unqualified, “No.” Maybe someday, but not now.
And shouldn’t the face of the Knockouts division be able to deliver the goods in the area where most people agree that the women of TNA beat the WWE Divas, hands down? Yes, she should. And Christy can’t.
But then why is Christy suddenly getting a rub from AJ Styles?
Why was the Taylor Wilde/Roxxi/Awesome Kong title feud suddenly cut short without anything being resolved just when it was getting some real momentum?
Why did the writers hotshot a title push for Christy at Final Resolution with no build up at all when she’s been enhancement talent for the last year and when Kong already had a much better program going with two much better wrestlers?
And why on earth did Christy pin Kong in a mixed tag match on iMPACT?
It doesn’t take a genius to see what a mismatch this is. Christy just doesn’t have the raw athleticism it takes to match up believably with Awesome Kong and you put them in a one-on-one match for any length of time and that’s going to become obvious very quickly. And if that title match is booked to be competitive, if Kong has to sell very much for Christy’s offense, it’s going to look totally unrealistic. Anything other than Christy being completely dominated -- minus a hope spot or two -- is going to seriously damage Kong’s credibility. So why exactly is Christy even in this position?
Apparently, someone in TNA thinks that Christy really can be the face of the Knockouts (they don’t let just anyone pin Awesome Kong). Unfortunately, it’s for all the wrong reasons. I’m going to step out on a limb here and speculate that this sudden push of Christy on television is because she’s aesthetically marketable. But you know who else you could say that about? Jackie Gayda.
Like Christy, Jackie Gayda was (and is) a gorgeous woman. But when she had her match with Trish Stratus following her Tough Enough win and fell all over herself in the ring, all the sex appeal in the world couldn’t have stopped the WWE audience from booing her out of the building.
Which brings me to my point. A woman wrestler’s looks don’t matter as much as the marketing people (and WWE) would have us believe. Back in the Attitude Era it was a different story, but the days of sizzle over substance are over and Sable’s an expecting mother now.
Does it help if the woman is nice to look at? Of course. But it’s not as important as you might think.
If the Knockouts’ looks were so important, if males ages 18-35 watched the Knockouts matches just to get off on sexy women, then why did ODB vs. Moose in a Bimbo Brawl score the highest rated segment of the night on iMPACT a few months ago, hmm? No offence to ODB and Moose, but I don’t see too many beauty pageants in their future. In fact, I, myself, remarked during that match that it looked like the makeup people had gone out of their way to ugly Moose up.
And yet, it was the highest rated segment of that entire show, outdrawing Kurt Angle, Booker T, Christian Cage and any other big star you could name.
If TNA is serious about making Christy the face of the Knockouts then they’re doing it for the wrong reasons. They might plan to push the sex appeal angle but that’s not what today’s fans are looking for. Rather than going in the same direction why not highlight what makes the Knockouts division different from the WWE Divas and what made it stand out in the first place? Instead of a poster of a scantily clad former Playmate striking a sexy pose (i.e. the Knocked Out DVD cover), promote the Knockouts with a poster of Awesome Kong, Taylor Wilde, ODB or Roxxi covered with sweat, hair a mess, looking like she’s been through a war and hoisting the Knockouts title over her head with the tag line, “No divas here.”
Christy in this role doesn’t work. Her wrestling isn’t there yet and until it is she doesn’t have the complete package.
Christy Hemme, the new face of the Knockouts division?
I say nay.
Call me FK9.