This past weekend marked the first, historic, monumental, astounding, amazing, never-happened-before* pay-per-view of all female talent in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. WWE Evolution was a rather enjoyable event that shined a positive light on one of the strongest brands in American television producing content today. The evening was chock full of messaging that spoke directly to little girls straight through to women to tell them that anything they want can be achieved. And in between these self-aggrandizing promos, there were some damn fine wrestling matches to enjoy.
But somewhere after the fourth or fifth of these interstitial talking heads, wherein the performer would choke up (rightfully so mind you) over the very notion that the ladies of the WWE would be given this time to shine… I began to sour. Again to be clear: not because the event wasn’t deserving of praise — but because WWE Evolution was not erected to right a wrong… it was a consolation prize for the WWE selling its soul.
For those who don’t religiously follow the ins and outs of the World Wrestling Entertainment company, allow me to spoil the surprise. WWE Evolution was created first and foremost as a PR move to appease the noisy internet smart-marks (think gatekeepers, only slightly less awful) who would rightfully (for once!) denote that the women of the WWE would not be allowed to perform with the company at the next pay-per-view event. One week after Evolution comes WWE Crown Jewel. Coming to you live this Friday from the King Saud University Stadium, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. And in case you didn’t know? Women are not allowed to wrestle or perform in that particular country.
I won’t dive into the recent history here, if only to sum it up succinctly:
Vince McMahon accepted a ten year multi-million dollar contract with the Saudis to bring to them his oiled-up carnival several times a year. And not only would he deliver a standard show from his cavalcade of Cro-Magnon cohorts, no! Vincent Kennedy McMahon would succumb to any whim that the Crown Prince so desires. Dust off the Undertaker? Sure! Unretire Shawn Michaels? Here’s a dump truck of money! Give the Rock the championship back? Well, it’s been reported by several outlets it’s been under consideration. And as a fan? It makes me sick.
I’ve no qualms about getting paid. At the end of the day, the WWE making good money only makes for a better product. And as a paying customer of theirs, I enjoy knowing my $9.99 a month pays for a wealth of content; so much of it literally having never been consumed by me, but comforting to know I have access to it none-the-less. So, when the deal itself was announced? I thought nothing of it. When the details of the deal began to unfurl? Perhaps my enthusiasm waned. Because knowing that the women of the company — who work equally hard as their male counterparts, only to be given the short-end of the stick when it comes to compelling storylines and TV time — would not share in the spoils of this new-found wealth, left a bad taste in my mouth.
Which leads us to the now. Because not that long ago, a journalist for the Washington Post — who was known for this hard stance against actions of the Saudis — was lured into a Saudi consulate (to process papers for his upcoming wedding), where he was murdered and dismembered. The Saudi’s are looking into it of course, but for all intents and purposes? I personally find the writing to be on the wall here. And if you disagree with that sentiment? Well, happily click off this article and join me next week when I’m likely bitching about The Flash or something else… mmm k? In short… an innocent man living here in the United States, was murdered in cold blood, and the cover up by the government that ordered the slaying will be as convincing a Hulk Hogan apology. And this Friday, the WWE rolls right into the heart of darkness to do a little shucking and jiving.
John Cena — thanks in large part to the PR team who now controls his every move — has decided to not go to the event. Rumors are that Daniel Bryan (Earth-loving real-life hobbit-man who is also one of my personal favorites) is opting to not go either. Ultimately it won’t matter. The contract and millions brought in to the WWE covers the cost of their show and then some. When they return from selling out, they’ll pretend like the show didn’t matter. Which brings us full circle back to WWE Evolution.
The women were praised and exalted, all crying over one another because of this revolution inside the male-dominated company that pays them less than their male counterparts… unless they sign up for the reality shows that are sister-branded on the E! network. All the while Vince and his board of directors will look the other way at a country that has purchased American fealty with a ten year license to boot. It doesn’t quite feel like an evolution then, does it? More like 2 steps forward, 10 years back.
Ultimately the matches on Evolutions card will be remembered; Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match being a fantastic highlight on a card dotted with several others I could easily list and break down. What we wound up seeing was that the women equaled men in their ability to tell a story in the squared circle. Where power met speed. Where conniving heels did-in their innocent babyfaced opponents. Where legends squared off with the stars of today and tomorrow. That they happen to be women didn’t matter. And that is what mattered most. It’s just a shame that not even a day removed from the event, all I can think of personally is whether I’ll cancel my subscription to the WWE Network in solidarity to the hypocrisy on which they profit now.
I’d love to end on a pithy bon mot, but frankly I’m out of jokes. My shoulders are pinned to the mat on this, and I’ve no idea where I find the strength to kick out. Continue to feed the machine in support of what I like about their company… or stand on principles and see how long it takes me to go numb and succumb to re-subscribing under the auspices of whatever excuse I can live with.
WWE’s new motto is simply Forever. Well? Keep this up, and Not For Long.
* Just to denote: while this was WWE’s first all women pay-per-view, it’s hardly the first of its kind; with all female federations being in business promoting their shows for decades. But who cares about them anyways!