Editorial Columns

Is Stephanie McMahon Women’s Wrestling’s Biggest Fraud?

Shirleigh Kaur looks at Stephanie McMahon, and asks whether she is the biggest fraud in women’s wrestling history.

As a lifelong women’s wrestling fan, I write this article with the best intentions in mind. 

I have waited decades for women to be treated equally to men and, for a moment, there was a glimmer of hope that the biggest brand in wrestling was heading in the right direction. However, the token gestures and the innate issues within the fabric of WWE have made it impossible to make the changes that other companies have progressed towards. This is why I’m writing this article – I am fed up of Stephanie McMahon proclaiming that women are making history with “first evers” instead of devising a long term plan to showcase women on the same platform as men. 

Now, I can already hear the tweets and the snide comments from people who choose to read this, because they will all say things along the lines of:

“But we’ve just had the first ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia!”

“Becky Lynch is the biggest face on the roster!”

“There are more people wanting to watch the women than the men!”

“There is the best roster of women WWE has ever had!”

“This is better than a decade ago.”

What I’m going to do for the purposes of this article is break down each of these arguments and explain why each of these things does not equate to WWE being the beacon of women’s wrestling history that Stephanie McMahon declares it is.

“But we’ve just had the first ever women’s match in Saudi Arabia.”

Yes, it was beautiful seeing Natalya and Lacey Evans wrestle in Saudi Arabia. It is a moment Stephanie will not shut up about for the next…week. These are what I’m going to call “Token Gestures to Shut Up Women’s Wrestling Fans”. There have been TOO MANY of these gestures instead of long-term equality within WWE and it is no longer excusable, hence why I’m writing this article to call out WWE on their idea of what history looks like. Firstly, do I need to go into detail about how awful a place Saudi Arabia is when it comes to treating women generally? That’s for someone else on the TWM team to delve into. Secondly, how many women’s wrestling matches are there across the five hours that SmackDown and RAW air? (I am NOT counting NXT in this because their division is banging.) On average, it equates to 15 minutes out of the 300 minutes that RAW/Smackdown air – with my teacher brain on, that is on average 5% of television time on the two main shows WWE produces. I do not understand how that is acceptable in this day and age – hell, why are women generally STILL fighting for equal rights to men?! I’m fed up of these throwaway gestures to “make history” and I want something that will stand in the long run to make it clear that the women are presented on the same level as the men. It is the least they deserve. 

“Becky Lynch is the biggest face on the roster.”

I love Becky Lynch. She has been the reason why I watch highlight videos of RAW on YouTube. I love going onto Twitter and seeing that she is on every poster, every advert… just everywhere. It is amazing to see a woman is the top person in WWE. My question to you is how confident are you that the higher ups in WWE agree with this view? I think it is prevalent through the presentation of WWE they genuinely have no clue what to do with anyone, let alone the women.

It just feels like while there has been major progress in the presentation of women in WWE (more on that later), there is still a lot more to do and a long way to go before WWE has a culture of gender equality- one woman out of a roster of over 400 people being seen as “the face” surely isn’t enough. Yes, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Charlotte are on the same level as Becky, but they’re not on the same mainstream level as Becky has reached, especially in the past year. Oh, and if Becky is the biggest face, why did Evolution get retired, huh Steph?!

“There are more people wanting to watch the women than the men.”

This I absolutely agree with. There are girls who are getting to watch a roster of strong women do their thing on the main roster, but this (once again) comes down to the culture of WWE, which is why I’m going to give you some questions to ponder and discuss with me on Twitter:

  • How many women’s matches are there on a main show?
  • How many women are on a main show?
  • How do fans respond to the women on the main shows?
  • Where the hell is Liv Morgan?!

Hopefully, your time to think will realise that while the audience has warmed to women more, the lovely folks behind the scenes of WWE do not seem to realise that the women are the highlight of the show for some people. Before she was killing her buddies, Bayley hugged every girl in the audience. Before she dyed her hair blue, Sasha gave her glasses to fans. I know from my own experiences that those moments are unforgettable, so why aren’t we giving the women more time to develop characters and connect with the audience? There is no excuse when companies like IMPACT have strong, well developed female characters on their roster. 

“This is the best roster of women WWE has ever had.”

This is one where I’m salty. I absolutely hate it when people dump on the Divas era because without those women fighting in the background trying to get storylines and more time on screen, the “Women’s Evolution” would have never happened. There have been GREAT women to step into WWE, but the sad thing is they are never acknowledged for their contributions to the fabric of women’s wrestling. I’m glad I never had Stepherz bleating into my ears about the first ever “I Quit” match back in 2008. I’m glad I never had Stepherz screeching through a mic declaring that AJ Lee pushing CM Punk through a table was a monumental moment that we will never forget and a step in the right direction for gender equality in wrestling.

I’m glad I never had Stepherz force her way into the epic Summer Rae/Paige feud by declaring some kind of token match to MAKE HISTORY ONCE AGAIN! The problem with the casual fan is that they assume that the revisionist history of WWE is the truest one, and it really isn’t. While the Divas era was bad for some stuff, there are some true gems that need to be sought out and celebrated by every women’s wrestling fan out there. 

“This is better than a decade ago.”

It is. I can’t argue that. I don’t miss the three-minute, 14 Diva tag team matches. I don’t miss the girls only being used as arm candy for the random guest hosts of RAW. I don’t miss any of those things, but at least they were fun. We’ve just had Halloween pass us by with no Halloween Battle Royal, which used to be a highlight for me when it came to the women. While I appreciate that the women are being taken more seriously in terms of their wrestling ability, I do think there could be more fun and enjoyment.

At least then, we could see more of the women in the ring- go to my friend @JJWilliamsWON on Twitter to see how the current crop of NXT women got to have a blast dressing up for a Halloween Battle Royal. Why can’t that be the same for the women on RAW and Smackdown? As I mentioned above, while the Butterfly era wasn’t great, it had its moments that I think should be celebrated more.

I hopes that this hasn’t come across as a rant of sorts, but I’m angry at the way Stephanie McMahon acts like she is the saviour of women’s wrestling when in actual fact, she is not. There is no one person that can bring about change – there needs to be more than one person screeching down a microphone supporting the cause before WWE can truly be declared gender-equal.

I think the fact that Evolution has been retired in spite of its popularity and brilliance is a disgrace and a slap in the face to every other female wrestler across the world who gets to perform on all-female shows. With us having to endure the crap that is the Saudi agreement, why can’t the women in WWE get the opportunity to shine without the men headlining? After all, I think I’ve made my point clear that the women deserve it and it should just be something that is happening.

If IMPACT can have Tessa Blanchard as a headliner, why can’t Charlotte Flair be the same? If AEW can have Riho as their face of the women’s division without compromising her character, why can’t Sarah Logan be in the same position? Stephanie McMahon, the ball is in your court. You shout about the history that women make in WWE – now it is time to make it a more permanent fixture of your product, or you will continue to look incompetent against everyone else who has made progress in gender equality in wrestling.

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You can find the author of this article on Twitter @ShirleighShirlz. Thanks for reading!

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