Editorial Columns

Is The Modern World Ready For Mainstream Intergender Wrestling?

James Hayes looks back at Nia Jax appearing in the Men’s Royal Rumble and asks; Is the modern world ready for mainstream intergender wrestling?

Lots of notable things happened at The Royal Rumble.

But the moment that most of us remembered would have to be Nia Jax entering The Royal Rumble. The crowd ate it up because of the taboo aspect of seeing a woman and a man fight.

So… why did that happen?

I think there are several reasons. WWE is trying to become a little more Attitude Era-ish in the presentation of their wrestling… uh… I mean sports entertaining. Perhaps it’s the move to FOX. Or maybe even the announcement of AEW. Vince could be feeling some pressure from Cody and Chris. Then there was the Mixed Match Challenge. This is WWE’s popular online event. I’ll admit it always does feel silly watching the wrestlers tag in and out but is the answer to forget about size difference and muscle mass?

Or perhaps some feel that Nia Jax cannot look tough while wrestling women, without injuring them. They can’t release her because of her cousin Dwayne. So instead WWE has her wrestle the guys. And they hope she does not injure them and pray to God they do not injure her.

All it takes is one female getting injured in an intergender match and Vince will remember why he’s been sheepish about them.

I think there may be something to all of these theories, but the real genesis on the possible resurgence of intergender matches may go all the way back to last year’s Wrestlemania. Remember how the crowd roared as Ronda Rousey pummeled Triple H at Wrestlemania 34?

I think a seed was planted. It was the most exciting moment of a show loaded with many of them. It was also the greatest debut performance by any wrestler. Ever. There was a buzz in the air that night in New Orleans. The universe shifted.

If The King of Kings can sell for Ronda you bet your ass The King of 619 can sell for Nia.

This may be one more door Ronda has opened for women of combat.

But should WWE open that door?

Of course looking at Nia you could make the mistake of thinking since she is bigger than Dolph Ziggler and Randy Orton, what’s the problem?

Just because a woman is bigger or taller than a man does not mean they are equal in term of muscle or strength. I guarantee you Apollo Crews can outlift Nia Jax but which one is bigger. It’s not just about size.

It’s biology, this is not a critique of their skills. Some of these women could wrestle circles around the guys, as long as brute strength does not come into play.

And what happens when that strength is applied? Should they allow Brock Lesnar to take Nia Jax to Suplex City 10 times? How many of you would really be comfortable with that?

Are you okay if they allow Braun to brutalize her the way he did Kevin Owens?

Be honest.

But we’ve seen these things happen to their male opponents.

This isn’t ballet. It also ain’t tennis. This is not Billy Jean King versus Bobby Riggs.

This is a full-contact sport.

I just don’t trust WWE with inter-gender matches. Vince is like a drunken toddler when he gets a shiny new toy. WWE started this “women’s movement” a few years ago, but every step they take, they seemingly take one back. One moment they are creating Women’s Tag Team while just 2 minutes earlier they have Alexa Bliss backstage posing topless. And then there is the Mandy Rose/Naomi storyline on Smackdown. Out of all the things, these women fight over, why does it have to involve her husband Jimmy? (More on this later.)

For years men and women never competed in the ring. It’s was simply seen as classless and too carny, even for a carny business like pro wrestling. It was comedian and professional prankster Andy Kaufman who really broke that old school rule when he actually starting issuing open challenges to any woman that could beat him.

For years men and women never competed in the ring. It’s was simply seen as classless and too carny, even for a carny business like pro wrestling. It was comedian and professional prankster Andy Kaufman who really broke that old school rule when he actually starting issuing open challenges to any woman that could beat him.

In the early 2000s, there was a surge in these matches mainly from promotions like ECW. Jazz became a breakout star there when she feuded with Simon Diamond. She would eventually go on to become a Women’s Champ in WCW, once ECW folded. Eventually, WWE and WCW could not resist and started having these matches also. Madusa wrestled men in WCW. Her first match was in 1996 against Colonel Robert Parker. Lita in WWE also had intergendered matches against the likes Spike Dudley and Dean Malenko. Several women went on two win men’s Championships and even a man held the Women’s Championship. Harvey Wippleman made history winning the Women’s Championship, but he was a heel.

This was booed.

How would we react back then if The Junk Yard Dog or Bret Hart had pinned a woman for the Women’s Championship? Would we cheer that? Not likely. Because they were babyfaces and society had conditioned us to frown at women being manhandled.

Even now all these years later, James Ellsworth was booed when he acquired the briefcase from the first Women’s MITB Match.

Of course, the gold standard of badass female wrestlers is Chyna.

She was and is still unlike anything pro wrestling has ever seen, and unlike most women, she had muscles to match anyone in that locker room. It never felt like the guys were holding back against her.

But it did feel that way when Nia entered the Royal Rumble, and it certainly felt that way when she pushed Dean Ambrose. He walked away. Why? Surely he’s not afraid of her. Some would argue Dean is either a coward for running, or if he attacks, he’s a guy who wants credit for hitting a woman. It’s kind of a lose-lose situation.

Of course, I remember not too long ago Beth Phoenix and Kharma both entered the Royal Rumble. There was no outrage, but those moments lasted seconds. We never actually saw them really wrestle men in a serious and sustained way, and the world we live in has changed dramatically. There is a worldwide reckoning of powerful yet abusive men finally being held accountable for years of abusing women.

We live in a different world, a PC filled, Me Too, 24-hour cable news, outrage infused environment and all it takes is one accident, one botch, or one teenager injuring his little sister, for this whole thing to go sideways. If Chyna wrestled intergender matches today, muscles or not, there is a very good chance people would cringe.

Maybe instead of having women wrestle men, build up the women’s division in a real way, without using men as props, whether in the ring or in a storyline. I have faith in these women and so should WWE. Lucha Underground singled itself out by having inter-gender matches. It was a gimmick to build an identity. WWE needs no help with either the former or latter.

Not that WWE would care about my opinion and based on Becky Lynch’s confrontation with John Cena, I am sure The Man wouldn’t care either. She’d see a match with Cena as a promotion. (Cena, of course, is way too media savvy to allow that.)

The only thing that would give WWE pause is a negative reaction from The Fox Network. The appeal of moving to Fox is that it gives them mainstream attention. There will be millions of more eyes on them now. If Vince decides to go down this road he better be careful what he wishes for.

Beyond everything I’ve written above what troubles me most is how these matches could be interpreted by little boys and girls.

Remember when R&B singer Chris Brown went on Larry King with his Mother to discuss his assault of Rihanna? He saw abuse in his home and like all children he was a sponge.

I worry some little girl will see an intergender match and think that it’s okay for a boy, or man to hit her. Just for play, right? Or worse, some little boy will see the rabid reaction from the WWE Universe and think it’s not only okay but that it’s something to be celebrated. And there may not be a strong parental element in that home to juxtapose reality vs play and make-believe.

Many parents simply work too much to monitor what their children watch 24/7. I’ve seen the remnants of the true-life version of these events play out. And that possibility is not something to either dismiss or be flippant about. When I say intergender matches can be dangerous I’m not just referring to the women wrestlers.

I am very sensitive about normalizing male violence against women.

Having said all that, I started this article 4 days ago and I have done alot of research and even spoken to some female friends about this sensitive issue.

My view has shifted.

I once felt that no woman should ever wrestle a man. But after some thought, I actually do think it is okay to have intergender matches. In fact, I would say it may be vital, for the women’s evolution to continue. These ladies deserve the chance to prove how good they truly are and how good they can truly be. That only happens when you compete against (or with) the best.

Male or female.

But that’s not the reason my mind changed. It’s because of my personal belief that the most important duty a parent or any society has beyond food, shelter, and all that stuff is to give our children a strong sense of self-esteem. No child should ever feel like there will be limits to what they can accomplish simply because of their religion, race, sexual preference, or gender. I love the idea of a young girl seeing Ronda Rousey destroy Brock Lesnar. (It may be unrealistic, but so is Rey Mysterio defeating Batista.) What will seeing that teach that young girl? She learns that if Ronda Rousey can do that as a woman, then she too can slay a beast, destroy giants, and move mountains that stand in her way. A young lady going out into this cold world with a strong deep-seated belief that no one can evict her from her dreams is a weapon to match anything man has ever created.

If I had a daughter I’d want her to possess that same armory.

I think this outweighs most of the concerns I mentioned above.

But it needs to be done right. I can imagine a scenario where it is done brilliantly. In fact, I’ve seen some matches with Candice LaRae that fit the bill.

I just think WWE may not be the company to do it, and for them, the risk may outweigh the reward. But, perhaps that’s the point. Do it anyway, because it’s time.

And if they are going to do it, do it responsibly. Here is a video WWE made with wrestlers listing their injuries and making it clear they are trained professionals.

The same video needs to be done for intergender matches.

And since I’ve changed how I see this issue I couldn’t help but do a little fantasy booking myself.

Imagine if Nia Jax started a faction. She keeps Tamina as her general but adds Kharma, ODB, Kaitlyn, and Asuka. They shun all the women’s titles and only go after the titles for men. They would not want the newly minted Women’s Tag Titles. No thanks. They will just take The Raw Tag Titles off whoever has them. Ronda doesn’t have to worry about them coming for her. They will just snatch the title away from “The New” Daniel Bryan instead. These ladies would refuse entry into the Women’s Royal Rumble but will enter, and then own the traditional one.

A majestic yet menacing Nia Jax leading these dynamic women into a wave of change would be an unbelievable moment in time.

Sure it will make some people uncomfortable, but equality and change rarely come from a place of comfort. Sometimes it comes from a friend telling you, “You are a sexist pig and you need to change that article!”

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