Living Up to the Hype: How the WWE has put insurmountable pressure on the Women’s Championship at Hell in a Cell

Hey guys. Did you know I’m a man? I know, I know, shocking.

Yes, I did start this post paraphrasing my friend and colleague, Gabby, who is very gracious to let me scratch my journalism itch on her wrestling blog. I started it the same way she started her post entitled Mick Foley’s RAW promo & benevolent sexism because it seems my friend has stirred up a little drama amongst some chatrooms (these still exist??) and I wanted to come to her aid and defend her h….. HAHAHAHAHAHA!! I can’t even finish writing that satiric sentence. I started this post the same way she started her’s because I’m a man and she’s a woman and we both share the same opinion about the Sasha/Charlotte/Mick promo Monday night.

per·cep·tion (pərˈsepSH(ə)n) noun:
A way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression.
As Gabby stated in her post, Mick Foley the man is a proponent of women’s wrestling. However, Foley’s promo Monday night came off as condescending toward Sasha and Charlotte. Do I think Foley meant it as condescending? I don’t. This is where perception comes to play. An over-emoting Foley (I could go on about this, but that’s another post for another time) interrupting, coddling and yelling at the two Superstars gave the perception that Hell in a Cell is no place for women.
We’ve been given the perception the past few weeks that the only place for Roman Reigns and Rusev, as well as Seth Rollins and Kevin Owens, to settle their feuds is inside the cell. But when is comes to Sasha and Charlotte’s feud (which has been built up way better than the Universal and United States Championships by the way), it’s been “Are you SURE you want to settle this inside the cell? It can get brutal.” Intentional or not, the WWE has been giving these three matches (you know, the TRIPLE TRIPLE TRIPLE main event) a double standard. It could have been an easy fix.
Instead of Foley playing over-protective dad to Sasha and Charlotte, he could have built up their feud to where these women’s hatred, yet respect for one another can only be settled in a way that no women have ever settled their feuds before… Hell in a Cell!! Instead of Foley talking about how the cell made him a “shell of a man,” he could have talked about how the 1998 King of the Ring defined his career and made him the superstar he is today, and it will do the same thing to the women. Or, if he wanted to talk about the dangers of Hell in a Cell, then bring all nine competitors out for a TRIPLE CONTRACT SIGNING (see what I did there??) and give his speech to all of them.
Foley’s speech was heartfelt, but Sasha and Charlotte were not the only two superstars who needed to hear it. That is where the sexism lies, and if Gabby and I perceived it as sexism, then I guarantee there are many more in the WWE Universe who perceived it the same way. They just aren’t in wrestling chatrooms. (Seriously, are you accessing these through AOL 3.0 or 4.0? Using dial-up to pull up these articles to trash them must take FOREVER. That must be why you aren’t actually reading them.)
All of that brings me to my point in which this post is titled: Sasha and Charlotte now face insurmountable pressure at Hell in a Cell to perform. If their match doesn’t end with bodies bloodied or carried out on a stretcher (a work or not), will it be seen as a great match in the eyes of the WWE Universe? Whenever we talk about great matches in the Women’s Revolution era, we always start with Sasha vs. Bayley at NXT Takeover: New York. We all agreed it was match (not women’s match) of the decade. Then when we think it couldn’t get better, we get Sasha vs. Bayley in a 30 minute Ironwoman match. Instantly, we had a new match (not women’s match) of the decade. Both these matches were hyped by using their talent, not “Are you SURE you want to use cool moves that most women don’t use and actually wrestle for a championship? Are you SURE you want to settle this in an Iron(wo)man match?” Now, it’s all about “making history, danger, and shells of former selves.” This match should be hyped… hell it should be THE SOLE MAIN EVENT and last match of the pay-per-view, but it should not be attached to the stigma of “you’re women, so if you don’t do something absolutely crazy and maybe draw blood, then it’s not going to be as historic as we billed it to be.”
If you’ve made it this far down, here is where I link Foley’s promo to the unrealistic expectations of this match.
With all due respect, Sasha, you have no idea what’s in store for you! Because once that cell descends, once that monstrosity descends upon you, it is not just steel. It’s more than the sum of its parts. It’s a living, breathing entity but it’s got no soul, no heart and no conscious. And it will haunt for days. It will keep you awake at night. Trust me, trust me. Just when you think you’re over it for good, it will sneak up behind you. It will stop you dead in your tracks. It will make you cry like a child. It’s an intimidating fact that when you’re in that cell, you face not one opponent but two. You face your opponent and that demonic construction itself.
– Mick Foley
We all know Foley’s history with Hell in a Cell matches. He’s jumped off them, been choked slammed through them, broke bones, lost teeth, lost ears, and probably lost years of his life because of them. We the WWE Universe love him for it. We adore him for it. We respect him for it. Someone who puts his body on the line for our entertainment and enjoyment deserves all of this and more. But since he hammered all of this stuff on Sasha and Charlotte during their contract signing, what do we expect of the women? We’ve seen cell matches where no one fell off the cell or went through it and we called them subpar. The Undertaker vs. Shane McMahon match at Wrestlemania XXXI was really not that good, but we call it one of the best because Shane-O-Mac dove off the cell for our enjoyment.
If Sasha isn’t thrown through the cell or Charlotte doesn’t flip herself off the top of the cell on to the announce table, will the match be any good? Can the women have a technical wrestling match inside the cell and it be good enough, or does Sasha have to rub Charlotte’s face against the cell and open her up a la 80s and 90s Ric Flair? According to the hype, the pressure seems to be all on to perform to Foley-esc expectations. We have excepted that Foley-esc expectations are unfair to Roman, Rusev, Seth and Kevin. Let’s also ignore the hype and realize it’s also unfair for Sasha and Charlotte.
Advertisements

Mick Foley’s RAW promo & benevolent sexism

Hey, guys. Did you know I’m a woman? I know, I know, shocking. Well, as a woman, I have a plethora of life experiences that have shaped the person I am today. I have been groped by a stranger in public. I have been patronized and looked down on because of my gender. Why am I saying this? Well, because sexism is a reality in my life that I am aware of with every breath I take. And that reality has spurred me to write about what I saw on RAW tonight.

I’ll cut to the chase: when Mick Foley began to passionately beg Sasha and Charlotte to reconsider their historic Hell in a Cell match on Monday Night RAW, I was horrified.

Mick Foley has long been a supporter of the women’s divisions on both shows. He has voiced support for the women of WWE for years. He is an ally for women in the company in so many countless ways. Outside of the ring, he’s even more of an ally, supporting organizations such as RAINN tirelessly.

AGAIN, LET ME BE CLEAR: I LOVE MICK FOLEY. So that’s why I was so saddened by what transpired on the final RAW leading into Hell in a Cell.

DISCLAIMER: I am aware that Mick Foley the man is probably thrilled with the women going into Hell in a Cell. I am aware he does not write his promos. But here’s the truth of it all: his championing of women’s wrestling has been woven into the character he plays on TV. And so far, his character on TV has been disappointing for fans of women’s wrestling.

Yes, we got a RAW Women’s Championship match as the main event of RAW that had the crowd on its feet. But merely one week later the only women’s segments on the flagship show are an arm wrestling match and a contract signing. A contract signing which was hijacked by Mr. Foley’s character.

Benevolent Sexism

Now, Foley’s delivery was fantastic. He has a real passion for the business and it shows whenever he has a mic in hand. But his words, on the other hand, were the textbook definition of benevolent sexism.

You see, sexism isn’t just slaps on the sass or catcalls. It’s not just calling someone a nasty woman. It’s the subtle things too.

Benevolent sexism may seem harmless, noble, or even “romantic,” but its effects can be devastating. Benevolent sexism, like hostile sexism, is an ideology that supports gender inequality, and in some ways benevolent sexism can be even more insidious.

-UnderstandingPrejudice.org

Things like saying women should be cherished and protected, as if we all fit neatly into traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It’s the paradox of toxic masculinity that tells boys they need to protect women but also be dominant sexually.

So how does this all factor into Foley’s promo? Well first, let’s examine how the other two Hell in a Cell matches (in a triple main event, which could get its own blog) were built on the very same RAW.

Roman Reigns vs. Rusev & Kevin Owens vs. Seth Rollins

The build to this feud has its own problems (Fighting for your wife’s honor? Really?) but the buildup tot he Hell in a Cell match has been focused on each competitor being willing to put their opponent through intense physical punishment.

Not once is it ever brought into question whether or not the men know what’s in store for them. Admittedly, Reigns does know what it’s like to be inside Hell in a Cell…in a match with no bloodshed. But regardless, his ability to put his body on the line is never brought into question. Instead, the focus is on the men themselves.

Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins’ rivalry is a bit more complex. Not only is the Universal Championship involved, but also ingrained in their plot is the Triple H angle and the rising personal animosity between Rollins and Owens.

The buildup to their Hell in a Cell match has been an exchange of threats. Rollins passionately promised to render Owens unable to move by their match’s end. That anger and animosity is the centerpiece of their feud. Well, that and Chris Jericho.

So, in short, the men hyped their matches by promising to take their opponents to hell and back. The usual.

And now, the women…

Sasha Banks and Charlotte are under an enormous amount of pressure. They are in a first of its kind match (for WWE), and if their match is subpar, there will be fans saying that women should never be allowed to be in these matches.

Never mind the plethora of disappointing men’s Hell in a Cell matches over the years.

The last impression on RAW before a PPV is important. It sets the tone for their impending match. So WWE, in their boundless wisdom, decided to have Mick Foley tearfully beg them to reconsider their match.

…..what?

This wasn’t the same Foley who warned Ambrose and Rollins that they weren’t ready for life after Hell in a Cell.

Foley then was determined, almost daring Ambrose and Rollins to live up to his legacy. There is a difference between warning and coddling, after all. And Ambrose and Rollins both emerged from the segment unfazed.

On paper, his promo with Sasha and Charlotte seems similar. But contextualized, it’s a completely different animal.

For starters, his interruptions were yelled right in their faces, which is just unsettling. Additionally, they took away from what little screentime the women had at all. Remember, in this episode the only women’s segments weren’t even matches. So to inject Mick Foley so completely into the contract signing was just another nail in the coffin.

But most importantly: his words were patronizing.

Foley begged the women to not go into their Hell in a Cell match unless they were ready to sign away years of their life. He emotionally recounted meeting Charlotte as a little girl and Sasha’s love of Eddie Guerrero. He didn’t even want to give the women their contract.

Oh, and earlier in the preshow Jerry Lawler suggested that the girls should be scared. YUP.

What’s so bad about that?

  1. It’s patronizing. You think that, in storyline, Sasha and Charlotte are not absolutely aware of what they’re getting into? You think that these two women needed to be told in the final segment before their HISTORIC match that they weren’t ready? How many times has this happened to women in male-dominated professions? Answer: all too much. It’s not the same as when he warns the men because undercutting women with ambition is a systemic and societal problem.
  2. It enforces gender stereotypes. The women NEED to be protected. They NEED to be warned. They’re getting too ambitious and need to be reined back in by a man of authority.
  3. It made the women’s segment about a man. Guys, Charlotte and Sasha are going to tear each other apart but MICK FOLEY DOESN’T HAVE A HIP SOCKET.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t interrupted them multiple times. Maybe then it wouldn’t have felt like mansplaining. But the truth of the matter is that Mick wouldn’t have been scripted to be so concerned for Roman or Seth. Foreboding, yes, but not concerned.

Sasha and Charlotte are in a difficult spot as it is. They’re in a ridiculous triple main event when they should be the main event: period. They have to craft a gimmick match for skeptical marks. And now, their match has to overcome incredible pressure not just from fans, but from an overly protective authority figure.

I have no doubt they will put on an incredible match. I have faith in them. And that is what their GM should have said. He should be building them up (as the real Foley would do) instead of insinuating their ignorance.

But hey, why am I even upset? We ARE in a women’s revolution, aren’t we?

Aren’t we?

 

Bilbs’ Top 10 Lists for Tonight’s RAW

I thought I would write these lists while watching the October 24th edition of Monday Night RAW so you can read it with all of the intensity that I have while watching this episode. Here we go:

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons the Brock Lesnar Segment was needed on RAW

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons an Over-Emoting Mick Foley Helped the Sasha/Charlotte Hell in a Cell Match

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons Why a “Triple Main Event” Makes Total Sense

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons to Love Tonight’s RAW

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.

So in conclusion, this episode of RAW SUCKED.

However, let’s end this on a positive note…

Bilbs’ Top 10 Reasons to watch Hell in a Cell this Sunday

1. Sasha/Charlotte
2. Charlotte/Sasha
3. Sasha/Charlotte
4. Charlotte/Sasha
5. Sasha/Charlotte
6. Charlotte/Sasha
7. Sasha/Charlotte
8. Charlotte/Sasha
9. Sasha/Charlotte
10. Charlotte/Sasha

I’m out.