As we near the first Smackdown PPV since the brand split, Backlash, there’s been some movement on both rosters and behind the scenes, hopefully setting things up for future plans. Some old faces returned (the Headbangers) while current faces went off down strange and frankly, weird paths (Gallows and Anderson). Throughout all this, we were subjected to the usual WWE programming complete with promos. One of which caught my attention at the time of watching, however, I quickly dismissed it as nothing and moved on. From looking at social media the following days, it appeared I was too hasty to move on, or was I? Maybe I just didn’t see any controversy in what was a scripted promo? Was I too naive to think it was just a line in a speech or did I miss out on some deep underlying message that needed to be shouted from the rooftops?
“No more bra and panties matches. No more stupid butterfly title.”
- Excerpt from Sasha Banks’ promo, Raw, Monday 5th September 2016
Now, the first sentence; I agree with. As the father of a young daughter, I will confess that I wouldn’t want to take her, as a WWE fan, to an event where such a match was showcased. I’m not going to pretend those matches didn’t happen and I’m not going to ridicule the participants. All I’m saying is that society and wrestling has moved on since those days. Call it more PC, PG rating, Women’s Revolution or just taste, we’re unlikely to go back down that road again.
It was the second statement that caused my eyebrows to raise when it was said. Now, not too long ago, Mick Foley issued a statement via social media about respecting belts. He was defending the guys in the ring at the time of the match (who were subject to chants by a minority of the crowd about the appearance of the new Raw Universal Title belt), but to have that thought and especially as Mick was on the show, so fresh in everyone’s mind, the dissing of the ‘Butterfly belt’ seemed a little ill-timed.
The Divas Title, to give it its full name, was held by Charlotte, AJ Lee, Paige, Beth Phoenix and Mickie James amongst others. Some very credible champions there, so to scorn the belt seemed a bit off, especially given how vocal Mick was the previous week.
However the reason I didn’t react to the statement with outcry and decide to pen a venomous column was that I know Sasha didn’t go out there and ad-lib the promo. Although it wasn’t of the calibre of a Mark Henry fake retirement speech (it was totally set up for that), it was no doubt scripted beforehand and the ‘butterfly’ comment inserted. I don’t blame Sasha for the speech, nor do I blame her for the context therein. But, boy did some people take it seriously.
Love him or loathe him, Vince Russo had plenty to say about it. I guess most of his ire was directed towards WWE rather than Sasha, but he brought up a valid point when referencing her Raw promo then linking it to a calendar photo shoot she’d recently posed for. What message does WWE want to portray? The strong image of fighting women or the glamourous shots to be hung on bedroom walls? I don’t know and am certainly not going to guess. The point being, is it any wonder WWE is misinterpreted by fans and the outside world if they consistently publicise conflicting messages? Is it up to WWE to give out a direct vision or do people read too much into things, sometimes taking liberties as they feel WWE has affronted them, causing great offense?
To the non-WWE fan, the product can be a figure of fun. Something that they can feel superior in poking ridicule at and laughing at it when it suits. The crass comments directed at Kevin Owens’ son by someone in the media only lends weight to that argument. It was very tasteless and rightly apologised for. But who has the right to poke fun at a business where anyone over the age of ten knows that the participants can really get hurt doing what they’re doing. Go on YouTube and watch some of the interviews with wrestlers by hosts who treat what they do as a joke. I like the one from the late 80’s (I think) where the interviewer gets a hard slap.
I’m a fan of the product, but I didn’t get all high and mighty about Sasha’s promo. I didn’t launch a verbal tirade towards her as if everything said was her fault. No, we’re educated enough to understand its Sports Entertainment. While the participants may suffer real consequences from their actions, we know the story isn’t real and the wrestlers we see portrayed on screen are performers, not real people. I doubt Goldust puts gas in his car dressed in full make up and wig – although that would be funny. So what is the problem with people who can’t see the line between reality and fantasy? Why would someone think its ok to make a joke about a wrestler’s son? Why would people attack one of the best current women’s wrestlers for saying something she was told to say? Why do people take it too seriously?
As a fan, I just want to enjoy the product. I want to be entertained by the matches and wowed by the athleticism. I want to root for the good guy and hate the heel. I want to be enthralled by what I see. Is that too much to ask? Or should I take it more seriously and dissect every scripted promo to find something to be outraged by? I respect everyone involved, and like what they do on the whole, but I can’t understand why some find pleasure in finding fault. We’ve been treated to some bad wrestling over the years, so can we not just enjoy the current product which is pretty damn good at the moment.
What do you think? Should we be unhappy with some aspects? Was the ‘butterfly’ comment unnecessary? Does WWE need to give a consistent message, or are some reading too much into what is basically a soap opera in a wrestling ring?