A few months ago we witnessed the inaugural women’s Hell in a Cell match. It was considered important enough to headline the early October pay-per-view and was billed as a crystallisation of the progress made by WWE’s women over the last twelve months. Charlotte and Sasha Banks, admittedly proving my initial doubts wrong, justified their place on the card that night. The match itself was fantastic, disproving the nonsensical claim made for many years that female wrestlers either should not be made to withstand such punishment, or that they would not be capable of it. For women in sport everywhere (readers of this blog will have to put up with me referring to WWE as a sport, I’m afraid), this was a crowning moment.
The problem, though, is that Hell in a Cell wasn’t capitalised on in any meaningful way. As with most of WWE’s attention to its women, including during the so-called revolution, what has followed has demonstrated that the company is only ever prepared to go half-in. Go back just a few weeks and logic would have told you that for a ‘Women’s Revolution’ to be substantive and longer-term, a women’s Royal Rumble match, possibly consisting of just 15 females and representing both brands, would have been added to the card on Sunday night in San Antonio. It would have been a history-making moment to cap what I thought, barring the last fifteen minutes, was an excellent pay-per-view.
So, one missed opportunity. And let us not pretend that time constraints are the sole barrier to such a match becoming reality. The event’s other main event matches could each have been shortened by a couple of minutes and 205 Live’s Cruiserweight contest could have been placed on the pre-show, replacing an excruciating segment with Dean Ambrose in the social media lounge, trying unsuccessfully to make ‘aloof’ funny. There is also no worked or storyline reason why it wouldn’t work, either. Women’s elimination matches take place fairly frequently, and if so many women on the roster have little to work with then all signs seems to point glaringly towards adding a second Rumble. And doing so every single year from here on out (thus working toward bridging the large gap that still noticeably exists between the men and the women).
A women’s Royal Rumble match would be a great creative move for a very distinct reason: it would give, in storyline, a sense of purpose and direction to female talent. They will focus, just like the men do, on their road to WrestleMania, strengthening storylines that lead into the event and ensuring that fans consider the women much more of a reason to buy the event. Yes, a Rumble produces one winner, but ensuing storylines often branch out and can include other wrestlers too. This is vital for the women, who right now find themselves divided into two categories: Charlotte and her challenger, and the rest. Setting up an interesting new platform for the girls would carry some of the focus beyond RAW’s champion.
Necessary, too, are the inclusions of the Money in the Bank ladder match and Elimination Chamber match into the women’s schedule. As we have previously discussed, experiencing brutality is not beyond the capabilities of female wrestlers. Suggesting that it is would appear to me to be sexist and lacking any real basis in fact. We witnessed a steel cage match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship only days ago, and since the wellbeing of athletes (with particularly admirable emphasis on tackling concussions) has emerged as a top priority right across the realm of sport, I feel confident that the women would be more fiercely protected in the event of an accident in more dangerous matches.
Adding a women’s Money in the Bank ladder match would allow for female talent to showcase their skills in an entirely fresh environment. It would raise the prestige of both belts concerned and would aid the development of the briefcase holder’s character. Similarly, the Elimination Chamber match would add some longevity to feuds in the women’s division. By mixing talent together in a six-way pool of the kind that the chamber match provides, fans are less likely to view female feuds as stale or repetitive. I do not think that many wrestling fans would object, for instance, to seeing Natalya, Naomi, Nikki Bella, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Becky Lynch go at it inside two miles and six tonnes of chain.
Big matches often provide the fertile soil out of which big stars grow. Big matches help to put the female talent on a more level playing field with the men. Big matches incentivise both emotional and financial investment into women’s wrestling. Storylines, it should be said, are crucial both to prolonging interest in the women’s product and distinguishing female characters, but they are not enough. Adding more storylines doesn’t provide the spark that incorporating exciting new matches does. And since storyline focus in the women’s division always has had a tendency to circulate around one particular feud or a tiny batch of talent, it would make sense now more than ever to introduce new concepts to women’s wrestling, forcing the girls to be more competitive than ever before and giving them better opportunities to shine. Giving the women’s division the same spotlight in terms of matches afforded to male stars would add legitimacy to a ‘Women’s Revolution’ which, I’m sorry, hasn’t really taken off yet.