Screen Critics Shaun takes a look at the tragic state of Raw’s women’s division – pondering what needs to be done to make it work.
It’s no secret that WWE is facing some major problems right now. Audience figures are in the toilet, while fan fatigue with the sheer scale of the product is all but blowing away enthusiasm for the product. Yet I’d make a good argument that the worst of all this seems to be falling onto the Raw Women’s Division – which has been so awful since Wrestlemania – you’d swear it was being done intentionally.
Right now Alexa Bliss is the only bright spot in a division that’s woefully booked. To say WWE has dropped the ball would be an understatement. Raw’s Women’s Division is laughably bad right now – arguably worse than at any stage since the end of Divas era. I’d even go further back than that – at least fans expectations were minimal back then. Now there are great women wrestlers being intentionally underutilized – and that just feels awkward.
I could write an essay on just how tragically poor Bayley’s booking has been. Since being called up to the main roster, it’s all gone somewhat wrong. Fans booing her, cheering the heel instead. Losing matches in quick fashion. Being treated like a bizarre child figure in segments. Heck, if you need any sign of just how poor WWE Creative are at understanding what made Bayley so endearing in NXT, that “This Is Your Life Segment” should make it crystal clear.
Elsewhere Sasha Banks’s creative momentum has been ejected into outer space. Where once she had a hot heel turn planned, now she’s basically trapped in mid card obscurity. Her feud with Alicia Fox is interesting sure, but it’s hard to not feel that the former Raw Women’s Champion is being somewhat underutilized currently; being used as a shiny object to get fans watching 205 Live. She deserves so much better than that.
Meanwhile Mickie James floats through the division like a discarded tissue – no real direction or reason for fans to care. This woman can seriously still go and is a legend in her right – so why are WWE Creative squandering her so hard? Why is she relegated to awkward filler matches that serve no purpose? She wasn’t booked much better on Smackdown Live, but at least she had some kind of motivation in helping Alexa Bliss.
This is all without talking about Nia Jax, Emma (currently injured) and Dana Brooke – who between them might as well not exist in the bigger picture.
The problem seems to extend form the current Creative team – who seem unable to get any kind of forward momentum going. It’s a company-wide issue right now (Raw in particular is saddled with some awful booking faux pas) but it’s the women on Raw who seem to be struggling most. Rather than building these characters into entities fans care about – they’re being boiled down to simplistic outlines.
Instead of letting Bayley be the woman who fans fell in love with on NXT, the Raw Creative seem determined to paint her as an adult baby. Indicating she plays with dolls and painting her as silly and niave is not the way to get fans on board. If you want people to see her as anything but the butt of jokes, WWE has to give fans reasons to do this.
Yet last night at Extreme Rules, we got the complete opposite. After weeks of lackluster build (and one segment that makes a solid shout for the worst in Raw’s history), fans hoped that the women would be allowed to wrestle to their best ability. Yet the Women’s Championship match barely went five minutes. Bayley was beaten and the PPV moved on quickly – effectively reducing Bayley’s redemption story arc to the trash.
It’s not just her (Although she seems to be bearing the brunt of this). With so much time to fill in a week, it amazes me that we can’t seem to get more than one decent women’s feud going at any one time. Yeah Sasha and Alicia had their 205 Live feud, but that was more an excuse to get people watching that show. WWE’s seemingly lost interest in having a multi-layered women’s division with multiple story’s.
It’s made even more obvious when you glance at the Smackdown Live roster. In the shadow of the Superstar Shakeup, things seemed to be going badly there too. But in recent times, they’ve turned things around. All the women there feel relevant and are fighting for something. All the women are involved – it makes them all feel like they could break out; much like Alexa Bliss did. If I were the likes of Dana Brooke or Nia Jax, I’d be furious at being overlooked to such a degree when so much opportunity is being afforded elsewhere.
Really though, what can be done? Raw’s women are not being afforded the platform they deserve; and it’s unlikely to change. The problem with Monday Night Raw right now is there’s so many things wrong – that WWE management might not prioritize the female division. Given how much attention they’ve received in the last 18 months – some might say they’ve been given too much spotlight; to the detriment of other divisions (like tag-team).
There’s no short-term fix to the problem – but it’s something WWE need to address, They’re letting down a hugely talented roster by not giving them the creative direction they need. All that work to get fans to take women’s wrestling seriously means nothing if the week-to-week effort is so lacking.