Yes, Triple H, this is aimed at you.
In the wake of your recent comments about intergender wrestling, dismissing it as merely “shock value,” you rightfully received a fair amount of heat, and now it’s my turn to keep the fire burning.
I’m shocked that these comments would come out of the mouth of a man who has been almost universally praised for his work in NXT and for being a visionary and the future of the WWE. People are clamoring for Vince McMahon to step down and hand over the keys to the kingdom to his son-in-law, who does deserve respect for the work he’s done in his corporate role within the company.
But even great men make missteps, and Triple H may have taken a big one with these tone-deaf comments about intergender wrestling, especially in the year 2018 where some of the most talented wrestlers are in the world are female, and routinely wrestle circles around their male competitors.
So I have more than a few issues with The Cerebral Assassin’s less-than-cerebral comments, starting with the easiest bone to pick at: Triple H is no stranger to shock value himself, taking part in some of the most notorious angles in WWE history (google “Katie Vick” if you’re unsure of my meaning). He also married a passed-out Stephanie McMahon, and dumped human excrement on the McMahon’s and the Spirit Squad, just to name a few.
So for a man who has made a great deal of money by shocking WWE audiences, is this really such a big deal? The WWE used to routinely feature men-on-women violence, and people gleefully ate it up. That was portrayed as borderline domestic violence; today’s action is presented as an actual wrestling match, athletic competition between two wrestlers who just happen to be different genders.
Then there’s the realism angle, which numerous fans seem to love to bring up whenever Toni Storm or any of the other impeccably talented female competitors across the land pick up victories over their male counterparts. “That would never actually happen!” they cry. “It’s not realistic!”
Well, here’s a big ol’ newsflash for ya, keyboard warriors: WRESTLING ISN’T REAL. That’s a debate for a different day, but I think we could all agree that realism isn’t exactly a linchpin element of professional wrestling, although maybe a bit more so in 2018 than in the Attitude Era days.
So why does anybody care about realism in the product? We as fans have long since conceded the fact that we watch a scripted form of entertainment, so why all of a sudden does it matter if Tessa Blanchard picks up a victory over, I don’t know, let’s say Robbie Eagles, or if Mia Yim defeats Keith Lee?
It’s not a real fight, it’s not going to end with a closed-fist knockout or some other street-fightig maneuver, it’s a wrestling match. I think we’ve got more than enough proof that women could WRESTLE just as well as men can at this point, so why does gender matter in a scripted WRESTLING match?
If the story makes sense and the two workers could put on a show, I don’t care if it’s intergender, interspecies, or intergalactic. I’m here to watch good wrestling, and good wrestlers are NOT defined by their gender. They’re defined by work ethic and heart, something that, last I checked, was something to be held by both men and women.
And let’s not make a big secret out of it: women have been treated like shit in wrestling for far too long. Bra & Panties matches, while no doubt entertaining to an audience, are not wrestling matches. Pillow Fights are not wrestling matches. Being forced to strip down and bark like a dog is not a wrestling match. And yet, for the longest time, that was what you got if you wanted to see female competitors face off in the squared circle. In hindsight, WWE (and other companies, this isn’t strictly a WWE issue) offered a despicable showcase of their women’s roster, turning women’s wrestling into a joke.
I don’t mind utilizing sex appeal to sell tickets if you’re going to make it a part of what you offer your female wrestlers. Sex sells, there’s a long track record of that, it’s undeniable. But now that WWE’s found that mix of sexy and talented, and has actually let their women spread their wings and wrestle some incredible matches, it’s kinda sad to look back on what the women’s division used to be, all sex appeal and no attention paid to in-ring competition, with some exceptions (Lita and Trish Stratus, mainly, but there were others.)
So now Triple H has a front-row seat to see how far women’s wrestling has come since his own days of berating and assaulting Steph McMahon. So why does he have an issue with women wrestling men?
To me, intergender wrestling is the ultimate affirmation that women’s wrestling has changed for the better. It’s a seal of respect and trust from promoters all over the world when they book intergender cards, and put titles originally thought to be exclusive to men on women who’ve earned them.
When Sexy Star (who is problematic but the best example here) won the Lucha Underground championship, it didn’t feel cheap. It felt like the culmination of hard work and a deserved honor. There are multiple women all across the globe who have achieved similar championship success, and it just feels like part of the game now.
So why isn’t it part of Triple H’s gameplan? You have women on the roster who have not only competed with men, but have kicked some serious ass on the indies, women like Candace LeRae and Toni Storm. There’s a mountain of proof that these matches can succeed, and I have a strong suspicion that the WWE could make some cash off them.
Remember when Smackdown booked Becky Lynch vs. James Ellsworth? People were fired up for it, because Ellsworth was a despicable, slimy human being and he deserved his comeuppance. Becky dished it out, and that was the story. Becky didn’t win she was a woman, she won because she’s a badass who took out weeks of pent-up frustration. It was fun, it got people’s attention, and it didn’t feel hokey at all.
So I really hope that Triple H hears what the people are saying, because he has a responsibility to do so. The main goal of wrestling promoters is to make money by putting together the best matches possible. IS there money in Jinder Mahal? Do people want to buy tickets to see Baron Corbin and Finn Balor for the 30th time? I’d say not.
But a Charlotte Flair-AJ Styles match? Or Asuka taking on Shinsuke Nakamura, or really any male athlete on the roster? THAT’s gonna draw eyes, and eyes come attached to hands, hands that have money in them. It looks like Triple H may have to start playing a different game, or else the outcry will just get louder and louder.
In short, HHH may be right about one thing: Women don’t need men to make them successful. Women could do just fine and be just as popular, just as talented and renowned wrestling amongst themselves and not mixing it up with men. But that damn sure doesn’t mean that they can’t.