August 10, 2018
WWE Takes Big Step in Evolution
You would be hard pressed to find another more testosterone-drenched entertainment niche than pro wrestling. Buff superheroes have been bashing, slamming and vanquishing evil “heels” for generations as fans ate up the show, with its mix of acrobatic spectacle, soap opera theatrics, and carefully-scripted good versus evil morality tale.
For most of those storied decades, the women of pro wrestling were sideshows: props reduced to peripheral antagonists or eye candy. Even in-ring performers were used more for the spectacle than the athletic prowess. It was not said, but it seemed self-evident, that the industry did not feel women brought the same booking power as the men. That may still be true, but it’s much less true than it once was, and many believe there’s never been a better time to be a woman in pro wrestling.
For the past few years, the WWE in particular has made intentional decisions to bring more women to the forefront of competition. Part of this was a natural shift in the business. Part of it was an intentional, if unspoken, message to the fan base, as well as a “build it and they will come” gambit for WWE and chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon.
And what are McMahon and the WWE building? Apparently, a strong and legitimate Women’s Division at the world’s most prominent professional wrestling promotion. So far, that project appears to be working. Gone are the days when the “WWE Divas” occasionally squared off in the ring but mostly preened and posed and participated in catty backstage intrigue. These days, there’s still preening and posing and catfights, but the women are becoming just as diverse and character-driven as the men. And, based on the “pop” some of the ladies get, they’re becoming just as popular as some of the guys.
At least, that’s what the brass at WWE were beginning to think. So, in part to test that theory, McMahon recently “shocked the world” by announcing the first ever WWE all-women’s pay per view event: WWE Evolution, which will be held at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island this coming October.
According to press announcements, the WWE will offer a full pay per view card, with championship matches at several levels, as well as special events and appearances. McMahon was quick to give credit for the new event to the fans, saying, “Because of all you men and women using your voices for change we are able to provide the platform to show the world that women can do anything and be anything they want to be…”
Headlining the Girl Power push on Evolution will be, arguably, one of the WWE’s biggest recent signings, former MMA superstar “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey, who has cut a swath through the women’s division since coming on the scene this year.
Wisely, though, WWE will not just depend on current star power to promote this event. They are betting big on nostalgia too, bringing back former “divas” who haven’t been seen in years. They are promising a showcase like only the WWE can do. If they succeed, this really could mean a titanic shift in the industry.