Woman’s (Wrestling) Work

Why Dave Meltzer’s comments deserve the heat that he got for them

We’re still hashing out the mess that Dave Meltzer made of himself a few days ago on his podcast when he said (I’m paraphrasing here) that Peyton Royce looked more attractive when she was in NXT when she was ‘lighter’ (a reference to her recent breast implant surgery, but to those who didn’t know could have been inferred to be about her weight).  And when that comment surfaced he got dogpiled for it (and some previous bad things he’s said about women) by current WWE employees, some retired ones, and even a few people who don’t work there at all.  Which of course brought out the defense squad asking:

  1. Don’t the guys get judged, too?
  2. Who cares what Meltzer thinks, anyway?
  3. Isn’t it hypocritical of WWE people to go at him given the company’s history?
  4. How about they criticize their own employer instead of ‘punching down’ at Dave?

Ok let’s go through these, shall we?

Don’t the guys get judged on how they look?

Yes, men in pro wrestling do get judged on their appearance – roles, characters, and pushes are decided as much by look as promo skills or wrestling ability – but it’s nowhere near the same. Kevin Owens was Universal Champion. Dusty Rhodes was the top face everywhere he worked while teaming with heartthrobs like Magnum TA and the Rock n Roll Express and facing off against a ladies man in Ric Flair. Daniel Bryan had an entire Wrestlemania program rewritten with him coming out on top in the main event. Good luck finding a female equivalent of any of those cases.  Yes there have been a few women who don’t look magazine model ready in any way but they are usually shoehorned into roles that are based on the opposite set of stereotypes – the big, menacing monster that beats up on all the pretty girls.

For the ladies, looks aren’t just a determinant of how far you get, they can be a  barrier to entry in the first place. Of the American wrestling companies only Ring of Honor doesn’t push things as hard in that department, and I dare speculate that it’s because they’re too cheap to invest in it, not because they’re some bastion of forward thinking.  After all they weren’t even putting their women’s matches on the main show of pay per views until this past June.  There is no such thing as a man who was deemed too ugly for the wrestling business, though, and in a lot of cases being a scary looking dude is a plus.   The vast majority of women who have worked their way up to some kind of national profile, be it in or out of WWE, fall into some category of what dudes consider to be hot.   And it’s gonna stay that way until the business gets a new set of gatekeepers, from executives to media to which fans are listened to.

So why do we care what Meltzer says?

Because his words carry weight, that’s why. He’s become a major influential voice in the wrestling business, and what he says goes a long way in shaping the perceptions of wrestlers, matches, and companies. So no, he doesn’t get to slide when he says something that is at best clumsy and at worst downright sexist.  Given the outsize role that physical appearance plays in the ladies careers the last thing any of them need is for a perception to take hold that the (male) audience may not find them attractive, or not as attractive as they once did.  A guy at Meltzer’s level can easily get a ball rolling that becomes an accepted truth and is regurgitated ad naseum by what is often the most vocal block of wrestling fans on the internet.  Now I have personal opinions about how all the ladies look to me but I don’t go around sharing them in detail (other than the occasional affirmation towards one of my personal favorites) because….why should !?  Who’s it helping?  Not me, not them, not anybody.

Meltzer’s seal of approval has done a lot to raise the stature of guys like Kenny Omega and the Young Bucks, to name a few, drawn a lot of eyeballs towards New Japan Pro Wrestling, and made the upcoming All In show a bigger deal than it may have been without his constant boosting of it’s backers and participants.  He’s also the man that most dirtsheets lift from to ‘report’ on rumors, scoops, etc.  Given his general expressed disdain towards American women’s wrestling and some of the trash comments he’s made about women in the past it’s not a stretch to think that he couldn’t help turn his disciples against one of it’s practitioners, even if it’s inadvertendly.  So yeah he needs to watch his mouth.  He’s got too much pull to spout off like he did.  No she’s not going to get fired just because of something he said about how she looks but her career could absolutely be affected if a loud consensus forms, buoyed by big voices, that she isn’t very good at what she does.

So no, you don’t get to be Mr. Important Media Guy when it suits you and just a guy with an opinion when you get in trouble.  Sorry, dude.

But weren’t all the WWE folks being hypocritical by piling on an easy target like Dave while their boss has said and done much worse stuff on this front?

Have Vince and his cronies said and done worse?  Yes they have.  There have been plenty stories about it and there is plenty of old archived footage from RAW and Smackdown showing it.  But Vince isn’t the one who fired at Meltzer.  Seth Rollins and Tyler Breeze didn’t book any bra and panties matches or write any of the really misogynist stuff that went on between Vince and Trish on TV.  Neither did Peyton, or Beth Phoenix, or Renee Young.  None of them made the decision to do the show in Saudi Arabia (which I watched along with everyone else bringing it up, so who really can talk here?).  Expecting people to go all caps on the internet to bash their employer is a bit rich; you paying their bills if they get canned over it?  Yeah it’s easy to fire at Dave, who a lot of them already had beef with for other stuff.  That’s kinda what people tend to do, go after low hanging fruit. But even if you’re going to give them some grief over that it doesn’t change that Dave said something stupid.  And when you say something stupid there’s no rulebook on who gets to call you on it.

 

The women in the wrestling business have a really hard time making it in and making it up the ladder, from the ones who wrestle to the ring announcers to the interviewers, show hosts, and commentators.  They get judged on how they look all the time, and then the way they do their job is often graded more harshly simply because of their gender.  When they do succeed, it’s not uncommon for whispers about who they’re involved with to surface as a reason why, but when they don’t they often end shouldering all the blame.  And there are still men in 2018 who don’t want them on the show to do anything that goes beyond being eye candy, and grumble about it every opportunity.  Even this point in time, where there are more women on the roster than ever before, hangs on a precarious thread that could break at any time.  So if you’re not helping and you’re not being objective in your criticisms then the best thing to do is be quiet already.

 

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