A Right to Complain?

Not gonna bother with a flowery intro here. We’re a week away from WrestleMania, and what was supposed to be a Smackdown Women’s title match got pulled from the show entirely and instead we got an impromptu title match last Tuesday where Charlotte Flair beat Asuka for the title. Now as big a fan as I am of Charlotte I was not in favor of this move or the title change. Charlotte is already in the main event and slapping a belt on her to make that match have more stakes is one of those things that may sound good on paper but doesn’t play so great in real life, at least from where I’m sitting. But anyhow……

First up, yes I do believe the Smackdown Women’s division got screwed over. And it’s not just because the Fatal 4 Way to set up a title match for WrestleMania got cancelled along with that match itself. They largely got neglected since the Royal Rumble – Asuka was off TV for at least a week afterwards and their matches started getting cut short. Now some of that time was lost due the three Gauntlet matches that were run over that time, but the other ladies also lost time because Becky Lynch and Charlotte were pulling double duty showing up on both Raw and Smackdown to hype up the Main Event. But until this past week that match was only for Rousey’s Raw Women’s title, so they really didn’t need to be on both shows. That’s an extra five to ten minutes of match and/or promo time that Asuka and the rest of the women on Smackdown could have gotten. What could they have done with that? Well, let’s see.

If Mandy Rose was indeed going to be Asuka’s WrestleMania challenger then she could have used some more ring time on TV to get ready for it and continue her feud with Naomi. Asuka could have gotten in a title defense or two against Naomi or Sonya Deville or one of the Iconics. There was plenty of time and space to do something to set things up for the match at WrestleMania and not book themselves into a corner with two weeks to go. If they were going to do a Triple Threat or Four Way at ‘Mania then they could have used all that time Becky and Charlotte got every week to put that in motion. I rarely get critical of how they set things up because I respect the daunting task they undertake every week but in this case even I can’t be quiet about the way that they chose to ignore most of an entire division when they didn’t have to. This wasn’t incompetence, it was a decision.

So what to do if you’re one of the ladies who got left out? Do you sit back and take it, or do you speak up? Well Naomi chose to speak up. When the Women’s Battle Royal was officially announced, she responded with this:

That spurred some retorts, most of which I won’t show here because they were the usual kind of sexist, caveman bs that you can expect on social media. But this one, that she responded to in kind is worth showing:

Now you might think that she shouldn’t have said anything and just accepted that sometimes these decisions have to be made. After all, most of us don’t get snarky like that with our employers. But it’s not like there isn’t any precedent for people in the wrestling business airing their grievances. It’s been proven that one of the quickest ways to get something you want is to complain or come up with an excuse. How many times did Hulk Hogan weasel his way out of taking a loss or a certain kind of finish? Remember Shawn Michaels losing his smile and going home rather than lose the title to Bret Hart at ‘Mania 13? Or when Hart returned the favor, albeit with a more honorable façade, a few months later? Hell, I still laugh about the time the Road Warriors literally told their opponents in the ring when the match was about to start that they weren’t doing the planned finish. And before you say, well those guys were top guys and Naomi isn’t, how about the Revival? How about Rusev? Or Tyler Breeze? Or Sanity? They all took to Twitter over the past year to voice their disapproval with their booking or time on the show and were applauded for it. Is taking to Twitter to complain wrong, or is it ok depending on who you are? And as she lastly pointed out, she wasn’t even complaining for herself:

You sure you want to be so quick with the Twitter fingers there to admonish her? There are a lot of Hall of Famers, guys that you and I have idolized that have never spoken up like that on behalf of any of their coworkers. Again, speaking out is either right or wrong; whichever way you want to call it, just keep it consistent ok?

It’s not just Naomi who’s taken some flack. It turns out that Sasha Banks and Bayley were lobbying/pressuring Vince most of last year to create the Women’s Tag Team Title that they now hold, and have gotten some grief for it from some corners of Wrestling Twitter the past few days. But once again, it’s not like there isn’t any history of people lobbying Vince for a long time until they were able to convince him. The New Day, for example, fought long and hard to get what was their initial gimmick changed to the one they were able to turn into what they made famous. Plenty of people lobby Vince and the creative team on their promos, booking, you name it. The Shield went to him as a trio back in 2013 when they were supposed to lose a six man tag on a pay per view (Elimination Chamber) and convinced him to change the finish. They also got their 2014 breakup put off for a while by going in together and lobbying Vince. If you want to go back further there’s always the case of Bret Hart in 1996 putting in a word that the guy he wanted to work with was…..Stone Cold Steve Austin, who at the time was spinning his wheels even after the big character change. Aren’t we glad Bret did that and didn’t wait for Vince to serve him up someone else?

If you’re going to make the argument that they shouldn’t be carrying on like this at their job because you and I can’t do that at ours……..ummm……..well……………there are people at most of our jobs lobbying their bosses and complaining their way to getting what they want. I know there are at mine and what I’ve found is that if you’re not doing it yourself, somebody else is and that’s a big reason they’re moving past you. I’m speaking here from the experience of having seen other people do just that. The wrestling business is one where you have to fight for your position every day and not just in the ring. Every day people are advocating for themselves or someone else that they think deserves a chance. In WWE you work for a man that is notoriously laser focused on some things while not caring much about others, but who is also known to respond favorably to people who have the guts to take their business right to him. If you’re not a part of one of his main projects then you either have to fight for yourself or sit around and wait to be given something, and there are zero guarantees there at all.

The women in particular are at a crucial point. They’ve gotten some more opportunities and now a few have broken all the way through. They have a spot, but now they want to become a priority and stop being the first ones to get cut for time. That means not staying silent. That means making noise on your own behalf and on behalf of others to make sure you don’t get left out or left behind. Sometimes making that noise is damn uncomfortable, both for them and to those of us watching. But the alternative is to wait and hope for the benevolence of others, which is quite often a losing bet. Like I said earlier there’s plenty of precedent here for all of this. So as much as even I might see some of these tweets and read some of these stories and think ‘man, I don’t know if that’s a good idea’ one thing I am not going to do is pick and choose when I’m ok with people doing it and when I’m not. If it’s ok for the guys that you think should entertain going to AEW then it’s ok for the ladies who are staying in WWE.

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