This week’s episode of Monday Night Raw felt like déjà vu and not in a good way. Ironically, women’s wrestling legends from the divisive Divas Era returned and they were still used in short catch-all segments.
WWE consistently tells its viewers that women are an integral part of their programming, but this felt indicative of how they continue to undervalue women from both generations.
The fans took notice and updated a familiar hashtag to express their frustrations. #GiveWWEWomenAChance was a trending topic throughout the night and most of the next day. The creation of the original hashtag was only four years ago and the first main event featuring women was just four months ago. Nevertheless, wrestling Twitter still has to take to social media to attempt to get the company’s attention on the matter.
The Raw Reunion special was unsurprisingly light on wrestling matches, but it was still disappointing that there wasn’t a single women’s match on the show. As usual, WWE added a first-ever occurrence on the show to make up for it. Kelly Kelly became the first woman to win the 24/7 Championship.
Yes, it was nice to see Kelly again and it was a good moment, but the 24/7 Championship is meant to be a joke that WWE only uses in comedic segments. Whether it was intentional or not, that says a lot about the decision to use the female cameos in those parts of the show.
That may seem like grasping at straws in search of something offensive, but considering WWE supposedly moved away from presenting female Superstars as a sideshow this seemed like a step backward. Moreover, those segments didn’t do anything to raise the profile of the current women’s roster. If you were a lapsed fan who tuned in for this episode, it wouldn’t tell you much about the current product.
Speaking of, Becky Lynch vs. Natalya was the only women’s program they highlighted in the lead up to SummerSlam. To put it briefly, their promo was good, but it essentially ended with a catfight.
Again, this doesn’t feel much different from the Divas Era that WWE claims they steered away from. It’s hard to understand why the company would reduce Lynch and Natalya’s feud to this when there is plenty of ground to cover as simply a friendly rivalry.
Fans didn’t even get a chance to see new stars like Naomi interact with any of the legends. Melina hasn’t been on WWE programming in eight years and they barely even acknowledged her presence. She was one of the most talked-about names on the list of returning Superstars, but was essentially treated as an afterthought.
The Raw Reunion isn’t an isolated incident or even the first sign of regression. It only appears that way because the state of the women’s division has been steadily deteriorating over the last four months. There hasn’t been interesting feud or a standout match since WrestleMania. The Women’s Tag Team Championship, which had so much promise, has been totally neglected.
With all of that said, this weekend on Head to Head, WWE posed the question: Should Ronda Rousey return? It’s certainly debatable, but this line of thinking is a part of the problem. The idea that the women’s division needs established household names, like Rousey or legends from the past, to bolster it when there are so many talented wrestlers available is hindering its growth.
Is it any wonder why their audience is demanding they give their women a chance? After all, how can you sustain a consistent viewership that way?
WWE must make establishing new female stars a priority again. Even more, they need to properly utilize the talent they have available. They currently boast the most stacked women’s roster in the history of the company, but you wouldn’t know that if you watch both weekly shows. That has to change.