WWE Raw segment pushes women back to Attitude Era
Last night on WWE Raw, a relationship angle between Lana, Rusev and Bobby Lashley took a gross turn to become the newest storyline reminiscent of the Attitude Era.
Monday’s main event was an installment of a long-running segment ran by Jerry Lawler, “King’s Court”. The segment was started in the mid-90s, and has since made a confusing return. The segment usually includes Lawler interviewing WWE Superstars. Last night, King’s Court turned into “Divorce Court”, and we found Lawler aiding the unfolding of the soap opera drama of a love triangle.
Lana starts the segment by claiming she had to spend every day dealing with the WWE Universe “hating” on her, and “bullying” her, and to stop the hate, she said she would tell the fans the truth.
Lana’s truth? That Rusev only wanted what he wanted, adding, “What Rusev wanted from me, was sex.” Lana would call Rusev a sex addict while Rusev was sneaking grins in, the crowd loudly chanting.
But, that’s not all, folks.
Lana then claimed Rusev didn’t want sex out of love, he just wanted to “put a baby” in her. Rusev responded that he never meant to pressure her, and Lana got upset that Rusev didn’t understand her need to continue her modeling career, and her gig as a fashion “influencer”.
Lana talks trash about stretch marks and says, “The way I get money is because I’m the most ravishing woman in the world, not by being ‘Mama Rusev’.”
Oh, but Lana continues: “Rusev cheated on me. Bobby Lashley told me.”
Rusev vehemently denies it, and calls it all lies. Of course, this is Lashley’s cue to come into the mess. Lashley and Rusev fight for a few minutes, Rusev shoves his wedding ring presumably down Lashley’s throat, and Lana goes after Rusev with a kendo stick. Lashley fires back with a few cheap shots to the groin, and then, as is tradition, Lana and Lashley end the segment in a disgusting display of cringe with a long kiss over Rusev’s body.
Let’s recap: Lana cheated because Rusev only wanted sex, Rusev only wanted a baby, and because Lashley told her the lie that Rusev had already cheated.
Fans’ reactions to the segment were completely varied. Some thought it was hilarious, some thought it a poorly written plot twist, and some, like this author, thought the segment did serious damage to women’s wrestling.
The segment told those paying close attention that the writers of the segment saw Lana (or women in general, if you care to reach that far) an object for physical pleasure, an oven for making babies, a liar, and was willing to lie to make Rusev look poorly. Even worse, it made Lana shine a bad light on motherhood over career, and a career based on looks, for that matter.
Let’s give the argument some context. This segment aired on the Raw that landed on the anniversary of the first-ever women’s only WWE pay-per-view, Evolution. A year after WWE promised a change in women’s wrestling, WWE was using Lana, Rusev, and Lashley to revert the roster back to the Attitude Era with nasty storylines filled with real-world implications.
People argued that the segment was fiction, and that fans shouldn’t take the spot so seriously. But the argument can be made that even fiction can have subliminal and subconscious messaging that leaks into the minds of those watching. Culture often pulls from fiction, movies, music, and other art; why wouldn’t it pull from a fictional segment with actors?
The aftermath of the segment was real, measurable, and swift. In several post-show recap live chats, viewers could find comments ranging from slut-shaming, to right out sexism. Fans were tweeting out horrendous one-liners about “winning” Lana, and how she was simply a “hoe” Rusev “pimped out”.
Is that what fans really want from a promotion who had promised them up-and-down that the women would be treated differently? It wasn’t so long ago that Lana was being trained to wrestle in-ring. Now, we’re seeing something awfully familiar to the Dolph Ziggler-Summer Rae-Rusev-Lana storyline, which actually felt quite close to a hidden domestic abuse angle.
The segment conjures up memories of the awful relationship storylines from the Attitude Era. Storylines like Chyna and Mark Henry’s horrible kayfabe relationship. You know, the one that resulted in sexual harassment claims, obsession, threesomes, transphobia, and ended in Henry’s humiliation in front of his mother.
Or, when Sean Stasiak started losing matches because he was having sex with all three women in Pretty Mean Sisters (yes, P.M.S.), and then later was able to win some because of, well, erectile dysfunction pills.
Remember when Vince McMahon was rumored to have wanted an incest angle between Ken and Ryan Shamrock?
Let’s not forget this era brought us real-life garbage, like Stone Cold’s surrender on wife-beating charges.
There’s an odd faction in wrestling fandom that seems to gloss over the ugliness that existed within the Attitude Era, especially when it’s related to women wrestlers. The segment was drawn up from an Attitude Era template, and it’s effects are damaging to the women who demand to be taken seriously in a promotion that promised to do so in a big way, a year ago.
The video is no. 34 on YouTube’s trending list, and no one is surprised: who wants to watch wrestling, when you can watch tawdry segments littered with cheap one-liners?
Women’s wrestling deserves better, and WWE should want to do better for their top stars. Despite everything they tell us, despite having Becky Lynch at the espnW summit just last week, despite having an entire movement they claim as an “Evolution” to women’s wrestling, we are still being fed creative angles that treat women like awful stereotypes.
Fans have to continue to want better for the women’s roster, if things will ever change. Perhaps WWE will never change, because they certainly haven’t found an incentive to do so. But there’s other promotions who can show the way, and this landscape is perfect for a leader.