This is our community topic for May 13, 2014.Recently on a promotional tour of the UK, Gunner spoke on the subject of women’s wrestling, saying that TNA “gives women a chance” to show what they can really do, and that TNA is the place where female wrestlers should be if they want to wrestle. He goes on to laud wrestlers like Gail Kim on the quality of their work and to emphasize the importance in respecting that work, as well. For years, the Knockouts division has had a reputation for “doing women’s wrestling right” by highlighting the ring work and skill of a talent rather than their “assets”, as the WWE has so infamously done with its Divas division. Even now, when a lot of arguments are made about the division not being what it used to be after the loss of talents like Taylor Wilde, Tara, and Mickie James, TNA still places an emphasis on the non-sensual aspects of a women’s match (i.e. the critically acclaimed Last Knockout Standing match between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell). A question has arisen in recent months, however: Is the gap in skill and legitimacy between the Knockouts and the Divas still as wide as it was two or three years ago?
One thing to consider is the effect that NXT has had on the Divas division as a whole. In the past six months, we’ve seen Summer Rae, Emma, and Paige graduate to the main roster, and before the re-branding of NXT, we got Naomi, Kaitlyn, and AJ Lee from its previous incarnation, FCW. All six of these women are serious wrestlers, without a doubt. Additionally, NXT still showcases some excellent wrestling from Divas such as Bayley, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and the recently debuted Alexa Bliss. Even main roster mainstays like Alicia Fox and the Bellas have stepped their game up ever since the rise of NXT and the hiring of Sara Amato (AKA Sara Del Rey) as the head Divas trainer. In short, the Divas division has experienced a massive surge in skill and legitimacy to the point where the whole “bathroom break” stereotype no longer applies to a Divas match by default.
On the flip side, the Total Divas phenomenon still holds a lot of sway, and while it’s not pushed as heavily on Raw and Smackdown as it was during the show’s first season, it can still be argued that TD talents have more cachet than those not featured on the hit E! show, regardless of who’s champion. For instance, despite never having appeared on NXT programming, Eva Marie has had several relatively high profile matches on the flagship shows, and Cameron was once teased not too long ago as a serious contender for the title when AJ Lee still held the Divas championship. Obviously, great strides have been made in this division in the last year or so, but it could also be argued that wrestling still isn’t the most important part of being a Diva, at least in the WWE’s estimation.
With all that said, in your estimation, which environment is best right now for the serious female wrestler? Is it the Divas division with its ever-shifting balance of skill and eye candy? Is it the Knockouts division, which perhaps trades on a past reputation as the pinnacle of women’s wrestling a bit more than it should? Or are indy promotions like Shimmer or Shine the best place to hone one’s craft, regardless of the opportunities afforded by a national promotion? Let us know! Join the discussion, and we may even respond to your thoughts on the podcast!