Heel to Face: Pink Pussy Butterfly and the WWE Divas

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“To be a WWE diva, you can’t just be a good wrestler. You have to be gorgeous.”

TLDR: The WWE Divas division has the right idea, but the revolution is far from here.

Some Notes: This is just about the Divas, people—we’re talking 2008 to 2015. To gear up, I’ve watched every Divas title match since the division started—sounds like a lot, but given the brief runtimes most matches were given it went by quickly. I’ve also watched the first four and most recent four episodes of Total Divas, plus selected promos and interviews from the Divas era.

There’s plenty to talk about in terms of women in the WWE prior, but we’ve got thirty weeks until WrestleMania to talk about it. Patience. Yes, I watched GLOW. Let’s roll.

Unnecessary Extrapolation:

Hi everyone, you didn’t break me. I don’t care. Big Show is still my favorite wrestler. Did you know he vapes?

Big Show vapes. Let’s move forward. Together. Say it with me. Big Show…vapes.

It’s my second week as a WWE fan and I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole quickly, mainly because it’s coated in Randy Orton’s chest lube. While it’s impossible to tackle a vast issue this early into the fandom, I do feel compelled to write about one of the only topics I had even a vague opinion on before beginning the series—the WWE’s treatment of female wrestlers and their story arcs, specifically in the Divas division.

If you’ve watched any WWE this summer, you’re probably frothy with the headbashingly frequent mention of the #DivasRevolution on the WWE Network. After a series of branding pratfalls earlier in the year, the company has finally locked into the social moment and piggybacked onto Ronda Rousey and other female athletes to push their female division, both in the developmental NXT league and the main roster to bring the ladies to the next level. You know, the level where the past two matches have been under five minutes? That one!

So where are we leveling up from? Here lies the story of the Divas, a legacy steeped in bad writing, mismanaged talent and several square tons of weave.

Big Show vapes.

From, Like, Regular Divas to Total Divas (Divas Championship)

The 2015 #DivasRevolution is directed at the WWE Universe as a whole, but ultimately tries to change the sub-brand from sexual objects to role models with great titties. The revolution was unofficially began in February 2015 after a Divas match between Paige and Emma versus the Bella Twins was cut to thirty seconds on an episode of Smackdown, prompting criticism from AJ Lee, Mick Foley and others and the widespread hashtag #GiveDivasAChance. Brie Bella suggested not-so-subtly that women in the main roster—in theory, the best you can do—don’t get as much screen time or opportunities of those in the NXT division, and wouldn’t move up if she was in NXT.

She’s not wrong. Case in point: a Divas promo from earlier this year, featuring quotes from women of the NXT and main roster.

According to the promo, a diva is:
strong
powerful
sexy
so versatile
ready for anything
can’t just be a good wrestler
gorgeous
tough
hard-hitting
well-spoken
intelligent

That’s the thing. To be a WWE Superstar—a term that should be completely unfettered by gender, but is used exclusively for men—you have to be a good wrestler first, have a discernible personality maybe, and that’s it. Oh, and you can do more than a guest appearance past forty.

Believe it or not, this behind the curve take on women within the company is miles ahead of where the WWE Divas stood upon their 2008 conception. Let’s take a journey.

The WWE Divas Championship was introduced in the summer of 2008 and was first won by Michelle McCool in a tight five minute, largely unremarkable match with Natalya. The two had no grudge, no background—just a quick match that gave McCool a win before swiftly transitioning to the next thing, the only women’s match in a nearly three hour “Great American Bash” broadcast. McCool was a clear-cut choice for the first champion by how she was positioned within the division (her promo at the time featured her running in a bikini), and some fans suggested that her place in the company was secured by her marriage to decades-long favorite The Undertaker. Those who weren’t introduced to wrestling by family or marriage were subjected to the Diva Search.

The other pipeline to get women into the ring prior to the launch of the Divas division was the Diva Search, a talent contest that ran from 2003-2007 and launched contracts with early divas like Layla El and Eve Torres, in addition to faces still in the company today like Rosa Mendes and the Bella Twins. This was WWE at its most shallow in spite of the talent they pulled—women were put through a circus of other non-wrestling activities in competition for a contract, and much of the talent that was hired during this era had no significant wrestling experience prior to being signed.

Combine this lack of useable talent with nonexistent characters and stingy airtime, and that’s the first five or so years of the Diva division following the end of the Diva Search. We see wrestlers like “AJ’s crazy!” AJ Lee gain prominence during this time and feature a whole mess of bitch/psycho heel turns, motivated by jealousy and pettiness (see: the dissolution of Laycool), or with the underlying connection to a man (see: Tamina’s relationship with Santino, the Lana saga, etc). This pattern has continued today, with female wrestlers turning heel for no motivated reason other than jealousy or just being “crazy.”

Along comes NXT and 2012. The developmental league does wonders for the talent in its Divas division and is arguably the most progressive existing branch of the WWE, reflected in the far stronger wrestling backgrounds of incoming Divas today. Regardless of the current level of Divas who were ushered in during the Diva Search, the model-to-wrestler to wrestler-to-wrestler is an important mentality shift, and one that’s more common than not in today’s NXT to main roster pipeline. This influx of well-trained wrestlers (Charlotte, Paige, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks) poised to put on a show made the early 2015 social media fallout the perfect time to display their talents—provided that the storylines they’re provided with can keep up.

And, like, there’s also Eva Marie before two episodes of Total Divas ago, where we see her training for her first (!) finishing move. There are hiccups in progress.

Insidious Promotions

While there are plenty of Divas merch to spend your hard-earned bones on— please buy this for me—look no further than the Divas logo, untouched since its 2008 introduction for one of the major lingering issues with the division.

Guys, look, it’s a pink pussy butterfly.

wwe divas belt.jpg

Pink pussy butterfly.

wwe divas belt 2.jpg

“Divas revolution,” says Stephanie McMahon.

wwe divas belt 3.jpg

“Pink pussy butterfly,” says Pink Pussy Butterfly.

Please, WWE fans with graphics skills—start drafting alternatives. And let’s kick the bitchy name, while we’re at it.

Next Week: The Bitches vs. Psychos Trope, and Total Divas

Thoughts from this Week:

I learned how to put Big Show’s face onto all my favorite parts of Titanic. Here’s one.

big showtanic.jpg

Of course there’s more.
- Becky Lynch is a character that I genuinely enjoy the backstory for—basically, “WWE creative made a stupid decision and now we’re trying to make it look intentional.”
- Big Show vapes.

Hours of Pro Wrestling Consumed: 31.5 hours (+15.5 hours from last week)
Days Until WrestleMania: 150 days
State of Union: pink pussy butterfly

Jamie Loftus is a comedian and writer whose baby teeth have been bronzed and loaded into a gun for when the moment is right. You can find her some of the time, most days at @hamburgerphone or jamieloftusisinnocent.com.

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