Enzo Amore is not having a very good month. First, he accidentally exposes himself to a female co-worker after being locked out of the locker room without his clothes. Then, he honorably interferes between said female co-worker and her husband who are having a heated argument (in a foreign language). Next he’s seduced by his female co-worker with ulterior motives and is subsequently beaten up by her husband. Finally, he is forced by his employer to attend sensitivity training, which he does not take seriously, and is promptly attacked once again by his female co-worker’s enraged husband.
The entire storyline is generally uncomfortable to watch as a female fan. Many of us had hoped we’d moved on from storylines that are, at their core, about sexual harassment in the workplace. Social media in particular was abuzz last night after Raw ended, as discussions about the Enzo/Lana/Rusev story dissolved into stunning examples of fandom gatekeeping and victim-shaming. Women brave enough to bring up their own experiences being sexually harassed were name-called and those trying to interfere on their behalf were dismissed as “social justice warriors.”
For a long time now, those of us in the wrestling fandom who dare to speak up when any professional wrestling product misses the mark in social commentary are met with a wall of aggressive opposition. Rarely do the people who disagree with us attempt to form their response in terms of thoughtful debate, but rather quickly escalate to violent hate-speak. We are made to be the villains who cannot enjoy the program at face value, understand that it is fiction, or have a good time.
Since their debut on the main roster, Enzo and Cass have been written mostly as comedic good guys, babyfaces who are there to break up the serious moments and remind the audience that the show should be fun. Over the last five months, their characters have devolved into ridiculous court jesters who regularly toe the line of homophobia and “slut-shaming,” in particular when it comes to Rusev’s wife and manager, Lana. To date, Lana and Rusev as a duo have always been portrayed as heel characters; in fact Lana has already been put in the position of being shamed for her sex life by supposed babyfaces Dolph Ziggler and The Rock. Pitting the couple against Enzo and Cass, regardless of the context, would lead the audience to believe they were still the bad guys. But Enzo’s behavior (and Big Cass’s inability to grasp the seriousness of it) would imply those roles have become reversed.
Knowing that Raw is an episodic program, many have suggested we “wait and see.” But what outcome can be expected? Reform and a change to how the women of WWE are seen? It is far more likely that Enzo will learn nothing and the audience will continue to cheer him. Meanwhile, the evil Lana, like millions of other women, will continue to be simultaneously treated as sex objects and shamed for being sexual by people like him. Because, like all forms of misogyny, you can teach that.
Lady J is a freelance writer and podcaster based out of the Washington D.C. area. She specializes in feminist wrestling critiques on her blog and hosts a Lucha Underground and indie wrestling review podcast, The Facelock Feministas. She’s on Twitter @theladyjsays.