Welcome back, readers!
As promised, I’ve returned with a post that I hope hypes people up for my upcoming release, UWWX: The Underground Women’s Wrestling Xperiment. Specifically, this entry is dedicated to the last in a rather long line of women’s wrestling promotions created and operated by David B. McLane—a humble yet ambitious show known simply as Women of Wrestling (WOW). Though one can more or less consider WOW to be a novelty wrestling organization based on its parallel origin in comparison to Mr. McLane’s original ladies’ wrestling venture, the campy and much-criticized Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW), I personally could look beyond all the fancy costumes, pun-based names, and unabashedly manufactured characters to see what WOW was trying to do: provide young women with live-action comic book superheroine role models to look up to while simultaneously offering men the kind of serious, intense pro wrestling action we were receiving at the time from the likes of World Championship Wrestling and the World Wrestling Federation. Unfortunately, there were just too many obstacles standing in WOW’s way that prevented it from achieving the status that its fans still feel it truly deserved. These obstacles range from low-budget visual and audio production and being featured on syndicated television rather than having a major television deal with a long-standing cable company (e.g., WWF/WWE RAW on the USA Network) to the sloppy, haphazard booking style of head booker Steve Blance and little to no character development for many of the women outside of whatever gimmick they’d been suited with. Then again, their first—scratch that, only—pay-per-view event, WOW Unleashed from February 4, 2001, was a complete mess with more “lowlights” than highlights in terms of commentary goof-ups, technical difficulties, botched spots and promos, and horrendously booked matches and outcomes and as such didn’t do the company much justice in terms of making revenue. Worse yet was how the company, at least in my eyes, tried too hard to please every demographic in their audience with the way it presented its performers as being every bit as sexy as they were tough, particularly by means of a swimsuit competition that undermined the promotion’s original “girl power” message for the sole sake of appealing to the 18- to 49-year-old male demographic.
Needless to say, WOW had faded into obscurity in the spring of 2001 right alongside the more readily recognized and celebrated World Championship Wrestling and Extreme Championship Wrestling—both brands now being legal properties of WWE, for the record—and in my opinion, it was a sad turn of events. Granted, I’m probably among the minority in saying that, seeing as most Internet-frequenting wrestling fans see WOW as just another poorly contrived black eye on an already heavily ridiculed business, but I honestly believe even today that if McLane and company had taken more serious precautions in terms of forging their product’s identity in the first place and taking more concrete measures to appeal to a broad audience without alienating certain members of any particular demographic, then who knows? Maybe—just maybe—WOW never would have gone out of business in the first place. After all, despite all but two of the women on the roster being rookies to the business and receiving only a fraction of the training that they needed to truly prove their worth as athletes in such an oft-misunderstood sport, the gals truly worked hard to become students of the craft and put on the best shows they possibly could night after night in the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California. I’m not alone in having seen that, either, as I’ve chanced to come across many a post on the Internet where certain people have praised the women of WOW for their talents, even in certain instances where the person in question still hated the show for its inexcusable booking.
Thankfully—at least for WOW’s fans—as early as the December of 2010, McLane’s dreams of reviving what was arguably his greatest creation are slowly but surely being realized as we speak, for Women of Wrestling is indeed making a comeback, as one can determine for oneself by visiting the organization’s homepage at wowe.com or by reading the following article that I chanced to find this past Sunday:
Personally, I hope that this promotion succeeds this time around, only because, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, professional wrestling has been in the pits since the spring of ’01 and needs all the help it can get in order to once again reach the heights it once attained back in the late 1990s during the “Monday Night Wars.” The problem is, however, that WOW basically used the same formula that its predecessor GLOW had back in 1986 to 1990—albeit tweaked to be more of a sports entertainment comic book brought to life rather than a cheesy action-based sketch comedy—and showcased characters that were so artificial that they could never possibly exist outside the small theatrical realm they were created to be a part of. Not only that, but inasmuch as men’s professional wrestling already has its fair share of detractors and women’s wrestling even more—even if for no other reason than the obvious fact of wrestling having always been a male-dominated industry in the first place with women more or less relegated to such non-wrestling roles as ring girls, valets, backstage interviewers, and so forth—WOW is going to have more people still turning their condescending noses up at it simply because of its very entertainment-heavy, character-based nature. Being a more serious, less comical show than GLOW ever was might help, I suppose, but not by much, considering McLane’s reputation for not being able to fully let go of the programming model he’d used back in ’86 for GLOW in the first place. Already have I read one degrading remark towards Ms. Jeanie Buss and the upcoming WOW Girls behind-the-scenes reality show in response to the very article I’ve just referenced above, and quite frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach that people who criticize wrestling for being a sports-theater hybrid (i.e., “fake”) can’t at least show it enough respect by ignoring stories like this altogether rather than making it their business to expose their insecurities and leave bitter, snide comments about the apparent “stupidity” of certain financiers using their money to back a brand new or reviving company within an admittedly frivolous yet nonetheless once cherished industry. Honestly, didn’t I just post a poem on this blog not too long ago discussing this very thing titled something along the likes of Folks Who Won’t Let Go? With that in mind, then, all I have to say to those who still bash professional wrestling is this: Grow up and move on. Don’t like it? Don’t concern yourself with it. Disliking wrestling is one thing, but please, people, at least respect it enough not to insult it or anyone who does like it, especially on the Internet. After all, I myself don’t care for today’s pro wrestling scene, but that has far more to do with the poor management and booking of today’s promotions than it does with the idea of wrestling being a work—or with any one active competitor in the business today, for that matter.
So, again, I want WOW to succeed and give today’s wrestling fans one more alternative to watch aside from WWE, TNA/Impact Wrestling, etcetera, regardless of the specific niche it’d be filling in today’s market. Who knows? I might find my one-time love for the sport reignited upon watching this show. However, in order to appeal not only to me, but also to the many wrestling fans out there who have become disgruntled with the way wrestling has been in recent years, McLane and Buss need to reconsider their approach to the presentation of their soon-to-be-revived project. Henceforth, I found myself compelled to write to Mr. McLane this past March and express my feelings on the matter to him in an email very similar to the letter I’ve included below. By presenting you folks this letter, I hope to give you an insight on my own approach to women’s wrestling and, as a result, a small idea of what to expect from UWWX upon its official release. Will David B. McLane and Jeanie Buss take a similar approach with Women of Wrestling that I am suggesting here? All I can say is that I hope so. Otherwise, enjoy!
March 12, 2012
Dear David McLane and Women of Wrestling Entertainment:
I would like to begin this letter by personally thanking you in bringing back Women of Wrestling—a wrestling promotion that, even if only in my opinion, was and still is very undervalued amongst today’s wrestling fans for at least giving an honest effort in representing the women in your promotion as athletes and not as glorified burlesque actresses the way Johnny Cafarella has done (and, as I’ve been told, still does) with the girls who work for his own project, Wrestlicious. Even though it is true that you did use the same formula to piece together your own organization that you used for the original—the real—Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, at least you were wise enough to try to take WOW down a more serious path and present your roster as being more or less a gallery of live-action comic book superheroines and supervillainesses rather than as living, breathing cartoon characters as you had with GLOW. Good ol’ “Johnny C,” on the other hand, simply copied the GLOW formula, from the television format (and not even that well, to tell you the truth) to the ring colors to the very form of the championship and, most importantly, several character archetypes such as Americana, Little Fiji, Attaché, and the Farmer’s Daughters. Not only that, but he also dumbed down the humor and made it raunchier than it had ever been before and even discarded much of the character development that GLOW had (especially when you, Mr. McLane, were still a part of that show) for the sake of blatant “T&A,” and all to cater to a narrower target audience with lower standards for programming quality who, for the most part, see women’s wrestling as more of a “joke” than anything else. In short, while I wholeheartedly apologize for starting off my letter with what I hope doesn’t come off like off-topic rambling, I want it to be known that I hate Wrestlicious with a passion—especially considering how most of the girls involved with that nightmare of a show were once respected wrestlers from the independent scene and, for the most part, solid role models for girls and young women who could have remained such, had they only stayed that way and not signed with Cafarella to become more or less the prostitutes of mainstream women’s wrestling.
That being said, in spite of how I have far more respect for you and your efforts to reinvigorate the nowadays ailing women’s wrestling scene and empower female viewers by presenting them with women whom they can look up to and aspire to be like, I only hope that your own product stays on that path and proves the naysayers wrong. Believe me when I say that I have seen your product from back when it originally aired in 2000-01, and I could tell by watching the matches that the women of WOW put on back then that even if only for that short five- to six-month span, those women cared enough about the sport to work hard and give it their all to entertain the Great Western Forum crowd night in, night out. However, as much as I am looking forward to the day when WOW becomes available on national television (as opposed to its current local TV deal with KTNV in Las Vegas), I still have my concerns. You see, as much as I respect WOW and its women on the whole, even I have noticed some glaring flaws in its presentation from back in the day—flaws that have made it look like little more than GLOW 1.5 in the eyes of its many critics and as such dismiss it for what the show was trying to do. In fact, it is on account of these flaws that there are those wrestling fans out there amongst the so-called Internet Wrestling Community that honestly believe that your show made Wrestlicious—the schlockfest that I’ve just ranted about in the previous paragraph—look more like WWE, even though you at least tried to present a serious wrestling product with fewer comic relief characters and what had promised to be an actual bi-monthly PPV system and a year-round television schedule as well as a strong “girl power” mentality and a PG-rated product that aimed to appeal to fans of all ages and both genders rather than a strictly 18- to 35-year-old male demographic that, in the end, ended up hating Wrestlicious more than liking it. Needless to say, in order to make these critics eat their words and possibly even change their minds about your promotion, I sincerely hope that when you do come back on TV nationwide, you will see to it that the following changes are made to your original product.
The first and most important change I’d like to discuss is the need for smarter booking. No disrespect, but inasmuch as Vince Russo has become infamous for his lazy, haphazard, disrespectful, and outright terrible booking in WCW and TNA/Impact Wrestling, Steve Blance is, according to my own honest perceptions, even worse. It just seems to me as though his mind is forever stuck in the 1980s—particularly his glory days as GLOW’s head writer—and that he refuses to let go of that era. Even when he had slightly updated his booking style during his time working for you in WOW to incorporate certain post-1980s pro wrestling elements such as finishing maneuvers, ref bumps, and run-ins, he did so with so little flair and precision that he either looked like he was overdoing it (especially with all the ref bumps and outside interference) or that he was simply borrowing too heavily from either the WWE or other sources (e.g., Danger, Selina Majors, The Disciplinarian, Wendi Wheels, the girls from Caged Heat, and even Phantom, amongst others, using variations of finishers we wrestling fans had already seen before during the “Attitude Era” of the WWF). Not only that, but the matches tended to last much shorter than they ought to have had and were often punctuated with finishes that did more to discredit the action and the story being told than anything else. This was particularly the case with WOW Unleashed, which had already had more than its fair share of matches for the sole sake of fitting every single wrestler on the card, including those whose characters had little to no emphasis placed upon them in the beginning and were as such more like afterthoughts than as full-time players (e.g., Tanja the Warrior Woman vs. Jane Blonde and Nicky Law (w/Christy Order) vs. Hammerin’ Heather Steele). I’m sorry, but while there were a few matches on the WOW Unleashed card that received some sense of build-up, there were others that seemed to be simply thrown together at the last second because Mr. Blance otherwise didn’t know what to do with the women in them. Likewise, I truly loathed how “screwy” (for lack of a more appropriate and accurate term) some of the outcomes were, such as the tag team draw between the Beach Patrol and the randomly paired team of Farah and Paradise and the double DQ of Roxy Powers and Slam Dunk during their PPV match.
Even aside from your one and only pay-per-view, the TV show had suffered from some very ill-placed swerves that, while unpredictable, weren’t based on any kind of sound logic to speak of, such as Patti Pep becoming Patti Pizzazz and siding with Lana Star despite never having any heat with her former best friend and tag team partner, Randi Rah Rah, and the babyface turns of Ice Cold and Poison. Heck, I still don’t understand why Boom Boom was tag team partners with Caliente and Paradise with Farah the Persian Princess instead of the first woman of each pair (the two island girls) being a tag team and the remaining two women (the two dancers) being another team. The only reason I can think of in regards to this was the notion of each original pair having better in-ring chemistry together for one reason or another than the pairings I’ve just proposed may have had. Also, could you please help me understand the reason for booking Heather Steele to be such an unperceptive competitor? Honestly, I swear that I’d seen her perform the same spot, move per move, in three separate matches where she would catch her opponent in a drop toe hold and follow it up with a hammerlock, only to have said hammerlock countered by a snapmare from the other wrestler, whether that opponent be Jungle Grrrl, Mystery of the Daughters of Darkness, or Nikki Law. Most people would be wise enough to not resort to such predictable and obviously failed tactics in future matches, so why would Heather have done so herself? Granted, even I understand that she was more or less enhancement talent for the other girls, but even she (or at least Christina Tomaziesski Colby, the woman who played her) wouldn’t have succumbed to such redundancy in an unscripted contest. Oh, and don’t even get me started with the Hair vs. Hair tag team match between Ice Cold/Poison and Lana Star/Patti Pizzazz being the semi-main event of Unleashed and as such taking higher priority on the card over your tag team and even your singles championship matches. That move alone was an insult to whatever prestige either of those two titles either had or could have had.
In short, if WOW is to succeed in the 2010s (as I hope it does), it needs better booking, and I sincerely doubt that Steve Blance is the man for the job. True, he is the one booker who is the most familiar with your product, but as I’ve mentioned before, he’s stuck in the past and is sloppy in his execution, and I don’t just mean in terms of what he has done for you people. His work as Cafarella’s right-hand man in Wrestlicious is testament of his lack of booking prowess as well, seeing as how the inaugural episode of that show has on its own account been torn to shreds on many a wrestling website and podcast for more or less the same flaws that have plagued not only WOW, but also (and more importantly) GLOW. To put it simply, he has yet to move on from the cheesy, unrealistic characters and plots and the lowbrow and often outdated humor that he has been accustomed to presenting (most of which nowadays runs parallel to the same kind of humor you yourself had walked away from, Mr. McLane, when you left GLOW in 1987 to found POWW), and as such, I strongly encourage you to find someone who has a much broader, updated, and respectful perception of the sport as a whole—particularly women’s wrestling—to take on the role of WOW’s head booker.
Additionally, there are plenty of other errors with your original product that I hope you will take into account to fix to make your product more appealing to today’s wrestling fans and hence help your show reach a wider audience. These changes I propose are as follows:
1. Fewer gimmick-based characters.
In this day and age, wrestling fans have become tired of—if not, in fact, jaded by—the creation and utilization of personalities in pro wrestling that are unlikely to exist outside the small, secluded realm of “sports entertainment.” Most of these include comic relief characters such as Hornswoggle, who is hated by the IWC crowd for his unrealistic leprechaun gimmick and over-the-top antics in spite of what popularity he does have with the small percentage of kids who watch WWE. Also, the brunt—if not, in fact, all—of the characters in Wrestlicious fit this mold to a T. However, many gimmicks that aren’t meant to be comical fit this description as well, such as the Suicide character from 2008-09 TNA or Mordecai from WWE, both of which—just as was true with Wrestlicious’s characters—were poorly fleshed out for their time and were forced to live off their gimmick alone rather than by any sort of back story they may have had or any personality developments they were fortunate enough to experience. Simply put, these unrealistic characters come off as being the manufactured, unbelievable personas that they truly are, and while wrestling fans may have gotten behind such characters back in the 1980s and 1990s (e.g., Undertaker, Kane, any and all of Mick Foley’s alter egos), even back then, the most successful and memorable personas from those days were more along the likes of Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, HHH, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair, Hollywood Hogan, Golderg, and others who relied more on their own individual personality (or, at the very least, elements thereof) to get them over with the crowd rather than a fictitious alter ego, complete with costume. Even John Cena’s “Doctor of Thuganomics” persona from the WWE “Ruthless Aggression” era and Randy Orton’s “Legend Killer” character were believable for their time and helped them connect with the crowd, thus making them popular in the eyes of many, or at least once upon a time, no thanks, in part, to WWE’s overreliance on these two men in 2010-11, which as such turned off a lot of wrestling fans at that time. Simply put, the aforementioned personas are much easier for modern wrestling fans to recognize and identify with because of how much more organic and closely rooted they are to reality than more manufactured, gimmick-based characters, and in pro wrestling these days, suspension of disbelief is a key element to any promotion’s survival. If you still need to use the occasional manufactured character here or there (i.e., the women from your original roster), then so be it—just as long as such gimmicks aren’t over-the-top or reflective of either racial or cultural stereotypes the way that Jade, Lotus, Farah the Persian Princess, Boom Boom, Paradise, or Caliente are. This particular trend is especially dangerous to follow, seeing as people these days 1) oftentimes question whether or not there’s some semblance of racism or ethnic prejudice involved in the creation and/or portrayal of these characters and 2) can always look up who’s playing which character on the Internet and come to realize that a given wrestlers is not of a given heritage, such as with Rachel Iverson playing Caliente when she more likely than not hasn’t a single drop of Mexican or otherwise Latin blood in her body. Also, creating manufactured characters based off certain television shows that were either canceled or in their twilight by the time your product made it to the airwaves (i.e., Xena, Warrior Princess, Home Improvement, and Baywatch) or on certain one-shot characters from other TV shows (i.e., Paul “HHH” Levesque as the Disciplinarian from The Drew Carey Show) only comes off as a cheap copout that makes critics further question your ability to create strong, captivating personalities for your women.
Basically, what I’m saying is this: Be careful when it comes to creating your characters and make sure that at least most of them turn out to be more organic and believable than before, and don’t be afraid to let your women be themselves. The process is actually pretty easy, too; all you really have to do to create an organic wrestling character is to take an aspect of the actual wrestler’s life (e.g., athletic background, military experience, training/wrestling history, personality and outlook on life, etc.) and mold an in-ring persona around those traits. This makes the character more believable for your audience and therefore more likely for them to identify with and hence either get behind or rally against. Not only that, but most wrestlers have a much easier time portraying such personas than they do manufactured ones simply because organic characters are more or less part of them and thus easier to breathe life into, thus enhancing the fans’ ability to believe in them. Not only that, but unlike with manufactured characters, it’s much easier to mix and match wrestlers who work well together to form certain tag teams, as you aren’t as likely to have to pigeonhole certain performers into a faction based on whatever gimmick they have (e.g., Caged Heat, Harley’s Angels, or the Daughters of Darkness) or put together oddball tag teams that, based on character gimmick alone, seem a little off (i.e., Boom Boom/Caliente and Lotus/Farah). Trust me when I say, then, that the process that I’ve described here would be much more beneficial to whatever new WOW women you manage to recruit for your show than it would if you were to manufacture their characters as you had with your original roster.
2. An updated in-ring product. As mentioned before, your booking back in 2000-01 was horribly outdated, and I honestly believe even to this day that your women—green though they were in the beginning of the show’s presentation—were capable of putting on even better matches than they were scripted to by Steve Blance and company. Even with the illegalization of the Piledriver during matches, which at least prevented many a possible neck injury, in spite of never being used as a story arc for future programming, the wrestling style wasn’t even that safe, considering such dangerous spots as Jungle Grrrl’s botched leap off the 20-ft. ladder to deliver that match-winning splash against Beckie the Farmer’s Daughter at Unleashed, amongst others. Don’t get me wrong; a little bit of spectacle can liven up a match like nothing else could if it’s implemented properly. The key here, however, is to balance spectacle with psychology and make the matches look realistic enough so that even educated fans can suspend their disbelief and buy into the action. After all, if there was one thing that had hindered the in-ring product of Big Vision Entertainment’s MTV-hosted venture from 2007, the oft-ridiculed Wrestling Society X, it was the fact that Kevin Kleinrock and company focused too much on booking life-risking high spots and less on safer, more believable, and quite possibly equally thrilling in-ring technical work. Then again, even when the wrestling was safely performed on your original show, so much of it consisted of exaggerated arm wrenches and headlocks and overdone Irish whips that many of the matches eventually became redundant and, dare I say it, boring. Likewise, the women’s signature moves, as I’ve mentioned earlier, either were already being or had already been used by certain wrestlers from WWF at the time. Worse yet, other finishing maneuvers, such as Boom Boom’s Samoan Drop, Bronco Billie’s Bulldog, Mystery’s Fisherman Suplex, Riot’s Powerbomb, Jane Blonde’s “Kick of Death” (missile dropkick), and Caliente’s Mexican Surfboard were all stock maneuvers that more or less every wrestler at the time—be they from WCW, ECW, the WWF, or the independent circuit—performed regularly and as such lacked the specialness that otherwise would have helped these women stand apart from one another in spite of their characters and, on that note, get even more over with the crowd than they already were. I will admit, though, that you were perceptive enough to give Farah a relatively original signature hold in the Persian Carpet and Riot a more or less equally original maneuver with her Corkscrew Elbow, which only Debbie Malenko is otherwise credited for using, at least to my knowledge, and I thank you for allowing those girls to use those respective moves. All the same, I still wish that you would have allowed the rest of the roster to do the same, as it really would have done more to develop their characters and make them stand out not only from one another, but also from all the other women who were in the wrestling business at the time.
3. More thorough training for your new crop of women. This is to ensure the elevated match quality from previous years. As I’ve said before, the women of WOW could indeed wrestle, but it took a handful of them a few matches or so before they gained enough experience and confidence to know for sure what they were doing in the squared circle. Lynnette Thredgold was especially a chore to watch as Phantom, seeing as how awkward she performed in the ring and how often she paused during her matches to taunt the audience. I don’t mean to discredit Selina “Bambi” Majors and Peggy Lee “Thug” Leather as trainers, but obviously, there was only so much they could do on their own to train these girls for the big stage, especially in whatever little time they were given. It isn’t just conditioning that wrestlers concern themselves with, after all, but also the quantity of moves in their arsenal and the quality of the way in which they execute such moves. One other thing, if push comes to shove, don’t be afraid to use women who have actual wrestling experience, regardless of whether said experience comes from WWE, TNA, ROH, Lucha Libre USA, or especially the independent circuit (e.g., ChickFight, Shimmer, WSU, Magnificent Ladies Wrestling, or GLORY) and have them help out the less-experienced wrestlers. Such is the only thing that Johnny Cafarella did right with Wrestlicious, even though his portrayal of such women as glorified sex objects and comedy acts has been utterly deplorable and little else than a spit in the face of whatever legacies those women have tried to establish for themselves as well as the legacies of future female wrestlers. I do trust you, though, to present such women with more class and dignity than Cafarella ever could, so long as you allow the women to just be themselves and wrestle how they’ve learned how to over the course of their careers and not have them play such ridiculous characters as Cousin Cassie, Bandita, Autumn Frost, Kandi Kisses, and so forth.
In addition to physical training, your wrestlers also deserve the chance to work on their ability to portray their in-ring personas, especially their ability to cut a solid promo. After all, with pro wrestling being the sports-theater hybrid that it is and with WOW in particular being a very character-driven promotion, people expect to see larger-than-life characters interact and develop before their eyes, even when said characters aren’t wrestling each other. Promos, therefore, are quite a significant part of a wrestler’s character, as they allow the wrestler to display his or her personality and define his or her role within the company’s product—assuming, of course, that such speeches are delivered properly and are given enough time to be just that. Believe me, nothing kills a character’s believability worse than the person portraying the character delivering a poorly executed promo against an opponent, whether such a speech is delivered with little to no emotion or in an over-the-top fashion or even riddled with stammers, stutters, a myriad of either vocalized or silent pauses, or the like.
4. Greater use of multimedia outlets. You’re already off to a good start with your video channel on Vimeo.com and the videos that you transfer over from there to your main webpage, and you’ve even invited future WOW wrestlers to audition for spots on your roster via YouTube. Even so, why settle for just that when you can host a weekly recap show on your website as well with special bonus matches to boot? Such was one of the things that Big Vision Entertainment got right with Wrestling Society X, and truth be told, the matches that they showed via their WSXtra Internet show were arguably better than the brand’s televised matches, even if for no reason other than the fact that the WSXtra matches had better pacing and camera work and weren’t cut to fit the embarrassingly paltry thirty-minute weekly timeslot that MTV gave the main show. Additionally, your website could be a great host for an online store from which WOW fans can buy T-shirts, entrance theme CD or mp3 albums, past WOW episodes, and whatever other bits of merchandise you plan on selling to generate a little bit more income. Heck, you can even host an online forum similar to the one you had back in 2000, if you wanted to—anything to drum up more interest in your product.
5. No more bikini contests. If the whole premise of WOW has always been to present women in professional wrestling as equals to their male counterparts, then the whole idea of including a bikini contest (or “swimsuit competition,” as you called it back then) is little more than counterproductive. I hope you’ll pardon my brutal honesty here, but whoever whispered into your ear and told you that the 2001 WOW bikini contest was a good idea clearly didn’t have the company’s interests as well in mind as he should have on account of his complete disregard for your promotion’s initial premise. If this contest was more or less a fitness competition rather than the unapologetic, personality-depleting “T&A” session that it turned out to be, then maybe I’d have let it slide, even back then. However, when you have a woman like Jennifer Lee Chan, a.k.a. Jade—an otherwise talented in-ring performer who never received the proper reward she deserved for her match performances—taking off her top and gazing back seductively at the camera, that alone tells me that this session was meant for nothing more than blatant sex appeal to attract the more perverted and chauvinistic amongst the 18- to 35-year-old male demographic at the time, and a failed attempt to do so at that. There was at least one other woman who pulled a similar stunt with her bikini bottom, as depicted in your own Vimeo video entitled “WOW! Unleashed,” which you yourself currently feature as your introductory video in the “WOW TV” section of your own home page. Seriously, if such smut is what it takes to get certain men to watch your show—which, for the record, was rated PG at the time and was meant for young children to enjoy as well as adults—then why bother trying to appeal to that demographic? Why not just stick with those 18- to 49-year-old males who were already watching your show right alongside the 17- to 24-year-old women and 7- to 17-year-old kids who clearly would have had no interest in such garbage? Honestly, this bikini contest only turned the women you wanted to promote as role models into glorified Playboy models, which completely killed their credibility as the former of the two. Not only that, but let’s not overlook the obvious factor in this whole competition, and that is the fact that all of the women in it were the typical, run-of-the-mill skinny variety, many of whom (e.g., Summer and Lana Star) were obviously surgically enhanced on top of being skinny.
Personally, I believe that if you had to have a swimsuit competition of any sort to appeal to more potential male viewers, then, as I’ve said before, why couldn’t you have made it more of a fitness competition, complete with such rules as 1) no plastic surgery of any kind, else the woman in question would be disqualified, and 2) no removal or teasing of the removal of one’s swimsuit, else the offending contestant would be both disqualified and suspended from the company for sixty days? Not only that, but you also could have at least allowed Boom Boom to be a part of the competition as well, seeing as she was one of only two full-figured women in your entire company (the other being Thug, whose main event position and managerial role of EZ Rider and Charlie Davidson more or less ensured that she would not have had to take part in the contest) and, to be perfectly blunt without being disrespectful to Thug, the only one who could have worn a bikini well. Seriously, your own webpage showcases a photo of her with a bare midriff, which was actually nice and tapered—completely devoid of the girth that poor Thug had had to endure around her own midsection at the time—and yet nicely complements the woman’s otherwise naturally robust chest and hips? You mean to tell me that Ms. Patty Bunya-Ananta, who was every bit as gorgeous as she was talented in the ring, wasn’t bikini-worthy material? If so, please regard the photograph you have of her on your very own website under the “WOW Girls” tab and reconsider.
As you look this photo over, please consider the confidence, coolness, and class with which Patty conducts herself while posing in the outfit you’ve had her model just as much as you do the proportions of her body and her nice, firm tummy, then try to tell me that she couldn’t have worn a bikini at the time of the competition. Heck, I myself am stunned by her beauty, and I’m the type of guy who’s usually offended by anything even vaguely sexy and as such does everything in his power to keep his sex drive in check. Add to that the idea of the angle you could have created back then that would have centered on such a move as putting Patty in the bikini contest. Surely, a plus-sized woman modeling a two-piece swimsuit in a competition otherwise involving an entire slew of cookie-cutter skinny women would have made some people sit up and pay attention, even after WWF’s own Miss Royal Rumble swimsuit competition from 2000 and the June 7, 1999 bikini contest between Nicole Bass and Debra Marshall from WWF Raw for the WWF Women’s Title, and it would have very much added to Boom Boom’s character. Who knows? Maybe people would have seen Patty—either as Boom Boom or as herself—as being every bit of a role model as she was a bikini model: a full-figured woman in a skinny woman’s world who could hold her own against the skinnies not only in the ring, but also in a competition that was generally geared far more towards their physical makeup than her own. Furthermore, who knows where such an angle would have led to—a breakup between her tag team with Caliente, perhaps, or possibly even a feud with such a beauty-oriented antagonist as Lana Star. This latter idea would especially have been perfect, considering how the two could have very well contrasted the other and would have thus given one another the best possible rub. After all, while Boom Boom was one heck of an athlete for both her size and her lack of initial experience in the wrestling business, she was never given the chance to develop any sense of personality on the show, especially outside her little tag team with Caliente. On the other hand, Lana—while she was about average as an in-ring worker at best—oozed plenty of personality and was arguably one of your greatest heels, thus proving how capable she could have been in getting Boom Boom over as a babyface. For further evidence on how great a heel Lana Star was, look no further than the fact that her two biggest rivals, Ice Cold and Poison, used to be heels themselves until her feud(s) with them began to take shape. Needless to say, the possibilities for Boom Boom’s growth as a character were there with the whole bikini contest angle, and though I apologize for shaming you in regard to this, the opportunity has since passed, and it has become a shame that such a woman as Patty Bunya-Ananta will no longer be recognized by the potential that she could have lived up to, be that as a wrestler or as a personality in general.
In short, if you ever—ever—have another bikini/swimsuit contest in WOW, at least let there be some sort of point to it and have a storyline such as the one introduced here so that the women involved are every bit as empowered in the way you had intended them to be. Also, at the risk of sounding redundant, I am fully aware of the whole “Who really has the power?” argument in regards to incidents like swimsuit competitions, strip teases, and so forth, but trust me when I say that I know all too well that that kind of empowerment was not the kind of empowerment that you, Mr. McLane, were originally aiming for.
To summarize quickly, these six areas—booking, organic versus manufactured characters, updated in-ring performances, more thorough training for your newcomers, increased use of multimedia outlets, and less contradictory presentation of your wrestlers (i.e., either a meaningful swimsuit competition or no swimsuit competition at all)—are the top six areas that I want to see addressed in the new and improved WOW. There are other areas to consider as well, such as stronger, smarter, more professional commentary and cleaner, crisper, more modern production values, but the six topics mentioned here are the biggest issues for me as fan of women’s professional wrestling and of pro wrestling in general. After all, as I’ve said before, I want WOW to succeed as a wrestling promotion in the 2010s, especially considering that every time I try to give up on wrestling as a whole, my die hard wrestling fan instincts only pull me back in and keep the sport and the industry on my mind for a lot of the time, no matter how hard the other companies disrespect me as a potential supporter of their products. WWE has oftentimes spat in my face, especially with how poorly it has booked its “Divas” division, even though the company as a whole seems to be slowly but surely improving in certain areas, what with WrestleMania right around the corner. Similarly speaking, TNA/Impact Wrestling has insulted me as a wrestling fan to the point where I refuse to even acknowledge it, ROH has been stale this past year and has thus left me worried about how 2012 will turn out for it, Lucha Libre USA never sticks around on television long enough for me to care about it as much as I want to, I have no interest in following either Micro Championship Wrestling or the hip-hop-themed Urban Wrestling Federation, and as I’ve said numerous times before in this letter, I absolutely despise Wrestlicious and everything it represents about women’s wrestling. Therefore, please take my considerations into account, and please accept my apology for any and all instances where I came off as though I were scolding you, because honestly, I mean no offense, and if presented properly, your brand of sports entertainment could very well remind me that women’s wrestling as I used to know it has yet to die as a mainstream venue. I thus look forward to seeing you folks again soon on national TV, and I thank you, Mr. McLane, for you time and consideration.
Dustin M. Weber
Whew! I know…pretty long read, huh—at least from this blog? Well, regardless, I hope this letter is indication enough of my outlook on and dedication towards women’s professional wrestling and how it relates to my upcoming novel. I’d like to extend a special thank you to all of you who have had the stamina to stick with this post from beginning to end, and I assure you all that my next post won’t be quite as wordy. Aside from that, though, if anyone has any feedback on this blog entry, please feel free to share it in a reply, especially if you are at all interested in reading more about my thoughts on women’s wrestling, past and present. Otherwise, it’ll be back to business as usual with product updates and weekly poetry submissions. At any rate, thank you all once again for checking out my stuff, and as always, happy reading, and keep your eyes open for future releases from me. Thanks!
Dustin M. Weber
PS: All credit for the photographs used in this blog entry go to Women of Wrestling Entertainment and their official website, WOWE.com (c) 2012. All written material, however, is my own.