Well, I guess the WWE technically "Gave Divas A Chance."
At least that's likely to be the company line set to be towed after a #GiveDivasAChance hashtag trended all over Twitter last week. Despite not being featured prominently on this week's edition of Monday Night Raw, matches involving WWE Divas got about 20-25 minutes of screen time. One of those matches with a 6-person affair involving two male tag teams. The other was a well-hyped Divas title re-match that saw an early commercial and a shmoz ending after only a few minutes.
It's also likely that the company, if they even address it, will point to Stephanie McMahon and Lana's prominence on the program, in addition to the high profile return of AJ Lee. This Thursday's NXT featured a main event of Sasha Banks and Charlotte, but let's be honest, NXT isn't the issue. WWE main roster programming is the issue.
NXT, in fact, is part of the solution. Week after week, particularly on the NXT special events, women go out and put on fantastic matches that keep the crowd's interest at a peak and their characters strong. Emma, Paige, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Natalya and Becky Lynch have all had magnificent performances, and the crowd enjoyed their matches. It probably helps that NXT fans haven't been conditioned to pass off anything they do as unimportant.
With five hours of core television time, one would think that the WWE machine would search desperately for anything new, different and fresh in order to fill some of that time. Under there noses is a Divas division begging for an opportunity and being shut down at every corner. Last week, AJ Lee reached her breaking point, tweeting Stephanie McMahon and criticizing her for helping run a company that gives women reduced pay and screen time.
Meanwhile, just two days before the aforementioned Monday Night Raw episode, UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey captivated a sold out Los Angeles crowd that was there to see her. Make no mistake, those people weren't there to see Kid Yamamoto or Josh Koscheck, they came to see Ronda Rousey, to the tune of 17,654. UFC 184 was a huge success.
On top of that, former pro boxer Holly Holm served as Rousey's co-main event star after having no prior UFC bouts. All-in-all it sounded like a distaster. Well, until early estimates from Dave Meltzer put the show at over 500,000 buys. After one of the worst UFC PPV years to date, that's fantastic news for Ronda Rousey and the UFC. If the show had taken place in December, it could have been either the first or second highest drawing PPV of the entire year for the company-- and it was headlined by four women.
Put your feelings about MMA aside. Some people don't like the unpredictable finishes, much like Rousey's 14 second destruction of #1-ranked Cat Zingano last weekend. Others consider it as "seeing history." The bottom line was that people cared.
Sure, you'll still deal with sexist comments in abundance, but those probably aren't the people you're trying to deal with anyway. The perception that American wrestling fans aren't that bright isn't exactly a secret, as pro wrestling ad rates are significantly lower than other sports and live entertainment that draw a fraction of the television ratings.
"Give Divas A Chance" was intended to put women on an equal playing field in professional wrestling. I don't think many with educated opinions on the matter were calling for Rosa Mendes to beat Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania by any means, but a chance to succeed and a chance to thrive? Well, that isn't too much to ask for.
UFC has marketed Ronda Rousey perfectly. She's not a joke, just because she's a female. Some look at her as crazy (which is how almost every WWE Diva is portrayed), but it's more of a transparent dedication to competition. When Ronda Rousey shows up, you know business in the cage will soon follow. What female on WWE's current roster has that perception? It's nobody's fault but the company's own.
If female competitors are trudged out weekly for uneventul four minute matches on a show that often runs 190 minutes, fans are conditioned to expect it. Even worse, fans are conditioned to not care. On a program with as much air time as WWE has, one would think the company would want as many over characters as possible, as opposed to petty, even-stevens booking that gets nobody over.
Just a couple of years ago, AJ Lee was arguably the hottest character on WWE TV, fans cared about her. This summer, Stephanie McMahon carried on an intense feud with Brie Bella that was given time and a prime slot on SummerSlam. Two months later the two Divas matches were getting six minutes on the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view
Ronda Rousey isn't the only female in the UFC that got over. Paige VanZant has blown up overnight by just being a pretty face that can fight, and the WWE is in no short supply of those. Miesha Tate has earned mainstream press and has put in work in the cage that justifies it.
It's sad to say, but the UFC has more diverse characters in their women's division than the WWE does. Ronda Rousey is the Brock Lesnar of the division, unable to be stopped. Miesha Tate is the clear #2, who just can't topple the champion. Sara McMann is a decorated but silent former Olympian, who has only recently had her puzzle solved. Holly Holm, a former ESPY-nominated former pro boxer turned undefeated MMA fighter. There's even a blue chip prospect in Bethe Correia, who has knocked off two of Rousey's training partners and teammates, and is now heading for the champion.
Think that's it? Not by a long shot. Marion Renau is an aging fighter who was told she was too old to compete with the young talent of today, and has dominated since. Liz Carmouche represented the LGBT community as the first openly gay UFC main eventer, and has been an icon in the community since. How about Jessica Penne, a girl so good in her old weight class, she decided to jump up and compete at a weight class higher to have her shot in the UFC?
It's not rocket science. A little time, a character and a back story breeds interesting matches. The WWE seems uninterested in doing so. WWE Divas don't have to be a top draw, but this isn't the WNBA or other women's sports or programs. Genders are mixed in the WWE and the UFC.
It's not like WWE doens't have the resources. Both of the Bella Twins have made great strides in the ring, namely Nikki, who has transformed her in-ring ability and physical appearance over the past year. AJ and Paige generally get a reaction no matter what they do. Emma and Natalya have both proven to be solid hands when they get a chance on a big stage. Oh, and in NXT? Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley are chomping at the bit. That's ten Divas off the top of my head. Not to mention Sara Del Ray is on the WWE's payroll as a trainer.
There are plenty of differences in MMA and pro wrestling, but the two have long been married businesses. MMA fighters often control their own destiny, while pro wrestlers are at the mercy of a booker. As we've seen recently, the bookers haven't shown much mercy to the hard-working females on WWE's roster. The culture has to change, and the company needs to look no further than the template Ronda Rousey and the UFC have set.