The WWE likes to market their Divas as Smart, Sexy and Powerful, but the utilization of their women in recent years only seems to represent one of those three qualities. They don't come across as powerful and most of the time, they're presented as catty, rather than smart. There never seems to be a clear cut direction over who the faces are and who the heels are. Smart and powerful have often taken a backseat to crazy and catty in the Divas' representation on WWE programming. It's an issue that's lingered for years, but finally received some attention this year.
This topic was sparked by the #GiveDivasAChance movement that swept across the internet after yet another throwaway 30-second Divas tag match on RAW around WrestleMania season. In addition to that, a tweet by AJ to Stephanie back in February may have first sparked the debate.
— A.J. (@WWEAJLee) February 25, 2015
Now, back to how the WWE uses its women, and that is with no fluid creative direction.
How many times has Paige flipped from heel to face in just over a year on the main roster? What all of a sudden made the Bella Twins babyfaces after being entitled and stuck up heels? Why did Brie all of a sudden forgive Nikki with no solid conclusion to their storyline last year (albeit a terrible one)? There just never seems to be any consistent direction with the Divas and it seems WWE is failing to draw on the inspiration for the division's glory years, from the early to mid 2000s when Trish, Lita, Victoria and others were constantly churning out great matches and given meaningful storylines to work with.
The WWE seemed to be on the right path with AJ's long title run, but even her best feuds lasted very little time. Her 'frenemies' story with Paige never quite reached a higher level, as we were left with no clear direction on who the protagonist and antagonist was.
Brie Bella had a great feud with Stephanie McMahon last summer and it seemed it might springboard into other good storylines for WWE's women, but they inexplicably didn't follow through on the momentum Brie gained. What has she done since besides being Nikki's sidekick/cheerleader? Their story was cut with no explanation, after Brie helped Nikki capture the title at Survivor Series despite Nikki telling her that she wished her sister 'died in the womb'.
It's crazy to think that once upon a time, Trish and Lita main evented a RAW episode with the Women's Championship on the line. The two also main evented in a mixed tag match with Lita teaming with The Rock to take on Trish and Triple H. Lita also faced Stephanie in a RAW main event, albeit with The Rock as the guest referee and other top male stars heavily involved in the match.
There's this perception that's developed among fans that Divas matches are now nothing more than a chance at a bathroom break. Whether that perception developed due to the quality of the wrestling, the time frame of the match being similar to that of a trip to the restroom or no emotional stakes being developed for a Divas match, ultimately, the company's treatment/presentation of the Divas allowed that to happen.
How often do we get a really juicy storyline involving Divas? When do we get something that we can relate to, with the women displaying intensity, and not just being presented as crazy, catty or mean.
Former WWE writer Kevin Eck wrote an excellent piece on his blog discussing how the WWE perceived its women while he worked for them. "...we actually were told that there really are no babyfaces or heels in the Divas division. It was strongly implied that the Divas are all just a bunch of catty chicks, most of whom are mentally unstable."
Eck is echoing exactly what the viewers are seeing and what we as fans have suspected for a long time. The WWE simply doesn't invest as much as they should in their women. They claim that they like to see Divas as role models to girls and young women, no longer simply being eye candy like back in the Attitude Era. Is catty, mean and crazy something they should aspire to be? Now granted, you'd never want anybody to act like a heel in real life, but where are the babyfaces that are meant to be the example? The John Cena or Daniel Bryan of the Divas if you will?
Natalya would be a great option, given her pedigree, family history and oh yeah, she's actually a great wrestler. Her most prominent story lines have included her farting and playing second fiddle to Beth Phoenix. What a way to treat your best female wrestler. Paige has plenty of her career ahead of her to keep evolving and building herself up as the face of the division. There are plenty more possibilities coming.
There is a glimmer of hope for the women in the form of NXT. If Triple H is in charge of NXT and the women are being given the opportunities they are there (longer matches, stories, character development) then perhaps the transition is beginning. Hopefully NXT is a reflection on how Triple H values the Divas and will feature them more prominently if and when he's given control of the main roster.
Giving Divas longer matches is part of the solution, but longer matches with no emotional pull won't do anything. The Divas have to be given longer matches and great stories to go with it, a reason they're fighting and why you should watch it. McMahon said himself on Austin's podcast that matches need a story. We agree, Vince, but the same applies to women. Give them a chance, which will give us a reason, which will give you a better product and more invested audience.