Tag Archives: Monday Night RAW

Wrestling should submit to regulationĀ 

It is not very often Christmas Day trends on Twitter on the fourth of September but it happened this week. The reason was that WWE announced it would be running its flagship show Monday Night RAW live on Christmas Day this year (this year Christmas Day falls on a Monday). This will be the first time in the history of RAW – which started in 1993 – that a live episode of RAW will be broadcast on Christmas Day (on previous years when Christmas Day fell on a Monday RAW broadcast taped episodes).

Needless to say the news provoked strong responses. Most people thought that as the wrestlers work every week of the year they should at least have Christmas Day off. Others did say that the NBA in the States and the Premier League here play in the festive season so why shouldn’t WWE be live on Christmas Day? But a big difference of course is that both the NBA and the Premier League have off seasons. Of course some people will say that WWE is not a sport but scripted entertainment but that argument is not relevant because although scripted programmes like the popular UK soap operas Coronation Street and EastEnders are broadcast on Christmas Day they are not live – they are recorded so the actors get the festive season off and can watch themselves on TV! 

At first – given his company’s reputation for running its wrestlers into the ground – WWE chairman Vince McMahon was blamed for the decision to have RAW live on Christmas Day. But it later emerged that it was the USA Network – the TV channel that broadcasts RAW – wanted the live festive RAW. Quite why is a mystery since the ratings for RAW go down during American holidays like the 4th of July and Labor Day and the ratings for the festive RAW are expected to be low (this is a difference between the US and the UK. Historically some of the highest UK TV ratings have been recorded over the Christmas period – for example 30 million watched the Morecambe and Wise Christmas shows in 1976 and 1977 and in 1986 the same number watched a famous Christmas Day episode of EastEnders where Den gave wife Angie divorce papers. Ouch. Even today the BBC and ITV load the festive schedule with their most popular programmes).

But whatever one thinks of a live Christmas Day RAW the story exposes a major problem with the wrestling industry. It is neither regulated or unionised. That means Vince McMahon and the USA Network can do whatever they want as there is no regulation and no protection for wrestlers whatsoever. That is why McMahon can get away with forcing his wrestlers to work 300 days a year and be classified as “independent contractors” not “employees” which means that they are denied countless benefits to which they would otherwise be entitled.

But regulation would also benefit wrestling in other ways. A governing body would surely get rid of the abomination that is intergender wrestling. Mixed professional football for example is banned by the sports governing body FIFA. A governing body for wrestling would surely do the same. 

Plus regulation would allow wrestling to get rid of rotten eggs. An example of a rotten egg in wrestling is former Lucha Underground Champion Sexy Star -who ironically made her name in intergender wrestling (see above). A couple of weeks ago she legitimately injured fellow wrestler Rosemary dislocating her arm by doing an arm bar for real. This is a complete no no. Wrestlers work together to prevent injury so when a wrestler “goes into business for themselves” and turns it into a “shoot” (ie fights for real) it is serious. Sexy Star has quite rightly been heavily criticised in the wrestling industry but I suspect some immoral promotion – probably in her native Mexico – will employ her when the fuss dies down. In a regulated sport like boxing a governing body would revoke her licence for a certain amount of time – maybe forever.

In fact each wrestler having to get a licence to compete would really benefit the industry. If a wrestler had to get medically examined say every five years and had to pass a medical to retain his or her licence it could spot say concussions. If Chris Benoit had an examination every five years the state of his brain could have been spotted before the tragedy of 2007 when he killed his wife and child then killed himself. Plus it could stop wrestlers going on too long.  Also to get a licence wrestlers should have to pass minimum standards so that dangerously under qualified wrestlers like Eva Marie would not be allowed in the ring where they were a danger to others.

Vince McMahon won’t like it but wrestling would benefit from being regulated by a governing body. Wrestlers would get the same benefits as other employees, they would not be forced to do a live RAW on Christmas Day, they would not have to work 300 days a year, the abomination that is intergender wrestling would be banned, trash like Sexy Star would be banned and wrestlers would not be able to compete without a licence which could protect them from long term health damage. It is time. It is time for professional wrestling to submit to regulation. 

Why a women’s Hell in a Cell match is a good idea

The women’s revolution in the WWE – which has been progressing in fits and starts – has received a couple of boosts in the last two weeks. First of all Sasha Banks won the RAW women’s title from Charlotte in the 3rd October episode of RAW. While this had happened before back on July 25th this time the match was the main event of RAW. This is only the second time a match between two women* had main evented RAW – the last one was when Lita beat Trish Stratus on December 6th 2004. And although RAW’s ratings still fell in the third hour (the third hour of RAW is a total disaster and needs to disappear) the ratings fell less with the women main eventing than they had in previous weeks. The match was well received and was seen as a success. But the women had main evented RAW before.

What happened this week is historic though. On Monday’s RAW it was announced that Banks would defend her title against Charlotte at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on October 30th. What makes this unique is that Banks and Charlotte will compete in the match the pay-per-view is named after : Hell in a Cell.

The first Hell in a Cell match took place between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker on October 5th 1997. The match takes place inside a 20ft high, five ton cage and is considered the most dangerous structure in the WWE. It has been called “Satan’s Structure” and “Career shortening”.  There have been 33 Hell in a Cell matches since 1997 all involving male competitors. So when the Banks v Charlotte Hell in a Cell match was announced on RAW it was a big deal. 

I should point out that rumours that the match would happen had been leaked on the internet last Wednesday. I saw three internet polls during the week and they all showed 80-90 percent support for the women’s Hell in a Cell match. While internet polls are even more unreliable than their offline equivalents three polls with this level of support suggested clear support among the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) for the match. It also suggested that the IWC who often are as divided as the Conservative Party was in 1997 and the Labour Party are now had found something we** could unite behind.

Except that after the match was announced the schizophrenic IWC seemed to change their minds and a backlash against the match begun. People were saying that the match was too dangerous for women and that Charlotte and – especially – Banks were in danger of being injured. Now there are two other Hell in a Cell matches scheduled for October 30th between Universal Champion Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins and between United States Champion Roman Reigns and Rusev. No one says that the four men are at risk of injury even though Rollins injury record is arguably worse than Banks is. It is also argued that the feud between Banks and Charlotte is not worthy of a Hell in a Cell match even though they have been feuding on and off – mainly on – since the Royal Rumble in January far longer than either of the two male feuds that will end in the Cell. Frankly in a world where UK female soldiers will soon be allowed on the front line by a Conservative Government – unthinkable as recently as 2012 – the idea that two women cannot fight in a cage is ludicrous. If women can fight on the front line they can fight in Hell in a Cell. It is sexism pure and simple. 

So why are people so opposed to the match? Eileen McDonough and Laura Pappano have the answer. They mention the “three I’s” that have been used throughout history to deny women equality – Inferiority, Injury and Immorality. All three are being used here. People are saying that Banks and Charlotte are “inferior” and unworthy of a Hell in a Cell match. They are worried that they will suffer injury. And they think women taking part in this violent match is immoral.  And it is utter nonsense. 

The WWE like to think they compete with real sports which is I suspect why they have a deal with US Sports giants ESPN. In most real sports men and women compete in the same events with mainly the same rules. If WWE want to properly support the Women’s Revolution they have to put women in the same matches as men as this happens in real sport. It is only a baby step no doubt about it. There are still other matches that women have not competed in – Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, Money in the Bank matches, their own Royal Rumble*** and even the Elimination Chamber. But this is the start. 

I will be nervous when Sasha and Charlotte step into the Cell on October 30th. Like Ginny Baker in the fictional “Pitch” (see previous post) the pressure will be enormous. I bet you they will be scrutinised far more than Owen, Rollins. Reigns and Rusev will be. But that is the price of being the pioneer. Banks knows this having been part of – along with Bayley – the first ever 30 minute “Iron Woman” match in NXT last year. Cynics thought women could not wrestle for thirty minutes straight. Banks and Bayley proved that that was nonsense. 

Back to real sport for a moment. After the 1928 Olympics women were banned from running distances longer than 200 metres and the ban stood for 32 years. Women were not allowed to run the Marathon at the Olympics until 1984. Today the idea that women could not run the Marathon would be seen as a joke. The same will apply to the WWE. Ten, twenty years from now wrestling fans will be saying “That Sasha v Charlotte Hell in a Cell match was amazing wasn’t it?”. Ten, twenty years from now women’s Hell in a Cell matches will be taken for granted and accepted (they won’t be common as they aren’t common for men today). And the fact that women were not allowed to compete in Hell in a Cell matches until nineteen years after the men will be seen as ridiculous not as is the case today the fact that they are competing in one. The women’s Hell in a Cell match is an idea whose time has come. In truth it should have happened before now.

*Lita v Stephanie McMahon main evented RAW in August 2000 but the Rock was guest referee and Kurt Angle and Triple H also got involved.

**I don’t consider myself a member of the IWC but the fact I talk and read about wrestling on the internet might mean some people consider me part of it. 

***A woman competed in the men’s Royal Rumble in 1999,2000,,2010 and 2012 but there has never been a women’s Royal Rumble.