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.