Pro Wrestling

A.J. Lee calls out Stephanie McMahon over longstanding hypocrisy

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There has been much debate over the role women in WWE, particularly the divide in how those on the main roster are booked in comparison to their NXT counterparts. The difference was only magnified following the most recent live NXT special where Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch tore down the house in one of the best matches this year in any promotion.

The issue only got worse this week on Raw when Nikki and Brie Bella defeated Paige and Emma in a match that went a mere 30 seconds. You read that correctly. On a three-hour broadcast, these women were allotted half a minute to compete. Keep in mind that Paige was given an on-air entrance and then had to wait in the ring while they aired a lengthy Sting video before the match started.

The decision sparked such outrage that fans took to social media to voice their displeasure. As a result, #GiveDivasAChance became a major trending topic on Twitter.

While there are many questionable booking decisions that I can give WWE a pass on, there is no justification for treating their women with such apathy.

The already tense situation took on an entirely new angle in the wake of a message Stephanie McMahon tweeted in support of Patricia Arquette, the actress who gave an impassioned speech on gender equality at the Academy Awards last Sunday. Her tweet read:

“Thank you @PattyArquette for having the courage to fight for #WomensRights on such a grand platform. #UseYourVoice”

-Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) February 23, 2015

Stephanie’s comments came off as being extremely hypocritical, especially when you consider WWE’s track record of promoting the women on its main roster. Whereas the women on NXT are presented as serious athletes, WWE’s Divas are treated as interchangeable prelim fodder. With the success of Total Divas on E! Network one would think that the company would actually want to feature these women in more prominent positions on its television shows. Imagine how Total Divas fans must feel when they tune into Raw and see these bold, trailblazing women treated as such afterthoughts.

Former Divas Champion A.J. Lee took to Twitter with the following response to Stephanie:

“@StephMcMahon Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest rated segment of the show several times.”

-A.J. (@WWEAJLee) February 24, 2015

“@StephMcMahon And yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster. #UseYourVoice”

-A.J. (@WWEAJLee) February 24, 2015

Within a few hours, both Vince and Stephanie McMahon responded with the following tweets:

“We hear you. Keep Watching. #GiveDivasAChance”

-Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) February 24, 2015

“Thank you @WWEAJLee, I appreciate your opinion. #UseYourVoice”

-Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) February 24, 2015

It’s impossible to know if the McMahons are serious about bringing change to the Divas division or if their response was just a way to diffuse a potential public relations disaster.

My overall confidence in WWE’s creative direction is at an all-time low and I have absolutely zero faith that they know how to book women in the 21st century. One of my greatest fears is that they won’t have a clue of how to properly use the women of NXT when they arrive to the main roster.  If you recall, they had Ric Flair’s daughter Charlotte to lose to Natalya in two minutes during her Raw debut last December in Greenville, SC, of all places. If that isn’t a sign of what’s to come then I don’t know what is.

Even Brie Bella, one of WWE’s most popular Divas, realizes the limitations placed on them in regard to how they are presented on television.

“It’s actually crazy how small an amount of Divas make it to TV. Sometimes you’re looking at two spots on TV every week,” she said during the Total Divas series premiere in 2013.

Brie’s comments from a recent interview go into further detail.

“If I was in NXT, I would not wanna come up to the main roster, because you get so much time down there. If you come to the live events, you’ll see we get a lot of time at the live events. When it comes to TV, we get so frustrated because it’s hard to tell a story in 3 minutes, and especially when they want an entrance. We want time to wrestle. Especially after watching NXT Rival pay-per-view and seeing them go 20 minutes (actually 12 plus entrances and post-match). It’s like a dream. It’s something we’d love and we’re trying so hard to get more time. There’s a three hour Raw and you can’t give more time to the Divas? But hopefully, in the future.”

I feel sorry for Brie, Nikki, Naomi, Alicia Foxx, Natalya, Emma, Paige, Rosa Mendes, Layla, Cameron, Eva Marie, Summer Rae, and every other Diva who is marginalized into being little more than eye candy for the male audience. Vince should personally apologize to each of these women. They are each victims of the antiquated mindset of a 69-year old man who feels that posing on the cover of Muscle & Fitness is far more important than preserving the dignity of the very women who sacrifice their bodies for the fans’ entertainment.

Stephanie should be especially ashamed for publicly speaking on women’s rights while overlooking the fact she is a leading executive in a company that routinely denies its women those very rights.

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