In many ways it’s been a great year to be a fan of women’s wrestling. More and more indies are embracing and developing women’s divisions, and Japanese promotions are knocking it out of the park.
WWE has also made huge strides, with the retirement of the Divas title, introduction of a Women’s Championship for each brand since the split, and even the crazy idea that women might benefit from having time to develop their characters. On the other hand, the ongoing Paige debacle, uncomfortable storylines around Lana and Rusev and underutilisation of some very talented performers have left some with a bitter taste in their mouths – and some are just sick of Charlotte and Sasha working on top.
I understand the objections to this feud, and in other circumstances I might share them. As far as I can see, they come down to these:
- Passing the title between the two women makes both look weak and devalues the title.
- It’s been going on for too long.
- The amount of time given to Charlotte and Sasha is detracting from the development of characters like Nia Jax and Bayley.
I don’t agree. To me, Charlotte vs Sasha is the WWE main roster feud of the year. Absolutely nothing else comes close.
I’ve been a huge fan of both of these women for what feels like forever, but actually only goes back to 2014 and the start of the NXT glory days. I saw Charlotte wrestle Natalya on the first NXT Takeover. I knew she had huge potential, and since then I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that she is a star. Now, in spite of a wobble caused by an ill-judged face run, she’s without doubt the best heel on Raw. When she’s on, she can be a fantastic arrogant, disdainful promo. Sasha’s rise needs less of an explanation, because people have been talking about her as a future Hall of Famer since she started her incredible heel run as NXT champion.
Putting these two women together must have been a no-brainer for WWE Creative. They had a history of great matches and had regularly been in the main event, both at house shows and on NXT TV. Imagine you’re a writer looking for a storyline strong enough to support a sustained push of the whole women’s division: this is the one feud that you already know can deliver the goods – at least until NXT can afford to give up Bayley.
Sasha and Charlotte are carrying Raw right now. Whether the Hell in a Cell match was ever meant to be the end of their feud, or whether Creative is biding its time until it can play the Charlotte vs Bayley card in the run-up to Mania, the women’s title segments are performing very strongly at a time when ratings are sacrificed on the altar of football season. Kevin Owens, his best friend and his best friend’s list are over, but the writing of their storyline and the quality of their rivals aren’t a patch on the women’s title scene. There’s little doubt in my mind that most of the real heavy lifting is coming from Charlotte and Sasha.
I can see why the company is hanging its hopes on them right now, probably in hope of changing things up once the Road to Wrestlemania begins. They’re using this time to swing for the fences with the women – to prove that they can be trusted in such high-profile spots, to try new things and establish Charlotte and Sasha on the totem pole. That’s why they’ve stuck with their safe-bet feud: to work on pushing the limits of WWE women’s wrestling. What doesn’t work can be discarded in January when people start watching again.
I won’t dwell too much on the bottom half of the internet – the commenters complaining that by giving Charlotte and Sasha all the “history”, WWE is stopping other female wrestlers from making their own. Suffice to say that there are plenty of matches that haven’t been done yet and plenty of “firsts” still to come. For now, Charlotte and Sasha get to lay some of the groundwork, and if they weren’t in that position, perhaps other performers wouldn’t get those opportunities.
Ultimately, the question is this: can you really complain when it’s still this good? They’re main eventing, tearing the house down and proving that women can carry the top spots. Charlotte has come into her own as a promo – in some arenas, she’s more over than Sasha – and is more than justifying her place at the top.
It’s a shame that the title has changed hands so often, but WWE has decreed that the only way to stretch out their feud is to exploit the automatic rematch clause. That’s lazy writing and cowardly booking, based on the assumption that a women’s programme needs the title to justify its treatment as a top-level feud. If that’s true, it’s because the women’s division is still so thin and underwritten that the only real stakes worth fighting for are in the belt.
That’s on Creative. It’s not on the performers. But they’re making the most of it to pull out a modern classic of a match every week, and I don’t feel bad about that.
Placing Charlotte and Sasha in the title scene for so long has had its drawbacks: by monopolising the title, which is the only thing worth fighting for, their feud has left little more than bones for the other women to pick at. Bayley, Nia Jax and Alicia Fox all deserve more time and development than they are getting.
The thing is, Raw is three hours long. Smackdown Live is successfully developing two women’s programmes every single week with two-thirds of Raw’s airtime. It isn’t fair to blame performers for decisions made by WWE staff. And I’ve got to ask, at a time when Owens, Jericho, Reigns and Rollins seem to be the only people in Raw’s men’s title scene, where’s the outcry that they’re taking time away from people like Neville?
I won’t tell you that Raw is a shining example of progressive television – not when Lana is luring Enzo to her hotel room so Rusev can beat him senseless. But as WWE endlessly tells us these women are “making history”, we mustn’t forget that it’s true. Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks are changing the game with this feud, and I’m sure as hell not bored yet.