I have always been a fan of tournaments in professional wrestling. They are full of suspense, possible dream match-ups, and a guaranteed champion at the end. For me, all of these are the elements that keep me glued to a tournament from beginning to end. In 1988, the WWF World title was vacated as a result of a controversial title change that saw Andre the Giant defeat Hulk Hogan and subsequently surrender the championship to Ted DiBiase. On that same day in March, I was riding shotgun with my cousin up and down the New Jersey turnpike after dropping my sister off at Rutgers University. The Turnpike is cool, but I would have much rather been at Trump Plaza to see a new champion crowned. Eventually, I got back home to see Randy Savage capture his first World championship.
Since that day nearly 30 years ago, I’ve seen almost as many tournaments as I’ve seen wrestling organizations. WCW hosted tournaments for revived NWA singles and tag team World championships, The King of Cable tournament and BattleBowl. The WWE World title was determined in the “Deadly Game tournament” at the Survivor Series in the Late 1990’s along with the tourney to crown the first-ever European champion and its yearly King Of The Ring tournament. Today’s wrestling fan has witnessed tourneys on various levels. Ring of Honor crowned it’s first-ever Television champion a number of years ago. New Japan came to these shores and crowned its very first United States champion. And until its completion, Lucha Underground will present its Cueto Cup tournament every Wednesday night on the El Rey network.
WWE has always been ahead of the game in so many ways. The same can be same for its modern-day tournaments. It’s kind of weird, though. WWE’s two most historic championships (the WWE World Heavyweight and Intercontinental championships) were decided in apocryphal tournaments in 1963 and 1977, respectively. Generations ago, tournaments were meant to crown champions. But in the modern-day WWE, they mean so much more. Both the Cruiserweight Classic and the United Kingdom title tournamnet laid the groundwork for fledgling brands. In that same spirit, the WWE has created the Mae Young Classic. Mae Young was a true pioneer in professional wrestling. She helped in increase the popularity of the sport after World War II and won several championships in the National Wrestling Alliance in the process. Her involvement in pro wrestling was not only pioneering, but revolutionary.
WWE has a rich history when it comes to women in wrestling. That history was compromised with WWE’s ill-fated attempt to keep up with the times by labelling their women as Divas. Things went so far that WWE actually had a Divas championship. The original WWE Women’s title had been unified with this championship and retired afterwards. However, women in wrestling were much more than Divas and eye candy. They were suddenly being recognized for what they have always been: strong, fierce, intelligent, brave, determined, and a host of other qualities that complement their amazing beauty. Being seen in a different light saw women (not Divas) cause a revolution. The culmination of this revolution would be the shelving of the blinged-out butterfly eyesore of a Divas championship and the creation of a brand-new WWE Women’s champinship
The WWE Women’s division has been very successful. Women’s championship matches have not
only main-evented RAW, but have stolen the show at WrestleMania a few years ago. The division has also split in two with each brand having its own Women’s division. A year and some change later, we have two divisions and two seperate championships. But let’s face it: things in these divisions are getting very repetitive. The champions of each division are fairly new champions. SmackDown has Naomi as its queenpin while Alexa Bliss rules the roost over on RAW. The pool of contenders consist of former champions (Bayley, Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Naomi) to successful veterans who have climbed the mountain (Mickie James and Natalya) to role players who deserve worlds better than they’ve gotten (Nia Jax) to the criminally misused (Tamina Snuka). In wrestling, success or time in the spotlight are fleeting. The corporate structure of most American companies has always been to make as much money as you can while cutting costs. Reducing your head count is an option. WWE does have a reputation of trimming its roster from time to time and women are no exception to the rule.
Once again, it’s time to look at the bigger picture. WWE remains the worldwide leader in sports-entertainment. No one is sure of the exact formula when it comes to getting in the door there. If that were the case, a lot of your favorite middle-age indy wrestling veterans of 20 years of more would have THAT as a career highlight as opposed to a fleeting championship reign absolutely no one cares about (BANG), but that’s another story. WWE has grown tremendously over the past few decades and continues to grow. Some call WWE “The Machine” and rightfully so. But as Triple-H has said so many times over, their most valuable resource – the one that fuels The Machine – is talent. Sure, you can train someone to be better than they were at the WWE Performance Center as long as you like. But honestly, is there any better way to gauge a wrestler’s talent than to put him under the lights and watch he or she wrestle?
The experience of women competing in the Mae Young Classic range from a few years to a decade and some change. And while all of them want to be the eventual victor and win the tournament, there may be so much more waiting for them on the other side of a loss. Remember, no one is exempt when it comes to roster cuts and creative changes in direction. The primary source for revitalizing the Women’s division has to be the Women of NXT. It’s almost a given that Asuka will make the main roster before long and I’m certain she won’t be coming alone. What better way to repopulate a depleted NXT Women’s division than with some new blood?
What’s that old saying?
“It’s not whether you win or lose. It’s how you play the game”
Well “The Game” is watching the way you play.
Play on, ladies. Play on.