Madison Eagles was recently ranked #1 on the PWI Women’s 50. This list, analogous to the PWI 500 for the males, compiled the top women’s wrestlers in the world, and the year Eagles had made her an almost no-brainer choice for the top slot.
She won the SHIMMER World Championship, ending MsChif’s years-long reign, branched out on a successful tour of Japan and became a semi-regular member of the Chikara roster before a shoulder injury took her out. There’s no doubt that she’s one of the best wrestlers in the world, but I have a huge problem with her being put on the top of this list.
Why? Well, it’s more a problem with the list itself. Is there any reason why these women can’t be included in the regular PWI 500? Other than the set of genitals of the people in the division, no, I don’t see any reason at all.
When I watch a SHIMMER match or a match from Women Superstars Uncensored or even from Chikara, where the men wrestle the women on the reg, I don’t see anything different in the way those women work. Eagles wrestles the same, no scratch that, better than many of her male counterparts. She’s proven time and again that she can bring it. Sara del Rey made more of a name for herself in the last two years wrestling men in Chikara, including a critically acclaimed match where she had the unanimous support of the crowd against Claudio Castagnoli. It was a match where she gave away 8 inches and 75 pounds, but it didn’t matter. She was good enough to make everyone believe she could hang with the much bigger King of Wrestling.
In WWE, there’s a groundswell movement in character by Beth Phoenix and Nattie Neidhart to change the focus of the women’s wrestling from models to wrestlers and they’re the heels being set up to fail. The status quo, as of right now (plans could change to have the Divas of Doom make Kelly Kelly and the like have revelations that they need to change), is that booty popping, ass shaking and breast implants are better than psychology, selling and implant DDTs.
In Impact, the treatment is slightly better right now. While there’s more of a fleshed-out women’s division with more wrestlers (or at least their hotties like Velvet Sky legitimately try to work decently), the focus does no one any favors. Feuds are often based on women being mad at other women for whom they had sex with. “Bitch”, “skank”, “ho” and other derogatory terms are used with reckless abandon to further heat and serve as the basis for feuds.
The sad part is that it used to be the vanguard women’s promotion in the country. It was excellently booked, had such stars as Awesome Kong, Gail Kim, Angelina Love, Nikki Roxx, Taylor Wilde and ODB who were more than just eye candy. They’d even get the highest ratings on the show. That image has fallen into relative disrepair since the peak in 2007 or so.
Because they’re the two companies everyone sees, the perception is that the women can’t wrestle. It’s a lie, because in other places around the country and world, the women are showing that they’re just as good, if not better than the men. Take for example in Japan, where the women’s wrestling scene, otherwise known as “joshi”, has been fully developed for two decades plus now.
The women over there, including such luminaries as Bull Nakano, Aja Kong, Mima Shimoda, Jaguar Yokota and of course, Manami Toyota, gained a reputation of doing twice the work for half the credit. They were insane in how hard they worked, and because of it, they held a sphere of influence over the men’s scene and thus the rest of the wrestling world that was indelible and undeniable. Hell, just look at some of the finishing moves that are seen in the game today. The Vertebreaker, Burning Hammer, Tiger Driver ’91 and Air Raid Crash are all moves that were innovated by women.
Those joshi stars of yesteryear (many of whom are still active today… do yourself a favor and check out ANYTHING Toyota has done in Chikara in the last year) laid the groundwork for their successors in Japan and the new breed of wrestlers that has sprung up in the United States, Canada and Australia. Just because they don’t exist in WWE or Impact right now doesn’t mean they aren’t proving themselves as equals to the men in ability elsewhere. SHIMMER, Chikara, WSU, Anarchy Championship Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Guerrilla, Pro Wrestling EVE, PWWA, ChickFight, ICE Ribbon, REINA, NCW Femmes Fatale… they’re all doing good work in spotlighting these ladies as more than just tits, ass and pretty faces, whether it’s in a separate division, or in the case of Chikara, ACW and PWG, in intergender matches where the women are actually game.
Are these ladies any better or worse than some of the guys populating feds around the country, mainstream or otherwise? Does having a vagina mean that Eagles isn’t as good as Kofi Kingston? Does being on a menstrual cycle mean del Rey can’t be compared favorably to Davey Richards? I say hell no.
That’s why I don’t think it should matter the gender anymore. Men, women, hermaphrodites or even genderless automatons from Parts Unknown don’t need a gender modifier to determine how well they wrestle. They’re all just wrestlers to me. I think the sooner that we all come to see that, especially those of us who might be in a position to book wrestlers to work shows, large or small, the better off his artform we all love will be.
Tom Holzerman is a lifelong wrestling fan and connoisseur of all things Chikara Pro, among other feds. When he’s not writing for the Camel Clutch Blog, you can find him on his own blog, The Wrestling Blog.