Best: Breakin’ with Bobby “Boogaloo Shrimp” Roode
One of the upsides of coming back to the show after so long is that you can really evaluate where a character is at in terms of how much interest they can keep over time. While I was moderately surprised to find myself looking forward to a number of things, I can’t say this was one of them.
Here we are, back to Kurt Angle and Bobby Roode. They’re still mad at each other. No one knows how to be a real man. Kurt Angle says that 2013 was the worst year of his wrestling career, because we’re supposed to forget 2009, I guess.
The best part is Bobby Roode’s full on, foot-stamping hissy fit, and even better, the fact that he is obviously completely amused with it. I know Jimmy Fallon ruined genuine organic responses to humour for everyone, but that tiny little crack was enough to make this segment…almost bearable. Stay golden, Pony Boy.
Worst: Time after time
One of the biggest criticisms you can lay on Impact, and justifiably so, is that their shows, while they may be entertaining for the moment, are fleeting. Matches and feuds built up into something that is utterly forgettable. The matches can be good, but are you thinking about them two, three weeks, a month later? Don’t get me wrong, we’re getting there, but it seems that the same cycle of people are running around stuck in the same trap wrestling virtually the same matches and hurling virtually the same insults over and over and over. One of Impact’s greatest defenses is that they have a talented roster, which…gets a little old and easier to argue as time goes by, and that they don’t know what to do with them. Realistically, if you’re pumping up the same guys to the same level for months at a time, and they’re only left to fight amongst themselves, what are you really supposed to do with them at the end of the day? If everyone’s stats are maxed out to 100 at the beginning, and the import placed on everyone’s storylines is virtually the same but with zero connections, you’re basically playing 52-card pickup very time you book a show (but only taking Samoa Joe out of the deck half of the time).
Like I said, we’re getting there. But this is one of those holdovers that make it seem like the show is run by two very different groups of people who don’t talk to one another at all. Did the writers get mad at each other one day and made a line down the middle of the room with scotch tape? The right side gets the misogyny and death threats and coffee maker, the other has to go out for coffee but gets to write intricate plot details and engaging characters that interact with each other in meaningful ways? And did the person at the helm of Bad Influence cross over because it was raining, and running down the street to Starbucks just seemed too much?
And in the time it took to read both of these paragraphs, do you even remember why sad-he’s-not-a-robot-Kurt Angle got so mad that it looked like he was chewing sunflower seeds to stave off an inevitable stroke?
Worst: Oh, hey, speaking of
So hey, Gail Kim and Sexy Sweetums Cosplay Bodyguard are still challenging people. And heeey, Madison Rayne is back. And heeey…maybe they’ll get to wrestle ODB, or…um…tag together against each other, or…yeah. First verse, same as the first.
Four card pick-up is the shittiest game ever.
Worst: More like the Ex-Division, amirite?
As I mentioned, Austin Aries is your reigning X-Division champ. As seen here, Sabin pulled Velvet Sky up onto the apron, was surprised to still find her there a few seconds later, and now it’s her fault that he got rolled up and lost the belt. As such, there are two stipulations for this match: Sabin will challenge for the belt, and if he doesn’t win, he’ll break up with Velvet Sky.
This causes two thing two happen: Sky distracts Aries so that Sabin can low-blow him and win the belt, and we get the first instance of me side-eying my television in disbelief during the show.
Go back and watch the video of Brooke and Bully Ray. That is the perfect example of how not to handle a female character. She’s supposed to tell him off, earn our respect for standing up to him, listen to the Greatest Love of All on repeat during leg day and we’re supposed to buy into the kind of problematic faux-empowerment that comes along with it. But then that’s not enough – she also has to be a conniving golddigger who was just with him to make a name for herself (by no longer being a semi-popular singles wrestler, muting herself, and standing in the background for a while). The whole promo is a mess, but it is made extremely clear that she is Bully Ray’s property, she is worthless to him, but he has ultimate control over her, and has no problem physically exerting that power. That’s…a real thing that’s happening.
Now we have female relationship #2: Chris Sabin coerces Velvet Sky into doing things she doesn’t want to do by exerting himself emotionally and psychologically over her, blaming her when his own plans go awry, and then when she succeeds, takes the credit for himself and again, negates her worth entirely.
Can we…can we just not with this? The false-empowerment abuse angle, if it even gets to that point without being nipped in the bud, is my least favourite female-driven angle, right up alongside intergender or inter-style matches where women earn the respect of their competitors. While male wrestlers starting out with their stats maxed out is a creative issue, a woman’s value settings inherently start at zero, and this is a problem with a capital P.
If you watch enough women’s wrestling, you’ll notice that these three tropes are the most common. One girl is a strong and a tough competitor, and may not look like the average “pretty and popular” diva, and she doesn’t think that someone who looks more conventionally attractive can hang. At best (and I use the term very lightly) they end with a mutual respect, at worst, one is made out to be jealous of the other. It is significantly more troublesome with most intergender matches. The male participant gets his comeuppance for being cockstrong, and mocking the idea that a woman could compete, but it’s still a false empowerment that ultimately accomplishes nothing. Her stats are reset at the beginning of the next match, lather, rinse, repeat.
If scenarios wherein a woman fights to earn what she should have started out with in the first place are this precarious, angles that either hint at or flat-out flaunt abuse are significantly more dangerous, and hold no value in wrestling, nay, society, today. First impressions are key, and when the first thing someone is told is that a human being is less than, that impression stays. It would be great to live in an entirely progressive fandom where women aren’t referred to as bitches and c-nts by merely existing within their gender, but again – we start out at zero. Whether a wrestler or a fan, it has been ingrained into the minds of most that we are a lesser. Opinions hold no weight, strength is relative, bitches can’t be trusted. Women are dumb sexual props, or conniving plot devices who should never be believed, especially if they dared to be in a relationship with someone. Sluts and bitches and literal trains of hos. A character who shows any amount of genuine empowerment is still brought down by those ideas and angles that came before them. Once a hoeski, forever a hoeski.
Angles like this are a grim reminder of how what some view as over-sensitivity is a very real culture of fear that polices the daily lives of any woman. Before those of you itching to jump right into the comment section to cry that it’s just entertainment get right in it, consider this: Brooke Tessmacher can be a Knockouts champ. She can be physically strong, and in a political position of power. She can be anything she wants to be. One solid grip on her arm causes all of that to come crashing down in an instant, because in that moment of fear and helplessness, everything is reset, and her value, again, is zero. It’s the subtle fear that lingers in the back of any woman’s mind because it’s what we’ve been taught. Always keep an eye on your drink. Don’t shortcut through alleys at night. Be alert when walking by yourself, day or night. Don’t go to that concert/wrestling show/convention by yourself. Don’t even dream of traveling by yourself. All of these things – what’s presented on screen, what we’re told to keep us safe, and what we’re told to put us down – all of these things are connected.
If you’ve never been in that position, don’t jump to defend the glorification of it. Really and truly think about the bolstering effect it has on those who don’t consider anything wrong with it, but especially stop to think about the damaging effect it has on those who live it every single day.
The side of the room with the coffeemaker didn’t.
They’re the worst.