Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Score one for Dixie

I will probably post later about what Andy Kaufmann brought to wrestling but I wanted to get this off my chest first. I'm apologize for again moving towards the modern day as it's not fair to those guys who are actually trying to discuss the readings from the past.

I had forgotten the specifics of Andy's Intergender Champion angle, specifically him saying that he respected women as they had the upper hand in "peeling potatoes, washing carrots, and making babies." He would then beat up every woman wrestler he faced. This played out as a big heel move, just as much as the rest of his antics did.

Fast forward to today at TNA. The most recent angle with Christy Hemme and the Voodoo Kin Mafia is almost an exact reversal of this. Hemme for the last several weeks has clamored about how women wrestlers are not treated as "real wrestlers" by fans or by TNA. This would eventually be followed by Kip James telling her that women were only good for servicing him sexually, and every so often throw in a kitchen reference. Both of these sentiments appear to be heartfelt: Hemme really does want to be considered a wrestler and James really is a giant tool. Even more so, the bookers allegedly intended for Christy's angle to turn her good and for Kip's angle to turn him bad. Except it didn't work that way. People kept booing Hemme and loved Kip's "suck on this" replies. Also note, TNA is filmed in Orlando, which is not exactly as Deep South as Memphis.

I don't have much else to mention except my frustration. A number of TNA fans are embittered smart marks who yearn for the golden days of wrestling to return again - those very days of The King and Kaufmann. Treatment of women may not be TNA's biggest problem, but trashing potentially half your audience is never a smart business decision (just think of the makeup of our class).

The next time a TNA fan wonders why their brand can't catch on, they may want to look at the gender makeup of that late 1970s crowd calling for Kaufmann's head.

-Brian the Virginian


Sam Ford said...

I think part of the fan reaction seems to be directed at Hemme as a performer and the storyline as a whole. They don't find this to be compelling and thus couldn't get behind her. For someone to be making the case for women to be taken seriously as wrestlers, a diva search winner isn't really the best spokesperson.

But I find the whole storyline to be pretty disgusting, and I don't know why anyone would want to be getting behind Kip's character at this point...

Carolina said...

I personally find it hard to like TNA anyways, so I'm going to try and be as unbiased as possible here. The WWE also did something similar to this with Molly Holly I think it was, when she would interrupt divas prancing around in the ring because she was the women's champion... a true wrestling champion. I do think it was Molly, at least it's Molly in my head cutting these promos, but the overall idea was that she was a heel trying to draw heat by interrupting the segments that WWE likes to put on. I do think there was some truth to it though, as I'm sure Molly, Trish, or any other female with wrestling ability probably didn't like the fact that these divas with zero wrestling talent were being showcased as much, if not more than they were. These kinds of storylines work sometimes, but WWE hardly made it work, and TNA is doing even worse. If they truly want their female wrestlers to be respected, then these storylines are really the wrong way to go. A better way would be to train the women like Christy Hemme more so they could actually earn the respect that they want. I really like your connection with Andy Kaufmann, and I think it'd be best to just leave these kinds of storylines alone... but that's probably wishful thinking, since 30 years later, we're still seeing the same things come up over and over again...

Peter "The Malcontent" Rauch said...

I have only a dim awareness of the events described in this post and the ensuing comments, and it's certainly an interesting idea that Hemme and Kip essentially replayed the Kaufman matches with Kaufman playing the face; the power relations and gender symbolism of female professional wrestlers are complicated enough as is. My info about pro wrestling's current stars tends to come from the advertising, which unsurprisingly leans toward the divas.

I can certainly see a compelling storyline coming from a "legitimate" wrestler attempting an overthrow of the "fake" eye candy regime, but it seems like that would necessitate the WWE pitting its audience against each other. Someone's buying all that diva merchandise, after all, and it seems like it'd be risky to implicate the entire practice as a heel to be defeated by a noble wrestler.

I'm not sure if that made any sense, but there it is.

luistenorio said...

Hemme never won me over when she was in the WWE. Fans probably still don't like her and Kip James is a pretty popular guy, dating back to his days as Badass Billy Gunn. I remember that this kind of story being done in the WWF back in late 1999, when Jeff Jarett got into a feud with Debra, Ms. Kitty (Lawler's ex-wife) and Chyna. Only people had always loved Chyna for being that tough woman who got in the face of men like Steve Austin and Bret Hart. People hated Jarett, because he was always a lame guy that told women what to do. You have to ensure people will react the way you want them to and someone that complains will never be a face. Or the way they complain is by beating down someone.
That said, I have to say I think that people might still see Kip as that guy they loved and still remember him being in DX so it is hard to turn someone heel when what they say is something that is popular in wrestling right now, telling people to suck something. This is especially true with DX having returned in the last year.