Opinion

Wednesday Cook Wednesday: Wrestling Is Bliss

When you write multiple columns for multiple places about the same form of entertainment, it saves time to develop certain talking points that you can repeat over and over again in slightly different ways to avoid contradicting yourself while still bringing something to the table. The stronger or the hotter the take, the better. It’s why pundits in news & sports have gone further in certain directions over the past several years. When you’re putting things over, or putting things down, it’s best to speak in extremes to get your point across.

The state of women’s wrestling is so good in WWE right now compared to the past that it’s easy to get caught up in extremes. I was writing about the Bayley vs. Alexa Bliss Payback match for 411’s Payback Preview, and while writing about how great Alexa is, I came to the conclusion that there had never been a woman in pro wrestling as natural on the microphone as she is. In the minute or so I took to think about it, I couldn’t think of anybody of Alexa’s gender that immediately jumped into wrestling and was good at the spoken word part of it as she is. Take a look at her Coronation Ceremony from Monday night:

We’ve seen countless examples of this type of segment, but Alexa is so good at putting down her opponents, building them up when she needs to, begging off when she needs to, and crossing the line at just the right time so Bayley can be justified in attacking her. WWE babyfaces sometimes come off as unlikeable because they over-react to setbacks and seem like sore losers, but when somebody like Alexa is on the other side, it’s appropriate.

It’s not so much that the babyfaces are bad people, it’s that the heels aren’t bad enough. Alexa is. The character she’s developed since arriving on the main roster has made her into one of the top stars of the women’s side of things, which in 2017 means she’s one of the top stars in WWE.

How does she compare with other women in the history of wrestling? There are two off the top of my head that stand out from the rest of the pack as far as charisma & promo ability go. One is Sherri Martel.

Sensational Sherri was so effective as a talker that she ended up in a managerial role, which was a good thing at the time as women’s wrestling was dormant in North America. Most will agree that she was the most effective female manager in the history of pro wrestling. Women like Missy Hyatt & Madusa were also effective on the microphone, but they were a step below Sherri in my opinion. Fabulous Moolah wasn’t a terrible talker, but she wasn’t great either. Of all the women that came along pre-1990, Sherri was the most talented on the microphone.

The other woman pre-Diva Era that stands out to me is Sunny.

Not only did Sunny have the looks going for her, she was also tremendous as an on-air personality. Unlike most of the women of her era that were just there for eye candy and didn’t bring a whole lot else to the table, Sunny could cut an effective promo and make people care about the situations she was involved in. From a critical perspective, he was a cut above the Sables & Marlenas in her era because of her speaking ability. I can’t rate her on the same level as Alexa, simply because she couldn’t back it up in the ring and her men usually couldn’t either.

Times were different in the late 1990s. Let’s face it, men were a lot more chauvinistic in those days. Sexism wasn’t as frowned upon then as it is now. It hasn’t gone away, and there’s still a good share of objectification focused on women in the wrestling business, but in the 1990s into the 2000s that was how women were viewed by a solid majority of wrestling fans. Sunny & women like Trish Stratus & Lita would run into problems getting over as heels because the sex-crazed fans would be more interested in their looks than whatever they were talking about.

With that in mind, it’s tough to compare women like Trish or Lita to Alexa. I think we can say that they weren’t as natural at it. Trish’s early promos were pretty rough to watch, though she did develop into a competent talker. Lita falls into the same category. They didn’t have the luxury of learning at the Performance Center like Alexa and her peers do, so maybe it isn’t the fairest of comparisons. Some are comparing Alexa to Trish’s heel act in the mid-2000s, and I can see it.

Stephanie McMahon & Vickie Guerrero were both very solid talkers, but once again we’re talking about people that didn’t get off to the best of starts. Their training was watching their family do it, and I think we can all agree that watching doesn’t exactly translate into doing. You need the reps, and once Stephanie & Vickie got them they were effective. But not as natural as Alexa Bliss.

OK, now I’ve thought of somebody in a similar class…

AJ Lee was a cut above in her era. I can’t speak to her promos in the indies, but she was more natural than anybody around during her time. Some, including AJ herself, like to compare her more to Bayley & her persona, but I see a lot of AJ in Alexa Bliss. What they might lack in physical size they make up for by having over-sized personalities.

How about today’s performers? Part of Alexa’s success, I feel, has been her comparison to the Four Horsewomen of NXT that were going to change the business. She is driven to prove that she is better than these women, and so far she has. She’s run through Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks & Bayley in the ring and her character is the perfect contrast to their popularity with fans. However, there is one that she hasn’t run into yet.

The best talent of the Horsewomen on the mike and in the ring is Charlotte. I love the fact that Charlotte & Alexa have been on separate shows ever since the split happened. When they finally end up on the same brand and feud with each other, it’s going to be a pretty big deal.

So after this brief trip through women’s wrestling history, I’ve arrived at the following conclusion: My take on Alexa Bliss is accurate. She is among the best female talkers in WWE history and is the most natural at it. People can deny it, but from where I sit as somebody that’s probably spent too much time watching this stuff over the years, they are wrong. If Alexa keeps improving at this rate, we can get rid of that pesky “female” qualifier and say she’s among the best, period. She is right now, that’s for sure.

It’s Alexa Bliss’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

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