It was around this time in 2010 that I came up with an idea that would forever change the course of my writing career.
To be honest, most of my ideas aren’t very original. I have a knack for taking existing ideas and reapplying them to other genres. Just last month I debuted a sports column where I would put people that annoyed me for one reason or another on a list. Maybe I would have thought of it without it being a wrestling gimmick…but probably not. Some might call it “stealing”. I call it imitation, which is the sincerest form of flattery.
It was in a similar vein that I decided that pro wrestling could use its own Hot 100 list. You might recall magazines being a slightly bigger deal several years ago, and Maxim was a favorite of the sex-obsessed young male market, which I was part of. The Hot 100 was their top-selling issue, and it was pretty cool and kinda legit before they started ranking Stephen Colbert and Marge Simpson to be funny.
So why not take it to wrestling? I thought it would be a fun thing to do that wouldn’t take too much effort and would be great to do around my birthday so I could get out of scanning the rasslin sites for the fake news. I quickly figured out that the idea it wouldn’t be hard work was pretty laughable. You think you can just rank people at random numbers and call it a day, but then you start taking it seriously. After all, it has your name on it. Even if it is a silly list.
I came up with a list and put it in the 6.2.10 edition of News From Cook’s Corner. It was a disaster. For one thing, I listed it from 1 to 100. Not really sure what I was thinking on that one, as everybody knows that there’s no reason to count anything down in that order. For another thing, there was no explanation offered for who most of the people were. I didn’t know who a lot of these people were before making the list, so I don’t know why I expected my readers to. I still posted it because I had to post something.
Much to my surprise, it got over. And 411 wanted more. So it was back in 2011 and made a yearly appearance through 2015. The longer I did it, the longer the process got. I’d make a preliminary list months in advance, get a “final” list done about a month or so before the column dropped, and switch things around several times after that. Looking back, I’m surprised I put that much work into anything.
Was it worth it?
In some ways, yes. Without naming names, I did get introduced to people that made the list. Some of them were pretty great folks and remain among my contacts to this day. Some of the women took their inclusion in the Hot 100 as the compliment it was intended to be. Some didn’t, but they seemed to be in the minority, at least among the people that bothered to comment on it. It also achieved my original goal of getting hits. The columns did very well in that category and helped raise my profile higher than it had been before.
The problem with getting a lot of response is that sometimes a lot of it isn’t going to be what one would categorize as good response. The comment threads on the Hot 100 got bigger by the year as the feature gained popularity. They also got tougher to read by the year. People have opinions when it comes to this kind of thing. If you don’t agree with their opinion, they’ll let you know about it. It was one thing if they thought I had unjustly under-ranked whoever their favorite was. I never had any problem with that. The problems came when people would complain about whoever I ranked at number one. Or if I ranked somebody they didn’t like too high for their taste.
I didn’t like the fact that the feature generated that kind of feedback. My goal was to celebrate the women of wrestling. Not drag them down and demean them. Many of the readers were only interested in negativity and complaining about who was too high and who was too low.
But at the same time, I should have seen it coming. Producing a list like that was certain to create disagreement. Most of it was likely going to be negative. My thought at the time that people should be positive was naive. Assuming that the product would get a positive, non-controversial response was a bit foolish on my part.
As the years passed and I somewhat mellowed & matured, I got to a place where I no longer felt comfortable doing the list. The negatives outweighed the positives. It also helped that pro wrestling got to a place where women played more of a featured role. The Raw & SmackDown Women’s Divisions aren’t perfect, but they’re worlds better than what we were getting out of the WWE Divas in 2010. The performers are better, the stories are better, it’s something that most of us never really expected to see in North America. Women being taken seriously on a wrestling show.
It also seemed like wrestling fans were getting to a place where things like the Hot 100 weren’t acceptable. I might be wrong on this one, as just last week I saw a link to an article from a widely-read website titled “15 WWE Women Who Aren’t As Hot As People Claim”. Once upon a time I probably would have read it and commented on it for a podcast or some such thing.
Now? I shake my head.
The days of me ranking beautiful women are over. As much as I enjoy the beauty of the female form, I can’t bring myself to base my entire writing career around it now. I can’t be The Hot 100 Guy. It’s not where I’m at now. I’m sure there’s still a market for that kind of thing, and more power to whoever wants to play to it, but it’s not my bag.
All of the ladies are #1 as far as I’m concerned.
Especially Alexa Bliss.