6.19.2017

Wrestling Isn't About Endings (AKA Go Carmella)

In the "old days", advertised house show main events would take place prior to a scheduled intermission with the express purpose of promoting the next show in that town. A screwy finish would work up the crowd, then during the break a return match would be announced: "...and tickets are available now!" Pro wrestling has dramatic peaks and valleys, but this entertainment business with no off-season is never about endings; it's about selling the next show.

The 2017 edition of WWE's Money in the Bank event opened with the first ever women's Money in the Bank ladder match - that card placement being the first clue the match itself wouldn't be the last we'd hear from this narrative thread before the program's end. The match was impressive as expected, featuring Becky Lynch taking a back bump on a ladder, Charlotte Flair corkscrewing from the top rope to the outside, and more. Regardless of any kind of finish, the match happened and it did not disappoint. Then, with everyone laid out, awkward escort James Ellsworth ascended a ladder and grabbed the match-winning briefcase for Carmella.

Twitter exploded. And that explosion included tweets from SmackDown Live authority figures Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan - indications presented carefully throughout the rest of the event that the follow-up to this controversy will be the main reason to tune in to their show on the USA Network at 8PM EST this Tuesday. Brock Lesnar lost a match in less than two minutes. Jinder Mahal upset Randy Orton for the world title. Now this. WWE has gotten better at utilizing matters we "smartened-up" fans truly care about to create loads of buzz stretching beyond the hardcore fanbase.



Now, Carmella was my personal pick to win the contract for a  "cash-in" title opportunity (though all options seemed conceivable) as she has been perennial of late but not enjoyed much legitimacy - and I certainly did not foresee her winning in particularly dominant fashion - but I did expect a visual of a woman standing atop a ladder triumphantly wielding her trophy. I would have treasured such an image as would have many others, but I also loved the completely unexpected result we got instead. Last time Carmella made a televised entrance, I lamented how the crowd is always completely silent for her (read: apathetic). I don't foresee this being an issue henceforth. In fact, 'Mella emerged again later in the night for an entertaining cash-in tease during Naomi and Lana's title match, and the crowd appeared in near frenzy. I recall bemusement when Ric Flair helped his daughter win her first WrestleMania match in Houston when many of us desperately wanted to see Sasha Banks holding the new women's belt above her head, but I'd say that's all panned out quite nicely as Charlotte is already at home being mentioned alongside some of the greats.

Female wrestlers are now referred to as "superstars", just like all other talent. The title belts now look just as legitimate. Several have main-evented special events, and even more have done the same on weekly TV. The same women's images have been used to prominently advertise WrestleMania (and the subsequent matches were arguably the bests on their respective cards). Asuka toppled Goldberg's undefeated streak, and she's helping cultivate a new crop of talent in NXT including Peyton Royce and Lacey Evans. Alexa Bliss has recently emerged as one of the most popular stars in the company today, and she's far from alone. There have been tables, cages, cells, and kendo sticks. The women's division has seen many overdue milestones in the past several years thanks to incredible in-ring talent and responsive fans, and that will not stop. The inaugural Mae Young Classic is only one month away. A heel winning a heel-oriented gimmick match in a heelish way that got people talking does not change any of that except to potentially put more eyes on it. If WWE didn't care about women's wrestling, the women would not be the main hook selling this week's SmackDown Live.

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