Many of us take great pleasure in bad television. Sure, we all claim to our friends that we have nothing but award-winning programs on our DVR, shows that broaden our minds, move us deeply and inspire us to advance society. That’s all crap. “Maury” and his paternity test shows are on for a reason.
For me, WWE is such a guilty pleasure. I’ve been watching “Monday Night Raw” and “Smackdown Live” for years. I know what I’m watching. Telling me I’m wasting time watching a fake outcome is like me telling a girl at the theater “You know there really isn’t a phantom of the opera, right?” We know. We’re watching to be entertained.
I can even watch when WWE makes attempts at a social conscience. If WWE wants to switch its female performers from Playboy models in R-rated matches to athletic women with regular storylines, I don’t have an issue with that.
Except for this week’s “Hell in a Cell” pay-per-view. I do have a problem with that. Sunday, in the headlining match, Charlotte Flair defeated Sasha Banks to win the WWE Women’s Championship inside a giant enclosed steel cage. It was called “historic,” “epic” and “main-event worthy.” It was called taking women’s athleticism to the next level.
It was too much.
I realize this could make me look incredibly old-fashioned. I take no pleasure in watching women do violent things. And Hell in a Cell is billed as one of WWE’s most violent matches. The bigger the stunt, the more risky the outcome. You can’t fake some of those moves in a “Cell” match being incredibly painful.
Injuries are enough of a risk in regular matches. Every year, the WWE inducts legends into a Hall of Fame. Many of the inductees are crippled.
I just can’t wrap my brain or my conscience around the idea of women intentionally hurting each other in a steel cage for my entertainment.
Charlotte, who many of you know is the daughter of wrestling legend Ric Flair, has elevated her game so much in the last year to where she is rightfully being considered among the all-time greats in women’s wrestling. She and Banks have put on some highly skilled matches in the last year that do, in fact, make it easier to forget the somewhat sleazy women’s matches from the 1990s.
So this isn’t a question of their abilities. Regular wrestling matches with deft storytelling is a treat. They excel at that.
But Charlotte power-bombing Banks through the announcers’ table? I think that needs to be left to the men. I don’t think that’s chauvinistic.
Put it this way: On every WWE DVD, the company runs a disclaimer that tells viewers that bodies have been broken, careers ended in an instant, and that despite it being just entertainment, the injuries and hazards are real. So put a feminine pronoun in front of that. Her body was broken. Her career ended in an instant. For your entertainment, her injuries are real.
Kinda makes me feel a little uneasy.
The fact that it’s woman-to-woman violence doesn’t lessen that vibe.
Wrestling fans adore Mick Foley, who became a legend for his stunts in Hell in a Cell. His performances were so startling other wrestlers genuinely feared for him. He survived his Hell in a Cell matches. But you can argue the guy hasn’t been able to walk right for at least 15 years.
So the idea that Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks are tempting that fate? Because pro wrestlers love to up the ante for a crowd pop?
I’ll pass on watching.
Because I don’t want to see Charlotte or Sasha Banks enter the WWE Hall of Fame in a wheelchair later.