The final segment of "Raw" Dec. 18 saw commissioner Stephanie McMahon deliver the major news that the first women's Royal Rumble match will take place at the "Royal Rumble" pay-per-view event Jan. 28.
I loved the news, hated the segment.
The all-female Royal Rumble match is one of the final pieces to achieving gender equality in WWE in regard to specialty matches that previously have been exclusive to male wrestlers. Throughout the past 14 months, WWE has broken new ground by presenting a women's Hell in a Cell Match, Money in the Bank Ladder Match and Iron Man Match (NXT actually had a women's Iron Man match in 2015). In addition, women's matches have main-evented "Raw" and "SmackDown Live" and even a pay-per-view.
Based on my time on the WWE creative team from 2011-2014, I never would've believed female wrestlers in WWE would ever be referred to as "superstars" (just as the men are) instead of "divas," much less any of the aforementioned glass-ceiling-shattering developments taking place.
I can still recall the times when I or one of my fellow writers would pitch an idea for the women that would showcase their wrestling ability and athleticism, and WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon would shoot it down by saying, "Our fans don't want to see the girls fight like the guys." Kudos to Vince for eventually realizing he was wrong about that and changing the way the women's divisions are booked.
However, as happy as I am about the women getting their own Royal Rumble match, it was, as the saying goes, the right message, wrong messenger. It seemed like the segment was designed to get Stephanie McMahon over more than any of the women wrestlers who were in the ring with her.
After the six-woman tag match between Absolution (Paige, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville) and Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James deteriorated into a free-for-all that included the entire "Raw" women's roster, Stephanie's music hit and everyone immediately stopped fighting to turn to the entrance ramp.
As if that visual wasn't enough to get the message across, commentator Corey Graves gushed, "When your last name is McMahon, you command a certain level of respect." And speaking of visuals, Stephanie, decked out in a leather dress and heels (what business executive dresses like that?) towered over almost all of the women. It drove home the point that she is a larger-than-life figure and the real star, while the actual wrestlers are merely her supporting players.
Stephanie is one of the most unlikable heel characters in WWE, so she was an odd choice to announce the women's Royal Rumble match in the first place, and she was so overbearing in doing so that she almost made me wish the crowd had booed the announcement. The scene reminded me of when the "women's revolution" began in WWE in 2015 and Stephanie was portrayed as the one responsible for it.
It made matters worse when all of the women went from beating the hell out of each other one minute to doing a "Yes!" chant with Stephanie in a show of solidarity and sisterhood the next. One of the main aspects of a Royal Rumble match is that there are no friends, just foes. But that Stephanie, she's a uniter not a divider, don't you know. Ugh.
I'm not sure what was more ludicrous: the babyface women being so respectful of the despicable Stephanie and almost awestruck in her presence, or rogue heel faction Absolution smiling and giddily chanting along with the very women they'd been attacking for weeks.
I'd have rather seen Absolution, the anomalies in the "Raw" women's division, refuse to participate in the "Kumbaya" moment by cutting a heel promo about how the Royal Rumble match would never be happening if not for Paige starting the women's revolution.
Then that could've led to the brawl resuming and the show ending hot with a preview of what the Rumble match will be like. This time, the women who aren't in Absolution would fight each other in addition to fighting Absolution to illustrate the "every woman for themselves" element of the Rumble match.
However, if the powers that be were insistent on ending the show on a warm and fuzzy note rather than a fight, it would've worked much better if babyface authority figure Kurt Angle had made the Rumble announcement and then immediately removed himself from the scene to put the spotlight solely on the women.
Better yet, WWE could've saved the announcement for "SmackDown Live" and had the beloved and understated Daniel Bryan deliver the news. That way, the show-closing "Yes!" chant would've felt less contrived.
Not to mention the fact that the women wrestlers wouldn't have been overshadowed by a scenery-chewing woman in a leather dress and heels.