So, WWE Did an Intergender Spot

The intergender portions of this match don’t really signify anything good, I don’t think
Photo Credit:

Sunday’s Extreme Rules was notable for a couple of things. One, Brock Lesnar cashed in his Money in the Bank contract and became Universal Champion once more. This decision isn’t worth the bandwidth to discuss because it only exposes WWE’s structural rot in that it has to feed a beast out of some misguided idea that he puts money in the McMahon’s bank accounts. People more plugged into that kind of analysis can tell you how wrong that idea is, and the fact that 75 percent of his matches end up being pretty good does not really justify having his incredibly red ass around a normal company. Since WWE is far from normal though, I feel like they deserve each other.

The other notable thing happened a little bit before the cash-in, in the “Winner Take All” main event where real-life partners Seth Rollins and Becky Lynch teamed up to defend their Universal and RAW Women’s Championships against Baron Corbin and Lacey Evans respectively. During that match, Corbin hit Lynch with his finisher, the End of Days. It wasn’t the first time a woman bumped for a man on purpose recently, but any other time a woman has taken a move from a man, the setting has been a bigger competitor like Beth Phoenix, Kharma, or Nia Jax entering the men’s Royal Rumble match. Lynch is more “normal” sized (really though, bigger women ARE normal, just not to WWE’s perceptions), and to see something like that happen to someone who wasn’t taller or bulkier than the average WWE female performer, you’d have to go back before TV-PG. Men have been bumping and taking moves for women just fine, most notably a few weeks prior, when Lynch put Mike Kanellis in the Dis-Arm-Her as a set-up for Maria Kanellis to berate him in the ring. However, in Vince McMahon’s mind, nothing is probably more humiliating than a man being violence’d by a woman. Of course, McMahon would be better served to look up woman-on-man domestic violence statistics or maybe not assume that because a cis man has a dick that he’s not necessarily tougher than a cis woman, but I’ve been banging that drum for a good long time.

Anyway, the End of Days spot was still notable, but if you think it means all bets are off and equality is here and that Lynch and Bayley are about to haul ass and annihilate Lesnar and Kofi Kingston to unify the brand titles, well, I don’t think that’s the case at all. The key was in the commentators’ reactions. They fell all sullen when it happened, as if an able-bodied competitor doing a perfectly legal move to another able-bodied competitor between the bells is something over which to get mortified. Their reaction, and the camera panning to Rollins with a look of disbelief on his face as if someone just told him CrossFit has nothing on jogging, says to me that the spot was not something that signaled Lynch being equal to Rollins or Corbin, but that it was part of WWE’s push of going away from TV-PG to attract more teenagers.

Fans and analysts alike love to say Corbin is a “great” heel because he annoys people, and WWE probably heard those cries and thought, “hey, let’s make him hit a woman because THAT’S heeling, baby.” I mean, yeah, hitting someone like Miss Elizabeth or Sapphire is a heel move because they’re not competitors. Lynch is one, and she closed out WrestleMania for fuck’s sake. Of all the people employed by that company, Lynch as a damsel in distress, being taking a move that is probably not even 75 percent of the big bombs she’s taken at the hands of Jax, is an incredibly tone-deaf decision. If anything, Lynch should have taken that move at the end of a sequence with Corbin, kicked out of it, and moved into her comeback where she tapped his ass with the Dis-Arm-Her. However, WWE has a track record with another piece built to it on Sunday night.

I think people who are looking at this as anything but WWE trying to be edgy are going to be disappointed. While it would be tremendous for WWE to say “hey, gender is a work, so men will wrestle women” would be miraculous, miracles don’t happen with Trump-donating outfits who don’t innovate but glom up trends from elsewhere. Other companies are doing intergender wrestling, sure. Impact Wrestling, for example, is leading the charge on (somewhat?) national television. One would think that WWE could see something like that and ape it for its own audience. That being said, given the trappings around it, I’m pretty sure they just wanted to show to all the teenagers how cool their product is, even though I’m pretty sure a good bit of its desired target audience can see right through it and would think that if they were following it up in good faith, that it would be a whole hell of a lot cooler.

On Optics and Intergender Wrestling

Sami Callihan shouldn’t be wrestling men let alone women
Photo Credit: Mikey Nolan

Impact Wrestling, despite everyone (myself included) following its death rattle certain it was about to kick, held its Slammiversary pay-per-view event last night. The former TNA stopped that spiral long enough that it was able to course-correct and find a niche as a haven for indie wrestlers who want some extra cash and the ability to be seen on a national outlet, maybe not as large as its peak but still big enough that it could have a sustainable following enough that it can stay in some conversation and receive coverage from prominent blogs. So it should follow that the company should get some praise for headlining a somewhat major show with an intergender match, right? Well, about that…

Sami Callihan took on Tessa Blanchard in Slammiversary’s main event. Now, Blanchard is fine, a prominent wrestler who is good and who has a famous last name, nothing wrong with her. If you want to know why last night’s main event was, in a word, bad, it all has to do with Callihan, who continues to wrestle while domestic abuse allegations remain on his ledger with no answer. The dirtiest secret in wrestling is that Callihan once dated a mainstay in the Philly deathmatch scene, a regular in Combat Zone Wrestling no less. She levied the accusations against Callihan, and do you know what happened next? He got signed to WWE to fuck around and be Solomon Crowe for a spell. To say he didn’t answer to those accusations would be an understatement, because unlike Rich Swann, who got fired from WWE when news of him publicly attacking his now-wife Su Yung broke, I’m not even sure Callihan has faced a word of heat from it.

It should go without saying that Callihan doesn’t deserve to be in wrestling, even if wrestling, like society at large, treats domestic violence like a joke. It further clouds the issue of intergender wrestling, of which critics STILL claim is pantomime of DV in a wrestling ring. The main difference between portraying a man and a woman fighting as a story and the act of DV is that one involves consent of both parties before entering into the arena of combat. Still, regardless of whether a man wrestling a woman is morally right no matter what the reason as long as it is staged like a real fight and not to mimic a situation of DV, the ground you stand upon cannot be stable if you allow someone with accusations of DV against him participate in wrestling someone of a different gender.

Optics are still an important thing to care about. Granted, looking like you do the right thing means nothing when you don’t do the right thing. Just look at WWE. Still, intergender wrestling is something you want to get 100 percent right. Let’s face it. Even if you do get it completely correct, some critics won’t be happy, and they’ll continue to stir the pot. Still, it helps when you do things by the book. Allowing an unrepentant abuser get free reign to wrestle a woman is not doing things by the book. Again, Callihan should be in Cell Block Six, not at Slammiversary at this point. But if he has to be on the roster, can he at least be kept away from wrestling women? Like, that should be a no-brainer.

Then again, look at Impact’s roster at this point. Not only do they employ Callihan and Swann, but they also signed Michael Elgin after New Japan Pro Wrestling decided it had enough of his shit. Elgin, for those who don’t remember, covered for a student of his who was accused of rape, and then it came out that he was abusive to that victim on top of everything else. Impact Wrestling can ditch the name “TNA” and clean up its in-ring reputation all it wants; however, there’s a reason why people who continue not to trust that company because they can’t remove the letters TNA from their soul continue to be justified.

Gender and Wrestling

Still Life with Apricots and Pears cannot be defined by the gender binary
Photo Credit: @zackmonday

For millennia, people have distilled gender down to the genitals they’re born with. Despite this, people have known that they’re trans for most of the run of human history. Some cultures have even embraced that fact, and some have accepted that maybe two genders is a wild underestimation for how many really exist. Western culture hasn’t seemed to pay much attention to trans folks despite their existence until June 28, 1969, when Black trans women started a riot after police raided the Stonewall Inn, a noted haven for LGBTQ+ folks. Since then, the cultural right has done its best discriminate, mock, alienate, and marginalize anyone who says they’re a different gender than what their sexual reproduction organs say they are. Despite the fact that research has shown that gender is more of a spectrum and less of a binary.

Wrestling more or less has fallen in line with the cultural right regarding trans people. It wasn’t until Yosuke♥Santa Maria started wrestling that the industry had an out trans person wrestling. ASUKA and Nyla Rose represent trans community well, but they compete in intergender-friendly promotions for the former and the latter in All Elite Wrestling’s women’s division in accordance with the gender they identify as. What of wrestlers who are out as non-binary though? Chikara has Still Life with Apricots and Pears. The current Young Lions Cup Champion, they are the first wrestler I know of to eschew the gender binary, whether trans or cis. Obviously, Chikara is a gender-inclusive promotion. Kimber Lee has held the Grand Championship, and the company has a rich history of women competing alongside men with Solo Darling, Sara del Rey, Daizee Haze, Blanche Babish, and Meiko Satomura among others. Still Life is at home in Chikara with no problems. However, what is going to happen when they blow up and start getting bookings in other companies?

What if Still Life makes it to, say, AEW? They’re not a man, and they’re certainly not a woman. What division would they compete in? Given that Tony Khan has said this:

…it is unknown. To force someone like Still Life into the men’s division because of the equipment they were born with is discrimination, plain and simple. The same is if they’re put into the women’s division because the people with billions of dollars and the ability to insulate themselves from the world and the people making pleas to them don’t know the situations and issues they are dabbling in.

When people say they’re disgusted by intergender wrestler, not only are they reinforcing the sexist ideals that society has foisted upon its people with unnecessarily rigid gender roles, they are ignoring the fact that intergender wrestling has always happened. The matchmakers were just ignorant of the fact that the people they were booking were not the gender that society dictated they’d be by their genitals. I will bet every dollar I have that promotions across the width and breadth of history of pro wrestling have had trans and non-binary people on their roster. It’s just those people were either not out of the closet, or they had feelings of gender dysphoria and didn’t really think to associate them with the fact that they might not be men (or women if you’re talking about the women’s divisions Mildred Burke and Mae Young wrestled in).

For AEW to discount that possibility is insanely tone-deaf given its message of inclusion. Khan and The Elite do deserve credit for hiring across the LGBTQ+ community with Rose and Sonny Kiss on the roster. But you can’t just give token nods. You have to go all the way. Brushing off man vs. woman confrontations as domestic violence is incredibly ignorant, but also wrong in that domestic violence happens regardless of gender. Woman-on-man violence, man-on-man, woman-on-woman, non-binary, all combinations, it’s all possible, and all of it is gross. As long as the matches are scripted in a way that tells a story without resorting to DV tropes, people will be able to sniff-test it, at least people operating in good faith.

So obfuscating the fact that wrestlers are of all genders, as infinite as the spectrum is, are being damaged by this arbitrary enforcement of a gender binary by arguing in bad faith about DV feels like business as usual for billionaires money-fighting. It’s entirely possible Khan is using his own preferences as a smokescreen because Turner doesn’t want intergender wrestling on its airwaves, but again, Khan has billions. Money assuages a lot of concerns. It’s just people with money are concerned with it instead of people. It just shows that being better than WWE is not enough, especially since that goal is such a low, low bar to clear.

Gender is more than a binary, whether you like it or not. Wrestlers like Still Life cannot be put in a box just because they have the physiological makeup of someone you think is a man. The sooner wrestling companies and fans realize this and put away their transphobic qualms about what a person can be, the better everyone will be.

Twitter Request Line, Vol. 265

Vince is shook
Photo Credit:

It’s Twitter Request Line time, everyone! I take to Twitter to get questions about issues in wrestling, past and present, and answer them on here because 280 characters can’t restrain me, fool! If you don’t know already, follow me @tholzerman, and wait for the call on Wednesday to ask your questions. Hash-tag your questions #TweetBag, and look for the bag to drop Thursday afternoon (most of the time). Without further ado, here are your questions and my answers:

Comparing the period now to back when Ted Turner bought Jim Crockett Promotions and consolidated it with other territories in the South to create World Championship Wrestling, yes, he is. When Turner called him to say he was in the ‘rasslin business, McMahon’s reply told me everything I needed to know about his attitude towards WCW then. Now, back when Nitro had surpassed RAW in the ratings and was poaching all of his old guard stars, he was far more threatened than he feels now about AEW. But I think it’s part McMahon learning a lesson and part him realizing he’s not a wrestling promoter, but a capitalist, and capitalism means squashing anything that threatens you, baby.

Far be it from me to defend Dave Meltzer, because he’s a misogynist creep who likes to gladhand with The Boys rather than report on what’s important. That being said, I don’t think he ever fully embraced Roman Reigns cancer denialism. He floated the idea that it could have been a work, because he wouldn’t put it past McMahon to push the limits of storytelling in risque fashion. Now, is even mentioning the possibility out loud tasteless? When dealing with someone like McMahon, probably not. Did Meltzer get too carried away with it to the point where he may have given the impression that he believed it? I have no idea, because I don’t listen to WON Radio. People who do listen said he did, which could be the case. Meltzer is a lot of things, but articulate in his ideas is probably not one of them. But in any regard, if Meltzer was attacking anyone, it was McMahon for even thinking about a crazy idea such as that.

Welcome to Air Frying With Ya Boy, TH. The air fryer is such a new tool, but one that is incredibly useful for replicating the great texture you get from frying without all the grease. People need to know what they can and cannot do with one of those bad boys, so why not let it be me, baby.

I’m going with five, just because a lot of those pay-per-views have been just filler that I can’t judge outside of the tippy-top.

5. In Your House: Canadian Stampede – The very definition of “all-killer, no-filler,” the worst match on this show was an insanely fun brawl between Triple H and Mankind that leaked over after its finish. Plus, what else can be said about the Great Sasuke/TAKA Michinoku and the ten-main main event matches?

4. WrestleMania X-7 – This was the first time I really thought of WrestleMania being THE marquee show of the year, which is funny because it was the first time it ran when WWE was the unquestioned big dog in American wrestling. I’m in the minority of thinking that the main event finish was outstanding from an artistic standpoint, but regardless, it capped a stellar match. Plus you had the best Streak match ever, and the prime comic relief gimmick battle royale.

3. Extreme Rules 2012 – The weirdest great show ever featured four Match of the Year candidates (Kane/Randy Orton [for real], Daniel Bryan/Sheamus, CM Punk/Chris Jericho, John Cena/Brock Lesnar) peppered with just odd shit interstitially. Like, it had a Ryback squash, the Funkasaurus, and the most unintentionally hilarious tables match finish ever with The Big Show losing after being knocked off the apron and stepping through a table. But those four matches, especially the Bryan/Sheamus and Cena/Lesnar ones, just are ruthless in how good they are.

2. Chikara High Noon – IT was on pay-per-view (well, iPPV), so it counts. I was there live, and the energy was off the charts insane. From the Jigsaw/El Generico match on the preshow all the way through the emotional main event, it was the best way for Chikara to debut with a its shot at live national broadcast. You have to seek out that main event, Eddie Kingston vs. Mike Quackenbush. Even if you know nothing about Chikara going in, you will feel something.

1. WrestleMania XXX – Was it carried by the Daniel Bryan stuff and the shock of the Streak ending? Maybe. But it also featured the biggest thing Cesaro ever got to achieve. The Shield womping on corporate phonies was majorly satisfying. And you can’t discount the fact that Bryan vs. Triple H was one of the best Mania matches ever, and that the finish of the show and the scene with the confetti raining down in the Superdome wasn’t the best ending ever.

Joke’s on you, the only band I’ve listened to on that list so far is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Actually, no, not a joke, thank you for the recommendations, I will be looking out for those other three albums when they drop.

As for King Gizzard, they’re such a weird band in that they have this titanic output, but it’s a sea of uneven albums, but the best ones are among the best albums ever. Paper Mache Dream Balloon, Nonagon Infinity, and Murder of the Universe all stand against any other band’s best three albums, but then you get stuff like Sketches of Brunswick East or the latest Fishing for Fishies, which are good, but maybe are too ambitious or just flat out uneven. I guess that’s what makes them such an exciting band; you never know what you’re going to get. Kudos to them for doing another year with multiple albums though.

Protected user @earthdog asks:

Summer Time Question: What are your top 5 Roller Coasters?

I haven’t been on a rollercoaster in a long time, partially because I’m a fatty, and partially because the kids haven’t been old enough to really enjoy theme parks. That being said, I like both style of rollercoaster:

  • Rickety, wooden coaster with cart-style cars
  • Sleek, steel coaster that has you seated suspension-style

Of the former, I liked the one at Dorney Park. I’m not sure what it was called or if it’s still there, but it was good. Of the latter, King Da Ka at Six Flags: New Jersey was pretty cool. Sorry I couldn’t give you five; maybe ask me in a few years?

No debate can be enjoyable, even if everyone engages in good faith. The human condition dictates that disagreement comes with being heated. You will get mad. And you will not enjoy it. The only time a debate happens in anything, wrestling or otherwise, is when two dorks get together, know what they’re going to say beforehand, and then pantomime a real debate, all the while claiming that it’s great to talk to someone you disagree with, which is bullshit.

I think Impact is worse off than most marquee indie promotions. I mean, it’s still good that they’re using their somewhat national television program to further the idea that gender is a work and that wrestlers wrestle wrestlers. But I’m not sure of anyone that really covers Impact outside of like one site that I follow. It’s so weird; once they got some semblance of quality underneath them, they disappeared.

I thought you were old enough to remember the Nacho Man and the Huckster, or when ECW “invaded” RAW and Vince McMahon talked about how the Blue World Order wasn’t to be confused with the clothing line of the “New World Order.” When WWE was behind WCW in ratings, they took so many potshots at them. It’s the MO of the lagging company, trying to get ahead by lobbing bombs. Anyway, I don’t think anything cheapens the WWE product as much as they do themselves. It’s been that way for years now, that they just throw whatever against the wall and do whatever an insane septuagenarian who is distracted with his Respect the Troops Football League thinks is good in his fleeting moments between sundowning. If anything, you’d think you’d want to acknowledge your competition, even if you don’t speak of them highly. In the era of social media, you’d look like a goddamn fool if you ignored the greater world around you.

No, but he was an important piece. Imagine if you will Bryce Harper tearing his ACL and going out for the year. The Phillies offense loses a huge piece of the puzzle. Rhys Hoskins no longer has protection in the lineup unless JT Realmuto started hitting on pace of a career year. You lose outfield defense. He may have started not as hot out of the gate, but I guarantee you the Phillies didn’t promise all that money to Harper because they were feeling magnanimous. Now, McCutchen WAS important. He was a spark at the top of the lineup. However, you can count on Jean Segura or Scott Kingery to replace Cutch more reliably than you could count on them to replace Harper.

If Ospreay were just a third-rate high flyer with a far too high opinion of himself and an even worse proclivity to let you know that opinion, he wouldn’t be worth the attention. However, among the nasty shit he’s done…

So yeah, in other words, he’s a piece of shit. That’s what his deal is.

While on a Disney cruise, the family and I would go up to the ninth deck where the pool was and relax. Because it’s a cruise, well, you eat when you get hungry, or even when you just feel like it, because that’s how vacations like that go. Every day at 4 PM, I would go to the snack stand where they actually had a gyro cone on a spit, and I would get my 4 O’Clock Gyro. This happened every day I was up on that deck for both cruises I took on the Disney Magic. It was delightful, and it was worth telling you about it even though now about half my readers are probably building a guillotine with my measurements.

It’s a simple explanation; the business was founded by greedy carnies. By and large, those carnies still run the business today. Even a guy like Mike Quackenbush, who runs a tight ship in terms of his artistry in Chikara, would rather send someone away than pay them market value, even if that person was integral to a story. I don’t expect the people whose goal in life is to make money to really get the nuances of delicate material. Of course, that may change now that the “theater kids” are infiltrating, and society itself is becoming more and more accepting to the proposition of marginalized people being people and not punchlines. However, I still feel like that change will be glacial, because taking the carny out of wrestling feels like something that will be difficult to undertake.

Follow-Up: Eli Drake Got Fired from Impact

He gone
Photo Credit:

Last week, I wrote about how Eli Drake of Impact Wrestling fame had a very public meltdown over intergender wrestling. As it turns out, the tweets were the smoke behind a behind-the-scenes fire that involved Drake getting into a tiff with management because they wanted him to wrestle Tessa Blanchard. The disagreement got so heated that Impact didn’t even wait until Drake’s contract let up at the end of next month to fire him. Drake is now a free agent, although given he had a meltdown in the past over Kevin Owens’ push in NXT and WWE, he may not be welcome at the Performance Center. Maybe Ring of Honor will give him a shot. I mean, they signed the Beautiful People and the Enzo Amore/Colin Cassady tag team, so their standards have become abysmal.

One should always be careful in taking management’s side in these sorts of things, because especially in non-union wrestling, the gradient of power is so off-kilter that most of the time (key phrase here, most of the time), confrontations like these that end in wrestler termination are incredibly unjust. That being said, am I obligated to go to bat for someone on the business end of a seemingly unjust firing when the reason he was mad at management was rooted in putrid sexism? Situations like these are where I just sit out, because while I’m not going to defend a company that has fired people for having cancer and had institutional sexual harassment as a feature not a bug over the years, I would rather cannonball into a vat of sulfuric acid than defend a dude who didn’t wanna wrestle a woman because he thought it was beneath him.

Intergender wrestling is one of those things people need to get over in a big way, because all the talk about equality in wrestling is bullshit until women get the same opportunities as men. They’re not coming to replace men. They only want to join them. The only way you should fear being “replaced” is if you suck anyway. Does Eli Drake suck? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you because I haven’t really watched him work since he was Shaun Ricker working on Championship Wrestling from Hollywood. That being said, maybe he’s telling on himself and his own insecurities if he thinks that wrestling someone like Blanchard or Jordynne Grace would “expose” something. Hint, it wouldn’t be the business.

Shut Up, Meatheads

Eli Drake is just so tiring, man
Photo Credit:

Honestly, I’ve written so goddamn much about intergender wrestling for such a long time on this blog that when idiots like Eli Drake, the only wrestler to get owned harder by Kevin Owens than Alex Riley, start spouting off about how it’s “unrealistic,” it should roll off my back. Yet, something about how reductive these arguments still are nowadays triggers my anger reflex.

I don’t know if this is better or worse than the concern trolling “but DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS” complaints. I mean, for real, the realism argument went out the window the first time someone did an Irish whip. And that’s not even taking into account that height and weight don’t automatically equal a victory in a fight. Pretend for a second though that somehow Jordynne Grace’s lack of height and weight meant she “realistically” couldn’t defeat a male competitor larger than her. The fact that Undertaker, a literal zombie who also knows MMA, is one of the most over wrestlers in history means that realism doesn’t automatically equal “casual fan interest.”

At least Drake, whose ability as a top guy in wrestling despite being more vanilla than the white third of a Neapolitan ice cream gallon requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than any woman wrestling a man could ever, didn’t totally slag women’s wrestlers on the whole. Gunner Miller, former Scenic City Invitational Tournament winner who has decided to change his Twitter gimmick to CTE-addled shit-for-brains, thinks intergender wrestling is good for the total wrong reasons:

I wanna know what women’s wrestling this dude has been watching. I mean, even forgetting the heyday of the All Japan Women’s division in the ’90s even existed, you can look at, at random, Sara del Rey’s dalliances in Absolute Intense Wrestling vs. Mickie Knuckles and Hailey Hatred as examples of matches that went harder than a whole lot of man vs. man matches ever could. Or hey, maybe look at modern-day WWE, where Ronda Rousey, Asuka, and the Four Horsewomen put on clinics every time they get the chance. Nothing about his shitty sexism is even rooted in reality.

I’ve gotten to the point where shitty arguments such as these just fall on my shoulders like a ton of bricks everytime they get made. Why are the meathead dorks getting more and more oppressive? It’s because they’re fading like dinosaurs. I see people lament wrestling being “taken over by theater kids” like the people currently occupying it are somehow worthy of being a protected class. Wrestling was founded by carny scum, is mostly worked by tryhard muscleheads with a worse hard-on for the “unwritten rules” than even the most overbearing baseball players, and the fans by and large are insular and combative. Why not let some weird-ass theater kids in to try and class up the fucking place a bit? I mean, the drawback is it’s not like all theater kids have the best politics either, but I mean, the inclusive and boundless mindset they bring is better than adhering to a bunch of rigid bullshit heteronormative, patriarchal rules that make almost no sense.

Of course, it kinda mirrors real life, as White nationalists who don’t want to be “replaced” come out of the woodwork to defend worldwide conservative movements, and hey, some of those people overlap the idiot conservative dorks who hate the idea of female participation in this grand thing everyone loves in spite of itself. Hi SHLAK! The thing to do is not to make everyone from the old school feel unwelcome, but make the ones with that mentality who are unwilling to move forward and bring in new ideas and new fans feel unwelcome. People like Eli Drake and Gunner Miller shouldn’t be the gatekeepers; they should be the smelly hobos on the outside looking in who lament that “goddamn PC bullshit” ruined a business that they were wholly unprepared to adapt to.