I’ve been an on again/off again fan of WWE programming since middle school but even when I’m not actively watching the most violent soap opera’s weekly shenanigans, I still enjoy playing one of the many WWE-branded games I have on my shelf. Out of all of them my favorite remains Smackdown vs. Raw 2007. Yeah, future installments featured improvements to the controls, graphics and roster but this was the last one produced with my favorite wrestler before the ultimate in sexism slithered its way into an already brimming with sexism series.
And I’m not talking about the women’s attire or slinky walk up to the ring; have you seen Finn Balor’s act? In this one way, the sexes truly are treated as equals.
Beginning with Smackdown vs. Raw 2010, WWE decided that Divas (as female wrestlers were referred to until recently) couldn’t go toe-to-toe with the (male) superstars. The same year that women were allowed in more than normal-type matches (though were still banned from certain specialty ones) beside the previously retired “Fulfill Your Fantasy” match (seriously; a match were you strip the other woman to her underwear in the middle of a freaking pillow fight) they were no longer allowed to fight any of the men. There’s no intergender matches on the weekly shows they claimed as the reason for the restriction but many fans, me included, soon came to believe something else was to blame: rampant sexism.
Finn Balor. Swoon-worthy, no?
Since the ban was put in place, there have been women against men: Lita kicked Heath Slater’s ass at Raw 1000 and Karma (2012) and Beth Phoenix (2010) each competed in a Royal Rumble – with the former doing so the same year the games stopped men vs. women matches.
Whether you play Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Soul Calibur, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Marvel vs. Capcom or any of the other fighting titles ever freaking released with a mixed roster, there are no rules against kicking the shit out og some over-steroided macho man with a lithe and limber lady. It might seem a bit unrealistic but these kinds of games fall nicely into the fantasy genre so realism isn’t the highest priority so why should WWE games pretend they’re any different?
No babies for you. Or baby-making.
When you boot up your console of choice, you’re supposed to be the one in control. If I want Lita to layeth the smackdown on The Rock, I shouldn’t be told no. I don’t expect to see Mickie James climb into the ring with Finn Balor at Wrestlemania but in my own universe, I should be able to make it happen – and have her win his championship.
Speaking of those championship belts, WWE keeps those things nice and segregated, too, and has since the second Smackdown title back on PS1. In the first instalment, anyone could fight anyone and compete for any belt (except the WWF Title – men only – and Women’s Title – women only). As for how that all went down on the shows they claim to emulate, there have been times where some belts crossed the gender line.
Molly Holly, Trish Stratus, Terri Runnels
Chyna changed the face of the women's division.
And not only did Lita challenge for the Light Heavyweight Championship, Chyna was number one contender for the WWE Championship. So I think it’s safe to call their we only want what can happen on the shows excuse to be some Grade-A bullshit.
Another gripe about the championship belts: in WWE 2K17, there are a thirty-nine men’s belts and four women’s. There are five different versions of the WWE Championship yet of the Women’s Championship, even though there were numerous designs in its longest-lasting-title-in-WWE-history, there’s one. There’s eight tag team championships labeled men-only but the Women’s Tag Team Championship is not and never has been in a game. Go figure.
A few complaints for good measure: the extra entrances. For superstars, there’s a buttload of single, tag team and triple entrances. Not so much for the women. Even though you can have a women's-only show, whatever women's championship you place as the top title will not keep proper track of title reigns in the show menu; the men's all do, no matter which one you choose. A little thing that they haven't bothered to change yet. Oh, and - during a normal match with manager - if a woman hits a man, nothing happens. If a man hits a woman? You lose. They can’t even keep that equal.
Considering the pride with which WWE announced they were no longer calling the female wrestlers Divas it’s amazing to me how they keep the sexism alive and well in their video games. The option to their clothes off may be gone but we’re still basically old that the women are not the equal of the men. Contrary to the fears of the uneducated, allowing women to fight men doesn’t lead to boys laughing like hyenas as John Cena smacks Paige with a steel chair; it allows those who actually use the female wrestlers to compete against those who use the male ones. WWE needs to stop acting like they’re forcing developers to segregate the sexes for feminism and admit the truth. No matter how far the Women’s Revolution reaches, there’ll always be the glass ceiling that’ll never be broken, even on home consoles.
Since the changes, fans have been calling for WWE to lift the pointless restriction and allow us to play as anyone on the roster against anyone else. We want to not only reenact classic intergender matches but create new ones. The women of WWE are strong, talented and the mens’ equals; just because they don’t mix it up on the shows doesn’t mean we can’t make it happen in-game. Smackdown vs Raw 2010 promised it was our world now; we’re still waiting for the games to live up to that promise.
What does a second gif of Finn Balor have to do with this piece? Nothing whatsoever. He just pretty.