Last night, two former friends turned into bitter enemies, Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair, locked themselves in a steel cage to do battle for the WWE Women's Championship. The two heroes slammed each other against metal chairs and hurled each other through wooden tables in a harrowing and violent match, putting their bodies on the line and risking serious injury for glory. The event, the first women's match of this kind, headlined the WWE's Hell In A Cell pay-per-view.
Usually considered too brutal and violent for women, the WWE's long history with cage matches (which, by the way, have ended numerous pro-wrestling careers) has been largely non-inclusive. Last night's match was the culmination of the WWE's renewed commitment to gender parity and equality, dubbed the Women's Revolution.
It should also be noted getting the main event (usually the last match of the night) is an honor in pro-wrestling culture. Women's matches are still rarely are given this respect, and many wondered if tonight's fight would reach that status.
While the WWE certainly deserves praise for the progressive move, the two women at the helm of this revolution have earned just as much renown. Sasha Banks (the scrappy purple-haired trash-talker from Boston) and Charlotte Flair (the strikingly tall blonde scion of pro-wrestling's greatest legend) executed a gorgeous performance inside the cage. After both wrestlers entered the ring flanked by various men-as-props, Charlotte aimed to score an early victory by attacking Banks before the cage was even lowered onto the ground. Banks tore herself out of the hands of concerned doctors, putting on a spirited comeback in her hometown and issuing devastating attacks with her knees and skillful suplexes along the way. Both women savagely utilized tables and chairs to punish their opponent with ferocity. Ultimately, Charlotte was the victor after repeatedly targeting the weak back of Banks, knocking the champion out and taking the title with her finishing move nastily called "Natural Selection" (an ode to her genetic heritage).
But the WWE has not emerged from this event without critics. Wrestling die-hards are increasingly fed up with the "forced feminism" of these accomplishments, wondering if the WWE's commitment to women is not just another shallow and self-congratulatory marketing tool. Indeed, the WWE's women continue to receive less ring time, attention, and complex development than their male counterparts to this day. Forbes has similarly criticized the build-up to this moment, saying: "[T]he historic encounter between Banks and Charlotte should be all about the animosity between the two and the desire they have to be the best women’s wrestler of all-time ... WWE has resorted to selling their HIAC match as nothing more than a newsworthy achievement."
It's difficult to tell where the direction of the women's division will go from here. With Sasha entitled to a rematch and a rather shallow (although immensely talented) roster outside of their feud, it will be interesting to see how the WWE will handle this plot. Either way, both Banks and Flair will surely continue to blaze trails and win hearts in the face of criticism (anti-feminist or otherwise).
[Photo: Screenshot via YouTube]