Being an adult wrestling fan can be hard enough at the best of times.
Once you've come to terms with the fact that you spend several hours a week watching a form of entertainment mostly aimed at children, a badly scripted backstage skit featuring a character like Goldust is all it takes for the soul-searching to begin all over again. But the creative highs & lows usually bounce from one extreme to the other just enough so that wrestling fans keep watching all the same.
More than all that though, there's the internal struggle in justifying support for a company with such a morally questionable track record as WWE.
In the latest episode of Raw, Stephanie McMahon announced that the first-ever all female pay-per-view event - titled 'Evolution' - will take place at the end of October. The background to this announcement is a three year campaign of change in WWE where women's wrestling has been presented in a more serious light, with the company promoting female equality among their talent roster. Main event opportunities are now being given to a division featuring the likes of Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair (daughter of Ric) & Dublin-born Becky Lynch.
This is definitely a positive move, for which WWE deserve credit. But the level of self-promotion they engage in off the back of this announcement raises even more questions about their recent decision to host 'The Greatest Royal Rumble' event in Saudi Arabia in April, where no females were allowed to perform due to restrictions on women's rights in the country. Despite some unhappiness with the Saudi event among a section of fans on social media, Triple H (now balancing his in-ring career with an Executive role in the company) was quick to defend their stance.
I understand that people are questioning it, but you have to understand that every culture is different and just because you disagree with a certain aspect of it, it doesn't mean it's not a relevant culture... You can't dictate to a country or religion how they handle things... WWE is at the forefront of a women's evolution in the world and what you can't do is effect change anywhere by staying away from it..
The 'WWE Evolution' announcement comes just a week after Hulk Hogan was reinstated into the WWE Hall of Fame, after a three-year suspension following racist remarks he made on a leaked recording in 2015. This is widely believed to be the first step towards reintroducing Hogan as an on-screen performer.
Hogan was reported to have given an apology speech to the talent roster at a backstage meeting last week, which has not been universally well-received. A number of African-American performers including The New Day & Titus O'Neil have made public statements distancing themselves from Hogan's apology, which was described as being more focused on the dangers of being secretly recorded, rather than genuine remorse for his comments.
— 🎅🏿 KOF’ KRINGLE 🎅🏿 (@TrueKofi) July 18, 2018
In recent years WWE have made efforts to change their public image by reverting to PG content and promoting a number of charity initiatives. They have also made significant improvements to the safety of their performers with new concussion protocol and the introduction of a wellness policy. But their slightly murky history with the issues of misogyny and racism will always be brought back into the spotlight when controversies such as the Saudi pay-per-view and Hogan's reintegration with the company arise.
(Editor's Note: That Donald Trump is in the WWE Hall of Fame and Linda McMahon's presence in his cabinet doesn't exactly inspire confidence either)
Fans and performers alike have reacted positively to the news of the Evolution pay-per-view and the spotlight this will give to the female talent, so the hope is that WWE's progression will continue in the right direction and future controversies will be avoided. At least then the fans can stick to judging the quality of the content rather than struggling with any wider moral concerns.
What an incredible honor to announce that @WWE will hold its first-ever ALL Women PPV #WWEEvolution on October 28th. This is because of ALL of you, @WWEUniverse. #WomensEvolution pic.twitter.com/OlarigTv6m
— Stephanie McMahon (@StephMcMahon) July 24, 2018
Last night, I was so incredibly proud as a performer, an executive, a husband, & a father to watch @StephMcMahon announce #WWEEvolution.
The women of @WWE are international sensations, worldwide attractions!
No need to steal this one, they are THE SHOW! pic.twitter.com/AG8Y3w908d
— Triple H (@TripleH) July 24, 2018
It has been such an honor to be a part of this women’s division for the last few months. These women have all taught me so much and I couldn’t be prouder to call myself a @WWE Superstar. I’m ready for #Evolution.
— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) July 24, 2018
A huge milestone in the #evolution of women’s wrestling.Every bit of hard work and dedication has been worth it.We’ve come so far and I’m so proud of everyone that’s contributed to getting us here. Now to main event it with a new straight fire champion would be something special.
— The Man (@BeckyLynchWWE) July 24, 2018