|Photo from http://illegalforeignobject.tumblr.com|
With the recent news that Sara Del Rey has been offered a WWE contract, as well as the impending Chikara Grand Championship match between current champ Eddie Kingston and Miss Del Rey, it seems like the perfect time to discuss how Chikara have proven that women can play a major part in professional wrestling, and how WWE should take note of this when decided where to take the divas in the future.
As anyone who follows womens wrestling, or even independent wrestling in general, will tell you, Sara Del Rey is one of, if not the most talented female wrestler in the country. Some might even go as far as to say she's the best in the world. Wherever she ranks - according to PWI she's the tenth best wrestler in North America last year - she's undoubtedly near the top, and Chikara have been clever in utilising her skills to create what might well be the biggest match in their history, with the possible exceptions of some of the ROH-Chikara clashes that have happened over the years.
|Photo from http://idontlikewrestling.tumblr.com/post/11022120823|
Chikara.have taken advantage of Sara's excellent in-ring talent by pitting her against male opponents recently. They've also been doing this to a lesser extent with another female on their roster, Saturyne. This isn't something new for Del Rey, as she's worked with the guys for years, even facing off against the likes of Claudio Castagnoli (now Antonio Cesaro in WWE, for those who still don't know) and El Generico (this one actually happened in Chikara fairly recently). By allowing her to compete on an equal footing as the men, and even having her beat her male counterparts, Chikara have arrived at the point where they can book what is, to my knowledge, the first ever time a woman has challenged for the top title in a significant American promotion. Unsurprisingly, the match has attracted a great deal of interest, and it would be no shock if the pay per view event on which the match is taking place, The Great Escape, turns out to be one of their most successful shows ever.
With WWE seemingly set to sign the 'Queen of Wrestling', now might be a good time to look at how she has been utilised on the independent scene, and use this knowledge to help revitalise their womens division.
Should WWE complete the signing of Del Rey, they will have a significant number of female wrestlers on their books - Kharma, Beth Phoenix, Layla, Natalya, AJ, Eve, Alicia Fox, Tamina Snuka & Kaitlyn currently work on the main roster, with Paige, Sofia Cortez, Raquel Diaz, Caylee Turner, Summer Rae & the recently signed Buggy Nova in FCW and Kelly Kelly seemingly still on leave - so there is more than enough talent for a successful womens division, but the main problem is that most of the current divas have very little credibility left anymore. One way of helping to restore this credibility could be to follow Chikara's lead and have some of the top women occasionally compete against the men.
In the likes of Kharma, Beth Phoenix and Del Rey (as well as Sofia Cortez), WWE have talented women who can and have wrestled against men before, so by putting them against male opponents and having them hold their own they can help to re-establish the idea that these women are powerful, talented and (most importantly) worth watching, then when other women compete well against them they will also seem stronger by association. WWE have done something similar before with Chyna, and now seems to be the perfect time for them to repeat the process.
In all likelihood, rebuilding the reputation of the WWE womens division will be a slow process, but allowing some of the top women to compete against male opponents may help to speed it up somewhat, and could help WWE create female stars on a level with Trish Stratus & Lita, something they have been unable to do in the era of brief matches and minimal storylines. With the change to three hour RAW's coming in the next few weeks, and a new show scheduled to start later in the year, there will be plenty of extra time for WWE to fill in the coming months, and I can think of few better uses of this time than to help bring real womens wrestling back to a mainstream audience.
I've been saying it for ages, but I really feel that, with a little time and effort, WWE could produce a womens division as good as we've ever seen, although I never would've expected that one of the quickest and best paths to that goal would have been (re)paved by the little indy gem that is Chikara. Should the current indy inspired shakeup in WWE allow their ladies to finally fulfil their potential, however, I'll be one of the first to thank them...