A Change In Philosophy Could Mean Even Bigger Things For WWE's Divas Division
This will most certainly not be a post dedicated to burying former WWE Diva Kelly Kelly, nor will it be a post expounding her greatness. For my personal taste, Kelly Kelly never did much for me, but you can’t knock success, and holy hell did she have some serious success during her years with WWE. This article will instead focus on which direction WWE can potentially go to breathe new life into a Divas Division now at an apparent crossroads.
It’s impossible to fault WWE for the direction they took their Divas Division. Yes, in many cases they’ve decided to put far more emphasis on a pretty face than actual in-ring skill, but as they’ve morphed from a wrestling promotion into the multi-media juggernaut we now know and (sometimes) love, the ability to cross promote over a variety of media platforms has become increasingly more important. Don’t misunderstand WWE’s goal: they’re not marketing to wrestling fans. For that very reason, Divas like Kelly Kelly became a huge piece of the marketing puzzle for WWE and, despite not being the most technically sound wrestler you’ll ever see, did a very good job at what she was asked to do. She was the go-to Diva for magazine covers and layouts, did countless red carpet appearances, and became the face of the Division, for better or worse. In short, she earned every last dollar WWE paid her, just not in the way traditional wrestling fans might have preferred. But as I said before, WWE isn’t marketing itself to wrestling fans, folks.
With Kelly Kelly’s decision to move on after 6+ years with WWE, her role as the face of the Divas Division will need to be filled. At first blush, Eve would seem to be the obvious choice. She’s already had some mainstream, prime time exposure when she won the reality competition show, Stars Earn Stripes. She’s also very well-spoken and as the Head Instructor for the Gracie Women Empowered self-defense program, would be easily marketed as an excellent role model for young women. While this might not move the needle much for many wrestling fans, keep in mind she’s infinitely more capable in the ring than was Kelly Kelly, and as a legit blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is certainly more than just eye candy for teenage boys.
I’m hopeful Kelly Kelly’s departure might also coincide with a change in philosophy with regards to the Divas Division. A lack of talent has never been the issue, as quality wrestlers like Beth Phoenix, Natalya, and the aforementioned Eve have been on the roster for years. No, the issue has always been finding these talented women the television time to showcase a broader range of skills than what a 2 minute squash match allows. With Sara Del Rey now in the role of trainer for the women in NXT, perhaps her influence on both the up-and-coming Divas, as well as those already on the main roster will lead to longer, more confident matches. Del Rey is an amazing worker, and her presence can only make things better for the often unbalanced Division.
There’s a big, bad world just full of top quality female wrestlers outside of WWE as well, and tapping into that market wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Allysin Kay, Cheerleader Melissa, Barbi Hayden and Christina Von Eerie come immediately to mind, as do Velvet Sky and Angelina Love, whom are both close to being free and clear from TNA and would make for a great resurrected faction on WWE programming. Consider that WWE already borrowed their Beautiful People gimmick with the Layla El/Michelle McCool faction, Lay-Cool. To me, that’s a built-in storyline right there. Bringing them in to feud with Layla would only help make the former Divas Search winner that much more popular.
If you think about what made Divas like Kelly Kelly so popular/sympathetic, it was having a monster protagonist like Beth Phoenix opposite her ‘All-American Girl’ image. To build a quality babyface, you need top heel talent. For that reason, Jessicka Havok would be the very first woman I’d be trying to sign to a developmental deal were I in charge of such things for WWE. Her work with several different Independent promotions has been excellent, especially her dominant run with WSU (Women Superstars Uncensored). In addition to being a very beautiful woman, a virtual prerequisite for gaining employment with WWE, she also has the size and strength to be a convincing monster heel. For whatever reason, Awesome Kong (Kharma) didn’t work out with WWE, and her departure left a large void in what appeared to be a rapidly evolving division. I feel like Havok could fill much of that void.
The most recent match between Beth Phoenix and Natalya on Smackdown was great to see. I’d like to think that was WWE finally putting more faith in the top workers of the Divas Division. Considering both Beth and Natalya have been largely forgotten members of the roster, it’d be great to see them given the chance to push their way back up the heep. Kelly Kelly is long gone, and while I don’t think it’s fair for me to criticize her work (she made a ton of money), I would like to see the idea that the Divas should be sexy first and tough second, walk right out the door with her.