Four years before WWE’s moonwalking Carmella was even born, during a performance of “Billie Jean“on March 25, 1983 for the Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever television special, Michael Jackson performed the Moonwalk.
Now, it wasn’t the first time this dance move had been performed by any means, with variants being seen as far back as 1932 when it was called “The Buzz” (even The Fabulous Freebirds; Michael “Pure Sexy” Hayes, Terry Gordy, and Buddy Roberts had been doing the moonwalk as part of their ring entrance by 1979) . The Motown TV special was broadcast 16th May 1983 and instantly that move became all about Micheal Jackson.
(Micheal PS Hayes Moonwalking at around 20 seconds)
But Freebirds reference aside why are we thinking about this famous popping move in regards to women wrestling?
Right now we are in the middle of a Women’s Revolution, or so we are told. When discussing wrestling it would be remiss not to look towards the WWE as the yardstick, to which everything should be measured. That is not to dismiss any other wrestling product, after all, wrestling is completely scalable, from customs without an audience through to the tens of thousands watching the latest PPV offering it is all wrestling.
What made us stop and think is the description of the Moonwalk. It is described as a dance move where the performer moved backward whilst seemingly walking forwards, and also how Michael Jackson took something, that was already out there and just made it his own.
When we took a long hard look at where we are with Women’s Wrestling across the board and compare it to all things “pre Revolution” has anything really moved forwards. Of course, we have had a couple of instances where the women’s match has main-evented a show, and with WWE’s current obsessions with history-making events we have seen a whole load of firsts; from the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble to the first Money in The Bank ladder match. But we also saw the first ever event where women were banned completely.
You only need to look at the Diva Dirt review for WWE RAW for 2nd July on Diva Dirt on which one of the commenters hit the nail on the head:
“Past Divas would never get this amount of time and storyline to work with, but you know what? They we’re 10x more entertaining and likeable!”(Parasite)
When the WWE is producing an average of 10 hours each week of live content it isn’t like there is a premium on time. It’s how they use this time which is slightly concerning. On RAW the women’s division is getting only two matches it is challenging to build anything meaningful, though there were also three interviews (one of which was Ember Moon “almost” suggesting her match/victory didn’t matter!) and a series of cringeworthy skits with Bayley and Sasha Banks.
So whilst they aren’t short on airtime It’s not like anyone is taking these opportunities and making them their own.
Away from the WWE, here in Britain, some of the Women’s promotions are smashing it, and new ones are popping up all over the UK to try and take advantage of this perceived momentum. There are more women appearing on shows and far more inter-gender matches. But when you look closely, there is a similar pattern, these promotions are usually ran by men who also run a predominantly male-based promotion, and they usually take place as the matinee to the main evening show, with a lower ticket price, shorter card and running time. It is also quite fair to say we are seeing a lot of the same talent on these shows (but more on this another time!)
What was also telling was when another new (predominantly male) promotion had it’s debut show recently, some attention was given to time limits in the matches, which was a nice touch. This is often neglected until there is a match where they suddenly retro-fit in a time limit in the match announcements, then low and behold this match goes to a time limit draw. However, the one all-female match on the card also had one of the shortest time limits. Literally half the length of other matches on the show. Obviously, a wrestling match can last a blink of an eye, or it can go for an hour (or 24/7 if the Hardcore Championship is involved!) but by saying this match at most can only have half the time others do, is a statement about where this promotion ranks women’s wrestling. One match, and about 10% of the shows possible run time.
This seems like a step back to the old days, where maybe a third of shows would feature a women’s singles match, with little hype and fanfare, but obviously with the appearance of moving forwards.
A little bit like Moonwalking.