The Faction Year In Review: A New Day In Diverse City

the-faction-diverse-cityThe year 2016 in the world of pop culture and politics was punctuated by the ongoing conversation surrounding the need for diversity. Under served communities and people groups became the focus for worldwide elections while the sports world looked to be the place to showcase diversity.

Historically, the world of pro wrestling has favored the Caucasian man in its presentation. The addition of women to the sport was highlighted by the 28 year reign of The Fabulous Moolah, but at no point in wrestling history were women and men viewed as equal. Women in the ring were more of a “special attraction” but were not given the opportunity to run with major storylines or showcase their talents in main event caliber matches. A similar story can be told regarding most minority groups in the business.

Then came the year 2016, where the populous of Brock Lesnar’s Suplex City played second fiddle to a more colorful array of superstars and athletes that we’ll joyfully call Diverse City! For the first year in recent memory, diversity manifested from a buzzword and an idea to a living, breathing reality. Let’s review just how 2016 was indeed A New Day in Diverse City!

THE WOMEN’S REVOLUTION

Go back to the Summer of 2015 when the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance went viral and Stephanie McMahon began launching what she called The Women’s Revolution in the WWE. This brought in three of NXT’s finest competitors to the main roster of WWE. That would be Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch. Fast forward to Wrestlemania 32 when the landscape of women’s wrestling would change forever. At the largest Wrestlemania in history, the 20 plus year term “Divas” was retired and was replaced with “Superstars”, the same title given to their male counterparts. In addition, the Divas Title was transformed into the WWE Women’s Championship with a belt that resembled the beauty and prestige of the WWE World Championship. In the same said night, and in a full circle moment, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch would have an incredible Triple Threat match for the Women’s Championship, one of the highlights of the Wrestlemania card.

charlotte-vs-sasha-summerslamThe Revolution didn’t end here but would be built on the backs of a clear candidate for Feud of the Year as Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks would become the lead rivalry for the Women’s division. Gone are the Attitude Era days of Bra and Panties matches or bikini contests. In fact, there wasn’t one bikini contest all year in the WWE. Instead, these ladies looked to go where no other women had gone before. Charlotte vs. Sasha would become only the second women’s match to main event Monday Night Raw ever!! They would become the only women to main event Raw more than once, let alone multiple times this year. Their feud would see them participate in the first ever Women’s Hell In A Cell match while simultaneously becoming the first women to main event a WWE pay-per-view. They would then end the year with a Falls Count Anywhere match and an Ironman match at the year’s final pay-per-view Roadblock: End of the Line.

alexa-bliss-vs-becky-lynch-tablesNot to be outdone, the women of Smackdown Live let their voices be heard with Becky Lynch winning the inaugural Smackdown Women’s Championship in a rare Six-Pack Challenge. The women would play a pivotal role in this year’s Survivor Series that saw women’s rosters from Smackdown and Raw battle in a fantastic five on five match. In addition, Becky Lynch and Alexa Bliss would battle in a brutal Tables match, marking another first as this is the first time that the Women’s championship has ever been decided in a Tables match.

How ironic that in the same year where a woman looked to break politics’ thickest glass ceiling (that being the U.S. Presidency), the world of wrestling would shatter the ceiling, inspiring generations of fans and wrestlers alike. One can only imagine if 2017 will continue to bring us firsts like the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match and maybe even a main event at Wrestlemania? Remember, ANYTHING can happen!!

DIVERSE CITY

the-wild-samoansThe idea of addressing issues of gender and racial equality in pro wrestling has been one that has been almost taboo. Few want to honestly have the conversation, yet it remains an issue that can’t be ignored. Ironically, being a Samoan in the industry historically has been more accepted than being an African American. Note the rich history that the Samoan dynasty has in the industry along with the championships won and the stars produced including Peter Maivia, The Wild Samoans (Afa & Sika), The Samoan Swat Team, Rikishi, Yokozuna, and more.

With that said, the path to greatness and notoriety for the African-American wrestler has been far more challenging. Remember that it was December 10, 1983 where Rocky Johnson & Tony Atlas became the first African-Americans to win the WWE Tag Team Championship. Ironically, they defeated Afa & Sika, The Wild Samoans for the honor. August 2, 1992 saw Ron Simmons became the first African-American to win a major world title, when he defeated Vader for the WCW World Championship. Since that time, only Booker T and The Rock can lay claim to being African-American world champions. (Technically, you can count Ron Killings aka R-Truth in that number, as he won the NWA World Title on July 8, 2002. Yet there is controversy over counting The Rock as an African-American world champion as he was often identified as part of the Samoan dynasty.)

jay-lethal-roh-championWith all of that said, the championship picture in the world of pro wrestling tends to be pretty black and white with very few shades of gray. However, 2016 said something completely different! Entering the year, Ring of Honor saw Jay Lethal as its champion. He would hold that title for 14 months before losing it in August to Adam Cole, concluding the second longest world title reign in the company’s history.

While TNA Impact Wrestling’s biggest story of the year inside the ring was the introduction of “Broken” Matt Hardy and the series of groundbreaking matches filmed at The Hardy Compound, the company was led for the bulk of the year by Bobby Lashley as its World Champion. Lashley dominated TNA while also moonlighting at the MMA promotion called Bellator.

One could argue that the industry’s most exciting promotion for the second consecutive year is NXT. The brand that was once billed as WWE’s developmental territory has quickly become WWE’s independent promotion. The championship picture here was certainly about as diverse as it comes. Firstly, the roster itself features some of the best athletes from all nationalities and creeds.  From the entertaining Dominican-born No Way Jose to the intimidating Albanian & Indian team of The Authors of Pain, diversity reigns supreme in NXT. The same diversity holds true in the women’s division which features Australian born talents such as Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, African-American dynamo Ember Moon, and another member of the famed Samoan dynasty Nia Jax, cousin of The Rock. The NXT Championship spent the last half of the year in the hands of either industry veteran Samoa Joe or Japanese superstar Shinsuke Nakamura. Add to that, the most dominant female in the organization is Asuka, who has defeated superstars including Bayley. Nia Jax, and veteran champion Mickie James.

In WWE, the year began with arguably the company’s most polarizing figure Roman Reigns as WWE Champion. Reigns, part of the famous Samoan Dynasty, would lose the title at the Royal Rumble to Triple H only to regain it at Wrestlemania.

the-new-day-booty-osWhile another year has passed without an African-American holding the most prestigious title in WWE, it DID see a number of champions and popular figures showcase more diversity than perhaps any other time in history. Kofi Kingston, Big E, and Xavier Woods, collectively known as The New Day, made history becoming the longest reigning Tag Team champions in WWE history, defeating the long standing record of Demolition from the 1988-1989. At the same time, Boston-bred Sasha Banks is a three-time WWE Raw Women’s Champion and was part of the industry’s most significant female feud of the year.

This year saw the launch of the WWE Cruiserweight Division where the third and current Cruiserweight Champion is Baltimore native Rich Swann. Swann defeated veteran The Brian Kendrick to win the title on the inaugural episode of 205 Live.

With the incredible popularity of The New Day, Sasha Banks, and Rich Swann soaring, 2016 really has ushered in a New Day within Diverse City.

#BlackExcellence

A photo posted by Austin Creed (@xavierwoodsphd) on

 

This entry was posted in News, Press, Wrestling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.