Former WWE Diva's Champion and current WWE employee AJ Lee took to Twitter on Tuesday to call out boss Stephanie McMahon on the company's treatment of its female wrestlers. The WWE has a long history of treating its female wrestlers as eye candy, titillation, and comic relief, and even when they are allowed to show off their talent in the ring, it's usually with far less screen time and gravity than is given to male wrestlers. Though wrestlers often engage in "worked shoots" where they play off reality to advance a storyline, it seems unlikely in this case, as Lee's statements were cutting, accurate, and ultimately embarrassing to the wrestling federation. After McMahon tweeted support for Patricia Arquette's statements about equal pay for women at the Oscars, Lee responded by pointing out that WWE doesn't treat its own employees equally:
For those who don't know, Lee is the wife of former WWE champion CM Punk, who left the company on bad terms last year and later accused them of all sorts of bad stuff on a podcast, including firing him by email on his wedding day and forcing him to wrestle while injured. It was recently revealed that Punk would fight in the UFC this year. This week, a WWE physician filed a lawsuit against Punk for maligning him on the aforementioned podcast, and WWE made some noise on social media about it. It could be that Lee is firing back for this dispute, or positioning herself for an expected retaliation against her for her association with Punk. Then again, maybe she's just speaking the truth because, as one of the industry's top performers, she can. And though her comments may be bold, they're also plainly true, as anyone familiar with the company is well aware.
But that doesn't mean the company isn't doing better than before. The Divas division is probably the most interesting its ever been, with high profile storylines and matches and its own reality TV show, Total Divas, which I half-jokingly like to call the best wrestling show the WWE produces (explanation: despite being an E! Network reality show and not a traditional wrestling competition show, Total Divas actually endeavors to imply that the in-ring action shown in clips is related to the ongoing feuds and drama on the reailty show, and often respects "kayfabe" - the illusion that wrestling is not staged - more than WWE's actual staged competitions do). In the ring and on the microphone, WWE's female roster is arguably at an all time high on talent, and they've been putting on world class matches, including one at Summer Slam last year involving Stephanie McMahon herself.
It's the combination of this recent creative renaissance and the less than stellar history (and far from perfect present) that caused #GiveDivasAChance to trend on the day before AJ's comments. The hashtag represented a demand from fans for more time and attention for the women of WWE, who are still given a shockingly small amount in comparison to the men. WWE head honcho Vince McMahon himself was forced to respond:
And Stephanie McMahon also responded to AJ Lee, thanking her for her tweets:
Is this corporate damage control, or a real show of solidarity? What do you think?