I listen to a lot of wrestling podcasts. A lot. Most are hosted by former wrestlers or wrestling personalities and offer unique insight and perspective. Their connections through being who they are also score them tons of high-profile interviews, and stories of their experiences and thoughts on various matches and angles over the years are priceless. I mean, I dedicate so much of my free time to covering such shows because they are incredible.
All that said, one of my favorite wrestling podcasts is hosted by a duo most wrestling fans have never heard of. They’re not former wrestlers, commentators, or writers. They will not be able to tell you any juicy behind the scenes details of historical events or give you first-hand accounts of their relationships with wrestling legends. What they can do, though, is show you how wrestling is perceived by someone who is not the intended target. While they fall in the coveted 18-34-year-old age bracket, they’re not like any guys you know who follow wrestling. As a matter of fact, they’re not guys.
Erin Cline and Stella Cheeks have been hosting the perfectly named Not Your Demographic podcast since 2015. Both women are huge fans of independent wrestling and avid followers of the current mainstream product. In an industry that has been historically dominated by men, Erin and Stella weigh in weekly with a refreshing perspective on the current product and the wrestling industry in general.
This week, the show celebrated its 100th episode. To honor the landmark, Erin and Stella revisited questions they’d answered during the shows early days, attempting to see how, if at all, their opinions had evolved over the past two years. One of the highlights of this episode came when they discussed their thoughts on the current state of women’s wrestling. In my opinion, their comments summed up women’s wrestling in 2017 perfectly and I hope as many people as possible will hear this discussion.
Stella: “I think it is on a steady incline that frequently plateaus. I think wrestling is a business where, whether it’s women or diversity in other ways, that they, not just WWE, like to do a big flashy thing, pat themselves on the back for it, and then go back to the status quo with slight incremental changes. I think that is what’s happening in women’s wrestling in general.
“I think the Mae Young Classic was really awesome because it got a lot of eyes on a lot of women that people didn’t know about. Even though I watch tons of stuff, there were people in that tournament that I did not know, and that was great, or people that I’m just starting to get to know. We saw Nicole Savoy at Shimmer a couple months ago and now I’m obsessed with her. So I think that’s really great. But I think like ROH Women Of Honor. Yeah, they like to do Women of Honor Wednesday, but when has a women’s match ever been on one of their PPV’s?”
Erin: “They literally don’t even have a title.”
Stella: “Right. Or you can pat yourself on the back and say ‘women’s revolution, women’s revolution,’ but you have one women’s segment on a three-hour long show. Or you are TNA and you have sexist s**tbag, Josh Mathews, who makes a comment about how Allie’s dressed a certain way so she’s ‘asking for’ the unwanted attention she’s getting. For every amazing Takeover: Brooklyn or Jade vs. Rosemary cage match, or Taya crushing it literally everywhere she goes, you have some really bad roadblocks with a lot of promoters who have a backward way of thinking.
“We have a lot of new promoters and new shows that are bringing in a lot of women. Think about AAW. They had four women that they rotated through, and two of them got signed and they didn’t know what the f**k to do, so they just didn’t have women on for a really long time. Now they have this tournament and they’re going to have a belt and that’s great, but there was over half of a year where it was like ‘what the f**k? I don’t even want to come here anymore.’ They (ran an angle) where Sami Callihan issues an open challenge and Candice LeRae came out and fought him. That was amazing. They had good moments, but having that dearth of women and literally not knowing what to do was like ‘that’s sucks.’ But now, you know, they’re answering it.
“So, plateaus with incremental changes. I’m excited about the future, but I also feel like I am very aware of this business.”
Erin: “I feel like that’s the hardest thing about it. All of wrestling is kind of like this, so it sucks (laughs). There are incremental changes and then long plateaus with, like, every problem in wrestling basically, and I feel like the women are being swept up in that as well.
“It’s weird to think about two years ago, though, when we started this, how different things were at the time. The fact that women are given any amount of time feels kind of amazing when you look back on that. But I feel like they bank on the fact that so much has changed that they can plateau. But NOOOO! It was horrific before, and now it’s ‘not great.’
Stella: “Just because there’s not mud wrestling…”
Erin: “Bikinis and lingerie wrestling, yeah. It still doesn’t mean you fixed all your problems, by any means. Once NXT is the norm, and you can just do bad ass women’s matches all the time…”
Stella: “But, but, but… Other than Asuka, there hasn’t been (much) consistent storytelling. Yeah, they’ll have two women’s matches, but NXT really could get better at developing storylines outside of the women’s belt. I think NXT gets a lot of credit, some of it well deserved, but it has room to grow too.”
Erin: “Well, yeah, absolutely, but just as like a standard for the rest of the way WWE functions. If it could be the standard for the main rosters, that would be… that is the next step for me. Everything needs to continue to grow, but that would be the next best step, to make that standard across all of the brands, that women are given that same kind of equal time.”