Those of you that have already read Part One of ‘Creative Direction: Women of Honor’ should be familiar with the building blocks of our prospective division. Those of you that haven’t, can find the article here.
In Part Two, Dave Wood selects his initial core talent roster for the hypothetical division and ponders the, ultimate, creative direction.
Unashamed non-Diva Sara Del Rey takes her deserved place as the first name on this writer’s talent list.
‘The Queen of Wrestling’ has been a member of the ROH roster for five years and, in that time, has earned the respect of the ROH hardcore. She has been established, in the viewership’s collective mind as a credible athlete and a legitimate threat to men and women alike. Her involvement with the star-making Sweet ‘n’ Sour Inc. stable and the record-breaking Kings of Wrestling tag team have done her no harm, in that respect. Del Rey would be cast as the measuring stick of the new division and it would, ultimately, be moulded in her image.
On the downside, the ten year veteran is, at the age of 30, in the upper reaches of what is widely considered to be the age bracket for successful female wrestlers. She is, indeed, older than many of the male competitors on the ROH roster. ROH’s focus has always been on the development of young talent and, in order for this division to sustain itself, it would have to be set up with the longer term future in mind.
As alluded to in Part One, the ROH booking team would also need to avoid allowing the new title to degenerate into being Death Rey’s answer to the Million Dollar Belt. Although the reference point, by which the rest of the division would be judged, Del Rey would not be this writer’s inaugural Champion.
Amidst internet rumours of health issues, the second of ROH’s long-time female stalwarts, Daizee Haze, has taken a sabbatical from active wrestling and will now be pursuing alternative ambitions. This leaves Mia Yim as the only other female member of the current roster.
The Korean-American benefits from the ready-made heat of being associated with Prince Nana’s long-running Embassy faction. When you couple this with her exotic appearance, you have an individual that could be a valuable asset to a prospective Women of Honor division, going forward. Especially in light of the international availability of the online streams of both ROH’s TV and iPPV output.
Although still learning her trade, Yim has been pro-active in picking up valuable experience in Japan. At the age of only 22, given the right opportunities, Yim has the potential to master the stiff, Pancrase-influenced style, long associated with ROH.
Independent veteran Mercedes Martinez is of an equivalent age and experience level to Sara Del Rey. In this scenario, she would provide a second veteran anchor for the Women of Honor, playing a vital role, steadying the ship, in the early days of the division’s life.
The Latina Sensation is blessed with a larger-than-life personality and has a gritty, street savvy, swagger about her. Again, much like Del Rey, she proudly defies the narrow conception of a female wrestler that is prescribed by the WWE organisation.
In a testament to her incredible athleticism, Mercedes holds the record for the longest ever match in women’s wrestling history. She prolonged what has since become a two-and-a-half year title reign, by winning a 73-minute war of attrition with Lexxus, in the all-female WSU promotion, in June of this year.
Mercedes has appeared in ROH in the past, being, briefly, associated with a faction that, in the words of it’s mouthpiece Julius Smokes, “flopped”, the Vulture Squad. One positive that this writer took from that run was that she has all of the qualities of a female Rottweiler. An association with Homicide, and a reborn hispanic group, may help her to get over with the ROH faithful. It could also lead her directly into a feud with young Mia Yim and the Embassy.
Antagonist Portia Perez, has been one of the most talked about members of the SHIMMER roster for quite some time. Her unsportswomanlike tactics are enough to provoke a response from any crowd and she’d be a great counterpoint to the more honorable members of the division.
Although she’s a Canadian, her homestate of Ontario has been one of ROH’s strongest markets, in recent years. It’s also in close geographic proximity to the New York and Pennsylvania heartlands of the promotion.
When you factor in her eight years of professional experience, it’s terrifying to think that Perez is still only 23 years of age. She epitomises the “old head on young shoulders” nature of the new golden generation of female talent and, as such, deserves to be exposed to a wider audience.
Portia’s Canadian Ninjas partner, Nicole Matthews, hails from Western Canada and though she has been known to work for the Quebecois NCW: Femme Fatales promotion, as well as taking certain bookings for U.S. promotions, she misses the cut, for this reason. A one-off Ninjas reunion, on a show north of the border, could definitely add a certain something, however.
In this writer’s opinion, it may also make sense to bring in a younger, developing girl to use, initially, as an enhancement talent. If this spot was to be given to a graduate of the ROH academy, her presence would be an invaluable advertisement for that particular facility. If successful, she could pave the way onto the main roster for future female graduates.
Two of the most high-profile females to come out of the school, so far, are Jessie ‘Bonesaw’ Brook and Rayna Von Tash. Von Tash has, seemingly, drifted away from the industry, after, reportedly, coming to the conclusion that the business isn’t for her. Bonesaw appears frequently on SHIMMER pre-shows but still isn’t far enough along in her development, in this writer’s opinion, to be trusted with this opportunity.
This leaves the third of the more high-profile female students, Jamilia Craft.
Learning at a prodigious rate, since making her debut in January 2010, the 20-year-old Craft has a eye-catching look, a marketable gimmick and an obvious passion for the business. Cutting her teeth as a an ROH jobber could be a great opportunity for her to get more work, greater exposure and to continue her steps towards realising her vast potential. Although perhaps too “butter wouldn’t melt” for the ROH fanbase, at 5’4” and 130lbs, her abilities as a natural underdog should stand her in good stead.
With Yim, Perez and Craft all still under the age of 23 and Del Rey and Martinez, perhaps, coming to the end of their peak years, the medium term future of the division would rest on ROH’s ability to convince a girl in her mid-twenties, with established name value, to come on board as a regular. This writer’s first choice would be Serena Deeb.
Serena impressed, in her most recent ROH appearances, at ‘Final Battle 2010’ and ‘Honor Takes Center Stage: Chapter 1’, and has also had some fantastic outings for SHIMMER and Japanese promotion SMASH (incidentally, owned by Yoshihiro Tajiri), in the past 12 months.
Owing to her WWE past, she has history in a couple of markets that are set to be vitally important. to ROH, in the coming year.
In 2005, she made her wrestling debut in Louisville, with the OVW promotion. Kentuckiana is a region that ROH really seem to be pushing hard, as an area for potential expansion. Jim Cornette’s links to that part of the world are well-documented and the town’s Davis Arena is tailor-made for the new ‘ROH Wrestling’ TV show.
After changes to WWE’s developmental system, Serena moved to Florida. She would go on to modify her body and to shave her head, in pursuit of her dream, only to be unceremoniously fired, after no more than a short main roster spell as CM Punk’s valet. What a special moment it would be, if the mistreated former Diva was to win a, theoretical, two-night tournament in Miami, on WrestleMania weekend, to crown the first ever Women of Honor Champion.
What would be, in the eyes of many, an upset win over the established Del Rey, in the tournament final, could kickstart a lengthy programme between the two.
On the other hand, putting the belt on Del Rey, immediately, could kill the momentum of the fledgling division, due to the fact that the audience would be waiting, so expectedly, for her to win it. The heel “Queen of Wrestling” chasing babyface “pretender” Serena would be a scenario with more longevity. ROH could exploit the audience’s perception of Del Rey and use it to make a new star, in Serena.
Honorable mentions go to the most notable absentees.
New Englander, Nikki Roxx is a unique talent but her best years may now be behind her.
MsChif came close. However, much like Roxx, the standard of her performances was higher a few years back. Her issues with knee injuries are well-documented and, by all accounts, she also has other priorities. Whether or not she would be looking to take on the full-time ROH schedule, is questionable.
Perhaps the most high-profile absentee is current SHIMMER Champion Cheerleader Melissa. Melissa is a California girl that works select dates in the North East, whilst also wrestling all over the globe on a free-roaming schedule. ROH currently has no TV coverage in California and has announced that they won’t be running a live event there, as a part of this year’s Wrestlereunion. Melissa’s home state doesn’t look to be a priority market and one can only assume that, based on her ability levels, if ROH were able to add her to East Coast shows, on a regular basis, they would have already done so, by now.
Beyond the core roster, as suggested earlier with Nicole Matthews, it would make sense for ROH to use girls, from outlying areas, to add a special attraction to a card being held in that particular part of the world.
Along similar lines, the Joshi athletes were a huge success at ‘Honor Takes Center Stage’. However, ROH was only able to use them due to the fact that they were already in the country, for the SHIMMER tapings that had taken place the previous week. The company would have to co-ordinate such extravagant bring-ins with SHIMMER’s schedule in order to make them financially viable.
In conclusion, it’s seems obvious, to this writer, that there’s a gap in the market for credible women’s wrestling, as well as a noticeable gap in the middle of the ROH roster.
Overall, the prosepective division could be a great way to further communicate ROH’s trademark respect for the purest form of the wrestling art. The contrast between the Women of Honor and the superficial Divas of the WWE would be a stark one.
However, as you can see, building a Women of Honor division, from the ground up, is a huge project. Realistically, the talent options are limited by many factors. This could go some of the way to explaining why ROH has yet to launch a women’s section, despite the visible ratings success that, for one example, the rival TNA organisation has had, when promoting serious women’s matches of their own.
Historically, women’s wrestling also, often, fares best when promoted by standalone women’s promotions. It can sometimes come off as jarring, when shoehorned into the testerone-feuled environment of male-centric events. The women athletes would have to be promoted as being, to a large extent, equals to their male counterparts and, as with ECW’s Extreme Lucha Libre, the alien style, culture, psychology and so on would have to be explained clearly by the commentators.
If done correctly, a Women of Honor division could add a whole new dimension to the ROH product and, in turn, could help to dispel the popular myth that women are, somehow, less athletic and less charismatic than men. Much like in the world of politics, as a third party organisation, ROH has a duty to bring such new ideas to the table, for the betterment of it’s industry.