What on Earth does WWE have in mind as they rebrand Evil Emma as “Emmalina” upon her long awaited return? The announcement of her character change since her brilliant showing as Evil Emma before her injury-induced hiatus has irritated many fans, myself in included.
Unfortunately, this is pretty much what fans asked for in the first place when they requested equality in booking. There is something that the Women’s Division does not have yet that the men have had for a long time, and someone had to be sacrificed for its creation: a comedic low-card.
Why should we be upset that it is Emma?
Months ago I wrote about how her evil diva-like character felt like a great ‘final boss’ for faces, if that kind of character continued to be booked like a deliberate smear on the new Women’s Division – replicating the attitude that fans sincerely feel about Eva Marie. I felt especially strongly about this since Asuka vs Emma took place at NXT TakeOver: London, and it became my match of the night. This was her role. The closest thing that the NXT roster had to a Diva in character, up against a dearly beloved and skilful wrestler, as well as wrestling brilliantly too.
I have written before that I was concerned of what would become of Emma when she returned, because at the moment, the role of “miserable bitch heel” is elusive. I said this before the Raw/SmackDown draft as I rooted for Evil Emma to be assigned to whichever would lead to a high-card feud with Becky Lynch, but mentioned how “even” (the nonetheless awesome) Alexa Bliss may have taken that position by the time Emma returns. To my surprise, that’s actually what happened, as Alexa skipped being NXT Women’s Champion, in favour of being in the main roster.
Until the “Emmalina” announcement, I had my hopes up that Emma would find her way to SmackDown perhaps to do a proper job in trying to get the SmackDown Women’s Championship upon Alexa’s failure. Emma and Alexa could also have been either a great partnership, or entertaining feud for No.1 Contendership. But no.
Bizarrely, while this is massively disappointing, there is an irritating truth that has to be considered. We can say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” all we like, but the sad fact of the matter is that to a point, something is “broke”. Certainly not the character of Emma, but the division itself. In spite of the growth of the Women’s Division, if fans want true equality, there is a part of the card that has yet to be created: the daft, low-card region where the likes of Tyler Breeze, Fandango and Curtis Axel are found – a troupe commonly considered by fans as ‘victims’.
Why should fans be expected to be upset?
The reason that this appears so problematic is that the attitude surrounding the Women’s Division has been highly connected the revolution and times of change. No matter which talent drew the short straw, it was always going to be a big disappointment – a plummet from the suppressed perfection that fans have come to hope for from the women. If Emma hadn’t had to take her hiatus, then it is just as likely that Alexa Bliss would instead be in a low-card position, making a mockery of being short.
The acceptance of the creation of a lower card, based around goofiness, also isn’t helped by the conciseness of NXT. One PPV-style event every two months, and four one-hour episodes recorded per month, meant that the canvas had very little room. Too little room to allow space for a humorous low card whether for men or women, even if there have been tongue-in-cheek characters spattered around the card, such as Tye Dillinger, No Way Jose, Bull Dempsey and maybe even Blue Pants. Subsequently, anybody who has been witnessed as great on NXT, will seem to be poisoned as light-heartedness and comedy quickly overtake wrestling prowess. It doesn’t help that Emma previously featured alongside Santino Marella. Having seen her wrestling suppressed in favour of being Marella’s sidekick, means that fans will struggle to trust WWE writers when assigned a comedic character.
A few months ago, the “Emmalina” debacle might not have cause much upset to begin with, on the grounds of it either being a heel character, or somebody just waiting to turn her back on that character. After all, she is returning as a stereotypical ‘model’ Diva character, and as the ‘revolution’ theme was in full force, it wouldn’t have been any surprise if she were to join in and make a point of not being a Diva anymore. Unfortunately, that ship has now sailed, leaving behind only a vacancy for silliness that isn’t much more sophisticated than an overly flatulent Natalya.
This might not be all bad in the end. Stranger things have happened, but it is no surprise that this might be a problem.