When Alexa Bliss pranced onto Smackdown this past summer, none of us gave it much of a second thought. There was no expectation. She never headlined an NXT Takeover, nor came within sniffing distance of the NXT Women’s Championship. If asked, WWE may have struggled to put together a compelling video package of her early work. So why has this undersized, under-hyped villain become the best attraction in women’s wrestling?
We all thought the Women’s Revolution would just happen. A new belt, new talent, and new awareness were sure to deliver the most fruitful era in women’s wrestling. While we are all more conscious of their plight, this transcendent movement seems to have stalled. There’s no reason to panic, though. Let us contemplate:
If the 2017’s women's division were a car, it’d be like a sleek Nissan SUV with a moonroof or something. This is a wonderful start because it used to be a 90’s Camaro with a Hello Kitty decal and tasteless custom plates.
Since we’re driving such a nice car today, we’re a little conservative, if not neurotic about maintaining safety. This is all well and good, but man, we can’t ignore the primordial urge to take it drag racing like our skanky ancestors.
To put a bow on it, the current state of women’s wrestling is a promising one. However, with all of this potential, I can’t help but feel a little unfulfilled.
In show business, there’s an old adage: show don’t tell. And man, WWE likes to do some tellin’.
It’s a habit they’ve fallen into, but not something for which they are usually held accountable for. But since the women’s renaissance was to be carried by new faces, WWE relied a little too heavily on exposition.
Charlotte Flair’s lineage, despite being obvious, was beaten into us. Thick commentary was utilized to explain the roots of Bayley’s fangirl character. It was thoroughly stated that Becky Lynch was an Irish bar-fighter and Sasha Banks was the “boss.” Universally speaking, we were told to like them.
And we did. But without further character development, we could only go so far. Instead of supplying a working backstory, WWE overhyped the 4-Horsewomen, saddling them with expectations that would turn into an obstacle.
While Charlotte and Co. have supplied extraordinary moments, they’ve been fleeting. Sasha and Bayley seem to be having trouble recapturing their NXT magic. Becky Lynch fell from the preemptive feminine face of Smackdown to (until Tuesday night) relative obscurity. If WrestleMania is the best working barometer for the state of the business, what does it say that the women were jammed together (twice) for the second consecutive ‘Mania under the decree of Revolution?
Armed with only NXT call backs and Charlotte’s moonsault, the women’s metamorphosis carried a noticeable limp.
Alexa Bliss is saving the Revolution all by her 5ft self. But how?
It’s multifaceted, but to be short: commitment to character.
Alexa Bliss is the best talker in WWE. Sorry, Paul Heyman (not there enough). Sorry, Bray Wyatt (lack of consequence). Sorry, Miz (well, he may be the best, but I’m trying to make a point here). She’s proof that the microphone, not frog-splashes or streamers, is the most direct highway to our smarky hearts.
Do you think Chris Jericho enjoyed his 11th prime thanks to his in-ring physicality? Do you think people sing along with Enzo Amore because they find him attractive? When a casual or nostalgic fan reminisces about wrestling, they don't gab over chain wrestling - they recall Austin 3:16 or The Ultimate Warrior’s verbal agony. Alexa Bliss found that hallowed vein, and she's draining it.
Bliss’ promos are delivered with a natural belligerence. Equipped with her now patented snide, Bliss' performances are perfectly fortified by facial expressions that could degrade the most confident of adversaries. She’s the girl I feared in middle school. She’s despicable. And I love it.
And we love it. Go give her Payback match another watch. At the ultimate road game, against the purest of babyfaces, Alexa got a legitimate pop upon that championship 3-count. A victory that made her (not Charlotte, ahem) the first woman to be a RAW and Smackdown Champion.
If it wasn’t clear that WWE rewards personality over work-rate, I summon this past RAW’s opening segment where Bliss stood on a platform and ran down every woman on the roster. Could the company state their direction any clearer?
It’s not like the girl is Ahmed Johnson either, she can go in the ring. Her finisher, Twisted Bliss, may not be Neville’s Red Arrow, but it works. Couple that with her vintage DDT and her gymnast background and we have a working arsenal. Not to mention she does all of this while wearing a belly button ring - caution to the wind, Maggle!
Point is, Alexa is getting better every week. The gap in character potency compared to her peers was already discernible, but every day she is champion that margin will exponentially widen. Entering off-radar was probably the best thing for Bliss, as she was able to mold her character without the micromanagement that a Sasha or Bayley surely encountered. That freedom to maneuver one’s character is the lifeblood of WWE. Bliss serves as a reminder to us and all of wrestling that to make it in this business, you can’t just be a good wrestler; you have to be a great character. In Bliss, WWE found a vibrant personality who should be able to deliver their timeless philosophies. Conversely, Bliss finds herself in a realm of swelling expectation, but by now, we know better than to underestimate her.