Top Ten Ways WWE Can Make It Up To Us For Delaying Emmalina's Debut

Image courtesy of WWE.com

Image courtesy of WWE.com

10. Emma and Alicia Fox team up together to go on a Harley and Ivy/Thelma and Louise style crime spree backstage, punching out Noam Darr and interrupting all other male superstar interview segments with Scissor Kicks and Michinoku Drivers. 

9. Tenille Dashwood is revealed to be a super secret agent who went under deep cover as Emmalina when she was conscripted into service for her adopted country. RAW has a series of weekly vignettes featuring of her chasing international super villains, picking locks with hairpins, and catching throwing knives between her teeth.

8. Emma shows up on Smackdown Live, challenges Alexa Bliss for the women's title, wins it, and picks up where she left off with Becky back in (gasp) May.  

7. Chris Jericho takes off his mask and reveals that it was (gasp) Emma the whole time, and that Emmalina was just a carefully devised illusion to throw people off the trail. The real Chris Jericho is being held hostage to mess with the RAW ratings, and Emma and Kevin Owens team up to rescue him. Chris Jericho is overjoyed to be rescued, and takes them out for burgers and fries to celebrate.

6.  Emma reunites with her old protege Dana Brooke. Dana feels torn between her desire to help Emma, and her loyalty to Charlotte. Charlotte does not take kindly to being abandoned, and challenges Emma to a match over who will win Dana's loyalty. Charlotte tries to cheat, but Emma wins, and Dana escapes with her happily, carrying her sunglasses.

5. Emmalina debuts on RAW. She has a match. It's twelve minutes long, not counting commercials. She wins.

4. Emmalina and Tyler Breeze form an alliance called the Super Good Looking People (because Beautiful People was apparently taken.) Fandango feels hurt and left out, and it becomes the catalyst in his confession of his feelings for Tyler. Breezango sort through their feelings and make out on the announce table while Emmalina has a no DQ, falls count anywhere match with Becky Lynch. 

3. Emmalina and Sasha Banks have a wrestling match. There are no giant photos of them in swimsuits because they are wrestlers, not models, and they do not need to wear swimsuits in order to wrestle.

2. Emmalina and Paige acknowledge their shared history as competitors in the NXT Women's division, and unite as a tag team so they can compete for the brand new WWE Women's Tag Team Championships. 
 
1. Emmalina puts on her sunglasses, the Michael Jackson cutoff gloves, and the Vegeta shoulder pads from Wrestlemania 32. She wins the Royal Rumble. All is forgiven. 

Behind the mask: lucha libre’s cultural legacy

Y en esta esquina...”

That line, always said by vociferous referees during the beginning of a lucha match, was a staple of my childhood. My father used to watch lucha libre on Saturdays while he worked in the garage, and sometimes I’d watch with him. I was extremely intrigued by the “flying-masked-men” who beat each other up all the time.

Like most kids, I saw luchadores as elusive creatures with a mysterious life, and I wanted to know everything about them. Did they ever take off their mask? How did they recover so easily after almost dying in the ring?

All I knew was that El Santo was a badass, Blue Demon’s mask was the best, and La Parka was incredibly scary. And even when I learned about kayfabe and lucha/wrestling being “fake”, I was still fascinated by it.

Growing up watching lucha made the transition to watching pro wrestling that much easier. Just like lucha, pro wrestling has characters, storylines, crazy moments and gravity-defying spots that make watching wrestling an enjoyable experience. Still, as much as I love pro wrestling, I’ve always felt like there is something missing.

Lucha libre is pro wrestling, but pro wrestling isn’t lucha libre. John Cena is a superhero. Luchadores are gods.

Of heroes, saints, and demons

 

Masks are sacred. Or, they used to be sacred in ancient Aztec times, when masks were used as physical representations of gods. They were used for worship, to represent life, to represent death.

Mythology is an irremovable part of Latin American culture; tales of gods battling demons are often used to teach the most important aspects of good versus evil, death versus life. Mexican culture in particular is saturated with hero-like figures; extraordinary “good” men who always win against the “bad” guys.

In a country where corruption is prevalent, and poverty is rampant, fictional heroes are needed by the masses. It’s a distraction. It’s hope.

Lucha libre has provided these heroes for Mexicans and Latin Americans for generations. Borrowing heavily from Mexican mythology, lucha has turned masked men into folk heroes, into undeniable symbols of justice.

El Santo (Saint) is the greatest example of a true Mexican hero. A luchador who started his career in the mid-30s, Santo gained notoriety after debuting as a ruthless rudo (heel) in 1942. It didn’t take long for Santo to become a household name, and fans all over the country couldn’t get enough of him.

Santo didn’t become an idol until 1952, after being immortalized in several comic books, where he often defended innocent citizens from nefarious villains. Years later, his fame skyrocketed when he appeared in several action movies, in which he battled supernatural creatures such as zombies and vampires. Another popular luchador, Blue Demon, usually appeared in these movies as well. 

Santo was untouchable.  

Most importantly, Santo became a folk hero because kids had someone to look up to, someone to be inspired by. When holding a Santo action figure, children saw someone who could protect them from cruelty, from injustice. For some, he was the man who would save them from scary nighttime creatures; for others, he was the fearless luchador who would get rid of corrupt, greedy men.

However, as odd and contradicting as it might seem, people (adults) were also able to relate to Santo. He was a hard-working man who was always fighting against terrible odds, and fans, particularly blue-collar workers, were able to identify with him. Peopleloved the man behind the mask, even if they had never seen his face.

This brings us to one of the most fascinating aspects about lucha: the concept of identity, both cultural and personal. Identity is, without a doubt, the most valuable thing a luchador can possess.

In luchas de apuestas, or betting matches, the wrestlers involved wage their masks. This usually happens after a long, intense feud. In kayfabe, if a masked luchador loses his mask to a rival, his identity and reputation is irrevocably damaged. It’s the ultimate insult.

Santo never lost his, and the one time he almost did, he was wearing another mask underneath. It could have been comical, but it wasn’t. It just proved that Santo was committed to keep his identity until the bitter end. Santo often said that his mask was the perfect expression of his personality, the perfect symbol of the mystery surrounding him while he worked the ring.

Santo wore his mask everywhere, going to great lengths to prevent people from seeing his face. There are stories of Santo avoiding traveling with his crew or other wrestlers, afraid they might see him without his mask when going through customs.

It wasn’t until 1984, two years after retiring, that Santo revealed his face to his fans during a national broadcast. By taking off his mask and finally showing his face, he was bidding his audience goodbye. 

 

Santo died a couple weeks later, and he was buried wearing his mask, just like he wanted. Santo, the ultimate folk hero, was gone.

His legacy, however, is still very much alive.

That’s the thing about lucha; it’s a tradition that doesn’t die. It’s resilient, just like the men and women who enjoy it. For children who live every day in countries plagued by violence and real-life villains, enjoying lucha is their way of thinking that someone might show up and save the day.

And maybe, just maybe, that someone will be wearing a mask. 

The #hashtag effect: An oral history

 © Shoulders Up

 © Shoulders Up

Video killed the radio star, and the internet killed kayfabe.

It happens more often than not, surprise appearances on PPVs and the like spoiled due to online rumors and surreptitious photos uploaded to Twitter. Important PPVs are spoiled in seconds, and trolls find pleasure in berating those whose opinions they deem wrong and uniformed. Fans often get glimpses of their favorite wrestler's personal life, sometimes pretty, sometimes problematic, but always available and frighteningly easy to access.

It's just another day in the Reality Era.

But not all is bad; social media has made it easier for fans to interact with other fans all over the world, share theories and fantasy booking, access video and posts almost instantly, and have their voices be “heard” by The Powers That Be.

Five fans who write about wrestling on a professional basis talked to Shoulders Up about their experience as Reality Era fans, and how the internet influences their enjoyment of all things wrestling.  

DISCLAIMER: These interviews were conducted in July 2016, some PPVs and events discussed here have already occurred. All opinions featured here are the speakers' and with the exception of Spollen's, do not necessarily reflect the Shoulders Up staff opinions.

The moderator:

 Alex Hernandez (@alexghrz), co-founder of Shoulders Up 

The speakers: 

Martin Hines (@martinhines), UK journalist

Kate Foray (@makeitloud), creator of the RAW Breakdown (rawbreakdownproject.com)

Ryan Boyd (@ryandroyd), co-founder of Spectacle of Excess (thespectacleofexcess.com)

Mick Rouse (@mickrouse), writer for GQ Magazine

Chelsea Spollen (@chelseacomics), co-founder of Shoulders Up (shouldersup.net)  

 

Currently, pro wrestling fans have access to hundreds (if not thousands) outlets where they get their news from. Dirtsheets, Twitter accounts, forums – They're all part of the wrestling news cycle. All speakers credit Twitter with being their first source of information, followed by forums (such as r/squaredcircle) and some dirtsheets.

Almost all current wrestling promotions have social media accounts to promote their product. WWE's social media branding is undoubtedly the most present and popular, but is it effective?

Spollen: For small independent brands, a strong social media presence is so vital, but there aren't many of them that do it well. There's just a few that get it right. I learn about shows that aren't listed on Ticketmaster thanks to that social media, because there isn't an app like Bandsintown for wrestling. Now, WWE's social media, is a whole other thing. WWE understands, 70-percent-kind-of-understands how to use Twitter. They've done their research to see which kind of posts get the best response. On the other hand, they post several tweets with grammatical errors, which is kind of embarrassing. They're not so great at figuring out how to interpret some of the data that Twitter gives them.

Rouse: It's weird, right? Because there are certain [WWE] wrestlers who are great at social media. We've seen certain guys use social media to push their characters, but the company as a whole, I go back and forth with it. There are moments where they do things where I'm like, “Yeah, they've got this figured out”, but many times there are things I think they should capitalize on, and they don't. One example that comes to mind, is the Divas Revolution, which was a grassroots movement – hashtag – created by fans, and then WWE's social media hijacked it, and in a way, took the legs out of it.

Hines: I think social media, along with smart phones, is one of the worst things that has happened to professional wrestling. From a level of enjoyment, from a level of fan interaction, I do think it's the worst thing. But on another level, social media definitely helps WWE and its presence online, it helps represent promotion of the core brand. And online, they also have their own identity besides television, which I think is vital to keep fans engaged.

Rouse: They have millions of followers, and every night wrestling's on they almost always have the number one trending topic. I don't know if that speaks more to their prowess on their social media game, or just proves how rabid the wrestling fanbase can be.

 

With examples of how vocal the wrestling fanbase can be, such as the creation of the #DivasRevolution or #CancelWWENetwork hashtags, among others, a question comes to mind: Is the use of social media by wrestling fans a blessing or a curse for wrestling promotions, specifically WWE?

Foray: With the rise of social media, I think, came the rise of this fan assumption that just because they have more accessibility they think that it guarantees them certain rights. Wrestling fans in general think that they deserve certain things, and having social media gives them the access to actually, in their mind, being connected to WWE via their accounts. That they can say whatever they want and make certain demands. I think that WWE should be able to make concessions to them, of course. But I don't think that it's affected the product in a way that the product is poor now, or it has affected the product negatively. I do think it can affect you as a fan, all the negativity sometimes, and it can distort your view of wrestling.

Spollen: It's complicated. I do think you get a lot of fans that have these really entitled reactions that come from a gut-level place. You have a lot of them together in social media, which sometimes does end up with changes in the product. For example, you have the #CancelWWENetwork hashtag in the dark side of it. But at the same time, how many people actually fucking did it? If you care enough about wrestling to get a hashtag trending, you're probably not going anywhere. It's not totally clear what WWE is listening to, actually. That's the thing. We don't know. I could be biased, but in my experience, most of the change I've experienced as a fan, most of the change based on fan reaction, has been pretty positive. We would not have the #DivasRevolution if it hadn't been trending on Twitter, since it became such a big deal that Stephanie and Vince had to respond publicly to it.

Boyd: I think I'd be lying to myself if I didn't say that being online and talking to people on social media doesn't influence my opinion of the product. If I'm watching a PPV, and I'm annoyed about something, I'll automatically go seek opinions that are similar to mine. I don't think anyone's mind has ever changed by the fanbase. You know how some dogs start barking, and then all the neighborhood dogs are barking? I do think wrestling fans can do that. One fan will start yelling, “Roman Reigns can't work!” and five more people will start doing the same, and all of a sudden people accept these truths as being objective. I think the fanbase influences the product in the way that it bolsters opinions that you might already have.

Rouse: I think the pros outweigh the cons to it. I think there is a lot to be said to sticking with your plans and storylines [in spite of public reaction]. I actually have a theory about this, I've had a strong personal feeling about it... When fans get online, and start sort-of fantasy booking things, that affects the product. For example, the big thing going into Battleground, that everyone is talking about, who is going to be Sasha Banks' mystery partner? And immediately everyone started saying, Bayley, it has to be Bayley. My personal theory, and again, I have no inside information on this, is that they [WWE] were thinking about having Bayley on that spot when they started working on the storyline, but the minute that everyone started saying it's Bayley, they started second-guessing that. It's not a surprise anymore. And I think that that's why they might change their minds last minute, and why sometimes we get some lackluster surprises.

Hines: Is it a good thing for the company? Probably not. For example, WWE posts polls after a live show, the whole thumbs up, thumbs down thing. Most of the time, it's like 75-80 percent thumbs down. For a fan, it is a good thing, specially if you spend loads of money on wrestling. You can provide feedback. Let's not forget that wrestling is a very emotive thing. People who are wrestling fans are like addicts, because if you are a hardcore fan, it's really hard for you to stop. And that means that you put up with a lot of shit, in order to get the good stuff. That being said, these fans will pay for the product instead of doing illegal downloads, which will make them more vocal about their discontent. And for some reason, the more successful WWE is on social media in terms of interaction, the less successful their ratings are.

 

It's pretty clear that these days, social media wrestling fans are joined to the hip. And with that kind of relationship, you get the usual great interactions, but like in any fanbase, you also get the toxic, negative kind. Is it an easy fanbase to navigate, or is it sometimes too overwhelming to handle?

Boyd: It really depends the kind of fans you interact with. Fan response has always been a huge part of pro wrestling, and the internet extension is inevitable these days. So I think that the internet is a good tool as long as fans are not using it to crowdsource their opinions. If they don't want to do the mental work to examine a storyline, or they just want someone to tell them how to feel about something – I think a lot of people do that with Dave Meltzer, or whatever internet darling's opinion is important on r/squaredcircle that week. I think as long as you're thinking for yourself and having meaningful conversations with other fans that have different opinions from you, I think it's great.

Spollen: I don't know that I totally feel like part of the fanbase, which is weird, since I run a wrestling website and help curate a wrestling Twitter. I feel that the reason that I don't self-identify that way, even though it's something that I am, it's because I protect my opinion from other people. The vast majority of the wrestling criticism online, the one I interact with, I try not to let it influence me. I want my perspective to be interesting enough to this brand [Shoulders Up] to be unique. A lot of wrestling fans can be vicious, even to each other. People can troll and stalk your Twitter page if they don't like some of the things you have to say, and that can be really difficult to deal with. It can be difficult to deal with because this thing that gives you so much pleasure and fun can also turn into something that can be really nasty.

Rouse: I've definitely unfollowed people. There was this account I used to follow, they posted wrestling gifs, and suddenly they started posting nasty and messed up tweets which were deleted almost immediately. I didn't want to be connected to that. But I've curated my own Twitter account to only follow mature and smart wrestling fans, I don't think that it comes as a surprise that there are a bunch of immature wrestling fans out there. Just look at the female wrestlers' Instagram accounts or WWE's Facebook comments. I've had disagreements with people online, of course. And as a writer who writes about it and puts his stuff out there, I've gotten criticism but it's mostly overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Foray: I love it and I hate it. For the last two years I've been on Twitter, I've had all this menagerie of people I can talk about wrestling with, and text them. It's fascinating to me how the internet has brought me more friendships. For example, I'm going to Battleground this weekend, and I'm staying with a friend I met through Twitter. On the flipside, you're also giving yourself access to all that negative, and weirdos, people emailing you weird things through your website.

Hines: Personally, sometimes I'm embarrassed to be a wrestling fan. I'm a passionate fan – I've spent lots of money on wrestling, I've been paid to talk about wrestling, and yet, when I look around, especially at behavior online... It's all very embarrassing. It goes with what I said about addiction earlier, there's this “Stockholm Syndrome” thing when it comes to wrestling fans, because they're quick to rally against this product they “hate” so much. And yet, they still watch every week, they buy t-shirts, they pay for the Network every month. I've discovered that the “smarter” a fan is, the less I want to interact with them. When I write about wrestling, I have to take out some of my knowledge to make it accessible for a broader group of people. So the more loud and passionate a fan is, the more unbearable they are to me, because they don't know when to shut up. 

 

It's not rare to hear wrestling fans reminisce about the good ol' Attitude Era days, where internet forums weren't that common or didn't have a strong presence. But what exactly is so different about being a fan back then, and being a fan today?

Rouse: Well, back then I wasn't going on message boards, although I think that there might have been some AOL chatrooms dedicated to wrestling. I've seen people pull really old, really obscure online interviews with people. I was very young back then to partake on any of that, I guess. I grew up with wrestling, and it's something that, as a writer, I think about a lot. I wasn't looking at the product critically back then, I just looked at it as a TV show.

Hines: That's funny, because I feel like wrestling today is kinda cheap. But every generation is going to think that their product is better than the current product. I started watching wrestling around 1996, so I got to experience the Attitude Era, which for a 6-7 year old kid, it was fucking great, fucking amazing. But looking back now, it was mostly shit. I still have a fond regard for it, you know. Reality Era, well, I think it's wrestling at its lowest end, possibly ever, in terms of creativity and entertainment. People can talk about NXT, and Cruiserweight, and don't get me wrong, those are all great. But they are just accessories to the main event, and I do think this is the worst era of wrestling. Three hours of RAW, two hours of Smackdown, PPVs... It's too much, it's not good enough.

Foray: I started watching when I was 10, which is a little bit older than the kids I see at shows today. I didn't get to go to live shows when I was a kid, my parents weren't into that. I didn't get the chance to experience all that. I went to my first wrestling show when I was 18, in college. So, I like it more as an adult now, I have access to more things. For me, I enjoy it way more during this era than back then. Looking back to what I was watching, product-wise, I don't think I would have gotten into wrestling again as an adult if the Attitude Era was happening right now. I don't think I would have enjoyed it. I don't think I would have been able to watch it and support it.

Boyd: It's great being a fan right now because, honestly, this is an incredible period to get into pro wrestling because of the variety of stuff you can watch. People are lying when they say the Attitude Era was good. Overall, it was a horrible period for wrestling and storylines. In the late 90s we didn't have prestige TV, and now WWE has to step it up to keep up with all the options available for what you want to watch. It's awesome because I can turn on the Network at any moment, and watch the Cruiserweight Tournament, or stuff from the Attitude Era if I'm feeling masochistic. Anyone with an internet connection can become a wrestling historian.

 

Blood, sudor, and tears: 'Lucha Mexico' offers a gritty inside look into the world of lucha libre

by Alex Hernandez | Staff writer

Mexican wrestler Shocker makes his entrance. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

Mexican wrestler Shocker makes his entrance. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

Lucha libre is a sport filled with larger-than-life mystical men, masked superheroes, and evil demons from the underworld. But what drives undoubtedly-human men and women into a business like this one?

Filmmakers Ian Markiewicz and Alex Hammond decided that what happens behind the scenes of the lucha libre spectacle was a story worth telling, and now they're presenting that story via their new documentary, Lucha Mexico.

With the participation of Mexican lucha icons such as Shocker, Blue Demon Jr., and Perro Aguayo Jr., Lucha Mexico provides an unprecedented look into what actually happens backstage one of the most beloved traditions in Hispanic culture.

Markiewicz and Hammond talked to Shoulders Up about their movie-making process, the mysticism of lucha libre, and the importance of Mexico in their film.

It begins

Hammond admits that making a film about lucha libre wasn't something she planned to do. The filmmaker had always wanted to work on a project in Mexico, but her ideas were centered around bullfighting, not wrestling.

It took some convincing from Markiewicz, a longtime wrestling fan, to change her mind.

“Then I realized that the spirit in lucha was similar to the one in bullfighting,” says Hammond. “These people being leaders and, quite possibly, risking their lives every night. That was definitely the spirit I wanted to explore in a film.”

After making their decision, Hammond and Markiewicz went to Mexico in order to figure out their filming, as well as the people participating in it. Hammond says that it wasn't an easy process, because both of them went there with “virtually” no contacts. The filmmakers went to house shows, talked to different promotions, and contacted several luchadores.

“We had to show everyone that we were serious about it,” says Hammond. “I think that after they saw how committed we were, that's when everything started falling into place.”

And even when they were granted access, they faced some obstacles.

Openness in secrecy

Blue Demon Jr., a Mexican living legend. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

Blue Demon Jr., a Mexican living legend. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

“The lucha business is still kinda secretive,” explains Markiewicz. “They're very protective of it.”

One of the best examples of lucha secrecy in the film is the appearance of Blue Demon Jr. Although he talks about his role in the business and what it means to him to be a wrestler, he's always tight-lipped about everything else in his life.

“We don't even know his legal name,” says Hammond. “He made it clear from the beginning that he wasn't going to show us much about his personal side.”

Markiewicz adds that much of it has to do with wanting to maintain the mysticism of masked wrestlers, to keep the tradition alive. However, the film also shows wrestlers who are extremely open about their personal lives and struggles, such as Shocker and Jon “Strongman” Andersen.

“A guy like Shocker is very open because his face is already well-known in Mexico, that's the kind of guy he is,” says Markiewicz. “Maybe Blue Demon [Jr.] didn't take off his mask or say much, but he also kinda opened up. Both guys opened up a lot, just differently.”

Tragedy strikes

The late hardcore luchador Perro Aguayo Jr. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

The late hardcore luchador Perro Aguayo Jr. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

One of the biggest challenges for Hammond and Markiewicz had nothing to do with lucha tradition, but with life itself. Perro Aguayo Jr. and Fabian “El Gitano”, two of the most charismatic luchadores in Lucha Mexico, passed away before the film's release.

Fabian, who is shown in the film as an easygoing gym owner/wrestler, passed away during the actual filming. Both filmmakers admit that they were distraught and sad by his passing, but they were determined to keep his scenes as an homage.

Aguayo Jr.'s death proved to be slightly more complicated to deal with. The wrestler died in the ring during a match in 2015, and his death occurred after filming had already ended. The filmmakers had to decide what to do with the footage of Aguayo, since his appearance was particularly significant to the film.

“We wanted it to be honorable for him and his family,” says Markiewicz. “But we also didn't want to betray the thing we had been building for him, which was very honest. We wanted it to be honest, not exploitative.”

In the end, the filmmakers added Aguayo's death and its aftermath.

“We just wanted people to see how amazing these guys were,” says Markiewicz. “It was so sad to lose them.”

The Lucha Mexico experience

Sexy Star and Faby Apache. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

Sexy Star and Faby Apache. (Image courtesy of Lucha Mexico/Kino Lorber.)

It was important for both Markiewicz and Hammond to show Mexico under a different light. Hammond says that most films focused on Mexico are about the drug war or immigration issues, which are important, but they wanted the audience to see Mexico through the art of their “local superheroes.”

The family narrative in lucha culture fascinated Markiewicz from the very beginning. This didn't change throughout the filming process, in which they got to witness just how important lucha it to Mexican families.

“You see all these huge families going to lucha shows, and it's amazing,” says Markiewicz. “I knew lucha was a big deal in Mexico, but it's still incredible to see. And not only the families who are fans, but also the families around the wrestlers. It's all very human.”

For Hammond, witnessing the men and women in the ring every night was what impacted her the most.

“I don't know how their bodies withstand all the hits and falls,” says Hammond. “I have so much respect for what they have to do and the commitment to give it all to this career.”

After four years working on Lucha Mexico, lucha means something completely different to the initially-skeptic Hammond now. She hopes that this translates on screen as well for those who aren't fans yet, or who think that wrestling shouldn't be taken seriously.

“[Lucha/wrestling] is a big part of my life now,” admits Hammond. “It's hard not to work on something like this, witness it for so long, and not fall in love with it.”

Lucha Mexico, directed by Alex Hammond and Ian Markiewicz, opens Friday, Jul. 15. For more information on screenings, click here.