By Liam Byrne @tvtimelimit
Michelle McCool © vs Maryse 12/22/08
WWE Diva’s Championship Match
Some issues in wrestling are a question of semantics and connotations. In a promotion such as the WWE and during a time period where women’s wrestling still struggled to gain mainstream acceptance due to the way it was often portrayed on television, the decision to brand the new Smackdown women’s title ‘the Diva’s Championship’ was a poorly thought out idea. With a word that aimed to suggest glamour and stardom but in all actuality undermined the value of the title, there isn’t much surprise that as WWE made a push to showcase a Women’s Revolution in wrestling, the Diva’s name found itself dropped from the branding of the belt. That the word Diva had superseded Women in the first place in 2010 when the belts were unified did speak volumes for the WWE’s positioning of their female wrestlers at the time.
The brand split may have necessitated two belts, but the women’s division during 2008 – especially on Smackdown – wasn’t exactly bursting at the seams with female wrestlers. Michelle McCool would become the inaugural Diva’s Champion by defeating Natalya, but in her five month title reign she would only defend the title against Natalya, Maria, Maryse and Victoria, with the majority of them coming on house shows. Her opponent this evening, Maryse, had already been defeated by the champion at Unforgiven, but would gain another opportunity at the gold by beating Maria the previous week.
To add an extra bit of glamour to the match, Maria herself was chosen to be the special guest referee, as much as a way to get her into a tight fitting ref’s outfit than for any other conceivable reason. What was clear is that Maria was equally as popular as the champion, with Maryse getting next to no reaction from the crowd as the heel. How things would change on the years to come as she would marry the Miz in real life and the two would become heat magnets wherever the WWE ran their shows. As McCool did her best to get the crowd fired up, Maryse and Maria exchanged words in the ring as Maryse’s dismissive arrogance annoyed the official.
A shoulder block and a quick snap legdrop earned McCool a quick one count, whilst a flip off of the second turnbuckle allowed her to escape a Maryse armlock. A Russian legsweep would also get her a one count, with fast and frenetic action in the opening minute being played out to complete silence and apathy from the crowd. You couldn’t fault McCool in particular for trying as she rolled through a sunset flip and hit a dropkick, with Maryse’s first piece of real offense involving a handful of tights and pulling the champion into the turnbuckle.
Maryse would gain her first nearfall with a modified facebuster before slapping a on a chinlock in a similar seated position to Rick Rude. The champion would manage to fight her way back to her feet and pitch Maryse over her shoulders and hard into the canvas, before blasting her with a big kick to the face. Still, Maryse came back with a jumping clothesline, only to immediately miss an elbowdrop to kill her momentum. An interesting one legged dropkick to the stomach by McCool saw her begin to fire up, nailing a more conventional dropkick and a rolling neckbreaker for a two count.
With the majority of the focus on whether Maria would be impartial or not, it wasn’t surprising to see her involved in the finish. The referee would need to duck out of the way of an attempted powerbomb by McCool, before the champion had cause to debate how quickly Maria had counted a pinfall attempt. Maryse, seizing on this distraction, hit a superkick to the back of the head (with the crowd reaction clearly added in post-production as no-one responded to it visibly) which was enough to get the three count and win the title.
At this time, the division may not have been as impressive as it would soon become, but the women were always trying in the ring to impress with their athleticism and ability. Fighting against the apathy of an audience designed to care so little about your craft is hard, and this match suffered due the lack of reaction. Both women deserved more for what they gave, that was for sure.