A recent hot topic amongst wrestling fans on the internet has been comparing the current era of Womens wrestling to the Divas era of yesteryear, from comparing the belt designs to how the women are presented.
Former WWE Superstar, Melina took to twitter to share her thoughts on some of the debate and we saw it as a great opportunity to reach out to a WWE legend who has had a front row seat for much of the Womens revolution in the U.S.
A former Divas & Womens Champion in WWE that has been active as recently as this year, Melina of course has a lot that she can share from her experiences. Luckily we were fortunate enough to have her take some time to talk to WrestlePurists’ Israa (@Raallins) & @BackupHangman. Below is some of the highlights from our interview with her and also a link to the full interview on our Youtube Channel
We started by asking Melina what have been some of the biggest shifts in the way Womens wrestling has evolved in her experience:
I appreciated the girls who were eye candy in the 90s and I appreciated the strong wrestlers that were there, I appreciated the Molly Hollys, and Victoria, and Jazz. Jazz and Victoria were my favourites, they were my all time favourites and you could see how they lead everybody, you could see how strong they were in wrestling.
You had Trish (Stratus), she was a tweener, and I love Stacey (Keibler) and watching, like I couldn’t look like she looked, and Tori (Wilson) was beautiful and you just appreciated everybody for the role that they were. The Diva Search girls I feel like they were never doing the things that they had those girls doing in the 90s and the 80s, they did a lot more racier stuff and more objectifying stuff. We peppered things in and gradually it dissipated, but I feel like what should have taken maybe 2 years to move stuff out, move things along, it took probably 8, and then maybe 15 and then we finally come here.
In the 90s, Boxing took women and they started moving them up in the card and I thought in my mind, being an avid Boxing watcher, when Women started being presented there, then you started seeing women in the Olympics more, showcased on the TV stations, women were doing more stuff in the 90s and it was so amazing, like “oh my God I wanna be that!” I wanted to be that. Then you get into wrestling and it’s like “Oh. We’re not doing much”. Then it took 20 years for then to finally do something. Well maybe 18 (laughs)”– Melina
When being asked about whether or not the Women at the time ever tried to form a coalition or an alliance to try get equal opportunity, Melina pointed to how as a TV regular, WWE would always rotate people to work with her and she would do the best she could to elevate them. Also mentioning how it was hard to form any sort of coalition because there was a lot of jealousy etc in the locker room.
“For me being the only heel or the main heel, we peppered people in and my job was to showcase that other person to make that other person be the ultimate star. It wasnt about me, I didnt do it for myself, I was a workhorse. I slipped on banana peels, I did everything I can to make people hate me. People thinks its easy to get somebody to hate you but this is the thing, people say “yeah I’m a heel, I can help it that people love heels”. Erm, if you’re a true heel, you take somebody who cheers you and you turn that against them and say “I don’t need your love, I don’t need you to cheer for me, I can do it all on my own.” Turn it around so they all start hating you again.
You do everything you can to not be loved, and that takes a really intricate character to stay in that kind of personality type, or to show the world, “this the person you should love, screw you guys”. It not even just saying “screw you”, its doing vindictive things, little details, facial reactions, mannerisms, its an art to get people to dislike you so that, that person is the one that’s loved, and you know, I felt like I did my job and that’s what they told me to do.
They said I couldn’t be a heel, they said I was such a babyface I could never be heel, I did my job to the best of my ability and because I did such a good job, they put me front and centre and it brings a lot of hate and it brings a lot of jealousy. In my mind, if people took the time instead of trying to ruin my career and spread rumours and do things, if they would’ve put the effort into their work, into studying the craft instead of doing that, they would’ve been up there with me. If they would’ve listened to what I said, Im not trying to go against you, im not trying to hurt you, believe me, I want friends. I wanted friends so badly, I didn’t wanna be alone in this, like I hated my life, I wanted to die. I was so alone and nobody saw that because, you know… I don’t blame them, they saw what they needed to see in that moment in time. They’re going through their own Hell, they’re going through their own pain, and I cant do anything about it. But they couldnt understand where I was coming from, so I was the villain. But if they wouldve just listened or tried to befriend me so we could say “Hey, lets do this together!“ then we couldve done so much more. You set aside your insecurities, your hate and you realise you can make magic.”– Melina
Like most women who have had the opportunity to work with Fit Finlay, Melina was full of praise for him and put over his contributions to Womens wrestling in WWE.
“During the Attitude Era, he took Trish (Stratus) under his wing and he always helped her, and Lisa Marie and Jazz, he helped tell the story. So he was helping even then in that time. I think maybe there was a break and they switched to somebody else and Fit came back. Then I think maybe there was another shift for another year, and then he came back again, and when I left, it was back and forth again. Ultimately, they’ll try give him a break, or they think they’re giving him a break but the girls will always need him because he has such a way of explaining things. He has patience and he can be articulate in telling us why, the reasons why. Because sometimes you wanna hit moves but he’ll say “no that doesn’t make sense because of this, this and that” and then he explains in a way like “oh okay, you were right” (laughs)”– Melina
Melina would mention how she thinks she could have learned even more, which lead to her talking about how women nowadays should take in all the knowledge possible when in developmental.
“When women get given opportunities, if you’re able to stay in OVW, FCW, NXT for longer to learn and soak up all the knowledge, that’s freaking amazing. You wanna hone your craft and be the ultimate performer before you go onto the main roster.
For me I got brought up and yeah I was like I could execute moves and remember everything, I’d know what to do, I knew what was going on, I could cover things when they’d go wrong, I could work on the fly, I was good at stuff. But there’s the creativity, like I could only imagine what I could’ve done if I learned more. Not to just be the best out of my roster, out of my group of girls, but to be better because I Just wanna learn and be better just because.
They told me a lot of people (coaches) didn’t work with me very much because its like what’s the point, you’re already the top girl and the point is because I don’t wanna just be the best out of the little group that I’m in. Just to have the knowledge, if I ever have the moment were its like, okay me and Michelle (McCool) are gonna have this PPV match, I wanna people able to bring my best and bring out everything I can and have all this creativity but I never had that. So it’s kinda like the women nowadays are lucky, please, the knowledge these people are giving you, soak it in, take it in, don’t settle for just being the best of your group, just do it because you love this art form so much.”– Melina
On being better for the next generation –
“You see each generation, you do your best so the generation after you has better, that’s what I learned growing up. Thats what I did it’s like okay “If I’m gonna do this bikini match, we’re gonna tell a good story, we’re gonna have fun” but then at the same time its like, next time we get a real match, we’re gonna kick ass so that somebody out there can want to do that. To inspire or to be so good that we can’t be denied.”– Melina
Melina made a surprise return to WWE this year as an entrant in the 2022 Womens Royal Rumble, a return that legitimately got one of the biggest reactions on the show, we asked her about the experience and if it potentially sparked any desire to come back to a more regular in-ring role:
“Its like yes and no. Part of me was like “I could come back!“ and then the other part of me was like “I could retire now, bye” (laughs)”
“Probably people thought I died, probably people thought I was never gonna come back to the WWE because I was so hated or even just that they miss the character, and all that love, people just showed love.
I don’t know if its just me or an impasse, but I get people telling me different things, but I felt the love, I felt the positivity. In my mind, If I could give people just a little bit of what I felt, this world would be a better place. It was so beautiful, all the love and positivity, you feel it through every fibre of your being.”– Melina
When talking about the reaction she received at the Royal Rumble, Melina would go on to say she was happy she made it though things like depression in life to be able experience that moment
“Im glad that because through depression and whatnot, I’m glad I survived through life to experience that. It was a beautiful thing.”– Melina
When talking about the difference between back when she was wrestling regularly in WWE to now, Melina said that she was actually a fan of when the women in WWE only had one title to fight for.
“I loved when we had only one title. Thats another thing too, why do we need two titles? It made people who were on the other brand work on storylines, and to me the story was everything, screw the title, I want the story.
Say if you’re on a PPV and people wanna watch you for the story and they’re not talking about the championship match, that felt good. That’s how you know your work is good, you wanna be that type of wrestler, the title doesn’t mean anything unless there’s story and to me if it gets changed too much theres no real validity to it. You wanna work as hard as you can so that somebody says “you know what, you’re so incredible we’re gonna give you a shot at the title” because you are such a great storyteller. I don’t wanna wait for my turn, people wanna wait like “whens my turn to have it”, I don’t wanna wait for my turn, I wanna earn my turn and thats what says if you’re good or not”– Melina
We also asked Melina what advice she would have for younger wrestlers now
“I always tell people if you think you know it all, then quit wrestling. Please. Because wrestling is ever evolving — this is what I love about wrestling, variety, different styles, different personalities, different ways of movement”Melina
On the subject of retirement, Melina made it clear that saying she is officially retired is something that she’s not going to do right now, pointing out how she knows how wrestling can suck people back in
“Unless I know for sure that Im gonna retire, I will not say that because I know how this business is, it sucks you in.”– Melina
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