Mickie James Sounds off on Women and Ageism in Pro Wrestling

Mickie James

A recent social media exchange between Taya Valkyrie, formerly of IMPACT Wrestling, and WWE Hall of Famer Mickie James has once again sparked conversation about how female wrestlers are treated within the industry as they age. Valkyrie posted on Twitter, “Why do people talk about age like it’s a negative??? Just think, you woke up today, you are blessed to see another morning…..never forget that. Age brings, wisdom, experience, confidence. It’s a blessing.”

Mickie James, whose last match was against Asuka on RAW in September 2020, responded, “I agree 1000 percent. But in this industry once you hit 35 it’s perceived you should start wrapping it up and retire as a women. Even though your just hitting you stride. At 40 “retire already” Even though the men are champs well into there 50s and glorified for it. Sad but true

With age comes a strength and wisdom that you can’t teach. I feel more powerful & sexy than I ever have. Yet it is only this way because this is the narrative we’ve accepted to be ok. We’ve pushed this mindset & it’s damn time we changed it. Times have changed. And so have we!” The words of Mickie James hinted at allegedly facing pressure to retire as she approached 40.

The WWE’s Women’s Evolution has broken some incredible ground, retiring the Divas Division in 2016 and creating women’s championships for each brand. Female athletes were included in headlining matches in major pay-per-views and more rigorous and substantial matches like the first women’s Elimination Chamber in 2018. The expansion of the company’s investment in female talent has continued into 2021, with Sasha Banks  and Bianca Belair’s highly anticipated bout a Wrestlemania 37 headliner, and NXT’s creation of a women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic series, and an NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship. With Rhea Ripley, a dominant force who’s cut her teeth on both the NXT and NXT UK rosters, set to move up to RAW, a third wave of the women’s evolution is set to keep pushing WWE’s women’s division forward.

However, has WWE’s stance on women and aging also evolved? Is the pressure that Mickie James alluded to facing still a factor for current female Superstars?

A look at the current roster points to positive signs of growth and change. The oldest star currently on the roster is SmackDown’s Tamina Snuka, daughter of Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka. Tamina is currently 42. She debuted in 2010, and while her time on the roster has yielded only one championship run, as 24/7 Champion, she has had longevity and garners respect. She is known to be a fierce competitor, often factors in contention for pay-per-view matches, and her fierceness and strength mean she is often tapped to put over an up-and-coming babyface with a victory that looks hard-earned on their part. In that way, her role is very similar to the one King Corbin plays.

Her tag partner, Natalya, niece of Bret and Owen Hart, also hails from a wrestling dynasty and is a key and consistent player on the SmackDown roster. The former Divas and SmackDown Women’s Champion shed tag partner Lana shortly before being drafted from RAW to SmackDown. Since arriving back on the Blue Brand, she, along with Tamina, established a niche of being a take-no-prisoners, seasoned competitor who touts herself as the B.O.A.T.: Best of All Time. While Tamina and Natalya have strong presences and play key roles, they mostly serve as contrast and support to other talent; neither has attained a championship so far in 2021.

However, there is no lack of investment in Shayna Baszler, 39. The Queen of Spades has cut a trail of fallen opponents through NXT and RAW. 2021 has been kind to Baszler and tag partner Nia Jax, who have made appearances on all three brands. They retained their titles successfully against women’s Dusty Cup winners Raquel Gonzalez and Dakota Kai. Also, with gags like Jax’s less than graceful landing on the apron and slamming Lana through tables, she has been something of a viral sensation on social media. The notoriety, and victories, don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon for the Queen of the Kirifuda Clutch.

Another dominant force and current champion RAW Women’s Champion Asuka, at 35 also shows no signs of relenting in momentum. Her current championship reign has lasted for over 200 days, with even otherwise indomitable challengers like Bayley and Sasha Banks unable to unseat her. Her tag partner, Charlotte Flair, at 34 is one of the most celebrated figures of the women’s evolution and the current women’s division.

Although the third wave of the women’s division’s expansion is hitting its stride and raring to go – Liv Morgan, Ruby Riott, Shotzi Blackheart, Rhea Ripley, to list some examples – the prominent featuring and deserved championship reigns of seasoned and experienced female athletes suggests that there have been strides made for representation of women of various ages.

Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world, as well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. WWE fan? You can check out an almost unlimited array of WWE content on the WWE Network.

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