Women's wrestling has always had an uphill battle and the days of the "diva" during the Attitude Era didn't help matters. Over the years, women's wrestling has exploded in popularity thanks to the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, AJ Lee, The Bellas, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and more.
Coming from MMA, Shayna Baszler faced challenges of her own as the UFC didn't have women's MMA until Ronda Rousey showed how popular it can be.
Speaking to Arabian Business Lifestyle, Baszler discussed the double standard in women's wrestling and MMA, and how she was able to overcome it.
"I definitely think there was some proving yourself. I think a lot of guys, especially on the wrestling mat or in martial arts gyms, for lack of a better term, wanted to ‘show you’ that you didn’t have it. So maybe they would go a little harder on you. On top of that I think it’s very humbling at first for males you are training with to lose to a girl. Until they get it in their head that on the mat there’s no difference, that’s what martial arts and amateur wrestling were made for, to be this equaliser for a smaller and weaker opponent to be able to equalise against someone stronger. I think when they got that in their head it was fine," she said. "I think that I had to learn pretty quickly that I had to not complain at all. Even less than a regular male might complain. There’s a quote from a female fighter Amanda Buckner that really resonates with me as far as wrestling and everything. She said: “If someone watches a male fight, they’ll say ‘that guy is bad at fighting’, but if someone watches a female fight, they’ll say ‘see look, women are bad at fighting’.”I think knowing that double standard, rather than trying to fight it, taking what you’re given and still proving your worth is not something that’s easy to do and I think a lot of women have had to do that. If the guys go out and have a boring match, they’ll say, ‘wow, those guys are boring’, but if the girls go out and have a boring match, it’s ‘see, women’s wrestling is boring’. I think knowing that you have this weight of representing everyone on your shoulders, I think realising that helps to represent that."
Coming from MMA, and knowing she doesn't look like your typical "diva," Baszler has helped smash the stereotypes associated with women's wrestling. She has found plenty of success in WWE as longest-reigning NXT Women's Champion (combined reigns) and is currently one-half of the WWE Women's Tag Team Champions.
"I think that it’s a really special thing," she said when asked about be part of the change in society and sports entertainment. "Professional wrestling is in a particularly special place because it is entertainment. I’ve been really blessed to be active in this time where people watch it for entertainment and they know. Let’s take MMA where I came from. There will be a lot of people who will just turn off, they can’t watch women fight, it’s uncomfortable for them or whatever their preconceived notions might be about females fighting, they just can’t watch it and they won’t. Even as progressive as women in mixed martial arts has been. But I think in a professional wrestling sense they can watch these, which are stories about fights. Where MMA is the fight, pro wrestling is the story about the fight. I think people are more willing to watch women in professional wrestling because it’s not a fight per se, so they can watch it for its entertainment. Even getting them to watch can open doors and start changing their mind about things. That’s something I remember Triple H talking to us about, it’s about just getting the door to crack open. Some people won’t even open the door to check it out, no matter how much you say to them. But if you can just crack the door open and let them get a peek, then they start seeing and they want to see more and they’ll open the door themselves."
Baszler recently competed on WWE SmackDown, losing to Biana Belair in singles competition. Baszler & Jax are set to defend their WWE Women's Tag Team Titles against Belair & Sasha Banks at WWE Fastlane.
If you missed anything from WWE SmackDown, check out Fightful's full report on the show by clicking here.