David McLane’s Women of Wrestling (WOW) promotion has announced their return to live events, and as a fan of women’s wrestling, I couldn’t be happier. Along with David McLane and Los Angeles Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, a cavalcade of top notch talent is set to be part of this massive return. But, that happiness can be muddied by the complicated past and present of WOW.
WOW ran it’s first three events in September 2000, with performances from Peggy Lee Leather, GLOW Alumna Sunny “The California Girl”, Selina Majors, and a few rookies. Over the years, the roster would expand, introducing a number of talent that continues to put womens wrestling on the map to this very day. On October 6th 2021, WOW announced their return to live events, spearheaded by the motto “Out with the Old, in with the New Generation.” All of that sounds great until you find out who the poster child for the new generation is; Tessa Blanchard.
By all accounts, she is one of the most talented wrestlers of this era. She has competed in SHIMMER, Stardom, AAA, Lucha Underground, Impact, and WWE. She’s wrestled against nearly every major star and has won 18 separate titles. For all the incredible talent she has, she’s reportedly not that great of a person.
Many people in the industry agree with that statement, including Allysin Kay, Shanna, Rebel, Big Swole, and Renee Michelle. At a Stardom event in Japan, Blanchard allegedly spat in the face of fellow wrestler and black woman La Rosa Negra, before calling her the N word. Accusations were also levelled at Blanchard for a history of bullying towards younger talent, including during the previous run of WOW. Blanchard repeatedly had altercations with the promotions trainers, using her power to be made the promotions lead trainer. Many of the talent felt their roles in the company were affected negatively after this position change. Additionally, an altercation happened with Malia Hosaka, in which Hosaka was the only one punished.
Years after the incident and just after the allegations, Blanchard won the Impact World title, becoming the 48th champion in the process – and the first woman. After mounting pressure from social media, Impact Wrestling stripped Blanchard of the championship at just 165 days, and released her from her contract. While an official reason was never given, Mike Johnson of PWInsider reported on the possibility being “Blanchard did not send promos from Mexico for the 6/1 episode of Impact on AXS” resulting in the re-editing of the majority of that night’s show. Another problematic reason was “there were attempts made to get Blanchard to return and drop the [Impact World] title but the two sides were not able to come to terms. When it became increasingly obvious that Blanchard appearing wasn’t going to happen, Impact opted to cut bait, terminate the deal and move forward.” Less than two years later, and several denials about the incident in Japan from Blanchard, she will be main eventing WOW’s return show against The Beast, a person of color, for the WOW championship.
Along with WOW’s return, we are also seeing a massive return that hasn’t seemed possible since March 30th, 2015. For the first time in nearly seven years, AJ Mendez (formerly AJ Lee) has returned to professional wrestling, to be the executive producer for the brand as well as colour commentary. Previously, Mendez worked in WWE, where she was a manager for multiple stars, the Raw general manager, and a three time Divas champion, with a record of 406 days. Following her retirement Mendez would publish a New York Times Bestselling book called “Crazy is my superpower”, as well as helping co-write a GLOW comic series. Mendez has also been a strong advocate for discussions surrounding mental health, including segments of her bestseller devoted to her own bi-polar disorder. With that in mind, for some fans it is a shame that Mendez’ return to the sport is connected to someone who has caused pain for others.
My hope is that WOW will succeed, especially in a world where women’s wrestling is coming into its own, becoming legitimate after decades of being held down. They can carve a similar path as SHIMMER, or slowly fade away into cult-like anonymity like GLOW. A broader history on that can be read about in the upcoming NEARFALLS Magazine. Regardless of whether WOW has the legs, funding, or talent to succeed, it is crucially important for Blanchard to admit her faults, and work to make the world of women’s wrestling more inclusive. But given her initial t-shirt release references her reputation, and that WOW seem to have pitched an initial story centered around Blanchard vs La Rosa Negra, this may not be the place for her redemption tale.
According to Sean Ross Sapp, several attempts have been made, ranging from an apology, to easing tension, to Social Media content, to La Rosa Negra and Tessa Blanchard coming face to face in the ring. Sources close to La Rosa Negra claim she was “insulted” by the offer.