Why Wrestling Needs Nia Jax

Note: I am a skinny white guy writing an article about a female wrestler’s body, and God knows that there’s been enough of those on the Internet. But while I could write yet another thinkpiece about Kevin Owens in my sleep, that would be kinda cowardly. An easy post. Nia Jax is important, and she deserves an enormous amount of consideration and thought. If I’m not staying in my lane in this article, please let me know down in the comments.

Other note: Initially, I felt inclined to use words like ‘plus-sized’ or ‘larger’ or ‘full-figured,’ but those feel like weasel-words that dance around the value-neutral word ‘fat,’ a word wrestling fans (and, like, most people) sneer when they’re talking about women’s bodies. This essay by Kate Harding breaks the word down superbly, and points out that ‘fat’ is frequently used as a stand-in for a huge collection of ugly meanings instead of an adjective to describe a body type. I’m gonna take my cue from this piece and use the word ‘fat,’ the way ‘skinny’ or ‘jacked as fuuuuck’ are used. I stress again, I’m a scrawny little dude who’s never had to deal with what the word ‘fat’ could imply toward my status and worth as a human being, so if I get it wrong or I’m out of line, please let me know. ANYWAY. Article, right? Nia fuckin’ Jax. YEAH.

 

Nia Jax is a kickass fat woman wrestling for WWE, and she isn’t written as a grotesque or a punchline.

That sentence in itself is something incredible. It might be my favorite sentence ever. In your head, right now, come up with a list of fat female wrestlers in WWE. Whaddaya got? I’m gonna guess:

  • Kharma, who wrestled in exactly one match (the Royal Rumble, for a couple of minutes), and primarily interrupted women’s matches to cackle maniacally and break down crying in the ring
  • Bertha Faye, introduced as Harvey Whippleman’s wife and used as a classist, comedic “white trash” character. Worth noting: Was told to scale back her in-ring ability because she wrestled too well
  • …maybe Aja Kong? If we’re grading on a curve?
  • If you say Mickie James, I will fly to your house and give you so many swirlies, your kids are gonna be born waterlogged

And then there’s Nia Jax, who comes out beaming and confident and grinning like a knife, cool ring gear, a get-pumped intro theme, the works. All the stuff a wrestler ought to have in order to move merch and get action figures made. Her finisher, a brutal-as-fuck bearhug release spinebuster, looks like total murder. She’s not trying to hide how different she looks in comparison with her contemporaries — we get to watch a legitimate female hoss who throws other wrestlers around like bags of laundry, whose weight becomes an advantage when she drops that leg on her opponents’ throats. She does all this in perfect makeup. She does this while being feminine and fat.

She does this while gross male fans (specifically Sign Guy, who rates just beneath Frank The Clown on the list of “gross male wrestling fans with too much money and free time”) smirk and hold up signs making fun of her weight. No sooner had she debuted than smarks jumped on the internet to scream about how much they hated her body, and how dare she occupy their TV screens when they didn’t approve of the way she looked?

A lot of male wrestling fans wish that all of the women wrestling for WWE looked the same. This is unbelievably boring and backward for a host of reasons, but I feel the need to stress something: Nobody cares about what your stupid boner thinks. If you think Nia’s hot, great. If you don’t, whatever. The issue here isn’t whether Nia Jax is attractive to you — the issue here is that Nia Jax deserves to occupy space between those four ringposts, she deserves respect as a pro wrestler who risks her health to entertain us, and her value as a wrestler (read: as a human being) is not contingent upon her weight.

In the months since her debut, she’s improved astronomically. The Nia Jax who challenged Bayley for the Women’s Title at Takeover is worlds apart from the green-as-fuck Nia who debuted against Evie, and she’s constantly improving as a heel, on the mic and in the ring. And she’s electric. That grin she does at the crowd after she’s broken someone and pinned them? Even before she put it all together as a worker, she was unmistakably exploding with presence, something that the commentators still have to inform us Baron Corbin has. She gets reactions out of people. Because she’s a professional wrestler, and it’s her job. She is very, very good at her job.

She’s a mile-marker for progress since the misogynist wasteland of the Attitude Era. Don’t get me wrong: WWE still has so, so many problems with its female talent, who’ve had to scratch and claw for recognition while being given three-minute matches and recycled storylines about how Women Are Crazy Am I Right. A #DivasRevolution hashtag ain’t gonna fix the decades and decades of marginalization and chauvinism baked into pro wrestling’s history. But when I turn on NXT and Nia’s stalking down to the ring, I get giddy in anticipation of watching her bash someone into a pile of red jelly and spandex. She’s had the freedom to refine her character knowing that the trainers and writers have her back, and that’s huge. I know that NXT isn’t main roster, and no, I don’t think that as long as Vince is in charge, he’s going to be giving her any more opportunities than he’s giving Sasha or Naomi. He’s a powerful racist who doesn’t care about women. (Although he does give plenty of opportunities to anybody related to The Rock, so who knows.)

My point is that this couldn’t have happened a decade ago. WWE is still a gaggle of body-shaming carnies, and I can’t even imagine how many shitty potshots Nia’s going to have to deal with from the back office and sound truck in the coming years. At best, they’ll view her as a valuable commodity, the way they do with every other wrestler to whom they decide to give opportunities. They’ll see how powerful and charismatic she is, and they’ll see dollar signs when she grins out at the crowd like she’s just committed murder and gotten away with it. They’ll stand back and watch as a fat, beautiful, brutal woman prints them money and puts butts of all sizes in arena seats. She’ll get an opportunity to shine. Wrestling needs Nia Jax because there are plenty of people watching whose bodies look like hers, who need their own wish fulfillment character just like skinny dudes need Dean Ambrose, just like fat dudes need Kevin Owens. Fat women have loved wrestling as long as wrestling has existed.

It’s about fucking time.

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2 Comments

  1. Roy
    August 16, 2016

    I don’t mind watching Nia wrestle, it’s good to have her on a flagship program and not have her as a jobber or a joke, but my question is if they’re planning to condition her so that she can have match that’s longer than a minute or two with some real athletic runs? So far it seems all they want to do is establish that she has a nasty attitude.

  2. Rob
    September 26, 2016

    I love Nia Jax and find her very attractive.
    She shows that not all women athletes are toned up like the men. She defines beauty, grace and pure talent.

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