“Fire her INTO THE SUN.”
But, hey, guys. Guys. Calm down. There’s no need to fire her at all. Not even the WWE has a T-shirt cannon powerful enough to launch a red-headed superstar into the sun. Yet.
If the brains behind #AllRedEverything have done anything well, it’s to generate nuclear heat every time Eva Marie steps into the ring. The challenge with her character is, despite WWE’s insistence that “any reaction is a good reaction,” Eva generates “go away” heat rather than the visceral, invested response from fans that WWE imagines. Fans aren’t booing because she’s the villain; they’re booing because they want her to go away. To the delight of no small section of the fanbase, Eva Marie has gone missing, still absent from WWE television despite her suspension having ended months ago. The reality though, is that she will come back and when she does, they need to have a plan.
Like Roman Reigns, Eva Marie gets booed less because of anything she actually does or doesn’t do, and more because the fans can see WWE pulling the strings. WWE has a lot invested, and clearly wants her to succeed as a wrestler whether the fans want her to or not. And you know what? That’s fine. I don’t need or want WWE to pander to the fandom. Pandering can be a bad move, and while we as fans have a right to pick and choose what and who we like, just because we spend our time, energy and money on the product doesn’t make us entitled to creative control.
And hey, honestly, I’m a happy fan. Every week, I get to see Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Cesaro & Sheamus, Handsome Rusev, and Sasha Banks and- andandandANDANDAND. There’s so much given to me to be excited about. The problem with Eva Marie is that there’s an art to making a scripted program seem natural and unpredictable, and while much of the time WWE is very good at this, when it comes to Eva, they’re not even really trying. There’s plenty of room in WWE for Eva Marie. She just needs to have a tangible place.
One thing to consider as fans is the toxic effect we can have on the talent. There’s already a tremendous amount of pressure heaped onto the backs of WWE superstars, and knowing there is a segment of fandom lying in wait to rabidly pick them apart each time they make a mistake, to boo them for merely committing the crime of showing up and reciting the script given to them isn’t helping anything. The “you can’t wrestle” chants at WrestleMania, for example, were egregious. Watching the match, Eva Marie performed what was expected of her, didn’t botch anything, and didn’t injure anyone else in the process. She settled well into the role of pre-show, 10-woman match she was slotted in to. SHE DID JUST FINE.
It’s true that prior to that match, there was plenty of compelling evidence that maybe Eva Marie couldn’t fill that role. Before her several month break, during which she underwent training with Brian Kendrick, she was a slow moving disaster in the ring. And while she has shown improvement since, she’s still not quite there. Watching Eva Marie, it quickly becomes apparent that her biggest weakness is her hesitancy. Whether she’s afraid of making a mistake, afraid of hurting her opponent, of hurting herself, or something entirely separate, it’s certain that the knowledge that no matter what she does, it won’t make a difference, has to play a significant role in the performance that we see. Eva Marie is getting better, but no one seems to want to give her credit for it.
If we fans are going to be assholes no matter what Eva Marie does, why should she even bother? What we are seeing when Eva Marie steps out onto the stage is not an act that is broken, not a cause that is hopeless, but instead a woman who is weary after a career made of ill-timed pushes and bad habits. She is a performer put out on the broad, public stage to flail without a strong base of the fundamentals she needs to make it all click. Like Roman Reigns, she’s a victim of being pushed too hard, too early. She’s been heavily criticized for not trying hard enough, but we’ve seen enough evidence to know that isn’t the case any longer. What she needs is not to be put out to pasture. What she needs, is rehabbing.
Like Sami’s shoulder
Like Hideo’s shoulder
Like Finn’s shoulder
Like Orton’s shoulder
Like Cena’s shoulder
Like Seth’s knee
Like Seth’s knee
You get the picture – Eva needs some time to grow and heal. She got that, to a broad degree, in her most recent stint in NXT, although the hostility of the Full Sail crowd isn’t doing her any favors. To be honest, while the intimate, dedicated nature of the Performance Center is almost assuredly exactly what she needs, the insular, overly aggressive Full Sail crowd is the exact opposite. A better solution would be to have Eva continue to train at the Performance Center while taking on a non-wrestling role on RAW or Smackdown to reintroduce her as a solid character who we can jeer for storyline reasons, rather than because we want her to go away. Truth be told, I’m a huge fan of her voiceover relaunch last year, but realistically, that momentum died with her suspension and she needs a new role to sink her teeth into.
Of the many maladies a 3-hour RAW suffers week in and week out, McMahon exhaustion is malady number one. The perfect solution to that is Eva Marie. In the past, we’ve seen hints of storylines painting her as a savvy backstage manipulator. I’m firmly convinced that in one of her early NXT matches after her training with Kendrick, when she “forgot” to kick out at two, it was supposed to be more apparent that the referee was intentionally cheating for her. Unfortunately they did no one any favors by abandoning that storyline without a definitive resolution and giving Eva little more to work with than more ammo for fans to use against her. It’s also no secret that Vince really, REALLY likes her, so why not use that as storyline fuel to both get the McMahons off our TV and finally give Eva a toothsome storyline to work with?
Here’s an idea: any given week, have Eva Marie unceremoniously show up on RAW and run into Stephanie backstage. After exchanging pleasantries and barely disguised mutual disdain, Eva lets Stephanie know she just signed an exclusive contract to be the General Manager of RAW, that’s why she’s been mysteriously absent for all these months. See, it’s not that Stephanie hasn’t been doing a good job, it’s just that, well… everyone hates her.
Everyone can see that, right, Steph? So, to improve morale, Eva becomes the face of the show while Stephanie who is SO TOTALLY STILL IN CHARGE, can do all of her important business, just, you know… in the back. Off-camera. But hey, what an IMPORTANT presence she will still have in the boardroom, right?
This leaves a seething Stephanie with an agenda against Eva Marie. Stephanie can retaliate against Eva in passive-aggressive fashion, assigning her to deliver all the bad news she’s decided to heap upon the talent. This backfires on Steph, though. Eva uses her wiles to convince the heels to deliver bad news to the babyfaces in on-air feuds. Sami Zayn has a handicap match against The Club tonight? Why would Eva want to bring down Sami’s night herself when she could have Kevin Owens deliver the news? And as thanks, maybe Kevin would like to be on commentary for that match? As Stephanie grows increasingly furious at her manipulations backfiring, she fades further and further into the background, eventually disappearing from TV completely while Eva becomes more and more popular with the heels, using her standing to manipulate them into doing her bidding, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Roman’s being a thorn in her side? Hey Braun, did you see Roman alone out in the parking lot just now? I’d hate to see something happen to him. Gosh, Kevin, if Sami gets another win tonight, there’ll be no choice but to give him a title shot. What to do? In the end, Stephanie comes roaring back a few months, maybe a year later as a babyface that we’re not so tired of seeing and challenges Eva to a match where she does immensely better than anyone would have expected, giving her a fresh start as a wrestler.
The thrust here is that Eva Marie is given a role that gives fans a legitimate reason to root against her. She’s manipulative, yes, but she’s also portrayed as being smarter than anyone would have given her credit for. She’s strong, yet despicable. She’s a featured player, but not getting title shots at the expense of our favorites who are “more deserving.”
The caveat for Eva is that she has to invest fully, and she has to improve. In the end, Eva Marie’s success will heavily depend on her dedication to improving in the ring, as well as on the mic and honestly, breaking through whatever is holding her back. As much as she tries to hold up her arms and bask in the heat, it’s an act she can’t pull off without the confidence to back it up, and having a solid storyline and noteworthy match are the first steps to doing that. Don’t just tell us she’s a big deal and get mad when it doesn’t fly; show us why she’s a big deal and we’ll eventually come around. The answer to solving a problem like Eva Marie is to set her up for success.