On Monday’s episode of RAW (7/22), during the “MizTV” segment featuring the cast of Total Divas, Bri Bella had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. Twitter lit up and photos surfaced instantly. PWMania.com reported that WWE officials were furious over the incident and forced Bri to issue an apology. After RAW, Bri released the following statement:
Forced or unforced, the apology still came – highlighting a double standard on behalf of the company. WWE doesn’t want things like this to happen and is sensitive to the 8 year-old Cenation, but the sexualization of the Divas shouldn’t come as a surprise to them, which makes the “forced” apology (if that is the case) ridiculous.
As recently as 2008, WWE was cross-promoting Playboy with WrestleMania. From the late-1990s – 2008, Divas featured on the cover of Playboy were worked into Playboy-themed matches or received Women’s Championship opportunities on the “Grandest Stage of them All.”
- 1999: Sable in Playboy; Women’s Championship Match: Sable (c) vs. Tori at WrestleMania XV – def. Tori to retain
- 2001: Chyna in Playboy; Women’s Championship Match: Ivory (c) vs. Chyna at WrestleMania 17 – Chyna won the Women’s Championship (Chyna’s actual appearance was in 2000, but feud carried to WrestleMania)
- 2004: Torrie Wilson & Sable in Playboy; Playboy Evening Gown Match at WrestleMania XX – def. Miss Jackie/Stacy Keibler
- 2005: Christy Hemme in Playboy; Women’s Championship Match: Trish Stratus (c) vs. Christy Hemme – WrestleMania 21 – Stratus retained
- 2006: Candice Michelle in Playboy; Playboy Pillow Fight vs. Torrie Wilson at WrestleMania 22 – Wilson victorious
- 2007: Ashley Massaro in Playboy; Women’s Championship Match: Melina (c) vs. Ashley WrestleMania 23 – Melina retained
- 2008: Maria Kanellis in Playboy; BunnyMania Match: Maria & Ashley vs. Beth Phoenix & Melina – WrestleMania 24 – Phoenix & Melina won
WWE’s shift to TV-PG in 2008 ended the Playboy-Mania era.
Pre-PG programming directly encouraged fans to sexually objectify their Divas. WWE even ran annualized specials for television and print publication – ex. Divas Magazine (swimsuits, lingerie) and WWE Divas: Undressed (2002), a lingerie special where Torrie Wilson won the “Golden Thong Award.”
Additionally, from the mid-1990’s – 2008, RAW and Smackdown featured a host stipulation matches (gravy bowl, pudding, lingerie pillow fights, mud wrestling, paddle on a pole, and evening gown) and contests (bikini, pie eating, wet t-shirt). Many of their segments were even hyper-sexual (remember Sable removing her top and having latex hand-prints over her nipples on RAW, or The Kat flashing the crowd at Armageddon 1999, Eric Bischoff’s “Hot Lesbian Action” in 2002, Trish Stratus & Vince McMahon’s NFL spoof in 2004, any one of the “Playboy unveilings,” or Edge and Lita’s “Live Sex Celebration” in 2006?).
Given the product is now PG-rated, I can see why WWE would want an apology issued, but if the rumors of fury are true, I don’t understand. The incident was accidental and if we’re really going to look at the situation, WWE is responsible for the “controversial” arousal of the WWE Universe, after all, they did spend a decade sexually objectifying their female talent.
Had this occurred during an active segment, I’m sure it would have garnered equal social media attention, but it probably would have been less “controversial” or “infuriating.” Then again, Bri’s malfunction could have been avoided altogether, had WWE booked their female talent in action, instead of in a meaningless 5-minute segment, which left the women underutilized and the fans cheated.
The point is, how many of us really remember “nip slips” from RAW? Google is probably the only one. Do you remember Kaitlyn’s malfunction on June 16? Probably not. So it’s just as likely that Bri’s will be forgotten and she’ll be forgiven – but really, is it that big of a deal? No – and if it is, WWE has only itself to blame.
On a lighter note: During the segment, it looked like Natalya noticed and said to Cameron and Naomi (the Funkadactyls), “Do you guys see it?”