As wrestling fans gear up for Evolution at the end of October, it seems to be a good time to look at how specific female characters have been written and how their characters have evolved since they made their first appearance. We also must remember Stephanie is one of a few characters in the WWE that uses her real name as her character name. This article will be referring to the character of Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley.
The first article will be about Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley, the most powerful female in the WWE. For those of you who do not know Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley is the real life daughter of Vince McMahon, the chairman and CEO of the WWE.
Stephanie McMahon made her first appearance on TV in April of 1999 where she was kidnapped by the Undertaker and the Ministry of Darkness during the Backlash pay per view and was almost married off to him during the next airing of Raw. She was rescued by Stone Cold Steve Austin. She learned the “higher power” of the Ministry of Darkness was her father Vince, and he only kidnapped her to go after Austin.
Stephanie began an on-screen relationship with the wrestler Test where her brother fought in a “love her or leave her match” because he hated her dating a wrestler. She fought with Test in a mixed tag match in September of 1999 and they were engaged later on that year. She then was hit with a trash can that was thrown at her father and developed amnesia, but she only forgot her feelings for Test. She then, in story, began to fall in love with him again. At the end of 1999 she was meant to have an in-ring wedding with Test but before the priest could declare them husband and wife, Triple H came out and showed him marrying an unconscious Stephanie in a drive through wedding chapel in Vegas. Her father agreed to a match at Armageddon against Triple H. If Vince won, Triple H would sign the annulment papers, and if Triple H won, then Vince would give him a title shot. At the end of the match Stephanie turned on her father and helped Triple H win the match. She explained that her marriage wasn’t a ruse and that she married Triple H to get back at her father for having her kidnapped by the Undertaker.
This story is very problematic. Let’s forget for a moment that Stephanie is the boss’s daughter. The storyline is that a woman is brought in, and is characterized as sweet and and virginal and then kidnapped by the devil and rescued by the big “bad ass” man. It turns out that her father just wanted to upset his rival by kidnapping his daughter. She then falls in love, but her father and brother don’t like it and they then fight a match for him to break up with her. She then is, seemingly, married against her will to her father’s new antagonist, only later to find out she chose to marry him just to piss off her father. Stephanie McMahon is characterised as whiny, spoiled and manipulative throughout the early 2000s.
Now let’s compare her first storyline to her current storyline. Stephanie McMahon is written as a heel (bad person) authority figure. The kind of authority figure that gets booed at by fans and, in general, pisses everyone off. In 2016 her father made her the commissioner of his flagship show Raw and his son Shane the commissioner of SmackDown. She was written off of TV that April after being pushed off a table (accidentally) by her real life and on screen husband Triple H.
Stephanie has taken credit for the fostering the talent for the women’s revolution in wrestling. Coming out to announce important “firsts” for women’s wrestlers. McMahon began a feud with Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey which lead to a mixed tag match between herself and Triple H and Ronda and Kurt Angle. This was Rousey’s first match. Rousey beat Stephanie using an arm bar. McMahon’s latest major television appearance was to announce the Evolution pay per view last month.
While Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley has been a far off authority figure in the last few years, her characterization since she has been placed in a position of authority has been the b*tch. Women are, in media, usually distilled as the “Madonna,” the “whore” or the “b*tch.” The Stephanie character has grown in the last nearly 20 years. While on most days she is a one note character, she is neither a damsel in distress nor is she a b*tch for laughs. She has distinct character that has a distinct place in WWE.