When you were younger, did you have a dream? Did you wish you could become an actor? Perhaps a veterinarian? Or were you interested in the thrill of life inside the squared circle? Whatever your dream was, or still is, the woman I wish to discuss achieved hers, and came back to it with a vengeance this year.
Among various charitable contributions she has accomplished, some recently; she took a step back inside of the ropes, roared out a signature primal scream and pulled out various maneuvers from her well known, sometimes imitated repertoire.
This woman is Melina.
I grew up a wrestling fan. I have enjoyed various forms of the sport. None more so than women’s wrestling, something I’m sure you’re all aware of by now. So when I heard that the person I consider the greatest female wrestler ever was making her return, naturally, I felt very excited.
I have been lucky enough to witness a diverse plethora of talented women over the years in numerous different companies, show their vast range of wrestling ability, personality and skill, but none quite set the tone, the way Melina did.
Look at the woman’s entrance. She would command your attention by simply including a red carpet, and numerous “paparazzi” that would swarm around her like bees to honey. The almost snake like body language or movements that only added to her heel nature, she made you believe she was someone important, someone to take notice of, everything about her draws you in. She felt special despite being a regular human being, well, a regular human who can kick your ass, but nevertheless, a normal person.
If we’re to believe in good old kayfabe, Melina was nasty, cruel, vindictive, manipulative and quite frankly, a complete bitch. Of course the real person behind the character is nothing of the sort, which only makes her story all the more fascinating.
I don’t recall the first time I ever watched Melina wrestle, however I do recall watching her win the WWE Women’s championship for the first time, it’s a moment that changed my perception of the person I would watch every week on television.
Most wrestlers, when winning a championship for the first time, experience some type of emotional euphoria. However nine times out of ten if they are playing a heel character, they will hide it. Melina was not one of those cases. In fact, the sheer sight of her real passion was what made me an even bigger fan of her. Not that I ever had doubts about her passion for wrestling, but that moment is incredible still to this day, and one I often find myself watching it back whenever I’m feeling down on whatever is happening currently in women’s wrestling.
What makes it so special in my mind is just how important that moment was for her. Melina is someone who respects the history of the title, and every single person who has ever contributed towards wrestling, because she herself is a fan. So for her to be included alongside the likes of Sensational Sherri, Wendi Richter or any other woman to have held that title, it’s an honor.
The respect she shows for her peers during her own era, but also those before her, makes Melina even more admirable. She’s humble, yet knows her worth at the same time, it’s a unique balancing act that many don’t grasp in the world of wrestling.
I’d say her career in WWE is well documented and very easily accessible now due to the Network, something I would recommend you all go back and watch, however just in case someone was living under a rock during 2005 to 2011, I’ll go over it.
Melina entered WWE as the manager of MNM, which yes sounds like a god awful boy band, but they were in fact a rather successful tag team in their own right, consisting of then known Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury. Melina would however breakout as a star of the trio, showing great talking skills during promos for the tag team, or herself. Transitioning into more of an in-ring talent, her first match would be against a then rookie Michelle McCool.
When Trish and Lita both left in 2006, the future of the women was placed into the hands of Mickie James and Melina, especially during 2007. I have to say, having watched back that particular year in it’s entirety and coming to the realization that it’s a phenomenal one for the women, I’d say they did their job–and did it well.
She was the number one heel in the women’s division, but would also improve her wrestling ability majorly during these years, becoming arguably the best wrestler in the division at that time, or at least in my opinion she was.
Melina won her first Women’s championship in that year. She managed to feud with Mickie James who she beat for the title, then lost it to her during a live event, and regained it that same night, making it her second Women’s Championship reign. Ashley whom she faced at WrestleMania 23, which was the last time women competed in a singles match at the PPV, Candice Michelle, who eventually defeated her for the championship and friend turned foe Beth Phoenix.
2007 was her year, filled with various hidden gems that people have probably forgotten about over the years, for example the amazing match she and James put on at Backlash, or the rematch between her and Candice from the Great American Bash. The point being she killed it whether taking the win or loss.
If you think playing the heel is all Melina was capable of, you’d be severely wrong. Towards the middle of 2008, she turned face to continue her feud with the Glamazon, which lead to an “I Quit” match, where Phoenix literally folded her in half forcing her to submit. However of course this wouldn’t be the last we would see of Melina.
She would eventually hold the Women’s Championship on one more occasion, defeating Beth Phoenix at Royal Rumble 2009, and later the Divas Championship twice, with her first reign coming also in 2009 after she was a surprise draft to Raw, ending Jillian Hall’s reign that lasted just a few short minutes, whilst the second came about after she returned to feud with Alicia Fox in 2010.
Injuries would, (par for the course of a wrestler), play a part in her career, and she did have her best years whilst playing a cunning, unscrupulous heel. However her in ring ability, athleticism, personality, charisma and ability to cut a promo, is all proof that this woman is the greatest.
Melina left WWE in 2011 and made a few brief appearances on the independent scene, however nothing particularly notable happened, as she was fully set on walking away from wrestling.
But let’s fast forward to 2016, her eventual return to the ring.
I had never witnessed any of Southside’s content, also meaning I had never bought one of their shows. However, did I do so for Melina’s return at Queen of the Ring? Absolutely. I followed the event via Twitter, checking on what the match results were from that weekend, however, I felt the need to witness the show for myself.
To put it simply, one woman alone made me want to buy that show, made me want to witness whether she was still just as good as she was years prior, made me want to witness her eventual crowning moment of winning the tournament and the championship. I can’t say that I would do the same for other talents, and thus I probably find this a bigger deal than anyone else will.
So, I sat down and watched the full show, giving it all of my attention. Melina was in the opening match and was put across as an underdog, due to this being her first singles match in five years, however she closed the show as a champion.
Storytelling may not be what they were necessarily going for, but it’s what I got from it. Most of Melina’s career was about how confident she was in herself. Not to say that she isn’t currently, but you felt something had changed, like she almost wasn’t sure whether she was still able to perform the way she previously had.
For years I had watched this borderline nasty character who would do just about anything to get what she wants, however here she switched to someone you wanted to see overcome the current crop of women who are killing it on the independent scene. It’s quite fascinating.
I wasn’t disappointed by her performance at all, many people return and don’t look anything like what they did during their prime, but she’s definitely still got it.
So, not only is Melina the SWE Queen of Southside champion, but she’s currently in possession of the MCW Women’s Championship, and is appearing in various independent promotions including OTT and WCPW. Tacking on whatever she has upcoming on this crazy return tour, I’d say 2016 has been pretty good for Melina so far.
For the future, with rumblings of a WWE women’s tournament stirring everywhere, they may be in need of someone to fill the Brian Kendrick spot so to speak. Who better to play the underdog, than the former multi-champion herself? I personally would love to see this happen, but who knows whether it actually will or not.
To close off on this, I’d argue that her biggest impact of all however, is the influence she has had on other people. The Bella Twins for example have spoke about her inspiring them, Sasha Banks currently uses her signature knee stomp on the second rope, with tons of other women who have gone on to compete naming Melina as someone they watched and then followed in her footsteps, something I’m sure will continue for years to come.
It delves deeper than just people who have stepped inside the ring, there’s a huge amount of fans who feel connected to her and who she has had an effect on, myself included clearly. She deserves a lot more credit than she gets, and it’s a shame she doesn’t receive it.
However in my eyes, she’ll always be the greatest female wrestler of all time.