Becky Lynch, former WWE Raw Women’s Champion, announced her pregnancy last week on Monday Night Raw. Lynch, a wrestler known as The Man for her continued dominance, relinquished her title in a tearful speech, passing the torch to Japanese phenom Asuka. “You go be a warrior. I’m going to go be a mother,” she told her rival. Asuka, a mother herself, was thrilled at the news and began to chant Lynch’s name in place of the crowd that would have likely done the same. Lynch, who started her announcement by saying, “I have to go away for a little while,” is not medically cleared to perform in-ring while pregnant, and has not given an official decision on whether she plans to return to wrestling in the future. Lynch’s happiness was palpable and seeing one of my favorites recognized in a manner befitting of her talents is a moment I’ll cherish.
Where there is joy, misery will follow. Jim Cornette, an irrelevant man with a podcast who used to be very important in the wrestling world, decided to come for The Man and her unborn child. “She’s got many more years before the fucking Easy-Bake Oven gets shut off,” he said last Tuesday on his podcast, Jim Cornette Experience. “She can have all those problems like a descended stomach and stretch marks and hemorrhoids and hormones problems and mood swings and all those other joys of motherhood later on.”
Lynch is one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE over the last few years. Her rise from a lovable loser to “Becky Two Belts” (where she was both the Smackdown and Raw Women’s Champion simultaneously) was marked by epic moments in and out of the ring, most notably the moment another wrestler broke her face and Becky continued the match, even taking a moment to pose with a face full of blood. She’s the first woman to appear on the cover of WWE’s wrestling video game and was one of the first women ever to headline a main event at Wrestlemania. Recently she leaped into the mainstream with a cameo on Billions. Lynch is a wrestling pioneer.
But Lynch’s accomplishments didn’t matter to Cornette, who said she would “basically be a raging bitch for the next nine months” because she chose to have a child at this point in her career, which he perceives as at its peak. Seth Rollins, Lynch’s fiance, and baby daddy, who used to work with Cornette, found the comments “disgusting,” and commented on WWE After the Bell with Corey Graves that he didn’t think he could forgive Cornette for making such “egregious comments about women.”
A better critical thinker might have argued that Lynch’s pregnancy is well-timed, there is no upside to her staying in the ring while the WWE continues to film matches in an empty building. There is also nothing new left for Lynch to do in her packed career, other than stage an epic comeback a year from now. As women take up a more prominent role in sports and sports entertainment, the gaps in how to care for pregnant athletes are becoming more evident. Pregnancy and motherhood are still seen as roadblocks to success, despite the numerous women who have had children and returned to their careers. Certainly, those careers look different, but Lynch will not fade into oblivion as Cornette suggests simply because she takes time off to allow her body to safely form a child.
Wrestlers frequently take time away from the spotlight for health reasons ranging from concussions to cancer, to literal broken necks. The men who leave to care for their bodies are able to do so without the criticism of other men saying that they’re throwing away their careers. When they return they’re lauded as heroes. When women do the same, they’re criticized and made out to be pariahs by so-called experts. It’s deeply stupid that in a world where Trish Stratus, Beth Phoenix, Serena Williams, Jessica McDonald, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kerri Walsh Jennings, and Allyson Felix all exist, men still need to be reminded that pregnancy isn’t a career-ender. But that would involve people discovering that women athletes exist in the first place.