Just days ago, WWE left us in awe when they cut “Emma”, one of their brightest and most underutilized female prospects who was only days removed from two amazing contests against the undefeated Asuka. While the release surprised many, in terms of the current WWE model, it really shouldn’t have. Looking back through the years, the Emma character seemed doomed to fail from the beginning. Whether she was being poorly paired alongside a technically inept Santino or hyped for months under an “Emmalina” shtick that never came to fruition, it seems as though the WWE took little to no care in developing an appropriate character for a wrestler that many view as one of the most pivotal figures in WWE’s ‘Women’s Revolution’.
The parallels I see between Emma and Cody Rhodes are uncanny. Both of them are amazing in-ring competitors. Both have grown up with a passion and love for the business that goes years into the past. Both were relegated into mid-card hell in WWE’s shark tank and seemed to hit a ceiling anytime the audience started to respond in a way that could move them up the ladder.
When I first heard of Emma’s release, I was dumbfounded. “Surely, she requested it.” I thought, thinking back to a couple of news stories I had read stating that Emma was the lowest paid of the major members of the female roster …earning just above $70,000 a year. Her peers and counterparts, on the other hand, were earning above or on the bubble of six figures. Even the recently released Summer Rae, who hadn’t appeared on WWE television in months was earning in the area of $150,000 for her efforts.
While Emma’s “broken heart emoji” tweet the day of her release is an indication that she did not request it, it is unclear why WWE would be willing to part with so much potential…especially just days after a career highlight pay-per-view performance against arguably the biggest star in Women’s wrestling.
I say that the case of Cody Rhodes draws parallels to Emma for a reason. With all her ability, the woman who spent years on the independent circuit know as Tenille Tayla (or under her actual name Tenille Dashwood) has a chance to take the reigns of her career and steer it any direction she wishes to go.
She is already an experienced veteran on the indy circuit and should have no trouble shifting back into the grind where many are eager for her to re-assume her role as a major player. Truth be told, the independents are where I fell in love with Tenille Dashwood as a competitor. I make it a priority to find out everything I can about up and coming superstars…and the moment I found out Tenille Dashwood was a student of Lance Storm’s famed ‘Storm Wrestling Academy’, I began my early youtube obsession with watching her matches and following her rise.
Shortly after becoming familiar with her, I ran across a short seven-minute film simply entitled ‘Tenille, The Wrestler’ and got a crash course into Dashwood’s humble nature; where hard work and sacrifice have dominated the majority of her time in an effort to make it to the WWE.
After a stint in Canada that saw her appear on a reality show called ‘World of Hurt’ (starring Lance Storm and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper) she returned to Australia before landing stateside, competing under the famed Shimmer Wrestling banner. She later competed in Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling where she captured titles and had many successful defences. From there she earned an FCW contract, which re-branded and became NXT only a short time later. The rest of the story is basically where many of Dashwood’s fans find familiarity…’The Emma Era’, where she was able to get over or forge ahead no matter the circumstance.
She began with a goofy dancing gimmick and made it work. A short time later she was fired in real life by the WWE for a misunderstanding that led to a shoplifting charge over an iPad case; only to be rehired a short time later. She successfully went from NXT to the main roster and back again when the main roster proved to be a waste of time in her current state; a gutsy call for a superstar only wishing to get better.
When she returned to NXT, she had perhaps her best period of time under the WWE banner when she turned heel and teamed up with Dana Brooke in what could’ve ended up being the “iconic duo” before Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were cast into nearly the same roles. She was marred by injuries. She was hyped for months as “Emmalina”, a character WWE chose to sell with vignettes riddled in sexuality rather than her in-ring ability, only to debut, vanish and return in the same heel role we all already loved.
When she returned, it felt as if she was regarded less and less, falling further and further down the ladder, while less sound in-ring superstars like Naomi, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Bella all had title reigns. WWE scratched their heads after their last round of bad ideas and concluded they had nothing for her. Then, things started to look up and seemed hopeful, as only a couple of weeks ago she won a four-way contest on RAW to meet Asuka in a pair of matches that would be her last in a WWE ring. What I thought would be her beginning, was actually the end.
Dashwood is no stranger to starting over, but this time a true opportunity has presented itself. Only a year ago we watched a young man named Cody step away from a terrible WWE gimmick to travel the world as a freelance worker. In that year he has become a top superstar, always on the lips of writers, fans and industry players alike.
The character “Emma” may be over and gone, but Tenille Dashwood, the wrestler, is very much with us. She holds the world in her hands as she was formerly one of the best workers in WWE’s women’s division and with an endless amount of doors opening up, ready to take her in.
In regards to the WWE and their effort to push “Sports Entertainment” as a moniker beyond the term “Professional Wrestling”, I say this. You can hide the words, but the best workers in this industry live and breath them every day. They show their affection for them in the ring and continue to get better. They sacrifice for them, giving the same effort for 20 people as they would for 25,000. They work so hard and become so good, that no matter what, they can get a character over. When I look at Tenille Dashwood, these are the components I see. The components for greatness.
The sport of professional wrestling didn’t quit on Tenille Dashwood, “The Worldwide Leader in Sports Entertainment” did. It goes without saying that WWE’s loss will inevitably be someone else’s gain. While the WWE universe will continue to rotate in new faces and many casual wrestling fans will forget the name “Emma”, a star has a chance to shine brighter than ever before. With Dashwood’s latest tweet, we all know that she is anxious to get back in the ring and has us counting down the days until her “90-day, no-compete clause” is over. February is just around the corner. Time to make wrestling the focal point again.
Welcome back, Tenille. We sure have missed you.
(photos courtesy of WWE)