Women who deserved a #DivasRevolution: Jazz
"The bitch is back and the bitch is black!"
The history of women of colour in WWE is both limited and chequered. It’s not a company known for its positive representations of people of colour – look up Booker T vs Triple H at WrestleMania XIX, or go back a couple of months to hear Vince McMahon tell Roman he isn’t far from having “a bone through his nose”. Then add in the decades-old woman problem and it’s no surprise that the few black women who have had featured roles have also had their struggles both on and offscreen.
Jazz is one of relatively few black women to have made an impact in WWE. It’s even more impressive given how short her career there was – she was signed in late 2001 and released in late 2004, having had two long periods of injury. In that time she was almost always treated as a top level competitor, with her broader, more muscular build making her a perfect badass heel. Jazz was also the obvious counterpoint to a certain Trish Stratus.
In one sense, that must have contributed to the attention she got: after all, this was a period when if women wanted to be featured on TV, they pretty much had to be feuding or teaming with Stratus. Most of the best Jazz matches that can be found online include Trish, Lita or both. Although those two women were the obvious top of the division, Jazz was one of few credible threats from the very start of her career.
From the minute she walks out, Jazz is a fearsome prospect. She’s appearing for the Alliance of WCW and ECW at the height of the infamous Invasion angle, so it’s no surprise that former ECW boss Paul Heyman is putting her over as “ferocious” on commentary. But she lives up to the hype: charges in, grabs hold of Lita – one of the most popular babyfaces in the company – and doles out some massive power moves. The match is too short to be a masterpiece, but you’re still left with the impression that this woman is one to watch.
Unlike contemporaries like Lita and Ivory, Jazz didn’t have vast experience to draw on. ECW had given her a start in the business, and after debuting as the manager of stable the Impact Players, she started a feud with her former ally Jason. Sadly it’s hard to find good quality video of their matches, but check out Heat Wave 1999 if you can: she sells Jason’s offence well, but she also pulls out some impressive suplexes and a huge Samoan drop. She wins when she gets chairs involved, because ECW.
Wrestling men and ECW’s few women meant that Jazz was prepared for very physical matches. Whenever she got in the ring, the sense of aggression was palpable. She said little (to the interviewers at least - she talked great smack in the ring), hit hard and never failed to capitalise on her opponents’ weaknesses.
Trish is protected to an extent by the pre-match beatdown, and she’s great as a sympathetic babyface. Still, faces are only as good as the heels they compete against, and Jazz does a fantastic job of getting heat. She goes in for the kill with hard strikes and big power moves. Relentless, brutal, arrogant. And that look she gives the interviewer as she prepares to leave makes it impressive when he doesn’t faint on the spot.
But her first title reign lasted less than four months. Jazz eventually dropped the championship to Trish in May 2002 so she could take time off to rehab a serious knee injury, and was gone for seven months. She returned early in 2003, and before long her dominance made her a natural fit for a very problematic stable.
As matches under 10 minutes go, this is one of the better American women’s bouts you’ll see. Again, Trish is protected, this time by injury, and again the match follows a similar pattern of allowing Jazz to zero in on this weakness. Jazz was always a great heel and this match has a couple of great transitions and counters.
The most interesting change from the previous year, though, is Jazz’s manager: Theodore “We’re gonna have us a tag team playa” Long had recruited her to his stable, Thuggin’ and Buggin’. Notice the talk of rising above bigotry, which was pretty much the concept behind the whole stable. Prejudice was everywhere as far as its members were concerned, and whenever things didn’t go their way (say, if they were disqualified for cheating) it was ‘the result of white oppression’. They therefore had to assert themselves by being massive bastards. This was a real heel stable on a TV show watched by millions of people in 2003, which just about sums up WWE’s history with issues surrounding race.
Jazz called herself a “bitch” and called her submission move the Bitch Clamp. She spent most of her time in WWE playing the archetypal ‘scary black woman’. She was also a badass who created depth and contrast in a women’s division that deserved a golden age, but which never got the time or respect needed to build one.
Sadly, Jazz’s second and final title reign was also cut short by injury. After another lengthy absence she came back to WWE for a few months, only to be released by the company late in 2004 – except when they decided they needed her for their failed attempt to resurrect ECW. But her legacy is obvious. Now, she runs a fitness gym to “keep youth off the streets”, owns a wrestling school with her husband Rodney Mack (it’s called The Dog Pound) and of course, she’s worked the independent circuit.
She was signed up for last year's Chikara’s King of Trios tournament. She’s on Team Original Divas Revolution.