Looking at the reinstated WWE Women’s Championships, one year later

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This week we celebrate the anniversary of the reinstated WWE Women’s Championships! It was one year ago on April 3, 2016 that Lita made the announcement and reveal that the Divas Title and moniker would be retired and a new Women’s Championship with a new linage would be reborn.

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Since then WWE would also reinstate a brand split and introduce another women’s championship for the SmackDown brand. Now that we’re a year into the Women’s Revolution era, let’s take a look back at what worked, what didn’t, and what we could expect for the title scene moving forward.

Raw Women’s Championship

The inaugural champion

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Not only was it Charlotte’s linage that would guarantee her a top spot when she arrived on the main roster, it was her relentless work ethic and fervent support for women’s wrestling that would cement her as one of the best competitors in the women’s division today. Her work in NXT showed everyone that she could overcome the odds and improve her skills in a very short time. It was natural for her to be the spokesperson for the new women’s era and be crowned the first WWE Women’s Champion.

Unsuccessful Challenger

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Aiming to capture the same magic the original Hart vs Flair battle of the wrestling dynasty feud in NXT held, Nattie served at Charlotte’s first challenger. She was unsuccessful in her efforts to capture the championship due to a faux “Montreal Screwjob.”

Match Accolades:

  • Submission Match at Extreme Rules

Successful Challenger

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Raw centered itself around the history Sasha and Charlotte had in NXT to build the backbone of this lengthy feud. The Charlotte/Sasha narrative would carry the division and remain its focus for most of 2016. Though the story dragged and lacked depth at times, both women delivered every time in the ring in spectacular ways. It was truly the battle of who the best is while both women matched up evenly in her quest to prove it.

Their celebrated match accolades include:

    • Main eventing Raw in October and November 2016, the first time since 2004
    • The first women to compete in a Hell in the Cell cage match and main event a PPV at Hell in a Cell
    • The first women to compete in an Iron Man match on the main roster
    • The first women in the modern era to compete in a Falls Count Anywhere match since 2007

During this time period, Charlotte would become a four-time champion and Sasha Banks a three-time champion. Though the short reigns in between each woman made the title feel like a cheap prop at times, defending the championship in all those history making events and stipulation matches gave it the special status it deserves.

While giving the Raw Women’s Championship prestige, this back and forth nature did more disservice to the Boss character. Though looking back now, this began creating a hierarchy in the division.

Additionally, while lengthy reigns give a belt more meaning, having Charlotte reign supreme as the last Divas Champion and then become the first Women’s Champion, then hot potato the title, fatigued fans.

Second Successful Challenger

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Bayley bested Charlotte before getting beaten down by Charlotte’s protege, Dana Brooke. However, Bayley rose to the occasion and dethroned the queen.

Match Accolades:

  • Winning the title in the main event of Raw
  • Defended the title in a Fatal Four-Way Elimination match at Wrestlemania

Bayley continued to defend the championship in a stipulation match at WrestleMania where she would retain the title and further her story as a woman who has to prove that she is a worthy champion.

Overall Reigns and Stats

Overall there have been 8 reigns between 3 champions. Charlotte holds multiple records with the championship: her first reign is the longest reign at 114 days and she has the longest combined reign at 246 days she has the most reigns at four, and she is the oldest champion at 30 years old. Sasha is the youngest champion at 24 years old and she has the shortest reign at 20 days.

While the linage of the Championship is solid so far, what held the title back in it’s early days was the limited amount of women in the title scene as Raw solely focused on three main players. There is no doubt the Four Horsewomen’s reputation certainly precedes them, but moving forward the championship will only benefit from increased competition from all competitors in the Raw Women’s Division.

Raw should take pages out of SmackDown’s playbook and throw every woman into the mix, develop clear character motivations, and further indulge the hierarchy the brand has been building.

Raw is a show that focuses on big stars but every woman could reach their potential if given the time and chance to do so. Things can only go up from here on Raw with Bayley at the helm and several superstars making their comeback into the division.

SmackDown Women’s Championship

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After the brand split, SmackDown had to rebuild its women’s division from scratch. SmackDown didn’t have the luxury of relying on old feuds to get story lines across and elevate the women. Each competitor was given an opportunity to prove she was the best and they made their alignments as each one carved out her own spot.

On August 23, 2016 the blue brand would introduce its own Women’s Championship.

The Inagural Champion

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Then the SmackDown six would compete in a six pack challenge where Becky would walk out the inaugural champion. Becky had already proved herself a reliable worker and a fantastic baby face, getting the crowd behind her in previous feuds with her former best friend Charlotte and making her mark in the historic match at WrestleMania 32. She was the first SmackDown Women’s draft pick last year and it was long overdue for Becky to hold gold in the WWE.

Becky entered the scene as a fighting champion with Alexa Bliss immediately going after her. While this was happening, several other stories were taking place on the side to further build Nikki Bella as a strong but despised character who had to prove she belonged, Carmella as a newbie looking to make a name for herself, Natalya as a veteran who wasn’t getting the respect she deserved, and Naomi as the hero who couldn’t catch a break.

Successful Challenger

  • Alexa Bliss
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Becky and Alexa would feud for two months. The wicked witch of SmackDown ended the Lass Kicker’s reign in 85 days in a Tables Match, the second in WWE’s history.

Match Accolades:

  • Winning the title in a Tables Match at TLC, the second in WWE’s history
  • Retaining the title in a Cage Match on SmackDown, the second in WWE’s history

Alexa continued to berate Becky’s abilities and would cheat to win on several occasions, recruiting legend Mickie James to her side during a cage match for the championship, another milestone for the title.

While Raw continued to hammer home that its title was making history, SmackDown was more subdued with its strategy. SmackDown presented each woman as equal while moving them up and down the ladder. If the narrative naturally called for it, the title would be defended via stipulation.

Successful Challenger

  • Naomi
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Enter the Blissful era with Naomi as the first challenger. Naomi and Alexa would trade wins but Naomi conquered Alexa. Unfortunately here is where SmackDown’s hand was forced in making an unexpected decision by relinquishing the title from Naomi a week later due to an unforeseen injury.

Successful Challenger After Vacancy

  • Alexa Bliss
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The vacant title was up for grabs in a match between Becky and Alexa. Alexa would beat Becky again after resorting to her signature dirty tactics.

With WrestleMania on the horizon, SmackDown scrambled to get every woman involved and the rush extended to the narrative around the title. Now it was reduced to a prop while each woman had a limited amount of time to stake their claim.

Successful Challenger

  • Naomi
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Match Accolades:

  • Six Pack Challenge at WrestleMania

Naomi received her WrestleMania moment, returning several days prior from injury, to reclaim a title she never officially lost. She defied the odds in another six pack challenge for the title.

Overall Reigns and Stats

Overall there have been 5 reigns between 3 champions and 1 vacancy. Becky had the longest reign at 85 days, while Naomi’s first reign was the shortest at 9 days. Alexa and Naomi have the most reigns with two, and Alexa has the longest combined reign at 111 days days. Becky is also the oldest champion, having won the title 225 days after turning 29, while Bliss is the youngest at 25.

What works on the blue brand is the fact that the booking is so even between every character and each woman has her place, viewers feel like anyone can make an impact and have a title reign. There is a hierarchy within the division and anyone can move up or down at any time. Because of this, SmackDown’s title scene has felt fresh and unpredictable in all the right ways.

What hasn’t worked is the limited amount of title defenses between successful challengers. Raw suffers from this too and it’s because of the lack of depth on each roster. In NXT there’s a deep enough pool of talent signed and local competitors that can challenge the champion.

Moving forward the SmackDown Women’s Championship would benefit from allowing the current champion Naomi to defend her title against all comers in title matches and have a lengthy strong reign. Additionally, while women work in programs on the side to develop their characters, the title scene also deserves a more meaty narrative focus.

SmackDown truly is the land of opportunity and anyone can take its top prize. The future looks bright and an underdog can have her day.

Now I turn it over to you. What do you think about how WWE has booked its Women’s Championships? What are your favorite moments from the past year? What would you like to see in the future? How would you book Raw and SmackDown’s title scene? Sound off in the comments below.