A Londoner’s Eye: Paying Homage to the Divas of Raw

Tonight, WWE celebrates its 1,000th episode of Raw. Since 1993, that Monday night factory has been chugging and spurning out match after match, segment after segment, and all the rest in between.

Of course, with the good (and there’s been plenty of that) there’s the not so good (there’s been a whole lot of that, too!), but as we approach tonight’s 1,000th episode, I wanted to take a look back at some of the Divas I felt helped shape Raw and its Divas division over the course of 999 episodes.

Though Alundra Blayze was part of Raw’s early years, she is perhaps better known for what she did on Raw’s rival show, WCW Nitro, on that infamous December night in 1995. Indeed, though she’d had matches on Raw, it was her dropping the WWF Women’s Championship in a trash can live on Nitro that was perhaps her biggest contribution to Monday night wrestling. This moment was thought to be the catalyst for the ‘Monday Night Wars’, as WWE and WCW would become bitter ratings rivals for many years to come.

The next Diva, then, to make an impact was Sunny. Hailed as the “original Diva” (a title contested by a lot of fans), Sunny’s sex appeal and managerial skills were a hit with WWE audiences at the time. Sunny, and her successor (more on that in a minute), certainly helped usher in the Divas we see today; beautiful, slender women with perfect hair and French manicures. While Sunny was popular, the popularity over her successor to the Diva throne is perhaps underestimated today — Sable was not only one the top female of her time, but was one of the top WWE stars, period. The crowd responses to the blonde bombshell were unlike what we’d seen before, and would even be alien for today’s Divas. Sable took the ball and ran, scoring mainstream publicity (including Playboy) and transitioning from valet to in-ring competitor herself. True, Sable was never the best wrestler but hey, neither was Hulk Hogan. Based on her appeal and the fact that she always had a solid storyline (something we don’t see too often these days) with jealous/abusive boyfriend Marc Mero and his new girlfriend Jacqueline, and later Tori, the fans got behind Sable. Proof that good storylines can trump all. As far as those early Attitude Era days go, Sable was a defining part of Monday Night Raw and her role in its history shouldn’t be forgotten. In fact, it was the feud between Sable and Jackie that got this writer first interested in WWE for the long haul (having previously watched a show here or there). Sadly, Jackie, arguably one of the toughest women in the business, is largely overlooked by WWE today for her contributions to the company; she was, after all, the first ever African-American Women’s Champion and had a strong role in bringing hard-hitting female matches to fans on Monday nights. Jackie’s talents are not forgotten by us, however.

During this period, there was another woman who was not quite in the women’s division but made history in her own right — Chyna. As a member of D-Generation X, Chyna was a boundary breaker for the WWE. No one could have predicted that the stacked bodyguard of Triple H would ultimately become one of the Attitude Era’s biggest crossover stars with stints on talk shows, acting gigs on Third Rock from the Sun and more. Chyna was also given more than her fair share in WWE, considered one of the top stars — male or female — and entered into the Royal Rumble match, the King of the Ring tournament, and crowned Intercontinental Champion (back when the title meant a hell of a lot more than it seems to today). Along with Triple H, Mankind, The Rock, and of course, Stone Cold Steve Austin, I’d say Sable and Chyna also had something of a hand in helping Raw turn the tide as the Attitude Era finally helped Raw crush Nitro in the ratings.

Part of Raw’s success against Nitro and this turning of the tide was the storyline between Vince McMahon and Stone Cold Steve Austin, a storyline that every blue collar viewer could relate to. After all, who wouldn’t want to knock the crap out of their boss? Perhaps egotistical of the McMahons to take up a chunk of Raw’s two hour slot, there’s no denying that the Billion Dollar Princess, and current WWE executive, Stephanie McMahon, like her father, was an enigmatic character that added an extra dimension to Raw. The McMahon-Helmsley Era was appointment viewing for myself, and her work with Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho and more? Incredible. McMahon also mixed it up with the females, taking part in feuds with our next two names on the list and with one, instantly created magic.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/johndern JDernTrishStratusFan

    Such a classy, well written article! Great read.

  • http://www.diva-dirt.com candice7000

    I couldn’t agree more. You rally hit the nail on the head. Idk how diva-dirt do it? We may come on this site with an opinion on one topic and make us look at the topic in a whole new way. I feel you guys have the overall thoughts on what we may think as fans, You don’t feed in to the negative nor positive you guys give us facts and the general idea of what may have transpired with in women’s wrestling, I will forever be dedicated and love this sight.

    • http://www.diva-dirt.com Melanie

      This was a really nice comment to read. Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/RyanRoman0 Ryan

    I love Sable love how sexy and beautiful she was and specially when she was angry somehow she was always very classy. Also Debra you saw Debra and she was a tease hehe..but she wasnt a slag like many women in wrestling have been
    Chyna was the female terminator lol

  • lucky1now

    Wow what a look back at all the greats and some future greats
    Reading this just shows there’s always a down but an up always comes
    Here’s to the currunt crop of women making a new great era with many more great fueds and memories

  • wangzy

    I like about what she said about Lita about being ‘one-f-the-boys’..that’s definitely her…though AJ being ‘one-f-the-boys’ doesn’t seem to fit her, my opinion….though I like AJ where she is right now

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sherri-Martel-Appreciation-Page/451635728182584#!/pages/Sherri-Martel- Sherri Martel Fan

    It would have been nice to have seen Sherri & Luna mentioned. They had a great fued & some great segments on RAW!

  • http://bleacherreport.com/users/200984-chris-b TrishMelinaFan

    Great article. Everything I’ve felt about Raw and the women who have been seen on it was summed up beautifully.

  • WinterAngel94

    This was a great article and names some of my favorite women in wrestling history!! Haha I have loved the divas ever ince I started watching 13 years ago and im only 18 haha ive watched thee women come in and out of the industry and have found somenthing to love in every single one of them!! I cant wait to see what the future of the divas will be!!

  • http://twitter.com/#!/AllAboutDionte browndi5

    I really wish you would have mentioned Dawn Marie when speaking about Torrie and Stacey. Dawn was fantastic on Smackdown.

    • http://www.diva-dirt.com Melanie

      Did you read the title? :)

      • http://twitter.com/RyanRoman0 Ryan

        The RAW Divas? Come on Melanie..lol
        You do a great job in fact many websites dont have the passion or love to do an article about womens wrestling…Smackdown or RAW for that matter..Dawnmarie NEVER got the opportunity to be able to go to Raw

        There is a match on Youtube guys its Dawn Marie vs Nidia with Jaime Noble…it REALLY sets apart Dawnmarie and shows how great she was and how Smackdown didnt show this side of Dawn…shes one of a kind and amazing

        All is good Mel no harm done =]

  • The K@rmic HeeL

    Some divas were left out I think, but Melanie you always write such great articles that are so much fun and insightful even to read. You’ve turned this into an amazing place for women’s wrestling. Thank You.

    • The K@rmic HeeL

      I really word things wrong when im using my android because i wanna get it all out asap.

      Melanie you do a wonderful job and I think you’re a perfect gauge of women’s wrestling in all its forms and it truly shows. I share the same opinions and the article was perfect.

  • Future-Knockout/Diva

    Brillant read, you have so many great facts and points and the general idea and descripton of the WWE Divas past or present and and how each era was different, personally my favourite was the golden age, up until today, Wrestlings always been a favourite of mine and most of the time i care more about female wrestling then the mens wrestling (mostly i can relate because i’m a woman myself), everything about them is inspiring from where they came from, from how they got there, all of these women are different and have changed Raw in more ways than one.

  • AfroJack

    This was a wonderful look back at some of the greatest women to step foot in a wrestling ring. With so many vibrant and different characters, various wrestling styles and backgrounds as well as attitudes, these women really made an effort to shape our opinions of Divas and of RAW. Some may not give them the credit they deserve, but we all know what a big role they played over the last 19 years of RAW.

    We’ve seen so many come and go, and so many change how we see the sports entertainment biz.

    #thankyouRAWdivas

  • lelloo7

    all i have to say is you’re a great writer.. hope u succeed in this domain if u wish to be a part of it :)