To celebrate Women’s History Month Diva Dirt will be highlighting some of wrestling’s greatest unsung heroes. These individuals for some reason or another don’t get the recognition, respect, and status they deserve. These retrospectives will occur throughout the month of March.
Here at Diva Dirt, we have already touched based on several who we feel are unsung heroes in the industry. Starting with the 1980s and 1990s we are now working through the 2000s. Here is who we have gone over so far. You can click on their names to go to their respective articles.
Continuing to focus on the Divas Era timescale we will look at a performer who had everything one would expect to be a hugely successful wrestler and a massive part of the women’s division for years to come. However, despite being an integral part of the “Women’s Revolution” her main roster appearances and subsequent career just didn’t seem to play out as expected.
Massively underutilized and hugely overlooked Emma is another name in a long line of mishandled talent but without Emma, there would have been a very different “Women’s Revolution” and therefore, Emma’s contribution to the rise of women’s wrestling within WWE cannot be ignored.
Tenille Dashwood began her wrestling journey in her native Australia before training with Lance Strom in Canada and heading over stateside to make appearances for SHIMMER. It was here where she was noticed by WWE and signed to a developmental deal. Emma would perform briefly for FCW before it was closed down and transformed into NXT.
It was here that Emma established herself as a fan favourite through her fun dancing and “Emmalution” gimmick but it was her unique, mat-based and technical in-ring style that also stood out. Emma’s big break would come when she would take part in an reach the finals of the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament to face Paige to become the first-ever NXT Women’s Champion.
Throughout the tournament, both finalists had proven themselves as legitimate and credible contenders through a style of wrestling that had not been seen from the women in WWE for years.
Widely regarded as the match that started the “Women’s Revolution” as both performers showed the world just what women can do in the ring, given the time and opportunity. The match was a defining moment for Paige and Emma, the NXT women’s division and women’s wrestling as a whole.
Emma would continue to mix it up with the likes of Charlotte, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Natalya until she was faced off with Paige once again for the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT: Arrival. The was another great match and a pivotal moment in the future of women’s wrestling in WWE.
Emma’s next chapter saw her make history once more when she debuted on WWE television to become the first Australian-born WWE diva. However, the main roster still had a long way to go when it came to respecting the women’s division and Emma’s move up to the main roster wasn’t exactly successful when she became the dancing sidekick of Santino Marella and would feud with Summer Rae and Fandango. Things would go from bad to worse as she was arrested for shoplifting at a Walmart and released by WWE immediately. Emma was reinstated just a few hours later when it was revealed that she had in fact paid for her goods and there was a problem with the shop’s scanner.
Emma’s career would pick up when it was announced that she was returning to NXT. Upon returning, Emma was almost instantly used a million times better than on the main roster. Emma would quickly drop the lovable dancing gimmick in a bid to taken more seriously after her disastrous tenure on RAW by turning heel and teaming up with NXT newcomer, Dana Brooke.
The new heel persona would allow Emma to try new things both in and out of the ring, which the NXT fans loved and aptly named her “Evil Emma”. Emma would target the popular faces such as Bayley and Charlotte while she began to add more moves to her arsenal, like the EmmaLock.
Emma would be the first feud of NXT newcomer Asuka when, alongside Dana, she would interrupt her contract signing. This angle was perfect. Asuka was being groomed to be NXT’s next superstar and future of women’s wrestling and to do that NXT would need a reliable and solid wrestler, one which had a certain amount and kudos and credibility and that wrestler would be Emma.
The feud with Asuka would lead to a fantastic match at NXT TakeOver: London. At the time Asuka had destroyed all that had been put in her way, but none had been the calibre of Emma and she would give Asuka her most difficult challenge in NXT yet.
The match was excellent, intense, and highly entertaining. Both performer’s experience and styles meshed amazingly well, which made for a match that once again proved that women’s wrestling in NXT was the best in the world.
After her return and rejuvenation in NXT, Emma was brought up the main roster and would become involved in the sea change that was the “Women’s Revolution”, however nowhere to the fanfare of the 4-Horsewomen. Emma would align herself with Lana, Summer Rae and Team B.A.D. to become, Team B.A.D. and Blonde. They would face team Total Divas on the WrestleMania 32 pre-show in a 10-women-tag match, which they would lose.
To make matters worse Emma would suffer a back injury a few months late that require surgery. The injury and resulting surgery meant that Emma would be out of action for an lengthy period of time. It was during this absence that a bizarre set of circumstances would, unfortunately, define her WWE career.
WWE would begin to air segments on RAW that would state that Emma would be getting “makeover” to become, Emmalina. Long gone were the days of Emma being viewed as one of the best wrestlers in the division, she was now to be a living embodiment of Instagram bikini shots. Instantly perplexing and confusing for all those watching the angle was dead before it ever got going.
After months of vignettes, Emmalina would finally debut on RAW but Emmalina would inform the crowd that she was be returning to Emma.
There was little background given regarding the change but it was this angle that set the rumour mill alight. Reports were rife with everything from WWE having lost confidence in her to pull off the gimmick and Emma’s “bad attitude” all playing a part in the angle being dropped.
The Evil Emma character was to return on RAW not long after and she would attempt to get to back to the potential that was witnessed on NXT. Things would start to pick up when she would challenge Alexa Bliss for the RAW Women’s Championship in a fatal five-way match that also featured Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, and Bayley.
The following month Emma would defeat Sasha Banks, Alicia Fox, Bayley and Dana Brooke in an elimination match to earn the right to face the debuting Asuka at TLC.
The match would once again be a great hard-hitting affair that proved to show Emma as the wily veteran able to stand up to the dominant Asuka.
With suffering yet another defeat, Emma would demand a rematch against Asuka. This match would take place on the Oct 23, 2017, episode of RAW that would ultimately be her last in the company. Just six days later WWE in a rather unceremonious two-sentence statement, announced that Emma along with Summer Rae and Darren Young had been released from their contracts.
The announcement came as something of a shock as Emma had just seemed to be gaining some traction on the main roster. However, many believed that her departure was meant as a “warning” to others who were thinking of going against creative. It was reported that the Emmalina character was Vince McMahon’s pet project and that Emma’s unwillingness to deliver was one of the reasons she was released from her contract.
After WWE, Tenille Dashwood would hit the indie circuit and would sign to Ring of Honor until 2019 and is now under contract to IMPACT! Wrestling.
At one time Emma was widely regarded as one of the best female workers in WWE yet her career is full of “what ifs” and “what could’ve been”. Despite being one of the key elements in the “Women’s Revolution” Emma is overlooked and disregarded due the fact that she was seen as nothing more than a joke for most of her time on the main roster.
If it were not for Emma being able to mix a “WWE” character, such as the dancing gimmick, with her technical and credible in-ring style her and Paige would not have been able to elevate those around them, the NXT women’s division and women’s wrestling in WWE and for that she deserves a lot more respect and recognition than she receives.
What are your thoughts on Emma’s career and do you think she ever truly got the right recognition for her services to wrestling? Let us know below and stay tuned to Diva Dirt for more unsung heroes as we celebrate Women’s History Month.