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The Women’s Evolution in WWE always seems to fall in the lap of a certain few women. Whilst the work of Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Bayley is most definitely a major cause for the change in the product, they aren’t the only women to cause it. For years the women of WWE have dealt with quick matches, poorly written feuds and general disrespect. However, despite having these challenges thrown their way, many of the women that experienced this treatment, also fought for the equal representation that is still being campaigned for today. So, on top of the likes of the Four Horsewomen, Trish Stratus and Lita, here are a few moments that truly lead to WWE finally revolutionizing the women’s division:
These two matches are together as they both had a very similar impact on the product.
When a huge WWE performer that is loved by many leaves the company, it will always be a memorable day for fans across the board. However for Victoria, things weren’t quite as emotional as one would expect. Though the Vicious Vixen was given the mic to say her piece, her match unfortunately didn’t lead up to expectations and left fans a little disappointed. It wasn’t until a few years later however, that the reason for this was explained. On her podcast, Michelle McCool (Victoria’s final WWE opponent) revealed that after the initial match, she was told to get back out to the ring. To McCool’s surprise, the reason for this was because the initial fight was too good for a Divas match, and wasn’t allowed to outshine anything performed by their male colleagues. So, instead of packing their bags and finishing after a big match, Michelle and Victoria had to head back out to the ring and redo Victoria’s last in-ring performance, except in a much less memorable fashion.
Michelle McCool also experienced a similar fate at the Night of Champions pay-per-view in 2009. When she headed out for her match against Melina, the women delivered what was considered the best match of the night (at that point). What made this such a good match were spots like Melina being attacked before making her full entrance and Michelle performing a DDT on the barricade. Fans were truly excited during this match and so were the performers…until the women got backstage. Michelle revealed on her YouTube channel that the same factor from Victoria’s match came to play in this one. The two were taken aside and scolded for putting on a match that was too good, and, even with Chris Jericho backing the women up, they were refused the opportunity to perform something like this ever again.
What makes these two matches so important is that through Michelle telling fans of the behind-the-scenes information, they realised that the “bad” matches were not of the fault of the performers. The reasons that these women weren’t allowed to be vicious and steal the show wasn’t because of their lack of ability, but it was because of their lack of authority. McCool proved that the women were capable of being just as good as, and in her case, even better than the men, but it was their company that didn’t allow them to do so. This would really get fans angry at the reality of WWE’s ways, and was one of the first big actions of a huge movement.
At this point, it was rare for fans to care for a women’s match. When a woman’s music hit it always used to take a few seconds for fans to remember which Diva was coming out. However, when Emma and Paige faced off at NXT Takeover: Arrival, something felt different. Though their initial match for the championship did cause a bit of a stir, this one was the match to put the women of NXT on the map.
After fans witnessed what two of WWE’s newest rookies could do in the ring, something changed within both the NXT women’s division, and even within the general perception of the brand itself. What Emma and Paige caused at this Takeover made sure that fans knew that NXT was something to be taken seriously. These two performers showed that it truly was possible for women to have show-stealing matches, and from this point on, all eyes were on the women of NXT.
4. Total Divas
Some may disagree with the impact of the E! reality show. However, if you were to deny its positive effects on the women’s division, you would be fooling yourself.
Total Divas may not have immediately gotten every existing wrestling fan to chant “women’s wrestling!” the moment a female competitor stepped out of the ring. But what it did do was give the women a platform that WWE television had yet to reward them with. Total Divas allowed the likes of the Bella Twins, Naomi, Natalya and more to entertain fans on another medium and gain their support. This reality show gathered a new group of pop culture fans to turn them into wrestling fans and, more importantly, women’s wrestling fans.
Due to the popularity of a show that became E!’s highest premiere of the TV season, fans became demanding of more on-screen moments of their favourite wrestlers. This eventually made audience members tune in to WWE television purely for the women, and allowed them to finally have a platform that people cared to watch. Over time, extensive matches, merchandise and more were soon to be demanded.
5. AJ Lee‘s 295 day title reign
With a title that had little to no prestige before AJ Lee got her hands on it, the Geek Goddess definitely had a trailblazing run as WWE Divas champion.
Though her reign proved to be controversial, this was something that the division required at the time. The then Divas division needed people to talk, it needed people to be interested, and it needed to be elevated. And whilst most may not agree, AJ definitely did that in her own special way.
From quick victories and harsh words, AJ Lee went to town on everything she did, and had fans (myself included) seething along the way. What AJ did to the Divas title was give it some relevancy. Though the reign wasn’t perfect, she made fans invested in a good portion of her stories. From the Brie Bella storyline to Paige’s debut, there is a great set of history written by the self described “Crazy Chick”.
AJ may not be everyone’s favourite wrestler, and she have done a few problematic things along the way, but she stayed true to herself and allowed the division to have a bigger platform than it had before. She forced fans to care about the division – or, at the very least, her, and considering the fact that most women at this time came and went without much of a memory, the Black Widow did a brilliant job.
And because of AJ’s passion for being a nerd, little children have now been inspired to chase their dreams of becoming WWE Superstars. Through her time as a heel, her face run and her off-camera moments, she taught kids that it was okay to be an outcast, and even in her last moment, made sure that they would “be a fighter” and chase their dreams.
6. Brie Bella vs Stephanie McMahon (SummerSlam 2014)
When women are co-main eventing the second biggest pay-per-view of the year, it’s pretty clear that they’re an important factor. So when Brie Bella was main eventing RAW alongside The Billion Dollar Princess, it became clear that things for the women were about to get interesting.
What Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon managed to do in this storyline was prove one thing: when given the chance, women really can steal the show, regardless of what they’re up against.
The SummerSlam event in which these two faced off in also consisted of high profile matches such as 15x WWE champion John Cena vs UFC competitor Brock Lesnar and fan favourite Roman Reigns vs 12x WWE champion Randy Orton. But, despite these huge contests taking place, it turned out that one of the biggest highlights at one of the biggest shows of the year was a women’s match. The likes of Brie Bella and Stephanie McMahon told an engaging story of good vs evil, with a brilliant plot twist and great wrestling, whilst successfully stealing the show.
Bella and McMahon’s match remains important as it kept fans invested in a fairly female driven storyline. Whilst Daniel Bryan was out, Brie Bella kept his story going. And instead of having Triple H rule the narrative, Stephanie took charge and made sure that the women were the sole focus. Though fans were split on whether they liked the feud or not, what this story successfully did was keep people talking. Good or bad, fans were discussing this event. People were invested throughout and then were shocked at the ending, leading everyone to want to witness the rest of Brie Bella’s WWE arc.
7. Brie Bella at Wizard World in February 2015
As described by WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, Brie Bella was the “unsung hero” of the revolution. On February 16th, 2015, the Bella Twins were asked about the NXT women, and Brie responded with this:
“If I was an NXT Diva, I would not want to come up to the main roster because you get so much time down there. If you come to the live events, you’ll see that we get a lot of time at the live events. When it comes to TV we get so frustrated because it’s hard to tell a story in 3 minutes and especially when they want an entrance. You’re thinking, ‘What? Can you cut the entrance, we want time to wrestle?’ Especially after watching the NXT Rival pay-per-view and seeing the girls go 20 minutes, it’s like a dream. It’s something we’d love and we’re trying so hard to get more time. It’s a three hour Raw and you can’t give more time to the Divas? But, hopefully in the future.”
Not only did Brie Bella openly praise her fellow female competitors here, but she practically begged for the revolution to begin. As soon as this video hit the rounds of Twitter and multiple forums, fans of WWE’s women’s division went wild with her words. Whether one liked the Bellas, Eva Marie or a girl from NXT, pretty much everyone openly agreed. Due to Brie’s candid words, the topic of forcing WWE to give the women more time became a little more popular, and fans grew even more frustrated with how things were going.
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The hashtag that we all know, love and slightly regret. #GiveDivasAChance began once Nikki and Brie Bella defeated Emma and Paige in a thirty second match during a three hour show. As soon as the segment was over, fans finally had enough and trended #GiveDivasAChance on Twitter for three consecutive days. Media outlets, non-wrestling fans and even wrestlers themselves acknowledged the hashtag, and it truly kick started the revolution. And the best part of it? The Bellas, Paige and Emma were behind the entire thing.
Before going out to their scheduled three minute match, the women decided that if they performed what they always did, people would simply roll their eyes and accept it. However, had they given people even less than the already low expectations, an online riot would occur – which it did.
So thanks to the likes of the Bellas, Emma and Paige, we saw the likes of AJ Lee tweeting Stephanie McMahon, the women addressing the hashtag on WWE television, and, eventually, the official “Divas Revolution” finally began. This became a collective revolution in which the women stood together and fought for better representation.
9. Naomi hits home with Paige during SmackDown
Though this segment was more than certainly 100% scripted, it felt nothing but (for the most part). Naomi has been known as a commonly ignored voice in WWE. Despite a strong set of skills and a passionate fan base, the former Funkadactyl never really found her time to shine. And because of all of those real emotions, that is what made this moment so important.
During a pre-taped edition of SmackDown, Naomi told former Divas champion Paige that she was sick of being overlooked for something new and fresh, and needed ever so desperately to get her hands on the current title. This was the first time that we ever really saw Naomi being given the chance to speak on the microphone as a heel, and she truly delivered. Her raw emotions and excellent execution made everything about the scripted promo resonate with the audience. And though it’s not exactly a pinnacle moment in the general revolution, this was the moment that Naomi started to become a voice to be heard.
Fans began to see the talent that was hidden in a misused competitor. She got a little more popular with crowds and her in-ring abilities were soon showcased in matches such as the Elimination Chamber triple threat.
10. Nikki Bella‘s 301 day title reign
Love it or hate it, this did wonders for WWE. What Nikki Bella achieved in 301 days is what this division so badly needed.
The Divas title never really had a lot of prestige to it (even if the likes of AJ Lee and Eve managed to elevate it in the past). Fans simply did not care for the Butterfly belt and anticipated the day that it would be replaced. However, Nikki Bella managed to turn most of this around.
For 301 days the Total Divas star kept members of the WWE Universe talking. She kept fans that claimed to hate the championship discussing said championship. Haters of Bella and fans of other women desperately wanted the division’s ultimate heel to lose this belt, yet she constantly retained it and kept the division, the title and her name in fan’s mouths for almost an entire year. Bella’s reign as champion was so hot that even on the one night where the Icon Sting made his in-ring RAW debut, fans were still very much focused on Bella’s title defense against newbie Charlotte. Whether you were rooting for her victory or her downfall, you very much anticipated the match. And for that, Nikki’s reign managed to become everything that it needed to be.
Through Nikki’s time as champion, she proved that women were capable of holding important storylines and memorable moments – even whilst not having the best timing in the ring. Along with improving the relevancy of the Divas title, Nikki’s reign as champion helped to push the likes of women such as Brie Bella, Alicia Fox, Naomi, Tamina and multiple developmental talent. The Total Bellas star did her job well as a heel as she had people frustrated with her antics such as her “how did you spend your year?” promo, as well as overtaking the adored title reign of AJ Lee. Nikki’s championship reign is important as she had people talking, had fans invested, and managed to give multiple women a genuine chance.
The evolution of the WWE’s women’s division isn’t down to one, two, or even the ten moments listed above. This evolution began before any of us can remember. From the likes of The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Candice Michelle, and Jacqueline, to , Mickie James, Layla, the current generation and many others, this “Women’s Revolution” is evidently the work of more than just a couple of ladies. The women of WWE have fought for this for many years, and the work of the Four Horsewomen, Trish, Lita and everything mentioned above is only a fraction of aspects that helped to build it.
What other moments do you think helped cause the revolution? Let us know your views in the comments below!