It has been a long road for women in the world of professional wrestling.
Originally, women were presented as valets, or escorts who followed male wrestlers to the ring and cheer them on in their matches. As time went on, women would begin to have matches of their own here and there, lead by the likes of Alundra Blayze, Mae Young, and Wendi Ritcher. However, inconsistent hiring of women who could actually wrestle or offer athletic contributions to the business took away from the competitive nature of the division.
Women were repacked in the 90s and used as sexual objects. Their clothing was skimpier, their antics were promiscuous, and their talent beyond their beauty didn’t exist. This wouldn’t always remain the case. While the WWE would hire tremendous female grapplers such as Jacqueline and Ivory, their abilities were stifled due to the meteoric press given to internet obsessions like Sunny and Sable, who brought in an entirely different demographic to pro wrestling just to see hot women on television.
After recruiting female talent the likes of Chyna, Lita, and Trish Stratus, the company would introduce what is now known as the “Golden Era” of women’s wrestling. This era showcased 7-13 women who both looked good and could wrestle, often in marquee matches like Steel Cage and Street Fights similar to their male counterparts. The highlight of this division would see Lita and Trish Stratus become the first women to compete in the Main Event spot on WWE’s Monday Night Raw broadcast. As impressive as these feats were, they weren’t enough to have the women taken as seriously as their male counterparts, and following the retirements of Stratus and Lita in 2006, the women’s division suffered profusely.
Women’s rights and equality has been making its rounds in all areas over the last few years, especially in sports. Ronda Rousey would become one of the biggest MMA stars in the world and become the first Women’s Champion in the sport. For years she remained undefeated and was just as much an attraction, in some instances more of one, than the males who also competed within the UFC. Even following her first lost and subsequent rematch loss, she became the first female inducted in the UFC Hall of Fame for her legendary contributions to the world of MMA and women’s sports altogether. While Rousey was planning to depart from MMA, WWE was planning on pursuing Rousey, who grew up a lifetime wrestling fan.
Around the same time of Rousey’s rise in MMA, WWE’s women’s division was seeing a shift. The hit reality show “Total Divas” garnered more female viewers to the product. This lead to a demand of more women’s representation on television, stemming from the famous #GIveDivasAChance Movement after the company’s most popular women’s stars, The Bella Twins, were involved in a twenty second match on television. Meanwhile in WWE’s development brand, NXT, women were stealing the show night in and night out. NXT’s women were highly skilled athletes, dynamic performers, and skilled wrestlers. Following the departure of first NXT Women’s Champion Paige to the main roster, NXT’s division was carried by the names Bayley, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and wrestling legend Ric Flair’s daughter, Charlotte. Together these women would lead the pack with several other highly talented performers, such as Emma, Asuka, and Ember Moon, steal the show. In particular, after being backstage during a match between Banks and Charlotte during the weekend of WrestleMania 31, owner Vince McMahon began to believe in women’s wrestling. Six months later, Banks headlined NXT’s first major arena event in a title defense against Bayley argued as the greatest women’s match in wrestling history.
Since then, women have gone on to have multiple matches and storylines going on, multiple championships to compete for, a talent pool exceeding 25, and main evented several of WWE’s shows, including this year’s Royal Rumble event and the first ever Women’s Hell in a Cell Match between Sasha Banks and Charlotte in 2016. While all of these are huge milestones, nothing quite says comfort in their work like allowing them to main event the biggest show of the year: WrestleMania.
WWE’s frontman of the last few years, Roman Reigns, recently took a hiatus from the company due to a cancer diagnosis. After the large success of the first ever all women’s pay-per-view in October, critics continue to anticipate what’s next for the women. Lead by arguably their greatest acquisition of Ronda Rousey, this year seems poised to be the first ever headlined by a women’s match. Rousey’s impressive debut at last year’s event kept everyone talking about the possibility of her tangling it up with Charlotte Flair. However, with the recent rise in Becky Lynch, a showdown between the two seems destined for wrestling’s biggest event of the year. And while there’s always Brock Lesnar looming, there’s no hotter feud to headline the show than a program between these two women. Ronda Rousey is the biggest draw in professional wrestling right now and Becky Lynch is easily the most popular wrestler, male or female. It sounds like a no-brainer. Will it occur?
WWE’s official road to WrestleMania begins on January 27, 2019 at the Royal Rumble pay-per-view. Currently, both Rousey and Lynch are champions. For their showdown to take place, it seems inevitable that one of them would have to drop their crown leading to the big show. There’s a lot of time between now and April 7, 2019. Here’s to hoping that these two women get to not only make history, but steal it into being her-story.