Before you start calling me a turd, let me first say that I think the way women’s wrestling is viewed at this moment in time is endlessly better than what WWE subjected us to throughout the 2000s and early 2010s.
Not even the most die-hard fan could argue that the way WWE treated its women’s or “divas” division was positive. In fact the introduction of the butterfly Divas Championship was an insult to female wrestlers around the world, and not just because it was hideous.
Thankfully, on April 3, 2016, Stephanie McMahon finally perfected all her ingredients, and thus, female wrestlers were invented, and a new Women’s Championship was introduced at WrestleMania 32 to replace the monstrosity that was the Divas Championship.
Now, all of this is very positive. We had real athletes in the women’s division, something rarely seen in WWE women’s wrestling for the past 20 years. While I won’t go into too many details, it was refreshing to see someone like Bayley, who worked tirelessly to become a WWE star, being treated seriously, when just a few years beforehand, the top women’s champion in WWE was Kelly Kelly. No disrespect to Kelly, but the wrestling ability isn’t exactly comparable.
So it was all going swimmingly, and the four horsewomen of WWE, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley (and others) were all starting to prove exactly what most people had known female wrestlers were capable of for several decades.
We started getting our first ever female versions of matches. The Royal Rumble, Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, The Elimination Chamber, and many more. We even got our first ever all-women’s PPV show, Evolution. This is the company I will remind you that had Vince McMahon telling Trish Stratus to bark like a dog just 15 years previously.
It really felt like we were building to something huge for the women’s division, and at the end of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble in 2018, we got a very big hint as to what that was going to be.
Ronda Rousey made her WWE debut, which largely consisted of angrily pointing at the WrestleMania sign, but it was a glimpse into what Vince McMahon saw as the future of WWE women’s wrestling.
The women’s division for the next 14 months would largely revolve around Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair, but what WWE wasn’t counting on was the emergence of “The Man” Becky Lynch, who would force WWE’s hand into making what was always booked as Charlotte Flair vs. Ronda Rousey at WrestleMania 35 into a triple threat, with a winner takes all stipulation added.
“Wow!” we all thought, when they made the women’s championship match the main event of WrestleMania, what a journey women’s wrestling has gone on in the last few years.
“WWE really is the beacon of hope for women’s wrestling, and all women are lucky to have WWE.”
Except the aftermath coming of WrestleMania 35 proved this was not the case…not to mention other promotions have been treating women’s wrestling properly for years and years.
So, WrestleMania 35 finished, Becky Lynch was our double champion, and we were all happy. However, Ronda Rousey was gone, and that’s really where all our problems start.
It became evident very quickly that it wasn’t really WWE’s women’s division getting all these opportunities, and getting their first-ever WrestleMania main event, it was Ronda Rousey. Rousey, who had brought so much media attention to WWE, who became the poster girl for every single thing WWE did involving its women’s division.
Have you ever asked yourself why WWE has never held an Evolution 2 show? Well WWE will have us believe that its because they’re focusing on other things, and that there are other shows to plan, but the truth is that without Ronda, WWE just doesn’t see its women’s division as important enough to have its own show anymore.
Yes, we’ve had some great storylines, with Bayley and Sasha’s recent implosion being just one example. But, for the majority of the time since Ronda left the company, the women’s division has felt like the afterthought it was before she signed on the dotted line.
Women’s TV matches have decreased in frequency, quality and length. You can’t have storylines if we just get a three minute match once a week between people we didn’t even know were feuding. We’ve had some truly appalling storylines, including but not limited to Lana and Liv Morgan’s sudden, and very awful, love triangle from earlier this year.
We’ve had the introduction of the women’s tag championship, which after being paraded around for a few weeks, became little more than an afterthought, and really, it still is. It feels to me like people backstage are just saying yes to try and appease women’s wrestling fans, but when it actually comes to properly delivering on their promises, they fail almost every time.
The injury and pregnancy-related departures from weekly TV of Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch meant that Bayley, Sasha Banks and Asuka have had to carry the women’s division for the majority of 2020, and that shouldn’t be the case. WWE should be building stars enough so that if someone leaves, the whole division doesn’t just collapse under a weight of expectation it simply can’t withstand.
It’s sad to say, but the very best thing that could happen to the women’s division in WWE is Ronda Rousey returning. Her mere presence allowed women’s wrestling to be taken seriously, and for female wrestlers to have stories that didn’t all revolve around being “former best friends”.
I think I speak for most people when I say that what I want to see is real storylines, featuring WWE’s most talented female wrestlers, week in week out. That’s the only way you can build stars, and to prove to fans that you actually care about women’s wrestling, and not just about one female wrestler who was around for just over a year.
I am aware that AEW is also struggling to maintain credibility within its women’s division too, but AEW is still a young promotion.
WWE has had decades to get this right, and they still aren’t. There are no more excuses.
So, in summary…
WWE has arguably the most talented women’s roster on the planet, and yet most fans would have no idea this was the case, because only two or three people at a time are booked properly. The women’s division was pushed to the moon for one person, and when she left, it immediately began sinking back into orbit. We want real storylines between wrestlers, just like we’ve had on the men’s roster for decades. Give the women’s roster what they deserve, and the fans will give it back to you, it’s really simple.
And that is what went wrong with the women’s evolution.