Hi everyone! Hope all is well. I’m supposed to be on a break from writing, but this topic meant so much that I couldn’t help myself. I’ve grown up watching women’s wrestling evolve, and devolve just as quick over the years. Lita and Trish Stratus were my favourites, they were inspirational and helped pave the way for the women we see today. But to understand the magnitude of Charlotte vs. Asuka, we have to look back and see how Wrestlemania has treated the “ladies”. We should remember the struggle women have had to endure over the decades.
Life’s Not Fair, Is It?
Some of you might have seen my posts about The Fabulous Moolah on Facebook before WWE dropped her name from the women’s Wrestlemania battle royal. I argued that the world was a different place, it was filled with corruption, and The Fabulous Moolah could’ve been as much of a victim as the women say they were under her mentorship. I said all of this without looking into these stories behind her corruption, and I feel bad that I made opinions without going through what was claimed. I was going to write a detailed article about Moolah’s corruption to make up for it, but I had no motivation to do it as I’ve seen tons of articles about it elsewhere. Also I didn’t feel like I could add anything original.
In the end I decided to do this as it’s more positive. To explain it, I’ll start by focusing on women’s wrestling in America. I know there was a boom for women’s wrestling in Japan in the 80’s, and there is a place for it .. but I’ll talk about that later. The important thing is going through the years and seeing the ups and downs of women’s wrestling in the United States. To gauge this, we have to go through each Wrestlemania and take note of how important the women were to these cards. I’ll look back at my Wrestlemania series for details:
- WMI: What should’ve been the beginning of the women’s revolution turned sour later the same year. Wendi Richter (w/ singer Cyndi Lauper) had a decent match with champion Leilani Kai (w/ Moolah) and took the title from her. But Moolah had other ideas, as Wendi left wrestling shortly after “The Original Screwjob” later that year; Moolah dressed up as Spider Lady and pinned Wendi for real .. with the ref counting three while Wendi kicked out at 1.
- WMII: As the champion, Moolah went in to Wrestlemania and wrecked Velvet McIntyre in little over a minute. It was terrible, and the fans didn’t like it.
- WMIII: No women’s matches.
- WMIV: No women’s matches.
- WMV: No women’s matches.
- WMVI: Sensational Sherri and Sapphire competed in a mixed tag involving Dusty Rhodes and Randy Savage. It was good I guess, but Sapphire had no wrestling skills whatsoever.
- WMVII: No women’s matches.
- WMVIII: No women’s matches.
- WMIX: No women’s matches.
- WMX: Alundra Blayze entered to great fanfare, but she only got a few minutes to show her talent in a title defense against Leilani Kai. Lawler insulted Alundra’s face, and both King and Vince McMahon noted how terrible Leilani looked. Classy!
Just a quick break from the list to note who the champions were in this era. After Moolah beat McIntyre at WM2, she was kind enough to let McIntyre win the title in ’86 .. for SIX days! Moolah held it for a staggering 380 days before dropping it to Sherri in ’87. Rockin’ Robin defeated Sherri in ’88, and held it over 500 days before the WWF decided to drop the title indefinitely. It remained deactivated til ’93, when Alundra Blayze won it in a tournament final. Between then and ’95, the only champions were Blayze (three times), Bull Nakano, and Bertha Faye. The title was deactivated in late ’95 after Blayze left WWF, joined WCW, and rightfully dumped the title in the trash can on television.
- WMXI: No women’s matches.
- WMXII: No women’s matches.
- WMXIII: No women’s matches.
- WMXIV: Sable and Luna Vachon were involved in a mixed tag match, which was certainly all about Sable as she was super over.
- WMXV: Only the fourth women’s title match in 15 years saw the champion Sable retain in five minutes over Tori.
- WM2000: Two matches involved women, but only one was any good. Starting with the good, Chyna proved that women could fight men .. as she teamed with Too Cool to take out Eddie Guerrero and The Radicalz. The other match was umm .. The Kat (w/ Mae Young) against Terri Runnels (w/ Moolah) in a catfight with Val Venis as the referee. Yes! It was as bad as it sounds. No women’s title match.
Another break to see who the champions were. In late ’98 Jacqueline became the new champion after it was reactivated. Sable got hold of it so she could face Tori at Wrestlemania. Just to show how serious they were, Sable faced Debra in an Evening Gown match and lost the title by a technicality. A month later, Ivory claimed it and held it almost half a year. Something I remember clearly was The Fabulous Moolah beating Ivory for the title at the ripe, young age of 78; but luckily Ivory got it back eight days later.
It got even more ridiculous .. with The Kat winning the title in a four way Evening Gown Pool match, and “Hervina” (Harvey Wippleman) becoming the only man to hold it by winning a lumberjill snowbunny match. Jacqueline got it back, but she was defeated by Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley before WM2000. It’s getting used I guess?
- WMX-Seven: The women’s title was defended, with Right to Censor’s Ivory defending against the ever popular and dominant Chyna. And finally Chyna did what many fans had been waiting for, which was win the Women’s Championship. It didn’t last though, as Chyna left the company later the same year and never returned.
- WMX8: Jazz vs. Lita vs. Trish Stratus in the first women’s triple threat at ‘mania. Jazz retained in six minutes in a match I dubbed “sloppy work by Trish & Lita, with the ending its only saving grace”. Lita and Trish were horrible, while the champion that no one cared about looked like the only real wrestler in the match.
- WMXIX: Another triple threat, except this time it was Trish Stratus who claimed the title by beating Jazz and the champion Victoria. It was better than the previous years, but it wasn’t anything to write home about.
- WMXX: Just to get the bad out of the way, Torrie Wilson and Sable won an evening gown match against Miss Jackie and Stacy Keibler. But by far one of the most memorable matches of Wrestlemania (for the women) was the Hair vs. Title match between Victoria and Molly Holly. Victoria retained, so Molly was forced to have her hair shaved bald in front of the world.
- WM21: Seemed to go backwards .. Trish beat Christy Hemme in four minutes to retain. It wasn’t great, and is reminiscent of earlier WM title matches.
- WM22: The bad .. ok, Torrie beat Candice Michelle in a Playboy Pillow fight, and Sharmell lost in a handicap match with her husband against The Boogeyman. Finally some greatness .. the storyline between Mickie James and Trish Stratus heated up really well. And the match was good! I think Trish wasn’t trying as hard as Mickie, but the pop James got after she pinned the polarizing champion was epic. The fans effectively turned on Trish to support the psycho chick Mickie, so her win went over very well. It was like a passing of the torch, and I consider it the first “milestone” match for women’s wrestling in WWE.
- WM23: Again they took a step back by having Melina retain the title against Ashley Massaro in a three-minute lumberjill match.
Despite having the likes of Lita, Trish, Victoria, Molly Holly, Ivory, Jacqueline, and many others, the women were still taking a backseat as they struggled to make any memorable Wrestlemania moments outside of Chyna/Mickie James’ title wins and Hair vs. Title. Champions at this time included: Trish, Jazz, Molly Holly, Victoria, Gail Kim, Lita, Mickie James and Melina. After Gail Kim left WWE to go back to TNA Wrestling, the company started the Knockouts Division with Kin winning the Knockouts title in a tournament final. Also, having been around a few years, the Shimmer Women Athletes promotion was gaining steam as a place where women’s wrestling could be respected.
- WMXXIV: Still nothing memorable, as Beth Phoenix and Melina teamed up to win yet another ridiculous match called the Playboy Bunnymania Lumberjill match. Seriously! I wish I was kidding.
- WMXXV: When you think it couldn’t get worse, WWE hosted the “Miss Wrestlemania” battle royal. Posing as “Santina”, Santino Marella won the match by last eliminating Beth Pheonix. Sigh. Terrible.
- WMXXVI: A 3-minute 10-Diva tag match which saw Alicia Fox, Layla, Maryse, Michelle McCool, and Vickie Guerrero beat the more athletically gifted team (minus two) of Beth Phoenix, Gail Kim, Mickie James, Eve Torres and Kelly Kelly.
- WMXXVII: So instead of showcasing the women, they placed all emphasis on a six-person intergender match with John Morrison, “Snooki”, and retired Trish Stratus going over Dolph Ziggler, LayCool and Vickie Guerrero.
- WM28: I can see a pattern here .. incredibly, Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos beat the team of Beth Pheonix and Eve Torres in seven minutes.
- WM29: No women’s matches! Not even on the pre-show .. what the hell!
- WMXXX: Vickie Guerrero made the champion AJ Lee defend her title in an invitational match. She retained her title in seven minutes, overcoming 13 other women.
- WM31: Remember when AJ Lee and Paige teamed up to beat The Bellas in seven minutes? Yeah, only just. I remember it more being AJ’s last big match before her retirement. Maybe if she’d been treated better she wouldn’t have left?
- WM32: On the pre-show, Team Total Divas beat Team B.A.D. And there was a much bigger milestone match, as Charlotte won a triple threat against Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks to become the newly re-created Women’s Champion, making her the first according to the lineage. It was interesting to see WWE wanting to forget the history of the original Women’s Championship with a total reset. The match was one of the longest women’s matches in WM history at 16 minutes.
- WM33: For the first time in history, the women had two important matches at the big show as both the Raw and Smackdown women’s titles were on the line. Bayley retained the Raw title in an elimination four-way against tough competition (Charlotte, Sasha, Nia Jax). The Smackdown match only got five minutes, but it crowned a new champion in Naomi which later received “You Deserve It!” chants.
Champions from the Divas era through to the current included: Candice Michelle, Beth Phoenix, Michelle McCool, Layla, Maryse, Jillian Hall, Eve Torres, Alicia Fox, Natalya, Brie Bella, Kelly Kelly, Nikki Bella, Kaitlyn, AJ Lee, Paige, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley, Alexa Bliss and Naomi.
Have you noticed how the quality shot up around 2013 when AJ Lee became popular? It was also the same year Paige and Emma tore the house down to crown the first NXT Women’s Champion. Triple H’s NXT made a safe haven for women’s wrestling in WWE, with its first star being Paige. Charlotte, Sasha, Becky, Bayley, Nia, Alexa, Carmella, and Asuka all followed. Coincidentally, this was around the time when the TNA Knockouts Division started to flounder, as the Hogan/Bischoff regime killed the buzz surrounding the Knockouts in favour of other things. The Knockouts have still yet to recover completely, but it has made some new stars like Rosemary, and there’s always a place for them on their shows. Many women who would’ve likely become Knockouts, went to NXT and made names for themselves there.
Joshi Puroresu Legacy
I’m not going to sit here and claim I’m an expert on Japanese women’s wrestling, because I’m far from it. But what I do know, is that women’s wrestling in Japan was competitive and hard-hitting long before anyone else was doing it. Because it happened overseas, many English-speaking fans didn’t come to learn about the legacy of Joshi Puroresu til the internet made the information more available. Despite the hard work, it still seemed that women weren’t anywhere near as popular as their male counterparts. After a while it became tradition for the women to keep to themselves, while the men featured in the main events.
This is where Asuka comes in. As a woman in Japan, she didn’t want to blend in like the rest. She wanted more than to do the right things, and say the right things. She wanted to be innovative, and more importantly, become as big of a star as any of her male co-workers. I can’t go into that here, because it would require a few articles. Luckily .. if you didn’t catch them, I wrote a three-part series on Asuka’s career late last year. The key question I asked was (which is also the title) “Is Asuka Overrated?”. Yes, it took me three articles because her career has a lot more to it than what you’ll hear on a WWE show.
The answer was obvious, but to understand why she isn’t overrated I felt we had to dig deeper. I strongly urge you to go through this series, because it opened my eyes as I researched and brought it together. It’s hard to understand why WWE thinks she’s so good til you’ve seen what she did before NXT, and I think the key thing is she broke down barriers. She would wrestle anyone, she wasn’t afraid of anyone, and she played a huge part behind the scenes by running her own shows. She went above and beyond to prove her name belonged with the greats of Japanese wrestling. The links below:
As Gorilla Monsoon Would Say ..
.. “The irresistible force meets the immovable object.” I couldn’t describe this match in any other way. When Charlotte is champion and goes to a PPV, she wins. When Asuka is wrestling anyone, she wins. So for the first time in history, two very dominant women will meet for a championship to prove who is the best in the world. And this time, WWE isn’t passing it off as a mid-card contest/toilet break. They’ve put all their chips on the table by telling the world this is a main event. It’s title vs. streak, so something has to give. Either Asuka wins and rules over Smackdown as The Empress, or Charlotte does what no one else has been able to do. It could be one of the longest matches at Wrestlemania, when compared to past women’s matches.
Some have predicted it will steal the show, and rightly so. This has been a dream match since Asuka made her presence known as the undefeated NXT Champion. When you do a tale of the tape, you have to give the strength advantage to Charlotte. In terms of finishers, both their submission holds are deadly so there’s a big chance one of them will tap. Asuka has the psychological edge due to how confident she is going in to any match. Charlotte will have the pressure of not only overcoming the undefeated streak, but to continue to prove she belongs at the top on merit; and not because of her family name. However, there is one problem which could/should be rectified before Wrestlemania.
I’ve said this for a while, but I HATE Charlotte as a face. Asuka could play the heel if she wants, but she’s always been kind of a tweener since NXT (she was almost full blown heel at one point) and Charlotte’s heel work was exceptional. Charlotte knows how to get the crowds to turn on her, and if she goes back to her cheating ways it could prove a serious threat to Asuka’s undefeated streak. To put it simply, heel Charlotte actually stands a chance of beating Asuka, while a face Charlotte stands no chance. I think Asuka is simply too tough for Charlotte to beat clean, so if her character wants to remain on top, it needs to go back to the dark side. Charlotte needs to be a Flair again.
But what would it do for Asuka’s career if she lost? Would she be able to recover? Would she still be seen as the most dominant force in WWE? Or does she need to lose to get many skeptical fans on board? There’s a saying I heard somewhere, “Sometimes you have to lose before you can move forward”, and this might be true of Asuka at this point in her career. She’s been winning for so long that it’s become inevitable, and to some fans it’s boring and predictable. However, what if she does win? It means she’s beaten everyone. Who’s left? Ronda Rousey? Who does she face after that? There isn’t anyone left. Basically it comes down to .. can she beat Charlotte? And if she does, she’s going to hold the Smackdown Women’s title til she picks up an injury and has to vacate like before.
If Charlotte loses then there’s no choice but to have her beat Asuka in a return match, otherwise WWE will find themselves in a situation similar of Trish Stratus where the fans get tired of seeing her with the belt. Competition will stagnate, and the Raw Women’s title will become second-rate as no one holding it is facing the real champion. My prediction is Asuka is going to win at Wrestlemania, but it will light a fire under Charlotte to do the impossible and become the first woman to beat her in WWE. Hopefully, one of them turns heel in the process. If Asuka loses, it would be like pulling the plug on everything that they’ve built to since WWE brought her in a few years ago. It would tell the audience that while Asuka wins a lot, she’s not as good as Charlotte. She could still go on to beat Charlotte for the title later, but I don’t think it would have the same impact as the other way around (with Charlotte chasing).
Wow, I’ve written a lot about this. Hope you didn’t snooze off in the middle. To end this, do you think it will steal the show? Is Asuka overrated? Does Charlotte deserve everything she gets? Do you think Asuka should have faced Alexa instead? And where do you think Ronda Rousey will play in to this after she’s finished playing with Stephanie? Would love to hear from you guys, so please leave me a comment. Just for those who like to copy my articles elsewhere without giving credit, this monstrosity was written by Kyle Dunning of the best site in the world EWrestlingNews. We rock! So at least give us some credit you maggots! It’s been nice doing this again, and I’ve meant to do Royal Rumble ’97 for a few weeks .. but yeah, the videos in the older editions broke so I’ll have to fix all that before I can continue with it. Thanks for reading everyone! See you around.