“This is a good lookin’ women’s WRESTLING belt” proclaimed Madusa, (with heavy emphasis on the “wrestling”part) as she proudly held the former WWF Women’s Championship belt up for the 2015 “Hall of Fame” crowd to see. The setting was much grander than the last time we saw her posed with it as she stood poised, proud and reinvigorated by the crowds applause on a night both Madusa and Women’s wrestling were in dire need of. The once banished torch bearer of the WWE women’s wrestling division was finally welcomed back and exalted of her sins. As Blayze reached down and symbolically pulled the defunct WWF Women’s championship from a trash can, the crowd cheered as loud as they would for anyone else the entire night. I felt my arms tingle and shiver as the goose bumps began to ascend. Looking back, in my humble opinion, this was the moment the WWE’s “women’s revolution” truly began.
It was March 28th, 2015. The night before the biggest show of the year in the world of Wrestling as “Wrestlemania” was primed to hit Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA boasting a hot ticket that included Sting’s WWE in ring debut and a main event contest toting “Brock Lesnar vs. Roman Reigns” that would later end with one of the most shocking finishes in Wrestlemania history courtesy of Seth Rollins. While the show was lugging a packed card in the men’s division, the women were being represented in tag team action as Paige and AJ Lee teamed up to take on The Bella Twins, Nikki and Brie. This was the only women’s wrestling match on the show and the best WWE could muster, even with AJ Lee’s tweet calling out Stephanie McMahon for applauding Patricia Arquette and her stance on women’s rights, telling Arquette to “Use her voice” prompting Lee to do just that via twitter, who in a roundabout way told McMahon to “practice what you preach.”
“Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in thehighest rated segment of the show several times…And yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster. #UseYourVoice” Lee stated, in a pair of tweets sent out on February 23rd, 2015, directly challenging the idea that WWE was doing all it could to make Women’s wrestling an important part of the formula when in reality WWE had years ago given up and placed the division aboard a sinking ship where fans were only able to get their heads above water a couple of times through years long enough to take the division seriously.
Aside from Trish Stratus and Lita, and the occasional contest here and there featuring some decent talent that was either misused or ignored completely, the division was relegated to being WWE’s weakest link. From the three minute contests, to half naked women wrestling in mud or gravy, the women’s division had morphed into a spectacle for the male demographic, more focused on selling the masses “sex and flirtation” rather than competitive women that could be seen as role models for young girls everywhere. While everyone else in WWE was referred to as a “Superstar” the women were silently stripped of their rights to a legitimate championship belt, given the name “Divas” and were represented by a belt seemingly designed by “Lisa Frank” and a team of associates that had seen one too many “tramp stamp”-butterfly tattoos. My question is why? The talent was there. Through the early 2000’s the WWE had a strong roster of legit women’s wrestlers to tout alongside the “Barbie” doll’s fathomed up by WWE creative.
Gail Kim. Molly Holly. Victoria. Jazz. Do these names ring any bells? Some people remember and appreciate, but the unfortunate reality is a great many do not. Stacy Keibler. Torrie Wilson. Sable. These are the names most wrestling fans from that era do remember and for all the wrong reasons.
While AJ Lee raised a bit of awareness, and prompted people everywhere to adopt the hashtag “give divas a chance” via social media, the sleeping giant was yet to be drug from its slumber and WWE still felt comfortable walking the easy, paved road they had designated for the “diva’s” division throughout the years. The irony of the situation was simple. Many wrestling fans feel like the night Madusa returned to WCW in 1995 and threw her WWF Women’s Title in the garbage can on a live episode of WCW “Monday Nitro”, Vince McMahon figuratively chose to keep it there rather than try and create another torch bearer like he had when he turned “Madusa” into “Alundra Blayze” and sent her through the curtains to make history.
I think it is no coincidence that everything has seemed to come full circle. When Madusa pulled that title from the trash can and boldly called it a “good lookin’ women’s wrestling belt” people listened. While the
foundation was being laid in NXT and the few talented women on the main roster searched for ways to “find their voices”, Madusa lit the fuse and both humbly and silently walked away without the recognition she so greatly deserves for doing so. On March 29th, 2016 of this year, one year after her amazing “Hall of Fame” speech, Lita, Not Madusa, stood in a WWE ring surrounded by upwards of 100,000 screaming fans as she unveiled a new “WWE Women’s Championship” to the raucous applause of the Dallas audience. While Lita has made her mark on the business and was greatly deserving of the honor, I couldn’t help but think that someone else should’ve been standing in the ring, unveiling the title, smiling proudly to the masses…just
before grabbing that “Divas” title like a bag of rotting garbage and dropping it into the trash can for the world to see. Though we didnt get to see that in the literal sense, as I stood up from my couch clapping and applauding for the “Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks” in my living room, I truly felt that in some small way the entire women’s division had rallied together and done just that.