On December 6, 2004, Lita and Trish Stratus would main event Monday Night Raw and make history in an act that would be spoken about time and time again as a key moment in women’s wrestling.
Not much came about from it, and nothing monumental seemed to happen outside of a Tag Team Tables Match from TLC 2010 between Lay-Cool and Beth Phoenix and Natalya—a match that nobody speaks of anymore, oddly enough.
Over the past few years, though, we’ve seen such a dramatic upswing for women’s wrestling that it has even gone through three official names: Divas Revolution, Women’s Revolution and now Women’s Evolution. Outside of ditching the Divas term for Superstars, the title changes for this movement have been superfluous, as they all mean the same thing: a resounding effort to actually bring some prestige to the women’s division and get on more equal footing to the male performers as much as possible.
It was about damn time for the era of models turned “athletes” to end and for some legitimate wrestlers to make things serious, and with a litany of quality talent like The Four Horsewomen, Alexa Bliss, Asuka, and more coming into the fold, things have definitively turned around for women’s wrestling in a way that hopefully has gone past the point of no return and will continue to grow.
In just a few short years, we’ve grown accustomed to women’s division matches being the finale of Raw, SmackDown and NXT. It’s no longer something rare to be celebrated, so that mountain has been conquered.
There was a bit of a stink around Hell in a Cell 2016 with some people resisting Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair being the main event of the night, but logic won out and they were able to headline that pay-per-view, checking another objective off the list.
We’ve had “the first-ever ____” for a variety of matches in 2016 and 2017, including the addition of a women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, which was marred in controversy when it was won by Carmella through help from James Ellsworth, but those who could look past criticizing it for being booked that way could celebrate the accomplishment of having such a match and proving that it would be on par with the men’s briefcase.
Most recently, we saw a combination of these factors with the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble, which happened to also main event the show, making it the first women’s match to headline one of the Big Four events—an impressive accomplishment indeed (which was promptly pushed aside in favor of having Ronda Rousey point to a sign, but that’s not what we’re talking about today).
Next week, we’ll see the next chapter in checking things off the list with the first-ever women’s Elimination Chamber match where Alexa Bliss will defend the Raw Women’s Championship against five other competitors in the hopes of entering WrestleMania 34 with the belt around her waist.
And then what?
What is the next milestone that the women’s division can realistically cross off the list any time soon, if ever?
There’s absolutely no need for another title to be created, as a Raw and SmackDown Women’s Tag Team Championship would be impossible to book with such low numbers on the roster, and a cross-branded title would blur the lines more between the two brands, which is already going to get frustrating when the pay-per-views switch over in a few months.
It’s counterproductive to say a woman needs to win the WWE Championship or Universal Championship, because that implies that the divide between the men’s and women’s titles is based on merit rather than just pure gender. In a world where we should be hoping the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championships are equal to the WWE and Universal Championships, we can’t have women looking at the men’s titles as being above their own to strive for. That just reinforces a dynamic of “yeah, but you’re only the women’s champion and the guys are still better than you.”
At best, you’re looking at a scenario where an Intergender Championship is created in order to allow both men and women to fight for it, but I don’t think WWE is touching that idea any time soon, because the audience that would like to see a Braun Strowman type fighting an Alexa Bliss is just not good PR. Erick Rowan vs. Dakota Kai doesn’t sound like it would end well, would it? Even though we did see Becky Lynch humiliate James Ellsworth, he was a joke and a jobber character and much closer to her size range, and it was used to write him out of the company seemingly forever. That isn’t going to be a regular thing.
There could be a Queen of the Ring tournament to balance out the King of the Ring of old, but since we’ve already had the Mae Young Classic, it would be repeating similar ground and not something that would budge the needle all that much in the grand scheme of things.
The same goes for most of the gimmick matches that are still on the table, like how there has yet to be a women’s ambulance match, buried alive match or inferno or whatever you want to do with those stipulations. None of them are grandiose enough at this point to really feel like a big leap forward for the movement, even though they’re all welcome to happen somewhere down the line, of course, because any progress is still progress.
At this point, there are only two things I can think of that will really, truly matter when it comes to the women’s division taking the next leap forward in equality, and I don’t think either of them are happening any time soon, necessarily.
The first is for a women’s match to main event the biggest show of the year, WrestleMania.
Sure, SummerSlam and Survivor Series stand a chance to be crossed off this year, but after the Royal Rumble main event, is that really going to make people go “WOW!!!” just because it happened? I doubt it.
WrestleMania, on the other hand, is a different story, as that’s definitively the most important night in a WWE calendar year, where there are usually so many top tier matches that are all vying for that final spot that we always have a laundry list of super important upper-echelon talent that are technically on the undercard or midcard for the evening.
Despite Ronda Rousey’s signing with WWE, the main event of this year’s WrestleMania is not a goal I can see her achieving just yet, even if there’s a good chance she could fit the bill next year against Asuka or Charlotte Flair and they book her as the female Brock Lesnar (ugh…I hope not, with those super short squash matches and long stretches between performances…)