The Shockmaster! Only kidding. So every week we hear the words “Divas Revolution” on WWE programming, whether it’s on Raw, Smackdown or NXT. The problem is .. it’s not really a revolution, it’s more of a step in the direction the Divas should have taken many years ago, but was never able to. Even during the days of Trish Stratus and Lita, the Divas were always used as a bathroom break at Wrestlemania; they were never billed as important, at least when compared to the male talent.
The only time the Divas managed to find the spotlight was when Trish and Lita feuded and fought in the main event of Raw in December 2004. Fast forward to today, no Divas have managed to repeat what Trish and Lita did (unless you include the recent Ironwoman match, I’ll get to that later). Mickie James couldn’t do it, or Beth Phoenix, or Melina, or Michelle McCool. To be honest, I lost interest in women’s wrestling in WWE around the time they introduced the Divas Championship, and even more so when they deactivated the Women’s Championship in 2010.
Consider the women who held the Divas Championship since the Women’s title retired: Maryse (defeated Gail Kim in a tournament final), Eve Torres, Melina, Michelle McCool, Natalya, Brie Bella, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, Nikki Bella, Layla, Kaitlyn, AJ Lee, Paige and Charlotte. How many of those could work a great match? And how many of those who could work is still in WWE today? Natalya, Paige and Charlotte. Even when someone like AJ Lee held the title, who did she have to feud with? Mostly girls who couldn’t push her to the limit. Even when Paige turned up, the booking didn’t do them any favours.
When you take the collective quality of the Divas Division over the past five years, most would agree it’s been mediocre at best. An injection of young talent suddenly meant there was a “revolution”, because the division’s potential went from mediocre, to “on the right track”. In reality, the revolution was Vince allowing more women wrestlers to join the main roster. Before the rise of NXT, the division only had one or two who could work, but now we have a handful.
So here’s where TNA plays a part in this, and while some may groan at the fact I brought TNA into this, no one can deny the Knockout’s Division. Gail Kim did in TNA what WWE should have done with the Divas Division in 2010, realized there’s an appeal to women’s wrestling, and TNA have allowed their Knockouts the freedom to express themselves inside and outside the ring since 2007. While the Knockouts Division has seen its share of bad times, it’s always been better than the Divas. At least, that’s just my opinion, it’s not a fact, but I’m going to assume most would agree with me; there’s only so many times I can see a Kelly Kelly match.
Way before the term “Divas Revolution”, the Japanese were already doing it. Some of the best female wrestlers of all time worked in Japan, but they don’t get the recognition. The Shimmer Women Athletes promotion was founded in 2005, and ten years later, they continue to feature women’s wrestling on the independent scene. So it’s not a new thing, the Japanese and the independent scene have shown there’s interest, and finally, those in charge of NXT took notice, they seeked young female talent, and took them under their wing.
The good thing about NXT was, from 2013, the head creative writer was Dusty Rhodes, who would get ideas from Ryan Ward and other NXT personnel, make a card, then have Triple H accept it. Dusty worked closely with talent, which has been made clear to us through his continued tributes; especially on NXT. Dusty worked with Regal, and other former wrestlers, to mentor, and inspire the talent to hone their craft. The women excelled in this environment, and NXT featured women you probably wouldn’t have seen if NXT didn’t pick them up. NXT isn’t afraid to give someone a chance, even if it’s risky, whereas Vince decides not to take risks with unknown talent on the main roster.
While the Divas argue over who started the Divas Revolution, we all know who started it. TNA and other promotions proved it could be done, Triple H and Dusty found the right talent, and allowed the girls to shine through. They allowed the girls the time to showcase what they could do, and to develop, not just their wrestling ability and crowd working, but also the chemistry with each other. Chemistry is essential to any wrestling roster; if the wrestlers don’t know each others moves, they ain’t going to work well together.
While Triple H and Dusty found and molded the right talent, it was down to the wrestlers to deliver, and Paige was the breakthrough when she won the NXT Women’s Championship. Have you noticed how all the NXT Women’s Champions can wrestle? The booking team of NXT continues to make the title important, the champion needs to know how to wrestle, otherwise they job out til they improve. Paige vs Emma was the first Women’s Championship match to gain high praise, and the critics compared them to the Divas, and simply wished the Divas could have the same quality.
But it’s not just NXT and the wrestlers who started it. AJ Lee sent tweets to Stephanie in February, after Steph posted a tweet about #WomensRights. While the internet made #GiveDivasAChance (after the seriously short divas match between Paige, Emma and The Bellas) trend, AJ Lee responded with two tweets:
@StephMcMahon Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest rated segment of the show several times @StephMcMahon And yet they receive a fraction of the wages & screen time of the majority of the male roster. #UseYourVoice — A.J. (@WWEAJLee) February 25, 2015
Stephanie and Vince McMahon acknowledged the tweets, and thanked her for the opinion. Three months after AJ Lee left the company, Stephanie made her presence known and called for a Divas Revolution, which included the promotion of Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks. AJ Lee forced Stephanie into a difficult decision, because Stephanie was preaching about women’s rights, all the while knowing the Divas didn’t get the same treatment as male wrestlers. Inevitably, Stephanie and her husband will have talked to Vince about it, and it took almost five months, but Vince finally allowed Triple H’s girls from NXT to spice things up.
But now, the main problem is the NXT Divas are still better off, because they have the freedom, while the main roster Divas don’t have the luxury. It’s almost a demotion going up to the main roster, because it makes the wrestlers look worse than they are. Paige doesn’t have the same fire she once had on NXT, so it makes you wonder whether the same thing will happen to Charlotte, Becky, Sasha, or Bayley when she’s called up.
While Vince is making the calls on the main roster, the women have a tough task in proving to Vince that they can sell the product as well, or better than the guys. They may never have the freedom they desire til Vince can no longer call the shots, because in his mind, women’s wrestling has never delivered on a grand scale. Only Triple H, and the people working in NXT have complete faith in their female talent, and that was made clear at NXT Takeover: Respect. Triple H, Ryan Ward, and the rest of creative wanted to prove that you could put two women in a 30-minute main event and deliver something memorable; I’m sure they delivered.
While the Divas Revolution was inspired by women’s wrestling from other promotions, it was up to NXT and Triple H to develop the talent, so they are most responsible. Paige, Emma, Sasha, Charlotte, and other NXT women delivered, which is also important. The Divas Division has been an afterthought for years, so anything was going to be better, so Vince is partly responsible for refusing to hire wrestlers over eye candy, until now. AJ Lee sparked the movement with her tweets, and Stephanie followed through and delivered eventually. In the end, the revolution still needs to prove it’s a revolution, and it’s only going to stay that way until we see another breakthrough.
The Divas need to main event Raw again. It’s hard to imagine at the moment, but if this revolution is going to be taken seriously in ten, twenty years time, we need some serious storylines, feuds, and more importantly, great matches regarded as main event material. Sadly, the Division doesn’t look like it can, at least not for a while, but hopefully they can prove me wrong. I’m not understanding why there’s so much emphasis on Paige’s personality disorder over Charlotte’s title reign, but at least Natalya’s back, I’m hoping for a great singles match between them on a PPV, not a throwaway 3-star match on an episode of Smackdown.