I was planning on doing an entirely different article today, but as I was updating wrestler profiles and Facebook albums, I came across something interesting. To some of you it might not be .. but to me, I like to keep track of records, title lineages and unifications. As I was updating Charlotte’s profile. I stumbled across the new Wikipedia page for the new Women’s Championship.
But hang on a second .. why would the Women’s title have a new page when it already has one? To understand it, we need to go back to 2010. Back then, the Women’s Championship was exclusive to Smackdown, while the Divas Championship was exclusive to Raw. Layla was the last Women’s Champion, and during her reign, Laycool literally split the title in half with McCool holding the other half despite Layla being the true champion. The title was unified in to the Divas Championship after McCool defeated the Women’s Champion Melina at Night Of Champions. The former NWA/WWF/WWE Women’s Championship was deactivated, as long as the Divas Championship remained whole.
For years the “Women’s Division” was known as the Divas Division. Before the Women’s title was deactivated, women’s wrestling had been reduced to the bathroom break between main events on PPV. Sadly, the women were there for eye candy, and the list of Divas Champions includes many who we’d consider models, not wrestling athletes or superstars.
With the unveiling of the new Women’s title, Lita informed us women would be referred to as “Superstars”, instead of “Divas”. While WWE recognizes the accomplishments of previous Women’s Champions, they decided to give the new title a fresh start, and after winning the Triple Threat at Wrestlemania 32, Charlotte became the inaugural champion. WWE.com recognizes only one champion as of this writing, so while the current title shares the same name with the original, and while WWE also recognizes the original as its predecessor, it is a brand new title with its own seperate title history.
Trish Stratus can be quoted as saying “And she’s back! So go get it girls, this is what you (we) have been fighting for, No matter the outcome, you all will be in the history books for restoring the integrity and credibility of the women’s division.”. We should also recognize NXT for its contributions, as NXT introduced the NXT Women’s Championship in 2013, and since then has showcased the women of NXT at the same level as the men. The Ironman (or Ironwoman) match between Sasha Banks and Bayley could be seen as a turning point in the decision to scrap the term Diva. It was the main event of NXT Takeover; Respect, and both were honoured after their classic encounter.
While NXT was, and continues to be a large contributor to women’s wrestling, I consider AJ Lee the starting point of the “Divas Revolution”. AJ Lee was one of the first women wrestlers in a long time to be involved in main storylines, as she got her “crazy” gimmick over by getting involved with Daniel Bryan, CM Punk and Kane. She became the Raw General Manager for a while, and I find it funny because she got over with the fans without the need to wrestle on the main roster. After losing her GM position, she moved on to managing Dolph Ziggler and Big E Langston for a while.
After over a year on the main roster, AJ Lee cast her eyes on the Divas Championship. At Payback 2013, AJ defeated Kaitlyn, which happened four days before Paige won the NXT Women’s Championship in a tournament final against Emma. With Paige dominating the Women’s Division of NXT, and AJ Lee firmly locking in the Black Widow on the Divas Division, women’s wrestling flourished once again. And even more so ten months later when Paige made her shocking debut on the main roster and defeated AJ Lee for the title, becoming the first NXT Women’s and WWE Divas Champion. Never before in WWE women’s wrestling had two dominant champions faced off, and while the rivalry suffered from illogical booking, there was no doubt that a new generation of women’s wrestling had arrived in WWE.
But while AJ Lee and Paige continued to feud on television, the company didn’t get behind them as much as they or the fans had hoped. In February 2015, Stephanie McMahon tweeted praise to actor Patricia Arquette for advocating women’s rights, and encouraged women to “use your voice”. AJ Lee responded with her own: “@StephMcMahon Your female wrestlers have record selling merchandise & have starred in the highest 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.”
The Twitter exchange came about not long after #GiveDivasAChance trended worldwide following a shockingly short match on Raw, and with the drama surrounding CM Punk’s (AJ’s husband) sudden departure, AJ felt she could use her voice and not be buried on TV for it. Both Stephanie and Vince McMahon acknowledged the issue.
So there you have it. For a long time we looked at Divas as eye candy with no real wrestling backgrounds or passion. Vince McMahon saw no money in them, and even went on record as saying he only had Divas on the show for a certain demographic and felt they were a waste of airtime; he used to feed Michael Cole lines to bury them on commentary. This year at Wrestlemania 32, critics and fans said the women had the best match of the night, and it can be credited to a joint effort between NXT, AJ Lee, the fans for #GiveDivasAChance, and Stephanie/Vince McMahon for acknowledging the problem and doing something about it.
Thanks for reading everyone. Let’s look forward to a new generation of women’s wrestling in WWE, with Charlotte as our first Women’s Champion of the current era. My next piece is likely to be the third volume of the Worst Incidents & Injuries. See you soon.