The WWE women have risen to heights not seen in almost a decade. The transformation of Divas to “Women” didn’t happen overnight and here is a look back at the top ten key moments that led to the rebound of the once comical WWE division.
- July 9th 2012
On the 9th of July 2012, the WWE made their most important female signing in 15 years by hiring Sara Del Ray. Within months, Del Ray became the first ever female trainer involved with the WWE’s developmental system and no one has had more influence on their up and coming female wrestlers than her. The fact that she was the first ever female trainer is crazy in itself, but you only have to speak to Bayley, Charlotte or anyone who was just starting out when she came in to know that she has been just as responsible for the rise in women’s wrestling as anyone.
- NXT Arrival – Paige versus Emma
Training is all well and good, but unless you’re given the spotlight to showcase your skills, it doesn’t matter how talented you are. NXT Arrival was the first NXT event to be broadcast on the WWE Network and this meant the audience NXT had been exposed to at that time was going to increase exponentially (and obviously it did). Because of this, the heads of NXT needed to roll out a card that would reflect everything the brand would stand for and they chose to give Paige and Emma, fighting for the NXT Women’s Championship, nearly 13 minutes for their match. It can’t be understated how important that decision was, because it was the first big women’s match to get spotlight. Paige and Emma took the spotlight and put on a fantastic match to set the standard for NXT Women’s Championship matches of the future.
- Paige Debuts on Raw
On the night after WrestleMania 30, Paige made her main roster debut to a surprisingly big ovation and won the Divas Championship from AJ Lee. While women came up to the main roster from the revamped NXT before Paige, none really carried any weight until her arrival. Paige was the first woman to really be taken seriously as a wrestler, despite the fact that they still weren’t being given a great deal of time for matches. AJ Lee, almost by herself, carried the division for the entire year beforehand, but Paige’s arrival gave people the first glimmer of women’s wrestling on the main roster that people were excited for in a very long time.
- NXT Takeover – Charlotte vs Natalya
When Paige came to the main roster she was forced to vacate the NXT Women’s Championship and a tournament took place to crown the next one. Ironically, in the first round of the tournament, Sasha Banks defeated Bayley in a match no longer than five minutes (it’s amazing how far those two have come). The final of the tournament took place at the first NXT Takeover between Charlotte and Natalya in what was arguably the greatest women’s match to take place in the WWE ever to that point in time. Obviously, multiple matches have gone passed it since then, such is the strength of the division, but at the time, this was the match that really opened people’s eyes to what these women were capable of. The crowning of Charlotte as NXT Women’s Champion and the sheer quality of the match really cemented the fact that the NXT women’s movement was must-watch television.
- Sasha Banks wins the NXT Women’s Championship
Sasha Banks’ title run as NXT Women’s Champion may be the greatest women’s championship reign in WWE history. From the Fatal 4-Way where she won the title in a match that put her and her opponents all on the map, to her singles matches with Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Bayley, every match she had was at least four stars. On top of that, Sasha was one of the most eye-catching and compelling characters in the WWE full stop. Charlotte’s title reign was the beginning of women’s wrestling gaining momentum, but it was Sasha’s time as champion that had everyone looking at the main roster and wondering why it wasn’t being given a chance to produce similar results.
- AJ Lee’s Tweets and #GiveDivasAChance
These tweets were AJ Lee’s final gift to the WWE roster. They’re fairly self-explanatory, but this coupled with the dominance of women’s wrestling in NXT intertwined perfectly to give us the women’s wrestling movement the main roster was crying out for. These tweets and the #GiveDivasAChance movement would’ve fallen on deaf ears without the performance of the NXT women and the NXT women’s performances mightn’t have caused the main roster changes without these tweets and the hashtag. It was the perfect storm.
- Sasha Banks versus Bayley One and Two
When you think about the greatest feuds in women’s wrestling, Trish Stratus and Lita immediately come to mind, but in time, these two will surpass them. The two-event feud Sasha and Bayley had delivered us not only the best feud of 2015, but also the best match of 2015 at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. What they did in their first match was incredible, but it was the 30 minute iron man match at NXT Takeover: Respect where they became the first women to main-event a WWE live special. Their 30 Minute Iron Man main-event match was completely embraced by the fans with chants of “you deserve it”, “match of the year” and “women’s wrestling”. Bayley and Sasha are probably the two biggest stars currently in the women’s division and getting to main-event a WWE event for the first time ever will be forever remembered in history. It can’t be understated how important that main-event spot was for women’s wrestling.
- Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch Debut on Raw
Make whatever you want of the booking of the Divas Revolution from Battleground through to the end of 2015, but the debuts of these three ladies was still monumental. While it could have been done so much better, in five years it won’t matter because this was the beginning of a changing of the guard and the end of the Divas Era in WWE.
- Charlotte Wins the Divas Championship
While their debuts were important, with Nikki Bella still in the championship picture, the division still had to drag the weight of Divas not on the same level as the NXT women. While Charlotte’s reign wasn’t anything special for the remainder of 2015, her heel turn and feuds with Becky and Sasha were exactly what was needed to establish women’s wrestling on the main roster.
- The Return of the Women’s Championship and WrestleMania 32
The addition of the new Women’s Championship to the WrestleMania Triple Threat Match between Divas Champion Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch may have been a last minute decision, but it was the final requirement to elevate the match to the genuine co main-event status that it was. Put aside that it was the best match of the night – the pyro, Snoop Dog performing Sasha’s entrance, the confetti and everything else combined to make this feel like a legitimate World Championship match and easily the biggest match in WWE women’s wrestling history. Whether the WWE has squandered the momentum of the division since WrestleMania is up for debate, but the showcase these three women put on absolutely drove home the point that women’s wrestling is just going to continue rising and getting better in 2016 and beyond.
So the next time Michael Cole tries to give credit to Nikki and Brie Bella for the ‘Divas Revolution’, please cut his microphone off.