WWE does a lot of things right. This month, the company is focusing on pediatric cancer by highlighting Connor’s Cure on every broadcast, and auctioning off special gear on their website, with all proceeds going to cancer research. They also do Tribute to the Troops each year and give a lot of air time to breast cancer awareness and the Susan G. Komen organization. There are also campaigns to fight bullying and special spotlights given to disaster relief. It’s fantastic that WWE devotes so much time, money and effort to these various causes. However, it’s what they do every week on TV that stands out even more.
About three years ago, WWE started talking about a Women’s Revolution. The old moniker, diva, was put out to pasture, and the women in the company began to be treated more like the male superstars. It was a long time coming, but WWE has elevated the women’s division so effectively that female superstars are now treated like the men.
The Professor’s Theory – The Women’s Revolution is Over
Before you break your keyboards responding with righteous indignation, understand that this is a good thing. Frequently, WWE has women’s matches in the main event of Raw, SmackDown and NXT. Stars like Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, and half a dozen others are featured as much as their male counterparts. Women’s matches have headlined the weekly shows, and have been featured prominently on PPVs. Women have main-evented NXT Takeover events, as well.
At the end of June, Raw, SmackDown and NXT were all headlined by women’s matches. There was a lot of buzz on the Internet about the phenomenon, but, to WWE’s credit, it was never mentioned on the main broadcasts. It was a sure sign that the women of WWE have arrived. There was no need to point out that women were main-eventing the shows. It’s become, if not common, at least frequent enough to seem normal now.
WWE deserves credit as a corporation for making these changes. In an industry where women were used as eye candy and accessories for the male performers, the biggest company made the biggest change.
The most impressive part of this successful revolution is that it didn’t just suddenly start on TV. WWE planned to promote their women for a long time. It started with changes in the recruitment process. Instead of hiring former models, WWE started hiring female athletes like Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. Women like Flair and Natalya came from established wrestling bloodlines, and others like Bayley, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks trained from the time they were teenagers to reach the spotlight. By changing its focus, WWE changed the game for women in the wrestling industry.
So, what comes next? All signs point to a continued focus on women’s wrestling. Asuka was the most dominant performer on NXT before abdicating the women’s belt in a search for “more competition” on the main rosters. (Her announcement was taped in advance of this week’s NXT broadcast. Expect her story to continue on Raw or SmackDown sooner rather than later.) The women just had their first-ever Money in the Bank match (two, in fact), and Carmella is a featured player on SmackDown as the first holder of the briefcase and the contract inside. The Mae Young Classic, a 32-woman tournament, is getting primetime play on the WWE Network just as the Cruiserweight Classic and United Kingdom tournaments did before them. Flair and Bliss are arguably two of the most over performers on either roster, and the level of competition has never been higher.
When I first started watching wrestling, women’s matches were a rarity. You might see two or three in a year. Then, during the Attitude Era, women were featured more on Raw and Nitro, but seldom as athletes. It was a huge deal when a match between Trish Stratus and Lita headlined an episode of Raw. It’s a testament to WWE’s commitment that headlining with a women’s match isn’t even newsworthy any more.
There was a time when I was uncomfortable even watching wrestling with my wife. I felt somehow responsible for the way women were portrayed. Now, I’ve been known to pause a show and call my 10-year-old daughter into the room to watch Bayley or Charlotte or any of the others perform fantastic feats. That’s the best testament I can give. The revolution is real, and if my daughter wanted to be a wrestler, I’d be okay with it.
See you next time.