World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been making huge efforts to improve its women’s division, which had been suffering for years.
WWE is the most popular form of sports entertainment which brand of performance art reaches millions of fans on a global scale. However, it’s always been a predominantly male run industry. In the early days of the company, women wrestlers were used as a specialty attraction.
In the late nineties the company went through its biggest boom period dubbed “the attitude era”. This era ushered in a mature, edgy, and controversial product for the WWE, which meant violence, profanity, and sexual content. The women’s division became overtly sexualized, however, the division still had entertaining storylines. So, the women were decently featured but still highly objectified and sexualized.
Women wrestlers were rebranded as WWE “divas”. This was an ambiguous term, but to many devoted fans, it was negative. Many fans also didn’t care. Arguably the year 2006 saw the final days of creative effort in the “diva’s division”. The Attitude era ended and the WWE became rated PG, losing its “edginess” and apparently its interest in the women it employed. The divas weren’t specialty attractions and were no longer key-players in the male-driven industry, they were after thoughts.
There were few sparks of brilliance throughout the years, but sparks didn’t really begin to fly until 2012 when WWE launched its new developmental brand NXT, where upcoming talent would be trained. Compared to the “divas” on WWE’s main roster, the NXT divas had storylines, longer matches, and palatable characterization. NXT became this place were fans could see progression, quality, and entertainment in the diva’s division. The main roster was only warming up.
In the summer of 2015, three of NXT’s pivotal divas were promoted to the main roster. WWE branded this as the “diva’s revolution”. However, the minds that run WWE’s main roster, aren’t the same ones that run NXT. The revolution storyline was a flop, giving fans fresh faces, but the same product, with a few sparks once again. In late 2015, WWE stopped forcing a revolution on screen and there seemed to have been one behind the scenes.
The divas division gradually got better, with longer matches and more character development. The women leading the charge are Charlotte Flair (daughter of legendary wrestler Ric Flair), Becky Lynch (an Irish wrestler who has competed all over the globe), and “the boss” Sasha Banks (who is perhaps the biggest stand out due to her natural personality and charisma). On April 3rd 2016, at WWE’s premier annual event, WrestleMania 32, Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, and Sasha banks had a three-person match for the new WWE’s Women’s championship. The Divas championship was retired. The women’s match received sixteen minutes during the packed event and was arguably the best match on the show. WWE retired the term diva that night and a new era of women’s wrestling was seemingly ushered in. Charlotte won the championship that night (playing a villain).
In the summer of 2016, Sasha Banks and Charlotte feuded over the Women’s championship in a series of exhilarating match ups. Their feud reached such a proverbial boiling point that there was only one way to settle things: a cage match. On October 30th 2016, Sasha Banks and Charlotte became the first women to be the main-event of a WWE pay-per-view event and wrestle the first women’s “hell-in-a-cell” match.
It is said that “anything can happen” in the WWE and that adage is finally becoming true for the women’s division. The women of WWE are constantly making history and breaking down barriers in their brand of entertainment. And for the first time in years, the WWE women’s division is on fire.