One day in the early 2000s, I was flicking through the channels on our recently installed Sky box, trying to find something that could hold my attention for more than a few minutes. Then, boom! It happened. I discovered the WWE.
Now I know the naysayers will tell me that it’s all fake (when actually, it’s just pre-determined, there is a marked difference), but I was instantly hooked.
During this time in the industry – a period that fans often describe as its heyday – the women’s division was tearing it up. There were some hideous things happening, such as bra and panty matches and mud wrestling, but there were also a bunch of women whose talent was undeniable and they scorched their mark into the WWE history books.
Flame-haired Lucha Lita was putting on amazing matches with blonde bombshell Trish Stratus, while the powerhouse that was Chyna was getting stuck into brawls with the men, eventually going on to win the Intercontinental Championship – marking the first, and unfortunately last, time a woman has been able to do that in the WWE.
Their outfits may have wandered onto the wrong side of risqué, but their passion for the business was undeniable. Vince McMahon and his team gave them compelling storylines to work with and, more importantly, the time to put on the best show they possibly could. The ‘Attitude Era’ saw women’s main event appear on Monday Night Raw for the first, and last, time. It seemed the division would continue to reach new heights and be propelled into the 21st Century with a bang.
But that didn’t happen. For one reason or another, I stopped watching the show and didn’t stay in the loop as to what was going down in the squared circle. It would be almost ten years before I switched on again. The landscape had definitely changed, and sadly, it was more of a step back into the past rather than a leap into the future.
The skimpy outfits were still there, but the Divas (a horrid name, considering the men are referred to as Superstars) had become all but decorations for the company, rather than part of the main attraction. Out of the ring, they were draped over the men like cheap coats, and when they had a match, it was merely two women screeching and pulling each other’s hair.
It was widely accepted that the Divas matches were the perfect time to visit the bathroom or grab a hotdog, as there would be nothing to miss. I was crushed and so disappointed, not only for myself, but for kids growing up watching this women’s division. They were being shown that women were objects to look at, but couldn’t put on the same standard of a show as the men.
Thankfully, things slowly started to improve as WWE shed some of the division’s dead weight. Some of the stars were beginning to show more prowess in the ring (most notably the Bella Twins), but largely, Hart Family Dungeon graduate, Natalya, was carrying the Divas on her shoulders alone.
Now however, things are really starting to change because of NXT and the fans’ growing reluctance to accept that this is all the WWE’s female talent has to offer. The new brand is showing off indie talent from around the world, featuring women that can definitely handle themselves in a match. Triple H’s baby is demonstrating that female wrestlers can rule the roost, not merely decorate the arena.
There is a new type of woman on the scene and she’s not a Diva. This woman is strong, agile, powerful, domineering, extremely talented, passionate about the business and is hungry to break out on to the main show and kick some arse.
Paige, Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Bayley, Emma and Becky Lynch represent a new age of female wrestling, giving young fans a glimpse into what WWE women can be. The trending hashtags #GiveDivasAChance and #DivasRevolution are proof that the audience is hungry for this breakthrough and I, for one, am excited about this new era of women in wrestling and can’t wait to see how the latest storyline unfolds.
Leigh is a writer, wrestling fan, devourer of books and super fan of Buffy based in Manchester. While she loves writing, she is still waiting for the WWE to call and offer her a contract – it’s only a matter of time. She’s pro-pug, but anti-slug. Follow her on twitter @leigherin88 or check out her blog (https://leigh8hewitt.wordpress.com/)