Women’s Wrestling is No Longer A Sideshow At WWE
The latest season of Netfix series ‘GLOW’ set our screens aglow recently. The series details the journey of a group of actresses thrust together into the world of professional wrestling, portraying larger-than-life characters in simulated combat. Their trials and tribulations speak of a time when women’s wrestling was not taken seriously. Fast forward a few decades, and women’s wrestling is more popular than ever!
This series corresponds with the movement dubbed ‘The Women’s Evolution’ that has been setting the world of wrestling afire. Women’s wrestling has come a long way from the sideshow it once used to be! In many cases, it is the main event of the evening…
The sight of the elegant and charismatic Miss Elizabeth accompanying her man, Macho Man Randy Savage is one that few wrestling fans will never forget. Sunny, Luna Vachon and Sherri Martel were other unforgettable characters of the early/mid ’90s in the WWE. As integral as they were to the storylines back then, it was clear that they were valets and managers for their men and little more, really.
The groundwork for the women of today was laid by several amazing performers in the past. Alundra Blayze immediately springs to mind at once. Blayze was the central focus of WWE’s Women’s Division from 1993-95, putting women’s wrestling on the map with performers such as Bull Nakano. Unfortunately, the image best associated with her would be a controversial one – the sight of her dumping the WWE Women’s Championship into a trash can – after she moved to rival promotion, WCW, in 1995.
And then came what is known as The Attitude Era. All the edgy and controversial aspects of the ’90s were mirrored during this period in wrestling, namely sleaze, obscenity and violence. Through this period of crash-TV emerged two performers who paved the path for the future. Trish Stratus and Lita proved that they belonged in the same league as the men, putting on exceptional matches at a time when they were unheard of.
Of course, the original GLOW show from the ’80s did not feature in-ring technicians, but proved that given the time and opportunity, women could shine and well, glow, just as well as the men could! TNA’s Knockouts division too led the charge in bringing women’s wrestling to the place it needed to be.
Through the years, women’s wrestling has grown from an act to a featured attraction. Women have been making waves across various domains, and wrestling is certainly no different. So much so, that it has been heavily rumored that the WrestleMania main event next year will be a women’s match.
Ronda Rousey was setting the world of Mixed Martial Arts on fire. In film and entertainment, female-led roles came to the forefront and women were cast in leading roles. Around this time, four women in WWE’s developmental brand, NXT decided that they would change women’s wrestling forever. They were known as the Four Horsewomen.
Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Becky Lynch modelled themselves on the faction ‘The Four Horsemen’, that Flair’s father, ‘The Nature Boy’ Ric Flair made famous. The four women put on matches that rivalled those of the men and the world began to take notice. They began the paradigm shift that led to women’s wrestling emerging from the shadows, onto the main stage!
Then followed the first ever women’s Iron Man match, the first ever women’s Money in the Bank Ladder match, the first ever women’s Hell in a Cell match and the first ever women’s Royal Rumble. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Sasha Banks the day after she competed with Alexa Bliss in Abu Dhabi, becoming the first female performer to do so. She spoke about how the audience could not stop chanting the phrase ‘this is hope’ in unison.
The Rousey Era
The recent Women’s Royal Rumble was a momentous affair. Not only did the women bring the evening to a close, the event comprised 30 women, including legends who’d paved the way for the women of today. It was a dream come true, not only for the superstars involved, but all the fans who’d been rooting for women’s wrestling to succeed. And then, the unthinkable happened.
MMA Superstar Ronda Rousey showed up in WWE and made it clear that this would be her new home, going forward. A lifelong fan of professional wrestling, it was the evolution that has been chronicled in this article that drew her in. An Olympic medallist and a future UFC Hall of Famer (she went in a few months after she set foot in WWE), Rousey was the exclamation point that this revolution needed!
The Way Forward
Believe it or not, this article is not a history lesson. Instead, it is a snapshot of a point in time that people will look back upon when they begin to retrace the history of women’s wrestling. The women of this generation are driven, motivated, geared to shine and create history on a weekly basis. This article may have finished at this point, but the revolution has only just begun!