Part Two: The Evolution
In 2008, WWE adopted a more family-friendly appeal and dropped the overtly sexual acts of the previous decade in what came to be known as its “PG Era”. The Divas Championship debuted on Smackdown, with the Women’s Championship remaining its RAW counterpart until 2010 when the two titles merged. During this time, the Divas seemed to take a backseat to the male wrestlers. It wasn’t until 2015 when the women’s revolution within WWE really began, with fans tweeting the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance after an insultingly short match between the Bella Twins against Paige and Emma. The trending hashtag brought widespread notice to the issue of the women’s subsidiary treatment within WWE.
In 2016, Lita unveiled the new Women’s Championship, which replaced the Diva’s Championship. It was also announced that the term “Divas” would be retired and that female wrestlers would be referred to as “WWE Superstars” instead. This was followed by the announcement of the SmackDown Women’s Championship a few months later, giving each brand its own women’s title, with Irish-born Becky Lynch becoming the inaugural SmackDown champion.
Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks in Hell in a Cell
2016 spurred a lot of firsts for the women’s division. In October, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks competed in the first women’s Hell in a Cell match, which was also the first time a women’s match headlined a WWE pay-per-view. In November, Alexa Bliss and Becky Lynch competed in the second women’s TLC match to take place since the first one in 2010 (which took place between Beth Phoenix and Natalya against Layla and Michelle McCool, with the former emerging victorious).
Asuka wins 1st women's Royal Rumble
June of 2017 saw the women’s first Money in the Bank ladder match, which was ultimately won by Carmella. In December of that year, Stephanie McMahon announced that the first women’s Royal Rumble would take place in January of the following year, where it was the main event of the show and was won by outstanding Japanese wrestler Asuka.
WWE then created a landmark event in October 2018 when it broadcast the first ever all woman pay-per-view event titled Evolution, in which both past and current female wrestlers made appearances.
Women's Tag Team Titles
In December 2018, speculative rumors proved true when the new Women’s Tag Team Championships, to be defended across all brands of WWE, were debuted and then were won by Sasha Banks and Bayley during a six team Elimination Chamber match.
Becky Lynch becomes "Becky 2 Belts" at Wrestlemania 35
All of these firsts (and more) culminated at Wrestlemania 35 in 2019 when women main evented the biggest WWE pay-per-view for the first time ever in a highly anticipated triple-threat match between Ronda Rousey (of UFC fame), Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch in which the winner would hold both the RAW and SmackDown women’s titles. Lynch emerged as the victor, making her the first and only woman to hold both championships at the same time.
For the majority of its existence, it was believed that WWE fans didn’t want to see women fighting each other the way male wrestlers did. As such, they were viewed more as sex objects than as athletes. However, times changed and evolved and, when the WWE Universe made it clear that they wanted to see more, the franchise complied. Now, female wrestlers have integral storylines and they don’t shy away from more physical matches than their earlier peers were afforded. Furthermore, women from all over the world and all different backgrounds have flocked to the WWE in recent years. The franchise boasts outstanding female competitors from all over the US, but also from as far away as Japan, the UK, Australia, China, etc., whom have proven time and again that women can be just as tough as men and are true superstars worthy of admiration and respect.
Tune in this Sunday, January 31st, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT on the WWE Network to watch the 2021 Royal Rumble, where you can catch both the women’s and the men’s rumble matches!