The women of professional wrestling have never been on the same level as their male counterparts. For years, women either had no significant part or TV time and were viewed solely as eye candy. The biggest insult is fans utilizing the women’s segments and matches as a bathroom break. The women just never got the credit they truly deserved.
How does a woman by the name of the Fabulous Moolah not recognized as the first and most successful women’s champion with a title reign lasting nearly three decades? Why doesn’t anyone talk about the huggable Bayley and legit boss Sasha Banks’ participation in the first ever women’s Iron Man match in the main event of NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. What about in 2016 the queen Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks becoming the first women ever to compete in a Hell In A Cell match while also main eventing the pay-per view of the same name?
A lot of events can spark motivation in aspiring women all around the world but one historic event in women’s wrestling stands out the most. When WWE Hall of Famers Lita and Trish Stratus became the first women to ever main event an episode of Monday night RAW.
In a male dominated company, there surprisingly isn’t enough time in a two to three-hour time slot for women. On December 6, 2004, fan favorite rivalry, Lita and Trish Stratus fought in a match for the Women’s Championship with Lita being the victor.
Over the past decade the women’s division of the WWE could easily be described as trash. After the Ruthless Aggression Era, where women such as Lita, Trish Stratus and Victoria (the original AJ Lee crazy) made their marks, the WWE started recruiting models rather than actual wrestlers. Instead of taking two steps forward they took 10 steps back and their reasoning was the success of Trish Stratus.
Prior to her involvement in the ring, Stratus grew up as a wrestling fan but didn’t pursue a career in it. She was sought by a fitness magazine and her modelling work soon caught the eyes of what was then referred to as the World Wrestling Federation (WWF). They signed her to a developmental contract and began her training. Stratus would go on to leave a legacy for the women to come after her with the most title reigns as a seven time WWE Women’s Champion and a one-time WWE Hardcore Champion (a title that is only held by men).
If the amount of success achieved by Stratus was that easy, why wouldn’t it convince WWE to strike gold a second time with another model? So, not too long after Stratus’ departure, heading into the Reality Era, WWE recruited nearly a dozen models and even held a Diva’s Search contest for a few years. It all went downhill from here as the company set fire to the Women’s Championship belt and replaced it with a pink butterfly, and a new term for the women’s division – Divas. It was probably the most degrading thing to happen to the women’s division aside from the pillow fights and bra and panties matches.
Lita’s story was a different one. She dabbled in music and after watching an episode of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) she was inspired by the Mexican luchador Rey Mysterio Jr. Soon, she traveled to Mexico and learned all she could about wrestling. In 1999, she was approached by promoter Paul Heyman and signed to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW). It didn’t take long for the WWF to pick up on Lita as she signed a developmental contract with the company the same year and the rest was history. She was a four-time Women’s Champion.
These two women had two different stories but their chemistry together in the ring was a hit. Their looks even contradicted each other; the sexy blond bombshell and the hot rocker chick. What’s even more heartwarming is that the pair are best friends outside of their careers. Despite all the differences, they both had one thing in mind – passion for professional wrestling. That night Stratus fought with a face mask and Lita almost broke her neck (again) during her infamous suicide dive.
After they paid their dues as valets, managers, involvement in awful love triangles and sexual story lines, their hard work earned them a spot at the top of the card. In an interview, Stratus shared that while the other women in the locker room were busy deciding what to wear, she and Lita were more focused on putting on a match that would be talked about for years to come and not what they were wearing.
This event is important to the history of professional wrestling because it proves that women have the ability to change the game, put on a show just as good as the male athletes and that there’s more to them than just their looks. In 2015, the WWE introduced, what is known as, the Four Horsewomen, collectively Charlotte Flair (daughter of Hall of Famer Ric Flair), Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley. Growing up, these women cited their inspirations by women such as Trish Stratus and Lita.
They looked up to the right people because the Four Horsewomen along with the other female Superstars, have brought back the action to the ring and no one is paying attention to what they’re wearing anymore or how they look. In fact, looks are just a plus now. The case of Eva Marie could be the most appropriate example. Eva Marie, while a wrestling fan, is the full package model. She was signed to WWE but had absolutely no talent as an in-ring competitor. Despite her flawless appearance, the fans were rather turned off by her lack of in-ring ability.
Lita and Trish’s main event sticks with people because it serves as a point. Their stories enticed a new generation of women to revolutionize the division. Almost half or most the WWE roster strive to be just as good as Stratus and Lita. Within the past two years, the term Diva was erased, they retired the pink butterfly Diva’s Championship belt and bye, bye to 30 second matches. No one will be going to the bathroom anymore.
There’s no doubt that there are still changes that need to be made. For instance, the SmackDown! Live Women’s Championship match was sent from the main card of Wrestlemania 33 to the pre-show, which didn’t sit well with fans all over the world. The fans backed up the women and prompted the company to move the match back onto the main card. However, that match only lasted five minutes with six competitors. There’s still something holding the company back but that’s another story to tell.
Women are now competing in matches made for men such as the Iron Man match (a match determined by the number of pin falls within a 30 minute time frame) and Hell In A Cell, steel cage matches. It won’t take long until they invade other matches and eventually compete with male athletes once again. The women are stealing the show.
Girls from all over the world now have hope in the new wave of women in the division because they can connect with other females who aren’t flawless as they appear to be on magazine covers. The future of women’s professional wrestling is in good hands.