By Chuck Carroll
The women in WWE continue to shatter stereotypes and blaze trails once thought impossible. As a result, the playing field on-screen is being leveled faster than during any movement in recent memory.
When #GiveDivasAChance began trending one Monday night in February 2015 fans were fed up. Although RAW was a three-hour show, a tag-team match between The Bella Twins and Paige and Emma lasted just a shade over 30 seconds. The bout was just the latest example in a seemingly endless string of “blink and you miss it” segments featuring women. It seemed that when the show was running long and cuts needed to be made, women were always the first to have matches cut short or canceled outright.
With years of frustrations built up, the tag match became the straw that broke the camel’s back. Finally, the time had come for the women in the locker room and their fans to put their feet down.
Tens of thousands of tweets poured across WWE’s timeline demanding that the Divas receive their equal share of screen time. And, in 140 characters or fewer, they kept coming. And coming. And coming. The dam had burst, and there was no stopping this raging torrent.
It became impossible to ignore the groundswell, especially for a company that prides itself on a wholesome family-friend public image that has been carefully crafted in this “PG Era” of pro wrestling. Less than 24 hours after the hashtag was born, WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon broke his silence with a promise to the promotion’s disgruntled fanbase.
“We hear you,” he tweeted. “Keep watching.”
His words were met by more than just a little skepticism.
But fast-forward to present day, and skeptics have been turned into believers. How could they not? The milestones reached by women in the last three and a half years are almost too numerous to count.
There has been the first-ever all-women’s Royal Rumble and the first-ever women’s Hell In A Cell match. Women are in the main event of RAW and SmackDown, former UFC champion Ronda Rousey is the top attraction, and the “Divas” moniker has been dropped. That’s just to name a few examples.
And now for the first time ever, women in WWE will have a pay-per-view exclusive to themselves.
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Forget fighting for 30 seconds of camera time. The women of WWE are about to fight on camera for every second of all three-plus hours of WWE Evolution. The company is pledging the entire women’s roster, including talents from NXT and NXT UK, as well as Hall of Fame members Trish Stratus and Lita, will appear.
In one of the co-main events, another historic chapter will be written, as it was announced Tuesday that Becky Lynch will defend the SmackDown Women’s Championship against Charlotte Flair in the first-ever Last Woman Standing Match.
The firsts just keep on coming.
It wasn’t long ago that I had that opportunity to catch up with Lynch in New York prior to SummerSlam. The Irish-born “Lasskicker” spends each night before a big match writing about her hopes and career ambitions in a diary of sorts. I asked whether she had foreshadowed anything like the upcoming all-women’s show in her journal.
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“Really what I wanted, and it didn’t matter what form it came in, what I really wanted was for the women to be a main feature and for women’s wrestling to be cool again. I wanted for people to identify with our characters and for us to have great storylines.
That’s what we’ve come to. And we’ve come to a point where we have so many great female competitors and so many great characters that we’re able to go have an all women’s pay-per-view and it’s not a big deal. That’s what I wanted, just equality across the board.
Of course we’re going to go out there. Of course we’re going to have these phenomenal matches. Of course we’re going to steal the show, because gender aside, it doesn’t matter. This is what we’re passionate about. This is our job, and we’re going to go out there and do it to the best of our ability. And it doesn’t matter what sex we were born as. This is our job. This is what we love to do. Let us go out and entertain the people, and that’s what we’re going to do at WWE Evolution.”
Nia Jax, whose role at the pay-per-view is not yet known, began watching the evolution of the women’s division unfold while still honing her craft in NXT. She was happy the women she once shared a locker room with were ushering in change and couldn’t wait to get the call to reunite with them on the main roster. When I asked her whether she believed a day would ever come when WWE would hold an all-women’s event, she offered a resolute answer.
“Yes, of course. 100 percent. Are you kidding me? When I came in the company, there was Charlotte, Sasha, Bailey, Becky that were already doing such great things in NXT. It was just a matter of time. All of these women are just showing what we’ve always known, and that is [that] we’re incredible athletes and we can hang in there with everybody else. Now we’re going to have our own pay-per-view, and everybody is going to be blown away. It’s going to be an incredible event.”
At some point WWE is going to run out of first-time matches and gimmicks for the women to conquer. After all, there are only so many in pro wrestling. So, how will the company keep moving the needle then?
Maybe it will be time to invent another first. With the expected success of Evolution and multiple billion-dollar television broadcast deals set to begin next year, perhaps the time is right for a women’s exclusive weekly TV show.
At least one of the networks is rumored to be looking for additional WWE content to replace its soon-to-be-canceled UFC programming. Or maybe it would be a good fit for the company’s own streaming network, which is also rumored to be undergoing a massive overhaul in the near future.
Jax was intrigued but caught off guard when presented with the idea.
“You’re going to have to talk to somebody else about that one,” she exclaimed laughingly. “I don’t know. Hopefully!”
Lynch sees tremendous value in the concept but doubts it will go into production anytime soon.
“I think that’s wonderful,” the SmackDown Women’s Champion said. “Once we are having great storylines and once we are having great matches, whatever show we’re on, it’s going to be phenomenal. Whether it’s an all-women’s show, whether it’s on SmackDown, whether it’s on RAW. I don’t think it’s essential, but I think it would be a huge moneymaker.”
Essential or not, it would be another massive first for the women in the locker room.
Not bad for a bunch of former divas.
Chuck Carroll is a former pro wrestling announcer and referee turned sports media personality who now interviews the biggest names in wrestling. He once appeared on Monday Night RAW when he presented a WWE title belt in the Redskins locker room.
Follow him on Twitter @ChuckCarrollWLC.