Women in WWE

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Women wrestlers gather around the ring for Lita's introduction of the WWE Women's Championship in April 2016

Throughout its history, women have served in various onscreen roles in the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. In the 1990s, WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) introduced the term Diva to refer to its female performers.[1] The term was applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers. The term was discontinued at WrestleMania 32 on April 3, 2016, when the new Women's Championship was introduced. WWE currently refers to their female talent as Women Superstars or simply Superstars.[2]

Women in WWE[edit]

Beginnings (1980s–1990s)[edit]

The Fabulous Moolah, recognized by WWE as having held the WWF Women's Championship for 27 years

In 1983, the Fabulous Moolah, who was the NWA World Women's Champion and legal owner of the title, joined the WWF and sold them the rights to the title after they disaffiliated from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and recognized her as the first WWF Women's Champion.[3] Additionally, the WWF also recognized Moolah as having been champion ever since first winning the title from Judy Grable in 1956 and disregarded other reigns or title losses that occurred during the title's existence in the NWA. Thus, The Fabulous Moolah's reign was considered to have lasted 27 years by the promotion.[4] WWF also introduced the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship with Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria recognized as the first champions after also defecting from the NWA.

The following year, music artist Cyndi Lauper began a verbal feud with her manager "Captain" Lou Albano; this brought professional wrestling into mainstream culture in a storyline that became known as the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection". When it was finally time for Lauper and Albano to settle their differences in the ring, a match-up was scheduled with Albano's represented wrestler Moolah against the challenge of Lauper's protégé, Wendi Richter. Moolah lost the title at The Brawl to End It All, broadcast live on MTV. Richter then lost the title to Leilani Kai the following year, but won it back at WrestleMania I on March 31, 1985.

Miss Elizabeth played a central role in the storyline between the WrestleMania IV and WrestleMania V events.

In the summer of 1985, the WWF did a storyline where all established managers in the promotion competed to offer their services to Randy Savage. Savage revealed his new manager to be Miss Elizabeth on the August 24, 1985 edition of WWF Prime Time Wrestling. In real life, Savage and Miss Elizabeth were married, but this was not mentioned on television. Miss Elizabeth's first major angle was during Savage's feud with George "The Animal" Steele in 1986. In the angle, Steele fell in love with Miss Elizabeth, angering Savage and leading to a series of grudge matches between him and Steele. She also figured prominently in Savage's 1986 feuds with Hulk Hogan and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat and his 1987–1989 feuds with wrestlers such as The Honky Tonk Man, Andre the Giant, Bad News Brown, Big Boss Man and Akeem. In 1988, Miss Elizabeth was given the title "First Lady of the World Wrestling Federation" due to her being the first woman in World Wrestling Federation history to manage the World Wrestling Federation champion. When Savage—who had formed an alliance with Hogan—turned on Hogan in early 1989, Miss Elizabeth was a major factor, and she eventually sided with Hogan. Meanwhile, Savage became allied with "Sensational" Sherri, who had success as a wrestler from 1987–1989 and was phased into a role as an ill-tempered, venomous manager.

Sherri initially debuted on July 24, 1987 by defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship.[5] Renaming herself 'Sensational' Sherri, she reigned as champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin;[6][7] after losing several rematches, Martel took a short leave of absence in early 1989 before being repackaged as Savage's manager. Also in 1987 Mike McGuirk was introduced as the first female ring announcer of the promotion, arriving after Jesse Ventura referred her to the WWF.[8] In the fall of 1987, McGuirk provided color commentary for several arena show tapings in the Houston, Texas area, which aired on Prime Time Wrestling.

The first Survivor Series pay-per-view saw the first female elimination match. In February 1989, the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship was deactivated and The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin) were the final title holders. Sapphire debuted in November 1989 on Saturday Night's Main Event XXV as a 'fan' cheering on Dusty Rhodes at ringside in his match against Big Boss Man.[9] Sapphire began to manage Rhodes, who adapted Rhodes' gimmick as she adorned black outfits with yellow polka dots. Sapphire and Rhodes later feuded with Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri and wrestled in a tag team match at WrestleMania VI.[10][11] Rockin' Robin was the last WWF Women's Champion in the late 1980s.

In 1990, Sensational Sherri remained with the Randy Savage, while Sapphire worked with Dusty Rhodes. Sapphire later departed from the company in mid-1990. Miss Elizabeth worked primarily with Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire between WrestleMania VI and SummerSlam (1990). Miss Elizabeth returned in 1991 and was a key player in Randy Savage's retirement match with The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII; Miss Elizabeth left the company for good in April 1992; shortly after her departure, Savage and Miss Elizabeth divorced in real life. At WrestleMania IX, Luna Vachon debuted and initially aligned herself with Shawn Michaels. Later, she aligned herself with Bam Bam Bigelow to feud with Sherri and Tatanka. Martel left the company in 1993.

Japanese involvement and Diva beginnings (1993–1997)[edit]

Miceli, a three-time Women's Champion in June 1995, was the first woman to defend the WWE Women's Championship at Wrestlemania since 1985.

In 1993, the WWF reinstated its Women's Championship, a title that had been vacant since 1990,[12] and Madusa Miceli was brought in by the company to revive the women's division.[13] She debuted under the ring name Alundra Blayze,[14] because WWF owner Vince McMahon did not want to pay Miceli to use the name Madusa, which she had trademarked.[15] She wrestled in a six-woman tournament to crown a new Women's Champion, and in the finals, she pinned Heidi Lee Morgan on the December 13, 1993 episode of All American Wrestling to win the title.[12]

After the tournament, Miceli asked WWF management to bring in new women for her to wrestle[13] and WWF brought Leilani Kai,[16] Bull Nakano[17] and Bertha Faye.[18] Later on as part of a short talent exchange with All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling, various Japanese female wrestlers including Aja Kong debuted leading to the second elimination match at the Survivor Series 1995 event.[19] In December, due to financial troubles the WWF was having at the time,[20] Blayze was released from her contract and was stripped of the title following her jump back to rival company World Championship Wrestling, and the WWF Women's Championship remained vacant until 1998.[21]

Between 1995 and 1998, several valets debuted in WWF: Sunny, Marlena, Sable and Debra. At first, the characters were a continuation of the WWE female manager, but became more sexualized as time progressed. Although the term diva was not used on WWE television until April 1999, these women are considered to be the first divas. In February 1997, Chyna joined WWE as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Chyna was offered as an antithesis to the rest of the women, a masculine bodybuilder whose sexual identity was the subject of early storylines. Sunny, Marlena, Sable, and Debra were further marketed as sex symbols through WWF's Raw Magazine, which featured monthly spreads of the women in suggestive poses either semi-nude or wearing provocative clothing.

Attitude Era (1997–2002)[edit]

In 1997, Chyna debuted in the WWF as a tomboy female competitor wrestling male talents.

Sable's eclipsed popularity and her feud with Marc Mero and his new manager, Jacqueline[22] led to the reinstatement of the Women's Championship as well as the promotion's hiring of more female wrestlers. Sable's popularity led her to be a Playboy cover girl, but unlike other women, it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps.[23]

Sable became the first WWF female talent to refer to herself as a "Diva" during the April 19 episode of Raw Is War in 1999; the term shortly thereafter became the official title for WWF's female performers. During the August 9, 1999 episode of Raw Is War, Chyna became the first woman to main event a pro-wrestling prime time show when she defeated Triple H and The Undertaker in a triple threat match to become the number one contender for the WWF Championship, the only woman to ever do so. Veteran wrestlers The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young returned to WWF, mostly used as comedic roles. At No Mercy on October 17, 1999, 76-year-old Moolah defeated Ivory to win the Women's Championship, becoming the oldest WWF Women's Champion ever. The late 1990s also brought in new women, such as B.B and The Kat, who won the women's championship[24][25]

In 1999, Chyna became the first women to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship when she defeated Jeff Jarrett. She would win the title one more time in 2000, when she defeated Val Venis and Trish Stratus in a mixed tag team match. She also became the first women to participate in a Royal Rumble match, entering in the 1999 and 2000 editions, as well as participating in the 1999 edition of the King of the Ring tournament. She also was on the cover for Playboy. According to her manager, Vince McMahon offered Chyna to win the WWF Championship if she rejected the offer.[26]

The year of 2000 saw the debuts of Lita, Trish Stratus, and Molly Holly since the start of the month of February. Lita performed higher-risk moves than the divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas.[27] Shortly thereafter, Trish Stratus debuted as an overtly sexualized valet. Also, later that year, Molly Holly was added to the roster. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas as she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.[28] On the August 21 episode of Raw Is War defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley wrestled Lita in the main event.

Finally in the spring of 2001 saw the WWF's purchase of its chief competitors, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and the consequent entry of former WCW and ECW female talent, such as Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Jazz, and Sharmell. WWF Women's Champion Chyna left the WWF towards the end of November due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. In the autumn of 2001, Trish Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and drastically improved her in-ring ability. She worked her way up to the top of the division and eventually won the Women's Championship at Survivor Series. Stratus then entered in a prominent feud with Jazz who debuted at Survivor Series.[29][30][31][32]

Ruthless Aggression Era (2002–2008)[edit]

Much of the year of 2002 centered around Trish Stratus and her feuds with Jazz, Molly Holly, and a re-debuting Victoria including over the Women’s Championship.[33][34][35] In April 2002 while filming a small acting role for Dark Angel, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first female talent to have neck fusion surgery.[27] She was out of action for almost a year and a half.[27] As she rehabilitated, she kept herself visible by co-hosting Sunday Night Heat on MTV.[36]

Since May 5, 2002, the women’s division saw an expansion including a departure and a return of a former talent when the WWF officially changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as the company first began to hire more female talents than ever before, including female winners of the reality television show Tough Enough, which featured contestants aspiring to be professional wrestlers (Nidia in 2001, Linda Miles and Jackie Gayda in 2002). Debra departed the company in the month of June along with her then-husband Stone Cold Steve Austin.[37] Sable returned to WWE on the April 3, 2003 episode of SmackDown! for the first time since controversially departing from the company in late 1999; her first storyline returning to company for several months was with new Playboy covergirl Torrie Wilson. The WWE women's division competed in more match-ups previously contested only by men (including for the Women's Championship), such as street fights and hardcore matches. Numerous Divas competed in contests ranging from "Pillow Fights" and "Bra and Panties" match-ups to "Bikini Contests", which were based more on the sexual appeal of the women involved. Women's trainer Fit Finlay said he was embarrassed to explain the women how to strip during bra and panties match. According to him, "It was degrading to them" and tried to teach them how to wrestle, but WWE told him they do not want women to wrestle like men.[38]

Victoria and Lita competed in the first Women's steel cage match towards the end of the year on November 24.[39]

Christy Hemme, inaugural Diva Search winner in 2004

WWE eventually re-introduced the Diva Search, in which Christy Hemme became the inaugural winner. In December 2004, Lita and Trish Stratus main-evented Raw for the Women's Championship, making it the 2nd time in history for female talents to main event one of WWE's main shows. Moreover, Lita became the only female talent to main event Raw on three occasions including winning the Women's Championship.

Since mid-2004 and through various periods over the years until the year of 2011, most of the original female roster departed from the company, most notably in 2006, when Trish Stratus retired at Unforgiven and Lita retired at Survivor Series.[40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49]

During this period, several women made their debut, like Melina,[50] Mickie James,[51][52][53] Beth Phoenix,[54][55] and Layla.[56]

Trish Stratus celebrating her victory as a 7-time WWE Women's Champion in her final match

On the March 5, 2007 episode of Raw, Mickie James and Melina competed in the first Falls Count Anywhere match to be contested between Divas. It was also the first time that the Women's Championship was contested in this type of match. At Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007, Candice Michelle became the first woman from the WWE Diva Search contest to become the WWE Women's Champion.[57] In December 2007, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, and Sunny returned to WWE for a one night special appearance on an episode of Raw due to the show's 15-year anniversary.[58] At One Night Stand 2008, Beth Phoenix and Melina competed in the first "I Quit" match to be contested between Divas.

PG Era and Divas Championship (2008–2012)[edit]

Michelle McCool, the inaugural and two-time Divas Champion

In 2008, WWE entered its PG Era and adapted a family-friendly format.[59] WWE distanced itself from the sexual content that was pervasive throughout previous eras.[60] However, the role of women within WWE during this time was criticized because their matches were not as integral to the show as male wrestler's matches were.[59]

At The Great American Bash 2008, Michelle McCool defeated Natalya to become the inaugural holder of the WWE Divas Championship, a championship exclusive to the SmackDown brand. During the 2009 WWE draft, the championships switched brands after Women's Champion Melina was drafted to the SmackDown brand and Divas Champion Maryse was drafted to Raw. The Women's Championship was unified with the Divas Championship at Night of Champions 2010, as then Divas Champion Melina faced then-self professed co-Women's Champion Michelle McCool (as part of LayCool with Layla) in a lumberjill match, which McCool won. This also made the Women's Championship defunct after 54 years, making Layla the final holder.[61]

Kharma made her debut at Extreme Rules 2011 by attacking Michelle McCool, and attacked other divas over the next couple weeks on Raw and SmackDown, however this was cut short as she was granted a maternity leave due to her real life pregnancy.[62] 2011 saw the departures of Maryse and Michelle McCool, the latter of whom retired from WWE on May 1, after losing to Layla in a Loser Leaves WWE match; Melina, who was released in early August; and Gail Kim resigned from the company due to frustration with their lack of focus on the women's division.

In late Summer 2011, the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva was largely disputed, stemming from an article posted on WWE.com and the high-profile feud between Kelly Kelly and Eve against The Divas of Doom; Beth Phoenix and Natalya.[63][64][65] Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly for the title at Hell in a Cell. On the April 23, 2012, episode of Raw, Nikki Bella defeated Beth Phoenix in a lumberjill match for the Divas Championship, ending Phoenix's reign as champion at 204 days.[66][67] Layla returned from her injury on April 29, 2012 at Extreme Rules and defeated Nikki Bella to become the fifth woman to have held both titles.[68] The Bella Twins' contracts expired the following night, where they were fired by Eve Torres in the storyline.[69][70]

On July 9, 2012, Eve Torres and AJ Lee became the first Divas to main event Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita in 2004, in a tag team match alongside CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. During mid-2012, AJ became involved in various relationship storylines with several male wrestlers such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler, including a stint as the General Manager of Raw. The later part of 2012 saw the departures of Kharma, Kelly Kelly and Beth Phoenix.[71] A month after Phoenix's October departure, WWE published an article on their website claiming that there was a new era for the Divas division.[72]

Beginning of Total Divas (2013–2015)[edit]

AJ Lee tied Eve Torres at three in September 2014. She is the second longest reigning WWE Divas Champion at 295 Days. She was also the first and only woman to defend & retain the WWE Divas Championship at WrestleMania.

The 20th anniversary of Raw on January 14, 2013 saw Kaitlyn defeat Eve Torres for the Divas Championship. Eve departed the company later that night after her contract expired.[73] The Bella Twins returned to WWE on the March 11, 2013 episode of Raw.[74] Kaitlyn lost her Divas Championship to her former tag team partner AJ Lee on Payback, ending her reign at 153 days. The first in-ring Divas contract signing took place on the July 12, 2013 episode of SmackDown between AJ Lee and Kaitlyn, as part of buildup for a rematch of the Divas Championship at Money In the Bank. AJ defeated Kaitlyn to retain the title at the event.

In October 2012, WWE hired Renee Young, and in September 2013, Young made her commentary debut on NXT, making her the first female on-air commentator in the company in over a decade.

Paige was the youngest Divas Champion. She won the title on her debut at the age of 21.

In July 2013, the first season of the Total Divas reality television show starring WWE Divas premiered.[75] On the August 26 episode of Raw, AJ Lee cut a worked shoot promo on the cast of Total Divas, stemming again, but partially from the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva and the theme of the show leading towards a feud between Lee and the cast. At the 2013 Slammy Awards show, the Diva of the Year award was won by Brie and Nikki Bella. On January 8, 2014, Kaitlyn decided to depart from WWE to pursue other endeavors, losing her last match against her former friend and rival Divas Champion AJ Lee.[76] Later on towards the end of the month, AJ Lee became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing Maryse's reign of 216 days.[77] On the March 12 episode of Main Event, Lee successfully defended the Divas Championship against Natalya, in a match that lasted fourteen minutes—the longest women's championship match since 1987.[78] On the March 24 episode of Raw, it was announced by Vickie Guerrero that Lee would defend her Divas Championship against the entire Divas roster at WrestleMania XXX, making it the first time the title was defended at WrestleMania.[79] At the event, AJ Lee retained her championship by forcing Naomi to submit.[79]

On the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw on April 7, 2014, Paige made her debut on the main roster and defeated AJ Lee for the Divas Championship ending her record reign at 295 days. With this win, Paige became the first NXT female talent to hold both the NXT Women's and Divas Championships simultaneously as well as becoming the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history at the age of 21.[80]

Brie Bella entered a storyline with Stephanie McMahon after at Payback — as part of her husband Daniel Bryan's storyline with McMahon — McMahon threatened to fire Bella if, an injured, Bryan did not relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which forced Brie to "quit" before slapping McMahon in the face.[81] In mid-June, Vickie Guerrero departed mutually from WWE, after losing to Stephanie McMahon in a pudding match.[82] AJ Lee returned after a two-month hiatus, defeating Paige in an impromptu match to regain the Divas Championship as both then traded the championship until at SummerSlam, then Night of Champions.[83] At SummerSlam, Stephanie McMahon defeated Brie Bella in her first match in ten years, after Nikki Bella attacked her sister.[84] This led to a match between the twins at Hell in a Cell, where the loser was forced to become the winner's personal assistant for 30 days, where Nikki defeated Brie.[85] AJ Lee won the Divas Championship for a record-tying third time at Night of Champions against Paige and Nikki Bella.[86] With this win, AJ Lee tied with Eve Torres for the most reigns ever at three.

Nikki Bella received her title match against AJ Lee on November 23 at Survivor Series, which she won, with Brie's help, to become a two-time Divas Champion.[87] The duo had reconciled at this point.[88][89][90]

Divas Revolution (2015–2016)[edit]

Nikki Bella is the longest-reigning Divas Champion at 301 days, and is the only member of Total Divas to hold the title while on the cast.

On the February 23, 2015 episode of Raw, The Bella Twins faced Paige and Emma in a widely criticized match that lasted around 30 seconds. After the match, a hashtag on Twitter trended worldwide for around a day and a half, called #GiveDivasAChance. This hashtag brought attention to various multi-media outlets over the long-tenured controversy over the company's treatment of their women's division, including AJ Lee who publicly criticized Stephanie McMahon over the issue.[91][92][93] On April 3, 2015, five days after Lee and Paige defeated the Bella Twins at WrestleMania 31,[94] WWE announced that AJ Lee decided to retire from in-ring competition and departed from the company.[95] In June, Paige started serving as a judge on the sixth season of Tough Enough, while Renee Young appeared as co-host of the show and Lita served as a coach.[96][97]

On the July 13, 2015 episode of Raw, Nikki Bella claimed that there were no challengers for her championship. As a result, Stephanie McMahon proclaimed a revolution in the women's division and introduced Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and the NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks as the newest additions to the main roster.[98][99] In the following weeks, a three-way feud began between Team B.A.D. (Naomi, Tamina and Sasha Banks), Team Bella (Alicia Fox and The Bella Twins) and Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch), with the latter team being renamed from Submission Sorority due to links to adult content.[100][101] The three teams faced off at SummerSlam in a three team elimination match, where Becky pinned Brie to win the match for Team PCB.[102]

On July 29, WWE announced that Layla would depart from the company and retire.[103] On the August 31 episode of Raw, Nikki introduced the Bellatron timer which counted down the remaining time until she surpassed the record for the longest-reigning Divas champion of all time. Charlotte won the first Beat the Clock challenge for a title shot.[104][105] Her title match with Nikki was initially advertised for Night of Champions,[106] but instead took place the Raw preceding the pay-per-view, after Charlotte issued a petition, granted later by The Authority, to face Nikki before she surpassed the record to become the longest-reigning Divas Champion.[107] Charlotte won the match by disqualification when Brie and Nikki switched places and Charlotte pinned Brie. However, since the title could not change hands by disqualification, Nikki retained the championship, and in the process, became the longest-reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing AJ Lee's previous record of 295 days.[108] Several days later, on September 20 at Night of Champions, Nikki lost the championship to Charlotte, ending her reign at 301 days.[109] Shortly after, Nikki went on a hiatus from television due to a neck injury which would require surgery,[110][111] but returned for one night on December 21, to accept the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year.[112]

Women's Evolution (2016–present)[edit]

Lita presenting the WWE Women's Championship on Raw in April 2016

The WWE Women's Championship returned in the year of 2016 when Lita unveiled a brand-new Women's Championship belt during the WrestleMania 32 pre-show to signify a change in the status of the division. Later in that night, the then-current Divas Champion Charlotte won the new championship by defeating Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks.[2] The title shares its name with the original Women's Championship, however, the new title does not share the same title history as the original. WWE acknowledges the original championship as its predecessor.[113] It was also announced that female performers in the WWE would be referred to as "WWE Superstars" in the future, the same as their male counterparts as the term 'Diva' would be dropped.[citation needed] In addition, women's matches began to increase on episodes of Raw and SmackDown as well as becoming much longer not to mention distinct characters and catfights evolving into more violent and physical brawls akin to the men's division.[citation needed]

Alexa Bliss is the first woman to have held both the Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships, holding the former three times and the latter twice, making her an overall five-time champion in WWE.

After the Women's Championship became a Raw exclusive title and changed the name to Raw Women's Championship, the WWE SmackDown Women's Championship was introduced on the August 23, 2016 episode of SmackDown, with Becky Lynch becoming the inaugural champion.[114] During the year of 2016, Charlotte and Sasha Banks feuded over the Raw Women's Championship. They main-evented Raw on two occasions that year, they competed in the first women's Hell in a Cell match in WWE history that same year, marking the first time that a women's match had headlined a WWE pay-per-view event.

WWE announced on January 28, 2017 that Nikki Bella would serve as an executive producer for Total Divas starting in the second half of the sixth season in April. Nikki would become the first female talent within the company to become a producer of a company related show.[115] During the following months, WWE booked several special matches that, until that moment, were only contested between men, like the women's Money in the Bank ladder match,[116] the women's women's Royal Rumble match,[117] the women's Elimination Chamber match,[118][119] and the women's Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.[120] In 2018, WWE hosted WWE Evolution, the first only-women WWE pay-per-view, where all of the active women's championships in WWE were defended and the finals of the 2018 Mae Young Classic tournament.[121][122]

Lynch defeated both Ronda and Charlotte in the first WrestleMania Women's Main Event and is the only woman to hold the WWE Raw and SmackDown Women's Championships concurrently

At the Elimination Chamber, Sasha Banks and Bayley won the inaugural WWE Women's Tag Team Championship (that were first announced by Vince McMahon on the December 24 episode of Raw) as they defeated five other teams in a tag team Elimination Chamber match.[123][124][125] During the summer of 2018, Becky Lynch became very popular when she repacked under "The Man" character. She would main event WrestleMania 35 with the Raw Women's Champion Ronda Rousey and the SmackDown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair, becoming the first women to main event WrestleMania. Lynch defeated them to win both titles. October 30, 2019 WWE announced a match between Natalya and Lacey Evans for Crown Jewel 2019, making it the first women's match in Saudi Arabia.[126] At the event, both women had to wear full body suits and T-shirts instead of their normal ring attire due to the country's dress policy.[127]

Reception[edit]

While Stephanie McMahon credited Triple H and Vince McMahon as the creators of the Women's Revolution,[128] former WWE and Impact Wrestling wrestler Gail Kim answer her, claiming Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (now Impact Wrestling) was the promotion where the Women's Revolution started.[129] Former WWE wrestler Maria Kanellis complained about how WWE uses women, stating that feels more like a "promotional tactic".[130] After being released in 2021, Mickie James said that one WWE executive told her "Women's wrestling doesn't make money".[131]

Women in NXT[edit]

Seasonal format (2010–2012)[edit]

Winner of NXT Season 3, Kaitlyn

WWE NXT originally existed as a seasonal show which was presented as a hybrid between reality television and WWE's scripted live event shows, in which they acquired any select talent contracted from WWE's then-developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) to participate in a competition to become WWE's next "breakout star" with the help of select main roster talents. Five seasons of this version of NXT were broadcast from February 23, 2010[132] to June 13, 2012.[132][133][134]

The second season of NXT started on June 8, 2010 and ended on August 31, 2010,[135][136] lasting thirteen weeks.[135][136] LayCool (Michelle McCool and Layla) were the first female talents featured on the show as 'mentors' and their male talent was Kaval who won the second season on August 31.[137][138][139]

The third season of NXT was exclusive for Divas. The majority of the season three cast was revealed on the second-season finale on August 31, 2010. The first four episodes of season three were aired on Syfy. Due to the debut of SmackDown on Syfy in October 2010, NXT left the channel and became a webcast at WWE.com for visitors from the United States from the fifth episode onwards. AJ Lee, Naomi, Aloisia, Maxine, Aksana, and Jamie Keyes were initially announced as part of the show with Primo, Kelly Kelly, Vickie Guerrero, Alicia Fox, Goldust, and The Bella Twins as the select main roster talents featured on the show as 'mentors'. However, before the season's premiere aired, Aloisia was dropped from the show. On screen, Aloisia's exit stemmed from an argument between Aloisia and her pro, Vickie Guerrero, forcing Guerrero to fire her.[140] In real life, she was released two weeks later, due to the company allegedly finding adult photos, and was replaced by Kaitlyn on the show. The reward to the victor was changed in contrast to the previous seasons. Unlike the first two male victors, the female victor of season 3 would not get a shot at a championship of her choice (the only title being the Divas Championship) but rather, a main roster spot.

The fourth season of NXT started on December 7, 2010 and ended on March 1, 2011. Maryse with Ted Dibiase Jr. and Vickie Guerrero with Dolph Ziggler returned to the show as featured mentors. In the fifth edition of the program on March 8, 2011,[141] Maryse became co-host of the show up until August 24 when taking time off due to personal injury. She departed from the company on October 28.[142]

Developmental territory (2012–2019)[edit]

Throughout the years, WWE began hiring new Divas and assigned them to their development territories to train and wait to be called up to the main roster. These new Divas were recruited from the independent circuit and modeling agencies including previously the Diva Search although in recent years, most came from the indies due in large part to Triple H's change in mentality when it came to hiring talents.

Sara Del Rey signed a contract with WWE on July 9, 2012 and became the first female trainer in WWE's developmental territory NXT, based at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.[143][144] AJ Lee became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the WWE Divas Championship, while Naomi became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the SmackDown Women's Championship. In August 2012, WWE ceased operating Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), its developmental promotion in Tampa, Florida, deactivating FCW titles, and began running all of its developmental events and operations at Full Sail University under the "WWE NXT" banner. WWE had been using the NXT name for a television program featuring rookies from FCW competing to become WWE main roster members, though the "reality television" aspects of the show had been dropped earlier in 2012; WWE NXT now serves as the primary television program for the promotion. NXT has received praise for the opportunities they afford female wrestlers as opposed to on the main roster, which has led to a change on how women's wrestling is portrayed on WWE's main roster.

In 2013, Paige became the first NXT Women's Champion.

The following year in 2013, the NXT Women's Championship was first introduced on April 5, 2013 at WrestleMania Axxess. It was announced at the May 30, 2013 tapings (broadcast in the June 5 episode) of NXT, by Stephanie McMahon that there would be a tournament, featuring four developmental divas and four divas from the main roster competing to be crowned as the inaugural NXT Women's Champion in a knockout system format. Tamina Snuka, Alicia Fox, Aksana, and Summer Rae represented the main roster in the tournament.[145][146][147] The first champion was crowned on June 20, 2013, with Paige defeating Emma in the tournament finals.[148]

John Layfield stripped Paige of the title on the April 24, 2014 edition of NXT in order to give the divas on NXT a chance, as Paige had been brought up to the main roster on April 7, 2014 on Raw upon defeating AJ Lee for WWE's Divas Championship. The following week, a new tournament was started for the NXT Women's Championship. Natalya, Layla, Alicia Fox, and Emma represented the main roster in the second tournament. At NXT TakeOver in the finals, Charlotte defeated Natalya to win the vacant NXT Women's Championship. On February 12, 2015 at NXT TakeOver: Rival, Charlotte lost the championship to Sasha Banks in a fatal four-way match that also involved Bayley and Becky Lynch, ending her reign at 258 days.[149]

On May 19, 2015, Sara Del Rey was promoted to NXT assistant head coach by WWE, following the resignation of Bill DeMott.[150] On August 22, 2015, Bayley defeated Banks in a singles match to become the new Women's Champion at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. On August 27, it was revealed that Kana had signed with WWE a few weeks earlier.[151] She appeared at the September 10 tapings of NXT, where her new ring name was announced as Asuka.[152] In her debut match on October 7 at NXT TakeOver: Respect, she defeated Dana Brooke.[153] On the September 16 episode of NXT, William Regal announced that Bayley would defend the NXT Women's Championship against Sasha Banks in the main event of NXT TakeOver: Respect on October 7, in the first 30-minute Iron Woman match in WWE history,[154] where Bayley defeated Banks with 3 falls to 2, and retained the championship.[155]

On June 18, 2018, during the first night of the United Kingdom Championship Tournament, the NXT UK Women's Championship[156] was announced for WWE's NXT UK brand.[156] Afterwards, a two-day eight-woman single-elimination tournament was scheduled to crown the inaugural champion during the first tapings of NXT UK.[157][158][159] On August 26, Rhea Ripley defeated Toni Storm in the tournament finals to become the inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion.[160]

Third brand (2019–present)[edit]

On the October 31, 2019 episode of NXT, the first women's WarGames match was announced for NXT TakeOver: WarGames.[161] At the event Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox, and Dakota Kai) defeated Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Kay Lee Ray).[162] In 2021, the first Women's Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament took place.[163]

Promotional pushes[edit]

The popularity of women in WWE has resulted in various cross-promotions with other brands featuring WWE Divas. Various Divas have posed in Playboy, and others have appeared in commercials for WWE and non-WWE products as well as men's interest magazines.

The WWE Divas normally went on an annual photoshoot every year, usually to a different location each time. The photoshoot was followed by a magazine featuring photos from the shoot as well as a television special or video release of highlights from the shoot. The first initial annual photoshoot was in 1999 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was promoted through video release by WWE entitled Come Get Some: The Women of the WWF. Debra, Chyna, Sable, Tori, Jacqueline, Terri Runnels, Ivory, Luna Vachon, and Ryan Shamrock were part of the photoshoot and promotional material.

Sunny, Sable, and Chyna were the only three female talents for whom WWE created a separate website in their years with the company. WWE also released a sports fitness clothing line for Chyna, called C9, based on her nickname.

Videography[edit]

Annual photoshoots:

  • 1999: Come Get Some: The Women of the WWF
  • 2000: Postcard From The Caribbean
  • 2001: Divas in Hedonism
  • 2002: Tropical Pleasure and Undressed
  • 2003: Desert Heat
  • 2004: South of the Border
  • 2005: Viva Las Divas
  • 2006: Divas Do New York
  • 2007: Los Angeles
  • 2008: Summer Skin

Other:

  • 1998: Sable Unleashed
  • 2000: Chyna Fitness: More Than Meets the Eye
  • 2001: Lita: It Just Feels Right
  • 2003: Trish Stratus: 100% Stratusfaction Guaranteed
  • 2005: $250,000 Raw Diva Search
  • 2014: Stephanie McMahon: Fit Series
  • 2018: Then, Now, Forever: The Evolution of WWE's Women's Division
  • 2019: Trish & Lita: Best Friends, Better Rivals

Playboy[edit]

Chyna autographing her issue of Playboy in 2007

Since 1999, seven WWE Divas have appeared on the cover of Playboy:

  • 1999: Sable (2) - April & September
  • 2000: Chyna - November
  • 2002: Chyna (2) - January
  • 2003: Torrie Wilson - March
  • 2004: Torrie Wilson (2) and Sable (3) - March
  • 2005: Christy Hemme - April
  • 2006: Candice Michelle - April
  • 2007: Ashley Massaro - April
  • 2008: Maria Kanellis - April

Actual Playboy playmates, such as Carmella DeCesare and Karen McDougal have also appeared in the 2004 Diva Search contest. Former WWE female talent Taryn Terrell and current female talent Maryse Ouellet have also posed nude. Past female talents such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, Michelle McCool, and Melina Perez have said that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Trish Stratus appeared on Canadian sports talk show Off The Record and said that she did not pose because she wanted to be known as "multiple time Women's Champion Trish Stratus" rather than "the girl who posed in Playboy". Stratus also claims that she refused the shoot because she says she can still be sexy without taking her clothes off.[164] Lita has said that she did not pose because she felt it was wrong for her (she was known as a role model for young girls at the time) to pose for the magazine.[165]

Shortly following Maria's pictorial, WWE transitioned to a TV-PG rating and ended its connection to Playboy as part of the move.

Reality shows[edit]

Diva Search (2003-2007, 2019) and Tough Enough (2001–2002, 2011, 2015)[edit]

The Diva Search was an annual competition that occurred every summer. The purpose of the Diva Search was to find new women to be wrestlers, interviewers, and/or valets for WWE. The winner of the competition received a one-year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000. On March 29, 2015 it was announced by the company that the contest would return in fall of 2015 and would air exclusively on the WWE Network.[166] However, the Diva Search did not return that year.

Tough Enough is a professional wrestling reality television series produced by WWE, wherein participants undergo professional wrestling training and compete for a contract with WWE.

Total Divas and spinoffs (2013–present)[edit]

On April 22, 2013, it was announced that the Divas would be getting a show on E! network titled Total Divas. It would follow the lives behind the scenes of select Divas. Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, The Bella Twins (Brie and Nikki), and also Eva Marie and JoJo Offerman from the developmental territory WWE NXT were announced as the inaugural cast for the show. The show premiered on July 28. The show was an instant hit, and was renewed for a second season.[167] Since season 2, various former and current company female talents all have either departed or joined the show including being regulated to recurring or guest roles.[168][169][170] There has been nine seasons of Total Divas so far.

Additionally, the E! Network announced on April 18, 2016 that The Bella Twins (Brie and Nikki) would be getting their own spinoff show titled Total Bellas following the lives of the twins.[171]

On January 8, 2018, it was announced that Maryse and her husband The Miz would be getting their own reality television series titled Miz & Mrs.[172] The show premiered on July 24, 2018 on the USA Network.

Other shows[edit]

Animated version of the Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter was included on a CBS Saturday morning cartoon Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling.[173]

WWE Sunday Dhamaal, an Indian show produced by WWE, aired a special WWE Evolution episode hosted by Shenaz Treasury focusing on Women in WWE.[174]

In 2019 WWE announced a reality series for Quibi Fight Like a Girl in which Stephanie McMahon will pair a WWE superstar with a young girl in each episode.[175][176]

WWE Network shows[edit]

Behind the scenes look of various WWE female superstars and Events were featured in WWE Network's documentary series WWE 24. Episodes Women's Evolution and Empowered focused on History of Women in WWE while episodes Becky Lynch:The Man and The Years on Ronda Rousey focused on individual career of Lynch and Rousey respectively.[177][178][179] Another documentary series on Network WWE 365 aired Alexa Bliss special on June 23, 2019.[180] Paige, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks specials were part of another WWE Network's documentary series WWE Chronicle.[181][182][183]

Several episodes Table for 3 like Diva Legends,[184] Millennium Divas,[185] Divas Champions Club,[186] Future Empowered,[187] Women's Championship Evolution,[188] Restaurant Riott[189] and Ladies' Luncheon[190] featured current and former WWE female superstars discussing various aspects of their personal and professional life.

Animated version of various female WWE superstars like Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bella Twins, Charlotte Flair, Paige and Stephanie McMahon were included in Camp WWE.[191]

On August 21, 2016 WWE Network launched Holey Foley a Reality show on the life of Mick Foley and his Daughter Noelle, who is secretly training to join WWE.[192]

Other media[edit]

Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter appeared in two of Cyndi Lauper's music videos, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" and "She Bop".[193]

From 1999 to 2000, Sable appeared as a guest star on an episode of Pacific Blue in 1999,[194] and the following year, Chyna appeared as a guest star on Mad TV and 3rd Rock from the Sun as Janice, a police officer, as well as several Stacker 2 commercials and was a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards.[195] In November 2001, Trish Stratus, Lita, and Stephanie McMahon appeared as contestants on The Weakest Link's "WWF Superstars Edition".[196] Lita, Molly Holly, and Jacqueline appeared as contestants on Fear Factor in February 2002.[197] On April 6, 2002 Lita appeared in a small role on Dark Angel.[198] In March 2004, she appeared on an episode of Headbangers Ball.[199]

In 2007, Ashley Massaro, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland.[200] In the same year, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Maria, Layla, and Kristal appeared in an episode of the U.S. reality show Project Runway (season 4), in which designers were asked to design in-ring attire for their designated Diva. In 2008, Layla, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, and Melina appeared in the U.S. reality show Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp to get the celebrities in shape.

Fighting with My Family, a 2019 film co-produced by WWE Studios depicts the WWE career of Paige portrayed by Florence Pugh.[201]

The Fabulous Moolah was the sixth and season finale episode of the professional wrestling documentary series Dark Side of the Ring. It covered various events of Moolah's life like Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection, The Brawl to End It All, The Original Screwjob, WrestleMania 34 name controversy and various other WWE related incidents.[202]

The video game WWE 2K20 has a Showcase mode named Four Horsewomen which revolves around Bayley, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch.[203][204]

Charity[edit]

In October 2018, a week before the Evolution PPV event, the WWE and the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up created Sports for a Purpose program aiming to create a culture of sports participation for girls around the world. The program will launch in fall 2019. Stephanie McMahon stated, “WWE is proud to partner with Girl Up to create Sports for a Purpose, a new program designed to help our youth achieve gender equality in sports. Playing sports has a positive impact on girls’ leadership skills, confidence and self-esteem, and we are excited to work with Girl Up to create this meaningful program.”[205]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Championships[edit]

Championship Current champion Date won Location Previous champion First champion
WWE Raw Women's Championship Charlotte Flair August 21, 2021 Paradise, Nevada Nikki A.S.H Charlotte Flair
WWE SmackDown Women's Championship Becky Lynch August 21, 2021 Paradise, Nevada Bianca Belair Becky Lynch
WWE Women's Tag Team Championship Rhea Ripley and Nikki A.S.H September 20, 2021 Raleigh, North Carolina Natalya and Tamina The Boss 'n' Hug Connection
(Bayley and Sasha Banks)
NXT Women's Championship Raquel González April 7, 2021 Orlando, Florida Io Shirai Paige
NXT Women's Tag Team Championship Io Shirai and Zoey Stark July 6, 2021 Orlando, Florida The Way
(Candice LaRae and Indi Hartwell)
Dakota Kai and Raquel González
NXT UK Women's Championship Meiko Satomura June 10, 2021 London, England Kay Lee Ray Rhea Ripley

Former championships[edit]

Championship Last champion(s) Date won Date retired Location Previous champion(s) First champion(s)
WWE Divas Championship Charlotte September 20, 2015 April 3, 2016 Houston, Texas Nikki Bella Michelle McCool
WWE Women's Championship Layla May 11, 2010 September 19, 2010 Rosemont, Illinois Beth Phoenix The Fabulous Moolah
WWF Women's Tag Team Championship The Glamour Girls
(Leilani Kai and Judy Martin)
June 8, 1988 February 14, 1989 Ōmiya, Japan The Jumping Bomb Angels
(Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki)
Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria
FCW Divas Championship Christina Crawford June 29, 2012 August 14, 2012 Tampa, Florida Raquel Diaz Naomi
Queen of FCW Raquel Diaz November 17, 2011 March 15, 2012 Tampa, Florida Aksana Angela Fong
OVW Women's Championship[Note 1] Katie Lea February 20, 2008 February 27, 2008 Louisville, Kentucky Roucka ODB

Other accomplishments[edit]

Accomplishment Last winner(s) Date won Location Notes
Royal Rumble Bianca Belair January 31, 2021 St. Petersburg, Florida Last eliminated Rhea Ripley to win.
WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal Carmella April 7, 2019 East Rutherford, New Jersey Last eliminated Sarah Logan to win.
Money in the Bank Nikki A.S.H. April 15, 2020 Fort Worth, Texas Defeated Alexa Bliss, Asuka, Liv Morgan, Naomi, Natalya, Tamina, and Zelina Vega to win the Money in the Bank contract.
Mae Young Classic Toni Storm October 28, 2018 Uniondale, New York Defeated Io Shirai to win the tournament.
Mixed Match Challenge Carmella and R-Truth December 16, 2018 San Jose, California Defeated Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs to win season 2 of the tournament.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Dakota Kai and Raquel González February 14, 2021 Orlando, Florida Defeated Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart at NXT TakeOver: Vengeance Day to win the inaugural tournament.
Queen's Crown Inaugural winner TBD October 21, 2021 Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Throughout the years in WWE, there has been instances where female talent have won male contested championships and to being part of major male contested tournaments or gimmick matches. In June 1999, Chyna became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament. She was also the first woman to be the number one contender for the WWF Championship, but lost the spot to Mankind before SummerSlam in August. Later that year, Chyna became the only woman to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship after defeating Jeff Jarrett No Mercy on October 17.[206] Eventually the following year, Chyna would win the championship for the second time in an intergender tag team match at SummerSlam.

Molly Holly (competing as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, and Terri Runnels all held the Hardcore Championship briefly throughout the year of 2002.

Two years later, Jacqueline held the Cruiserweight Championship briefly in the month of May. She became the only woman to have held the championship under the WWE banner and the third woman overall to have won the championship as Madusa and Daffney also held the championship under the WCW banner. After the introduction of the WWE 24/7 Championship, Kelly Kelly, Candice Michelle, Maria Kanellis, Carmella, Tamina, and Alicia Fox held the title.

Chyna, Beth Phoenix, Kharma, and Nia Jax are the only female talents in the history of the company to have competed and entered in the male-contested Royal Rumble match. Chyna is the only female talent to have competed in the Royal Rumble match twice in the years of 1999 and 2000. Beth Phoenix and Nia Jax are the only female talent to have competed in both gender Royal Rumble matches.

Hall of Famers[edit]

Lita during her speech of induction at the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2014
Legend Year inducted Notes
The Fabulous Moolah 1995
Sensational Sherri 2006
Mae Young 2008
Wendi Richter 2010
Sunny 2011
Trish Stratus 2013
Lita 2014
Alundra Blayze 2015
Jacqueline 2016
Mildred Burke Legacy inductee
Beth Phoenix 2017
Judy Grable Legacy inductee
June Byers
Ivory 2018
Cora Combs Legacy inductee
Torrie Wilson 2019
Chyna Inducted as a member of D-Generation X
Luna Vachon Legacy inductee
The Bella Twins (Nikki and Brie) 2020
Molly Holly 2021
Ethel Johnson Legacy inductee

Slammy Awards[edit]

First two-time Diva of the Year Slammy Award winner, AJ Lee
Female Superstar/Diva of the Year Date won
Miss Elizabeth[a] December 17, 1987
Sable[b] March 21, 1997
Beth Phoenix December 8, 2008
Maria December 14, 2009
Michelle McCool December 13, 2010
Kelly Kelly[c] December 12, 2011
AJ Lee[d] December 17, 2012
The Bella Twins December 9, 2013
AJ Lee December 8, 2014
Nikki Bella December 21, 2015
Sasha Banks December 23, 2020
Other awards Winner Date won
Most Devastating Bull Nakano December 31, 1994
Best Buns Sunny March 30, 1996
Manager of the Year Sunny March 30, 1996
Best Dressed Sable March 21, 1997
Couple of the Year Vickie Guerrero (with Edge) December 8, 2008
Best Use of Exercise Equipment[d] Rosa Mendes December 13, 2010
Knucklehead Moment of the Year LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool) and Mae Young December 13, 2010
Kiss of the Year AJ Lee (with John Cena) December 18, 2012
Couple of the Year[d] Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan) December 9, 2013
Best Dance Moves of the Year[d] The Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron) December 9, 2013
Insult of the Year Stephanie McMahon December 9, 2013
Couple of the Year[d] Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan) December 8, 2014
This is Awesome Moment of the Year Ronda Rousey (with The Rock) December 21, 2015
  • A – Award was then known as "Woman of the Year"
  • B – Award was then known as "Miss Slammy"
  • C - Award was then known as "Divalicious Moment of the Year"
  • D – Awarded through WWE.com

Year–End Awards[edit]

Year won Award Winner
2018 Female Superstar of the Year Becky Lynch
General Manager of the Year Paige
Match of the Year Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair at WWE Evolution
Best Diss of the Year Ronda Rousey's promo against Nikki Bella
Most Underrated Star of the Year Naomi
2019 Female Superstar of the Year Becky Lynch (2)
Women's Tag Team of the Year The Kabuki Warriors
(Asuka and Kairi Sane)

NXT Year-End Awards[edit]

Award Winner Date won
Female Competitor of 2015 Bayley January 13, 2016[207]
Match of 2015 Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn[207]
Female Competitor of 2016 Asuka January 28, 2017[208]
Breakout Star of 2016 Billie Kay and Peyton Royce[208]
Female Competitor of 2017 Asuka January 27, 2018
Overall Competitor of 2017
Female Competitor of 2018 Kairi Sane January 26, 2019
Overall Competitor of 2018
Future Star of NXT Io Shirai
Female Competitor of 2019 Shayna Baszler January 1, 2020
Future Star of NXT Dakota Kai
Female Competitor of 2020 Io Shirai January 6, 2021
Overall Competitor of 2020
Breakout Star of 2020 Shotzi Blackheart

Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards[edit]

PWI Female 50 / Female 100 / Female 150[edit]

Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2008[209] Beth Phoenix Mickie James Melina Michelle McCool Candice Michelle
2009[210] Mickie James Melina Beth Phoenix Michelle McCool Maryse
2010[211] Michelle McCool Eve Torres Mickie James Alicia Fox
2011[212] Natalya
2012[213] Beth Phoenix Layla
2013[214] Kaitlyn AJ Lee
2014[215] Paige AJ Lee Natalya Charlotte
2015[216] Nikki Bella Paige Sasha Banks Charlotte Naomi
2016[217] Charlotte Sasha Banks Asuka Becky Lynch Bayley Natalya
2017[218] Asuka Charlotte Flair Alexa Bliss Sasha Banks Bayley Natalya Naomi Kairi Sane
2018[219] Ronda Rousey Alexa Bliss Charlotte Flair Io Shirai Asuka Shayna Baszler Carmella Nia Jax Kairi Sane
2019[220] Becky Lynch Charlotte Flair Ronda Rousey Shayna Baszler Bayley Natalya Io Shirai
2020[221] Bayley Becky Lynch Asuka Charlotte Flair Sasha Banks Io Shirai
2021[222] Bianca Belair Sasha Banks Io Shirai Raquel González

Woman of the Year[edit]

Year Winner
2000 Stephanie McMahon
2001 Lita
2002 Trish Stratus
2003 Trish Stratus (2)
2004 Victoria
2005 Trish Stratus (3)
2006 Trish Stratus (4)
2007 Candice Michelle
2008 Beth Phoenix
2009 Mickie James
2010 Michelle McCool
2011 Mickie James (2)
2012 AJ Lee
2013 AJ Lee (2)
2014 AJ Lee (3)
2015 Sasha Banks
2016 Charlotte Flair
2017 Asuka
2018 Becky Lynch
2019 Becky Lynch (2)
2020 Bayley

Other awards[edit]

Award Winner Year
Manager of the Year Sunny 1996
Manager of the Year Debra 1999
Most Improved Wrestler of the Year Candice Michelle 2007
Rookie of the Year Charlotte 2014
Inspirational Wrestler of the Year Bayley 2015
Match of the Year Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Respect
30-minute Iron Woman match for the NXT Women's Championship
Feud of the Year Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks 2016
Inspirational Wrestler of the Year Bayley
Rookie of the Year Nia Jax
Rookie of the Year Ronda Rousey 2018
Most Popular Wrestler of the Year Becky Lynch 2019
Tag Team of the Year Bayley and Sasha Banks 2020

Miscellaneous contests and tournaments (2001–2005, 2017)[edit]

Babe of the Year contest was a contest where fans voted on who was their favorite Diva for that year. Trish Stratus won the inaugural competition in 2001. Stratus had her own mini-site on WWE.com and her photoshoot of choice was a space-type theme. The corresponding mini-site was fittingly named "The Stratusphere". Stratus retained her title until 2004, where Stacy Keibler ended Stratus' reign and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two. In 2005, WWE would host the sole 'Rookie' Diva of the Year contest at No Way Out, where Joy Giovanni defeated Michelle McCool, Lauren Jones, and Rochelle Loewen. Giovanni received more than half of the vote, followed by McCool who got just under 20%, Loewen got just over 10% and Jones received just 6%. The competition was hosted by Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie.

Trish Stratus was named "Diva of the Decade" on a special 10th anniversary episode of Raw on January 14, 2003. The other nominees were Sable, Sunny, Lita, and Chyna.[223] On April 1, 2017, WWE announced a female tournament called the Mae Young Classic as part of a company presentation in which thirty-two women from different countries competed in an exhibition series of matches.[224]

Awards and nominations from other organizations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref
2012 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Favorite Buttkicker Kelly Kelly Nominated [225]
2016 Teen Choice Awards Choice Female Athlete Brie Bella and Nikki Bella Won [226]
2018 CBS Sports Professional Wrestling Awards Wrestler of the Year Becky Lynch Won [227]
WWE Match of the Year Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (TLC)
Rookie of the Year Ronda Rousey
Best Moment of the Year Becky Lynch attacks Ronda Rousey on Raw
2019 Breakthrough Wrestler of the Year Rhea Ripley Won [228]
2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards MTV Movie Award for Best Fight Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair – WrestleMania 35 Nominated [229][230]
ESPYS Best WWE Moment Becky Lynch wins Raw and SmackDown Women's titles at the main event of WrestleMania 35 [231][232]
Ronda Rousey wins the Raw Women's title at Summerslam
2021 ESPYS Best WWE Moment Sasha Banks (c) vs. Bianca Belair for the SmackDown Women's Championship main events Night 1 of WrestleMania 37 Won

Championship reigns[edit]

This chart lists in chronological order every female wrestler who held more than one title in the company, including male contested titles.

There are two titles under the name WWE Women's Championship. The WWF Women's Championship is descended from the original NWA World Women's Championship of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which is still active today. In 1983, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) disaffiliated with the NWA and recognized then-NWA World Women's Champion The Fabulous Moolah as the promotion's Women's Champion. At It the Night of Champions pay-per-view on September 19, 2010, the Divas Championship would be unified with the WWE Women's Championship, creating the Unified WWE Divas Championship. On April 3, 2016, WWE Hall of Famer Lita appeared during the WrestleMania 32 pre-show to introduced the new WWE Women's Championship and revealed that the Divas Championship would be retired. Although it shares the same name the WWE Women's Championship has a unique title history, separate from WWE's original Women's Championship and the Divas Championship.

Leilani Kai won the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship and the WWF Women's Championship in 1985. In 2009 at The Bash, Michelle McCool defeated Melina to win her first Women's Championship, becoming the first woman to have won both the WWE Divas and Women's championships.[233] AJ Lee became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship and the WWE Divas Championship. Paige became the first female double champion when she won the WWE Divas Championship in her debut while also being the NXT Women's Champion in 2014. Charlotte Flair is a record 13-times women championship with four-times Raw Women's Championship, record five-times SmackDown Women's Championship and two times NXT Women's Championship, one time WWE Women's Tag Team Championship with Asuka as well as a one-time Divas Championship.

In 1999, Chyna defeated Jeff Jarrett in his last WWF match at No Mercy, to become the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship.[206] At Starrcade (1999), Alundra Blayze/Madusa pinned Karagias to become the first woman ever to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship.[234][235] Molly Holly pinned The Hurricane taking the WWE Hardcore Championship from him at WrestleMania X8 on March 17, 2002 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Later that year Trish Stratus won the WWE Hardcore Championship on May 6, pinning Crash Holly.[30] On the May 6, 2004 episode of SmackDown!, WWE Cruiserweight Champion Chavo Guerrero issued an open challenge for anyone to face him for his title, Jacqueline defeated him to become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion.[236]

Former championships[edit]

Women WWF/WWE Women's Championship WWF Women's Tag Team Championship WWE Divas Championship FCW Divas Championship Queen of FCW OVW Women's Championship'[Note 1]
Leilani Kai ☒N ☒N
Velvet McIntyre ☒N ☒N
Michelle McCool ☒N ☒N
Mickie James ☒N ☒N
Melina ☒N ☒N
Beth Phoenix ☒N ☒N ☒N
Layla ☒N ☒N
Alicia Fox ☒N ☒N[Note 2]
AJ Lee ☒N ☒N ☒N
Aksana ☒N ☒N
Raquel Diaz ☒N ☒N
Paige ☒N
  1. ^ a b The Championship was shared with WWE, while the OVW was their development territory.
  2. ^ Her reign is not recognized by the OVW.

Current championships[edit]

The NXT Women's Championship was introduced on April 5, 2013 and the first NXT Women's Champion was crowned on June 20, 2013 (aired July 24) in the inaugural championship tournament (2013).[160] Following the reintroduction of the brand split in July 2016, the WWE Women's Champion (Charlotte Flair) was drafted to the Raw brand, making the championship exclusive to Raw. In August 2016, the WWE created the SmackDown Women's Championship as a counterpart title and the WWE Women's Championship was subsequently renamed to Raw Women's Championship. On June 18, 2018, the NXT UK Women's Championship was announced for WWE's NXT UK brand.[156] The inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion was crowned in the tournament finals on August 21, 2018 (aired November 28).[160] During the December 24, 2018 Raw episode, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship.[237] The inaugural champions were crowned at Elimination Chamber on February 17, 2019, in a tag team Elimination Chamber match, featuring three teams from Raw and three teams from SmackDown, making the titles non-exclusive to either brand.[238]

As of the current WWE system, on April 30, 2017, Alexa Bliss became the first woman in the WWE to hold the women's titles on both brands of WWE. Naomi became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the SmackDown Women's Championship. Becky Lynch won both the Raw Women’s Championship and SmackDown Women's Championship in a Winner takes all match at WrestleMania 35, making her a double champion and the only woman to hold both titles simultaneously. Bayley is the first wrestler to have won four current women's championships in WWE history.

Ember Moon is the first wrestler to have won NXT Women's Championship and NXT Women's Tag Team Championship.

Women WWE Raw Women's Championship WWE SmackDown Women's Championship WWE Women's Tag Team Championship NXT Women's Championship NXT Women's Tag Team Championship NXT UK Women's Championship
Charlotte Flair[Note 1] ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Sasha Banks ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Bayley ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Alexa Bliss ☒N ☒N ☒N
Asuka ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Becky Lynch ☒N ☒N
Naomi[Note 2] ☒N
Natalya[Note 3] ☒N ☒N
Kairi Sane ☒N ☒N
Rhea Ripley ☒N ☒N ☒N ☒N
Nia Jax ☒N ☒N
Shayna Baszler ☒N ☒N
Ember Moon ☒N ☒N
Raquel González ☒N ☒N
Io Shirai ☒N ☒N
Nikki A.S.H.  ☒N ☒N
  1. ^ Charlotte was the last WWE Divas Champion and the first owner of a WWE Women's Championship (now known as the Raw Women's Championship)
  2. ^ Naomi was also FCW Divas Champion.
  3. ^ Natalya was also WWE Divas Champion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Bibliography[edit]

  • Olson, Cristopher; Reinhard, Carrie Lynn D. (2021). "Wrestling with Eating Disorders: Transmedia Depictions of Body Issues in WWE's Women's Professional Wrestling". In Johnson, Malynnda; Olson, Cristopher (eds.). Normalizing Mental Illness and Neurodiversity in Entertainment Media (1st E-book ed.). London: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9781003011668-15. ISBN 9781003011668. S2CID 233598773.

External links[edit]