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A little less than a year ago, Stephanie McMahon announced on RAW that all of the current women on the roster (besides her of course) were subpar and that the women's division needed an overhaul, announcing the "Diva's Revolution" and declaring that WWE was going to start taking the women more seriously.
11 months after that announcement, how is the so-called Revolution coming? I'll admit to being somewhat against the Diva's Revolution when it was first announced. I was all for giving the talented women on the roster more time to tell stories and work in the ring, but I didn't care for WWE, particularly Stephanie, promoting the new dedication to women beforehand. The women getting more time and getting more over from the audience should happen organically, not marketed for public relations. WWE can tell us anything; the only way fans are truly going to get behind them is if they are shown that things are going to be different, and that means having better matches, real rivalries, and more time on television.
That is why I think things got off to a slow start. WWE tried to phase in the new era slowly, with Stephanie making "teams" comprised of new call-ups from NXT and current wrestlers on the roster with the aplomb of a physical education teacher making teams for kickball. The Diva's Championship remained around the waist of Nikki Bella, and in retrospect that looks like a mistake. The division before the call-ups was all about the Bella twins as heels (but sometimes babyfaces, depending on the week) and after the call-ups, the division was still all about the Bellas. I think both Nikki and Brie have improved a lot since their debut in the company, but fair or unfair, they were viewed by fans as a member of the old-guard, bringing up memories of bathroom breaks and completely random booking.
It was not until both Bella's were phased out of the division because of injuries that the division began to unfold. Charlotte became the champion and wrestled matches against her former friends, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch, as well as against Natalya, who despite being one of the most tenured females on the roster was vastly underutilized and accepted as a new leader for the new era. There is still a lot of work to be done in the division, but WWE, for now at least, seems to be on the right track.
I'd say the biggest development in the division has been the increase in the quality of the matches. There still hasn't been a bout to match some of the best NXT matches; but the average quality of each match, particularly the PPV matches, is significantly better. Part of it is because WWE is pushing more athletic, more experienced wrestlers, and part of it is because WWE is giving the wrestlers more time to work in the ring. A few years ago WWE blessed us with the Kelly Kelly era, were Kelly was the biggest female star in the company and enjoyed a 100-day stretch as the Diva's Champion. Credit Kelly for getting in the ring but she was not a capable worker and her match could be counted on to be amongst the worst on every show she was on. Right now WWE is leaps and bounds ahead of where they were several years ago, and you could argue that the average women's match is better than at any other time in company history.
The next logical step for the division is to catch that really hot storyline that brings the division to the next level. The fans have been patient with most of the feuds, but none of them have really blown anybody away. The recent drama with Charlotte dumping her father on RAW wasn't necessarily the most engaging development in the division. I'm not sure exactly what it is going to be; but to elevate the division they need to come up with a storyline that makes the fans really excited about an upcoming match, more excited than for any other match on the card.
But I think there could be trouble ahead for the division. While WWE seems committed to pushing better workers in the division and focusing on younger, athletic wrestlers having better matches, Vince McMahon and WWE are notorious for changing their minds and while the new era of women's wrestling has been good, it hasn't really blown everything away. Maybe Vicne changes his mind and decides to go back to the old days? Vince went through a phase were he believed that Lana was going to be the biggest female in the company (well, besides Stephanie) and Lana wasn't even a wrestler. According to reports now, WWE executives are very fond of Dana Brooke, who while very attractive, is not nearly as experienced in the ring as the rest of the women in the division.
At the same time, WWE seems to have soured on Sasha Banks, who was probably the most popular female wrestler in the company and had her name chanted during matches that didn't even involve her. When Banks first debuted on the main roster, fresh off a couple of excellent matches with Bayley over the NXT Women's Championship, it seemed like a formality that she would one day be the face of the division, or at least win multiple championships. Now? That all seems like a big uncertainty, especially since she was recently diagnosed with a concussion. You also have to keep in mind that WWE will likely push Nikki Bella back as a huge babyface if/when she returns from neck surgery. WWE has covered Nikki's recovery extensively on social media and it seems likely that they believe she can be a huge babyface because of the sympathy she will be generating for coming back from an injury. Nikki does serve an important role somewhere in WWE, but the face of the Women's division probably isn't it.
The "revolution" so far has been a moderate success for WWE. Women are taken much more seriously by the general fan base, the matches are better and they are given more time on RAW to tell stories. There is still something missing from the division and that is a hot storyline that can accelerate the popularity of women's wrestling to more casual fans and not just the ones that watch NXT every week. In addition, WWE needs to remain consistent in their belief that the new era of women's wrestling is the correct path to go and resist reverting back to older, outdated philosophies that would take them back to square one.
Match ratings and some quick thoughts on NXT Takeover: The End
Andrade Almas vs Tye Dillinger-**3/4-Not the greatest debut for Andrade. Anyone that watched him in NJPW or CMLL knows that the former La Sombra has a lot of talent, but I thought he was sloppy at times in the ring and might need a longer adjustment period in NXT than originally believed. His outfit, particularly with the suspenders, needs to be ditched ASAP.
American Alpha vs The Revival-****-These two teams wrestle each other a lot and it shows when they step into the ring together. A lot of well-choreographed moves (and I mean that in a good way) that are a lot of fun to watch. American Alpha has a lot of the qualities you like to see in a babyface tag team, but The Revival also continues to impress me. They remind me a lot of like a new-age Brainbusters, which is saying a lot, but they are so good together as a rough-and-tough heel tag team.
Shinsuke Nakamura vs Austin Aries-***1/2-Pretty good match, nothing blow-away and a step down from Nakamura's applauded debut; the real entertainment factor is watching Nakamura due the little charismatic things that are unique to him. There are debatably better individual talents in wrestling but surely there are no talents quite like Nakamura. There isn't a good reason, outside of injuries, that Nakamura should not become a huge star on the main roster.
Asuka vs Nia Jax-**1/2-Not the best work that the Diva's division has shown, but considering how limited Jax is I thought it was fine. Jax has improved since her debut and she hits her power moves well; her struggles come in selling, exchanging holds, a lot of the stuff that is called on the fly in the ring and stuff that will develop with more experience. She's big and imposing but I don't think that she is that great of an athlete which could pose a problem down the road. Asuka is probably the best female worker in the entire company and she needs new, fresh opponents that can allow her to have four star matches.
Samoa Joe vs Finn Balor-***3/4-Cage matches are an outdated concept. Nobody wants to really admit it because they are such a staple of tradition, but in the era of Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank, TLC, etc. the cage match seems kind of boring. When you have high-flyers and guys that work outside of the ring it also limits what they can do inside it. With that being said I thought that Balor and Joe did a fine job telling a story in the match, with a swift, 16 minute main event that put Joe over like the punishing champion that he should be.