The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the views of WrestlingInc or its staff
In a unique PPV event, WWE will be running their first-ever all-women’s PPV show “Guilt”. Uh, sorry, it’s actually called “Evolution”, but the timing of the all-women’s show, taking place just five days before the noticeably women-free Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia is notable. WWE can use Evolution as a marketing tool to promote the alleged equality in the company; but the reality is that WWE created this event to take the heat off of them for the Saudi Arabia show’s strict restriction on women appearing at the event.
Despite WWE’s promotion of women’s equality seemingly being exposed as nothing more than a marketing strategy; WWE actually has done a lot for women’s wrestling in recent years. The promotion of the women may be somewhat of a facade, but at the end of the day things are a lot better for female performers in WWE than they were in the past. If you are a fan of women’s wrestling, Evolution should be a good show to look forward too.
Women’s wrestling has come a long way over the last few years in WWE. The stereotypes that exist from the previous generations are largely true. In the Attitude Era until the late 2000s, women’s wrestling was almost solely used for sex appeal, and the quality of the wrestling was poor. From the late 2000s until 2014, WWE reverted into a more family friendly promotion, which meant that the sex appeal was gone but the poor wrestling stayed. Women unfortunately were treated as a punchline, a joke for hardcore fans to laugh among themselves on message boards.
The improvements made in the division, first noticeably in NXT and later on the main roster, have been real game-changers for WWE. Women are given more time to perform, and WWE has been more accepting of women with different body types; not just restricting pushes to blonde fitness models with implants. While it is still a cosmetic business, the women on the main roster are at least held to a standard closer to what the men in WWE are held too, which isn’t entirely fair but it’s much better than it used to be.
Maybe the most unsung person in the development of WWE’s women has been Sara Amato, the former Sara Del Rey, who went from indie star to a trainer at the WWE Performance Center. It’s no surprise that WWE started to produce better women’s matches in NXT once Amato was hired in 2012; because they had a woman who knew how to teach other women how to work. In the past, WWE may not have employed the most progressive trainers who knew how to get the most out of the female trainees. By having an experienced women’s wrestler who had made it on her own; they had someone that really knew what it took to be a quality women’s wrestler through first-hand experience.
So the matches got better, and the women were given more time to develop their characters and to tell stories in the ring. While fans may have joked about women’s matches, it didn’t take that long for fans to jump on board the new wave of wrestlers coming through WWE. Better matches and greater storyline focus, along with a collection of good performers, was all it took for fans to go from mocking the women to looking forward to their appearances on each show. Things changed remarkably fast; years ago WWE could have never sold an entire PPV without any of the big male stars, but that attitude has completely changed.
The question now becomes; where does women’s wrestling in WWE go from here? WWE has spent the last few years checking off a list of female firsts, such as having women’s Hell in a Cell matches, Royal Rumbles, PPV main events, and other milestones. While the women have done well; there is still a pretty large gap between the men and the women to even discuss true parity between the genders. There are still far more men’s matches on the typical WWE show, and men are given much greater focus and treated with more importance than the average woman on the roster.
An idea that is frequently floated is that a tag team title should be added for the women. This would give more women something to do on the show if they are not in the title picture. I don’t really like this idea, the last thing WWE needs is more titles, and presumably they wouldn’t be adding just one tag team title, they would be adding two, one for RAW and one for SmackDown. There are already too many titles, to the point that all of them cannot be defended on one PPV; I don’t think adding two more is necessary.
Still, adding titles may solve some issues for the women. It would give more women on the roster a purpose. After all, there are a ton of male titles on the main roster; if equality is what WWE is striding for, it’s only fair. WWE could even consolidate some of the men’s titles; it’s not like WWE has been really pushing the Intercontinental and United States Championship lately.
I think if they were to add a title or two, it should be a mid-card title for the women. The tag titles would involve more people, but the problem is WWE is pretty bad at promoting real tag teams; for every team like The Usos there is a team like Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre, just kind of two guys thrown together so they could do something. A singles title would be easier to book, and it would help make the main women’s championships feel more important. By having a lower-tier title, it elevates the main title by comparison.
Another idea is to give the women their own show. In the era of lucrative TV deals, WWE may be able to land a sweet deal for an all-women’s show on a network. The show might be a bit smaller scale than RAW or SmackDown, but it would solve a lot of issues. The women would get way more time to do whatever they needed to do, longer matches, more promos, time for more titles, etc. The women would still appear on all the PPV shows, so it wouldn’t be completely separate from the rest of the roster like NXT is.
I’m not sure about that idea; it would give the women more time, but appearing on RAW and SmackDown, where the majority of the WWE audience watches weekly, is very important to their success. The cruiserweight division has its own show, and those guys do not feel like stars despite their talent. True equality for the women isn’t putting them on a separate, inherently lesser show, true equality means getting equal amount of time on the biggest of shows, which is on RAW and SmackDown.
WWE may have been late to the women in sports movement, but they have made a real, visible effort to give the women a greater role in the company, and the fans and the talent have responded. Things are not perfect, but things have come a long way for the women wrestlers, and the amount of respect they have earned from fans is in a lot of ways equal to the respect garnered by the male wrestlers. WWE should be willing to continue to support the women; which means that things should continue to trend upwards for women in wrestling.
Catch Jesse every Thursday afternoon as part of Wrestling Inc’s WINCLY podcast chatting about his latest VFTT editorial.