Although seeing Vince McMahon’s name in any headline at present might send shivers down your spine, former “SmackDown” Women’s Champion Natalya has shed some light on McMahon’s attitude towards booking the women’s division behind the scenes.
At present, McMahon is under investigation following the Wall Street Journal revealing a series of damning allegations pertaining to a number of NDA’s and payments made to former employees to cover up his sexual misconduct. One of the payments is said to be $7.5 million. The claims saw McMahon temporarily step down as Chairman and CEO of WWE while the investigation takes place, with his daughter, Stephanie McMahon, taking his position in the interim.
McMahon is reportedly still leading the organization’s creative directive, and that’s where Natalya has suggested he has had a substantial impact on the women’s roster.
“Whenever I go in to pitch an idea to Vince McMahon – because at the end of the day, he’s the guy we pitch to – I always make sure to pitch stuff that’s going to elevate other people,” Natalya said on BT Sport’s “Ariel Helwani Meets” YouTube show. “… Vince has been super receptive to making sure there’s been even more inclusion.”
During the 90s and WWE’s Attitude Era, women were generally seen as eye candy for the company’s target adult audience, as they pushed the envelope to compete with rivals World Championship Wrestling (WCW). Once McMahon had defeated his enemy and purchased them in 2001, the organization continued in its ways, calling its female talent “Divas” and providing female performers a miniscule amount of time to compete in matches in the ring – albeit a few exceptions such as Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James for the WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 21. WWE also went down the path of reality television in 2013 with a show called “Total Divas” airing on E!, focusing on the life of their women’s roster in and outside the ring.
As times changed and so did female inclusion in sports, WWE injected some life into its own women’s division by kickstarting the “Women’s Revolution.” In fact, fans gave the company no other choice after voicing their displeasure following an episode of “WWE Raw” in February 2015 when a match between The Bella Twins (Nikki & Brie Bella) and Paige & Emma lasted just 30 seconds. Fans from all around the world expressed their frustrations on social media and got the hashtag “#GiveDivasAChance” trending on Twitter.
The following year, change eventually came when the “Divas” term was completely dropped and female performers were called “Superstars” just like their male counterparts, and with that came more time on-screen for in-ring matches and storylines. This move ultimately saw Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey – another trailblazer for female inclusion in mixed martial arts – become the first females in history to main event WWE’s flagship premium live event, WrestleMania, in 2019. The “Winner Takes All” Triple Threat Match saw Lynch pin Rousey to win both “Raw” and “SmackDown” Women’s Championships on the historic night at MetLife Stadium in New York.
If you use any quotes from this interview, please credit Ariel Helwani Meets with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
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