For decades, women’s wrestling in WWE was often relegated to a sideshow attraction, with women more often appearing as managers, valets, or in overly-sexualized roles. However, in recent years, the company has made a concerted effort to showcase its female talent as legitimate athletes and competitors, with their own main events and storylines.
This article takes a look at the history of women’s wrestling in WWE, from the “Divas” era to the current era of “Women’s Evolution,” and the impact it has had on the industry as a whole. The “Divas” era of women’s wrestling in WWE began in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was characterized by a focus on appearance and sexuality rather than in-ring ability. Female wrestlers were often called “Divas” and their matches were often short, poorly executed, and focused on the women’s looks rather than their wrestling ability.
This era also saw the introduction of the “Bra and Panties” matches, which involved female wrestlers stripping their opponents down to their underwear. While this era was popular with some fans, it was also widely criticized for its objectification of women and for sending the message that women’s worth was tied to their physical appearance.
In 2015, WWE launched its “Women’s Evolution” initiative, which aimed to give female wrestlers more opportunities and to showcase their skills as athletes and performers. This initiative has included the rebranding of the WWE Women’s Championship as the WWE Raw Women’s Championship, the introduction of the WWE SmackDown Women’s Championship, and the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match, among other milestones. Female wrestlers are now given longer matches, more compelling storylines, and greater visibility on WWE programming, and the company has made a point of signing and promoting talented women from around the world.
The success of WWE’s women’s division has also led to changes in the wider wrestling industry, with other companies starting to invest in their own women’s divisions and female wrestlers gaining more opportunities across the board. Women’s wrestling has become a more mainstream and respected part of the industry, with female wrestlers headlining major pay-per-view events and receiving critical acclaim for their performances. While there is still progress to be made in terms of representation and equality, the evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE has been a significant step forward for the industry as a whole.