wrestling / Columns

What’s Wrong With the Divas Division

March 25, 2016 | Posted by J. Onwuka
Charlotte & Ric Flair

A lot of growth in US women’s wrestling has been seen in recent years, first with the Knockouts of TNA/Impact Wrestling and on the independent scene with SHIMMER Women Athletes, in current days with the women of NXT. Though Japan’s female wrestling scene has dropped off considerably since the 90s it’s still strong and their talents are frequently featured in America, and vice versa. I feel like female wrestlers from Mexico and South America are less integrated into American wrestling but Sexy Star has been exposed to wrestling fans north of the border through Lucha Underground. What people (especially Americans) are realizing is that there is actually no reason women can’t put on exciting, violent pro wrestling and that they’re as good as anyone at the craft. WWE, the ever-watchful trend-hoppers that they are, decided to cash in on this by declaring a ‘Divas Revolution’.

That was I think middle of 2015. Since then we’ve had movement — we’ve had the elevation of new faces in Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch — but to me it feels like the same old stuff as before. It can be said that we’ve got the same sort of booking throughout the WWE. That’s true. As far as a revolution goes, however, looking like the same old isn’t really enough. What hasn’t happened is the emergence of a breakout star that really changed the face of the women’s division. It doesn’t need to be one person and it’s not even about some mythical once-in-a-lifetime talent. Think about the difference in WWE between the years Brock Lesnar was in UFC vs when he came back. Think about how the makeup of WCW changed when the new World order showed up, or when Goldberg showed up. WWF when Austin started his warpath. The tenor of the whole enterprise changed.

We do have three capable new stars in Charlotte, Banks, and Lynch, as well as their forerunner in ‘indy-first appeal’ Paige. What none of them has succeeded in doing is breaking the divas’ division of an appearance of glamour sideshow. It’s not to do with their looks. All of them are extremely attractive but that’s not why they haven’t broken that appearance. The reason is that there’s been no strong break with the past. There’s no definitive ‘new’ rivalry that’s changing how all women fight in WWE, there’s not like a new mechanism (e.g, a tournament or a women’s end-all match like the Hell-in-a-Cell), they even carry the overwrought butterfly belt and continue to call themselves divas. If the last time you’d watched wrestling was in 2006 and you turned it on now you wouldn’t know that there had ever been a ‘divas’ revolution’, there’s just different women on now. Even if you’d last watched it in 1999 when they had the Women’s Championship belt, the way it was promoted wasn’t different.

Sasha Banks is good. Charlotte is good. Becky Lynch is good. Yes. But remember: Trish Stratus was good. Lita was good. Jacqueline was good. Victoria was good. Beth Phoenix was good. So when we say that newer women wrestlers are good and that’s why you should watch them, there have always been entertaining female wrestlers in WWE. Them being good isn’t novel. It doesn’t really change what the division has been and is.

What I can’t do is say exactly where people would be best situated in order to produce some sort of revolution. There are too many factors involved, too many different ways it could go, for me to lay out any specific plan. Instead I’ll take a look at the talent they have and try to elaborate on their strengths and weaknesses, what general roles they could fit.


Charlotte • Paige • Sasha Banks

The main event field, the ladies who beat everyone else. Paige has, I think, been overlooked in the development of this Divas’ Revolution, probably because they didn’t know what to do with her: she fit right in with the Revolution idea but she’d come along earlier and it always felt like they weren’t sure how to navigate that. Mostly this came up because they were insistent on doing this weird three-team angle so they could keep featuring the Bellas at the top of the division. The idea wasn’t bad, I suppose, but I don’t think that it came off in the way they wanted it to. Regardless, Paige has a credibility and legitimacy with the audience that few other women have ever had and it would be senseless to overlook that. Rather than using her as an also-ran challenger I think her best place is as a constant contender and frequent champion.

Charlotte and Banks come off to me like Ric Flair and The Rock, or to be period appropriate Triple H and The Rock (sorry Charlotte). Charlotte is that intense better-than-everyone in a very clean-cut manner. Even when she’s a heel. What she views as power and prestige is being The Champion, an athlete above all, and that sort of gives her license to be whatever she wants. On the other hand, Sasha Banks says first ‘I can do what I want’ and she goes ahead and proves it by getting the things that she wants, usually by any means necessary. They’ve got very magnetic personalities for your main event and both can go in the ring which completes the deal.

One issue with the main events of the divas’ division is that they tend to feel very catty. Like I said, this is a trait of all WWE storylines, but we all know that it tends to be the serious and hard-edged stories that grab us. There was no cattiness in Austin’s war against the McMahons, it was just full-bore conflict. There needs to be some of that in the divas’ division and, ideally, it comes between two of these women. NOT all three. Triple threat feuds are the pits and they only really work when you have three established names. Pick two and build them as your blood rivals, use the other as the hawkish spoiler.


Becky Lynch • Natalya • Naomi • Tamina

‘Why is Becky Lynch down here?’ That’s what you’re asking, isn’t it? The simple reason is that of the three new top women (Lynch, Charlotte, Banks) I think she’s the least over. Not by much but there it is. I feel like three acts at the top of a division is enough and it needs to have some sense of history so Paige is in. That leaves Lynch to hang out with the second-rung for a while. Very likely once there needs to be movement at the division’s head, Lynch is the one who gets bumped up there. For the moment, however, the top three need some meat beneath them to beat up on and Becky Lynch can make people look pretty good. That’s really the purpose of this pool: to keep the top ones over.

Part of that is that these four have to generally stomp on anybody below them. Part of it is that they need to be very competitive between one another. It’s on them to show that this division has a lot of fire in it because at the top level there’s more than likely going to be some shenanigans, some stalling. They’re elements found in any drama and the championship is where all that drama is centered. This contender level is going to stay over pretty much by having good matches very frequently. We all know that Natalya is great. People have been down on Tamina but the last time I watched her she had some good stuff, and Naomi is one of the most capable wrestlers they have even though she doesn’t get a ton of shine. This makes for a very solid second field.


Brie Bella • Nikki Bella • Alicia Fox

I know they’re not strictly a unit anymore but they all fit a certain type that is tough to ignore. All three of them are former Divas’ champions but they sort of represent the era of unfettered glitz and ultra-girlyness. Each has had a handful of good matches at the least so there’s no danger of getting embarrassed by putting them in the ring. Yet where to put them? It’s tough to say. Personally I suppose I’d say they’re half a step behind the ‘true contenders’, but with the possibility of jumping ahead. They all make sensible challengers for the title and here and there they should get a look in, but I think they’re better served generally putting over the other women. Nikki Bella had a good run as a defending champion but she didn’t emerge as a new character with a new edge. Unless any of them does that (and for Brie it’s unlikely as rumors swirl that she’s leaving soon), I feel like the more competitive-seeming women should stay at the forefront.


Cameron • Emma • Eva Marie • Rosa Mendes • Summer Rae

Ee, well. This is not a place anybody wants to be seen at, especially for Summer and Mendes who’ve been around for a while, but some people have to get left behind. You probably wouldn’t see these ladies wrestling that often and almost never winning. Emma is plenty capable but right now she’s slumming it in NXT so she really doesn’t have the appearance factor to come in and compete. Good performances can raise anybody’s stock so it’s not like this is the end of the world, but if any of these wanted to move up they’d have to bust their ass (except Emma, she probably would just need to be featured again).



Nnnnnnnope. Right now that’s just not what the women’s division needs. Charlotte, Lynch, and Banks are still pretty fresh and at the top of the card. The natural people to call up are Bayley and Asuka but they would overcrowd a division that really needs to be straightened out first. They’re still counting Emma on the main roster, but if you figure her in as NXT then she should get called up, mostly to get stomped on. Any other call-up would be in that position. Bayley and Asuka deserve big pushes right out of the gate but it’d be poor form to do it now. NXT will hold em and keep em over.



Women’s wrestling in the US has probably never been more visible, but in 2016 a lot of that visibility is cracking. The women who made NXT a joy to watch have mostly been called up, leaving the women’s division down there pretty thin (I hear good things about Nia Jax but haven’t watched yet) while joining the most wheel-spinning part of Wheels Spinning Inc (aka WWE). Bottom has dropped out of TNA’s Knockouts division, which is not new cause it happened years ago but despite pretty excellent scouting (WWE did not recruit name indy talent in women whereas TNA has consistently hired SHIMMER, SHINE, and WSU champions) they haven’t recovered their place in the pecking order. The leader in American women’s wrestling in 2014 and 2015 was NXT and those shining lights are now in WWE. They have the ability to keep pushing women’s wrestling and to make it a credible and permanent part of top level wrestling. Will they? Well, that’s up to WWE.

On this week’s World Champions Podcast head around the world and see how this amazing art had developed into the 1950s. As has been brought out in earlier episodes, the primary development of professional wrestling has occurred in the United States. That doesn’t mean it all happened there. From our neighbors Canada to our linguistically more distant cousins in Mexico, all of North America has a history with professional wrestling. Through the magic of steam engines, radio waves, and television, grappling stars and styles from the States spread over to Europe, to Africa, and to Asia. One thing that has been apparent from the earliest days is that physicality transcends language and everybody, no matter how lowborn they appear or how highborn they think they are, reacts to the sight of someone giving it their all to win.

Check out episode #12 Mundo del Deporte on worldchampionspodcast.com, or subscribe via iTunes or Stitcher.

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You can also follow me on Twitter @_nearzone and like the WCP Facebook page.

I also invite you to check out my writing on Medium: Getting Roman Reigns Over for WrestleMania 33 (next year) and the slightly more esoteric FBI vs Apple vs Pro Wrestling.

If you’ve got a comment or a question, leave it below. Was a bit delayed this last week, had some personal stuff come up, but I hope to have something good as a Mania preview, and maybe something else as a chaser for those of you who (like me) aren’t super thrilled about the show but are gonna pay attention cause it’s the Giant Stage Daddy of Em All and we have to.


article topics :

Divas, WWE, J. Onwuka