August 21, 2000 - On this Monday night in Lafayette, LA, the main event of Raw featured a title match that will forever stand as one of the more historic moments in wrestling. The challenger was a rising superstar who had incredible support from the fans. The current champion was an absolute classic heel, weaseling a way to win out of every title match they possibly could. The match took place, and it seemed like it was going to end the usual way, with the champ retaining through outside interference. Miraculously, heel miscommunication caused the champ to become vulnerable and one moonsault later, a new champ was born. The crowd tore the roof off of the arena. Why was this no ordinary main event? The match was for the WWF Women’s Championship.
I like to look at this moment as the starting point of the new women’s wrestling movement. The women of the WWE now are not only talented, but beautiful as well. Long gone are the days of Sherri Martel and Moolah, who were not exactly “divas”. The superstars of today like Trish Stratus and Victoria can manhandle an opponent in the ring and still look very sexy doing it. Through all of it’s highs and lows, the women’s division and the women themselves have come a long way.
For 28 years, the WWWF/WWF Women’s Champion was The Fabulous Moohlah. Moolah (real name Lillian Ellison) was in the twilight of her career in 1984 when she became a household name. Vince McMahon, Jr. had taken control of his father’s WWF and was testing new waters. He needed a youthful face to represent the Women’s belt and chose a young woman named Wendi Richter. Aligned with rock star Cyndi Lauper, Richter ended Ellison’s reign on July 23, 1984. For the better part of that year and the next, Richter feuded with Moolah and her protégé, Lelani Kai. Moolah won it back in 1985 and held onto it (minus a 4 day title reign by perennial jobber Velvet McIntyre) until Sherri Martel won it in 1987. Rarely defended, she lost the title to Rockin’ Robin (WWF superstar Jake Roberts’s sister) and then the title was retired due to lack of interest.
At the tail end of 1993, the WWF tried to restart its new Women’s division and build it around a wrestler who they called Alundra Blayze. Blayze (real name Debra Ann Miceli) was a blonde haired athletic wrestler with a shapely body. She also had the moves in the ring which amazed an audience who remembered the old matches with Moolah. Miceli’s matches were entertaining enough, (especially her wicked series with Bull Nakano which I still marvel at to this day) but still did not set the world on fire. She had a clearly awful feud with an obese woman named Bertha Faye. She lost the title to her and then regained it back. Then, Miceli blacklisted herself from the WWF/E forever by showing up on WCW Nitro with the WWF Woman’s title and throwing it into the trash can.
Miceli effectively killed the WWF’s women’s division for a few years until September of 1998, when the title was reborn. Since Wrestlemania XII, a new woman had taken the hearts of the fans by storm. Her name was Sable. Sable (real name Rena Mero) escorted HHH to the ring for his match against the returning Ultimate Warrior. After the match, HHH took out his aggression on his valet, who was saved by WWF newcomer Mark Mero. Rena Mero eventually got more fan reaction than her real life husband Mark. At Wrestlemania XIV, Sable stepped into the ring for the first time and delivered a power-bomb and a TKO (her hubby’s finisher) to the bizarre Luna Vachon. The crowd had no idea that the lovely Sable could perform as well as she did, and they gave her the second biggest cheers of the night, second only to Stone Cold Steve Austin. Mark Mero eventually turned on his wife (for storyline purposes only) due to jealousy and brought in his new manager, Miss Jacqueline. Jacqueline won the vacant title and Sable eventually won it from her at the 1998 Survivor Series. Sable’s time had come.
Sadly, Sable’s reputation fell lower the higher she climbed the ladder of fame. She graced two pictorial spreads for Playboy and began to lose her focus in the WWF. She was, in her mind, becoming too big for the WWF. In May, she basically vacated the title which was given to Debra, who was a non-wrestler. She was shortly gone from the WWF after that and to this day has not resurfaced in a wrestling capacity anywhere, due to conditions of her release. She is still around, though, making C-level celebrity appearances.
The title floundered around the non-wrestling women for a while. The title became stagnant. Harvey Wippleman, a once manager/referee/backstage crewman even dressed in drag and won the title. The only bright spot during this dark time was from the lovely Ivory, but she eventually jobbed to Moolah (who had been brought in as comic relief). The WWF needed someone to make the title worth something again. Enter Stephanie McMahon.
Stephanie, daughter of Vince, was in an angle where she was duped into marrying HHH. Eventually she turned on her father and sided with her husband. She was annoying, grating, and easy to hate. Stephanie was a natural heel. When Stephanie won the title from Jacqueline in March of 2000, many people were upset. They didn’t want Stephanie, who had never wrestled before, to have the title. The criticism was just. However, Stephanie added something to the belt by her heelish tactics. The fact that she WASN’T a wrestler and just had the title because HHH and others cheated for her made her hated even more.
This leads us to the match in the beginning of this column. Steph was facing the highly talented and extreme fan favorite Lita (real name Amy Dumas). Dumas’s high-flying, heavily lucha-styled wrestling made her an instant babyface. She eventually broke away from the wrestler she was managing, Essa Rios, and went out on her own. She started teaming up with the rising Hardy Boyz and formed Team Extreme. This was Lita’s moment to shine, and she did not disappoint. With help from HHH, Kurt Angle, and the Rock, Dumas went on to win the match and, more importantly, brought Women to the main event.
That was almost three years ago. Now the title is being fought for by wrestlers like Jazz, Victoria, Molly, and the Diva of the Decade, Trish Stratus. Trish truly deserves this title. She combines the ring skill of an Alundra Blayze, the beauty of Sable, and her ability to sell moves like no other. Stratus constantly is working to improve herself. She said once in an interview that she wants to convey the psychology of the match more than anything else. She is the highlight of the strong Women’s division. Jazz is a perfect foil to Trish. She’s physically bigger and stronger, and can kick ass like no woman has ever done. Her matches with Trish have all been entertaining as hell. Victoria and Molly are also so far above what used to pass for women’s wrestling. The division is strong, and can only get stronger as the years progress.
In almost twenty years, the women of the WWE have advanced light years compared to what they were. Without the pioneers like Moolah or Martel, the workers like Blayze, or the beauties like Sable, the Woman’s division may be a thing of the past. Thankfully, they are still gracing my TV every Monday night. At Wrestlemania, a possible match will be Jazz v. Trish Stratus v. Victoria for the belt in a triple threat match. This will be considerably better than the match at the original Wrestlemania between Lelani Kai and Wendi Richter. In this year’s match, you will be able to see the evolution of the women in the WWE. Now you will know what happened to get to this point.
Willful ignorance of science is not commendable. Refusing to learn the difference between a credible source and a shill is criminally stupid.
Wow. Not only was that very well-composed, I also found it pretty moving. (I started to hear the opening theme of "Band of Brothers" in my head as you got to the confrontation between Lita and Steph....) Fantastic job. Thank you, Guru, for printing it. And thank you, VanillaSky, for writing it.
Damn straight, Vanilla! I especially liked how you summed up the true purpose of Stephanie McMahon as the Women's champion without falling into the usual IWC mold. I happen to have that match (Lita vs. Steph) on tape, and it's everything you said it was. Barring a few low points since then ::coughChynacough::, everything you said is on the money. I'm loving Trish Stratus and Victoria more and more every week, as a matter of fact, so that proves it right there. Awesome piece of work!
Proper planning prevents piss poor performance" William Regal
Chyna, in my eyes, was never a female wrestler at heart. It seemed to me that when she made her title run in 2001, it was b/c there was nothing else better for her to do. She was a division killer, refusing to put her fellow women over. That's why I didn't mention her.
Even some girl (lita) who I have a bit of a problem with you really written well that in that moment in time how great and important she was. And hopefully when she comes back, with the right mindset and attitude she might be great again, let's hope.
I don't have much love for Chyna, how hypocritical to wrestle man even and then when asked to wrestle women talk about "not being realistic". Real unfortunate because if she did give in a little she would be a great monster women character for the other women to play off, and get over if ever defeated... But I'll give her some credit of proving that a strong woman can be accepted in wrestling.
Trish really is great and I agree with her being Diva of the Decade, some might say she isn't the most popular ever, and they'd be correct. But you take into consideration attitude, work ethic and the type of mindset she has for being a team player, and I personally don't think any women nominated compares to Stratus. Great speech she had as well putting the women of the past over and more importantly putting the women of the present over and talking about a group effort... She seems to be fitting in a leadership role with women like Victoria, Molly and Jazz right next to her I see great things, and of course we never know who's the next Victoria to come out of the blue and impress.
The thing I love about women division is that there seems to be very little ego or politics involved. Sure there's debate like anything in wrestling on who should be pushed harder or who should be pushed back. But once they are out there, it really seems to me that all women right now are pushing for one goal and that is to get the division as a whole over.
I'm sure there's going to be some bumps along the road, and just like a few times this past year people are going to question the legitimacy of a women division. But with the work ethic these women have I see good things for them... Plus Fit Finley rules, you didn't mention him, but from the confidential piece on him he seems like such a great teacher and even a fatherly figure, he seems very cool. I always give more credit to the women who actually go out there and perform but I'd like to give some to Fit Finley who seems to be guiding them well.
Super article Vanilla, great to see some women wrestling fans. And a great report on their evolution.
(edited by Net Hack Slasher on 1.3.03 2020) Was mentioned Three times, 3X, 3X. In the "Great Wieners" thread!
While the evolution might have been teased with the Lita Women's Title win, the true evolving didn't take off until two very important events occurred. 1) Chyna left. That got rid of the 800 lb. gorilla. 2) Fit Finley's arrival after the folding of WCW. Having someone credible to train the women turned them from every few month freaks (like the midgets), into viable segments on the programming. Besides that, overall a good column.
Ole Anderson booking is a weapon of self inflicted mass destruction.
While I admire the work of Finlay and what he's brought to the division, I didn't want to mention him b/c this was an article about the women.
Chyna is a very sore spot with me. I think she almost buried the division. Again, I don't look at her as one of the women wrestlers. She was a wrestler in the guy's division who had nothing to do. I think she went into her matches only looking to put herself over. Remember her weak match w/ Ivory two Rumbles ago? She dominated her in every way possible until the end when Ivory pinned her. How did Ivory pin her? Chyna injured herself. That sent the message that the only one who could take out Chyna was herself.
By the way, out of all the women in the WWE right now, Lita is probably my least favorite. However, she was incredibly over simply b/c she expanded the boundaries of what a women's match could be. Moonsaults. Lucha style. She tends to be sloppy, though, and one day that might be her downfall.
Anybody remember No Way Out 2001, when Steph and Trish, two non-wrestlers, put on a match 10 times better than it should have been? I wonder what are Steph's chances of ever stepping into the ring again are. There are no female hosses on Smackdown, and new giant Steph would fill that position perfectly. She just has to learn to wrestle.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Sean O'Haire ate Brendan Fraser. Celine Dion? More like Cell-Out Dion!!
Before I start, this e-mail trickled in just seconds before my update. Sorry, but I'm a stickler for these things. Taker had pinned Mankind clean at Survivor series 96, on RAW a few weeks later, and on RAW again in a tag match from Skydome.