I wish I could remember who said this because the more you think about it, the more accurate it is (heavily paraphrased):
The greatest achievement in human history is landing on the moon. Humans were born on this planet and somehow managed to develop the means to leave the earth, go somewhere else in the universe, and come back home safely.
Think about how big of an accomplishment that is for a second. For thousands of years, people have been looking up at the moon and then one day, they managed to leave the planet they’ve always lived on and get there. It’s the ultimate accomplishment of seeing a goal and eventually obtaining it. That same thing is happening in the wrestling world and it’s almost impossible to fathom.
Later this week, a women’s match is going to be the main event of WrestleMania 35. Think back over the history, both long and short, of women’s wrestling in the WWE. Back in the day, women’s matches were literally a gimmick attraction as promoters were hoping to sell tickets on the idea of good looking women wrestling in swimsuits. Fair enough, but far from the highest levels of entertainment.
The people were uh, happy about the choice to say the least:
Then women’s wrestling became a little more dignified in the 1980s (an underrated era for women’s wrestling) with stars like Sherri Martel, Rockin Robin, the Jumping Bomb Angels and Velvet McIntyre among many others. They were far above a sideshow as they were getting time on pay per views (one of the four matches at the first Survivor Series was a women’s match which got a staggering twenty minutes). It wasn’t going to headline any big show, but it was still a pretty nice accomplishment.
The dark days come though and they were called the 1990s. These are the times you hear about when female wrestlers talk about the embarrassments they had to go through. Everything was about your looks and if you happened to be a good worker, odds are you were going to be treated as a villain because it was all about how you filled out your very limited clothing (see Sable for more details).
Trish Stratus and Lita helped a lot, as they were able to give the division some dignity. They couldn’t get away from the looks being a featured component, but they had other things to offer as well for a change. These two became an inspiration and actually main evented an episode of Monday Night Raw on December 6, 2004, the high water mark of the division for over ten years.
Things would stay middle of the road for a long time, with the women still being presented for their looks and sex appeal at times, but they were also getting better. Most of them could work a passable match, though there were still times where you were embarrassed to see some of the matches that they had. It was a weird hybrid era, but the problem continued to be the time.
If a women’s match was lucky, it would get five minutes of pay per view time. There was a stretch of several years with no women’s match, including at WrestleMania, being able to break ten minutes. It’s hard enough to tell a good story in the ring in ten minutes, let alone less than half of that if not a lot less. When you have some matches getting a minute or two at most, what all can you expect the wrestlers to do? It doesn’t matter how much skill you have if you don’t get to spend any real time in the ring.
Things would get a lot better in 2015 with the official debut (thanks to Stephanie McMahon of course) of the Women’s Revolution. One night Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks all debuted at once, delivering a new era of women’s wrestling that had never been seen in WWE. Suddenly you had talented women having quality matches on the big stage and it was downright awesome.
It turned out that they could actually make it work on the big stage, though the stages kept getting bigger. At Hell In A Cell 2016, Charlotte and Banks main evented the show, becoming the first time that a women’s match had ever headlined a pay per view, smashing the mark that Stratus and Lita had set about twelve years earlier. More pay per views were main evented, including an all women’s pay per view (another idea that would have been unthinkable a few years earlier), but there was one thing left.
They can certainly get this done:
For years, the women had said that they wanted to main event WrestleMania and were almost laughed at. The thing was though, it felt like it was getting closer. They had main evented a pay per view, then main evented the Royal Rumble, then had their own pay per view. There was only one thing left….but that could never happen right?
This week, that happened. The moonshot happened. After years of being treated as an afterthought, a sideshow attraction, a nacho break match, an excuse for fans to ogle the women and getting forty five seconds for a “match”, three women would be in the biggest match of the year, headlining the biggest wrestling event there is in front of 80,000 people on the grandest stage of them all.
Ronda Rousey, Charlotte and Lynch are now in the same category as Hulk Hogan vs. Andre the Giant, the Mega Powers Exploding, the Ultimate Challenge, the Austin Era Has Begun, Rock vs. Austin II, the WrestleMania 20 triple threat, Once In A Lifetime and the Miracle on Bourbon Street (you know you’ve made it when you’re in the same breath as matches known by slogans).
There is no more elite company than this. These are the matches that wrestling fans memorize with ease because they’re the most important matches of any given year. By definition, the main event of WrestleMania is on the short list for the biggest match of the year and it’s going to be a women’s match.
We’ve come a long way since this:
I don’t know how to comprehend this and I can’t believe I’m seeing it. As a wrestling fan, my natural instinct is to not think of a women’s match as important because that’s how I’ve seen them treated for thirty years. You’ll occasionally see something break through the cracks just a little bit, but more often than not these matches aren’t going to be important enough to get too annoyed at. There were times when I was doing my End of the Year Awards and thought about omitting women’s matches from the Worst Match of the Year nominations because it wasn’t a fair comparison.
That’s all out the window now because what was always said to be impossible is going to happen. It’s going to take some time and a lot of looking back at history to see what this really means, but the people who had to shake off the name Diva and get rid of that butterfly belt are now going on after Roman Reigns, Brock Lesnar, the WWE Championship and everything else. This may never happen again, but it’s happening once and after this long of a journey, reaching the goal is going to be worth the trip.
Thomas Hall has been a wrestling fan for over thirty years and has seen over 50,000 wrestling matches. He has also been a wrestling reviewer since 2009 with over 5,000 full shows covered. You can find his work at kbwrestlingreviews.com, or check out his Amazon author page with 28 wrestling books. His latest book is the the Complete 2000 Monday Nitro and Thunder Reviews Part 1.
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