While one can still offer reasonable criticisms over the storylines, characters, pushes, etc for the women's wrestlers in WWE (just as one could with the men), it can't be denied that WWE has stepped up their game in regards to how women are presented as on-air personalities. We've been treated to exciting matches, more well-rounded characters, and an increase in roster space for the females. Compared to how things were just a few short years ago, when a frustrated Gail Kim's self-elimination from a battle royal went unnoticed by the suits backstage, the change is noticeable.
While there are no doubt important moments in the past for WWE and their inhabitant women (Wendi Richter and Cyndi Lauper's partnership, as well as the push of Chyna, come to mind), this timeline will look at 2015 to the present, at the milestones of the modern "reality era" WWE and it's Women's Revolution.
10. Called Out On Twitter
In February 2015, actress Patricia Arquette (yes, the sister of former WCW Champion David Arquette) gave a stirring speech at The Academy Awards, while accepting the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role in Boyhood. Arquette passionately spoke up for gender equality and closing the wage gap between the sexes, which Stephanie McMahon would praise in a tweet.
AJ Lee would concur with Arquette's words, but would use the social media platform to challenge Stephanie, noting that WWE's women performers only earned a fraction of the screen time allotted to their male co-workers, despite having obvious value to the promotion. Stephanie gave a positive, albeit terse, response to Lee's tweet, while many applauded Lee for speaking up the way that she did.
9. Fortifying The Ranks
Five months after the Twitter exchange, the main roster would be bolstered with three notable upgrades. Charlotte, Sasha Banks, and Becky Lynch had, along with Bayley, been turning heads down in NXT for the prior year or so, delivering in matches that superseded the women's action on Raw and SmackDown at the time.
It was Stephanie (of course) that introduced the three women in a segment that would lead to a trio of trios waging war over the short-term: Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky), Team BAD (Sasha, Naomi, and Tamina), and The Bella Twins with Alicia Fox. Why faction warfare was considered necessary is a bit of a mystery, but the important thing was that the quality of women's wrestling across WWE had drastically improved.
8. The Epic In Brooklyn
Sasha's business down in NXT wasn't over just yet. At the time, she was still reigning as the brand's Women's Champion, and there was the little matter of passing the belt onward to the next torch-bearer. The ever-popular Bayley was tabbed as the successor, and the two were slated for a title match the night before SummerSlam 2015, at the original NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn.
Fans were expecting a pretty good match, but what was delivered surpassed all conjecture. Bayley and Banks put on what some actually considered the best WWE match of 2015, main roster *or* NXT, flooring fans and critics alike with the action and drama. Dave Meltzer rated the match ****1/2, a sure sign of just how far women's wrestling had come under the WWE umbrella.
7. Downgrading Diva
On the day of WrestleMania 32 in 2016, it was Hall of Famer Lita who presented the world with the newly-minted WWE Women's Championship, replacing the gaudy Divas' Championship. No longer would the pink butterfly design (which some compared to a 'tramp stamp' worn backwards) represent the top women's wrestlers in WWE, but rather a white-strapped, red-plated look. The inaugural champion would be the outgoing Divas' Champion Charlotte, who won a triple threat match over Banks and Lynch that some critics felt was WrestleMania 32's best match.
WrestleMania 32 would also see WWE begin to phase out the term "Diva", which many felt cast the women's wrestlers as little more than aesthetic pleasures and not much else. Going forward, the women would be "superstars", just like their male counterparts.
6. Hellish Finale
Hell in a Cell matches had long been the domain of burlier brawlers, fixing to rip each other apart with nothing but contempt and malice fueling their every move. That changed at the 2016 Hell in a Cell pay-per-view, when Sasha Banks defended the Women's Championship against Charlotte in the first ever Hell in a Cell bout fought between females.
There was another first at hand, as Banks and Charlotte's title bout was also the first pay-per-view main event in WWE history to be fought exclusively among women. While Chyna, Beth Phoenix, and Kharma could all claim participation in Royal Rumble bouts of years past, it was Banks and Charlotte who made a pay-per-view finale all their own.
5. Dirty Money
The Hell in a Cell match began a trend, as WWE began putting its female performers into gimmick matches that had long been solely the terrain of the male wrestlers. An Iron Woman match between Charlotte and Banks followed at the ill-received Roadblock: End of the Line pay-per-view, and it was only a matter of time before SmackDown got in on the act.
Five blue-branded women (Lynch, Charlotte, Tamina, Natalya, and Carmella) were signed to the first-ever women's Money in the Bank ladder match in June 2017, and the hype train portrayed the match as a landmark moment for the ladies. Sadly, controversy would rear its head when James Ellsworth pulled down the briefcase on Carmella's behalf.
4. Classic Encounters
In the summer of 2017, WWE decided to do for women's wrestling what they had previously done for male cruiserweights - institute a tournament of mostly-unsigned talents as something of a celebration of the genre and style. The Mae Young Classic was born, a 32-woman tournament that would play out over a couple of months, exposing the WWE audience to some truly dynamic talents.
Names like Candice LeRae, Mia Yim, Dakota Kai, Toni Storm, and others had the chance to shine brightly, and the tournament as a whole was extremely well-received. In the final round, two future NXT Women's Champions faced off, with Kairi Sane defeating the same woman she would later win the belt from, Shayna Baszler. The tournament has spawned a sequel, which is currently in broadcast.
3. Time To Rumble
The expanse of the women's rosters on the Raw and SmackDown brands, as well as the availability of both NXT performers and a litany of throwback women's performers, made a Royal Rumble match feasible. Thus, the 2018 Royal Rumble would feature two separate 30-competitor gauntlets - one for the men, and one for the women. The ladies' match, like the Charlotte/Banks Cell match, would headline.
The match itself was quite enjoyable if you could get past Stephanie McMahon's lifeless, inane attempt at commentary, as stars of differing generations filled out an exciting contest. The then-undefeated Asuka would be the eventual winner, last eliminating Nikki Bella. This earned Asuka a shot at Charlotte's SmackDown Women's title at WrestleMania 34, which she would lose.
2. Strong Reputation
Speaking of controversy, WWE's decision to debut former UFC Women's Bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey just moments after Asuka's Rumble victory didn't sit well with many, as they felt Rousey was stealing Asuka's thunder. But one understands why Rousey was brought on board: she's a freakishly-gifted athlete and a proven pay-per-view draw whose presence, poise, and ambassadorship would only serve WWE's overall profile well. Add to it that she's a huge wrestling fan, and Rowdy Ronda is a major get for the promotion.
Rousey has shined in her scattered matches, from the WrestleMania 34 mixed tag (shockingly awesome) to shorter, yet very compelling, bouts with Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss for the Women's title. The sky is the limit for Rousey, who only puts more eyes on the product with her every appearance.
1. A Different Voice
Renee Young has long been a fan favourite, bringing obvious skill, positive energy and genuine likability to her various roles as an interviewer and hostess. In her time as an announcer on NXT, she drew positive reviews for bringing those same qualities to the announcer's desk.
On a few recent occasions, Young filled in for Jonathan Coachman on Monday Night Raw broadcasts, which has since turned into a full-time gig. Young and Coachman have swapped jobs (Coach now takes over as Kickoff panel host), making Young the first full-time female announcer on Monday Night Raw. With Evolution on the way in a matter of weeks, the move doesn't come a moment too soon.