Throughout its history, women have served in various onscreen roles in the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. In the 1990s, WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) introduced the term Diva to refer to its female performers. The term was applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers. The term was discontinued at WrestleMania 32 on April 3, 2016 when the new Women's Championship was introduced. WWE currently refers to their female talent as Women Superstars or simply Superstars.
Women in WWE
In 1983, the Fabulous Moolah, who was the NWA World Women's Champion and legal owner of the title, joined the WWF and sold them the rights to the title after they disaffiliated from the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) and recognized her as the first WWF Women's Champion. Additionally, the WWF also recognized Moolah as having been champion ever since first winning the title from Judy Grable in 1956 and disregarded other reigns or title losses that occurred during the title's existence in the NWA. Thus, The Fabulous Moolah's reign was considered to have lasted 27 years by the promotion. WWF also introduced the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship with Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria recognized as the first champions after also defecting from the NWA.
The following year, music artist Cyndi Lauper began a verbal feud with her manager "Captain" Lou Albano; this brought professional wrestling into mainstream culture in a storyline that became known as the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection". When it was finally time for Lauper and Albano to settle their differences in the ring, a match-up was scheduled with Albano's represented wrestler Moolah against the challenge of Lauper's protégé, Wendi Richter. Moolah lost the title at The Brawl to End It All, broadcast live on MTV. Richter then lost the title to Leilani Kai the following year, but won it back at WrestleMania I on March 31, 1985.
In the summer of 1985, the WWF did a storyline where all established managers in the promotion competed to offer their services to Randy Savage. Savage revealed his new manager to be Miss Elizabeth on the August 24, 1985 edition of WWF Prime Time Wrestling. In real life, Savage and Miss Elizabeth were married, but this was not mentioned on television. Miss Elizabeth's first major angle was during Savage's feud with George "The Animal" Steele in 1986. In the angle, Steele fell in love with Miss Elizabeth, angering Savage and leading to a series of grudge matches between him and Steele. She also figured prominently in Savage's 1986 feuds with Hulk Hogan and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat and his 1987–1989 feuds with wrestlers such as The Honky Tonk Man, Andre the Giant, Bad News Brown, Big Boss Man and Akeem. In 1988, Miss Elizabeth was given the title "First Lady of the World Wrestling Federation" due to her being the first female in World Wrestling Federation history to manage the World Wrestling Federation champion. When Savage—who had formed an alliance with Hogan—turned on Hogan in early 1989, Miss Elizabeth was a major factor, and she eventually sided with Hogan. Meanwhile, Savage became allied with "Sensational" Sherri, who had success as a wrestler from 1987–1989 and was phased into a role as an ill-tempered, venomous manager.
Sherri initially debuted on July 24, 1987 by defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship. Renaming herself 'Sensational' Sherri, she reigned as champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin; after losing several rematches, Martel took a short leave of absence in early 1989 before being repackaged as Savage's manager. Also in 1987 Mike McGuirk was introduced as the first female ring announcer of the promotion, arriving after Jesse Ventura referred her to the WWF. In the fall of 1987, McGuirk provided color commentary for several arena show tapings in the Houston, Texas area, which aired on Prime Time Wrestling.
The first Survivor Series pay-per-view saw the first female elimination match. In February 1989, the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship was deactivated and The Glamour Girls (Leilani Kai and Judy Martin) were the final title holders. Sapphire debuted in November 1989 on Saturday Night's Main Event XXV as a 'fan' cheering on Dusty Rhodes at ringside in his match against Big Boss Man. Sapphire began to manage Rhodes, who adapted Rhodes' gimmick as she adorned black outfits with yellow polka dots. Sapphire and Rhodes later feuded with Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri and wrestled in a tag team match at WrestleMania VI. Rockin' Robin was the last WWF Women's Champion in the late 1980s.
In 1990, Sensational Sherri remained with the Randy Savage, while Sapphire worked with Dusty Rhodes. Sapphire later departed from the company in mid 1990. Miss Elizabeth worked primarily with Dusty Rhodes and Sapphire between WrestleMania VI and SummerSlam (1990). Miss Elizabeth returned in 1991 and was a key player in Randy Savage's retirement match with The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII; Miss Elizabeth left the company for good in April 1992; shortly after her departure, Savage and Miss Elizabeth divorced in real life. At WrestleMania IX, Luna Vachon debuted and initially aligned herself with Shawn Michaels. Later, she aligned herself with Bam Bam Bigelow to feud with Sherri and Tatanka. Martel left the company in 1993.
Japanese involvement and Diva beginnings (1993–1997)
In 1993, the WWF reinstated its Women's Championship, a title that had been vacant since 1990, and Madusa Miceli was brought in by the company to revive the women's division. She debuted under the ring name Alundra Blayze, because WWF owner Vince McMahon did not want to pay Miceli to use the name Madusa, which she had trademarked. She wrestled in a six-woman tournament to crown a new Women's Champion, and in the finals, she pinned Heidi Lee Morgan on the December 13, 1993 episode of All American Wrestling to win the title.
After the tournament, Miceli asked WWF management to bring in new women for her to wrestle. Former champion Leilani Kai briefly returned to the company at WrestleMania X facing Blayze for the Women's title. In mid-1994, Bull Nakano joined the WWF roster and began feuding with Miceli, who was also feuding with Luna Vachon. Blayze defeated Nakano at SummerSlam, but lost the belt to her on November 20, 1994 in Japan at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event. Five months later on April 3, 1995, Blayze regained the title from Nakano on the episode of Monday Night Raw. As part of the storyline, immediately following the win, she was attacked by Bertha Faye, who broke her nose. In reality, the storyline was written so Miceli could take time off to get breast implants and a nose job. She returned to the ring in August 1995, losing the Women's Championship to Faye at SummerSlam on August 27. Two months later, she won the title a third time, defeating Faye on October 23. Later on as part of a short talent exchange with All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling, various Japanese female wrestlers including Aja Kong debuted leading to the second elimination match at the Survivor Series 1995 event. In December, due to financial troubles the WWF was having at the time, Blayze was released from her contract and was stripped of the title following her jump back to rival company World Championship Wrestling, and the WWF Women's Championship remained vacant until 1998.
Sunny debuted in April 1995, Marlena debuted in January 1996, Sable debuted in March 1996, and Debra debuted in October 1998. At first, the characters were a continuation of the WWE female manager, like Miss Elizabeth that had been popular throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, Sunny, Sable, Marlena, and Debra became more sexualized as time progressed. Marlena was the manager of Goldust, her then real-life husband, and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, Marc Mero. Sable, however, quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity. Although, the term diva wasn't used on WWE television until April 1999, these ladies are considered to be the first diva's.
In February 1997, Chyna joined WWE as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Chyna was offered as an antithesis to the rest of the women, a masculine bodybuilder whose sexual identity was the subject of early storylines. Sunny, Marlena, Sable, and Debra were further marketed as sex symbols through WWF's Raw Magazine, which featured monthly spreads of the women in suggestive poses either semi-nude or wearing provocative clothing. Luna Vachon returned towards the end of 1997 as the manager of Goldust.
Attitude Era (1997–2002)
In 1998, Debra debuted and shortly thereafter was featured in a Raw Magazine spread. At the beginning of her WWF career, she played the part of a shrewd businesswoman, wearing business suits. and Jeff Jarrett's girlfriend. Debra, however, began utilizing a new strategy during Jarrett's matches, distracting his opponents by unbuttoning her blouse. She willingly took off her blouse to show the crowd her "puppies", a nickname originally bestowed upon her chest by wrestler Road Dogg and later utilized by commentator Jerry Lawler.
Sable's eclipsed popularity and her feud with Marc Mero and his new manager, Jacqueline led to the reinstatement of the Women's Championship as well as the promotion's hiring of more female wrestlers. Sable's popularity led to a shift in the role of women in the WWF, as the promotion began to rely less on its female performers as simply eye candy and placed a greater emphasis on female athletes who actually competed in matches including re-establishing a women's division. She was one of the first females to compete in such specialty matches as evening gown matches, inter-gender tag team matches, and strap matches, competed in the first-ever WWF bikini contest against Jacqueline, and was also the first female talent to be a Playboy cover girl. Unlike Jacqueline, Ivory, Tori, and Luna Vachon, the more physical and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps.
Sable became the first WWF female talent to refer to herself as a "Diva" during the April 19 episode of Raw Is War in 1999; the term shortly thereafter became the official title for WWF's female performers. In February 1999, the WWF also debuted another veteran female wrestler, Ivory. In August 1999, Lilian Garcia joined the promotion as the 2nd official female ring announcer. During the August 9, 1999 episode of Raw Is War, Chyna became the first woman to main event a pro-wrestling prime time show when she defeated Triple H and The Undertaker in a triple threat match to become the number one contender for the WWF Championship, the only woman to ever do so. On the September 6, 1999 episode of Raw Is War, Ivory defended her Women's Championship against Tori in the first Women's Hardcore match. The Fabulous Moolah returned to the WWF along with Mae Young the following week on the September 9, 1999 episode of SmackDown!, Jeff Jarrett invited Moolah, into the ring and smashed a guitar over her head. Moolah and Young then started taking part in various storylines and angles including comedic roles. Moolah returned to the ring teaming with Mae Young on the September 27, 1999 episode of Raw Is War, defeating Ivory who was the Women's Champion in a Handicap Evening Gown match, which led to a title match at No Mercy on October 17, 1999. 76-year-old Moolah defeated Ivory to win the Women's Championship, becoming the oldest WWF Women's Champion ever, but she re-lost the title to Ivory eight days later. Moolah and Mae Young would continue to make occasional appearances with the company until both of their passings. The late 1990s also brought in new women, such as B.B and The Kat, who won the women's championship
The year of 2000 saw the debuts of Lita, Trish Stratus, and Molly Holly since the start of the month of February. Lita performed higher-risk moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas. Shortly thereafter, Trish Stratus debuted as an overtly sexualized valet. Also, later that year, Molly Holly was added to the roster. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas as she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire. On the August 21 episode of Raw Is War defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley wrestled Lita in the main event.
In early 2001, Stratus became involved in a storyline with WWF Chairman Mr. McMahon, the premise of the storyline was when McMahon's wife Linda was kayfabe institutionalized following a demand Vince had made for a divorce during an episode of SmackDown! on December 7, 2000. McMahon and Stratus' relationship increasingly angered the boss' daughter, Stephanie McMahon. At No Way Out on February 25, Stratus and Stephanie squared off, with Stephanie scoring the victory after interference by William Regal. The Kat departed from the company two days later after being in a storyline with the Right to Censor group. As part of the continuation of Trish Stratus and the McMahons' storyline, it was revealed that Stratus was the victim of a set-up by Vince, Stephanie and Regal. The angle continued the next week on Raw with Vince forcing Stratus to strip down to her underwear in the ring and bark like a dog. The storyline came to an end at WrestleMania X-Seven when Stratus slapped Vince during his match against his son Shane McMahon.
Finally in the spring of 2001 saw the WWF's purchase of its chief competitors, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and the consequent entry of former WCW and ECW female talent, such as Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Jazz, and Sharmell, into the WWF; Keibler and Wilson debuted throughout the summer, Jazz debuted at Survivor Series, while Sharmell was initially sent to then-developmental territory, Ohio Valley Wrestling before being placed on the SmackDown brand as a backstage interviewer. Also later in the year at the start of autumn, Tori was released from the WWF entering September while Chyna left the WWF towards the end of November due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. The departure of Chyna (who was the reigning Women's Champion) led to the Women's Championship being vacant for the second time until Survivor Series. Also in the autumn of 2001, Trish Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and drastically improved her in-ring ability. She worked her way up to the top of the division and eventually won the Women's Championship at Survivor Series. Stratus then entered in a prominent feud with Jazz who debuted at Survivor Series.
Ruthless Aggression Era (2002–2008)
Much of the year of 2002 centered around Trish Stratus and her feuds with Jazz, Molly Holly, and a re-debuting Victoria including over the Women’s Championship. In April 2002 while filming a small acting role for Dark Angel, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first female talent to have neck fusion surgery. She was out of action for almost a year and a half. As she rehabilitated, she kept herself visible by co-hosting Sunday Night Heat on MTV.
Since May 5, 2002, the women’s division would see an expansion including a departure and a return of a former talent when the WWF officially changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) as the company first began to hire more female talents than ever before, including female winners of the reality television show Tough Enough, which featured contestants aspiring to be professional wrestlers (Nidia in 2001, Linda Miles and Jackie Gayda in 2002). Debra departed the company in the month of June along with her then-husband Stone Cold Steve Austin. Sable returned to WWE on the April 3, 2003 episode of SmackDown! for the first time since controversially departing from the company in late 1999; her first storyline returning to company for several months was with new Playboy covergirl Torrie Wilson. The WWE women's division would see itself competing in more match-ups previously contested only by men (including for the Women's Championship), such as street fights and hardcore matches. Numerous Divas competed in contests ranging from "Pillow Fights" and "Bra and Panties" match-ups to "Bikini Contests", which were based more on the sexual appeal of the women involved.
In June, Gail Kim became the first woman with a Korean background to win the Women's Championship. Victoria and Lita competed in the first Women's steel cage match towards the end of the year on November 24.
WWE eventually re-introduced the Diva Search, in which Christy Hemme became the inaugural winner. In December 2004, Lita and Trish Stratus main evented Raw for the Women's Championship, making it the 2nd time in history for female talents to main event one of WWE's main shows. Moreover, Lita became the only female talent to main event Raw on three occasions including winning the Women's Championship.
Since mid-2004 and through various periods over the years until the year of 2011, most of the original female roster departed from the company in groups first initially with Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Sable, Gail Kim, Nidia, Jazz, and Linda Miles all departed from the company mutually or due to budget cuts followed by the spring to summer of the year of 2005 where Molly Holly, Dawn Marie, Jackie Gayda, and Ivory also left the company. The departures officially left Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria, Torrie Wilson, Stacy Keibler, and Lilian Garcia as the remaining original female talent who would continue on in the company. Eventually, Sharmell, Jazz, and Gail Kim would return to the company in either short-lived or long-term second tenures. The most notable departures came in the year of 2006 from the middle of the year until the end of the year starting first when Stacy Keibler departed the company due to transitioning into an acting career followed by at the end of the year as Trish Stratus retired at Unforgiven and Lita retired at Survivor Series. The departures finally left Victoria, Torrie Wilson, Jazz, Sharmell, Gail Kim, and Lilian Garcia as the remaining final group of original female talents continuing on with the company until most the final group departed one by one leaving Lilian Garcia as the only remaining original female talent left in the company until her departure in spring of 2016.
Although most if not all original female talent left WWE, Trish Stratus, Lita, Sunny, Molly Holly, Victoria, Torrie Wilson, Jackie Gayda, Stacy Keibler, Lilian Garcia, Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Ivory, and Alundra Blayze would make special appearances or appear in special guest roles with the company in later years. New era talent, Michelle McCool, Candice Michelle, Melina, Vickie Guerrero, Kelly Kelly, Eve Torres, and Kaitlyn also made appearances with the company in later years
Lita and Trish Stratus carried on and continued their feud entering the year of 2005. They faced each other again at the New Year's Revolution pay-per-view event, that led to Lita suffering another injury by tearing her ACL. However, she kept herself visible in Christy Hemme's feud with Trish Stratus before transitioning into Edge's valet. Sensational Sherri made a cameo appearance on the March 25, 2005 episode of SmackDown! in Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle's feud, where Sensational Sherri and Kurt Angle sang a parody of Shawn Michaels' entrance theme. WWE introduced a new host of female talents in what would be a new generation of Divas with the company.
Melina made her debut part of the tag team trio as MNM in WWE on the April 14, 2005, episode of SmackDown!. While managing the WWE Tag Team Champions, Melina's character was developed to be more egotistical as she declared herself "the most-dominant Diva in WWE". She made her official WWE in-ring debut on June 30 against Michelle McCool and had her first pay-per-view match against Torrie Wilson at The Great American Bash, winning both matches. Trish Stratus returned from a legitimate injury to help Ashley Massaro against Candice Michelle, Torrie Wilson, and Victoria who Massaro was feuding at that time.
Mickie James debuted in WWE on the October 10, 2005 episode of Raw, under her real name, as an obsessed fan of Trish Stratus. The storyline had James and Stratus competing together in tag team matches, with James' character becoming increasingly infatuated with Stratus. This led to various angles including a Halloween Costume Contest in which James was dressed like Stratus and helped Stratus retain the Women's Championship in a Fulfill Your Fantasy Battle Royal at Taboo Tuesday by eliminating herself and Victoria at the same time to even utilizing Stratus' signature finishing moves as her own during matches. Subsequently, the storyline between Mickie and Trish also developed into a lesbian angle after Mickie had a kiss with Trish under a sprig of mistletoe. In the championship match at the pay-per-view, James lost to Stratus, but continued to be enamored of her the next night on Raw, and she confessed her love for Stratus at the Royal Rumble. On March 6, 2006, the storyline had Stratus confronting James, telling her that they needed time apart from each other.
The climax of the storyline led to Mickie James and Trish Stratus wrestling each other at WrestleMania 22 for the Women's Championship, where James won the match and became the new champion. Her angle with Stratus continued into Backlash during a rematch after Stratus legitimately dislocated her shoulder when James threw her out of the ring. Beth Phoenix then debuted on the May 8, 2006 episode of Raw attacking Mickie James while James was assaulting Trish Stratus. After this incident, James berated Phoenix for "ruining everything" and questioned why she even showed up in the first place. A week later, Phoenix was formally introduced by Stratus and then attacked a distracted James on Stratus's behalf. When James finally escaped, Phoenix claimed that James had ruined her life and would not let her get away with it, before calling her a "psycho".
Layla made her first "official" WWE appearance at the 2006 SummerSlam pay-per-view in a backstage segment with several other divas as a form of initiation. The week after SummerSlam, she made her debut as a member of the SmackDown brand in a in-ring segment with Mike "The Miz" Mizanin although he did not allow her the chance to say much, spending most of the time talking about himself.As he always does beacuase he doesn't care about anyone but hi Subsequently, she did not appear on WWE television for almost a month, reappearing on the September 22 episode of SmackDown! and getting into a confrontation with both Kristal and Jillian Hall.
On the March 5, 2007 episode of Raw, Mickie James and Melina competed in the first Falls Count Anywhere match to be contested between Divas. It was also the first time that the Women's Championship was contested in this type of match. At Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007, Candice Michelle became the first woman from the WWE Diva Search contest to become the WWE Women's Champion. In December 2007, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, and Sunny returned to WWE for a one night special appearance on an episode of Raw due to the show's 15-year anniversary. At One Night Stand 2008, Beth Phoenix and Melina competed in the first "I Quit" match to be contested between Divas.
Divas Championship and title unification (2008–2012)
The WWE Divas Championship was introduced in middle-2008 on the June 6, 2008 episode of SmackDown, when then SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero announced the creation of the championship, a SmackDown Diva exclusive title. Natalya and Michelle McCool became the first two contenders for the new championship, and, at The Great American Bash, McCool defeated Natalya to become the inaugural champion. At WrestleMania XXV, former WWE Divas Sunny, Victoria, Molly Holly, Torrie Wilson, Miss Jackie, and Joy Giovanni returned to WWE for a one night special appearance in the 25 Divas Battle Royal match to crown Miss Wrestlemania. During the 2009 WWE draft, then Women's Champion Melina was drafted to the SmackDown brand, making the Women's title exclusive to SmackDown. Later that same night, then Divas Champion Maryse was drafted to the Raw brand, making the championship exclusive to Raw, effectively switching both female champions and championships between brands for the first time in history. At The Bash in 2009, Michelle McCool defeated Melina to capture the Women's Championship and became the first Diva to have ever held both the Women's Championship and the Divas Championship. Mickie James defeated Maryse on July 26, 2009 at Night Of Champions, ending Maryse's reign at 216 days (also the longest reign of the title at the time) and becoming the second Diva to hold the Divas Championship and Women's Championship. James lost the title 78 days later to Jillian Hall on Raw, where Hall lost the title four minutes later to Melina who became the third woman to hold both titles.
On February 22, 2010 episode of Raw, Maryse won again the Divas Championship after defeating Gail Kim in a tournament, becoming the first Diva to hold the title twice. On the April 12, episode of Raw, Eve Torres won the Divas Championship by defeating Maryse thus becoming the first Diva Search winner to win the Divas Championship. Mickie James was released from WWE on April 22, causing a lot of controversy. Beth Phoenix became the new Women's Champion for the third time on April 25, 2010 in an Extreme Makeover at Extreme Rules pay-per-view. On the May 14, 2010 episode of SmackDown, Layla won the Women's Championship for the first time by defeating Beth Phoenix in a two-on one tornado handicap match with Michelle McCool thus become the only British Women's Champion (McCool was unofficially the co-champion During this reign, she defended the championship in Layla's place on some occasions, but was not officially recognized as the title holder).
At Night of Champions 2010, the Divas Championship was unified with the Women's Championship as then Divas Champion Melina faced then-self professed co-Women's Champion Michelle McCool in a lumberjill match. McCool won the match to unify the two titles due to interference from Layla, then McCool locked in her finisher, thus creating the Unified Divas Championship following the lineage and history of the Divas Championship. This also made the Women's Championship defunct after 54 years, which made Layla the final title holder. McCool lost the title to Natalya on 21 November 2010 at Survivor Series in a handicap match involving Layla, and then they competed against Natalya and Beth Phoenix in the first tables match of the Divas division at TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs.
Despite not being what WWE typically viewed as a WWE Diva, on August 31, WWE signed 6'9" female wrestler Isis the Amazon who was set to compete under the ring name Aloisia. She appeared on the show vignette for the third season of NXT, but was released two weeks later, due to the company allegedly finding adult photos, and was replaced by Kaitlyn on the show. On the November 30 season finale of NXT, Kaitlyn was announced as the winner of season three, defeating Naomi in the final to become WWE's first "breakout Diva".
In late December 2010, WWE signed world-renowned wrestler, Kharma, formerly known as Amazing/Awesome Kong. The company proceeded to air disturbing video packages of her flicking off heads of female dolls and laughing maniacally building towards her tentative arrival. Stacy Keibler would make an appearance on the third episode of the re-launched season of Tough Enough on April 18. Kharma made her debut at Extreme Rules attacking Michelle McCool and making a huge impact through the course of a couple weeks on Raw and SmackDown. She was later granted a maternity leave due to her real life pregnancy. Michelle McCool retired from WWE on May 1, after losing to Layla in a Loser Leaves WWE match. On the June 20, 2011 special episode of Raw "Power to the People", Kelly Kelly won a fan vote to determine the challenger for the Divas Championship that night; Kelly went on to win her first Divas Championship by defeating Brie Bella. Her win later garnered her a Slammy Award for "Divalicious Moment of the Year" and she also went on to become the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history, until her record was broken by Paige in 2014. Melina was also released in early August. Gail Kim resigned from WWE on August 5, 2011, due to frustration with WWE's lack of focus on the women's division. She was officially released, for the second time, on September 30, 2011. However, she returned to TNA once again in October.
In late Summer 2011, the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva was largely disputed, stemming from an article posted on WWE.com and the high-profile feud between Kelly Kelly and Eve against The Divas of Doom; Beth Phoenix and Natalya. Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly for the title at Hell in a Cell. Maryse was released from her WWE contract on October 28. On the April 23 episode of Raw, Nikki Bella defeated Beth Phoenix in a lumberjill match for the Divas Championship, ending Phoenix's reign as champion at 204 days. Layla returned from her injury on April 29, 2012 at Extreme Rules and defeated Nikki Bella to become the fifth woman to have held both titles. The Bella Twins' contracts expired the following night, where they were fired by Eve Torres in the storyline.
In July, Kharma was moved to the alumni section on WWE.com, and she later confirmed her release from the company. On July 9, 2012, Eve Torres and AJ Lee became the first Divas to main event Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita in 2004, in a tag team match alongside CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. During mid-2012, AJ became involved in various relationship storylines with several male wrestlers such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler, including a stint as the General Manager of Raw. On September 16, 2012, at the Night of Champions pay-per-view, Eve Torres defeated Layla to win the Divas Championship, becoming the first Diva in history to hold the title on three occasions. On September 28, Kelly Kelly was released from her WWE contract due to her absence from the company.
On October 29, 2012, Beth Phoenix left WWE after her contract expired. Her final match was on Raw defeating AJ Lee after Vickie Guerrero restarted the match. A month after Phoenix's departure, WWE published an article on their website claiming that there was a new era for the Divas division. At TLC, AJ interfered in John Cena's ladder match against Dolph Ziggler, pushing Cena off the ladder.
Beginning of Total Divas (2013–2015)
The 20th anniversary of Raw on January 14, 2013 saw Kaitlyn defeat Eve Torres for the Divas Championship. Eve departed the company later that night after her contract expired. The Bella Twins returned to WWE on the March 11, 2013 episode of Raw. Kaitlyn lost her Divas Championship to her former tag team partner AJ Lee on Payback, ending her reign at 153 days. The first in-ring Divas contract signing took place on the July 12, 2013 episode of SmackDown between AJ Lee and Kaitlyn, as part of buildup for a rematch of the Divas Championship at Money In the Bank. AJ defeated Kaitlyn to retain the title at the event.
In July 2013, the first season of the Total Divas reality television show starring WWE Divas premiered. On the August 26 episode of Raw, AJ Lee cut a worked shoot promo on the cast of Total Divas, stemming again, but partially from the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva and the theme of the show leading towards a feud between Lee and the cast. At the 2013 Slammy Awards show, the Diva of the Year award was won by Brie and Nikki Bella. On January 8, 2014, Kaitlyn decided to depart from WWE to pursue other endeavors, losing her last match against her former friend and rival Divas Champion AJ Lee. Later on towards the end of the month, AJ Lee became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing Maryse's reign of 216 days. On the March 12 episode of Main Event, Lee successfully defended the Divas Championship against Natalya, in a match that lasted fourteen minutes—the longest women's championship match since 1987. On the March 24 episode of Raw, it was announced by Vickie Guerrero that Lee would defend her Divas Championship against the entire Divas roster at WrestleMania XXX, making it the first time the title would be defended at WrestleMania. At the event, AJ Lee retained her championship by forcing Naomi to submit.
On the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw on April 7, 2014, Paige made her debut on the main roster and defeated AJ Lee for the Divas Championship ending her record reign at 295 days. With this win, Paige became the first NXT female talent to hold both the NXT Women's and Divas Championships simultaneously as well as becoming the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history at the age of 21.
Brie Bella entered a storyline with Stephanie McMahon after at Payback — as part of her husband Daniel Bryan's storyline with McMahon — McMahon threatened to fire Bella if, an injured, Bryan did not relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which forced Brie to "quit" before slapping McMahon in the face. In mid-June, Vickie Guerrero departed mutually from WWE, after losing to Stephanie McMahon in a pudding match. AJ Lee returned after a two-month hiatus, defeating Paige in an impromptu match to regain the Divas Championship as both then traded the championship until at SummerSlam then Night of Champions. At SummerSlam, Stephanie McMahon defeated Brie Bella in her first match in ten years, after Nikki Bella attacked her sister. This led to a match between the twins at Hell in a Cell, where the loser was forced to become the winner's personal assistant for 30 days, where Nikki defeated Brie. AJ Lee won the Divas Championship for a record-tying third time at Night of Champions against Paige and Nikki Bella. With this win, AJ Lee tied with Eve Torres for the most reigns ever at three.
Nikki Bella received her title match against AJ Lee on November 23 at Survivor Series, which she won, with Brie's help, to become a two–time Divas Champion. The duo had reconciled at this point.
Divas Revolution (2015–2016)
On the February 23, 2015 episode of Raw, The Bella Twins faced Paige and Emma in a widely criticized match that lasted around 30 seconds. After the match, a hashtag on Twitter trended worldwide for around 1.5 days, called #GiveDivasAChance. This hashtag brought attention to various multi-media outlets over the long-tenured controversy over the company's treatment of their women's division, including AJ Lee who publicly criticized Stephanie McMahon over the issue. On April 3, 2015, five days after Lee and Paige defeated the Bella Twins at WrestleMania 31, WWE announced that AJ Lee decided to retire from in-ring competition and would depart from the company. In June, Paige started serving as a judge on the sixth season of Tough Enough, while Renee Young appeared as co-host of the show and Lita served as a coach.
On the July 13, 2015 episode of Raw, Nikki Bella claimed that there were no challengers for her championship. As a result, Stephanie McMahon proclaimed a revolution in the women's division and introduced Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and the NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks as the newest additions to the main roster. In the following weeks, a three-way feud began between Team B.A.D. (Naomi, Tamina and Sasha Banks), Team Bella (Alicia Fox and The Bella Twins) and Team PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch), with the latter team being renamed from Submission Sorority due to links to adult content. The three teams faced off at SummerSlam in a three team elimination match, where Becky pinned Brie to win the match for Team PCB.
On July 29, WWE announced that Layla would depart from the company and retire. On the August 31 episode of Raw, Nikki introduced the Bellatron timer which counted down the remaining time until she surpassed the record for the longest–reigning Divas champion of all time. Charlotte won the first Beat the Clock challenge for a title shot. Her title match with Nikki was initially advertised for Night of Champions, but instead took place the Raw preceding the pay-per-view, after Charlotte issued a petition, granted later by The Authority, to face Nikki before she surpassed the record to become the longest–reigning Divas Champion. Charlotte won the match by disqualification when Brie and Nikki switched places and Charlotte pinned Brie. However, since the title could not change hands by disqualification, Nikki retained the championship, and in the process, became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing AJ Lee's previous record of 295 days. Several days later, on September 20 at Night of Champions, Nikki lost the championship to Charlotte, ending her reign at 301 days. Shortly after, Nikki went on a hiatus from television due to a neck injury which would require surgery, but returned for one night on December 21, to accept the Slammy Award for Diva of the Year.
Women's Evolution (2016–present)
The WWE Women's Championship would return in the year of 2016 when Lita unveiled a brand-new Women's Championship belt during the WrestleMania 32 pre–show to signify a change in the status of the division. The title shares its name with the original Women's Championship, however, the new title does not share the same title history as the original as it was merged into the Divas Championship in 2010 when it followed its lineage and history. WWE acknowledges the original championship as its predecessor, and notes that the lineage of female champions dates back to The Fabulous Moolah's reign in 1956. The then-current Divas Champion Charlotte would win the new championship by defeating Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks in a triple threat match. This also made the Divas Championship defunct after 8 years, which made Charlotte the final title holder. It was also announced that female performers in the WWE would be referred to as "WWE Superstars" in the future, the same as their male counterparts as the term 'Diva' would be dropped after seventeen years since April 1999 when the company began using the term for the women's division as the focus shifted from sex appeal to athleticism. In addition, women's matches began to increase in episodes of RAW and SmackDown as well as becoming much longer. The following day on Raw, Maryse returned to WWE interfering in her real life husband, The Miz's Intercontinental Championship match against Zack Ryder by helping him win the title for the fifth time. Three months later, WWE would re-introduce the brand extension on July 19 and WWE Women's Champion Charlotte would be drafted to the Raw brand, making the Women's title exclusive to Raw leaving SmackDown without a women's championship yet again for the second time in history.
Lilian Garcia would depart from the WWE yet again on August 1, 2016 due to personal reasons as her departure would officially leave a brand new generation of WWE female talents. Nikki Bella returned from a legitimate injury at SummerSlam in a six-woman tag team match. The WWE SmackDown Women's Championship was introduced on the August 23, 2016 episode of SmackDown, when SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan and Commissioner Shane McMahon announced the creation of the championship, a SmackDown women's exclusive title and announced that the inaugural champion would be determined at Backlash in a six-pack challenge between Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Carmella, Naomi, Natalya, and Nikki Bella, where Becky Lynch became the inaugural champion. Most of the year of 2016 saw Charlotte and Sasha Banks feuding and trading the Raw Women's Championship - the run of their feud included main-eventing Raw on two occasions that year, one of which included the first Falls Count Anywhere match to be contested between women since 2007. It also marked the first time a women's match had headlined Raw since Trish Stratus & Lita in December 2004. Banks and Flair competed in the first ever women's Hell in a Cell match in WWE history that same year, marking the first time that a women's match had headlined a WWE pay-per-view event. Mickie James would return to WWE in a one-night-only match when it was announced by the company in late October 2016 that she would compete against title holder, Asuka for the NXT Women's Championship in the developmental territory's semi-monthly NXT TakeOver event. On the November 29 edition of SmackDown Live, it was announced that Becky Lynch would defend the SmackDown Women's title against Alexa Bliss at TLC in the second female tables match since 2010, where Bliss defeated Lynch to become new champion.
Mickie James would return to WWE on the January 17, 2017, episode of SmackDown Live by helping Alexa Bliss retain her SmackDown Women's Championship against Becky Lynch in a main event steel cage match. WWE announced on January 28, 2017 that Nikki Bella would serve as an executive producer for Total Divas starting in the second half of the sixth season in April. Nikki would become the first female talent within the company to become a producer of a company related show. On June 18, at the Money in the Bank pay–per–view, in what was the first ever women's Money in the Bank ladder match, Carmella defeated Charlotte Flair, Natalya, Becky Lynch and Tamina to earn herself a future women's championship match at date and time of her choosing. Carmella was, however, stripped of the briefcase due to her valet James Ellsworth's interference (who climbed the ladder at the event and handed her the briefcase) and a second Money in the Bank ladder match was announced for the June 27 episode of SmackDown by SmackDown General Manager Daniel Bryan, where Carmella was once again victorious only this time she picked up the briefcase herself.
On the September 11 episode of Raw, it was announced that Asuka had been signed to the Raw brand and she made her debut at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs event a month later, where she defeated Emma. Just after a rematch, WWE announced that Emma's contract has expired and that she was released from the company. In November, after she defeated Natalya to win the SmackDown Women's Championship, Charlotte Flair became the first woman to win all present women's championships in WWE (Raw, SmackDown and NXT). During that time, Paige returned after over a year away and aligned with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville who made their main roster debuts as well. On the December 18 episode of Raw, Stephanie McMahon announced that the following month, at the Royal Rumble there would be the first ever woman's Royal Rumble match, with the winner receiving a women's championship match against a champion of their choice at WrestleMania 34. Beth Phoenix returned to the company as a on–air commentator for a new half hour web series show called WWE Mixed Match Challenge, a tournament made up exclusively of mixed tag–teams. Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Lilian Garcia, Torrie Wilson, Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool, and Kelly Kelly would also return to the company by making special appearances for the company's 25th Anniversary of Raw; this marked the first on–screen appearance for Runnels and Jacqueline on WWE programming since both departing the company in 2004.
On January 28, 2018, at the Royal Rumble, the first ever women's Royal Rumble match served as the main event of the show. All of the legends from RAW 25 (except Terri Runnels and Lilian Garcia), Lita, Molly Holly, Vickie Guerrero, and Beth Phoenix made their in–ring returns to the company. The match lasted 58:57, becoming the longest women's match, and Asuka was victorious after she eliminated Nikki Bella in the finals. Former UFC Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey made an appearance in the ring and subsequently revealed that she had been signed as a WWE wrestler. The following month, the first ever women's Elimination Chamber match took place at the namesake pay–per–view, where Alexa Bliss successfully retained her Raw Women's Championship against Sasha Banks, Bayley, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Mickie James. On April 9, at the post–Wrestlemania episode of Raw, Paige announced her in–ring retirement due to her back injury. One night later, Paige was then announced as the new General Manager of SmackDown. After 287 days (the longest period for a wrestler to hold the contract) and a few attempts to cash in her briefcase on Charlotte Flair, Carmella officially cashed in her contract on the April 10 episode of SmackDown and defeated Flair, after she had been attacked by the debuting The IIconics (Billie Kay and Peyton Royce), to win the SmackDown Women's Championship for the first time in her career. By cashing in her briefcase, Carmella became the first woman in WWE to successfully cash–in her Money in the Bank opportunity and that was also the first time a women's championship changed hands after a cash–in.
On the July 23 episode of Raw, Stephanie McMahon announced that on October 28 the first ever all women's pay-per-view event in history, WWE Evolution, will take place. In August, at SummerSlam, Ronda Rousey defeated Alexa Bliss to win the Raw Women's Championship, becoming the first woman to win a women's championship in both UFC and WWE in the process. At Evolution, all of the active women's championships in WWE were defended and the finals of the 2018 Mae Young Classic tournament also took place at the event. Trish and Lita teamed up for the first time since 2003 to take on Mickie James and Alicia Fox. Nikki Bella vs. Ronda Rousey served as the main event. The match, that stood out as match of the night and was praised by many critics as the best match in WWE for this year, was between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair who made history by competing in the first ever Last Woman Standing match, which Lynch won. On December 16, at the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs pay–per–view, the first ever women's triple threat Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match took place, where Asuka defeated Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair to capture the Smackdown Women's Championship, in what was also the first time that title was featured in the main event match of pay–per–view. It was also the first women's championship match to main event a dual branded event.
On January 27, 2019, at the Royal Rumble, Becky Lynch (who replaced an injured Lana and took her entry number 28) won the second women's Royal Rumble match, with lastly eliminating her rival Charlotte Flair. Just a few weeks later, on February 17 at the Elimination Chamber, Sasha Banks and Bayley won the re–introduced WWE Women's Tag Team Championship (that were first announced by Vince McMahon on the December 24 episode of Raw) as they defeated five other teams in a tag team Elimination Chamber match. It was announced that the titles are unaffiliated and will be defended across both Raw, SmackDown and NXT. The title shares its name with the original Women's Tag Team Championship, however, it doesn't share the same title history as the original. In March, it was announced that the scheduled triple threat match for the WWE Raw Women's Championship between Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 35 would be the first women's match to ever main event a WrestleMania show ever since it was created 35 years ago. In March, Lynch was reinstated and she defeated Flair at Fastlane via disqualification, after Rousey purposely attacked Lynch to give her the win, making the title match at WrestleMania a triple–threat match. Just days before the event, Flair won the SmackDown Women's Championship, becoming the third woman to win eight women's championships in WWE history in the process, and the title match was changed to a Winner Take All for both titles. On October 30, 2019 WWE announced a match between Natalya and Lacey Evans for Crown Jewel 2019, making it the first ever women's match in Saudi Arabia. At the event, both women had to wear full body suits and T-shirts instead of their normal ring attire due to the country's dress policy. The Main event of the Survivor Series held on November 24, 2019 was a triple threat match between the women's champions of three brands Raw (Becky Lynch), SmackDown (Bayley) and NXT (Shayna Baszler) in which Baszler forced Bayley to submit on Kirifuda Clutch to win the match. Also, Sasha Banks broke Maryse's record of most eliminations in one night (3) by eliminating 4 opponents. In the Main event of the TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs held on December 15, 2019 The Kabuki Warriors (Asuka and Kairi Sane) defended the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship against Raw Women's Champion Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair in a tag team Tables, Ladders, and Chairs match.
On February 27, 2020 at Super ShowDown, Bayley defended her Smackdown Women's Championship against Naomi, making it the first time a women's championship was defended in Saudi Arabia. The main event of the Elimination Chamber PPV held on March 8 was the Raw brand's women's Elimination Chamber match between Natalya, Liv Morgan, Asuka, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, and Shayna Baszler, in which the winner earned a Raw Women's Championship match against Becky Lynch at WrestleMania 36. Baszler proceeded to win the match, thereby becoming the first Elimination Chamber match winner to single-handedly eliminate all other opponents, as well as tie the record for most eliminations in a single match at five.
After Sasha Banks won the Raw Women's Championship for a record-breaking fifth time on the July 27, 2020 episode of Raw, herself and her tag team partner, the SmackDown Women's Champion Bayley, with whom she was concurrently holding the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship, became the first tag team in history to hold every women's title on the main roster simultaneously, as well as the first tag team since Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H (The Two-Man Power Trip) to hold all titles in their respective divisions.
Women in NXT
Seasonal format (2010–2012)
WWE NXT originally existed as a seasonal show which was presented as a hybrid between reality television and WWE's scripted live event shows, in which they acquired any select talent contracted from WWE's then-developmental territory Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) to participate in a competition to become WWE's next "breakout star" with the help of select main roster talents. Five seasons of this version of NXT were broadcast from February 23, 2010 to June 13, 2012.
The second season of NXT started on June 8, 2010 and ended on August 31, 2010, lasting thirteen weeks. LayCool (Michelle McCool and Layla) were the first female talents featured on the show as 'mentors' and their male talent was Kaval who won the second season on August 31.
The third season of NXT was exclusive for Divas. The majority of the season three cast was revealed on the second-season finale on August 31, 2010. The first four episodes of season three were aired on Syfy. Due to the debut of SmackDown on Syfy in October 2010, NXT left the channel and became a webcast at WWE.com for visitors from the United States from the fifth episode onwards. AJ Lee, Naomi, Aloisia, Maxine, Aksana, and Jamie Keyes were initially announced as part of the show with Primo, Kelly Kelly, Vickie Guerrero, Alicia Fox, Goldust, and The Bella Twins as the select main roster talents featured on the show as 'mentors'. However, before the season's premiere aired, Aloisia was dropped from the show. On screen, Aloisia's exit stemmed from an argument between Aloisia and her pro, Vickie Guerrero, forcing Guerrero to fire her. In real life, she was released two weeks later, due to the company allegedly finding adult photos, and was replaced by Kaitlyn on the show. The reward to the victor was changed in contrast to the previous seasons. Unlike the first two male victors, the female victor of season 3 would not get a shot at a championship of her choice (the only title being the Divas Championship) but rather, a main roster spot.
The fourth season of NXT started on December 7, 2010 and ended on March 1, 2011. Maryse with Ted Dibiase Jr. and Vickie Guerrero with Dolph Ziggler returned to the show as featured mentors. In the fifth edition of the program on March 8, 2011, Maryse became co-host of the show up until August 24 when taking time off due to personal injury. She departed from the company on October 28.
Developmental territory (2012–2019)
Throughout the years, WWE began hiring new Divas and assigned them to their development territories to train and wait to be called up to the main roster. These new Divas were recruited from the independent circuit and modeling agencies including previously the Diva Search although in recent years, most came from the indies due in large part to Triple H's change in mentality when it came to hiring talents.
Sara Del Rey signed a contract with WWE on July 9, 2012 and became the first female trainer in WWE's developmental territory NXT, based at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. AJ Lee became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the WWE Divas Championship, while Naomi became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the SmackDown Women's Championship. In August 2012, WWE ceased operating Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), its developmental promotion in Tampa, Florida, deactivating FCW titles, and began running all of its developmental events and operations at Full Sail University under the "WWE NXT" banner. WWE had been using the NXT name for a television program featuring rookies from FCW competing to become WWE main roster members, though the "reality television" aspects of the show had been dropped earlier in 2012; WWE NXT now serves as the primary television program for the promotion. NXT has received praise for the opportunities they afford female wrestlers as opposed to on the main roster, which has led to a change on how women's wrestling is portrayed on WWE's main roster.
The following year in 2013, the NXT Women's Championship was first introduced on April 5, 2013 at WrestleMania Axxess. It was announced at the May 30, 2013 tapings (broadcast in the June 5 episode) of NXT, by Stephanie McMahon that there would be a tournament, featuring four developmental divas and four divas from the main roster competing to be crowned as the inaugural NXT Women's Champion in a knockout system format. Tamina Snuka, Alicia Fox, Aksana, and Summer Rae represented the main roster in the tournament. The first champion was crowned on June 20, 2013, with Paige defeating Emma in the tournament finals.
John Layfield stripped Paige of the title on the April 24, 2014 edition of NXT in order to give the divas on NXT a chance, as Paige had been brought up to the main roster on April 7, 2014 on Raw upon defeating AJ Lee for WWE's Divas Championship. The following week, a new tournament was started for the NXT Women's Championship. Natalya, Layla, Alicia Fox, and Emma represented the main roster in the second tournament. At NXT TakeOver in the finals, Charlotte defeated Natalya to win the vacant NXT Women's Championship. On February 12, 2015 at NXT TakeOver: Rival, Charlotte lost the championship to Sasha Banks in a fatal four-way match that also involved Bayley and Becky Lynch, ending her reign at 258 days.
On May 19, 2015, Sara Del Rey was promoted to NXT assistant head coach by WWE, following the resignation of Bill DeMott. On August 22, 2015, Bayley defeated Banks in a singles match to become the new Women's Champion at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. On August 27, it was revealed that Kana had signed with WWE a few weeks earlier. She appeared at the September 10 tapings of NXT, where her new ring name was announced as "Asuka". In her debut match on October 7 at NXT TakeOver: Respect, she defeated Dana Brooke. On the September 16 episode of NXT, William Regal announced that Bayley would defend the NXT Women's Championship against Sasha Banks in the main event of NXT TakeOver: Respect on October 7, in the first 30-minute Iron Woman match in WWE history, where Bayley defeated Banks with 3 falls to 2, and retained the championship.
On June 18, 2018, during the first night of the United Kingdom Championship Tournament, the NXT UK Women's Championship was announced for WWE's NXT UK brand. Afterwards, a two-day eight-woman single-elimination tournament was scheduled to crown the inaugural champion during the first tapings of NXT UK. On August 26, Rhea Ripley defeated Toni Storm in the tournament finals to become the inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion.
Third brand (2019–present)
On the October 31, 2019 episode of NXT the first ever women's WarGames match was announced for NXT TakeOver: WarGames. At the event Team Ripley (Rhea Ripley, Candice LeRae, Tegan Nox, and Dakota Kai) defeated Team Baszler (Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Io Shirai, and Kay Lee Ray).
The popularity of women in WWE has resulted in various cross-promotions with other brands featuring WWE Divas. Various Divas have posed in Playboy, and others have appeared in commercials for WWE and non-WWE products as well as men's interest magazines.
The WWE Divas normally went on an annual photoshoot every year, usually to a different location each time. The photoshoot was followed by a magazine featuring photos from the shoot as well as a television special or video release of highlights from the shoot. The first initial annual photoshoot was in 1999 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, which was promoted through video release by WWE entitled Come Get Some: The Women of the WWF. Debra, Chyna, Sable, Tori, Jacqueline, Terri Runnels, Ivory, Luna Vachon, and Ryan Shamrock were part of the photoshoot and promotional material.
Sunny, Sable, and Chyna were the only three female talents for whom WWE created a separate website in their years with the company. WWE also released a sports fitness clothing line for Chyna, called C9, based on her nickname.
- 1999: Come Get Some: The Women of the WWF
- 2000: Postcard From The Caribbean
- 2001: Divas in Hedonism
- 2002: Tropical Pleasure and Undressed
- 2003: Desert Heat
- 2004: South of the Border
- 2005: Viva Las Divas
- 2006: Divas Do New York
- 2007: Los Angeles
- 2008: Summer Skin
- 1998: Sable Unleashed
- 2000: Chyna Fitness: More Than Meets the Eye
- 2001: Lita: It Just Feels Right
- 2003: Trish Stratus: 100% Stratusfaction Guaranteed
- 2005: $250,000 Raw Diva Search
- 2014: Stephanie McMahon: Fit Series
- 2018: Then, Now, Forever: The Evolution of WWE's Women's Division
- 2019: Trish & Lita: Best Friends, Better Rivals
Since 1999, seven WWE Divas have appeared on the cover of Playboy:
- 1999: Sable (2) - April & September
- 2000: Chyna - November
- 2002: Chyna (2) - January
- 2003: Torrie Wilson - March
- 2004: Torrie Wilson (2) and Sable (3) - March
- 2005: Christy Hemme - April
- 2006: Candice Michelle - April
- 2007: Ashley Massaro - April
- 2008: Maria Kanellis - April
Actual Playboy playmates, such as Carmella DeCesare and Karen McDougal have also appeared in the 2004 Diva Search contest. Former WWE female talent Taryn Terrell and current female talent Maryse Ouellet have also posed nude. Past female talents such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, Michelle McCool, and Melina Perez have said that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Trish Stratus appeared on Canadian sports talk show Off The Record and said that she didn't pose because she wanted to be known as "multiple time Women's Champion Trish Stratus" rather than "the girl who posed in Playboy". Stratus also claims that she refused the shoot because she says she can still be sexy without taking her clothes off. Lita has said that she didn't pose because she felt it was wrong for her (she was known as a role model for young girls at the time) to pose for the magazine.
Shortly following Maria's pictorial, WWE transitioned to a TV-PG rating and ended its connection to Playboy as part of the move.
Diva Search (2003-2007, 2019) and Tough Enough (2001–2002, 2011, 2015)
The Diva Search was an annual competition that occurred every summer. The purpose of the Diva Search was to find new women to be wrestlers, interviewers, and/or valets for WWE. The winner of the competition received a one-year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000. On March 29, 2015 it was announced by the company that the contest would return in fall of 2015 and would air exclusively on the WWE Network. However, the Diva Search did not return that year.
Tough Enough is a professional wrestling reality television series produced by WWE, wherein participants undergo professional wrestling training and compete for a contract with WWE.
Total Divas and spinoffs (2013–present)
On April 22, 2013, it was announced that the Divas would be getting a show on E! network titled Total Divas. It would follow the lives behind the scenes of select Divas. Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, The Bella Twins (Brie and Nikki), and also Eva Marie and JoJo Offerman from the developmental territory WWE NXT were announced as the inaugural cast for the show. The show premiered on July 28. The show was an instant hit, and was renewed for a second season. Since season 2, various former and current company female talents all have either departed or joined the show including being regulated to recurring or guest roles. There has been nine seasons of Total Divas so far.
On January 8, 2018, it was announced that Maryse and her husband The Miz would be getting their own reality television series titled Miz & Mrs. The show premiered on July 24, 2018 on the USA Network.
WWE Network shows
Behind the scenes look of various WWE female superstars and Events were featured in WWE Network's documentary series WWE 24. Episodes Women's Evolution and Empowered focused on History of Women in WWE while episodes Becky Lynch:The Man and The Years on Ronda Rousey focused on individual career of Lynch and Rousey respectively. Another documentary series on Network WWE 365 aired Alexa Bliss special on June 23, 2019. Paige, Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks specials were part of another WWE Network's documentary series WWE Chronicle.
Several episodes Table for 3 like Divas Legends, Millenium Divas, Divas Champions Club, Future Empowered, Women's Championship Evolution, Restraunt Riott and Ladies Luncheon featured current and former WWE female superstars discussing various aspects of their personal and professional life.
From 1999 to 2000, Sable appeared as a guest star on an episode of Pacific Blue in 1999, and the following year, Chyna appeared as a guest star on Mad Tv and 3rd Rock from the Sun as Janice, a police officer, as well as several Stacker 2 commercials and was a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards. In November 2001, Trish Stratus, Lita, and Stephanie McMahon appeared as contestants on The Weakest Link's "WWF Superstars Edition". Lita, Molly Holly, and Jacqueline appeared as contestants on Fear Factor in February 2002. On April 6, 2002 Lita appeared in a small role on Dark Angel. In March 2004, she appeared on an episode of Headbangers Ball.
In 2007, Ashley Massaro, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland. In the same year, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Maria, Layla, and Kristal appeared in an episode of the U.S. reality show Project Runway (season 4), in which designers were asked to design in-ring attire for their designated Diva. In 2008, Layla, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, and Melina appeared in the U.S. reality show Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp to get the celebrities in shape.
The Fabulous Moolah was the sixth and season finale episode of the professional wrestling documentary series Dark Side of the Ring. It covered various events of Moolah's life like Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection, The Brawl to End It All, The Original Screwjob, WrestleMania 34 name controversy and various other WWE related incidents.
- NXT TakeOver – Charlotte Flair w/ Ric Flair v. Natalya w/Bret Hart
- NXT TakeOver: Rival – Sasha Banks v. Charlotte Flair v. Bayley v. Becky Lynch
- NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn – Bayley v. Sasha Banks
- Night of Champions – Charlotte Flair w/Paige and Becky Lynch v. Nikki Bella w/Brie Bella and Alicia Fox
- WrestleMania 32 – Charlotte Flair w/Ric Flair v. Becky Lynch v. Sasha Banks
- Raw – Sasha Banks v. Charlotte w/Dana Brooke
- Backlash – Becky Lynch v. Alexa Bliss v. Carmella v. Naomi v. Natalya v. Nikki Bella
- Hell in a Cell – Charlotte Flair v. Sasha Banks
- Elimination Chamber – Becky Lynch v. Mickie James
- Raw – Bayley v. Charlotte Flair
- Fastlane – Sasha Banks v. Nia Jax
- WrestleMania 33 – Bayley v. Charlotte Flair v. Nia Jax v. Sasha Banks
- WrestleMania 34 – Charlotte Flair v. Asuka
- Evolution – Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair
- WrestleMania 35 – Becky Lynch v. Charlotte Flair v. Ronda Rousey
In October 2018, a week before the Evolution PPV event, the WWE and the United Nations Foundation's Girl Up created Sports for a Purpose program aiming to create a culture of sports participation for girls around the world. The program will launch in fall 2019. Stephanie McMahon stated, “WWE is proud to partner with Girl Up to create Sports for a Purpose, a new program designed to help our youth achieve gender equality in sports. Playing sports has a positive impact on girls’ leadership skills, confidence and self-esteem, and we are excited to work with Girl Up to create this meaningful program.”
Championships and accomplishments
|Championship||Current champion||Date won||Location||Previous champion||First champion|
|WWE Raw Women's Championship||Asuka||August 23, 2020||Amway Center||Sasha Banks||Charlotte Flair|
|WWE SmackDown Women's Championship||Bayley||October 11, 2019||Paradise, NV||Charlotte Flair||Becky Lynch|
|WWE Women's Tag Team Championship||Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax||August 30, 2020||Amway Center||Bayley and Sasha Banks||Bayley and Sasha Banks|
|NXT Women's Championship||Io Shirai||June 7, 2020||Winter Park, FL||Charlotte Flair||Paige|
|NXT UK Women's Championship||Kay Lee Ray||August 31, 2019||Cardiff, Wales||Toni Storm||Rhea Ripley|
|Championship||Last champion(s)||Date won||Date retired||Location||Previous champion(s)||First champion(s)|
|WWE Divas Championship||Charlotte||September 20, 2015||April 3, 2016||Houston, Texas||Nikki Bella||Michelle McCool|
|WWE Women's Championship||Layla||May 11, 2010||September 19, 2010||Rosemont, Illinois||Beth Phoenix||The Fabulous Moolah|
|WWF Women's Tag Team Championship||Leilani Kai and Judy Martin||June 8, 1988||February 14, 1989||Omiya, Japan||Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki||Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria|
|FCW Divas Championship||Christina Crawford||June 29, 2012||August 14, 2012||Tampa, Florida||Raquel Diaz||Naomi|
|Queen of FCW||Raquel Diaz||November 17, 2011||March 15, 2012||Tampa, Florida||Aksana||Angela Fong|
|OVW Women's Championship||Katie Lea||February 20, 2008||February 27, 2008||Louisville, Kentucky||Roucka||ODB|
|Accomplishment||Last winner(s)||Date won||Location||Notes|
|Royal Rumble||Charlotte Flair||January 26, 2020||Houston, Texas||Last eliminated Shayna Baszler to win.|
|WrestleMania Women's Battle Royal||Carmella||April 7, 2019||East Rutherford, New Jersey||Last eliminated Sarah Logan to win.|
|Money in the Bank||Asuka||April 15, 2020||Titan Towers||Defeated Dana Brooke, Lacey Evans, Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, and Carmella to win the Money in the bank contact. While the briefcase won by Asuka was originally announced to contain a contract that guarantees a match for a championship as per the usual Money in the Bank stipulation, on the May 11, 2020 episode of Raw, Becky Lynch announced that she was going on hiatus due to her real life pregnancy and that the match had actually been for the WWE Raw Women's Championship.
WWE recognizes Asuka's reign as beginning on May 10, 2020 at the Money in the Bank event, where the event's eponymous match aired on tape delay.
|Mae Young Classic||Toni Storm||October 28, 2018||Uniondale, New York||Toni Storm defeated Io Shirai to win the tournament.|
|Mixed Match Challenge||Carmella and R-Truth||December 16, 2018||San Jose, California||Defeated Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal at TLC to win season 2 of the tournament.|
Throughout the years in WWE, there has been instances where female talent have won male contested championships and to being part of major male contested tournaments or gimmick matches. In June 1999, Chyna became the first woman to qualify for the King of the Ring tournament. She was also the first female to be the number one contender for the WWF Championship, but lost the spot to Mankind before SummerSlam in August. Later that year, Chyna became the only female to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship after defeating Jeff Jarrett No Mercy on October 17. Eventually the following year, Chyna would win the championship for the second time in an intergender tag team match at SummerSlam.
Molly Holly (competing as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, and Terri Runnels all held the Hardcore Championship briefly throughout the year of 2002.
Two years later, Jacqueline held the Cruiserweight Championship briefly in the month of May. She became the only woman to have held the championship under the WWE banner and the third woman overall to have won the championship as Madusa and Daffney also held the championship under the WCW banner.
Chyna, Beth Phoenix, Kharma, and Nia Jax are the only female talents in the history of the company to have competed and entered in the male contested Royal Rumble match. Chyna is the only female talent to have competed in the Royal Rumble match twice in the years of 1999 and 2000. Beth Phoenix and Nia Jax are the only female talent to have competed in both gender Royal Rumble matches. In the 2019 edition, Nia Jax became also became the first woman to compete in both gender Royal Rumble matches within the same night.
Chyna, Molly Holly (competing as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Alundra Blayze, Kelly Kelly, Candice Michelle, Maria Kanellis, Carmella, and Tamina all held male contested championships in the history of the company.
Hall of Famers
|The Fabulous Moolah||1995|
|Mildred Burke||Legacy inductee|
|Judy Grable||Legacy inductee|
|Cora Combs||Legacy inductee|
|Chyna||Inducted as a member of D-Generation X|
|Luna Vachon||Legacy inductee|
|The Bella Twins (Nikki and Brie)||2020|
|Diva of the Year||Date won|
|Miss Elizabeth[a]||December 17, 1987|
|Sable[b]||March 21, 1997|
|Beth Phoenix||December 8, 2008|
|Maria||December 14, 2009|
|Michelle McCool||December 13, 2010|
|Kelly Kelly[c]||December 12, 2011|
|AJ Lee[d]||December 17, 2012|
|The Bella Twins||December 9, 2013|
|AJ Lee||December 8, 2014|
|Nikki Bella||December 21, 2015|
|Other awards||Winner||Date won|
|Most Devastating||Bull Nakano||December 31, 1994|
|Best Buns||Sunny||March 30, 1996|
|Manager of the Year||Sunny||March 30, 1996|
|Best Dressed||Sable||March 21, 1997|
|Couple of the Year||Vickie Guerrero (with Edge)||December 8, 2008|
|Best Use of Exercise Equipment[d]||Rosa Mendes||December 13, 2010|
|Knucklehead Moment of the Year||LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool) and Mae Young||December 13, 2010|
|Kiss of the Year||AJ Lee (with John Cena)||December 18, 2012|
|Couple of the Year[d]||Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan)||December 9, 2013|
|Best Dance Moves of the Year[d]||The Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron)||December 9, 2013|
|Insult of the Year||Stephanie McMahon||December 9, 2013|
|Couple of the Year[d]||Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan)||December 8, 2014|
|This is Awesome Moment of the Year||Ronda Rousey (with The Rock)||December 21, 2015|
- A – Award was then known as "Woman of the Year"
- B – Award was then known as "Miss Slammy"
- C - Award was then known as "Divalicious Moment of the Year"
- D – Awarded through WWE.com
|Female Superstar of the Year 2018||Becky Lynch||2018|
|General Manager of 2018||Paige||2018|
|Match of 2018||Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair at WWE Evolution||2018|
|Best Diss of 2018||Ronda Rousey's promo against Nikki Bella||2018|
|Most Underrated Star of 2018||Naomi||2018|
NXT Year-End Awards
|Female Competitor of 2015||Bayley||January 13, 2016|
|Match of 2015||Sasha Banks vs. Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn|
|Female Competitor of 2016||Asuka||January 28, 2017|
|Breakout Star of 2016||Billie Kay and Peyton Royce|
|Female Competitor of 2017||Asuka||January 27, 2018|
|Overall Competitor of 2017|
|Female Competitor of 2018||Kairi Sane||January 26, 2019|
|Overall Competitor of 2018|
|Future Star of NXT||Io Shirai|
|Female Competitor of 2019||Shayna Baszler||January 1, 2020|
|Future Star of NXT||Dakota Kai|
Pro Wrestling Illustrated awards
PWI Female 50 / Female 100
|2008||—||Beth Phoenix||—||Mickie James||—||—||—||Melina||Michelle McCool||Candice Michelle|
|2009||Mickie James||—||Melina||—||—||—||Beth Phoenix||Michelle McCool||Maryse||—|
|2010||Michelle McCool||—||—||Eve Torres||—||Mickie James||—||Alicia Fox|
|2015||Nikki Bella||Paige||Sasha Banks||—||—||Charlotte||Naomi||—||—||—|
|2016||Charlotte||Sasha Banks||Asuka||Becky Lynch||Bayley||—||Natalya||—||—||—|
|2017||Asuka||Charlotte Flair||Alexa Bliss||Sasha Banks||Bayley||—||Natalya||—||Naomi||Kairi Sane|
|2018||Ronda Rousey||Alexa Bliss||Charlotte Flair||Io Shirai||Asuka||Shayna Baszler||Carmella||Nia Jax||—||Kairi Sane|
|2019||Becky Lynch||Charlotte Flair||Ronda Rousey||Shayna Baszler||—||Bayley||Natalya||Io Shirai||—||—|
Woman of the Year
|2003||Trish Stratus (2)|
|2005||Trish Stratus (3)|
|2006||Trish Stratus (4)|
|2013||AJ Lee (2)|
|2014||AJ Lee (3)|
|2019||Becky Lynch (2)|
|Manager of the Year||Sunny||1996|
|Manager of the Year||Debra||1999|
|Most Improved Wrestler of the Year||Candice Michelle||2007|
|Rookie of the Year||Charlotte||2014|
|Inspirational Wrestler of the Year||Bayley||2015|
|Match of the Year||Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Respect|
30-minute Iron Woman match for the NXT Women's Championship
|Feud of the Year||Charlotte Flair vs. Sasha Banks||2016|
|Inspirational Wrestler of the Year||Bayley|
|Rookie of the Year||Nia Jax|
|Rookie of the Year||Ronda Rousey||2018|
|Most Popular Wrestler of the Year||Becky Lynch||2019|
Miscellaneous contests and tournaments (2001–2005, 2017)
Babe of the Year contest was a contest where fans voted on who was their favorite Diva for that year. Trish Stratus won the inaugural competition in 2001. Stratus had her own mini-site on WWE.com and her photoshoot of choice was a space-type theme. The corresponding mini-site was fittingly named "The Stratusphere". Stratus retained her title until 2004, where Stacy Keibler ended Stratus' reign and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two. In 2005, WWE would host the sole 'Rookie' Diva of the Year contest at No Way Out, where Joy Giovanni defeated Michelle McCool, Lauren Jones, and Rochelle Loewen. Giovanni received more than half of the vote, followed by McCool who got just under 20%, Loewen got just over 10% and Jones received just 6%. The competition was hosted by Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie.
Trish Stratus was named "Diva of the Decade" on a special 10th anniversary episode of Raw on January 14, 2003. The other nominees were Sable, Sunny, Lita, and Chyna. On April 1, 2017, WWE announced a female tournament called the Mae Young Classic as part of a company presentation in which thirty-two women from different countries competed in a exhibition series of matches.
Awards and nominations from other organizations
|2012||Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards||Favorite Buttkicker||Kelly Kelly||Nominated|||
|2018||CBS Sports Professional Wrestling Awards||Wrestler of the Year||Becky Lynch||Won|||
|WWE Match of the Year||Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Asuka (TLC)|
|Rookie of the Year||Ronda Rousey|
|Best Moment of the Year||Becky Lynch attacks Ronda Rousey on Raw|
|2019||MTV Movie & TV Awards||MTV Movie Award for Best Fight||Becky Lynch vs. Ronda Rousey vs. Charlotte Flair – WrestleMania 35||Nominated|||
|ESPYS||Best WWE Moment||Becky Lynch wins Raw and SmackDown Women's titles at the main event of WrestleMania 35|||
|Ronda Rousey wins the Raw Women's title at Summerslam|
This chart lists in chronological order every female wrestler who held more than one title in the company, including male contested titles.
There are two titles under the name WWE Women's Championship. The WWF Women's Championship is descended from the original NWA World Women's Championship of the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA), which is still active today. In 1983, the World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now WWE) disaffiliated with the NWA and recognized then-NWA World Women's Champion The Fabulous Moolah as the promotion's Women's Champion. At It the Night of Champions pay-per-view on September 19, 2010 the Divas Championship would be unified with the WWE Women's Championship, creating the Unified WWE Divas Championship. On April 3, 2016, WWE Hall of Famer Lita appeared during the WrestleMania 32 pre-show to introduced the new WWE Women's Championship and revealed that the Divas Championship would be retired. Although it shares the same name the WWE Women's Championship has a unique title history, separate from WWE's original Women's Championship and the Divas Championship.
Leilani Kai won the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship and the WWF Women's Championship in 1985. In 2009 at The Bash, Michelle McCool defeated Melina to win her first Women's Championship, becoming the first woman to have won both the WWE Divas and Women's championships. AJ Lee became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the WWE Divas Championship. Paige became the first female double champion when she won the WWE Divas Championship in her debut while also being the NXT Women's Champion in 2014.
In 1999, Chyna defeated Jeff Jarrett in his last WWF match at No Mercy, to become the first and only woman to win the Intercontinental Championship. At Starrcade (1999), Alundra Blayze/Madusa pinned Karagias to become the first female ever to win the WCW Cruiserweight Championship. Molly Holly pinned The Hurricane taking the WWE Hardcore Championship from him at WrestleMania X8 on March 17, 2002 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Later that year Trish Stratus won the WWE Hardcore Championship on May 6, pinning Crash Holly. On the May 6, 2004 episode of SmackDown!, WWE Cruiserweight Champion Chavo Guerrero issued an open challenge for anyone to face him for his title, Jacqueline defeated him to become the WWE Cruiserweight Champion.
|Women||WWF/WWE Women's Championship||WWF Women's Tag Team Championship||WWE Divas Championship||FCW Divas Championship||Queen of FCW|
The NXT Women's Championship was introduced on April 5, 2013 and the first NXT Women's Champion was crowned on June 20, 2013 (aired July 24) in the inaugural championship tournament (2013). Following the reintroduction of the brand split in July 2016, the WWE Women's Champion (Charlotte Flair) was drafted to the Raw brand, making the championship exclusive to Raw. In August 2016, the WWE created the SmackDown Women's Championship as a counterpart title and the WWE Women's Championship was subsequently renamed to Raw Women's Championship. On June 18, 2018, the NXT UK Women's Championship was announced for WWE's NXT UK brand. The inaugural NXT UK Women's Champion was crowned in the tournament finals on August 21, 2018 (aired November 28). During the December 24, 2018 Raw episode, WWE Chairman Vince McMahon announced the WWE Women's Tag Team Championship. The inaugural champions were crowned at Elimination Chamber on February 17, 2019, in a tag team Elimination Chamber match, featuring three teams from Raw and three teams from SmackDown, making the titles non-exclusive to either brand.
As of the current WWE system, on April 30, 2017, Alexa Bliss became the first woman in the WWE to hold the women's titles on both brands of WWE. Naomi became the first woman to hold the FCW Divas Championship & the SmackDown Women's Championship. Becky Lynch won both the Raw Women’s Championship and SmackDown Women's Championship in a Winner takes all match at WrestleMania 35, making her a double champion and the only woman to hold both titles simultaneously. Bayley is the first wrestler to have won four current women's championships in WWE history.
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