Anyone who has consistently watched the television product the WWE has put out in the last several years would be able to tell you that lately, something has changed. A company that previously referred to all of their female wrestlers as Divas, it is now in the midst of a movement to take them as seriously as they deserve to be. While the results are mixed, considering the female talent is still not pushed to the same degree as the men, there is little doubt that things have vastly improved for female wrestlers of late. That said, it would be a miscarriage of justice to pretend like the group of women who wrestled under the name of Divas weren’t multifaceted and did not run the gamut. That is what inspired us to put together this list, where we look at the best of the best and the worst of the worst of that era.
While the term Diva began to be used in the WWE in the nineties, we’ve chosen to narrow our view a little, as in that era they still sought to win the women’s championship. Instead, we only considered women who were part of the roster after January 1st, 2008 and before April 3rd, 2016. The reason for those dates is the WWE introduced the Divas Championship in 2008 and retired it April 3rd, 2016.
15 Bad Name: Brie Bella
One-half of the Bella twins, Brie, and her twin sister have had a long tenure as part of the WWE. Starting out her WWE career as a contestant on a “reality show” segment, they weren’t chosen to actually compete in the Divas search but that didn’t stop them from getting an opportunity. Used as arm candy for celebrity hosts for an extended period of time, Brie has managed the impressive feat of going from the bottom of the division to the top of it. A former Divas Champion and winner of the Diva of the Year Slammy award, which she shared with her sister, it may seem like she has been among the WWE’s strongest Divas.
There is some truth to that but she still deserves to be a part of this list on the negative side for a couple of reasons. First off, while she definitely improved from an in-ring perspective her forward momentum seemed to completely stagnate after her run as champ. In fact, she spent the final months of her career depending on the good will her husband won as evidenced by her constant use of his moves and the yes motion because she wasn’t good enough to get herself over. However, her real issue was as a character due to her incredibly stilted delivery of scripted lines and her inability to come off remotely believable. Case in point, her feud with her sister and Stephanie McMahon was so atrocious that midstream they reunited the twins out of nowhere to be rid of it.
14 Proud: Natalya
As great as Natalya should feel that she routinely ends up on lists like this one of the best WWE female wrestlers, her placement here is actually kind of a shame. You may be wondering what we mean considering we’re saying she is one of the best WWE Divas but stick with us here. Nattie is a member of the Hart family and has all the wrestling ability in the world. Considering how good she actually is at what she does, it is nothing short of sad that she isn’t even closer to the top slot because she is that good. Every strike, maneuver or move she unleashes on her opponent is crisp and looks painful. Every match she is involved with is far better for her inclusion and if the WWE would just realize how great she is and gave her a no-nonsense kick-ass character, she could be even greater than she already is.
13 Bad Name: Jillian Hall
You know it isn’t a great sign of how your career is going to go when you make your debut with a huge, incredibly fake looking, growth on the side of your face. Given one horrible character trait after another, on top of the ridiculous thing on her face, someone in the back thought it would be great if they made her character deluded. Coming out to the ring each night and boasting that she was a great singer, she would then purposefully sing in the most annoying and shrill manner possible which someone thought was entertaining. Had she not been hindered by these atrocious creative decisions there is no telling how different her career could have gone but that didn’t happen and she has to be included here because of it.
12 Proud: Becky Lynch
One of a trio of women who were brought up to the main roster just before the move was made to drop the term Diva, hopefully, for good, Becky was the forgotten member of the group for a while. Standing alongside two women who were instantly immensely popular and given a huge spotlight, it was understandable that she briefly fell by the wayside but it is not an indication of her skills. Easily capable of connecting with a crowd due to her fun-loving persona, once she was separated from her fellow former Four Horsewomen she has become the face of the Smackdown Women’s Division. It isn’t just anyone that the WWE trusts to focus an entire segment of their card around and it should speak loudly about the level of skill Becky has that she is in such a role at all.
11 Bad Name: Cameron
When Cameron was released by the WWE she was down in developmental trying to hone her skills further and if the stories told on Total Divas have any truth to them it was her decision to do so. Never given a chance to unveil how much she’d improved on the main roster, we weren’t given the opportunity to see what she could have done. Maybe she’d have been great if he’d been brought back to the main television product.
That said, her run prior to that was awful. Introduced as a contestant on Tough Enough, where she said her favorite match ever was between Melina and Alicia Foxx, she was the first eliminated from the competition. Somehow still the only one to make it to the main roster, she spent the majority of her run dancing her way to the ring and standing outside of it. Eventually given a run as a wrestler, she had her second unforgettable moment when she tried to pin Naomi who was lying with her stomach down. Clearly someone with little to no awareness in the ring at the time, her career is highlighted by laughable moments so despite her efforts to improve she finds herself here.
10 Proud: Sasha Banks
The WWE is a company that has been around in one form another for decades on end and ever since the first WrestleMania they have depended on big events to make a lot of money. In the history of these cards, either closed circuit or Pay-Per-Views before the current network events concept, every single show ended with a match between men in the middle of the ring. That is, until Hell in a Cell 2016 which ended with a match between Sasha and another performer yet to come on this list. If that doesn’t speak volumes far greater than we ever could of the transcendent ability of Sasha’s skills we don’t know what could.
9 Bad Name: Ashley Massaro
When Ashley Massaro competed in the 2005 Divas Search she did pretty much everything right. Excellent at coming off real, she made a nearly instant connection with the fans and seemed poised to be a favorite for years to come. Oh, how wrong any who thought that, us included, was. Someone who seemed to have two left feet, her matches came off like you were watching a gangly teen who’d just undergone a growth spurt and had no idea how to use their body. Whatever the reason was for her lack of coordination, one thing is clear, the WWE didn’t miss her in the slightest after her departure as she has been all but forgotten since.
8 Proud: Charlotte
You may think that it is a no-brainer that the daughter of Ric Flair, a man who is in the running for best wrestler of all time, would be great in the ring but you’d be wrong. Looking at the history of children of the greats getting in the ring, it was far from a certainty she’d excel. Thankfully for her and us viewers, Charlotte has clearly worked tirelessly to turn herself into a wrestling machine just like dear old dad. Athletic and constantly improving on the mic, it is simply incredible to consider that she first stepped into the ring as a trainee in 2012, as her ability far exceeds what we’d expect her tenure to allow. The final Divas Champion and the first modern person to be named Women’s Champion, there is nobody more fitting to be the symbol of the change in perception the division has undergone.
7 Bad Name: Eva Marie
There is no question about it; there is a large portion of the WWE audience that absolutely abhors all things, Eva Marie. Hired by the company in 2013, in order to add a rookie to their “reality show” Total Divas, she was thrust into matches on Raw that her skill level should have disqualified her from. Absolutely atrocious in them, she messed up moves left and right and any fan worth their salt was worried for the safety of those in the ring with her. In her defense, she never should have been put in that position. Eventually sent down to NXT to get some training, there is no question she has improved since but that isn’t saying very much considering how awful she was at the start. Still early in her career, she could improve vastly but since her last Smackdown run has hit the skids we can only look at her body of her workso far and include her on this list.
6 Proud: Mickie James
Someone who recently appeared on a WWE show for the first time since 2010, an NXT event, it was clear that she hadn’t missed a step as she looked marvelous across the ring from Asuka. When she debuted years earlier as an obsessed stalker of Trish Stratus’ character, it was a storyline unlike any WWE fans had seen two women take part in before. Going on to be one of the most beloved stories among the internet crowd, their talking segments were compelling and their matches were among the best women have had in company history. Even though Mickie wasn’t always given the right amount of respect from the WWE, the Piggie James storyline, for instance, she was great in whatever role she was cast in.
5 Bad Name: Aksana
What the hell is wrong with a wrestler who would make the decision to drop their knee directly onto the eye of their competitor? It is a time-honored tradition in the wrestling business to do everything you can to protect the person you share the ring with, which makes sense considering you are trusting your body to one another. When Aksana’ knee hit Naomi right to the eye as she lay on the mat and could do nothing to defend herself, as she had no to see the “move” coming, it was an egregious action. Additionally awkward in the ring during her other bouts, the WWE should be embarrassed that they put people in the ring with her at all.
4 Proud: Paige
From an outsiders perspective, it currently looks like the relationship between Paige and the WWE is frosty at best. Currently out of action due to an injury, since her last match she has been suspended due to wellness policy infractions twice, things aren’t looking good.
However, when times were better she was one of the best performers the WWE had on their roster no matter the gender. The first ever NXT Women’s Champion, when the WWE made the decision to call her up to the main brand, they gave her the Divas Championship on her first night out. A move that has squashed other performers who won a belt on the night they debuted, Paige flourished impressively and became the focus of the entire division. A former two-time Divas Champion, when the decision was made to take women’s wrestling more seriously in the WWE it revolved the so-called “Divas Revolution” around her character. We can’t really say much more than that aside from the fact we sincerely hope her best days in the company are in front of her.
3 Bad Name: Rosa Mendes
Rosa Mendes is a beautiful woman and it is abundantly clear that is the reason she was given a WWE contract given that she had zero wrestling skills when hired. Given a contract all the way back in 2006, it is crazy to contemplate that she has been signed to the biggest wrestling company in the world for a decade at this point.
Mostly used as a manager, she has accompanied people like Primo and Epico or Fandango to the ring but in every case where she began to accompany a performer to the ring they floundered. Given a bit of a push as an in-ring competitor as recently as 2015, her matches came off as plodding and slow which one could write off to the fact that the WWE has barely used her in that role. However, that is letting her off way too way when you consider the fact that she has been gainfully employed by a wrestling company for years and should have been working hard to improve. Bad as an interviewer in the back on top of as a manager and in the ring, other than looking good she is bad at all things wrestling.
2 Proud: AJ Lee
When AJ walked away from the WWE in 2015 it was a sad day for wrestling fans all over the world. Adept at any role she was put in, her manic character worked to perfection as both a villain and hero inside the ring. Also great in storylines that called for her to play the love interest of many male wrestlers on top of when she was the General Manager of Raw, we feel confident that nearly anything she did would become gold. A former three-time Divas Champion, she was actually able to make that horrendous butterfly belt look good because when she held it she made us see it as the most coveted prize in women’s wrestling. So passionate about her art that she got tattoos to commemorate her title wins, she should have been a stalwart of the industry. If only things hadn’t gotten so frosty between the company that employed her and her husband.
1 Bad Name: Kelly Kelly
One of the biggest indications that you are not good at your craft, if you are a wrestler, is an inability to do maneuvers that are incorporated into every match. For instance, if you watch any of Kelly Kelly’s matches it becomes impossible to ignore how horribly she ran the ropes once it dawns on you. Never running full force, as she needed to, it was a stilted process for her to hit the ropes that took away from the reality of the match and is liable to make wrestling fans cringe. The epitome of what was wrong at times with the way the WWE recruited female performers for an extended period of time, she never had the skills needed to call herself a wrestler. A former Divas Champion, it is an embarrassment to the legacy of that title and era that there was a time in which she was pushed as the flag bearer of WWE’s women wrestlers.