As WWE and the McMahon family are happy to remind fans at every possible opportunity, women’s pro wrestling is more popular in the United States today than it has ever been before. In one way or another, virtually every female to have worked for the company did something to contribute to this changing reputation, all putting in hard work to finally see their gender represented as much as the men. True equality is still to be seen, yet the females in WWE are nonetheless reaching greater heights than those who came before them could have even imagined.
Well, for the most part, anyway. Unfortunately, talent has not been equally distributed throughout the WWE Universe, and some female wrestlers are much better than others. Thanks to the increased spotlight on women in the squared circle, WWE needs a few bodies to fill up the lower tier slots, and they’ve picked quite a few less than revolutionary women to fill these roles.
Luckily, the good outweighs the bad, but if the weaker wrestlers get too much attention due to their good looks or media presence, the entire women’s revolution could be exposed as a cash-in on changing times, and not a genuine push for equality. Maybe that’s going a bit far, but for now, keep reading to learn about 11 female wrestlers setting the business back and 10 who are doing whatever they can to truly revolutionize it.
21 SETTING IT BACK: Nia Jax
In all fairness, there’s a way to look at a wrestler like Nia Jax and see her as a sign of steady gains in equality. Bigger and stronger than the average female wrestler, Jax is treated like a monster amongst her regular opponents, albeit not in the completely “freak show” attraction manner previous Amazonian women Chyna or Nicole Bass went through. Jax is simply a female Brock Lesnar or Big Show, the giant beast other wrestlers on the roster fear on first glance. Well, in theory, anyway. There’s a huge flaw in the process in that Jax rarely ever wins any matches, and any feuds she has been involved with get forgotten about the second their over. Jax just isn’t that great a performer, either, meaning all the effort is irrelevant when her matches underwhelm and bore any potential fans a so-called “Irresistible Force” should be able to win over.
20 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Sasha Banks
A natural expert at all things sports entertainment, Sasha Banks wasted no time in revolutionizing how female wrestlers could be treated almost from the moment she debuted in NXT. It only took a few short months for the athletic and acrobatic Banks to find her own as “The Boss,” and she hasn’t looked back once since contriving the persona. Immediately, she was recognized as a serious performer, one who would win the NXT Women’s Championship and four Raw Women’s Championships as soon as she got called up to the main roster. Sasha’s daredevil antics in the ring help all woman gain further respect in wrestling on a literally weekly basis, a fact that’s been paid off with multiple high profile main event matches on Raw and Pay-Per-View, making her the first woman to earn that later honor. At this point, it looks like there are no limits to what Banks and women in WWE can do.
19 SETTING IT BACK: Nikki Bella
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The way things are going, it would not be a surprise if Nikki Bella, with or without her twin sister Brie, was the first female of the modern era inducted to the WWE Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, it would be a true shame if that happened, because there are few female wrestlers less apt to define the women’s wrestling revolution than the talentless, personality free Bella Twins. The absolute only reasons Nikki or Brie ever get the spotlight is that they are twins, they have a reality show, and one of them is dating John Cena. Nikki in particular was awarded with a 300-plus day long reign as the WWE Diva’s Champion despite being one of the weakest actual wrestlers on the roster. During this time, she was consistently favored over much better opponents like Paige, AJ Lee, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch, all for no good reason, at least not reasons fans of actual wrestling can understand.
18 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Bayley
Unfortunately, albeit not surprisingly, it could be argued that Bayley deserved to switch sides on this list pretty much the moment she was called up from NXT to the main WWE roster. As many fans predicted, Vince McMahon just doesn’t understand her character in the slightest, and it took him no time flat to ruin it the way only he could. If nothing else, though, fans will always have the memories of Bayley’s work in NXT, where she was arguably the developmental brand’s most popular creation. Bayley’s ultimate optimist “hugger” character identified with just about every young female fan in the WWE Universe, the same way John Cena’s Superman tendency made him a star with almost all male fans. Had WWE utilized her correctly, Bayley could have sent mainstream women’s wrestling into the stratosphere, but as is, we’ll just have to respect the strides she made for her gender when getting her start.
17 SETTING IT BACK: Brie Bella
With Nikki and Brie Bella’s careers in WWE almost entirely hinging on the fact they are moderately attractive twins, it would feel appropriate to simply copy and paste one’s entry on this list into the other. However, not only would that be lazier than a Bella match, but it’s worth pointing out that Brie is an even worse wrestler and on-screen talent than her ever so slightly older twin sister. While Nikki at least tries to look coordinated in the ring, Brie has never put in the effort, knowing she can coast on family relations alone. Appropriately, she’s earned way less acclaim in the ring than Nikki for this reason, only holding one token two month long reign as WWE Diva’s Champion. Nonetheless, she’s acknowledged as one of the top females in the entire industry just because she has a twin and reality show. Just like Nikki, Brie is an example of everything the women’s wrestling revolution is trying to end, and hopefully, the industry is getting closer to passing her ilk by.
16 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Ronda Rousey
In all fairness, this next entry might be jumping the gun just a little bit. Technically speaking, Ronda Rousey hasn’t really done anything as a WWE superstar aside from “point at the sign” yet, and there’s no particular indication either way if she’ll change history when her career takes off. However, the very fact a former UFC megastar would choose to leave the MMA octagon for Vince McMahon’s squared circle is revolutionary in and of itself. Just imagine what things would be like if Rousey had to make this choice some 20 years ago, when bra and panties matches were the norm for the WWE Women’s Championship—no way a fighter with self-respect would actually make that move. In today’s wrestling landscape, though, it’s a totally logical decision, and one that could benefit the entire roster through the attention Rousey brings.
15 SETTING IT BACK: Kelly Kelly
A gorgeous blonde model actually named Barbie Blank, chances are Kelly Kelly was offered a job with WWE for life the second Vince McMahon laid eyes on her. That’s the only explanation for how she spent almost a decade in the company in confusingly high status roles, including a brief stint as Diva’s Champion. Unfortunately, no matter how much spotlight or attention Kelly received, she never improved in the ring or even reached a level that could be considered competent. When she makes a token return today and gets treated like a legend of yesteryear, all it does is remind fans how dire the women’s roster was for many years, so devoid of talent that Kelly was relied on as a top star. Quite frankly, Kelly’s the sort of former WWE diva that should be forgotten, not brought back at random to draw a flat, undeserved pop.
14 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Piper Niven
One look at Piper Niven makes it clear she’s not like the other women in wrestling. Don’t let her plus-sized appearance fool you, though, because the woman who also goes by Viper on the independent scene is a far cry from the insulting caricature that was Bertha Faye. In every way imaginable, Niven strives to prove her size and appearance don’t define her, delivering performances with incredible energy fans don’t expect her to possess. It would be reasonable to worry Vince McMahon would do the same thing to Niven that he once did to Monster Ripper, but her efforts in the Mae Young Classic tournament suggest she won’t be insulted as she etches her dominant and unique place in wrestling history. Of course, it also looks like WWE has yet to offer her a full time contract since then, so she may have a way to go in proving her point that size doesn’t matter.
13 SETTING IT BACK: Tamina Snuka
With all due respect, Tamina Snuka has been in WWE almost a full decade now, and her most significant moment in professional wrestling thus far was appearing in a picture holding her father’s hand as he died. Considering that man was WWE Hall of Famer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who had recently been charged with a decades old murder, it wasn’t even that much of a “moment,” with many WWE fans going so far as to boo the tribute package said image capped off. Aside from that, not to mention an entire career based on her last name, Tamina Snuka hasn’t really done anything of note in wrestling. She’s stood by a few more famous women while they did stuff, and she’s worn a menacing growl or two that suggests she could do something if asked, but she never does it. There are no Women’s Championships in her past, let alone any memorable matches or feuds, making it over abundantly clear she was a pure nepotism hire. Obviously, both male and female WWE talent should strive to be more.
12 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Ember Moon
At this point, calling whoever holds the championships down in NXT revolutionary is merely a formality. For all the problems on the main roster, when WWE designates a developmental talent as a future star, they’re rarely off the mark, and NXT Women’s Champion Ember Moon is no different from the others. Not that she necessarily needed the title for fans to realize this, as she was destined for greatness the moment she debuted her devastating Total Eclipse. Moon’s rise has been gradual since then, culminating with her big championship victory, defeating three of her top competitors in a single fatal four way match. Once the company decides she’s ready for the main roster, there’s no doubt she’ll continue to shine brighter than the moon, with her unique presence revolutionizing women’s wrestling each time she hits the ring. Unless, of course, Vince McMahon somehow messes it up like he did with Bayley, which is always a sad possibility.
11 SETTING IT BACK: Alicia Fox
Believe it or not, Alicia Fox is one of the longest tenured female wrestlers in WWE history. The self-proclaimed Foxy Floridian made her debut 10 full years ago in 2008, as the wedding planner of Edge and Vickie Guerrero. She quickly moved into the ring and spent the next decade as a regular performer, albeit without finding all that much success in doing so. All Fox has to show for her long stint in the company is a short reign as WWE Diva’s Champion, an issue the promotion won’t even bring up since that title has been retired. Aside from the few times she becomes an unlikely title contender, Fox doesn’t even participate in feuds of note, completely content on being a side character without any true impact. Quite frankly, it’s like the only reason she still has a job is her status as a longstanding cast member on Total Divas.
10 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Becky Lynch
If this list is starting to feel a little long, that’s because it is, as one thing about the women’s wrestling revolution that could be called both a positive and negative at once is that more female wrestlers than ever are getting employed in the first place. A downside of this is that some incredibly talented women are getting lost in the shuffle, which could perhaps be said about Becky Lynch. The Irish Lasskicker has had her fair share of standout matches against fellow revolutionaries like Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss, but for whatever reason, she hasn’t entertained quite as many Raw or SmackDown Women’s Championship reigns as her greatest rivals. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Lynch from occasionally putting in better performances than any of them. In any event, that Lynch could have this sort of reputation as a talented also ran is a testament to the era, as a woman of her talents would have been impossible to overlook in an era with less female stars.
9 SETTING IT BACK: Carmella
It’s been about seven months since Carmella won the first female Money in the Bank ladder match, a feat which arguably should have landed her on the other half of this list on it’s own. Unfortunately, the self-proclaimed Princess of Staten Island has done nothing of note with her briefcase, and the only threat either WWE Women’s Champions have had related to her cashing in is that the resulting match probably wouldn’t be that good. Carmella hasn’t even given a solid threatening promo to try and change this reputation, playing games with James Ellsworth for months before being left with almost nothing to do after he was fired. Not that we want her in the ring, of course, because as stated, she didn’t have any particular talent in that regard. Chances are WWE is just keeping her around hoping she’ll one day be good enough to cash in that briefcase, and when doing so inevitably results in failure, this Princess may need to look for another castle.
8 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Alexa Bliss
If looks could kill, Alexa Bliss would be the first woman to win both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Champion. Considering that’s exactly what she is, one might first shake their heads and assume WWE is pushing Little Miss Bliss simply for her beauty, but that isn’t all we meant with that opening sentence. The superstar representing Five Feet of Fury also possesses a uniquely expressive face, which has made her one of the best actresses on the current roster. She’s also pretty great in the ring, able to back up her vicious glares with equally powerful kicks, chops, and skull crushing DDTs. In a certain respect, Bliss is emblematic of the entire women’s revolution, as she debuted as mere eye candy, standing in Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy’s corner while all three were in NXT. Because of her incredible growth, Bliss is now the face of a movement she helped define, and no one would ever dare claim she got there simply because of her body.
7 SETTING IT BACK: Dana Brooke
Thanks to a background in gymnastics and bodybuilding, Dana Brooke has the sort of physique that likely made her an instant hit with Vince McMahon. Unfortunately, as has often been the case with male muscle heads throughout WWE history, having larger than usual biceps hasn’t translated to Brooke being all that good in the ring. Unlike some of the lesser women in wrestling today who simply don’t do anything noteworthy, Brooke repeatedly gets pushed into top level feuds against the best female wrestlers in the world today only to drag them down to her level. There’s a reason WWE hasn’t rewarded Brooke with any titles despite McMahon clearly favoring her, and it’s that she would never look like a believable champion with her lackluster skills as an actual wrestler. While McMahon overlooking a woman’s lack of ring skills due to her physique is a weird form of equality in his warped way, it’s nonetheless a step in the wrong direction.
6 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Charlotte Flair
In the eyes of legendary wrestler “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, his daughter Charlotte Flair has already eclipsed him. That may be a slight stretch bolstered by fatherly pride, but there’s nonetheless a point to what Flair is saying insofar as the women’s wrestling revolution is concerned. Sure, Ric Flair was a fantastic wrestler who few could ever live up to inside the squared circle, but he didn’t change the business for half of the population. By being one of the first females to main event WWE Pay-Per-Views on a regular basis, the Nature Boy’s daughter is doing exactly that, opening doors for women who aspire to be wrestlers everywhere. While the first few years of Charlotte’s career could be called flawed for being cast under her father’s shadow, at this point, she’s entirely her own being, and considering his legend, to break out of it was revolutionary in and of itself.
5 SETTING IT BACK: Dulce Maria García Rivas
Was this list being written just a few months ago, there’s a good chance Dulce Maria García Rivas aka Sexy Star could have wound up on the positive half of it. Star’s uniquely feminist character has been a huge hit in Lucha Underground since the series made its debut, leading her to a brief reign as the company’s only female Lucha Underground Champion. She’s been similarly successful throughout her native Mexico, particularly in the AAA promotion, where she was once the Reina de Reinas Champion. Unfortunately, it all came crumbling down at Triple Mania XXV, when Sexy Star went into business for herself and started legitimately attacking her opponents. Though she “won her match” after breaking Rosemary’s arm for no reason, Star was essentially blackballed from the industry for breaking tradition and genuinely trying to injure her coworkers without explanation. Not only did she set back women in wrestling, but her callous and inconsiderate actions set back the industry in general. Luckily, just about everyone called her out for it, preventing the damage from spreading.
4 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Asuka
With the longest undefeated streak in professional wrestling history still ongoing, Asuka isn’t just revolutionizing wrestling for women, she’s changing the sport for everybody. From this day forward, a sports entertainer can’t truly be called a monster until they come somewhere near the Empress of Tomorrow’s reign, which sits somewhere around 510 days without facing a single pin fall or submission loss. Making matters more impressive, unlike previous undefeated monsters like Goldberg or Sid Vicious, Asuka isn’t just known for her knockout punch. Each time she steps into the ring, fans are basically guaranteed an incredible borderline classic match, where she and her opponent will take one another to their physical limits in unique and innovative ways. As if Asuka’s success thus far wasn’t enough, she also deserves notice for having won the first ever women’s Royal Rumble, a feat that would have made her revolutionary in and of itself.
3 SETTING IT BACK: Naomi
When two time SmackDown Women’s Champion Naomi made her debut, she was merely a dancing Funkadactyl following Brodus Clay down to the ring. It’s not like that role was going to revolutionize women’s wrestling, but on the plus side, it pretty much lined up with Naomi’s talent level. Today, Naomi has evolved to a top level superstar asking fans to “feel the glow,” which is presumably the state one has to be in to actually enjoy one of her performances. Unlike some of her contemporaries, Naomi is slow and uncoordinated in the ring, and she offers nothing of note on the microphone, either. Any top feud contested over the SmackDown Women’s Championship was dominated by her rival, leaving fans confused and a little annoyed whenever she successfully defended it. Hopefully, Naomi’s glow will run out of batteries soon, because the glare is overpowering better pieces of the revolution.
2 TRULY REVOLUTIONARY: Stephanie McMahon
This entire list has been dedicated to the greatest female wrestlers in the world today, and the incredible work they put into their performances each time they step in the ring. Everyone named on this list, even on the negative side, deserves credit for doing their best to represent their gender in sports entertainment, because each of them truly plays a role in the ongoing wrestling revolution it’s all about. That said, it could be argued the most important cog in the entire ordeal isn’t an active wrestler, but rather their boss, Stephanie McMahon, doing everything she can to make sure women are represented behind the scenes in addition to their presence on television. Actually, that might be a little backwards, as it’s Stephanie’s presence backstage that ensures her gender is getting so much TV time. There’s no way Vince McMahon would have given his female employees all this attention without his daughter forcing him to, but now that she’s done so, there’s no turning back, nor is there a limit to what these women could accomplish.
1 SETTING IT BACK: Stephanie McMahon
All right, so this might be a little confusing. As we just explained, from an executive standpoint, no one in sports entertainment is doing more to increase the presence of women in WWE than Stephanie McMahon. However, when it comes to Stephanie’s onscreen appearances, she couldn’t possibly be doing more to stifle her own efforts in this regard. No matter what the scenario, when women are on WWE television, Stephanie is given all the credit for everything they do. Lita retired the Diva’s Championship and brought back the Women’s Championship? Great work, Stephanie. Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair just main evented a Pay-Per-View? Thank you, Stephanie. Asuka made history at the first women’s Royal Rumble? Way to go, Stephanie, you really earned that one. Look, we get that behind the scenes, Stephanie really is somewhat responsible for these things. However, from an onscreen perspective, the women in the ring need to get the credit for it, otherwise the entire movement will blow up in WWE’s face when fans start to feel like the actual wrestlers don’t matter. And we really will have Stephanie to thank for that.