A list like this is always tricky. Whenever you try to do rankings of anything in wrestling, you’ll hit major resistance as everyone has their own criteria on who can be “the best” more than others. Favoritism is easy to come by but in some cases, basic facts can point to a lot in how some folks are better than others in many regards. When it comes to the women of WWE, it’s no secret the company goes for looks more than in-ring talent in who gets a push or not. It has gotten better in recent years with NXT boosting the company majorly with truly fantastic female workers who look great but also give excellent matches. Still, some ladies clearly got the title just off their appearances and didn’t really deserve it as workers.
With two titles around, the company has seen a lot of ladies hold the belt, some a lot better than others. They’ve been consolidated but once more split for each brand and focused more on some top in-ring talent but still focus on looks a lot. It’s not just in-ring talent that ranks high, it’s their impact and how much they shifted things up. So, as daunting a task as it may be, here are the 43 who have held either Divas or Women’s titles in WWE and how they helped shift female wrestling for the company.
This is almost embarrassing to have to write about. In 1999, WWE was looking to make women’s wrestling a thing again, various workers rising like Ivory and Jacqueline with others such as Chyna, although she wasn’t wrestling women. But among these female workers was “Hervina,” a blonde who was quite obviously long-time wimpy heel manager Harvey Wippleman. For who knows what reason, WWE had him and The Kat go at it in a “Lumberjill Snow Bunny Match” which had them in a snow-filled pool surrounded by other wrestlers. To call it a bad match is to cut it a break, utterly horrible to watch as “Hervina” got the title.
He lost it the next night in less than a minute to Jacqueline and thankfully faded from the scene fast. No wonder he has to rank dead last in any list of the worst “female” champions.
42. Jillian Hall
It looked like Hall was going to do well in WWE as her training in OVW had her become a fan favorite and then a psycho after plastic surgery. In WWE, she came out as MNM’s s assistant with the gimmick of a horrible facial growth. She worked with JBL with a segment of The Boogeyman “eating” the growth off her face. Hall then moved to the character of an atrocious singer to drive fans crazy while getting into various feuds.
In October of 2009, Hall upset Eve Torres to win the Divas title only for guest host Nancy O’Dell to announce the return of Melina who then beat Hall for the belt. Thus, Hall’s entire reign as champ was barely three minutes, barely a blip in the ranks. She left in 2010 and while her bad singing gimmick had its fans, her run as a champion was truly forgettable.
41. The Kat
Stacy Carter was the wife of Jerry Lawler who he wanted to get into WWE just so they could work together. She started off as “Miss Kitty,” assistant to Debra and Jeff Jarrett. When Jarrett left, Kitty moved to working with Chyna, even dressing like her with a black wig. She wrote herself into infamy in 1999 when she won the Women’s title in a four-way match and then stripped off her bra on live TV. Now named The Kat, Carter defended the belt in matches that included her wearing only bubble wrap.
She lost the belt to Hervina and moved to a quirky gal forced to be with The Right to Censor. She was released in 2001 with word of bad behavior and Lawler quitting to go with her only to later find out she was cheating on him. Thus, her nutty behavior is more famous than her time in the ring.
Originally the wife of Chicago Bears star Steve McMichael, Debra came to WCW as his helper in the Four Horsemen, notable for her beauty tiaras and gowns and an arrogant attitude (which, according to many, wasn’t far from the truth). After divorcing McMichael, Debra went to WWE where she became the valet for Jeff Jarrett and Owen Hart in their tag title run and with Jarrett as IC champion. She and Sable went at it in a Women’s title Evening Gown match where Debra was stripped to her underwear. Referee Shawn Michaels declared that because Debra looked better than Sable, she won the title. This was a send-off to Sable leaving the company and Debra basically did nothing as champion, holding the title just weeks before losing it to Ivory. Her rough attitude rubbed many the wrong way and her “win” was among the bigger jokes in WWE history.
39. Brie Bella
The Bella Twins are easily among the biggest female faces of WWE yet it’s their outside fame rather than their in-ring work that’s led to their push. Both gorgeous, the Bellas got their pushes on their looks in various Divas antics and matches, using their “Twin Magic” to win matches and flaunting their beauty. Brie was the first to hold gold by winning the Divas title in 2011. Her run was short and they left in 2012 before returning in time for “Total Divas” to air. Brie would gain a bit of infamy there as her hard-partying ways put “Brie Mode” in the urban dictionary.
Their feud with each other was horrible although Nikki would turn into a surprisingly long-lasting champion. Brie has settled into semi-retirement, raising a child with Daniel Bryan and thus she’s the half of the Bellas who rank low on this list.
As a bodybuilder, Kaitlyn had the ingredients to be a decent worker in WWE. They seemed to think so as they signed her to FCW under some ring names like Celeste and Ricki Vaughn. Moving to NXT, she got over with some nice humor, like the classic bit of impersonating Vickie Guerrero for Halloween and seducing Dolph Ziggler. Various matches showed decent ring work but not that impressive and her work as Booker T’s “assistant” on SmackDown didn’t win folks over either. In 2013, she won the Divas title in her hometown of Houston and held it nearly four months before losing it to AJ Lee. She left suddenly in 2014 to run her own business and while her humor was a nice bit, Kaitlyn’s impact as a champion was barely noticeable.
37. Leilani Kai
Actually from Florida, Kai was given the “hometown” of Honolulu because of her exotic looks. Trained by The Fabulous Moolah, Kai was given a major push when the “Rock n Wrestling Connection” took off in 1984. When Wendi Richter ended Moolah’s record title reign, Moolah introduced Kai as her “protégée” to get revenge. At the “War to Settle the Score” event, Kai beat Richter to win the title. Just a month later, she lost the belt at the very first WrestleMania and thus was a “placeholder” champion.
Kai later joined with Judy Martin to form The Glamour Girls, an effective team who won the Women’s tag titles and had a memorable feud with the Jumping Bomb Angels. She made a return to WWE at WrestleMania X to challenge Alundra Blayze and hung around the indie circuit. While her time as champion was short, she does rank among the better female workers of her time who could still go a long way past her prime.
36. Velvet McIntyre
The late 1980s were an odd time for female wrestlers in WWE. Just as it seemed like the division was taking off with Wendi Richter, Richter had her major falling out with Vince McMahon and left the company under a cloud. This soured Vince on women’s wrestling, so he began pushing it aside. McIntyre had been born in Ireland and wrestled in Canada, showing her stuff with a nice high flying style and even holding the WWE Women’s tag title. McIntyre got attention by challenging The Fabulous Moolah for the belt at WrestleMania II and lost.
But in the summer of 1986, in a tour of Australia, McIntyre beat Moolah for the belt. Just a week later, Moolah regained it and would cite McIntyre as one of the best female worker she’d ever fought. McIntyre stuck around WWE until 1990 but when they basically gave up on the entire division, she left for the indie circuit. Her impact was low which is a shame as in another time, she’d have done much better.
35. Kelly Kelly
It was obvious why Kelly was hired by WWE. With her blonde hair, bright smile and killer body, the former Hawaiian Tropic model was just the eye candy the company loved to show off. In ECW, she got the gimmick of always stripping for ratings and fired up fans more. Her matches tended to be that of the swimsuit competition and bikini contest variety and her energy was infectious to fans, although you can hardly say she was a top worker. Yet because of her looks and that fan heat, WWE pushed her more, including beating Brie Bella in 2011 for the Divas title. Her reign was about three and a half months and she handled surprisingly well in a feud with Beth Phoenix although her matches were still hardly that great. Kelly left the company suddenly in 2012 and her body of work may not be epic championship material but is still something to watch.
34. Stephanie McMahon
If this list was ranking the most powerful women in wrestling, Stephanie would be near the top. It’s remarkable how she went from the innocent daughter of Vince to a brilliant heel and also a top executive. Smart and cunning, Stephanie threw herself into being the “Billion Dollar Princess” with Triple H and loved how fans hated her. She basically cheated her way to win the Women’s title in late 1999 and flaunted the belt more than really defending it. Like her father, Stephanie wasn’t the best in-ring worker but was able to handle herself while riling up the crowds with her mic work. Her defenses were few but still against big stars before losing it to Lita thanks to special referee The Rock. Her time as champion didn’t make a huge impact but Stephanie’s mark on the company is far greater in many ways.
Starting off as Miss Texas in USWA, Jacqueline was a valet but impressed by getting into fights for her clients and getting her head shaved. She was soon the female star of the promotion, holding their Women’s title 14 times with a great power style. After a brief WCW stint, Jacqueline came to WWE to feud with Sable and win the newly reactivated Women’s title. She lost it to Sable and later joined the Pretty Mean Sisters group and later regained the belt for another good run.
She faded into the background a bit in various feuds but still showcased a great style and outgoing personality to make herself a top worker for the company. She helped usher in the new era of Divas and for that Jacqueline should be well remembered.
32. Alicia Fox
It’s interesting to see the early characters many of the Divas have been given. In Fox’s case, she was the “wedding planner” for the nuptials of Vickie Guerrero and Edge and caused them to split up with Edge kissing Fox. After some work as a face in ECW, Fox returned to the role of a heel with a strange bit where she and Maria shot footage to set up a feud but it never made it to air due to time constraints. With her hot build and cheerleader background, Fox handled many of the antics of Diva costume battles but also had some decent ring work. She won the belt off of Maryse in a four-way match and held it almost two months before losing it to Eve Torres. Since then, Fox has bounced in various storylines and turns, nothing too notable but remains one of the better Divas to delight fans with hot outfits, if not ring work.
31. Alexa Bliss
It’s still early but Bliss is already making roads to being one of the future female stars of the company. She credited bodybuilding with helping her overcome an eating disorder and giving her the best chance to succeed in athletics. After training, she got a push in NXT, was a part of their Women’s title tournament and showed great skill at being an arrogant heel. Her ring work improved with her tough style, as she was not above some rough ring work and looked great with her wicked smirk and outfits.
It paid off on SmackDown as she upset Becky Lynch for the SmackDown Women’s title (pushed by Lynch’s injury) and is currently holding it. She’s the newest lady on this list but if she improves with time, her ranking among the best may end up being much higher.
30. Eve Torres
A former cheerleader and model, Torres easily won the 2007 Divas Search and fans enjoyed her body in various bikinis. However, Torres soon showcased improvement when pushed for matches, feuding with Maryse and showcasing an athletic style to go with her moves. She also worked comic elements in with some fun dancing to get fans going and her easygoing manner won folks over as well. Her runs as Divas champion were good, showcasing some top feuds and while her body got attention, Torres did well in matches too to keep fans going and was a winner on the mic.
Her later runs included an authority figure type and a heel turn, betraying Zack Ryder. She retired in 2012 and settled into motherhood but Torres showed a great run as Divas champion to liven the belt up.
29. Bertha Faye
As a kid, Rhonda Singh loved wrestling, even asking the Harts for training but was turned down due to her gender. Trained by the legendary Mildred Burke, Singh soon took off in Japan, her bulk and size hiding a true skill in the ring and was set up as a great monster worker. She had a good run in Stampede Wrestling and was their first Women’s champion. When she was signed to WWE in 1995, fans expected her to rip through as a beast. Leave it to WWE to slap her with the character of Bertha Faye, a “trailer trash” gal and emphasize less of the power moves that made her a star. She beat Alundra Blayze for the Women’s title at SummerSlam but lost it two months later and her hate of the company’s ways led to her release. In terms of wrestling, she was a great women’s star of her time and it’s a shame WWE’s treatment of her lessened the impact of her title run.
28. Rockin Robin
Robin Denise Smith was the sister of Sam Houston and half-sister of Jake Roberts so she took well to wrestling. She got her start in the Wild West Wrestling promotion in the late 1980s and when WWE decided to revive their Women’s division in 1987, she was signed on. She was part of the Women’s match at the very first Survivor Series and her high-flying ways got the attention of fans. In October of 1988, she beat Sherri Martel for the Women’s title but her reign was marred by how WWE basically began phasing women’s wrestling out. It’s a shame as she had great talent in the ring and in a different time, would have been a sensational star. As it was, Robin was the last holder of the original Women’s title when it was phased out in 1990 and in fact, still possesses that belt. A great star that deserved a lot better, Robin flew high as a champion.
Born in England, Paige got her start in the various European promotions and showed an early grasp of the game. She had a good style with her lush black hair and a goth appearance and enjoyed learning the craft. After winning numerous titles in Germany and England, Paige got the push in FCW and then NXT to win their first Women’s title. Her debut in 2014 on RAW was huge, winning the belt in an impromptu match over AJ Lee at only 21 years old. Her matches were good although there was criticism over WWE for not developing her character better.
It helped when she turned heel and fought in various battles against Lee and others, helping with Team PCB and a push via “Total Divas” to show she was still getting into her prime. Today, Paige is in hot water over breaking the wellness policy and other antics but should she return full-time, expect more from a fine worker who helped lead the NXT Women’s revolution.
Her early years included being part of the infamous Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling promotion where she got into the wild stuff early. Ivory started in WWE as one of The Godfather’s “hos” and then the love interest of Mark Henry. Ivory was soon impressing by keeping to wrestling stuff, not just the usual Divas antics and her hardcore match with Tori was impressive as she held the belt for a good run. She later joined the Right to Censor, a top heel with another reign as champion and emphasizing actual ring skills over looking hot in a bikini. She also did time as a trainer on “Tough Enough” that showed her smarts with the ring and why she was among the more underrated ladies in the company.
She would have some decent runs later but was hampered by politics and an injury despite looking as hot as some of the other Divas around. Her run may not have been as huge as others but Ivory preferred to make her impact in the ring rather than on just looks.
With her great physique and strength, it was no wonder this lady got a major push in WWE. She started off in the last years of ECW working with the Impact Players and showing she could get into a fight with any of the guys. In WWE, she was pushed, beating Trish Stratus for the Women’s title and holding it several months, including a successful defense in a Triple Threat match at WrestleMania. Technically, she is the first ‘WWE’ Women’s champion as the company changed its name in 2002 and it took a torn ACL for her to finally drop the belt.
She regained it later for another good run, but further injuries forced her to eventually leave the company in 2004. She had time on the indie circuit but her amazing power moves showed that the Divas didn’t need to be super-models to get over and she was among the stronger champions to hold the belt.
24. Gail Kim
In terms of wrestling ability, she should rank much higher but her actual tenure in WWE puts her surprisingly low on the list. The gorgeous Canadian of Korean descent caught the eyes of scouts thanks to her work in Canadian promotions. Hired in 2003, she was pushed from the start by winning a battle royal for the Women’s title in her debut. She held it for just a month before losing it and a heel turn sparked her a bit but an injury held her back.
She was released in 2005 and moved onto TNA where she quickly became the star of the Knockouts division, holding their title multiple times. A return to WWE in 2008 had some promise but ultimately went nowhere and Kim returned to TNA to make her impact bigger. So while in wrestling terms, she’s one of the best, Kim’s time as a WWE champion makes her rank a lot lower than she should be on this list.
As a former Hawaiian Tropic model, it made sense for Mayrse to get the attention of WWE who had her in the 2006 Divas Search. She was sent to OVW for training and made it clear she truly wanted to be part of the company. She soon latched onto the character of a snobby and arrogant woman who looked down on others as not being as attractive as her. It was a great act that carried her along as she feuded with other women and beat Michelle McCool for the Divas title. A broken ankle sidelined her but she returned strong and carried the Divas title over to RAW.
When she finally lost the belt, it was after 256 days, one of the longest reigns ever. She later became the first two-time Divas champion. Maryse recently returned to WWE after a long absence and while she hasn’t done much wrestling, one can’t discount a pretty face who’s a pretty good wrestler too.
Her tragic passing capped off a sad fall for Joanie Lauer but also put her legacy in a new light. When she debuted in 1997, it truly was amazing. This Amazon woman showed up and could manhandle men as easily as others and as an enforcer, she helped Triple H rise as a heel. She made some changes, getting surgery to look hotter and was still pushed and her amazing physique was always impressive in the ring. She even reigned as Intercontinental champion before winning the Women’s title.
It ended badly when she found out about Triple H and Stephanie McMahon dating behind her back and was soon fired. Her life since became a bit of a sad joke in many ways but that shouldn’t take away from how amazing Chyna was in her prime and her run as Women’s champion showing a dominant figure who, at the time, was more over and powerful than almost any woman in wrestling and fit the Attitude Era perfectly.
In so many ways, she paved the way for the Divas of today. Rena Mero was a gorgeous blonde who came to WWE as the valet for her husband, Marc Mero. His push included a brief run as IC champion but was curtailed by an injury. During this, Rena got more and more attention and was soon pushed as the Attitude Era opened up a new edge in programming. She was soon showing off in skimpy outfits and bikinis and her “Playboy” spread was a massive best-seller. With her heat huge, WWE decided to revive the Women’s title with her winning the belt. It wasn’t a massive run and clearly Mero’s looks were better than her in-ring talent.
She left WWE in a cloud with reports of her ego being out of control and she sued the company after her exit. She mended fences for a 2003 return before choosing to retire in 2004. She stays out of the spotlight now and while her tenure as a champ wasn’t major, Sable should be credited with introducing a new era in WWE for women that continues today.
20. Bull Nakano
A standout in Japan, Nakano had paved a great career through the late 1980s and rising high in the early ‘90s. She was known for her large size and top work as well as her massive hairdo that looked like a punk Marge Simpson. In 1994, she came to WWE for a program against Alundra Blayze that included a great match at SummerSlam. Nakano ended up winning the belt in Japan and held it for five months before losing it back to Blayze. The idea was for Nakano to stick around longer but she was fired after she was found with cocaine. She returned to Japan for more of her great work and a rematch with Blayze (now Madusa Miceili) in WCW. Nakano retired in 1997 and later stunned fans by losing a lot of weight and letting her hair down to be a truly beautiful woman but still one of the fiercest ladies WWE has ever known.
19. Sensational Sherri
Ironically, her time as champion wasn’t what made her so notable in WWE. Martel had been champion in the AWA as well as managing tag team champions Doug Somers and Buddy Rose and showed some nice drive. In WWE, she beat The Fabulous Moolah for the title and did a good job even as WWE was slowly phasing out the original women’s division. Her 15 month reign was more due to lack of challengers than anything else before she lost to Rockin’ Robin. Afterward, Sherri moved onto to working with Randy Savage and as his “queen,” took off huge with her fantastic character to win the fans over majorly.
She moved onto working with Ted DiBiase and then helping Shawn Michaels in his initial heel run. Sherri later worked in WCW with Ric Flair and Harlem Heat and remained an amazing presence all the way until her death in 2007. While her time as champion was short, her impact on paving the way for so many other great women in WWE is beyond measure.
18. Molly Holly
For a while, WWE didn’t know what to do with Holly. She started off as Lady Ophelia, the manager of William Regal. Then she was the “Cousin” of Crash and Hardcore Holly and dating Spike Dudley. They then had her run as a super-hero called Mighty Molly. Finally, they decided to just have her be a regular wrestler and she finally began clicking after darkening her hair. As Molly, she took off nicely, running down the other Divas for flaunting their bodies and her work as champion was great. Sure, she had bad stuff like being shaved bald and mocked for a supposedly large rear end but she did show some great work with Trish, Victoria and the others of the time. Molly retired earlier than expected but her run was notable in showing how just being yourself can get hugely over and she was a champion just by being herself.
17. Nikki Bella
Some might argue about her high ranking but her record reign as Divas champion should be recognized. The Bella Twins were notable as they came out together, linked as a fun pairing and soon showing off well in costumes and other antics. Their in-ring action was limited to the usual costumed fights and frankly they were not that great despite their looks. Nikki’s first reign as a champ was short and not notable at all. After a brief break, they came back in 2013 and seemed to get more in-ring time, pushed by their fame thanks to “Total Divas.”
When Nikki won the title again, it was expected to be a short reign but instead she set the record at 301 days. True, the feud with Brie was horrible to watch but Nikki showed some surprising skill in the ring and improved to hold her own with some major workers. Her reign might have been longer if not for a neck injury that put her out for nearly a year and in the end, Nikki proved herself much better as a champion than most would give her credit for while maintaining her reign as a hot media starlet.
16. Candice Michelle
One of the original Divas Search contestants, Michelle stood out with her hot body and lush dark hair. She gained further fame with the “Go-Daddy” commercials and that enhanced her as a heel with the ring entrance of pulling open her long coat and some dancing. A “Playboy” cover followed as she got more time and began actually showing some good stuff in the ring. While she still flaunted her looks, Michelle seemed to get more into the wrestling side, getting more high-profile matches and holding her own in a feud with Beth Phoenix.
Her run as Women’s champion provided some good battles and her return from injury was impressive. While she was cut in 2009, Michelle provided some true fun and improvement to shine in the ring. She should be credited for showing a willingness to improve.
15. Lay Cool
As they insisted on hanging around together so much, it makes sense to rank Michelle McCool and Layla on equal footing. McCool was first, posing as a “fitness instructor” and then some training turning her into a surprisingly good worker. She was the very first Divas champion and later the Women’s champion as well, two reigns as each. She had a good athletic style with high energy to win fans over and carried herself in a cocky manner on the mic. Layla had been a Diva Search contestant before various valet moves and winning the Women’s title, and had her own quirky style as well.
When they joined together, the two became instantly over as heels, each claiming “half” of the Women’s title with some great work together as heels mocking Mickie James, dressing in matching outfits and cutting great promos. They had a falling out, each with another reign as champion on their own but their time together was what made them so amazingly memorable. Both are semi-retired today but their work together made them very notable and proving two could be more effective than just one as Women’s champions.
As the daughter of Jim Neidhart, Natayla already had the genes to do well in wrestling and training in Canada enhanced that. She started off as valet of The Hart Dynasty, notable for her nice outfits and pink streak in her blonde hair before moving to singles work. Her work was terrific, strong like her dad but skilled with the Sharpshooter and over moves and her tenure as Divas champion was well-earned. She did have ups and down such as controversy over her weight and the infamous “farting Natalya” angle fans loathed. She’s proved her toughness, wrestling through injuries and dumb angles, still capable of providing some great battles and her role on “Total Divas” has enhanced her profile.
While some wish she had more reigns, Natalya shows her own style to beef up the division and helped shape the modern WWE ladies. She’s brought pride to the Hart legacy.
She’s not remembered in the best of terms thanks to how she soon took the “Diva” label a bit literally. However, Melina did showcase some amazing strides in wrestling with Bret Hart even labeling her among the best workers he’d seen. She started off as the manager of MNM and was soon a standout for her memorable split-leg ring entrance. Moving to wrestling, Melina impressed with her skill, using her flexible body quite well for an athletic run and enjoyed three reigns as Women’s champion and two as Divas champ.
Her moves were great and her great body just added to her allure. Sadly, Melina’s backstage attitude got her in hot water with constant clashes with other workers and reports of her crying after a “wrestler’s court” episode. She was released under a cloud and has bad-mouthed WWE since but should be remembered as a far better worker than she started and was one of the top female athletes in the business at her time.
12. Wendi Richter
Her time on top was short but very meaningful. Trained by The Fabulous Moolah in the late 1970s, Richter showed a terrific skill and a flashy appeal, a great smile aiding her sharp moves in the ring. After time with Bill Watts, Richter moved to WWE where her appeal was just what Vince McMahon was looking for. As part of the “Rock ‘n’ Wrestling Connection,” Richter was teamed with Cyndi Lauper in a program where she beat The Fabulous Moolah, ending her record title reign. She dropped the belt to Leilani Kai but regained it at the first WrestleMania and was primed to lead women’s wrestling into a new era.
Sadly, Richter became famous for wanting more money, demanding a huge pay raise so Vince screwed her by having a masked Moolah shoot on Richter to regain the belt and she was out of the company fast. It’s a shame as Richter was a huge star in her time that inspired a few ladies to follow her.
With her background in bodybuilding, it was no wonder Lisa Marie Varon got some interest from WWE with her great build. At first one of the Godfather’s “ho’s”,” Lisa wanted a lot more. Some training unlocked a great talent and she was set up well as a total psycho for fans to hate but still shone nicely in her matches. Her feud with Trish Stratus was notable as they traded the Women’s title in matches that had them beating the hell out of each other and provided some terrific matches. Her face turn in 2004 was poor but it still showed her amazing strength and terrific skill and while she didn’t show off as much as others in the company, her beauty was undeniable.
Her runs ended with her as an arrogant heel and she still had a strong presence. She moved to TNA for a long turn as Tara holding their title five times but has showcased a great persona for the time and was one of the ladies who helped put WWE ladies wrestling on the map.
Like others on this list, Amy Dumas was meant to just be a hot valet. She had a run in ECW as Miss Congeniality and had some training in Memphis before being hired to WWE as Essa Rios’ valet. She was a standout with her red hair and tattoo but also impressed with moonsaults. Hooking up with The Hardy Boyz led to her fame in her jeans and thongs. She had a great punk rock look and won the Women’s title. She would do great as a top lady for a while before a neck injury while filming “Dark Angel” put her on the shelf for a year. She was a bit slower when she came back and had some crappy feuds like the program with Kane.
However, the reveal of her affair with Edge ended up boosting her majorly as a heel and gave her a spark with fans. It led to another run as Women’s champ ending to Trish Stratus but Lita truly helped pave a new era for women in WWE, getting as wild as the guys could and that helped her legacy majorly.
9. AJ Lee
She was never supposed to get over like she did. After work in New Jersey, Lee signed with WWE under the FCW brand, still there when it transformed into NXT. She soon adapted her natural love of comic books and video games into her character to win fans over. Her early stuff was rough like hanging with Hornswoggle and on Smack Down before her on-air relationship with Daniel Bryan. That led to her run as RAW GM and further work with Dolph Ziggler and others. But finally, Lee was given the chance to show off, winning the Women’s title and then delivering the famous “pipe bomb” speech trashing the “Total Divas” ladies for putting their sex appeal over ring work. Leaving after a neck injury, AJ was famously fired for her bad talk and marriage to CM Punk but left behind a great body of work to rate among the longer-reigning ladies’ champions in the company.
8. Becky Lynch
Lynch’s current success is all the more remarkable considering she shouldn’t even be wrestling right now. The gorgeous Irish redhead got her start in the early 2000s in Europe, showing off nicely in a good form and rising in some Canadian promotions and Japan. But in 2006, Lynch began having headaches and buzzing and realized she’d sustained a serious cranial nerve injury which pushed her to cut her career short. So it was surprising when she returned in 2013 to NXT and more amazing that she showed no ring rust at all. If anything, she was even better, rising up fast with terrific feuds that helped the “Women’s Revolution” take off.
In WWE, she was a bit sidelined at first but it paid off as she won the inaugural SmackDown Women’s title. Whatever the future holds, Lynch has proven she can overcome the odds to be among the best around.
7. Sasha Banks
A key leader of the new “Women’s Revolution,” Banks cut her teeth in Chaotic Wrestling, showing a natural skill at the work and taking to it well. She was good when she got to NXT but soon clicked when she turned heel to take on her persona as “The Boss.” Her arrogance fueled her work with great programs, culminating in the classic pair of bouts with Bayley that were ranked as the two best matches of 2015. In WWE, Banks rose fast with Team BAD and was soon chasing the title herself. She and Charlotte have traded it back and forth in top notch matches and even after an injury, Banks continues to shine as a fantastic star as well as a top worker. She lives up to her name as The Boss looks to rise more and prove herself as champion and put a stamp on her legacy as one of the best around today.
6. Beth Phoenix
The “Glamazon” was well named, her muscled form matched by a great skill and looking gorgeous in her build and long blonde hair. Phoenix got her start on the indie circuit and major attention for going all out in battles. She became a star in Ohio Valley Wrestling, including some rare ladder matches to boost herself up majorly. In WWE, she was both a face and heel in various programs, from being Trish Stratus’ ally to her relationship with Santino Marella. Her reigns as champion were dominant, crushing opponents with strength and her impressive Glam Slam finisher.
She had three reigns as Women’s champion and one as Divas champ, always looking great holding that title belt over her head and was a winner with fans. She’s retired now but Beth showed how this Phoenix flew high as one of the best ladies WWE ever had.
5. Mickie James
James had been rising up for a time already on the indie scene, including a short run in TNA who, naturally, didn’t know what to do with her. Signed to WWE in 2005, Mickie was set up as an admirer of Trish who soon turned stalker. Their encounter at WrestleMania 22 was notable in how Mickie was the heel but the fans cheered her on as she beat Trish for the title. From there, Mickie bounced in various ways but she was always ready to provide a great match and was engaging on the mic.
WWE didn’t seem to handle her well with some bad turns and the infamously horrible “Piggy James” segments that did no favors in making her look better. That led to Mickie leaving for a long run in TNA. Now back in WWE, Mickie looks ready to get back into contention and prove herself as being still among the best workers whether she has the belt or not.
It’s pretty clear how Charlotte was the sibling who inherited the Flair wrestling gene. Her in-ring work is spectacular and showcases a brilliant technical side but she’s not above some brawling if need be. However, she also is terrific on the mic with her dad’s gift for gab and fantastic as a heel. It’s no wonder WWE has pushed her in both NXT and then the RAW Women’s champion to excel wonderfully. That she’s still in her prime is more impressive, meaning she has plenty of great years left to provide thrills. Charlotte keeps herself in good shape, has had no major injuries and that promises even more while looking absolutely gorgeous. True, her career is still in the early stages but what she’s done so far has proven Charlotte ranks high among the best female workers WWE has ever had.
3. The Fabulous Moolah
True, her stranglehold on the title was more due to politics than anything else. But you can’t ignore the fact that the longest title reign in wrestling history belonged to Moolah. For 28 years, she was recognized as WWE Women’s champion (although technically there were some “losses” that were later ignored) and always gave her all in the ring. A top heel, Moolah could be amazing as a worker with some hard hitting and not above being stiff in the ring if the situation called for it. She inspired slews of female workers to follow her, looking great in her prime and even in her later years, was an impressive figure.
Her reign ended to Wendi Richter but she got it back in what was basically the original Screwjob. She had a bit of fame in the 2000s and her passing left her still respected to stand as an icon for the business.
2. Alundra Blayze
Madusa Mecili was already rising high as AWA women’s champion and one of the few bright spots of the company’s dying days. After time in WCW, she signed with WWE in 1993 as Alundra Blayze, her white outfit nicely standing out. She had great matches and feuds with Bull Nakano and others and helped put women’s wrestling more on the map with some good matches. Sadly, her talent couldn’t overcome the issues with WWE as 1995 had the company undergoing horrible business and the budget cuts eliminated the women’s division.
A ticked off Blayze showed up live on “Nitro” to dump the title belt into a garbage can, a move she now regrets. But that ending shouldn’t take away from her great work and how she livened up female wrestling in a tough time.
1. Trish Stratus
It remains one of the most amazing evolutions of any worker in WWE. When Trish Stratus appeared in 2000, she was a gorgeous lady in tight outfits showing off her curves and a cowboy hat. Managing various workers, she looked great but seemed nothing more than eye candy. But after some training, she was turned into a truly great worker who elevated the title to a great level. Her multiple reigns, either as a face or a heel, were sensational as Trish still looked amazing but also stuck to concentrating on her wrestling.
More than once, “Playboy” came calling with a big offer but she turned them down, wanting to be known for her wrestling. It worked as she retired as a champion and looked amazing. Her tenure as champion was a serious hit and Trish remains one of the most popular ladies WWE has ever known.
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