It's a great time to be a women's wrestling fan these days. Back when John Laryngitis, er... Laurinaitis was in charge of hiring female talent, the formula was simple — if you've got the looks and the body, you just might be the WWE Diva we're looking for. That formula introduced quite a lot of attractive women to the WWE, but also created long lines outside the bathrooms and in front of the concessions stands each time Divas matches would be on.
Fortunately, things have changed big-time. The Divas sobriquet has thankfully been retired, and it's wrestling talent, not looks, that usually dictates how good a woman's push is in the WWE. All of NXT's Four Horsewomen (Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, and most recently Bayley) have held, or currently hold championships on the main rosters, and you've got the likes of Natalya and Mickie James providing tons of experience to go with their in-ring ability. Women are getting far more respect from wrestling fans than ever before, and in the words of DDP, that's not a bad thing.
But have you wondered who were the best and worst women in WWE in each year of the 21st century? We've got them all listed here, as we base our choices on wrestling skill, promo skill, and push, with the first two categories getting more weight individually than the latter. We're also limiting our choices to the WWE main roster — if a woman spent the entire year in developmental and/or never wrestled a televised main roster match that year, she doesn't qualify.
Which of these women were worth staying in your seats for, and which ones were bathroom/snack break material? Let's find out.
Though she had about four years of ring rust and was pushing 40 at the time she signed with WWE in 1999, Ivory wasted little time in making an impact in WWE's revived Women's Division. And why not, as she was one of only a few trained female wrestlers given a good push during those days. Apart from winning her third Women's title in 2000, Ivory also had some interesting character development in 2000, as she traded her usual wrestling gear for a buttoned-up white shirt and long black skirt as the sole female member of the PTC-trolling Right to Censor faction.
THE KAT (WORST)
Jerry Lawler's ex-wife Stacy Carter, a.k.a. The Kat, debuted in 1999 Chyna's Mini-Me, but is best-remembered for repeatedly showing fans her "puppies," and for taking part (and wrestling poorly) in numerous female-only gimmick matches, even holding the Women's Championship briefly in 2000. That is, until Hervina beat her for the title in a Lumberjill Snowbunny Match. As Hervina is actually the very male (and very nerdy) Harvey Wippleman in drag, he's obviously not making this list. But The Kat, who owed her WWE employment solely to that of her then-husband, makes it due to her sheer awfulness and lack of fundamental knowledge in the ring.
Fun fact – Amy Dumas wasn’t named after fellow female rocker Lita Ford as this writer had once thought, but rather given a Hispanic-sounding name because she debuted in 2000 as Essa Rios’ valet. She showed lots of promise then, and even more so when she began teaming up with the Hardy Boyz and winning Women’s Championships. And while she didn’t hold any title in 2001, it was at that time when she elevated herself above an increasingly troubled Chyna and an aging Ivory to become the most talented in WWE's Women's Division. Won't be the first time she'd get this designation.
TORRIE WILSON (WORST)
Now this is a hard choice to make, as she's always been a personal favorite. She also wasn't too bad in terms of her overall WWE resume, her real-life dad Al Wilson's kayfabe death by snu-snu notwithstanding. (Non-Futurama fans, go look it up.) But when she debuted in WWE in 2001 after a couple years in WCW as a valet, she was immediately put into those Attitude Era women's gimmick matches, and was much rawer than her former WCW colleague Stacy Keibler. She did improve over time, but 2001 was just not a good year for Torrie Wilson matches.
TRISH STRATUS (BEST)
Just because your pre-WWE background is that of a fitness model doesn't mean you're doomed to a career of ridicule from "smart" fans who think you're all looks and no skills. Case in point: Trish Stratus, who had only began wrestling regularly the year prior, a year where Vince McMahon also infamously made her bark like a dog. Her improvement was as fast as her rise to the top of the women's card, and by the fall of 2002, she was already a three-time Women's Champion, with four more titles to follow in the years to come.
JACKIE GAYDA (WORST)
Is one match really good (or should we say, bad) enough for us to give someone the dubious honor of "worst female wrestler of the year"? We would say "yes" in the case of Jackie Gayda, the Tough Enough Season 2 co-winner alongside Linda "Shaniqua" Miles. Despite being surrounded by experienced and/or capable performers, "That Jackie Gayda Match" saw the future Mrs. Charlie Haas commit multiple botches in a match that was so bad that Jim Ross sort-of broke character and commented "mercifully, it's over." No shocker — Gayda was soon sent back down to OVW for more training.
MOLLY HOLLY (BEST)
Compared to the aforementioned Lita and Trish Stratus, or even Victoria, Molly Holly gets little love from WWE fans as far as early-2000s women's wrestlers go. And the former sidekick to The Hurricane was at the prime of her WWE career in 2003, as she held the Women's Championship for a good 210 days, extending into early-2004. Not only was she on the top of her game as a technically-sound wrestler (trained by no less than Dean Malenko in the late-'90s), she also had a great "me turned up to 11" heel character — one of an ultra-conservative, "pure and wholesome" prude.
From one bad female Tough Enough co-winner to another. Linda Miles was repackaged in 2003 as Shaniqua, and her job was to make the boring Basham Brothers edgy, as they switched over to an S&M-themed gimmick, complete with Doug and Danny Basham wearing gimp masks. That gimmick did no one any favors, and we should also add that Shaniqua was still terrible in the ring, suggesting that she should have stuck to her original sport — basketball — and probably joined a few more WNBA tryouts instead of trying her luck in the world of pro wrestling.
LITA AND TRISH STRATUS (BEST)
Women's wrestling in WWE was in a good place in 2003, but the Divas Searches that started in 2004 changed everything, and not in a good way. So why don't we honor the two most talented women of the Ruthless Aggression Era and make the co-"winners" as WWE's top female talents of 2004? Lita and Trish Stratus were feuding on-and-off for most of 2004, and had some nice matches bookending the unfortunate Lita pregnancy angle where Gene Snitsky had caused her to "miscarry" and later claimed that it wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault either that WWE was now surrounding Trish, Lita, and other legitimate female wrestlers with all-looks, no-skills fodder such as...
CARMELLA DECESARE (WORST)
In case you're wondering, Leah Van Dale was still in high school when Carmella DeCesare (her real name) had a mercifully short WWE run, so this Carmella we're referring to is NOT the Staten Island Princess. And she definitely wasn't "fabulous" in the ring, as she was released just weeks after finishing second to Christy Hemme in the 2004 Diva Search, and losing to Hemme in a Lingerie Pillow Fight. If it's any consolation, the former Playboy Playmate of the Year for 2004 (yes, the same year she briefly joined WWE) had much greater success post-WWE in the modeling world, and she's been happily married to former NFL star Jeff Garcia for close to a decade.
TRISH STRATUS (BEST)
I was tempted to make it another Lita/Trish tie for 2005's best, as their feud was becoming even more heated. But Stratus gets the solo nod for 2005, not only because she was one of the few technically-sound women in a female roster increasingly crowded with Diva Search graduates, but because she had the guts to go off-character and defend Lita from angry, slut-shaming fans who were booing her for hooking up with Edge, despite being in a relationship with Matt Hardy. Not only was Trish a talented in-ring competitor; she was also a class act, as that moment from April 2005 had showed.
JOY GIOVANNI (WORST)
As you saw in the 2004 entry, this list includes a few Diva Search products whom WWE quickly got rid off after realizing how hopeless they were in the ring. Joy Giovanni is another one of those rather short-lived Diva Search products, and you may know her as the 2005 Rookie Diva of the Year, where she beat out the similarly forgettable Rochelle Loewen and Lauren Jones...and Michelle McCool. It was WWE's way of giving her a fair chance to succeed, but as she ultimately showed, the kayfabe and real-life massage therapist was in over her head and unable to grasp those in-ring basics.
MICKIE JAMES (BEST)
Now that she's in her late-30s and back in the WWE after several years away, Mickie James may be primarily used to put younger women over. But more than a decade ago, she was a rarity in WWE women's wrestling — a young up-and-comer who could actually wrestle. In 2006, James entered her second year on WWE's main roster, and won the Women's Championship twice, beating Trish Stratus and Lita in those title matches. Say what you want about the lesbian stalker angle Mickie was introduced with, but she proved that the changing of the guard didn't mean the death of talent in WWE's women's divisions.
ASHLEY MASSARO (WORST)
And then you've got Ashley Massaro, the 2005 Diva Search winner who was a young up-and-comer who couldn't wrestle. As she debuted in WWE at a time when Avril Lavigne was a big deal on the charts, she was given a rather timely rocker chick/tomboy look and gimmick, but there was one little problem — Massaro was rushed to the main roster right after winning the Diva Search. She may have been easy on the eyes, but her matches weren't, especially in 2005 and 2006.
MICKIE JAMES AND MELINA (BEST)
And we've got another tie. And it's again between two women who had a memorable rivalry that year — Mickie James and Melina. As we established above, James was proving that there was still room for technically-gifted young women on WWE's roster, and 2007 was mostly about her feud with Melina, who debuted as Johnny Nitro (Morrison) and Joey Mercury's valet. And speaking of Ms. Perez, it's true that she was quite the backstage headache during her run in WWE, but she also knew her stuff. And if you think Paige was unique for screaming before, during, or after executing her finishers, think again and remember Melina's Primal Scream.
JILLIAN HALL (WORST)
In a female wrestling scene dominated more and more by hot women with little to no wrestling skill, we're going with someone who wasn't as bad as your average Diva Search product in the ring, but had one of the most annoying gimmicks of all time. Jillian Hall's singing voice is the kind of voice you want torturing criminals, and while it seemed as if she dropped the bad singer gimmick when she was drafted from SmackDown to RAW in 2007, it was a false dawn, as she was singing horribly (and wrestling unimpressively) soon after moving to the red brand.
BETH PHOENIX (BEST)
The aforementioned Mickie James and Melina were still putting on quality matches, but 2008 was also great year for Beth Phoenix. A skilled powerhouse wrestler who had debuted on the main roster in 2007, Phoenix held the Women's Championship twice in 2008, but it was more than just titles and talent for the Glamazon that year. She also was one-half of one of WWE's most unlikely — and entertaining — kayfabe couples, as she served as the hilarious Santino Marella's "straight woman" and stood stoically by him as he went on his futile, yet funny chase of the Honky Tonk Man's Intercontinental Championship record.
KELLY KELLY (WORST)
Maybe we're only listing her now because she was a part of WWECW in her first two years on the main roster. But when she debuted on the RAW brand in 2008, Kelly Kelly was two years removed from the time John Laurinaitis (who else) hired her as a 19-year-old teen with zero wrestling experience. And while she was marginally better, she was featured more prominently on the red brand, and still very prone to botches. Did we also mention that she couldn't, for the life of her, run the ropes? Glad we just got that out of the way.
MICHELLE MCCOOL (BEST)
By 2009, the last less-than-remarkable vestiges of the Diva Search era were finally wearing out their WWE welcome. Ashley Massaro? Gone in 2008. Candice Michelle? Future endeavored midway through 2009. But not everyone who went through the Diva Search was the drizzling you-know-whats in the ring, and that applies to Michelle McCool, who made big strides in terms of wrestling skills, and had a successful partnership with Layla as one-half of LayCool. She held the Women's and Divas Championships simultaneously in 2009, and while LayCool did cross the line with the "Piggy James" storyline, Michelle in particular did a great job generating heel heat as part of her "mean girl" character.
ROSA MENDES (WORST)
Until recently, she was WWE's female answer to JTG — a running punchline because of the inexplicable fact that she was still employed after doing so little for so long. But now that she's just announced her retirement, it's about time we take stock of how Rosa Mendes was one of the most inept female wrestlers in recent history. And she was especially bad in 2009, having just been called up from developmental after five (!) long years in OVW and FCW combined. That was the start of a long, underwhelming main roster run, which, aside from the bad matches, included an alleged drinking problem.
It's such a shame that WWE didn't give Natalya more Divas Championship runs when she was younger. A product of the Hart family Dungeon, it goes without saying that Nattie has some great bloodlines as the daughter of Jim Neidhart and niece of Bret and Owen Hart. Before the Divas/Women's Revolution of 2015, few women had her technical skills in the ring, and it was only in 2010 when she won the Divas Championship for the first and only time in her career, having defeated LayCool in a handicap match at Survivor Series. Less than two years later, WWE was literally farting away her potential.
KELLY KELLY (WORST)
And now we're back to where we were two years prior — Kelly Kelly as the worst female on WWE's roster. Look, we get it — Barbie Blank is a very beautiful woman, and she did have a bit of an athletic background before signing with WWE in 2006. But as Kelly Kelly, she was every smark's worst nightmare, a female wrestler who was still atrocious in the ring despite spending years with the company. And, as of 2010, she was still having trouble running the ropes. Just leaving that out there.
BETH PHOENIX (BEST)
We've got two repeat entries for this year, and once again, we're honoring the Glamazon, Beth Phoenix, for having a great 2011 where she started a 200-plus day reign as Divas Champion, while heeling it up as somebody who couldn't stand the other "perky bimbos" in her division. (We felt your pain, Beth, especially during the Diva Search era.) She was, as usual, going against the typical Divas stereotype and doing it very well, though she wouldn't be much longer for the WWE, having quietly retired shortly after leaving the WWE in late-2012.
KELLY KELLY (WORST)
Here she is again — the woman who began her WWE career as an exhibitionist, and proceeded to infuriate knowledgeable wrestling fans all over the world as she got herself a nice push despite her repeated botches and general ineptness. How nice was this push? So nice in 2011 that she reigned for 104 days as Divas Champion before getting defeated by the aforementioned Beth Phoenix at Hell in a Cell. Fortunately for Kelly, she's not alone in being a three-time entry as worst female wrestler of the year.
EVE TORRES (BEST)
The 2007 Diva Search may have tanked so badly that WWE would scrap it the year after, but it did introduce us to Eve Torres, who had her best year in WWE in 2012, only for her to abruptly retire in January 2013. She would become the first three-time Divas Champion that year, was putting on some solid matches, and played a key role in storylines, including that John Cena/Zack Ryder storyline that arguably triggered the Broski's free fall to the lower card. We feel for Zack, but as far as Eve's concerned, that angle helped make her the most hated woman in WWE at the time, albeit in a storyline heat kind of way, and not an Eva Marie/Kelly Kelly kind of way.
At least wrestling fans only had a few months of Kelly Kelly to suffer through before she left WWE. The WWE Universe had one whole year of Aksana, who never had an interesting character, couldn't cut a good promo, and was substantially rawer than her fellow NXT Season 3 alumnae. Granted, there were worse women to come along in 2012 and beyond, and she did have a nifty, saxy (and sexy) entrance theme. But she was still very much out of her element in 2012, may it have been as (Antonio) Cesaro's first manager, or as a WWE Diva in the ring.
AJ LEE (BEST)
2013's Payback pay-per-view may have been notable for marking the end of Ryback's main event push as we knew it, but it also saw AJ Lee begin an unprecedented run as Divas Champion (see below), and the culmination of a highly underrated feud against then-champion Kaitlyn. With a combination of in-ring and promo talent, Lee let the evil side of her "crazy chick" gimmick shine through in 2013, and there simply wasn't anyone on the roster who could hold a candle to the former NXT rookie search third-placer.
EVA MARIE (WORST)
And so marks the first of three years All Red Everything will be finding her name on this list as WWE's least-impressive female talent of the year. Like Kelly Kelly before her, Eva Marie was a stunning beauty with precious little in-ring talent. But Marie turned out to be worse, as the "secret" 2013 Diva Search winner began her botch-happy WWE career that year without even a few months of NXT exposure under her belt. Even with WWE hiding her deficiencies by putting her in tag team and handicap matches, she was evidently awful from the get-go. More details to follow in the 2014 entry.
AJ LEE (BEST)
Despite the acrimony that was brewing between her husband CM Punk and the WWE, AJ Lee had another great year for the company in 2014. Too bad it was her last full year as a WWE Diva. In January, she beat Maryse's record to become the longest-reigning Divas Champion in history, and had finally dropped her belt to a debuting Paige in April. She was brilliant as both a heel and a face in the Paige feud, and often seemed to be taking after her hubby in terms of promo work. But like Punk, she too was gone from WWE, choosing to retire in 2015 at the young age of 28.
EVA MARIE (WORST)
Somebody has to make it a rule — as long as Eva Marie had a match on the main roster during a given year, she should be the worst of that year. This model-turned-wrestler/Total Divas mainstay continued sucking something fierce in the WWE ring in 2014, and was inexplicably in quick feuds against AJ Lee and Summer Rae. She also had one of the most bizarre injuries in recent wrestling history. Marie was sidelined that fall due to a case of "twin leaks" — Total Divas' words, not ours, to refer to how her breast implants ruptured.
Ah, those were the days when Paige was still relevant, and a key part of WWE's Divas storylines. These days, injuries, Wellness Policy suspensions, and alleged attitude problems have done a number on the Anti-Diva's push, but in 2015, Paige was still white-hot as the most talented woman on WWE's roster. She was still healthy, often capable of good matches, and could work the mic as well, though one can argue she said too much when she told Charlotte that her late brother Reid Flair didn't have enough fight in him.
Eva Marie can thank the fact she had no main roster matches in 2015 for this one. Due to that, 2015's worst female WWE wrestler has to be Cameron, who was clearly close to the bottom of the women's totem pole, while showing little improvement in her in-ring work. In fact, she spent most of 2015 on the house show circuit, and was still trying to live down that time when she tried to pin Naomi while the latter was on her stomach, and, in all seriousness, yelled out "Count it, ref!" By the spring of 2016, WWE had no choice but to say "Girl, bye!" to the former Funkadactyl.
SASHA BANKS (BEST)
This one's close, as Charlotte and Becky Lynch also had a great year last year. But we're going to go with Sasha Banks on basis of pure talent, combined with her multiple Women's Championship wins, big losses on PPV notwithstanding. Indeed, there's no questioning The Boss' technical ability, though we're still less than impressed by the promo work she churns out as a babyface. Rumor has it that she may be due for a heel turn pretty soon, and that should mean better promos, a return to the spotlight if she ends up feuding with Bayley as rumored, and even more technically-sound matches in 2017.
EVA MARIE (WORST)
Do we even need to explain this one? As Eva Marie had competed in a few televised matches in 2016, including one at WrestleMania 32, she qualifies as the worst of 2016, as her trademark horrific wrestling and botch-prone technique was very much on display last year. Any hopes of seeing Marie wrestle on SmackDown were seemingly squashed when she was slapped a Wellness Policy suspension last summer, and if it wasn't for her hammy new gimmick, we'd probably be jumping with joy if the rumors are true and she's really on her way out of WWE.