Back in a time long before the so-called “Attitude Era” forever changed the North American professional wrestling business, female in-ring performers who worked in the WWE were not referred to as “Divas” on television and in advertisements. Those ladies were, in their days, called “wrestlers,” and the female wrestlers who were at the top of their games were often just as respected as were their male counterparts. There were numerous instances, over time, of women wrestlers main-eventing significant WWE cards, a notion that now seems unthinkable considering the current state of the WWE's women's division.
The birth of the Attitude Era brought several legendary Divas to WWE television. Sunny and Sable became international stars for more than just what they achieved while under the WWE umbrella. Trish Stratus and Lita changed the way that some viewed Divas wrestling, so much so that they are seen, by many, to be the greatest female wrestlers to have performed for the company during their careers. Whether you have Trish or Lita at the top spot, any list of the best Divas over the past couple of decades would be empty and close to worthless if it did not have those women in the top-two.
Then, there are the Divas at the other end of the spectrum. In some cases, women who were gifted in the ring and also on the microphone just, for whatever reasons, did not become prime-time talent while with the WWE. In other circumstances, however, the company unrealistically asked for far too much from women who, no disrespect intended, simply did not possess the abilities to meet the high expectations that the company had for them. Those individuals have since moved on from the WWE and, in some instances, the pro wrestling business in general, and hopefully they have found happiness and much success in their other endeavors.
Debra does not go any higher on this list because she truly was a phenomenal valet/manager during her runs with World Championship Wrestling and with the WWE. The WWE decided, for reasons that have pleasantly been forgotten nearly a decade and a half after the fact, that it would be wise to put her inside of the ring for matches. A former queen of beauty pageants, Debra only received training after she had joined the business as a manager, and that showed during what was, fortunately for her body and for the sake of everybody involved, a rather brief in-ring career.
9 Shelly Martinez
It is easy to forget that the woman who played the Ariel character during the resurrected Extreme Championship Wrestling brand worked for the WWE, mostly because her on-air run ended before it ever began. Martinez and others stuck on what was an insult to the original ECW, never had a real chance of being anything of merit on the two main WWE shows. Her stint in TNA Wrestling while with the Latin American Xchange lasted under a year, and she has also worked for independent promotions.
8 Rosa Mendes
It was the night of October 10th, 2011 when Mendes found herself in a tag-team match that also involved partner Tamina and opponents Kelly Kelly and Eve. All Mendes had to do roughly 30 seconds into the contest was stand in a corner and wait for Kelly to complete the journey to the corner. Mendes did not get that right, and that one botch is not a one-off during her WWE career. She was one of several participants in what Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer referred to as the 2013 Worst Worked Match of the Year.
7 Christy Hemme
Some in the business saw Hemme as being the next Sunny when she won the 2004 Divas Search. That was not to be the case for her WWE career, however, as she was, following a demotion to developmental territory Ohio Valley Wrestling, released from her contract before the beginning of January 2006. Her time in the WWE cannot be looked at as being a total bust, though, as Hemme went on to find plenty of success with TNA Wrestling. While she is currently retired as an in-ring worker, Hemme has maintained roles with the company as a ring announcer and as an interviewer. Hemme has also spent time on the TNA creative team.
I am sure that Aksana is a fine person and that she made plenty of friends during her pro wrestling career. The fitness model and personal trainer just wasn't right for the business, in that she never learned how to truly work what could be delicately referred to as a competent match while in front of a national television audience. She was one of the four performers in the previously mentioned Wrestling Observer Newsletter 2013 Worst Worked Match of the Year, and she was released in 2014, seemingly because those within the WWE had finally seen the writing on the wall.
5 Kelly Kelly
Kelly Kelly may go down as the best example of what happens when WWE signs an attractive and athletic young woman with zero training in the business and attempts to make her the company's next wrestling star. Bryan Alvarez of Figure Four Online/Wrestling Observer used to routinely rant about Kelly's inability to adequately perform what should be the simple task of running the ropes while inside of the ring. Alvarez even, on one occasion, sarcastically claimed that, with time, he could teach a cat to run the ropes better than Kelly; at least I am assuming he was being sarcastic.
4 Jackie Gayda
Gayda, now Jackie Gayda-Haas, can be compared with a quarterback who is selected late in a NFL Draft. A team can only expect so much from him if it is not going to allow the QB to learn the game from the sideline. Gayda was the winner of the second ever Tough Enough challenge and she was thrust almost immediately under the spotlight due in part to the WWE investing so much time in her via the TE program. Her WWE career is more remembered for her botching moves (look up “Jackie Gayda match” with your favorite search engine), although one can only blame Gayda so much for her lack of ability inside the ring.
Ariane Andrew, better known as Cameron for her time in the WWE, will forever go down in pro wrestling infamy for a comment that she made during the relaunch of the Tough Enough series. Head trainer and legend of the squared-circle “Stone Cold” Steve Austin asked the bright-eyed girl to tell him what her favorite WWE match was. Did it involve Ric Flair, Hulk Hogan or Shawn Michaels? No. Her answer: “Melina vs. Alicia Fox.” While she was eliminated from the competition not long after uttering that ridiculous statement, Cameron remains employed by the company. Maybe, in time, she will work her way right off of this list.
Wrestling fans from around the world were left waiting with anticipation when it was learned that the artist formerly known as Amazing Kong/Awesome Kong was set to debut in the WWE in the spring of 2011. Kong, billed to weigh over 272 pounds, was not your standard Diva and she was also an accomplished in-ring worker who had won titles all around the world. Her WWE run never went anywhere, however, as she departed the company soon after her debut, announcing to the world during a farewell promo that she was pregnant. She sadly lost the child before she was able to give birth, however, and Kharma is now back in TNA Wrestling playing the Kong character that made her famous.
1 Ashley Massaro
The WWE tried...and tried...and tried to push the company's own version of pop-punk princess Avril Lavigne to the moon during her run in the company. Massaro was named the winner of the 2005 Divas Search, and she also appeared on several television programs during her run with the WWE. There was just one problem: she was not all that good inside of the ring or on the microphone. Maybe, in an earlier era, Massaro could have been a valet who, in time, quietly learned the business from behind the scenes. WWE wanted more from their female performers in the 2000s though, and Massaro and the promotion parted ways in the summer of 2008.