While WWE may have botched their initial renewed focus on women’s wrestling by introducing their biggest players in one go and using the term “Divas Revolution” enough times to make you wonder if the commentary team was receiving a per mention bonus, it’s hard to deny that there is indeed a revolution stirring concerning the role of women in wrestling.
From WWE on down to the world of indie wrestling, nearly every major wrestling company is suddenly focusing more on their women’s divisions. New female wrestling talent are receiving major deals nearly every day, and it does appear that the future of the very concept of women’s wrestling is brighter than it’s ever been. Call it a revolution if you must.
Of course, there would be no cause for a revolution if there wasn’t a dark time in women’s wrestling to revolt against. Let’s not forget that it wasn’t that long ago that women’s wrestling matches were considered to be perennial contenders for the worst match of the year. As Sasha Banks put it in a pre-WrestleMania interview, they weren’t thought of as much more than the show’s “bathroom break.”
A big part of the reason why women’s wrestling got into this bind was the well-honed practice of hiring big name performers mostly based on how hot they were. While some companies were guiltier of this than others (we’re looking at you Vince McMahon), the general rule was that the best jobs went to the ladies that looked most likely to have their posters adorn a teenage boy’s bedroom ceiling.
While this hiring practice did give wrestling fans a few hall-of-famers like Trish Stratus, it mostly resulted in a few generations of female performers that with ring skills that left no doubt as to the real reason they were hired in the first place.
15 Eva Marie
While WWE has never been shy about scouring the modeling world for new divas, few have ever been so obviously hired for their looks as Eva Marie. Announced as a cast member of Total Divas before ever making her public debut as a professional wrestler, Eva Marie already had fans rolling their eyes well before she confirmed her lack of in-ring skills. While Eva’s ongoing transition into actually becoming a wrestler is very much a work in progress, it’s hard to deny that the ravishing redhead is one of the most stunningly attractive women in wrestling history.
14 Maryse Ouellet
You can’t blame WWE for joining the rest of the world in recognizing the stunning beauty of Maryse Ouellet, but their decision to let the French Canadian model/actress actually wrestle in the ring is a more difficult decision to get behind. From the moment she debuted as a 2006 Diva Search contestant, it was clear that Maryse was a woman of many talents and that none of them involved working a match without looking genuinely confused. Remarkably, this did not stop Maryse from becoming a two-time Divas Champion who once held that title for 216 consecutive days.
13 Kimberly Page
Kimberly Page was one of the better known women in WCW throughout her tenure in the company. She rarely competed in matches, but she was there as a Nitro girl and eventually her real-life husband Diamond Dallas Page's valet. WCW never really figured out how to use their women effectively, but Kimberly was involved in feuds with Miss Hancock, Miss Elizabeth and even turned on DDP to join the New Blood stable.
12 Kelly Kelly
If you were to sit down at a computer and design the perfect template for a WWE Diva during the company’s mid-2000s era, you would not be able to create one as ideal as Kelly Kelly. It should come as no surprise that Kelly Kelly was working as a professional model when WWE made her a contract offer in 2006, nor should it shock anyone that the 19-year-old performer managed to get over as an “exhibitionist” with a penchant for performing weekly stripteases on ECW television. Sadly, Kelly would eventually abandon that role for an in-ring performer position.
11 Ashley Massaro
By the time that Ashley Massaro was discovered by a WWE talent scout in 2005 at a Las Vegas bikini contest, she had already made a name for herself in the modeling industry by appearing in the pages of men’s magazines like Stuff as a college student. From the moment she debuted as a contestant in the 2005 Raw Diva Search contest (which if you haven’t noticed was something of a vehicle for many of the members of this list), it was clear that WWE officials were willing to forgo her incredible wrestling inexperience in favor of a failed push to the top of the division.
10 Joy Giovanni
As wrestlers like Trish Stratus and Summer Rae have proven, not having traditional wrestling experience prior to joining WWE as a performer doesn’t automatically translate to an inability to actually wrestle. On the other end of that argument is Joy Giovanni. As a former Lingerie Bowl participant and L.A. Model Expo winner, Giovanni made enough of a name for herself to draw the attention of WWE. There she would create an everlasting legacy thanks to her truly awful feud with the equally ill-prepared Amy Weber. For you trivia buffs, Joy Giovanni is also the first - and only - winner of the Rookie Diva of the Year award.
9 Terri Runnels
There’s obviously a certain value to hiring women’s wrestlers based more on their looks than their wrestling talent, especially if they are assigned the right role. That’s certainly the case with Terri Runnels. Despite being an absurdly attractive young woman, WCW had decided to put Terri in as much professional business attire as possible during her run as the evil accountant, Alexandra York. WWE recognized the…err...qualities of Terri that WCW did not, and quickly made her the scantily clad valet to Goldust upon her arrival in 1996. With respect to Terri’s ability to rock a pantsuit, her WWE role was certainly more her style.
8 Christy Hemme
Christy Hemme’s road to WWE television reads like a “best-of” summary of many of the women on this list. Burlesque dancer, magazine model, music video actress, waitress at Hooters…Ms. Hemme certainly made her rounds in the “really, really, super good looking” industry before signing with WWE in 2004. While she may not have joined WWE with a wealth of wrestling experience at her side, Mrs. Hemme did have the chance to go one-on-one with Trish Stratus for the WWE Women’s Championship at WresteMania 21. How was it? Let’s just say she spent most of her remaining career in lingerie matches with good cause.
7 Carmella DeCesare
Carmella DeCesare is just one of those poor, attractive souls whose WWE career seemed doomed from the very start. After making her name as a particularly popular Playboy centerfold and swimsuit model, Carmella received a spot in the 2004 WWE Diva Search contest. Though she would not win – and seemingly made quite a few enemies, including Maria Kanellis who infamously flipped her the bird after being eliminated – Carmella was still offered a WWE contract. Sadly for the Carmella fans of the word, she would be released from WWE shortly after a lingerie pillow fight with fellow list-member Christy Hemme.
6 Beulah McGillicutty
Beulah McGillicutty’s road to professional wrestling features more name drops than a party full of gossip column columnists. After making a brief appearance as the valet of Brian Pillman (her boyfriend at the time), Beulah settled into a career as a backup dancer for Prince. There she would meet professional basketball player Ron Grant who so happened to be friends with professional wrestler Raven. Raven introduced Beulah to Paul Heyman, and Heyman – who was about to start a catfight wrestling revolution at the time – signed her shortly thereafter. Not bad a for a good-looking woman who seemingly knew everyone.
5 Jackie Gayda
For all we know, WWE picked up Jackie Gayda at the attractive blondes store one day, as her life before becoming a participant in Tough Enough remains something of a mystery. Whatever those early years may have involved, we can be sure that it did not include professional wrestling. Considered to be one of the worst in-ring female performers of all-time, Jackie’s Career highlight would come during an intergender match featuring so many botches it would eventually become known as “That Jackie Gayda Match.” The statuesque blonde was certainly easy on the eyes, though.
With all due respect to Sunny, no wrestling fan had ever seen anyone quite like Sable when she entered the WWE in 1996 as a valet to HHH. This former model and beauty pageant contestant had the raw sex appeal that many of entertainment’s most striking women possessed at the time, and her seeming lack of on-screen inhibitions helped her to become one of WWE’s most popular Attitude Era acts. Much like how the company would long try to duplicate Steve Austin’s rise to the top, Sable’s success kicked off an era of women’s wrestlers the company tried to get over based on their looks.
3 Candice Michelle
While many women wrestlers hired largely for their looks would try to spend at least some time presenting themselves as masters of the mat, others simply played the hand they were dealt until the end of their career. Candice Michelle is certainly an example of the later. Debuting in 2004 as – you guessed it – a participant in the Diva Search contest, Candice Michelle would go on to participate in as many lingerie match variants as the creative team could dream up. Michelle’s good looks could not be contained in the ring, as she would also go on to become an infamous Go Daddy spokeswoman and Playboy model.
Though wrestling history isn’t brimming with champion Lithuanian fitness models, even if it were it’s doubtful that any would match the exotic beauty of Aksana. This stunningly attractive young woman would use her athletic prowess and obvious good looks to make quite the name for herself in WWE’s developmental territories. Her career was actually going quite well until she was asked to do more of the whole “wrestling” part of the job description and proceeded to perform some of the more painful wrestling botches in history. She would be released from WWE in 2014, after allegedly falling out of favor with her backstage supporters.
1 Jenna Morasca
There’s no shortage of women wrestlers hired largely on the basis of their incredible looks, but none of them were less prepared for the job than Jenna Morasca. Jenna became a reality TV star by showing off her incredible bikini body to millions of Survivor fans every week, and eventually was signed by TNA as part of the Main Event Mafia angle in 2009. While her career as a wrestler wouldn’t last long, she did participate in a one-on-one contest with fellow valet Sharmell that has been described as the worst match in pro wrestling history.