The Divas division is now a thing of the past after WWE Hall of Famer Lita introduced the WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32. WWE have finally taken note of years of fan complaints that the term “Diva” is demeaning and sexist, and now the company has a renewed focus on the women’s division. With women like Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte, the state of women’s wrestling is in perhaps the best place it’s been in the history of the company.
However offensive WWE’s Divas division was to some, to many of the women who competed as Divas, the term holds some value. It represents a generation of women who did all they could to defy the odds, overcoming some of the more ridiculous things they were asked to do for their roles in order to keep women in WWE popular and prominent. After all, without years of the Divas division we may never have gotten to where we are today.
Though it was 2016 before the era was laid to rest, the entire first decade of the century consisted of women, many of whom were in WWE to be strictly wrestlers, being referred to as WWE Divas. Some saw it as a challenge and made “WWE Diva” a misnomer, a label that may sound bad on the outside but has been turned into something respectable. To celebrate the women who transcended the roles they were given in order to pave the way for the women’s division we know now, let’s catch up with 15 WWE Divas of the 2000s and see what they’re doing today.
Jazz might have just been the toughest WWE Diva of all time. After spending some time in Paul Heyman’s ECW, she made her debut on WWE television in 2001 and feuded with Trish Stratus, who she would eventually defeat for both of her Women’s Championships. For three years, Jazz dominated the Divas division, plowing through all competition set before her, and even managed her real-life husband and former WWE Superstar Rodney Mack before being released from the company.
Debra’s rise to fame in the pro wrestling world came in the late ‘90s alongside Jeff Jarrett, but we can’t forget her role in the heel run of her then-husband “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Austin and Debra had an ugly real-life falling out, but she made a great accomplice to Austin as he now portrayed a villain and ran alongside Vince McMahon. She accompanied Austin to the ring and was involved in many backstage segments with him, providing plenty of opportunities for Austin’s cowardly side to shine.
13 Torrie Wilson
When WWE bought WCW in 2001, Torrie Wilson, already a popular performer in WCW, joined Vince McMahon’s wrestling giant as one of the newest WWE Divas. It was immediately evident that Torrie’s popularity would not be matched and, during the original WWE brand split, she became one of the biggest stars on SmackDown, involved in a famous storyline with Dawn Marie when Dawn married Torrie’s “father” Al Wilson, as well as landing the cover for Playboy magazine.
12 Molly Holly
Molly Holly, whose real name is Nora Benshoof (Greenwald), was probably one of the most underrated WWE Divas in history. With technical wrestling prowess unmatched by most women in WWE at the time, Molly mostly was placed into roles where she would be asked to make a fool of herself, but that didn’t stop her from finding success. She started as a cousin to Hardcore and Crash Holly, and then later found herself accompanying The Hurricane as Mighty Molly. Perhaps Molly’s most memorable moment, though, came at WrestleMania XX when she lost a match against Victoria and, as per the conditions of the match, had her head shaved bald on live television.
11 Christy Hemme
In 2004, the world was introduced to a fiery redhead known as Christy Hemme, the first woman to win a contract with WWE through its Diva Search competition. Fans were very skeptical of the tournament, which is widely criticized as the beginning of the end for actual wrestling in WWE’s women’s division for the next ten years. Hemme, however, stood head and shoulders above the competition with her energy and charisma, and fans warmed to her quickly.
10 Kelly Kelly
Kelly Kelly debuted in WWE’s reincarnation of ECW in 2006 as an exhibitionist, much to the delight of the men in the WWE Universe. Kelly would dance and remove her clothes on stage, but within a few years had picked up on the wrestling side of the business and found her way to the Divas Championship. In an era when fans didn’t care so much about women competing in the ring, Kelly Kelly became one of WWE’s most popular stars.
Anyone who knows anything about wrestling knows Sable was a 1990s icon, but it’s also worth mentioning that she had quite the interesting return to the company in 2003. She and WWE Diva Torrie Wilson were involved in a program which eventually saw them share a spread in Playboy magazine together. Sable later became Vince McMahon’s on-screen mistress, resulting in a feud between herself and Vince’s daughter Stephanie McMahon and ultimately an infamous father-daughter “I Quit” match between Vince and Stephanie.
8 Michelle McCool
Michelle McCool came along with the 2004 Diva Search and, even though she didn’t win the competition, she broke through barriers. The Diva Search competition brought with it the stigma of models who can’t wrestle, but Michelle trained and actually became one of the most athletically gifted female wrestlers of her era. Her initial gimmicks weren’t very successful, but eventually she was teamed with Layla El and as “LayCool” the duo terrorized the rest of the Divas division. Michelle become the Women’s Champion and the first ever Divas Champion.
Few knew how successful Melina Perez would go on to become when she debuted in 2005 with Johnny Nitro and Joey Mercury as MNM. She managed that tag team for a while, but would grow into a successful wrestler for WWE when she broke out on her own. Melina feuded with the biggest stars of the 2000s, including Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Trish Stratus and more. She won the WWE Women’s and Divas Championships on multiple occasions and was known for her uncanny flexibility, which she used to make her matches stand out.
6 Stacy Keibler
Known for having the best legs in all of professional wrestling, Stacy Keibler got her start in WCW as a member of the popular Nitro Girls, but was quickly getting involved in wrestling storylines. Briefly known as “Miss Hancock,” her popularity was shooting through the roof and when WWE bought WCW in 2001, she was signed on to Vince McMahon’s corporate machine. Throughout her WWE tenure, she would continue to captivate wrestling audiences with her stunning good looks and undeniable charisma, becoming a frequent competitor in the company’s trademark “bra and panties” matches of the time and at one time accompanying The Dudley Boyz as The Duchess of Dudleyville.
Lisa Marie Varon, better known as WWE’s Victoria, rose to prominence in the early 2000s feuding with the legendary WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus. Victoria became the WWE Women’s champion on two occasions and had a memorable run alongside Stevie Richards. She was known early in her career for her psychotic tendencies and her creepy entrance music, and was later involved in a storyline with real-life friends Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle where the three played “Vince’s Devils,” a group named after WWE boss Vince McMahon.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular WWE Divas of all time, Amy “Lita” Dumas is also one of the most influential. Many of today’s female WWE Superstars credit Lita for making them want to become wrestlers, with former WWE Diva AJ Lee even having an emotional moment caught on camera from when she met Lita at an autograph signing as a child. Lita’s battles with Trish Stratus were legendary, but she’s also known for the first ever Divas Steel Cage match against Victoria.
3 Beth Phoenix
There was no bigger way for Beth Phoenix to be thrust into the spotlight than alongside Trish Stratus against Mickie James, both of whom were on fire at the time. An early injury stifled Phoenix’s head start, but upon returning she dominated the entire Divas division. She was bigger and stronger than all the other women and WWE made sure Beth was booked for the part. After several Women’s and Divas Championship reigns, as well as a memorable rivalry with Michelle McCool and Layla, Beth wrestled her final match against AJ Lee in 2012 and retired from professional wrestling.
2 Mickie James
Mickie James debuted with WWE in 2005 as an obsessed fan of Trish Stratus. The two embarked on one of the most revered women’s angles in WWE history, which culminated at WrestleMania 22 in a legendary Women’s Championship match. Throughout that rivalry, Mickie slowly started to snap and turned on Trish, apparently because Trish wasn’t interested in a romantic relationship. The exceptional character development helped establish Mickie as a fan favorite despite playing the heel role. She would go on to feud with women like Beth Phoenix and Melina, as well as LayCool, in popular storylines and captured several Women’s and Divas Championships.
1 Trish Stratus
Coming at you with my new film #Gridlocked! World premiere happening next month at Fantastic Fest - so excited to have our film debut at this Fest! Had a blast filming it with co-stars @dominicpurcell & @codyhackman. Get ready to be stratusfied with lots of ass kicking!!💪🎥 Who's coming?? Deets for fest here➡️➡️ http://bit.ly/1hg7NGL
In 1999, a blonde fitness model named Trish Stratus was signed to WWE. Initially a manager for the tag team of Test and Albert, few could predict the profound effect she would go on to have, not just on women’s wrestling, but on the entire wrestling industry. Stratus is the most commonly credited woman by current female wrestlers when asked about their wrestling inspiration and rightfully so considering all the things Trish accomplished. She was a seven-time Women’s Champion, holding the title when she retired after defeating her long-time rival Lita in 2006.
Not only was Trish decorated with Championships, but she was involved in some of the most iconic moments in wrestling history, including popular storylines with the McMahon family. Trish has returned to WWE for several special appearances and one-off matches, one being at WrestleMania XXVII. But her focus these days is on her son, Maximus, born in 2013, and her yoga franchise, called “Stratusphere Yoga.” She's also starred in a few movies since then.
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