Tracking the Divas' (R)Evolution over the years
It all began with that one Sable interview where she addressed the women in the World Wrestling Federation as ‘Divas’. Not many may admit it or believe it but Sable was one of the most important reasons for the Attitude Era to be as successful. Sure, Stone Cold Steve Austin raised hell. Sure, Mick Foley broke a lot of bones. Sure, violence was rampant. What was also in much demand was the hypersexualization of female performers.
But since that term was popularized by her, someone who came before her to the company was termed the original ‘Diva’ by the WWE. Her name is Sunny and she was a heel magnet.
It’s been quite a journey over the years. It may not be a hugely successful division right now, but it seems to be moving in the right direction.
So, as the term goes, conventionally it is defined as a woman with a very arrogant temperament. Also, someone who was sexualised. The first woman who aced that look was Sunny. She wasn’t a wrestler. She was a manager and was immensely successful in making any performer or tag team get over as heels. The kind of heat she was generating was the kind that the company strived for in the following year. Sable graciously took the baton and ran away with it. She became an icon of The Attitude Era and was also made to wrestle. Sable is also a Women’s Champion. But her time in the WWE meant gimmick matches like Bikini matches or evening gown matches, which were a common occurrence. There was no actual wrestling involved. The only impressive thing about her skill set was the powerbomb.
So, as and when Divas originated, they were basically there for eye candy.
The Difference Makers
But things seemed to change as Chyna was introduced
To many Chyna was the Ninth Wonder Of The World. There was no woman of her physical stature yet in the WWE. She wasn’t at all like all the other hypersexualized Divas, though she did become one as time progressed, but she wasn’t petite. She was tough. She could hang in there with men and broke all typical notions held to women athletes in the WWE.
What followed later was a combination of the strength and spirit Chyna possessed to the oomph factor that Sable and Sunny introduced.
Thus came the nascent stage of the Divas division where Lita, Molly Holly, Trish Stratus and Co. took the reigns to revitalize the division.
Trish Stratus is everybody’s favorite example. She went from knowing nothing about wrestling to becoming the greatest Women’s Champion in WWE history. That, people, is a great story.
Models to Athletes
Ever since then a successor to Trish has been one of the focused searches for the company. They began hiring models who knew nothing about wrestling and then began making them win against the likes of beth Phoenix and Natalya.
Sometime then, Mickie James and Melina had sort of continued the rich legacy that Trish and Lita had left behind, but times were changing.
But now with NXT, athletes are getting prime importance. Wrestling is important again. Even the Bellas and Alicia Fox have improved a great deal. Being an athlete seemed to be holding firm importance. Look at Eva Marie. She’s the next in line for a momentum surge. She was nothing to begin with and now her training with The Brian Kendrick has been making the rounds to make her look like a changed performer.
Charlotte was a newcomer who’s improved to become a marquee star for NXT. She dreams of main-eventing Wrestlemania and if booked seriously, she very well can.
Paige, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Tamina are all gaining precedence in the Divas Division. Athleticism is conquering beauty. Sure, you’re expected to look presentable, be a woman or a man on WWE television, but performing as an athlete is gaining more ground.
So, even if the revolution seems underwhelming, they’re still moving in the right direction with the current crop of Divas. At least there seems to be no successor to Kelly Kelly around.