WWE is approaching a golden age for women's wrestling

Are AJ Lee, Paige and Charlotte Flair ready to take WWE's Divas division to the next rung on the ladder? Richard Hoy-Browne believes so.

It has been quite the eventful first half of the year for WWE. From the launch of the WWE Network to the end of the Undertaker’s famed WrestleMania undefeated streak, there has been plenty to talk about. The in-ring action has been at a consistently high level too, with battles between The Shield and the Wyatt Family, and Evolution; Daniel Bryan’s quest to become WWE World Heavyweight Champion and Cesaro’s rise up the card producing quality matches on a weekly basis. It has been a good year for fans of wrestling’s biggest company.
 

In among the plaudits and the platitudes for the names mentioned above, another match has been mentioned time and time again in the discussion over what has been the best of the year thus far. It featured two second generation stars fighting it out in the final of a title tournament, with each having a legendary figure from their family in their corner. It was the story of a seasoned veteran who was looking to regain their status versus the up-and-coming young star who was looking to establish their name.

After a back and forth encounter which featured incredible wrestling, reversals and submission attempts, it would be the younger of the two who would come out victorious. As the two embraced following the conclusion, their Hall of Famer relatives came into the ring to shake hands and appreciate what they had just seen – a match that was worthy of two legendary names in professional wrestling. The match had time to tell a great story, exhibit both wrestlers’ strengths and build to an exciting and emotional climax. The fact that it was contested by two female wrestlers – Charlotte, daughter of ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair and Natalya, daughter of Jim ‘The Anvil’ Neidhart and niece of Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart was refreshing.
AJ regained the Divas championship after beating Paige AJ regained the Divas championship after beating Paige

Women’s wrestling had for many years been something of a sideshow in the masculine world of WWE. For many years, the only women you would see in or around a ring would be valets such as Miss Elizabeth or Sensational Sherri. There was a time in the mid-nineties where the WWF tried to build a Women’s Championship around Alundra Blayze (better known as Madusa in WCW), but it was given up on almost as soon as it started and Blayze would be best remembered for throwing the WWF Women’s Championship into the bin on an episode of WCW Nitro.

 It was from that point on that women in the WWF were used more as eye candy as anything else, as valets such as Sunny, Sable and Debra would appear on weekly programming in a state of undress as opposed to squaring off in the ring. Around this time there were some women who could wrestle, for example Jacqueline and Ivory, but their matches were never given much time to be anything more than filler. Chyna was perhaps the biggest female star of the late nineties, with her muscular physique and frequent clashes with the male roster making her stand out as a fan favourite, but aside from her match against Jeff Jarrett at No Mercy 1999, Chyna’s in ring career is better best forgotten.

The appointment of Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay as the women’s trainer in the early 2000’s was a turning point for the WWE’s women’s division. Moving from the ‘Bra and Panties’ matches normally associated with the women’s roster to a focus on actual wrestling, Finlay helped mould the wrestling skills of women such as WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus, Mickie James, Victoria, Molly Holly and Lita among others. This led to some of the best women’s matches in years in the WWE, with Lita and Stratus famously main eventing Raw. Sadly, it didn’t last - Finlay was called up to the active roster and the women’s roster would flounder, with skilled wrestlers such as Beth Phoenix becoming the exception rather than the rule as the WWE became more interested in hiring swimsuit models rather than women with a wrestling background. Ultimately, this led to a steep decline in the in ring quality of the WWE Women’s division.

Try as they may, women such as Kelly Kelly just did not have the required ability to put on credible matches.  Over the next few years there would be glimmers of hope with the emergence of Phoenix and Natalya. Kharma, who had risen to prominence in TNA as Awesome Kong, also signed with the WWE and it seemed we were set for a renewed women’s division, but Kharma soon departed and Phoenix and Natalya were placed in situations that would be generally diminishing (Natalya was once placed in a storyline where she suffered from a flatulence problem).

Things slowly began to turn around and by 2012 the WWE signed the woman who would have the biggest impact on the woman’s division since Fit Finlay – Sara Amato, who was seen as one of the best female wrestlers in the world under the name of Sara Del Ray. Amato was not hired to wrestle, however – she was hired to coach.

Since the hiring of Amato, the standard of the WWE Women’s division has never been higher. With the addition of NXT to the WWE’s weekly programming, the women have had a chance to learn in the ring with quality opponents, and have more importantly been given time to show what they can do, resulting in the aforementioned Charlotte vs Natalya match which stole the show at NXT Takeover.

The WWE women’s division has never been stronger, and these are the ladies who are leading the way:

AJ Lee: The reigning Diva’s champion and new Mrs CM Punk, AJ returned last week on Raw to win the title back she had lost from Paige on the post-WrestleMania Raw . AJ is a true student of wrestling and her love for the profession is demonstrated by the fact that the date of her first title win is tattooed on the back of her neck. She has come on leaps and bounds since the days of being Daniel Bryan’s downtrodden girlfriend.
AJ Lee: the current Divas champion AJ Lee: the current Divas champion

Paige: Norfolk’s finest Paige looks set to start a much needed heel turn following a mixed bag first Diva’s title reign. From the legendary UK wrestling family the Knights, Paige cut her teeth in NXT and became the first ever NXT Diva’s Champion before moving up to the main roster to defeat AJ on her debut.
Paige's imminent heel turn could see her regain top spot in the division Paige's imminent heel turn could see her regain top spot in the division

Charlotte: Daughter of ‘Nature Boy’ Ric Flair, Charlotte is the reigning NXT Divas Champion having defeated Natalya in the aforementioned classic at NXT Takeover. A natural athlete who has taken to wrestling as if she had been doing it all her life, Charlotte has all the tools to become a legend in the women’s ranks.
Charlotte and her father, the 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair Charlotte and her father, the 'Nature Boy' Ric Flair

Natalya: The best current wrestler in the WWE women’s division, Natalya plays the role of grizzled veteran to perfection, despite the fact that she is still only 32. A member of the legendary Hart family, Nattie is the go-to woman to put on the big match when the chips are down. Perhaps underappreciated, Natalya remains a vital part of the roster.
Natalya is a seasoned veteran of the division, despite only being 32 Natalya is a seasoned veteran of the division, despite only being 32

Emma: Despite a bizarre few days that saw her released and then quickly re-hired, if Emma can get her head down and be given a chance to shine, she will quickly catch the eye on the main WWE roster. A graduate of Lance Storm’s wrestling school, Emma spent time honing her craft in NXT alongside Paige before being moved up to the main roster in a bizarre romance angle with the recently retired Santino Marella.
Emma could have a promising future with WWE Emma could have a promising future with WWE

Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
News
Jermain Defoe got loads of custard
i100
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux / Redhat / Solaris / Puppet / SAN

£65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape