Throughout its history, women have served in various onscreen roles in the American professional wrestling promotion WWE. In the 1990s, WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) introduced the term Diva to refer to its female performers The term was applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers. The term was discontinued at WrestleMania 32 on April 3, 2016. WWE currently refers to their female talent as Women/Female Superstars or simply Superstars.
The Moolah Days
After winning the NWA Women's Title in 1956 from Judy Grable, the Fabulous Moolah defected to the WWF in 1983. Moolah, who was the NWA Women's Champion and legal owner of the title, joined the WWF including selling them the rights to the title after they would disaffiliate from the NWA and recognized her as the first WWF Women's Champion. Additionally, the WWF also recognized Moolah's reign at the time as a continuation of her first NWA World Women's Championship reign, which occurred in 1956, resulting in the promotion not recognizing other reigns that occurred during the title's existence in the NWA. Thus, The Fabulous Moolah's reign was considered to have lasted 27 years by the promotion. This time period during the early 1980s saw the introduction of many female wrestlers who competed with the promotion. WWF also introduced the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship with Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria recognized as the first champions after also defecting from the NWA. The following year, music artist Cyndi Lauper began a verbal feud with manager "Captain" Lou Albano, who long had a reputation of being a villain; this brought professional wrestling into mainstream culture in a storyline that became known as the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection". When it was finally time for Lauper and Albano to settle their differences in the ring, a match-up was scheduled with Albano representing Moolah against the challenge of Lauper's protégé, Wendi Richter. This led to Moolah losing the title at The Brawl to End It All, broadcast live on MTV. Richter would then lose the title to Leilani Kai the following year but would win it back at Wrestlemania 1 (March 31, 1985).
In late 1985, the WWF did an angle (a fictional storyline) in which all the managers in the promotion competed to offer their services to Randy Savage. During a match on July 30, 1985, several managers were at ringside in hopes that he would name one of them as his new manager. After the match, Savage thanked the managers for their consideration and then asked that his new manager come to ringside. An attractive, unnamed woman then came down to the ring, and announcer Bruno Sammartino remarked, "She must be some sort of movie star". It was later revealed that her name was Miss Elizabeth. Elizabeth's WWF debut aired on the August 24, 1985, edition of WWF Prime Time Wrestling. From that point on, she managed Randy Savage. Miss Elizabeth's first major angle was during Savage's feud with George "The Animal" Steele in 1986. In the angle, Steele fell in love with Elizabeth, angering Savage and leading to a series of grudge matches between him and Steele. Their feud was one of the WWF's most popular of the 1980s; it carried on for more than a year, thanks to the feral Steele's continued innocent crush on Elizabeth. She also figured prominently in Savage's 1986 feuds with Hulk Hogan and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat.
In 1987 saw the introduction of Mike McGuirk as the first female ring announcer of the promotion. After former AWA wrestler Jesse Ventura referred her to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF), Sherri Martel debuted on July 24, 1987, defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship. Renaming herself 'Sensational' Sherri, she reigned as WWF Women's Champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin.
The first Survivor Series PPV saw the first female elimination match. On February 1989 the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship was deactivated and The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leilani Kai) would be the final title holders. Sapphire would debut in November 1989 initially as a fan cheering on Dusty Rhodes before transitioning shortly as the manager of Rhodes and figured prominently in Rhodes' feuds with Ted Dibiase, Randy Savage and Sensational Queen Sherri. Rockin' Robin would then be the last WWF Women's Champion in the late 80's.
When the WWF phased out its female-talent roster in 1990, Sensational Sherri would remain with the company, focusing on managing male wrestlers joining Miss Elizabeth and Sapphire. Sapphire would depart from the company in the summer of 1990. At Wrestlemania 9, Luna Vachon would debut and in process along with Bam Bam Bigelow feuded with Sherri and Tatanka. Elizabeth and Sherri would then each depart from the company in 1992 and 1993. Although the term 'Diva' did not exist during this time period, WWE acknowledges this time period as the beginning of the women's division.
The Golden Era (1993–1997)
In 1993, the WWF reinstated its Women's Championship, a title that had been vacant since 1990, and Debra Miceli was brought in by the company to revive the women's division. She debuted under the ring name Alundra Blayze, because WWF owner Vince McMahon did not want to pay Miceli to use the name Madusa, which she had trademarked. She wrestled in a six-woman tournament to crown a new Women's Champion, and in the finals, she pinned Heidi Lee Morgan on the December 13, 1993 episode of All American Wrestling to win the title.
After the tournament, Miceli asked WWF management to bring in new women for her to wrestle. Former champion Leilani Kai briefly returned to the company at Wrestlemania X facing Blayze for the Women's title. In mid-1994, Bull Nakano joined the WWF roster and began feuding with Miceli, who was also feuding with Luna Vachon. Blayze defeated Nakano at SummerSlam, but lost the belt to her on November 20, 1994 in Japan at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event. Five months later on April 3, 1995, Blayze regained the title from Nakano on an edition of Monday Night Raw. As part of the storyline, immediately following the win, she was attacked by Bertha Faye, who broke her nose. In reality, the storyline was written so Miceli could take time off to get breast implants and a nose job. She returned to the ring in August 1995, losing the Women's Championship to Faye at SummerSlam on August 27. Two months later, she won the title a third time, defeating Faye on October 23. Later on, various Japanese female wrestlers including Aja Kong debuted leading to the second elimination match at the Survivor Series 1995 event. In December, due to financial troubles the WWF was having at the time, Blayze was released from her contract and was stripped of the title following her jump to rival company World Championship Wrestling, and the WWF Women's Championship remained vacant until 1998.
Sunny (Tammy Sytch) debuted in 1995 as the manager of The Bodydonnas. Sunny's character was at first a continuation of the female manager that had been popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Over time, the character was significantly sexualized, whereas prior female managers, such as Miss Elizabeth, were depicted as being involved in either platonic or romantic storylines.
Between 1996 and 1997, Marlena, Sable, and Chyna joined Sunny as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Marlena and Sable were just as sexualized as Sunny, with Marlena suggestively smoking cigars at ringside during matches and Sable coming to the ring in form-fitting leather catsuits. Chyna was offered as an antithesis to the rest of the Divas, a masculine bodybuilder whose sexual identity was the subject of early storylines. Sunny, Sable, and Marlena were further marketed as sex symbols through WWF's Raw Magazine, which featured monthly spreads of the women in suggestive poses either semi-nude or wearing provocative clothing.
Attitude Era (1998–2002)
In 1998, Debra debuted and shortly thereafter was featured in a Raw Magazine spread. At the beginning of her WWF career, she played the part of a shrewd businesswoman, wearing business suits, and Jeff Jarrett's girlfriend Debra, however, began utilizing a new strategy during Jarrett's matches, distracting his opponents by unbuttoning her blouse. She would willingly take off her blouse to show the crowd her "puppies", a nickname originally bestowed upon her chest by wrestler Road Dogg and later utilized by commentator Jerry Lawler.
Marlena was the manager of Goldust, her then real-life husband, and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, Marc Mero. Sable, however, quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity, leading to the reinstatement of the WWF Women's Championship as well as the promotion's hiring of more female wrestlers. Sable's popularity led to a shift in the role of women in the WWF, as the promotion began to rely less on its female performers as simply eye candy and placed a greater emphasis on female athletes who actually competed in matches. She was one of the first females to compete in such specialty matches as evening gown matches, inter-gender tag team matches, and strap matches, competed in the first-ever WWF bikini contest against Jacqueline, and was also the first female talent to be a Playboy cover girl. Unlike Jacqueline, Ivory, Tori, and Luna, the more physical Divas and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps. Sable became the first WWF female to refer to herself as a "Diva" during the April 19 edition of Raw in 1999; the term shortly thereafter became the official title for WWF's female performers. In February 1999, the WWF also debuted another veteran female wrestler, Ivory. In August 1999, Lilian Garcia joined the promotion as the 2nd official female ring announcer. The September 6 edition of Raw saw the first Hardcore match contested for the Women's Championship. The match was between Ivory and Tori. The Fabulous Moolah returned to the WWF along with Mae Young the following week on the September 9, 1999 episode of SmackDown!, Jeff Jarrett invited Moolah, into the ring and smashed a guitar over her head. Moolah and Young then started taking part in various storylines and angles including comedic roles. Moolah returned to the ring teaming with Mae Young on the September 27, 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw, defeating Ivory who was the Women's Champion in a Handicapped Evening Gown match, which led to a title match at No Mercy on October 17, 1999. The match saw 76-year-old Moolah defeat Ivory to win the WWF Women's Championship, thus becoming the oldest WWF Women's Champion ever, though she lost the title to Ivory eight days later.
In February 2000, Lita debuted; she performed higher-risk moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas. Shortly thereafter, Trish Stratus made her debut. Stratus started off as a valet who brought pure sexuality to the ring. Also, later that year, Molly Holly was added to the roster. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas because she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.
During 2000, the Women's Championship was defended in the main event on two occasions. On the March 30 edition of SmackDown defending champion Jacqueline wrestled Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. The August 21 edition of Raw defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley wrestled Lita.
In early 2001, Stratus became involved in a storyline with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon, during a time when Vince's wife Linda was kayfabe institutionalized following a demand Vince had made for a divorce during an episode of SmackDown! on December 7, 2000. Vince and Stratus' relationship increasingly angered the boss' daughter, then-heel, Stephanie McMahon. At No Way Out on February 25, Stratus and Stephanie squared off, with Stephanie scoring the victory after interference by William Regal. Later on it was revealed that Stratus was the victim of a set-up by Vince, Stephanie and Regal. The angle continued the next week on Raw with Vince forcing Stratus to strip down to her black underwear in the ring and bark like a dog. The storyline came to an end at WrestleMania X-Seven when Stratus slapped Vince during his match against his son Shane McMahon, becoming a fan favorite in the process.
Finally, 2001 saw the WWF's purchase of its chief competitors, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the consequent entry of former WCW female talent, such as Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson, into the WWF. Also later in the year, Chyna left the WWF due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. In the autumn of 2001, Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and improved her in-ring ability. She worked her way up to the top of the division and eventually won the Women's Championship at Survivor Series.
Divas / Women's Revolution (2015–present)
On the February 23, 2015 episode of Raw, The Bella Twins faced Paige and Emma in a match, that lasted around half a minute. After the match, a hashtag on the Twitter social media hashtag called #GiveDivasaChance trended worldwide for around 1.5 days. This hashtag would bring attention to various multi-media outlets over the long tenured controversy over the company's treatment of their women's division including AJ Lee who briefly responded with discontent to Stephanie McMahon over this subject.
On March 15, 2015 WWE Superstar James Harrison along with his family took full control of the WWE, at this point Harrison made it clear that he would listen to the fans and make the Divas a huge part of the future.
On April 3, 2015 three-time Divas champion AJ Lee retired from in-ring competition, following this Harrison tweeted "Unfortunately I have to report the news that three-time Divas Champion AJ Lee has retired, all of us her at the WWE wish her well in her future endeavors." Harrison would admit oin May 13, 2015 that he had planned to make AJ a four-time champion at Extreme Rules.
As the original plans of AJ becoming a four-time champion had ended, Harrison issued a Battle Royal to find Nikki Bella's opponents at Extreme Rules, Harrison said there would be three opponents, Paige, Cameron and Natalya following the Battle Royal, Natalya would win the Fatal 4-Way becoming a two-time champion. For Payback Harrison announced that Natalya would face Layla, he also announced that the WWE Women's Championship would be bought out of retirement and that Emma and Cameron would face each other for it. He then said the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship would also come out of retirement and re-named the WWE Divas Tag Team Championship and that the Bellas will face Naomi and Tamina for it.
Over the remainder of the year more opportunities were given to the Divas division with four matches featuring at Night of Champions (2015). The return of "The Hardcore Diva" Ana Sanchez helped to boost the reputation, her style of wrestling saw the first ever Divas Hell in a Cell match at the pay-per-view of the same name. She also became a record breaking four-time Divas Champion. Sanchez would defend her title seven times betweem Hell in a Cell and TLC including at Survivor Series, her matches included no holds barred matches, steel cage matches and table matches. Her level of extreme wrestling and the fact that she used her Coup de Grâce signature move to put fellow Divas through tables saw leaked emails from Nikki Bella to James Harrison telling him that a lot of the Divas didn't want to face Sanchez.
In 2016 Becky Lynch defended her WWE Women's Championship on the kickoff of the Royal Rumble against Paige the match recieved a 4.5 star rating the highest for a women's match not including Ana Sanchez. Sasha Banks won the first ever Divas Royal Rumble meaning she would get a shot at the Divas Championship at WrestleMania 32. Becky Lynch won a Divas Championship tournament to get a shot at the title at Fastlane, Lynch put her Women's Championship on the line as well against Ana Sanchez which Sanchez won. At WrestleMania 32 it was announced the term Diva would be retired just not the title with the women being referred to as "Superstars" or Women. Ana Sanchez successfully defended her Divas Championship against Sasha Banks with her Women's title not on the line, Becky Lynch cashed-in her Money in the Bank contract after a fight she claimed the title entering her first reign. The first ever women's 60-minute Iron Man match was competed at Extreme Rules with Ana Sanchez defending her title succesfully against Melissa.
Championships and accomplishments
- See also: List of current champions in WWE
|Championship||Current champion||Date won||Location||Previous champion||First champion|
|Global Championship||Toni Storm||April 27, 2018||Jeddah, Saudi Arabia||Emma||Taya Valkyrie|
|Women's Championship||Lena||April 8, 2018||London, England||Bayley||The Fabulous Moolah|
|Women's Tag Team Championship||The Powerhouse||February 13, 2018||Bakersfield, CA||Bayley and Becky Lynch||Velvet McIntyre and|
|Mixed Tag Team Championship||Candice LeRae|
(with Johnny Gargano)
|December 17, 2017||Boston, MA||Nikki Storm and Big Damo||Cameron and|
|NXT Women's Championship||Io Shirai||November 18, 2017||Houston, TX||Lena||Paige|
Money in the Bank
|Year||Winner||Championship||Date||Cashed in Date||Contract Held for||Result||Cashed in on|
|2015||Becky Lynch||Divas||June 14||April 3, 2016||294 days||Won||Ana Sanchez|
|2016||Melissa||Divas||June 19||November 22||156 days||Won||Asuka|
|2016||Bayley||Women's||June 19||October 17||120 days||Won||Alexa Bliss|
|2017||Emma||Global||June 18||January 28||224 days||Won||Asuka|
Hall of Famers
|The Fabulous Moolah||1995|
|Rookie||Season Winner||Date won|
|Kaitlyn||Third season||November 30, 2010|
WWE Tough Enough
|Season Winner||Date won|
|Nidia Guenard||September 27, 2001|
|May 30, 2002|
|Sara Lee||August 25, 2015|
Grand Slam Champions
|Champion||Primary Championships||Tag Team Championship||Secondary Championship|
|Divas / Global Championship||Women's Championship||Women's Tag Team Championship||Women's Hardcore Championship|
|Brie Bella||April 11, 2011||September 20, 2015||May 17, 2015|
(with Nikki Bella)
|June 1, 2015|
|Nikki Bella||August 23, 2012||May 17, 2015|
(with Brie Bella)
|June 3, 2015|
|Sasha Banks||May 31, 2015||June 14, 2015|
(with Charlotte Flair)
|June 6, 2015|
|Paige||April 7, 2014||July 6, 2015|
(with Charlotte Flair,
Becky Lynch and Bayley)
|June 5, 2015|
|Becky Lynch||April 3, 2016||December 13, 2015||July 6, 2015|
(with Charlotte Flair,
Paige and Bayley)
|June 6, 2015|
|Taya Valkyrie||June 19, 2016||May 1, 2016|
(with Taryn Terrell and Melissa)
|November 8, 2015|
|Bayley||October 17, 2016||July 6, 2015|
(with Charlotte Flair,
Becky Lynch and Paige)
|May 31, 2015|
|Melissa||November 22, 2016||May 31, 2016|
(with Taryn Terrell and Taya Valkyrie)
|November 18, 2015|
|Charlotte Flair||January 29, 2017||June 14, 2015|
(with Sasha Banks)
|June 3, 2015|
|Name||WWE Women's Championship||WWE Women's Tag Team Championship||WWE Divas Championship||WWE Global Championship||NXT Women's Championship||WWF/WWE Intercontinental Championship||WWE Women's Hardcore Championship||WWE Cruiserweight Championship|
Pro Wrestling Illustrated
Wrestler of the Year
Manager of the Year
Feud of the Year
|2009||Ana Sanchez vs. Maryse|
Most Improved Wrestler of the Year
Most Popular Wrestler
Comeback of the Year
Most Inspirational Wrestler of the Year
Rookie of the Year
Woman of the Year
|2001||Ana Sanchez (2)|
|2002||Ana Sanchez (3)|
|2003||Ana Sanchez (4)|
|2004||Ana Sanchez (5)|
|2006||Trish Stratus (2)|
|2007||Ana Sanchez (6)|
|2013||AJ Lee (2)|
|2014||AJ Lee (3)|
|2015||Ana Sanchez (7)|
PWI Female 50
|2008||Ana Sanchez||Beth Phoenix||–||Mickie James||–||–||–||Melina||Michelle McCool||Candice Michelle|
|2009||Ana Sanchez||Mickie James||Maryse||–||–||–||Beth Phoenix||Michelle McCool||–||–|
|2010||Ana Sanchez||Michelle McCool||–||–||Eve Torres||–||Beth Phoenix||Mickie James||–||Maryse|
|2011||Ana Sanchez||–||–||Natalya||–||Eve Torres||Beth Phoenix||–||–||–|
|2012||Beth Phoenix||Ana Sanchez||–||Eve Torres||–||Layla||–||–||–||–|
|2013||–||–||Ana Sanchez||–||Kaitlyn||–||–||–||AJ Lee||–|
|2015||Natalya||Paige||Ana Sanchez||Sasha Banks||Nikki Bella||–||Brie Bella||–||Charlotte||Bayley|
|2016||Ana Sanchez||Becky Lynch||Asuka||Candice LeRae||–||Taya Valkyrie||–||Lena||Bayley||Alexa Bliss|