Underrated Female Legends: The Pioneers who started the Divas revolution

As WWE retired the WWE Divas Championship, an entire era came to an end. The last era of women wrestlers was completely ignored by the masses. People weren’t ready to take women wrestling seriously and were not interested in watching them compete. Despite this a few of them managed to make their presence known. These women went on to break the notion that “women wrestlers could not get people involved”. These women began the original Divas revolution by grabbing the eyes of people when fans were not yet ready to accept women wrestling.

The feat achieved by these revolutionaries is beyond words as they went on to break the notion that girls weren’t just eye candies by delivering quality action and they rose to prominence when WWE was all about male wrestling. Despite all of these accolades most people dub Divas of the last era as failures, forgetting that these women gave their very best and were the reason why people started watching women wrestling in the first place. These women never got the credit they deserved for their hard work and even now aren’t largely recognized for their last impact. Honoring these under-appreciated legends, here are a few women who with their charisma, talent and dedication changed the way people looked at women wrestling.

Melina

wwe_melinaWhether it’s being that villainous backstabbing friend or being a fan favorite who was bullied by Beth Phoenix or a team manager, Melina always nailed it. Starting her career as an arrogant character, Melina debuted in WWE as a part of the legendary trio MNM and she quickly established herself as someone who the fans loved to watch. In a WWE run of over 6 years (2005-2011) Melina went on to win the Women’s championship three times and the Divas championship twice. She helped the MNM team get victories on countless occasions before making her long awaited in-ring debut. She made her in-ring debut against future first-ever Divas Champion Michelle McCool in a winning effort. Over the years she would develop as a character and gain popularity, courtesy to the controversial angle between her and Batista. As the team MNM would split, Melina would find herself in Raw.

Melina would at last get her big push as she became the WWE women’s champion for the first time in her career by pinning Mickie James. By holding the belt she would become the first ever Tough Enough contestant to win a women’s title. In a reign of 64 days, Melina would have a much acclaimed feud against Mickie James. The feud would see the two women competing in the first ever women’s falls count anywhere match, with Melina coming out on top. She would eventually lose the belt for a few minutes to James as she was pinned on a live event but the match would be immediately restarted by the orders of Jonathan Coachman. Melina ended on top and pin James hence starting her second reign. She would eventually lose the title to Candice Michelle.

After being off radar for a few months, Melina would form an alliance with then women’s champion Beth Phoenix. After some confrontation the duo would spilt and would have a string of matches. The feud would end with Melina winning the belt and becoming a three-time women’s champion. The special part about this feud was that she and Bethe faced each other in the first and till date only women’s “I quit” match in WWE. Bethe won the match but not before facing tough competition from Melina. The match is also regarded as one of the best women wrestling matches of the era.

Melina would then be traded to back to Smackdown, shortly she would lose the title to Michelle McCool. After some time she would win the Divas championship, and then she was traded to RAW. However her reign was cut short as she suffered an injury. She would return in 2010 to capture back the Divas belt only to lose it to Michelle McCool once again.

Melina has had a defining career in WWE. She is the one of the two women to have held, both the WWE Divas and woman championship more than once. Her in-ring athleticism brought her a huge fan base and made people tune in to watch her bouts. She has played a huge factor in shaping up the history of women wrestling in WWE.

Beth Phoenix

220px-beth-phoenix-t4“The Glamazona” was one of the most dominant female wrestler of her era. Starting from entering the Royal Rumble in 2010 and eliminating the Indian titan Khali, or wrestling with Santino, to dominating female athletes by her inhuman strength, Beth broke the barriers of sex, size and shape in WWE. Debuting as an ally of Trish Stratus in 2006 as a fan favorite Phoenix would get into a feud with Mickie James, who would turn out to be the woman against whom she would have a career defining feud in the future. However, Beth would not become a major ace in the division until mid-2007 when she returned as the dominant character “The Glamazona”.

Phoenix, despite being a heel, was one of the favorites on the female roster. She went on to become the number one contender to the Women’s championship. This was followed by her being pushed as a dominating figure as she attacked other female stars like Mickie James, Jillian Hall and many more. She would capture her first title at No Mercy in October 2007. Her feud with Candice would continue and culminate in a rare two out of three fall match, with Beth coming out on top.

She would continue her dominating reign, successfully defending the belt in matches and leading a Survivor Series team in a failing effort courtesy Melina. Her dominating march would come to an end at the hands of rival Mickie James. After some time off the radar, “The Glamazona” would return to answer the open challenge of Santino Marella, defeating him. Soon the duo would form a tag team….which arguably was the only mixed tag team in which the female wrestler was the alpha. The duo, Beth and Santino known as Glamarella, went on to capture the Women’s title and Intercontinental title respectively from Mickie James and Kofi Kingston in a mixed tag match with Beth pinning Mickie. Beth would even lead her team to victory at Survivor Series in a Raw vs. Smackdown 5-on-5 match. She would then lose the title to Melina.

In the coming years Beth would go on to add other accolades to her name as she became the second woman to enter the Royal Rumble, winning the women’s championship for a third time and participating in the first-ever women’s table’s match in a wining effort.

Beth would in mid-2011 create the most dominating tag team the WWE divas had ever seen. She and Natalya combined forces and called themselves the Divas of Doom. Beth would then go on to capture the Divas title from Kelly Kelly. They would continue their domination for over 200 days before splitting up. The duo would play an important role as their dominating persona would bring in large scale attention to the state of women’s wrestling in WWE. People usually ignore the contribution made by this group as the female matches during the reign were involving. Some of the matches of this era were horribly underrated like Bethe vs. Tamina at Elimination Chamber 2012.

Bethe would at last lose the title to Nikki Bella. She would return a month later to feud against Layla for the WWE women’s belt but failing. Bethe revolutionized women wrestling in WWE. She broke the myth that a WWE Diva has to be cute and girly to see success in the company, but she is beautiful. Bethe was one of the most dominating female wrestlers of her era. Apart from that it was her amazing in-ring work that attracted attention to the state of women wrestling in WWE. “The Glamazona” worked hard and slammed down the vices of sex, shape and size just the way she slammed her opponents. It is sad that a revolutionary like her has not seen much respect in the WWE.

Eve Torres

eve-torres-wweTorres was one of the most noticeable wrestlers of her era. A three-time Divas champion, Eve was one of the most entertaining performers of her time. A 2007 Diva search winner, Eve started her WWE career in 2008 and had a successful run in the company. Torres started her career by taking part in contests and being a backstage interviewer. She got into feuds against Layla and Michelle McCool and managed Cryme Time for her first year in the company, hence playing the role of a minor heel.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Eve got her first push as she took part in the tournament to win the vacant Diva belt. She lost the match to eventual winner Maryse. She later went on to become the number one contender to the belt and pinned Maryse to win her first championship. She successfully defended the belt for 69 days before losing the belt to Alicia Fox in a fatal four-way match. Eve would fail to capture back the belt. After staying out of major in-ring action for the rest of 2010, Eve would be announced as the surprise entrant in the Divas match at Royal Rumble 2011. She won the match and began her second reign as a champion. The reign saw her defend the belt against Natalya and Nikki Bella before she dropped the title to Brie Bella.

Eve would then align herself with Kelly Kelly to feud against the legendary women tag team Divas of Doom. She would go on to become the number one contender to the Divas championship and lock horns against Beth Phoenix in a series of entertaining matches but would fail to win the belt. Eve soon entered a storyline with Zack Ryder, where she would become his onscreen girlfriend. This storyline was an important part in her career as she got the attention of large scale audiences because of an angle with John Cena. She would later turn on Ryder and would go on to become an assistant to John Laurinaitis.

In late 2012, Eve would suddenly turn face and would start behaving as a face. She would replace Kaitlin for a shot at Divas championship, as Kaitlin was attacked by a mysterious person backstage. Eve would win the title at Night of Champions by defeating Layla. In the coming weeks it would become clear that Eve was the one who scripted the attack.

Eve would then begin a huge feud with Kaitlin. The duo would have some of the most entertaining female matches of the year. She went on to successfully defend the belt multiple times. The duo would at last meet on the 20th anniversary which, by then standards, was one of the best woman fights. Eve would lose the bet and would announce retirement from wrestling.

Eve was the first ever female anti of her era. Many a times women had tried to portray heel but had failed because of lack of abilities. Eve did everything with perfection and brought genuine boos from the crowd. In a career of just four years she managed to become a three-time Divas champion, assistant general manager and even main evented a episode of Raw, becoming the third woman to do so. Eve has helped a lot in the growth of women’s pro wrestling.

All these women, Melina, Beth and Eve, have given up their blood and sweat for the recognition of women’s pro wrestling. These women brought attention to themselves when people were sure that women couldn’t fight. Their achievements are huge but it is sad people won’t ever recognize the contribution of these women. If the girls today are breaking all barriers and are creating history it’s because of the fact that these women gave their life, for menial pay and no respect whatsoever I might add, for nothing but just the upliftment of the position of women in the industry.

Paarth Pande
(@PandePaarth)

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