Over the last several weeks, beyond the typical posturing from promotions over which entity has the best roster of women, much of the chatter from within the industry and among fans circulating women’s wrestling has been the validity of a women-centric wrestling event akin to WWE’s Evolution in 2018.
First, let’s dispense with formalities. One, WWE isn’t the sole architect of the women’s revolution over the last decade. They played a huge part being inarguably the largest wrestling promotion on the globe, but promotions like Impact Wrestling and its Knockouts division date back to WWE’s own Divas era and was built more so on a higher-grade, competition-based foundation you’d later see replicated in WWE as it took women more and more seriously in the ring. Over time we’ve seen noted promotions like ROH and NWA try their hand at pushing forward their women’s divisions more strongly to varying degrees of success, more promotions popping up focused just on women, and not to mention the tremendous work Japanese women routinely put forward overseas in promotions like Stardom and TJPW. That’s further indicative in the work of Meiko Satomura on NXT UK now as a representation of what Joshis are capable of in the ring. Now to a much lesser extent we’re seeing women getting more national exposure on AEW programming, even if to say the company grossly underbooks women and mismanages their place on the card is a colossal understatement of the facts. The roster is good and budding, but its booking overall needs work and that’s on them to improve how their women are perceived.
Through these last years, especially since Evolution, recently-released WWE legend Mickie James had been extremely vocal about WWE specifically holding another all-women’s event, requests which fell on deaf ears it seems within WWE management and further undercut by recent comments by both HHH and Charlotte Flair.
They are foremost correct though. In an ideal situation, in all walks of our lives, women and men should be equal in terms of work, pay, standing and opportunity based on the work they put forward in their lives and professions. That isn’t arguable, and WWE specifically has shepherded some serious movements forward these last years in featuring women in key main events on major cards outside Evolution, most notably the two WrestleMania main events of the last few years. Especially Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair’s recent bout that fans overtly demanded be a main event. There’s an appetite for women’s wrestling, there’s a demand for it and it shouldn’t be ignored. And every step of the way, if a women’s program deserves the main event slot, regardless of the promotion, it should happen. WWE does so much right perceptively, far beyond AEW’s quickly-improving-yet-still-paltry efforts, but Charlotte and HHH are wrong to presume there’s no place for any event focusing just solely on women.
Golden Spoons and Silver Platters
Before Charlotte Flair became a multi-time women’s world champion, she was just Ashley Fliehr. She was no one other than Ric Flair’s daughter in the wrestling sphere; long before becoming an NXT standout and present-day standard bearer for women’s wrestling. Perspective is everything, and while she’s right to say it’s better to place high on a card among men as opposed to a card consisting of only women, it’s also presumptuous to believe all opportunities are equally doled out. Leaving men aside, not every woman has the platform to showcase what they’re made of, how they’ve developed and evolved; moreover, to define how and why that’s important as wrestling takes it next steps into future days. I believe what she says is fully true, but in contrast I’d also ask while all cards should feature a Charlotte Flair, how do we build new Ashley Fliehrs into new Charlotte Flairs?
That’s the crux of the conversation. It isn’t just about a handful of people placing high on a mixed-gender card, it’s a matter of how do we build the future and showcase others not typically featured on major shows. That’s where we come back to James’ argument in favour of an all-women’s show, now taking shape as an NWA event scheduled for late August. So far it seems like the James-produced show — “NWA Empowerrr” — will be welcoming women from across wrestling (outside WWE) to compete on the all-women’s showcase for a small-scale supershow on pay-per-view.
Let’s throw some names out though.
Sasha Banks. Charlotte Flair. Becky Lynch. Bayley. Bianca Belair. Asuka. Meiko Satomura. Kay Lee Ray. Even Alexa Bliss amid her current oddball storyline, not to mention all the women who built the foundation they all stand on today.
Let’s throw some more out there: Thunder Rosa. Britt Baker. Hikaru Shida. Tay Conti. Penelope Ford. Leyla Hirsch, Nyla Rose, Riho, or countless other Joshis outclassing most women in-ring overseas. These women are lesser known, but appear on national television and have that exposure to build careers from. Not to mention women like Deonna Purrazzo or Jordynne Grace in Impact, or even Tessa Blanchard who remains a free agent.
Now, one more list: Dani Jordyn. Alex Gracia. Madi Wrenkowski. Kamille. La Rosa Negra. Nicole Savoy. Willow Nightingale. Allysin Kay. Trish Adora. Miranda Alize. Marti Belle. Ashley Vox. If you recognize those names, congratulations. If not, you’ve cemented why all-women’s showcases like the forthcoming NWA show produced by James — or promotions like Rosa’s Mission Pro Wrestling or Shimmer — is absolutely necessary.
Strapping The Rocket To Your Back
It’s fantastic for men and women to be afforded the opportunity to jockey for position alongside one another for the top spots on cards. However, realistically those opportunities are never going to be afforded to low and mid-card talent, or young upstarts like many listed who appeared on AEW’s Dark shows (as an example) over the last year. For that matter, you can include any number of women who will be returning to work consistently on the indies in the coming months as indie wrestling promotions hold more and more shows. Events like the one James would like to run, as much as they need big name talent and wouldn’t succeed otherwise without top champions or talent outside the NWA, like any other wrestling show cards are a composite of talent from different styles, backgrounds and experience levels — each at different points of their wrestling journey. There’s value in making that step for people who have not had the national platform underneath them, or who do not have the backing of a global powerhouse such as semi-recent WWE recruits like Gigi Dolin or Cora Jade (FKA Priscilla Kelly and Elayna Black on the indies) as they further develop.
While it’s fine to preach equality and it should be the long-term focus, realistically those who are able to are far fewer than those on the fringe looking for any chance to shine. That’s the difference between Charlotte’s commentary and the reality of the wrestling landscape from the outside looking inward, especially when considering that for as hard as she’s worked she still was able to walk in off her father’s name at the outset (which no doubt has made her work even harder to prove she truly belongs without hesitation). This is by no means intended to rail her, but in putting herself front and centre within the debate she’s lent her name to the conversation inadvertently as to whether or not there’s validity in running an all-women show, and I believe she’s wrong when you analyze the complete picture and not just from within the privilege of the WWE bubble.
Succinctly put, there are far more “Ashley Fliehrs” in wrestling than there are Charlottes, and the former deserves any and all opportunities to shine in the spotlight on their own merits. While you may argue that you can easily run mixed-gender shows just with under-utilized or lesser known talent regardless of gender, it doesn’t work 1) because less people would arguably be interested without larger name-brand value, and 2) women have already been historically marginalized in professional wrestling throughout past eras. If you want to hit that point of equality that Charlotte argues for in complete good faith on a wider scale, the foundation for that future needs to be laid first. There are many talented women out there wrestling right now, they just need the chance to show what they can do.