WWE Evolution: The History Of The Women's Revolution
By Kevin Wong on
Today, sports entertainment company, WWE, will host its first-ever all-women's PPV, Evolution. It's latest step in a multi-year building process of getting the female superstars to the same level of prestige and respect as the male superstars.
The simple narrative is never the correct one; there was no single, landmark event that put the WWE on notice and changed women's wrestling forever. It's a series of smaller events--a little sacrifice here and a risky decision there--that coalesced into what we now call the Women's Evolution. The word "evolution" is perfect because it's a movement still in progress. And fans must continue insisting upon progress, lest it slide back to the way things were.
For your edification and enjoyment, here is a timeline of the WWE Women's Evolution, which captures all the key moments that leads to Sunday's PPV. If you liked this gallery, check out the Top 10 Women's Matches in WWE History and our ranking of every woman on Raw and Smackdown. Read the match card and our predictions for the Evolution PPV. And be sure to visit Gamespot on Sunday, October 28, when we cover the entire event live.
1. Sara "Death Rey" Amato Gets Hired
One of the first significant events in the women's evolution got no mainstream press. It was the hiring of Sara Amato in 2012.
A gifted indie wrestler who trained under the the guidance of Daniel Bryan, Amato was versed in multiple styles, from British catch wrestling to Japanese strong style. Her students praise her as an encouraging role model who teaches through positive reinforcement at the WWE Performance Center. When fans watch Carmella, Charlotte Flair, or Alexa Bliss rolling and flipping in the ring, they can thank Amato for her innovative training, some of which you can see in this clip.
2. WWE Crowns The First NXT Women's Champion
WWE held a bracketed tournament to determine their first NXT Women's Champion. And Paige emerged victorious, beating Tamina, Alicia Fox, and Emma to clinch the title. It was a fight of contrast; Emma's bubbly, off-beat quirkiness versus Paige's take-no-prisoners, black leather attitude. And as a whole, the tournament foreshadowed great things to come. What these women lacked in polish, they made up for with grit.
3. Paige Debuts on Raw
In Paige's Raw debut, the Diva of Tomorrow fought and defeated AJ Lee, becoming the youngest Divas champion in history; she was only 21 (she was only 13 when she started wrestling for her family's promotion). WWE had given her a challenge, and she rose to it, successfully defending the title for 85 days before losing it back to AJ Lee.
4. Rise Of The Four Horsewomen
Paige was the most successful NXT woman in Raw; Emma was stuck in a go-nowhere gimmick with Santino Marella, and Summer Rae was in a holding pattern as Fandango's new dance partner. And while all this was going on, the next crop of NXT graduates was blossoming: Sasha Banks, Bayley, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch. Collectively, they referred to themselves as the Four Horsewomen, a tribute to Ric Flair's legendary stable the Four Horsemen.
They fought incredible match after incredible match in every possible permutation. A huge moment for all four women came at NXT Takeover: Fatal 4-Way, when all four women were in the ring together, each fighting for the NXT Women's Championship. Charlotte won and retained the title, establishing her as the first breakout star of the group.
5. The 30-Second Raw Match
This match from the February 23, 2015 episode of Raw is notable--not for what it is, but for what it isn't. Paige and Emma fought the Bella Twins in a match that only lasted 30 seconds of a three-hour show. Social media blew up and turned #GiveDivasAChance into a trending hashtag. WWE was forced to re-evaluate its priorities and respond to the fans' protestations. Several months later, the answer came, in the form of a massive NXT call-up.
6. Stephanie McMahon Announces a Revolution
By July 2015, Charlotte Flair, Sasha Bank, and Becky Lynch has matured as performers, to the point where they were ready to be called up to the main roster. Stephanie McMahon announced the start of a "Revolution" and introduced the three newest Divas to the Raw audience. They promptly attacked Team Bella, locking in their respective submission finishers, and brought the crowd to its feet.
7. Three Factions Battle, Then Break Up
Next were some growing pains. Sasha was still the NXT Women's Champion at the time of her call-up, so she had to split her time between NXT and the main roster; she dropped the title to Bayley (in an epic confrontation) at that year's NXT Takeover: Brooklyn. Meanwhile, WWE decided to break the new women off into factions. Becky and Charlotte were joined with Paige to become Team PCB, and Sasha Banks was placed with Naomi and Tamina to become Team BAD.
Thus, all three women were stuck in a revolving door of tag matches with Team Bella. They wouldn't get to shine until they broke up to pursue solo careers.
Charlotte was the first of the three; she won the Divas Championship from Nikki Bella at Night of Champions (2015) and held it for 96 days, until the belt was retired at Wrestlemania 32.
8. No One Is Ready for Asuka
While all this was happening, Japanese superstar Asuka made her debut on NXT, first defeating Dana Brooke and then defeating Emma. She was a whirlwind of aggression, with a creepy smile, an eclectic mask collection, and a walk to the ring that was half-celebratory, half-staggering.
She went undefeated for 523 days, a longer streak than Goldberg's during his first run in WCW. Asuka brought a new level of prestige to the women's division, and she affirmed the "international" part of WWE's expansion goals.
9. Wrestlemania Show Stealers
At Wrestlemania 32, WWE Legend Lita unveiled the WWE Women's Championship belt, ditching the "Diva" moniker and the bedazzled butterfly design for something a little more understated and classy.
This was also the beginning of a new annual tradition--of the women outright stealing the show and the spotlight from the men at the biggest show of the year. At WrestleMania 32, the best match on the card was Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair vs. Becky Lynch. At Wrestlemania 33, the women had the second strongest match: a Fatal 4-Way between Bayley, Sasha, Charlotte, and Nia Jax.
And at Wrestlemania 34, the women had the two best matches on the show: a mixed tag match with Ronda Rousey, Kurt Angle, Stephanie McMahon, and Triple H, and a championship dream match between Charlotte and Asuka.
10. Two Years of Bliss
From 2016-2017, Alexa Bliss was at the top of the women's division and a champion on both Raw and Smackdown. Smaller than all of her peers, Bliss played the underdog, a feat that was particularly difficult because she was also a heel. She outsmarted her opponents rather than cheating to win; she may not have been the strongest or the most athletic, but she got the job done.
Different women, with different body types and strategies, could succeed equally. A wrestler like Alexa Bliss could become a decorated champion, so long as she used her cunning and played to her strengths.
11. 'Mella is Money!
Carmella became the first Miss Money in the Bank in 2017, and it happened under a lot of controversy. The first women's Money in the Bank Ladder match was at the eponymous pay-per-view, and Carmella's valet a the time, James Ellsworth, was the one who unhooked the briefcase from the ceiling and tossed it to her.
Fans balked; a man had given his woman the win in the first groundbreaking match of its type? The backlash was so great, that the women redid the match on Smackdown that week, and this time, Carmella won cleanly. Months later, she cashed in the briefcase on Charlotte to win her first world title. The fans wanted real progress, not token progress.
12. The First Women's Royal Rumble
The first Women's Royal Rumble main evented the PPV, and it was a perfect mixture of past (Trish Stratus), present (Asuka), and future (Ember Moon). It was well-paced, with just the right number of nostalgic callbacks to be fun instead of hokey. Asuka won, and deservedly so; she subsequently faced Charlotte Flair for the Smackdown Women's Championship at Wrestlemania 34.
13. The Rise of Rousey
Ronda Rousey, like Brock Lesnar before her, brings real-world legitimacy to the WWE. Perhaps owing to her OIympics background--she is, quite literally, in the 1% of the 1% of professional athletes. She's taken to wrestling like a duck takes to water. Every time we see her, she has a new move, and it all moves and transitions together so smoothly. She is the current Raw Women's champion, and she will be taking on Nikki Bella in the main event at the WWE Evolution PPV.
The women have made incredible progress in a relatively short amount of time. They're main eventing Raw. They're main eventing PPVs. Perhaps the biggest prize of all--main eventing Wrestlemania--isn't far behind.