It’s WrestleMania Month, y’all. Yes, on April 3rd, the Superstars and Divas of WWE will touch down in Dallas, Texas for the biggest event on their yearly calendar. Since 1985, WrestleMania has been the Showcase of the Immortals, and as such, I wanted to go ahead and do a Tuesday Top 10 on the entertainment juggernaut. But you know what? Why do one when I can do many. So for the next few weeks, I will present to you WrestleMania-themed editions of the Tuesday Top 10, and today, we start with an aspect of WrestleMania (and WWE in general) that has always been controversial to discuss: the women.
I don’t think anyone will be devastated when I tell them that the Divas usually tend to get the short end of the stick at WrestleMania. Actually, the Divas have gotten the short end of the stick in WWE for a LONG time, but when it comes to building up to the Show of Shows, it seems like they’re maybe a step below “stock enough water bottles” or “remind John Cena to iron his jean shorts” on their list of priorities. And because of this, the women often find themselves doing something either totally ridiculous at the big show or not being on the show at all. I love comedy in pro wrestling, but everytime I think of the 25-Diva Battle Royal from WrestleMania 25 where they had Santino Marella dressed as a girl win just for LULZ, I kick something so hard I could hear my toes crack. And what about at WrestleMania XXVI, where non-wrestler Vickie Guerrero got the pin in a super-short ten-Diva tag match full of actual in-ring competitors, admittedly touching Eddie Guerrero tribute notwithstanding? Luckily, it hasn’t been all bad for the ladies of WWE; there have been moments where either they were allowed to shine or made at least half a bottle of wine with the shot glass of grapes they were given. And that’s what this countdown is for; this week, we’re looking at the ladies as I count down what I believe to be the Top 10 most entertaining, most competitive, or even most tantalizing women’s matches in WrestleMania history. Believe me, I had to search for some silver lining for some of these, but if anyone could do it, I think I’m capable. And since it just happens to be International Women’s Day, I think I picked a good part of the month for this to be the focus!
#10. Paige & AJ Lee vs. The Bella Twins (WrestleMania 31)
I remember before and after this match took place, fans were pretty disappointed. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t understand why. With the storyline they were building up, it only made sense to pay it off with a big Fatal 4-Way match between the four spotlighted Divas. While they’d established that Paige & AJ were still friends (but only barely), The Bella Twins angle from the previous year had a suspiciously poor payoff with them reuniting; it would not have been shocking to see either duo break up and both mini-rivalries coming into play in a Fatal 4-Way. Add to it the fact that there was a personality clash with Paige & AJ being the “weirdos” and The Bella Twins being the prom queens per se and there was still at least a little promise going into WrestleMania season (despite them dragging that irritating, skin-crawling phrase “real women” out of the drawer). So when it was announced that they would just have a regular might-as-well-happen-on-RAW tag team match with no stakes at the show of shows, it was a major letdown. But just because it wasn’t the match we wanted doesn’t mean the match would suck; on the contrary, the match was…OK. But that’s why it’s not higher; while it was serviceable in that Paige won her debut (in front of her former SHIMMER Championship winning mum) and AJ won her final WrestleMania, it was a match that would fit more on free TV than the biggest show of the year. The fans begged for the Divas to be given a chance and while the chance they got on the Show of Shows was ordinary and unspectacular, it was passable enough to land at #10 on this list.
#9. Sable vs. Tori (WrestleMania XV)
I didn’t grow up in the Attitude Era, so my knowledge of Sable and especially Tori is pretty limited. I started watching WWE in 2002 and Sable returned to the company after a lawsuit and failed shot at Hollywood stardom in 2003 on Smackdown. That’s mainly how I remember Sable: as one of the many Smackdown Divas at the time who had an incredibly irrational hatred of Torrie Wilson for being the super-over girl-next-door blondie. However, thanks to the magic of archival footage, I got to look at just how big of a star she was in the Attitude Era because of her raw, undeniable sex appeal. Eva Marie wishes her sexiness could gain her that level of popularity with today’s supposedly less-perverted crowd. Tori, meanwhile, is a Diva that I guess a big deal for a little bit, but doesn’t seem to have endured as anyone’s favorite Diva. Let’s face it, when you think of a WWE Diva with that name, you think this one. But from what I hear, Tori was a pretty decent wrestler. And to her credit, this match with Sable was a pretty decent match. It’s low on the list, so obviously, this is not the best the Division had to offer. But if there was one event from this match that you might remember, it’s the appearance by the muscled-up Nicole Bass, who assisted Sable to victory.
#8. Trish Stratus vs. Christy Hemme (WrestleMania 21)
So remember when WWE would have one of their Divas do a spread for Playboy just in time for WrestleMania every year? Well, every year, the woman who decided to bare it all for Hugh Hefner’s legendary (now nudity-free) magazine also found themselves booked in some kind of match on the WrestleMania card. Sometimes it was an unsanctioned pillow fight with flash-in-the-pan TV commercial stars, sometimes it was legitimately sexy pillow fights or evening gown matches, and sometimes, WWE would just flat out give that Diva a title shot. The latter is what they did for then relatively inexperienced Diva Search winner Christy Hemme in 2005; after a segment where Women’s Champion Trish Stratus slut-shames Christy on live television, Christy decides to challenge Trish for the title and reveals that Trish’s greatest rival Lita will be training her. Hey, redheads always stick together…I assume. I’ve never had red hair. In any event, Trish defeated Christy when WrestleMania went Hollywood and the match was pretty fine for what it was. Christy obviously had a lot of work to do, but the experience and work of Stratus managed to get a nice match out of the young rookie.
#7. Maria Menounos & Kelly Kelly vs. Eve Torres & Beth Phoenix (WrestleMania (XXVIII)
I don’t understand why so many WWE fans seem to carry a ton of disdain for Maria Menounos. Almost any time she appears on a WWE broadcast, the response on my Twitter timeline is usually overwhelmingly negative. Sure, wrestling fans seem to think celebrity cameos in general these days are a waste of time, but in my opinion, she hasn’t really done anything to welcome all the negativity; she clearly loves and respects WWE and the performers and looks like she’s having a good time whenever she’s there. I guess she’s one of those personalities it seems like it just cool to hate among the WWE fandom, but I can’t find it in myself to join the shade train, especially after this match. Granted, I’d have loved if Beth Phoenix actually defended the Divas Title at WM28 seeing as the title had never been defended at WrestleMania at that point, but after a segment on Extra, I was perfectly willing to give a tag team match pitting the E! News announcer and former Diva punching bag Kelly Kelly against The Glamazon and my personal Queen Diva Eve Torres a chance. Menounos took a ton of damage, which I respected given her reported injured ribs at the time due to her Dancing With The Stars stint. Kelly Kelly turned in one of her best performances, pulling out a couple of moves I never expected from her. Eve and Beth looked pretty (and) dominant throughout. Sure, Eve’s real WrestleMania moment came later in the night at the expense of Zack Ryder and his career, but I did not mind the match itself. Menounos kept her winning streak alive against Phoenix, for the record.
#6. 30-Diva Vickie Guerrero Invitational (WrestleMania XXX)
The Divas in this match have my sympathy; they were assigned the difficult task of putting on a match following the end of the most prestigious streak in the history of the business. AJ Lee may have claimed to be a savior of the Divas Division (I feel like the only person in the entire WWE fandom who refuses to call her that), but even she isn’t a miracle worker. In a match where she was defending what she referred to as her “baby” against literally every other Diva on the main roster, it seemed like an interesting and unique idea. But it was only mere minutes earlier that Brock Lesnar F5’d Undertaker’s WrestleMania streak into oblivion and the wind had been ejected from everyone’s sails; not only that, but the main event was directly afterward. So it was completely understandable that most fans didn’t make noise during what is commonly referred to as the “death slot” of the card. Plus, Eva Marie was in the match and most fans didn’t (and still don’t) have high hopes for her. So all those factors must’ve meant the match completely blew, right? Not even, at least in my opinion. For a match that had to juggle the overbooked presence of 14 women, I found the match to be surprisingly entertaining, containing enough nice spots to make it this high up on the list. There was some debate over whether or not Naomi really tapped out at the end, but AJ still walked out champion to the chagrin of Vickie Guerrero, which was great news for a certain debuting Brit the following night.
#5. Wendi Richter vs. Leilani Kai (WrestleMania 1)
People who complain about how short Divas matches have been in recent years would probably be disappointed by some of the older Divas matches at WrestleMania. Granted the women’s division wasn’t exactly burning up the airwaves back in the 80s and 90s, but they were still around. Two particular matches are only in the honorable mentions because they were so short. However, I think when it comes to the 80s, perhaps the two women most recognizable on WWE television was the Fabulous Moolah, who’s legacy is…..complicated (and that’s the nice version), and breakout pop star Cyndi Lauper. The singer who let the world know that girls just want to have fun was a central figure in the Rock N’ Wrestling Connection that helped the then WWF become a mainstream crossover sensation. Her fame basically got them on the MTV airwaves back in the former music video channel’s infant years. And she also had something better than a front row seat for the inaugural WrestleMania where she accompanied Wendi Richter into battle against the Moolah-endorsed Leilani Kai. While far from dominant in the match, Richter came out on top against stronger, wilder foe Kai, who would return to WrestleMania nine years later to face Alundra Blayze. Lauper even briefly got in on the action when it looked like Moolah was about to resort to cheating in Kai’s favor. Really, how the hell are Donald Trump and Drew Carrey in the celebrity wing of the HOF but Lauper isn’t?
#4. Jazz vs. Trish Stratus vs. Lita (WrestleMania X8)
It must be mentioned that in the late days of the Attitude Era and pretty much the entirety of the Ruthless Aggression Era, Trish Stratus must have feuded with every other Diva on the RAW roster at least once. And almost every single time was a joy to watch, whether facing the crazed Victoria, the wholesome Molly Holly, or even the spoiled Billion-Dollar Princess herself. In early 2002, she feuded against another Diva with a notable attribute, that being the very powerful force that is Jazz. Jazz won the Women’s Title from Trish and went into that year’s WrestleMania with the belt. But along with defending against Trish (who’d be competing in her home country), she’s have to fend off another current Hall of Famer in Lita. It was a Triple Threat match for the title pitting three very talented women against each other; sadly, as far as crowd reaction goes, you probably could have replaced it with a stereo in the middle of the ring and playing Britney Spears instead. Like the WMXXX match, this match went on right after an iconic event that completely drained the crowd: Rock vs. Hogan. Yes, this match got the PPV death slot, probably years before the term was created. But again, this match was truly not awful. In fact, it probably gets better to me the more I watch it; my latest time watching it, I truly noticed how hard the women were trying to make the match work. And Jazz won with a high-risk maneuver, asserting her dominance on the division.
#3. Victoria vs. Molly Holly (WrestleMania XX)
The sacrifices people make for the things that they love. So I read an interview Molly Holly did once where she discussed her only in-ring WrestleMania appearance (I say “in-ring” because her WrestleMania X8 Hardcore Title win, as with all the Hardcore Title wins that night, took place backstage). Apparently, there wasn’t even supposed to be a Women’s Title match at WrestleMania XX, because reasons. Keep in mind, this is the same WrestleMania with a Playboy Evening Gown match, so minus the Women’s Title match, the women would have only gotten on WrestleMania’s 20th installment solely for sex appeal. Molly Holly then ended up sacrificing her long, beautiful, brown hair for the chance to compete on the grandest stage of them all. On-screen, the stipulation was attached via then-sheriff “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Originally, I thought it was a weird stip to throw on; but if it got a Women’s Title match on the card, then so be it. Besides, she was the one who was ripping out other Divas’ hair at the time. Truthfully, the crowd was dead for most of the match (assuming Kevin Dunn didn’t lower the volume on my DVD), but Molly and Victoria were obviously trying. And from a wrestling standpoint, the match was fine. Besides, the crowd totally woke up when it was time to pull out the clippers. If you want to see the results of Victoria’s barber work, here you go.
#2. Trish Stratus vs. Victoria vs. Jazz (WrestleMania XIX)
2003 was not exactly a great time to be a top blonde in the WWE, at least on-screen it wasn’t. Not only did Torrie Wilson have to fight off every other girl she was stuck on Smackdown with, but Trish Stratus was the rival of pretty much everyone over on the red brand. Heading into the year, she and Victoria were locked in one of the most violent, brutal feuds in WWE Diva history. But then Jazz came into the picture by returning off the sidelines and attacking Trish Stratus. In the battle for the #1 contenders slot for WrestleMania, Victoria landed herself in a Triple Threat match by laying both challengers out. The resulting Triple Threat is one that I kind of a have a bias for seeing as it’s the women’s match that took place on the very first WrestleMania I watched on pay-per-view. But even without the bias, I would think that this was a fine match. With Victoria playing the role of the unhinged champion, Jazz playing the role of the wildcard powerhouse, and Trish playing the role of the strong-hearted underdog, this match had all the tools to work. However, unlike the previous year’s WrestleMania, Jazz would not be walking out of Safeco Field with the championship. Instead, Trish Stratus would come out on top on a night that also featured the Miller Lite Catfight Girls in a pillow fight, so Miss Stratus would be the high point of the night for the ladies.
#1. Mickie James v. Trish Stratus (WrestleMania 22)
Forget Santina Marella; I think we can officially dub Trish Stratus “Miss WrestleMania”. This is her fourth appearance on the list and she’s at the very top of it. Throw in when she let Vince have it at WrestleMania X-Seven for his degrading behavior toward her in the past and her aligning with Christian to screw Chris Jericho years later in Madison Square Garden, many Divas could only wish to have the WrestleMania legacy of the Canadian Hall of Famer. And it was here that Trish Stratus not only delivered one of the all-time greatest Divas matches, but also put over a future superstar in the Divas (and Knockouts) Division with Mickie James. The up-and-comer came into the angle as a fangirl obsessed and came out of it a crazed person with a women’s championship reign to her name and many memorable moments left in her wake; the original AJ Lee, if you will. An angle based on celebrity obsession and rolled out perfect by all parties involved, it’s very rare when the main roster sees a women match this good. The only drawback is that the crowd didn’t give a damn about face/heel alignments and booed Trish while cheering Mickie. But you know, this show took place in Chicago and we are a passionate, unpredictable bunch. At least the crowd was alive for all the action. Censored-out parts aside, this match is always worth a watch as it’s the match people will probably always look back to as the best the Divas have done on the grandest stage of them all. You know, unless three of the Four Horsewomen can top it this year, which we know they’re capable of doing.
This is the official #11 on the list; truth be told, this match was actually fine. Alundra Blayze was amazing in it and I feel like I got to enjoy more of Leilani Kai as a heel in this performance. Sadly, this is one match that I really wish we got more time for. Not that it would be the talk of a card that also featured Bret Hart wrestling twice and the legendary HBK/Razor Ramon ladder match, but it’d make a more worthy addition to the card.
+ Torrie Wilson vs. Candice Michelle (WrestleMania 22)
Of all the matches in WrestleMania history meant specifically for the T&A crowd, this was probably the most entertaining one. Torrie Wilson was one of my earliest celebrity crushes, so I’ve always had a soft spot for this match, which did have its fair share of entertaining moments, from the use of Torrie’s dog to the use of Candice’s magazine to them actually trying to execute wrestling moves in their evening gowns. Guilty pleasure match for sure.
I will give this match some credit in that it actually had a story behind it; Ivory was running her mouth about putting Chyna on the injured list, so of course when Chyna returns, she’d want to murder the sole female Right to Censor member. And at what many consider to be the greatest WrestleMania of all-time, she got her opportunity, defeating her with a dominant performance in a tragically brief match.
+ The Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre (WrestleMania 2)
I think I’ve mentioned enough that women’s matches at WrestleMania used to be crazy short and at the second WrestleMania event ever, Fabulous Moolah faced off with Velvet McIntyre in probably the shortest women’s match in WrestleMania history. Honestly, I like the action to this; I just wish they have a longer time to spotlight it. Also, how did they not restart the match after McIntyre got pinned with her foot ON THE ROPES?!
It seems like the more I watch this match, the less I find to like about it, which is a shame because I genuinely enjoyed it the first few viewings. It was one of Ashley’s better performances and I enjoyed the teamwork of Beth & Melina. Sadly, there was a power outage, The King got involved for no reason, the Lumberjill stip once again proved to be a waste, and it all ended with Snoop Dogg kissing one of my childhood crushes and making me jealous.
What do you think of this edition of Tuesday Top 10? Leave a comment or tweet me up @FearlessRiOT with your opinion or even to suggest a topic for a future edition!