One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

On July 13, 2015, we had Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks debut in the main roster resulting in a Women’s Revolution. Around this time, the WWE Women were barely getting any screen time or consistent story telling. The Bella Twins (Nikki & Brie Garcia) had challenged for new competition to arise, prompting the debut of three out of the Four HorseWomen. It was also at this time that WWE’s fanbase began a campaign with the #GiveDivasAChance to motivate the company to do better for their women’s division. 

WWE broke ground by having a lot of historic matches from the first Hell in a Cell to the first Women’s Royal Rumble match and the first Women’s Money in the Bank and even the first women’s WrestleMania main event. It was great to see the progress and momentum we witnessed, the women were getting opportunities to make herstory, even causing their division name change from WWE Divas to WWE Superstars as their male counterparts. Women were having meaningful stories, making progress and Herstory for female wrestling. 

Fast- forward to 2023, women are having one match on a three hour RAW show especially in a time when we have multiple feuds happening at the same time. We’ve also had recent call ups that have been absent from our TV screen such as Isla Dawn, Alba Fyre, Katana Chance, Kayden Carter, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell to name a few. We’ve had Rhea without an official contender for her championship and Chelsea Green/Sonya Deville without opponents (prior to Sonya’s injury).

While not officially announced for the SummerSlam card, the ongoing rivalry between Becky Lynch and Trish Stratus, seemed destined to culminate at WWE’s “Biggest Party of The Summer.” In a turn of events, WWE announced that their grudge match would take place on August 14, nine days after SummerSlam – leaving fans, pundits, and even the competitors themselves bewildered by the decision. 

Lynch, a former Raw and SmackDown Women’s Champion, had been featured in four of the last five SummerSlam events, with 2020 as the only exception due to Lynch’s pregnancy leave. Stratus, a WWE Hall of Famer and seven-time WWE Women’s Champion, returned to WWE in February alongside Lynch and fellow Hall of Famer Lita. Following Stratus’ backstage attack on Lita and subsequent turn on Lynch, Stratus and Lynch began a long-term program with one another. Four months later, Stratus and Lynch, seemed poised to end their feud at SummerSlam, but due to reported concerns with time constraints, their match was pushed back. 

Trish Stratus, Becky Lynch, number one and number three (respectively) on WWE’s 50 Greatest Women Superstars, were left off of the SummerSlam card. Trish Stratus, Becky Lynch, two of the most decorated champions in WWE history, were left off of the SummerSlam card. Trish Stratus, Becky Lynch, a WWE Hall Famer and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer, were left off of the SummerSlam card. 

Of course, not everyone can receive a spot on every premium live event, but with this match likely being the conclusion of their saga, many fans believed it warranted an elevated platform, including myself. Most women’s wrestling feuds last one, two, maybe three months at most. The seeds for this one, however, were planted in February – almost six months ago. 

Since turning her back on Lynch in early April, Lynch has attached a new catchphrase to her heel character – “Thank you, Trish.” While it may be conceited in kayfabe, it’s rightfully earned for a superstar of Stratus’ caliber. For all of Stratus’ efforts in helping to pioneer WWE’s women’s division, many fans hoped WWE would show their thanks with a SummerSlam moment. Unfortunately, that thanks was delayed until August 14. 

We’ve made so many strides in women’s wrestling over the last few years, but with every step forward, it feels like we’re taking even more steps back. It’s time to keep that momentum moving forward at a consistent pace, instead of regressing backwards. We don’t just want more time for women’s wrestling, we want equality.  – Ella Jay

The SummerSlam 2023 card featured 5 out of 41 women, which also didn’t feature the Women’s World Champion – Rhea Ripley or the anticipated match between Trish and Becky Lynch. This caused the discussion to arise on Twitter about their absences during the PLE. Understandably frustrated, the online fans demanded consistency for the women’s division, Chris Riddle and Shirleigh Shirlz created the #WeWantEquality which trended on Twitter. As part of the campaign, Shirliegh has shared graphics to use in Social Media platforms to encourage support.

After seeing past trends about Give Divas A Chance, WrestleMania Battle Royal, etc- I was feeling motivated by the anger I was feeling over the lack of SummerSlam women’s matches, namely Trish Stratus versus Becky Lynch. Trish and Becky’s feud has been building since WrestleMania, with several platforms reporting their final face off would occur at SummerSlam. They were suddenly being left off the card. However, to me it isn’t just about them. It isn’t even about one of the most popular performers on the roster, Rhea Ripley, also deserving a spot on the card. It’s the 30 women that are on the rosters that are barely used on a weekly basis. So with the help of my friend Shirlz, (@ShirleighShirlz) we developed the hashtag #WeWantEquality. Shirleigh and I have both been involved in Women’s Wrestling circles for 15 years between fan sites, video editing, podcasting, on air roles, and have a history of working directly with female talent across many different promotions.

We (Shirleigh and Chris) saw the frustration, because we as life long women’s wrestling fans feel it too. Needless to say, this isn’t our first rodeo. I’m glad it took off along with the WWEWomenDeserveBetter hashtag. I hope the message was sent loud and clear to management this past week that women’s wrestling fans are angry about the treatment of their favorites, and won’t stand down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make some lemonade. (@ChrisRiddle

As someone who regularly watches NXT (discussed on my show Taking Over), I can’t help but compare how the brand is showcasing their women’s division compared to the main roster. While covering NXT, I have realized how they have multiple non title feuds happening at once. During their two hour show, they feature not only their champion in some capacity but most of the roster as well. I do wonder with RAW having more time, how is it not possible for them? I understand they have more men than women but how can they have one women’s match on a three hour show? NXT includes their women in at least two matches per show, interviews, backstage segments, pre-taped vignettes and in-ring promos and at times, even more than that. 

When Triple H took over creative, I had hope for the women, especially due to how the women were showcased during his time in NXT. I had hoped we’d see them in longer matches, consistent stories, and giving opportunity to the new talent to rise to the occasion and to continue to make Herstory as they had been. However, it has been a rollercoaster, women having less time on screen, less matches while also having some of the roster being absent from TV for a while. 

Fans have been campaigning for an Evolution II, the PPV that was a great showcase for women from the past, present and future. It was a great way to include the NXT women with the current main roster and female legends and Hall of Famers too. We’ve also had the Mae Young Classic, a tournament that was a great introduction to a lot of the talent we have now especially when it came to international talents. There are so many women in the indie scene that could use such a spotlight. I was present for a taping of the Mae Young Classic Tournament which resulted in my introduction to Tegan Nox, Iyo Sky, Nicole Matthews, Isla Dawn, Xia Brookside and more. I saw a fan-made card that made me think how great this card would be. Evolution could be an annual PPV for the women that would show importance to the division.

It was also interesting to note that Triple H was asked about the recent discussions about WWE’s Women’s Division during the Summer Slam press conference.

My hope is WWE would realize that women’s wrestling is very important, the talent, the representation it provides as well. Wrestling fans want to see the women succeed, showcased and highlighted on a weekly basis, to be shown that their stories and character do matter. I would like for them to continue that momentum they had from the women’s revolution, to notice that fans want this to happen and so much more.