Viva La NXT Divas Revolution!

Former multiple time World Wrestling Entertainment Divas Champion AJ Lee made headlines last year when she encouraged the WWE Universe and WWE Head Writer Stephanie McMahon to give divas a chance.  Months later, we might have witnessed the beginnings of that chance.

On RAW this past Monday, fans were prepared for another chapter in the ongoing saga between Paige and Nikki Bella.  Most were expecting the usual badly scripted promo or blink and you’ll miss it match.  The WWE’s Divas division has failed to generate much excitement outside of a few hems and haws since AJ Lee left the company late last year.  In fact, interest likely began to wane even before then.  It just hasn’t offered the same excitement as the women’s divisions in most other companies.

Instead, fans received something unexpected, and completely out of the ordinary.  Stephanie McMahon made a surprise appearance and introduced a number of NXT Divas to the live crowd – Becky Lynch, Charlotte, and Sasha Banks.  Lynch and Charlotte were brought in as back up for Paige in her war against the Bellas, while Sasha joined up with Naomi and Tamina Snuka.  I assume Stephanie was there to let those viewers at home know who these talents were, because the live crowd sure had no trouble recognizing them!  Each competitor was met with thunderous cheers and chants of “NXT!  NXT!  NXT!” were not far behind.

When all nine Divas stood in the center of the ring, the crowd began another chant.  One rarely, if ever reserved for Divas segments on the main roster.  The thousands in attendance began to chant “This is awesome!” just for a stare down.  Of course, it didn’t take long for things to erupt into a brawl, with the roster newcomers getting the most attention to show off the skills they had honed in Florida.  By the end of the fight, all three NXT Divas had their main roster counterparts in painful submission holds while the crowd went ballistic.

It isn’t difficult to see why they would react in such a way.  For the last year and six months, NXT has been a breath of fresh air for many fans who have grown tired of WWE’s main programing.  One of the key components to the popularity of the show has been their women’s division, which put a focus on strong personalities and even stronger in ring abilities.  Under the tutelage of former independent stand out Sara Del Rey, the women’s division in NXT became a highlight for the show and oftentimes the best part of their weekly programming.

The success of NXT divas on the main stage of WWE has historically been hit and miss.  The only two ever called up from the Full Sail University were Emma and Paige.  Paige has become a multiple time WWE Divas Champion while Emma fell so hard and fast that she is actually back in Florida developing a heel persona in order to get a second look.  Of course, the way these talents were developed on the main roster could not have been more opposite, which had lots to do with their success.  I have to believe that the flashy segment on Raw was a way of WWE admitting that they might have learned from their past mistakes.  Let’s not forget Charlotte’s first debut with the main roster.  She was given a short match with Natalya that left fans who hadn’t seen her before feeling underwhelmed, and those that had seen her before with a decidedly bad taste in their mouth.

There was a word used a lot during that segment last night that happened to catch my ear.  That word was revolution.  The implication of the segment was that this groundswell of NXT talent could lead to a revolution in the WWE’s Diva division.  They certainly did everything they could to make it seem like that was the case on Monday, and the reaction those women received is exactly the kind you would want for someone starting a revolution.  Certainly they picked three women with enough talent to get the job done, but when it comes right down to it, the only folks who can start a revolution in the WWE Divas Division are the men and women behind the curtain and those in the stands.

While I certainly will not argue the potential for change in that division, nor will I question those chosen to bear the flag if it were to happen, one must be cognizant of history in order to be cautiously optimistic about the role of women in WWE.  While this roster of women is certainly impressive, it is far from the most athletic or even talented that WWE has ever produced.  Even during it’s most profitable eras, WWE has always treated their female performers as novelty acts.

For the most part, fans in turn have obeyed that order, often dubbing Divas matches “bathroom breaks” and rarely ever showing the kind of enthusiasm displayed on Monday.  The women on WWE’s roster have had the unenviable task of needing to prove themselves not only to those backstage, but the fans as well.  The women of NXT have commanded that kind of respect from the audience, and in turn they have given it to them.  Even with that kind of accomplishment, it will still take a larger effort to get the same kind of reaction from a global audience.

The first big test of this so called revolution has been a rousing success, but an even bigger test looms on the horizon.  It is one thing to get a crowd excited for your debut, it is an entirely different thing to get them to remain interested in you and your division with one tenth of the screen time.   With all of that said, I still have high hopes that the positive reactions on Monday and the well executed debuts will be a sign of things to come.  Hopefully, this invasion of talent turns out to be more Nexus and less Natural Born Thrillers.  Here’s hoping these women end up demonstrating that ‘girl power’ is more than a marketing tool.