In the wake of Wrestlemania and as we accelerate towards WWE Payback on Sunday, my thoughts are mainly consumed by one match; Charlotte vs. Natalya for the Womens Championship. In view of recent events it seems fitting that the Women’s Match took the main headlines from Wrestlemania, combined with it looking like it could be a fantastic match on Sunday.
As you look back over Women’s Wrestling in the WWE, there are clear divisions of progress and it can be argued that this current era is the ‘purest’ era we have ever seen. It feels like the 32 years previous have finally culminated in what we all manage to enjoy right now within this division.
Women’s Wrestling used to be a novelty act on a variety show. You may see female wrestlers once a month and they couldn’t really wrestle compared to today’s standards, they were generally older women and they just filled a gap on the card – nothing more nothing less, they were so pointless that the WWE actually closed down the whole division. Then Alundra Blayze came along, as did the Attitude Era. Women competitors became sexy, sassy and did a mix of all sorts of things. Whether that was Playboy Magazine, Mixed Wrestling, being Managers or Wrestlers within their own right – we ended up with a female Royal Rumble winner in the late Chyna, and then the Hall of Famer, Lita, who was arguably one of the most dynamic female athletes the WWE had ever seen.
The Divas in the Attitude Era were exactly what the attitude era needed. It didn’t need the greatest wrestlers, it needed what people would tune into.
We then progressed into the Divas Era. An era which had its merits, but also its pitfalls. Nothings perfect, right? The Divas Era was a very frustrating time for female competitors and when you look at the people who have come and left within that era you can see how transgressive it truly was. Within it you had one of the greatest female championship reigns there was with AJ Lee dominating the division, as well as some very good competitors in Beth Phoenix, Aksana and Eve Torres. All of the wrestlers in the Divas Division had one or the other. They could wrestle or they were sexy and appealing to the mass audience. This was no truer than looking at the defining pair of the Divas Division, twins no less, the Bella Twins. You had one who was a true out and out wrestler in Brie. You had another who was out and out appealing to the masses in Nikki. They were the microcosm of the Division, they reflected it so perfectly that when they got “fired” from the WWE, they had to be bought back in because the Division pivoted around this reflection so much.
However, aside from the happenings that were occurring in NXT within female wrestling, there was one Wrestler on the main roster who was able to put it all together. Having been brilliantly trained in the Hart Dungeon, having grown up developing her trade throughout the Attitude Era and having her debut at the start of the Divas Era in 2008, Nattie “Natalya” Neidhart is the complete package. She has such a fantastic wrestling background and ability, having worked the independents before getting to WWE, and then throughout the Divas Era she just got on with her job – never drawing attention to herself, always being professional, and keeping the division very grounded in true wrestling tradition – it would have been so very easy for her to get frustrated, to get lost, and to feel like she was never going to win the fight in making Women’s Wrestling about the Wrestling, but she had huge faith in the quality of her own work, much like her Uncle.
It is no surprise that she survived the Divas Era and has now got her place in the Women’s Division. Added to that it is very fitting that her uncle, WWE Hall of Famer Bret “Hitman” Hart, one of the greatest technical wrestlers of all time and a flag bearer for the technique and tradition of his craft, is going to be ringside cheering on his niece whom he must be very proud of.
Ric Flair will be in the other corner with his daughter Charlotte, the current Women’s Champion, and a tremendous athlete who deserves all the glory she gets. The antithesis of Ric Flair, the dirtiest player in the game, going head to head with Bret Hart, the greatest there ever was, is a fantastic undercurrent to this match.
Bret’s niece has survived a huge challenge and I hope she goes on to win the Division Title on Sunday at WWE Payback as she is truly a Champion and deserves the respect that the Women’s Division now stands for. However you can’t look at this match without feeling pleased for how brilliant the Division has become, and very excited for the future.
Enjoy WWE Payback everyone. The new era has now begun.
Main Photo: WWE.com