There’s no denying that women’s wrestling is seeing a major boom across the board, from major promotions like the WWE and Impact Wrestling to full fledged female promotions like SHIMMER, Stardom and SHINE. Not only is the overall talent more athletic and exciting as a whole collective than at any time in women’s wrestling history, but they’ve reached a level of unprecedented respect amongst the fan base – no longer are women’s matches the “bathroom breaks” of the mid-2000s but have become legitimate main events for every promotion.
With WWE’s shift over the past five years to returning to the indie territories to secure the bulk of their new talent and the resurgence of the Knockouts Division in Impact Wrestling, major promotions are suddenly blessed with their strongest women’s rosters in years – in some cases, arguably ever. And while the debate over who fired the first shot of the women’s revolution, be it the emergence of NXT as a legitimate stomping ground for female talent, the Knockouts Divisions initial boom period in the mid-2000’s, or the emergence of promotions like SHIMMER during the same period (it was actually in Japan during the early 90’s), there’s simply no denying that women’s wrestling is in not only a state of revolution but a full blown renaissance. With that in mind, here’s a look at which major promotions have the strongest women’s rosters. Please note, full female promotions, such as Japan’s Stardom or Sendai Girls, are not included in this listing – not because they aren’t worthy, but more because they have the privilege of having far more room for a fuller roster of women and can utilize more performers than the major mixed promotions. Also, several, such as SHIMMER, SHINE and WSU, share a lot of the same roster, so to create a definitive roster for each would be impossible. Other smaller indie promotions – such as PROGRESS, ICW, WCPW and others – also have women’s divisions, but they aren’t large enough to compete with the size of the major promotions and the majority of their competitors are freelancers who work for multiple companies. We’ll explore other indie promotions and the all-women promotions in later articles. For now, here’s a look at the six major global brand’s women’s divisions, with their Starting Six (top six talents) and From The Bench (up-and-coming stars who could step up).
Starting Six: Lady Shani (Champion), Ayako Hamada, Faby Apache, Mari Apache, Goya Kong, La Hiedra
From The Bench: Big Mami
AAA’s women’s division, which competes for the Reina de Reinas Championship, took a real blow this past summer when their longest reigning champion, Taya Valkyrie (who held the title for a whopping 945 days), left the company following being stripped of the title unceremoniously. It resulted in Sexy Star returning to the company to carry the torch, but the incident at TripleMania XXV with Rosemary lead to Star being also stripped of the title, and subsequently removed once again from the AAA roster. Lady Shani, a 24-year emerging star, captured the title last week, but the women’s division needs to get some consistency with it’s booking before it can challenge the other global majors, despite some strong talent in the locker room. Veterans Ayako Hamada and the Apache sisters – Faby and Mari – provide stability in the division, while younger stars like Goya Kong and La Hiedra are blossoming nicely. Big Mami is primarily used in gimmick matches but is a p
#5. Women of Honor
Starting Six: Kelly Klein, Deonna Purrazzo, Mandy Leon, Scarlett Bordeaux, Solo Darling, Sumie Sakai
From The Bench: Brandi Rhodes, Faye Jackson, Jenny Rose, Stella Gray
Ring of Honor’s women’s division has been teasing more than random matches for a few years now, after a few successful special events. Kelly Klein, Deonna Purrazzo and Mandy Leon anchor the top of the division, with Scarlett Bordeaux, Solo Darling and Sumie Sakai regular stars. Brandi Rhodes is emerging as a new regular, moving over from Impact Wrestling with her husband Cody, and ROH does bring in freelancers such as Jessica Havok to create new match-ups, but they also lost two long time regulars this year with Veda Scott and Taeler Hendrix. The fact that there’s no WOH championship belt still makes the division feel like more of a spectacle than an actual division.
Starting Six: Natalya (Champion), Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Naomi, Carmella, Tamina
From The Bench: Lana, Nikki Bella, Paige
Although Smackdown Live‘s women’s division is more fully utilized than their Raw counterparts for the most part, there’s still a lack of storyline with the bottom four of their Starting Six. They possess the main roster’s strongest performer in Charlotte Flair, but Tamina, Carmella, and former Champions Becky Lynch and Naomi are just finding themselves trapped in meaningless tag matches to stay afloat. They have the talent, but booking is keeping them from really showing what they have. Lana seems to have given up on being a full time in-ring performer, but they do have two women on the injured reserve that are due back in the coming months, the recently cleared former Divas and NXT Champion Paige and the return of Nikki Bella.
Starting Six: Alexa Bliss (Champion), Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, Mickie James
From The Bench: Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Emma, Summer Rae
The addition of Asuka to Raw‘s women’s division, following her 2 year (500+ day) unbeaten streak in NXT, instantly makes Raw‘s women’s division brighter than Smackdown Live‘s, but the division was stronger and deeper than SD even prior to that. Alexa Bliss has gone from a mediocre NXT sidekick to one of the division’s strongest and most consistent performers and Sasha Banks and Bayley continue to perform well (despite waning support from the internet community). Nia Jax has progressed leaps and bounds since her call-up last year and veteran Mickie James is still working strong, with a brief return to the main event. Emma would easily be in Smackdown‘s Starting Six (and arguably should be in Raw‘s) but she’s a strong supporting cast member From The Bench, with Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke and Summer Rae (recently cleared from injury) rounding out the rest. Much like SD’s women’s division of late, the booking has been a bit inconsistent, but hopefully Asuka’s arrival next month offers the roster the shake-up it needs right now.
#2. Impact Knockouts
Starting Six: Sienna (Champion), Rosemary, Gail Kim, Taryn Terrell, Allie, Laurel Van Ness
From The Bench: Taya Valkyrie, Alisha Edwards, Diamante, Ava Storie, MJ Jenkins, Keira Hogan, Hania The She Wolf
Impact Wrestling has arguably assembled their strongest Knockouts Division ever – granted the Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong era in the mid-2000s was fierce – it also included The Beautiful People (Angelina Love, Velvet Sky and Madison Rayne), ODB, Sarah Stock (Sarita), Thea Trinidad (Rosita), and not to mention 6x WWE Women’s Champ Mickie James. But this division feels ready to surpass that and it’s far deeper. Sienna was already an indie star as Allysin Kay when she joined Impact last year, and she was joined by other indie stars like Rosemary (Courtney Rush), Allie (Cherry Bomb) and Laurel Van Ness (Chelsea Green). The return of Gail Kim and the recent unretiring of Taryn Terrell has given the KO division a formidable Starting Six. But their Bench has been restocked with many who would be Top 3 in almost any other brand. Former AAA Reina de Reinas Champion and Lucha Underground Taya Valkyrie recently debuted, joining other indie stars like Alisha Edwards (Alexxis Naveah), Diamante (Angel Rose), Ava Storie (Brandi Lauren) and MJ Jenkins, giving them incredible depth coming up with several potential main eventers. If that wasn’t enough, they have two more indie darlings – Kiera Hogan and Hania the She Wolf – signed just waiting to debut.
Starting Six: Kairi Sane, Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, Ruby Riot, The Iconic Duo (Peyton Royce & Billie Kay)
From The Bench: Shayna Baszler, Dakota Kai, Abbey Laith, Rhea Ripley, Nixon Newell, Zelina Vega, Lacey Evans, Sage Beckett, Aliyah, Bianca BelAir, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Sonya Deville, Vanessa Borne, Mandy Rose, Taynara Conti, Reina Gonzalez, Zeda
But as strong and deep as Impact’s current Knockouts division is, the WWE Performance Center and their scouts headed by William Regal have built NXT’s women’s division into one of the most impressive rosters of women wrestlers in the world. Recent Mae Young Classic victor Kairi Sane was ranked Top 2 in the world as Kairi Hojo in Japan, joining an already impressive Starting Six featuring fellow former indie darlings Ember Moon (Athena), Nikki Cross (Nikki Storm), Ruby Riot (Heidi Lovelace) and the Australian duo of Peyton Royce (KC Cassidy) and Billie Kay (Jessie McKay). But as impressive as their Starting Six are, they’ve got a bench so disgusting deep that the WWE could start their own women’s promotion to rival SHIMMER, SHINE, WCW or Queens of Combat if they chose to spin a show off of NXT like they did with 205 Live from Raw. They’ve some of the top indie stars of the past few years like Abbey Laith (Princess Kimber Lee, former CHIKARA Grand Champion), Dakota Kai (Evie), Sage Beckett (Andrea The Amazon), Nixon Newell, Sarah Logan (Crazy Mary Dobson), Aliyah (Jasmin Areebi), Rhea Ripley (Demi Bennett), Zelina Vega (Thea Trinidad) and Mae Young Classic finalist and former MMA star Shayna Baszler still waiting to make their full time debuts with NXT. Add in some blossoming PC products like MYC stand-out Bianca BelAir, Sonya Deville, Lacey Evans, Liv Morgan, Taynara Conti, Mandy Rose and more, and suddenly you see what we mean. And that doesn’t even include some of the other MYC candidates that are rumoured to be courted to join in the next few months, like Mercedes Martinez, Candice LeRae, Toni Storm, Jazzy Gabert (Alpha Female) and Viper (Piper Niven). This is quite possibly the deepest and greatest talent pool of women’s wrestlers ever assembled – and most of the WWE Universe has no idea what’s about to hit them.
Who are your favourite women’s divisions, either from these six or elsewhere? What are your favourite women’s promotions? Let us know in the comments below!