To look back at how far the WWE Women’s Division has come in the past decade is simply eye-opening. If you were to go back to 2011, the division was known as the Divas and while that is not a necessarily negative connotation by any stretch, the women were nowhere close to being as respected as they are now. There was a battle royal to determine the No. 1 contender for the Divas Championship on Feb. 28, 2011. That match went on to last two minutes and two seconds. Again, the division has come a long way. But when you watch Raw or SmackDown, there’s still something being mishandled here. Peyton Royce isn’t the first to talk about how she is sick of being held back from the main spot and she will certainly not be the last. It was only two years ago that following WrestleMania 35, Sasha Banks attempted to walk out of WWE once and for all. While her break from the company resulted in her coming back better than ever, the problems were still very much at hand.
It feels like every single time the main roster takes a step forward with the women’s division, they take another giant step back — or even two. That brings us to the most recent events on WWE television. Bianca Belair entered at No. 3 in the Women’s Royal Rumble and went on to win the entire match, becoming a certified star in the process. She seemed guaranteed to grow that star power in the main event of WrestleMania 37. The rumble win was a huge win and one that fans around the world loved because it felt so right. Since then, WWE has tried to do everything in its power to ruin a perfectly written story. “The Boss” vs. “The EST” should be headlining any wrestling show in the world because of the sheer star power of both women and what they can do inside the squared circle. But their story, instead, has been revolving around Reginald, the former sommelier of Carmella. And let us not forget that on the red brand, Asuka was going to face Lacey Evans for the Raw Women’s Championship at Elimination Chamber and most likely lose so that Evans could face Charlotte Flair (with Ric Flair as the centerpiece) on “The Grandest Stage Of Them All.”
It’s laughable to think of the problems WWE creates for itself when they have potential “layups” right in front of them. 2020 was a year where three women essentially carried WWE on their back in the most uncertain of times and as we look at the WWE Women’s Division now, it is being misused to the point of possibly no return ahead of the biggest show of the year and perhaps biggest in years when it comes to WWE.
Setting up the WWE Women’s Division to Fail
To set the scene really, you have to look at every current feud (or lack thereof) in the women’s division on both SmackDown and Raw. From the champions to the top stars, nothing seems to be going right and that is why the women’s division is being set up to fail.
Asuka not seen as the Killer Champion she should be
The incompetence it takes to incorrectly use Asuka as world champion should baffle everyone. When she was handed the championship by winning Money in the Bank, many believed it was finally the time that she would be respected as the performer she is. Asuka has accomplished nearly everything available to her on the main roster but has never really been presented as the killer that she was in Japan or in NXT. “The Empress of Tomorrow” was the focal point of Raw and much of WWE during the summer as she feuded with Sasha Banks and Bayley. There was a reason that Raw at times was must-see and it was down to her battles with both women. However, in that feud, Asuka did not feel like the threat she once was. But looking back, it was a lot better than what they have done with her since.
The Raw Women’s Champion has not defended her championship since January and hasn’t defended it on a pay-per-view since Clash of Champions in September against Zelina Vega, who left the company two months later. Even in her title defense against the likes of Alexa Bliss, Asuka has been portrayed as weak rather than dominant. It wasn’t until this past Monday night against Shayna Baszler that Asuka felt like who she should have been all along. She hasn’t had a clear feud in months and is likely to be facing Charlotte Flair on the grand stage of WrestleMania. It has been “rinse and repeat” for Asuka, who has deserved to be in a position far better than she has been in. A good division starts at the top and the fact Asuka has not been positioned as a menacing, or even important, the champion should speak loud and clear to the problems at hand.
When Peyton Royce got on the microphone on Raw Talk a week ago and let the world know her anger and frustration with her current standing in the company, it really opened up another discussion as to how mishandled a lot of the wrestlers are. Andrade reportedly requested his release from the company not too long after that to really fuel that fire. The problems are due in part to WWE trusting the same jumble of wrestlers rather than giving others a shot. Charlotte Flair is instantly the one people think of, and rightfully so. The title opportunities never seem to end for Flair. And it comes back continuously because of the inability to build contenders to face the champions at the time. Naomi is a name that comes to mind here because she was the SmackDown Women’s Champion two-times back in 2017 and has not seen the title since. It feels like a shocking oversight considering her likability with fans and the tools she offers as a performer.
Naomi could have easily been someone for Asuka to face on a PPV leading into WrestleMania, or better yet, her opponent at WrestleMania. Instead, she has been placed into a tag team with Lana and that’s really what the rest of the women’s division has been forced to do. The WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler are a sure sign of that. Baszler came to the main roster as one of the best wrestlers in the history of NXT and a pay-per-view match for the Raw Women’s Championship between her and Asuka could have been massive. But we have seen it on TV now twice and in both those contests, the women were very limited in what they were allowed to do. What should have been a major match that had the caliber of WrestleMania was now relegated to a normal match on Monday Night Raw.
It’s mind-boggling to think that this roster is filled with top-tier talents like Naomi and Baszler, yet Lacey Evans was the one given a championship match before life changed that. The contenders for both the Raw and SmackDown Women’s Championship are limited because WWE has the incapability or simply chooses not to, have more than one competent women’s story on a show at the same time.
Bayley left with zero direction after carrying WWE for the past year
380 days. That is how long Bayley stood on top of the SmackDown roster as their women’s champion. And for the grand majority of that reign, she stood as their best champion. Maybe even the company’s best champion. “The Role Model” did everything in her power to push SmackDown and the WWE through a trying year that featured no fans for the majority, often giving those at home must-see aspects on Raw, SmackDown, and even NXT. And once her special feud with Sasha Banks came to a close, she didn’t stop there in doing her part for the future. Bayley entered a feud with Bianca Belair to give her this next step in becoming a real threat for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. That remained one of the best stories on WWE TV as well. And when it ended, Belair came out of it ready to go win some gold on “the grandest stage of them all.”
Now as we head into WrestleMania, Bayley is nowhere to be found, which is a booking crime in and of itself. Considering all she did for the company over the past year and what she continues to do despite having no clear direction, shows that she is one of the absolute best they have signed. So how can they not put Bayley in a high-profile match without the championship? Had they been building to it for more than the four weeks that remain before the two-night WrestleMania, it would have been easy to have her go in as the dominant heel who can elevate another woman to her level. A Liv Morgan, for example, is someone they seemed to be high on at times but have repeatedly lost her in the shuffle. Or a debuting NXT star who has come to SmackDown. The names are endless and they could have used their shining star of the past year to create a new star.
The fact Bayley has no defined role on the WrestleMania card may be the most glaring example to highlight the problems that WWE has with their women’s divisions.
Sasha Banks-Bianca Belair feud centered around Reginald rather than them
As stated above, “The Boss” vs. “The EST” is a feud that writes itself. Two of the best, most charismatic talents in the entire WWE could have had a feud where they were just trying to show each other who is the true best on SmackDown and in the company. Both are witty to the point that they could have had a number of back and forth battles on the microphone to build to the major match at WrestleMania. Belair made history at the Royal Rumble when she became the first women’s winner to come from the first 5 entrants of the match. There’s really no better way to make a statement that one is the “EST” than winning the rumble. And when she ultimately made the decision to face Banks, it felt as though WWE was on their way to making a great rivalry for years to come.
Instead, they forced Reginald into the spotlight with much of those bright lights being taken away from the two women who will steal the show at the biggest show of the year. Their problems with each other have developed from Reginald’s infatuation with the champion that has Banks leading him on — at least on television. This has led to them having tension and losing matches on a consistent basis, something you would probably want to avoid considering how much of a marquee match this should be. This isn’t the first time something, or in this case, someone has been pushed into an angle that was unnecessary. Especially when the story should be a slam dunk in terms of being great.
There are still four weeks and a PPV to move on from this mess and allow Banks and Belair to shine in the glory they deserve. But since many would be likely to agree that this feud should be one for the ages, it’s a shame we have to have this discussion in the first place.
WWE Women’s Division looking for Answers
To consider all the problems currently filling the WWE Women’s Division, you would have to hope that answers are on the horizon. Not necessarily answers that are instant but something as straightforward as allowing the stars on television to tell a story worthy of WrestleMania would be a step in the right direction. The good news for the Raw women’s division is that Rhea Ripley is coming and should be someone put into the limelight immediately as many acknowledge her greatness and potential as the future of WWE. But that is to go back to contenders and why the fix isn’t always in calling up a wrestler or seeing one return. Instead, it’s building those you have already to be contenders, helping the women at the top and those trying to get there.
WWE has many problems with their own women’s division and at times it can be, and most of the time should be, the best thing on television given the talent. Hopefully, with WrestleMania less than a month away, the Reginalds of the world can be removed from the top storylines, the Naomis of the world can be given the chance to shine, and the women who have earned their spot to be at the top of the card are allowed to shine at “The Showcase of the Immortals.” A lot of problems need a lot of answers, but to save the product and the division itself, those answers must come sooner rather than later.
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