Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

WWE WrestleMania 35: Why did it take so long for there to be a women's main event?

For the first time in its history, the main event of WWE's biggest show of the year will be headlined by female wrestlers Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair

Ronda Rousey, left, and Charlotte Flair are two of the women, along with Becky Lynch, competing in the first women's main event at a WrestleMania. Image courtesy of WWE
Ronda Rousey, left, and Charlotte Flair are two of the women, along with Becky Lynch, competing in the first women's main event at a WrestleMania. Image courtesy of WWE

It’s taken 35 years but the moment is finally here.

All the hard work that’s been put into the WWE’s women’s division over the past couple of years has reached a pinnacle, as three talented female wrestlers will headline this year’s main event at Wrestlemania 35 in front of a crowd expected to be in excess of 80,000.

Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey will compete in a winner-take-all, triple threat match on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey with both the major singles titles in the division on the line.

For those who have been watching wrestling long enough, it’s certainly taken enough time to get here. After all, just a few years ago, there wasn’t a single women’s match on the card at Wrestlemania, so how just how did we get here?

A trending hashtag

Female wrestlers aren’t new to the WWE but the role they’ve been given has definitely evolved.

As recently as February 2015, a tag team match that featured four superstars lasted just a little over 30 seconds on the three-hour long WWE Raw. Their entrances to the ring lasted longer:

For many fans, seeing the only women’s match of the night end up being such a squash caused them voice their displeasure on social media with the hashtag #GiveDivasAChance. The hashtag trended for three days with many fans asking for more support for the wrestlers.

The men had always been the focal point of the WWE product. As recently as WrestleMania 29 in 2013, coincidentally also held at the MetLife Stadium, there was not a single women's match on the card.

So by 2015 things were ready to change.

Around the same time of the hashtag trend, NXT was gaining traction with their female stars taking centre stage, competing in longer matches that showcased their athleticism and skills as wrestlers.

This culminated in a 20-minute co-main event match between Sasha Banks and Bayley at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn with some fans even calling it the match of the year.

With fan support and a thriving talent scene, it seemed to be the perfect time to make a push towards showcasing the women’s division as Wrestlemania 32 marked the return of the women’s title (replacing the old Divas championship) as well as the announcement they would no longer be called “divas” but rather “superstars” much like their male counterparts.

“Women being equal to men on every front is very important,” says WWE superstar Matt Hardy. “I think equality in general is a bigger, more important thing. It’s great to see WWE mirroring that.”

The main event

For each of the womn, their road to headlining Wrestlemania on Sunday has been different.

For the former UFC champion Rousey, she made her WWE debut at Wrestlemania 34 a year ago in New Orleans.

Having a Mixed martial arts (MMA) background undoubtedly helped her in the ring but very few people could have predicted just how flawlessly she would transition from the octagon to the squared circle as an in-ring performer. As a star outside of the WWE, she’s helped legitimise the division.

On the other hand, Flair also has a background that paved her road towards becoming a wrestler with her father being the Hall of Fame superstar Ric Flair.

However, she’s more than stepped out of his shadow by leading the way for women’s wrestling. She was the first women’s champion and had the honour of becoming the first woman, with Banks, to headline a WWE network special in 2016 at Hell in a Cell.

Lynch, on the other hand, has had a longer journey towards Wrestlemania but perhaps the most exciting one. She was never an NXT champion despite being more than capable of holding the title belt.

After debuting a more aggressive character and dubbing herself “The Man,” the shift in personality has seen a huge rise in her popularity.

The trio have worked together to build a story for the last six months that fans have been waiting for: three talented women from different backgrounds meeting on The Grandest Stage of All to see who will have their Wrestlemania moment.

It has certainly impressed other people on the roster.

Cesaro, who is involved in the men's Raw Tag Team titles match on Sunday, said: “Looking at it, to me, it’s the main event.

"It’s not necessarily special because it’s the women, it’s just because that’s the match that the majority of the crowd want. It’s the main event because they deserve it.”

The evolution

Gone are the days of gimmick matches or ones that would only last a few minutes when it comes to women in WWE.

There are three matches involving women on the show in total on Sunday.

After all, in order to tell a good story, wrestlers need enough time to do so in the ring. So what’s happen since fans took to social media to demand they wanted change?

Now women are enjoying matches that were previous only competed in by men.

Hell in a Cell, Money in the Bank, Elimination Chamber and the Royal Rumble have all become match-ups involving women since the autumn of 2016.

In October last year, WWE staged the Evolution network special in New York, their first event made up solely of women's matches.

Now there is the WrestleMania main event. So what does this mean going forward?

Former women's champion Nia Jax, who is part of Sunday's tag match, believes that eventually there just won’t be any more firsts to break down.

“We’re going to get to a point where it’s normal, right?” she adds. “I feel like once we’re main eventing Wrestlemania, like that’s the peak, but the first-evers are eventually going to stop and it’s just going to be something normal.”

It's amazing to be a woman in the WWE right now.

NXT's Kacy Catanzaro

Alexa Bliss is another star who has helped make women's wrestling history when she competed in the first women's match in Abu Dhabi against Banks in December 2017.

Reflecting back, the five-time women's champion believes it goes to show just how far the movement has gone.

"It was a very amazing moment in the women's evolution because it showed it wasn't just a domestic movement but an international, worldwide movement," she said.

Kacy Catanzaro, who is newer to the wrestling scene and competes in the WWE's NXT brand, explained how inspirational she has found the scene to be.

"It's amazing to be a woman in the WWE right now," she said. "Things have been happening for so long that have shown women are breaking boundaries but I think it's just reached a point where people ask 'what's next?' and it's like everything is next. There is literally no limit.

"For me, in NXT and being a part of WWE, it's really inspiring to know there is no limit and that we have so many opportunities in front of us and so many people have worked so hard to get to this point and we want to continue to do the same."

Updated: April 7, 2019 11:33 AM

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