WWE Diva

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For list of current WWE Divas, see List of WWE personnel.
Divas (with Santino Marella disguised as a Diva "Santina") fighting in a battle royal at WrestleMania 25

Diva is a term used by WWE, an American professional wrestling promotion, to refer to its female performers.[1] The term is applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers.

History[edit]

The Moolah Days[edit]

After winning the NWA World Women's Championship in 1956 from Judy Grable, the Fabulous Moolah defected to the WWF in 1983. Moolah, who was the NWA World Women's Champion and legal owner of the title, joined the WWF including selling them the rights to the title after they would disaffiliate from the NWA and recognized her as the first WWF Women's Champion.[2] Additionally, the WWF also recognized Moolah's reign at the time as a continuation of her first NWA World Women's Championship reign, which occurred in 1956, resulting in the promotion not recognizing other reigns that occurred during the title's existence in the NWA. Thus, The Fabulous Moolah's reign was considered to have lasted 27 years by the promotion.[3] This time period during the early 1980s saw the introduction of many female wrestlers who competed with the promotion. WWF also introduced the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship with Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria recognized as the first champions after also defecting from the NWA. The following year, music artist Cyndi Lauper began a verbal feud with manager "Captain" Lou Albano, who long had a reputation of being a villain; this brought professional wrestling into mainstream culture in a storyline that became known as the "Rock 'n' Wrestling Connection". When it was finally time for Lauper and Albano to settle their differences in the ring, a match-up was scheduled with Albano representing Moolah against the challenge of Lauper's protégé, Wendi Richter. This led to Moolah losing the title at The Brawl to End It All, broadcast live on MTV. Richter would then lose the title to Leilani Kai the following year but would win it back at Wrestlemania 1 (March 31, 1985).

In the summer of 1985, the WWF did an angle (a fictional storyline) in which all the managers in the promotion competed to offer their services to Randy Savage. During a match on July 30, 1985, several managers were at ringside in hopes that he would name one of them as his new manager. After the match, Savage thanked the managers for their consideration and then asked that his new manager come to ringside. An attractive, unnamed woman then came down to the ring, and announcer Bruno Sammartino remarked, "She must be some sort of movie star". It was later revealed that her name was Miss Elizabeth. Elizabeth's WWF debut aired on the August 24, 1985, edition of WWF Prime Time Wrestling. From that point on, she managed Randy Savage.[4] (In real life, Savage and Miss Elizabeth were married, but this was not mentioned on television.) Miss Elizabeth's first major angle was during Savage's feud with George "The Animal" Steele in 1986. In the angle, Steele fell in love with Elizabeth, angering Savage and leading to a series of grudge matches between him and Steele. Their feud was one of the WWF's most popular of the 1980s; it carried on for more than a year, thanks to the feral Steele's continued innocent crush on Elizabeth. She also figured prominently in Savage's 1986 heel feuds with Hulk Hogan and Ricky "the Dragon" Steamboat, and his 1987–1989 face feuds with wrestlers such as The Honky Tonk Man, Andre the Giant, Bad News Brown, Big Boss Man and Akeem. When Savage—who had formed an alliance with Hogan—turned on Hogan in early 1989 and became a heel, Elizabeth was a major factor, and she eventually would side with Hogan, the WWF's top face wrestler. Meanwhile, Savage became allied with "Sensational" Sherri, a heel who had success as a wrestler from 1987–1989 and was phased into a role as an ill-tempered, venomous valet.

Martel debuted on July 24, 1987, defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship.[5] Renaming herself 'Sensational' Sherri, she reigned as WWF Women's Champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin;[6][7] after losing several rematches, Martel took a short leave of absence in early 1989 before being repackaged as Savage's valet. Also in 1987 saw the introduction of Mike McGuirk as the first female ring announcer of the promotion, arriving after former AWA wrestler Jesse Ventura referred her to the WWF.[8] In the fall of 1987, McGuirk provided color commentary for several arena show tapings in the Houston, Texas area, which aired on WWF Prime Time Wrestling.

The first Survivor Series PPV saw the first female elimination match. On February 1989 the WWF Women's Tag Team Championship was deactivated and The Glamour Girls (Judy Martin and Leilani Kai) would be the final title holders. Rockin' Robin would then be the last WWF Women's Champion in the late 80's.

When the WWF phased out its female-talent roster in 1990, Sensational Sherri would remain with the company, focusing on managing male wrestlers. Miss Elizabeth took a leave of absence in 1990, but returned in 1991, and was a key player in Savage's retirement match with The Ultimate Warrior at WrestleMania VII; Elizabeth was involved in two more feuds with Savage—those with Jake "the Snake" Roberts and Ric Flair—before leaving the company for good in 1992; shortly after her departure, Savage and Elizabeth divorced in real life. At Wrestlemania 9, Luna Vachon would debut and in process along with Bam Bam Bigelow feuded with Sherri and Tatanka; Martel would leave the company in 1993.

Relaunch: 1993–1995[edit]

In 1993, the WWF reinstated its Women's Championship, a title that had been vacant since 1990,[9] and Debra Miceli was brought in by the company to revive the women's division.[10] She debuted under the ring name Alundra Blayze,[11] because WWF owner Vince McMahon did not want to pay Miceli to use the name Madusa, which she had trademarked.[12] She wrestled in a six-woman tournament to crown a new Women's Champion, and in the finals, she pinned Heidi Lee Morgan on the December 13, 1993 episode of All American Wrestling to win the title.[9]

After the tournament, Miceli asked WWF management to bring in new women for her to wrestle.[10] Leilani Kai would briefly return to the company at Wrestlemania X facing Blayze for the Women's title.[13] In mid-1994, Bull Nakano joined the WWF roster and began feuding with Miceli, who was also feuding with Luna Vachon. Blayze defeated Nakano at SummerSlam, but lost the belt to her on November 20, 1994 in Japan at the Big Egg Wrestling Universe event.[14] Five months later on April 3, 1995, Blayze regained the title from Nakano on an edition of Monday Night Raw.[15] As part of the storyline, immediately following the win, she was attacked by Bertha Faye, who broke her nose.[16] In reality, the storyline was written so Miceli could take time off to get breast implants and a nose job.[16] She returned to the ring in August 1995, losing the Women's Championship to Faye at SummerSlam on August 27.[15] Two months later, she won the title a third time, defeating Faye on October 23.[17] Later on, various Japanese female wrestlers including Aja Kong who would rekindle her feud with Blayze would debut leading to the second elimination match at the Survivor Series 1995 event.[18] In December, due to financial troubles the WWF was having at the time[19] Blayze was released from her contract and was stripped of the title following her jump to rival company World Championship Wrestling, and the WWF Women's Championship remained vacant until 1998.[17]

Sunny (Tammy Sytch), who debuted in WWE (then known as WWF) in 1995 as the manager of The Bodydonnas and several other tag teams and singles wrestlers, has claimed to have been the "Original Diva", although this is widely disputed. Sunny's character was at first a continuation of the female manager that had been popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. Over time, the character was significantly sexualized, whereas prior female managers, such as Miss Elizabeth, were depicted as being involved in either platonic or romantic storylines. Despite Sunny's reinvention of the female role within the company, the term "Diva" was not used to denote females working for the WWF until long after she was released in 1998.

1996–2000[edit]

Between 1996 and 1997, Marlena, Sable, and Chyna joined Sunny as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Marlena and Sable were just as sexualized as Sunny, with Marlena suggestively smoking cigars at ringside during matches and Sable coming to the ring in form-fitting leather catsuits. Chyna was offered as an antithesis to the rest of the Divas, a masculine bodybuilder whose sexual identity was the subject of early storylines. Sunny, Sable, and Marlena were further marketed as sex symbols through WWF's Raw Magazine, which featured monthly spreads of the women in suggestive poses either semi-nude or wearing provocative clothing.

Debra with the WWE Women's Championship.

In 1998, Debra debuted and shortly thereafter was featured in a Raw Magazine spread in which she shed a series of business suits to reveal lingerie. At the beginning of her WWF career, she played the part of a shrewd businesswoman, wearing business suits.[20] and Jeff Jarrett's girlfriend.[21] Debra, however, began utilizing a new strategy during Jarrett's matches, distracting his opponents by unbuttoning her blouse.[20][21] She would willingly take off her blouse to show the crowd her "puppies", a nickname originally bestowed upon her chest by wrestler Road Dogg and later utilized by commentator Jerry Lawler.[22]

Marlena was the manager of Goldust, her then real-life husband,[23] and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, Marc Mero. Sable, however, quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity,[24] leading to the reinstatement of the WWF Women's Championship as well as the promotion's hiring of more female wrestlers. Sable's popularity led to a shift in the role of women in the WWF, as the promotion began to rely less on its female performers as simply eye candy and placed a greater emphasis on female athletes who actually competed in matches. She was one of the first females to compete in such specialty matches as evening gown matches, inter-gender tag team matches, and strap matches, competed in the first-ever WWF bikini contest against Jacqueline, and was also the first female talent to be a Playboy cover girl. Unlike Jacqueline, Ivory, Tori, and Luna, the more physical Divas and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps.[25] Her success also indirectly led to a push in popularity for Chyna. Her masculine features were de-emphasized and her clothing became more provocative. She was put into competition against male opponents, going on to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship two times. Chyna's popularity quickly grew to match that of Sable's, culminating in Chyna being featured as the centerfold in an issue of Playboy magazine.

McMahon as WWF Women's Champion at King of the Ring in 2000.

Sable became the first WWF female to refer to herself as a "Diva" during the April 19 edition of Raw in 1999; the term would be coined and shortly thereafter becoming the official title for WWF's female performers, be they managers or wrestlers. In February 1999, the WWF also debuted another veteran female wrestler, Ivory. In August 1999, Lilian Garcia joined the promotion as the 2nd official female ring announcer. The September 6 edition of Raw saw the first Hardcore match contested for the Women's Championship. The match was between Ivory and Tori. The Fabulous Moolah returned to the WWF along with Mae Young the following week on the September 9, 1999 episode of SmackDown!, Jeff Jarrett invited Moolah, into the ring and smashed a guitar over her head.[26] Moolah and Young would then start taking part of various storylines and angles including comedic roles. Moolah returned to the ring teaming with Mae Young on the September 27, 1999 edition of Monday Night Raw, defeating Ivory who was the Women's Champion in a Handicapped Evening Gown match, which led to a title match at No Mercy on October 17, 1999. The match saw seventy-six-year-old Moolah defeat Ivory to win the WWF Women's Championship, thus becoming the oldest WWF Women's Champion ever, though she lost the title to Ivory eight days later. This was also her final reign as a champion before her passing later on in 2007.[27][28]

2000–2002[edit]

February 2000 saw the debut of Lita, who performed higher-risk moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas.[29] Her popularity encouraged a higher standard of athletic competition within the WWF Women's Division, while still retaining the sexual element.

The March 30, 2000 edition of SmackDown featured the first Divas match in WWF history to be the main event of any WWF show; a WWF Women's Championship match between defending champion Jacqueline and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. The August 21 edition of Raw featured the first Divas match in WWF history to main event Raw. It was a WWF Women's Championship match between defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley and Lita.

Shortly after Lita's arrival, Trish Stratus made her debut. Stratus started off as a valet who brought pure sexuality to the ring. Also, later that year, Molly Holly made her debut. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas because she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.[30]

In early 2001, Stratus became involved in a storyline with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon, during a time when Vince's wife Linda was kayfabe institutionalized following a demand Vince had made for a divorce during an episode of SmackDown! on December 7, 2000.[31] Vince and Stratus' relationship increasingly angered the boss' daughter, then-heel, Stephanie McMahon.[32][33] At No Way Out on February 25, Stratus and Stephanie squared off, with Stephanie scoring the victory after interference by William Regal.[34] Later on it was revealed that Stratus was the victim of a set-up by Vince, Stephanie and Regal.[35] The angle continued the next week on Raw with Vince forcing Stratus to strip down to her black underwear in the ring and bark like a dog.[36] The storyline came to an end at WrestleMania X-Seven when Stratus slapped Vince during his match against his son Shane McMahon,[32] becoming a fan favorite in the process.[37][38]

Finally, 2001 saw the WWF's purchase of its chief competitors, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), and the consequent entry of former WCW female talent, such as Stacy Keibler and Torrie Wilson, into the WWF. Also later in the year, Chyna left the WWF due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon.[39] In the autumn of 2001, Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and improved her in-ring ability. She worked her way up to the top of the division and eventually won the Women's Championship at Survivor Series.[32][40][41]

2002–2006[edit]

Stratus was next involved in a feud with Jazz over the Women's Championship, where she was retained the championship at the Royal Rumble but lost the championship to Jazz two weeks later on the February 4, 2002 episode of Raw.[42][43][44] In April 2002, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first Diva to have neck fusion surgery.[29] She was out of action for almost a year and a half.[29] As she rehabilitated, she kept herself visible by co-hosting Sunday Night Heat on MTV.[33]

On May 5, 2002, the WWF officially changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Over the next few years, WWE hired more Divas than ever before, including female winners of the reality television show WWE Tough Enough, which featured contestants aspiring to be professional wrestlers.

Sable, by now married to Brock Lesnar in real life, returned to World Wrestling Entertainment on the April 3, 2003 episode of SmackDown! for the first time since controversially departing from the company in late 1999. Sable continued to be a heel (villain) and spent several months in a storyline with new Playboy covergirl Torrie Wilson. Numerous Divas competed in contests ranging from "Pillow Fights" and "Bra and Panties" match-ups to "Bikini Contests", which were based more on the sexual appeal of the women involved. Meanwhile, Trish Stratus, Lita, Jazz, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, Jacqueline, Ivory and Victoria competed for the WWE Women's Title in match-ups previously contested only by men, such as; street fights, hardcore matches, and the first Women's steel cage match.[45] Molly Holly (competing as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, and Terri also held the Hardcore Championship briefly.

Beginning in 2002, WWE began hiring new Divas and assigned them to their development territories to train and wait to be called up to the main roster. These new Divas were recruited from the independent circuit and modeling agencies including previously the Diva Search. In 2003, Gail Kim became the first woman with a Korean background to win the Women's Championship. Also, Jacqueline held the WWE Cruiserweight Championship briefly in 2004. WWE then introduced the Diva Search, in which Christy Hemme became the inaugural winner. Within mid-to-late 2004, Terri Runnels, Jacqueline, Sable, Gail Kim and Jazz all departed from the company mutually or due to budget cuts.[46][47][48][49] In December 2004, Lita and Trish Stratus main evented Raw for the Women's Championship, making it the 3rd time in history for Divas to main event one of WWE's main shows.

Lita and Stratus faced each other again at the New Years Revolution 2005 pay-per-view event, in which Lita suffered another injury by tearing her ACL, however would keep herself visible in Christy Hemme's feud with Trish Stratus then later on would transition into the valet of Edge. Sensational Sherri would make a cameo appearance on the March 25, 2005 edition of Smackdown! in Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle's feud which Sherri and Angle would sing a parody of Michaels' entrance theme.[7] Molly Holly departed mutually from the company in April 2005,[50] and Ivory also departed mutually from the company in July.[51]

Stratus celebrating after wrestling her final match

Melina made her debut part of the tag team trio as MNM in WWE on the April 14, 2005, episode of SmackDown!.[52] While managing the Tag Team Champions, Melina's character was developed to be more egotistical as she declared herself "the most-dominant Diva in WWE".[33] She made her official WWE in-ring debut on June 30 against Michelle McCool and had her first pay-per-view match against Torrie Wilson at The Great American Bash, winning both matches.[53][54] Trish Stratus returned from a legitimate injury to help Ashley Massaro against Candice Michelle, Torrie Wilson, and Victoria who Massaro was feuding at that time.[55]

Mickie James debuted in WWE on the October 10, 2005 episode of Raw, under her real name, as an obsessed fan of Trish Stratus.[56][57][58] The angle had the two WWE Divas competing together in tag team matches, with James' character becoming increasingly infatuated with Stratus.[59][60][61] The storyline included a Halloween Costume Contest in which James was dressed like Stratus and helped Stratus retain the Women's Championship in a Fulfill Your Fantasy Battle Royal at Taboo Tuesday by eliminating herself and Victoria at the same time.[62][63] She even began utilizing Stratus' signature finishing moves as her own during matches. Subsequently, the storyline between Mickie and Trish developed into a lesbian angle after Mickie had a kiss with Trish under a sprig of mistletoe.[56][64][65] In the championship match at the pay-per-view, James lost to Stratus but continued to be enamored of her the next night on Raw, and she confessed her love for Stratus at the Royal Rumble.[64][66] On March 6, 2006, the storyline had Stratus confronting James, telling her that they needed time apart from each other.[56][64][67] The two wrestled each other at WrestleMania 22, where James won the match, and became the new Women's Champion.[68] Her angle with Stratus continued into Backlash during a rematch after Stratus legitimately dislocated her shoulder when James threw her out of the ring.[69][70] Beth Phoenix would then debut on the May 8, 2006 episode of Raw as a fan favorite by attacking Mickie James while James was assaulting Trish Stratus. After this incident, James berated Phoenix for "ruining everything" and questioned why she even showed up in the first place.[71][72] A week later, Phoenix was formally introduced by Stratus and then attacked a distracted James on Stratus's behalf. When James finally escaped, Phoenix claimed that James had ruined her life and would not let her get away with it, before calling her a "psycho".[73]

Layla made her first "official" WWE appearance at the 2006 SummerSlam pay-per-view in a backstage segment with several other divas as a form of iniation.[74][75] The week after SummerSlam, she made her debut as a member of the SmackDown! brand in a in-ring segment with Mike "The Miz" Mizanin although he did not allow her the chance to say much, spending most of the time talking about himself.[76] Subsequently, she did not appear on WWE television for almost a month, reappearing on the September 22 episode of SmackDown! and getting into a confrontation with both Kristal and Jillian Hall.[77]

2006–2009[edit]

Michelle McCool became the inaugural Divas Champion at The Great American Bash

In mid-2006, Stacy Keibler left WWE to pursue an acting career, Trish Stratus retired at Unforgiven, and Lita retired at Survivor Series. Jazz returned to WWE due to the relaunch of the ECW brand, though her second run was short lived. Torrie Wilson retired in mid-2008 due to back problems and Victoria left in January 2009 after a nine-year career with WWE; she subsequently signed a contract with rival Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) in April 2009 as a Knockout under the ring name Tara. In November 2008, however, Gail Kim returned to WWE after working for TNA as a Knockout.[78] Lilian Garcia, the promotion's long-time ring announcer, retired in September 2009 when she made her final WWE appearance on the September 21 edition of WWE Raw.

The division continued to grow as the Divas began to compete in different types of matches. On the March 5, 2007 edition of Raw, Mickie James and Melina competed in the first falls count anywhere match to be contested between Divas. It was also the first time that the Women's Championship was contested in this type of match. At Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007, Candice Michelle became the first woman from the WWE Diva Search contest to become the WWE Women's Champion.[79] In December 2007, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, and Sunny returned to WWE for a one night special appearance on an episode of Raw due to the show's 15-year anniversary.[80] At One Night Stand 2008, Beth Phoenix and Melina competed in the first "I Quit" Match to be contested between Divas. On the June 6, 2008 edition of SmackDown, the then SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero announced the creation of WWE Divas Championship, a SmackDown Diva exclusive title. Natalya and Michelle McCool became the first two contenders for the new championship, and, at The Great American Bash, McCool defeated Natalya to become the inaugural champion. At Wrestlemania 25, former WWE Divas Sunny, Victoria, Molly Holly, Torrie Wilson, Miss Jackie, and Joy Giovanni returned to WWE for a one night special appearance in the 25 Divas Battle Royal match to crown Miss Wrestlemania.[81] During the 2009 WWE Draft, then Women's Champion Melina was drafted to the SmackDown brand, making the Women's title exclusive to SmackDown. Later that same night, then Divas Champion Maryse was drafted to the Raw brand, making the championship exclusive to Raw, effectively switching both female champions and championships between brands for the first time in history. At The Bash in 2009, Michelle McCool defeated Melina to capture the Women's Championship and became the first Diva to have ever held both the Women's Championship and the Divas Championship.

2010–2012[edit]

At the 2010 Royal Rumble event, Beth Phoenix competed in the Royal Rumble match, making her the second of only three women to have competed in that particular match, the others being Chyna and Kharma. On February 22, 2010 episode of Raw, Maryse won again the Divas Championship, becoming the first Diva to hold the title twice.[82] On the April 12, episode of Raw, Eve Torres won the WWE Divas Championship by defeating Maryse thus becoming the first WWE Diva Search winner to win the Divas Championship. Mickie James was released from WWE on April 22, causing a lot of controversy. Her final match was a tag team bout, teaming with Beth Phoenix against LayCool on SmackDown. She was later signed to rival promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling on September 22. At Extreme Rules Michelle McCool and Beth Phoenix competed in an Extreme Makeover match for the Women's Championship.[83] On the May 14, episode of SmackDown, Layla won the WWE Women's Championship by defeating Beth Phoenix in a two on one Handicap match with Michelle McCool thus become the only British Women's Champion. At WWE Fatal 4 Way, Alicia Fox became the first African-American and the youngest Divas Champion.[84]

Melina as the Divas Champion in 2010

At Night of Champions 2010, the WWE Divas Championship was unified with the WWE Women's Championship as then-WWE Divas Champion Melina faced then-self professed co-WWE Women's Champion Michelle McCool in a Lumberjill Match. McCool won the match to unify the two titles due to interference from Layla, thus creating the WWE Unified Divas Championship following the lineage and history of the Divas Championship. This also made the WWE Women's Championship defunct after 54 years, which made Layla the final title holder. At TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs, Natalya and Beth Phoenix defeated Team LayCool (Michelle McCool and Layla) in the first Divas tag team Table match. Trish Stratus returned to WWE as one of the trainers for the newly relaunched Tough Enough season.

Despite not being what WWE typically viewed as a WWE Diva; on August 31, WWE signed 6'9" female wrestler Isis the Amazon who was set to compete under the ring name Aloisia. She appeared on the 3rd season of NXT but would then be released 2 weeks later, due to the company allegedly finding adult photos, and was replaced by Kaitlyn on the show. On the November 30 season finale episode of NXT, Kaitlyn was later announced as the winner of season three, defeating Naomi in the final to become WWE's first "breakout diva".[85]

In late December 2010, WWE signed world renowned wrestler, Kharma, formerly known as Amazing/Awesome Kong. The company proceeded to air disturbing video packages of her flicking off heads of female dolls and laughing maniacally building towards her tentative arrival. Kharma made her debut at Extreme Rules attacking Michelle McCool and making a huge impact through the course of a couple weeks on Raw and SmackDown. She was later granted a maternity leave due to her real life pregnancy.[86] Michelle McCool retired from WWE on May 1, after losing to Layla in a Loser Leaves WWE match. Melina was also released in early August. Gail Kim resigned from the WWE on August 5, 2011 due to frustration with WWE's lack of focus on the women's division. She would officially be released, for the 2nd time, on September 30, 2011.

In late Summer 2011, the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva was largely disputed, stemming from an article posted on WWE.com and the high-profile feud between Kelly Kelly and Eve against The Divas of Doom; Beth Phoenix and Natalya.[87][88][89] Maryse was released from her WWE contract on October 28. After retiring in September 2009, Lilian Garcia returned to WWE on December 5, making her the last remnant of the previous generation of Divas, alongside the new generation,[90] Lita made a cameo appearance for a second time at the 2011 Slammy Awards show as an award presenter; the first occurred a year earlier in a backstage segment involving Pee Wee Herman.

2012–present[edit]

Kaitlyn during her reign as Divas Champion in 2013.

At the 2012 Royal Rumble event, Kharma competed in the Royal Rumble match making her the third woman to compete in the match. Eve Torres would then be involved in a storyline with John Cena and Zack Ryder which on the February 20 episode of Raw, Eve turned heel after admitting in a backstage segment to the Bella Twins that she had used Ryder and had planned to use Cena also.[91] She would then later on be involved in other storylines and angles. On the April 23 episode of Raw, Nikki defeated Beth Phoenix in a lumberjill match for the WWE Divas Championship, ending Phoenix's reign as champion at 204 days.[92][93] Brie lost Nikki's championship to the returning Layla at Extreme Rules, after attempting Twin Magic, ending her Divas Championship reign after only a week. The following night on Raw, they competed in their last match with the WWE, after their contracts would expire that night. Later that night, WWE announced on their website that the twins were kayfabed fired by Eve Torres.[94][95]

Wendi Richter would make a cameo appearance on the June 18, 2012 edition of Raw in a in-ring segment along with Cyndi Lauper, Layla, Roddy Piper, and Heath Slater due to continuation of Slater's storyline of displeasure towards former talent.[96] In July, Kharma's profile was moved to the alumni. After weeks of rumors, she confirmed her release on Twitter. On July 9, 2012, Eve Torres and AJ Lee became the only two Divas to main event Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita in 2004, in a tag team match featuring CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Two weeks later, on the 1000th episode of Raw, Trish Stratus and Lita would make cameo appearances on the show as Stratus appeared in a backstage segment with Triple H while Lita faced Heath Slater in a no-disqualification no count-out match. Lita would win the match with help from the APA and a large number of WWE Legends. During the summer, AJ would then be involved in various relationship storylines and angles with male talent such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane, John Cena, and Dolph Ziggler including as part of the storylines in a stint as General Manager of Raw.

At September 16 on the Night of Champions pay-per-view, Eve Torres defeated Layla to win the Divas Championship and became the first Diva in history to hold the title on three occasions.[97] On September 28, Kelly Kelly was released from her WWE contract due to her absence from the company.[98] On October 29, Beth Phoenix left WWE after her contract would expire. Her final match was on Raw defeating AJ Lee after Vickie Guerrero would restart the match. A month after Beth Phoenix's departure, WWE published an article on their website stating that there was a new era for the Divas division.[99] On December 16, at TLC, AJ turned heel after interfering in John Cena's ladder match against Dolph Ziggler on behalf of Ziggler pushing Cena off the ladder.[100]

On the January 14, 2013 "20th Anniversary" special episode of Raw, Kaitlyn became the first NXT Diva to win the WWE Divas Championship. Eve Torres would then depart from the company later on that night after her contract expired.[101] The Bella Twins returned to WWE on the March 11, 2013 episode of Raw, in a backstage segment with Cody Rhodes, Damien Sandow, and Kaitlyn.[102] The first Divas contract signing would take part on the July 12, 2013 edition of Smackdown between AJ Lee and Kaitlyn as part of buildup for a rematch of the Divas Championship at Money In the Bank. AJ defeated Kaitlyn to retain the title at Money In the Bank. The next night on Raw, Dolph would break up with AJ leading to a mixed tag team match between Ziggler and Kaitlyn vs AJ and Big E Langston at SummerSlam, which Ziggler and Kaitlyn won.

AJ Lee's (right) record-setting Divas Championship reign came to an end after challenging Paige (left).

On the August 26 episode of Raw, AJ Lee would come out to cut a worked shoot promo on the cast of Total Divas, stemming again but partially from the controversial issue of what makes a "true" WWE Diva and the theme of the show leading towards a feud between AJ and the cast. Eve Torres made a cameo appearance at the 2013 Slammy Awards show as an award presenter for the Diva of the Year award won by Brie and Nikki Bella. On January 8, 2014, Kaitlyn decided to depart from WWE to pursue other endeavors.[103] On January 19, AJ Lee became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing Maryse's reign of 216 days.[104] On the March 12 episode of Main Event, AJ successfully defended the Divas Championship against Natalya, in a match that lasted fourteen minutes — reaching a milestone because it became the longest championship match since 1987.[105] On the March 24 edition of Raw, it was announced by Vickie Guerrero that AJ would defend her Divas Championship against the entire divas roster at Wrestlemania XXX, making it the first time the title would be defended at Wrestlemania. At the event, AJ successfully defended her title.[106]

On the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw on April 7, 2014, Paige made her debut on the main roster, congratulating AJ Lee on successfully defending her title at WrestleMania, which AJ would turn to an impromptu title match. Paige defeated AJ and won the Divas Championship, becoming the first NXT Diva to hold both the NXT Women's and Divas Championships sumiltunaeously as well as beating out Alicia Fox in becoming the youngest Divas Champion.[107]

In early May, a tournament was held to crown a new NXT Women's Champion after the title was vacated by Paige (wrestler), in which the finals match would be held at NXT Takeover. Charlotte (wrestler) defeated Natalya (wrestler) in the finals at the event to win the vacant NXT Women's Championship for the first time. This match went over sixteen minutes.

Vickie Guerrero departed WWE on June 23 after losing to Stephanie McMahon in a mud match and being fired as the Smackdown General Manager in story line. AJ Lee would return from hiatus on the June 30 edition of Raw and challenged Paige to a rematch, which she won to win her second Divas Championship.

Diva Search (2003–2007)[edit]

Candice Michelle is the first former Diva Search contestant to win the WWE Women's Championship.
Main article: WWE Diva Search

The Diva Search was an annual competition that occurred every Summer. The purpose of the Diva Search was to find new women to be wrestlers, interviewers, and/or valets in WWE. The winner of the competition received a one-year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000.

Promotion[edit]

The popularity of women in WWE has resulted in various cross-promotions with other brands featuring WWE Divas. Various Divas have posed in Playboy, and others have appeared in commercials for WWE and non-WWE products as well as men's interest magazines.

The WWE Divas normally went on an annual photoshoot every year, usually to a different location each time. The photoshoot was followed by a magazine featuring photos from the shoot as well as a television special or video release of highlights from the shoot.

Playboy[edit]

Chyna autographing her issue of Playboy, on October 8, 2007.

Since 1999, seven WWE Divas have appeared on the cover of Playboy:

It became a WWE tradition for any Diva who appears on the front cover of Playboy to have a match at WrestleMania. Commonly, these matches would have the term 'Playboy' included in its name. For example, at WrestleMania XX in 2004, Torrie Wilson and Sable competed as a 'Playboy' tag team against Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie. At WrestleMania 22, Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle competed in a Playboy Pillow Fight. This tradition has since been discontinued after WWE made its content TV-PG in 2008; with Maria being the final female talent to pose for the magazine. Former ECW general manager Tiffany posed for the magazine, but this was before she joined the WWE. Maryse Ouellet has also appeared in Playboy before her tenure in WWE.[108]

Actual Playboy playmates, such as Carmella DeCesare and Karen McDougal have also appeared in Diva Search in 2004. Some former and current Divas such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, Michelle McCool, and Melina have indicated that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Trish Stratus has appeared on Canadian sports talk show Off The Record and said that she didn't pose because she wanted to be known as "multiple time Women's Champion Trish Stratus" rather than "the girl who posed in Playboy." Stratus also claims that she refused the shoot because she says she can still be sexy without taking her clothes off.[109] Lita has said that she didn't pose because she felt it was wrong for her (who was known as a role model for young girls at the time) to pose for the magazine.[110] Stacy Keibler refused to pose as she believes it would be better if she "left something for the imagination."

Sunny claimed to have refused an offer by Playboy to pose for the magazine. Sable later claimed, however, that Playboy had actually never approached Sunny, and that Sunny had fabricated the whole story.[25] However, Sunny was not the first to report that she had turned down an offer.

Other media[edit]

In mid 1980's, an animated version of the Fabulous Moolah and Wendi Richter was included on a CBS Saturday morning cartoon during this lucrative time, titled Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling.[111] In addition, both appeared in two of Cyndi Lauper's music videos, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" and "She Bop".[112] Sable would appear as a guest star on an episode of Pacific Blue in 1999 [113] and Chyna would appear as a guest star on Mad Tv and 3rd Rock from the Sun as Janice, a police officer, as well as several Stacker 2 commercials and was a presenter at the MTV Video Music Awards.[114] In November 2001, Trish Stratus, Lita, and Stephanie McMahon appeared as contestants on The Weakest Link's "WWF Superstars Edition".[115] Lita, Molly Holly, and Jacqueline appeared as contestants on Fear Factor in February 2002.[116] In April 6, 2002 Lita appeared in a small role on Dark Angel.,[117] In March 2004, she appeared on an episode of Headbangers Ball.[118]

In 2007, Ashley, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland.[119][120] In the same year, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Maria, Layla, and Kristal appeared in an episode of the U.S. reality show Project Runway (season 4), in which designers were asked to design in-ring attire for their designated Diva. In 2008, Layla, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, and Melina appeared in the U.S. reality show Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp to get the celebrities in shape. Later the same year, Mickie James appeared on the USA Network show Psych, playing a roller derby girl. In December 2011, Kelly Kelly was featured on the cover of Maxim.

On April 22, 2013 it was announced that the Divas would be getting a show on E! network called Total Divas. It would follow the lives behind the scenes of select Divas. Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, The Bella Twins, also Eva Marie and Jo-Jo Offerman from developmental territory, NXT Wrestling were announced as the cast for the show. The show premiered on July 28. The show was an instant hit, and had been renewed for a second season.[121] On January 27, 2014, it was announced that Summer Rae would join the cast of the show in season 2, while JoJo left the cast after the season.[122] Rosa Mendes was later announced to join the show for season 3.

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

Championships[edit]

ChampionshipCurrent championDate wonLocationPrevious championFirst champion
Divas ChampionshipPaigeAugust 17, 2014Hartford, ConnecticutAJ LeeMichelle McCool
NXT Women's ChampionshipCharlotteMay 29, 2014Winter Park, FloridaPaigePaige

Former championships[edit]

Mickie James as WWE Women's Champion.
ChampionshipLast champion(s)Date wonDate retiredLocationPrevious champion(s)First champion(s)
Women's ChampionshipLayla ElMay 11, 2010September 19, 2010Rosemont, IllinoisBeth PhoenixThe Fabulous Moolah
Women's Tag Team ChampionshipLeilani Kai and Judy MartinJune 8, 1988February 4, 1989Omiya, JapanNoriyo Tateno and Itsuki YamazakiVelvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria

Hall of Famers[edit]

Lita during her induct to the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
LegendDate
The Fabulous Moolah1995
Sensational Sherri2006
Mae Young2008
Wendi Richter2010
Sunny2011
Trish Stratus2013
Lita2014

WWE NXT[edit]

Kaitlyn winner of the third season of NXT
Rookie DivaDate won
KaitlynNovember 30, 2010

Slammy Awards[edit]

OtherDate
SunnyMarch 30, 1996 (Best Buns and Manager of the Year)
SableMarch 21, 1997 (Best Dressed)
LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool)December 13, 2010 (Knucklehead Moment of the Year)
Kelly KellyDecember 12, 2011 (Divalicious Moment of the Year)
AJ LeeDecember 18, 2012 (Kiss of the Year, with John Cena)
Brie BellaDecember 9, 2013 (Couple of the Year, with Daniel Bryan, through WWE.com)
The Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron)December 9, 2013 (Best Dance Moves of the Year, through WWE.com)
Stephanie McMahonDecember 9, 2013 (Insult of the Year)
A blond woman, wearing a black and blue catsuit with the sides of the torso removed to bare part of her midriff, standing with both arms in the air while holding a gold statuette in her right hand and a wrestling championship in her left.
Beth Phoenix with the WWE Women's Champion and with her Slammy Award
Diva of the YearDate
Miss ElizabethDecember 17, 1987 (previously known as Woman of the Year)
Torrie WilsonMarch 25, 2003
Trish StratusDiva of the Decade
Beth PhoenixDecember 8, 2008
MariaDecember 14, 2009
Michelle McCoolDecember 13, 2010
Beth Phoenix and NatalyaDecember 22, 2011 (through WWE Magazine)
AJ LeeDecember 17, 2012 (also through WWE Magazine)
The Bella TwinsDecember 9, 2013

Babe of the Year (2001–2004)[edit]

Babe of the Year contest was a contest where fans voted on who was their favorite Diva for that year. Trish Stratus won the inaugural competition in 2001. Stratus had her own mini-site on WWE.com and her photoshoot of choice was a space-type theme. The corresponding mini-site was fittingly named "The Stratusphere." Stratus retained her title in 2002 and received another mini-site on WWE.com. The 2003 edition was again won by Stratus. She also won the 'Diva Of The Decade' award for Raw's 10th anniversary special. Stacy Keibler ended Stratus's reign in 2004 and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two. In 2008, WWE Magazine then declared Beth Phoenix as the 'Diva of the Year' which earned her a Slammy Award for that title.

Rookie Diva of the Year (2005)[edit]

The only Rookie Diva Of The Year contest was held at No Way Out in 2005, where Joy Giovanni defeated Michelle McCool, Lauren Jones, and Rochelle Loewen. Giovanni received more than half of the vote, followed by McCool who got just under 20%, Loewen got just over 10% and Jones received just 6%. The competition was hosted by Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

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External links[edit]