Trish Stratus and Lita backstage. Credit:

Analyzing the Original WWE Women's Revolution in the Attitude Era

The Doctor Chris Mueller

The women's revolution in WWE has seen the division improve tenfold, and most of the credit has been given to The Four Horsewomen—Charlotte, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Bayley.

This is not to say women such as Paige, Naomi, Natalya, Nikki and Brie Bella and everyone else haven't worked hard, but when the four women ruling the division right now were in NXT, they were turning more heads than the main roster.

It has been great to see such a vast improvement to this part of the product, but this isn't the first time females have been on the same level as the men in WWE.

Women's wrestling has seen more ups and downs throughout the years than a roller coaster, but the first time it felt like female talents were being taken seriously was during the Attitude Era and the early years of the Ruthless Aggression Era.

A handful of Superstars worked harder than everyone else in the company to bring more attention to women's wrestling and make it so their matches were no longer the designated bathroom breaks of the night. What's most interesting is how many of those names parallel the top stars of today's WWE.

Since Charlotte and Banks just made history at Hell in a Cell with an incredible performance, it seemed appropriate to look back at the group of original groundbreakers and point out how similar they are to today's top talents.


Charlotte and Trish Stratus

Charlotte is the pinnacle of greatness in today's women's division, but 15 years ago, Trish Stratus held that distinction.

Both women share similar paths to the business. They each grew up fans of wrestling, but their original career aspirations had nothing to do with throwing other people around a ring.

Stratus was a model when she caught the attention of WWE, while Charlotte was a personal trainer who had no intention of ever following in her father's footsteps.

They both managed to join WWE with little wrestling experience, but they worked hard to be better than those around them, which, in turn, elevated everyone else to work harder to keep up.

Stratus started out as a manager for the likes of Test and Albert, but it didn't take long for WWE to realize the kind of star power she possessed. She was not only beautiful and charismatic, but she was also willing to put her body on the line to have a great match.

She also holds the distinction of being the only seven-time women's champion, and Stratus is one of the few females to ever hold a men's title, thanks to her victory over Crash Holly for the Hardcore Championship on May 6, 2002.

She only held the belt for a few minutes, thanks to the 24/7 rule being in effect, but the night is also memorable for Stratus because she took a powerbomb through a table from Bubba Ray Dudley.

Charlotte is well on her way to building a career worthy of the Hall of Fame, and she has the blueprint created by Stratus to guide her.


Becky Lynch and Mickie James

Like Charlotte and Stratus, Becky Lynch and Mickie James have a lot of similarities, and theirs extend beyond career trajectories.

However, unlike Charlotte and Stratus, James and Lynch both came into WWE with years of experience under their belts to prepare them for what was in store.

Lynch spent four years working for European and Japanese promotions before taking a break from the business for several years. James also spent roughly four years honing her craft in smaller promotions before heading to WWE.

The biggest similarity between these two women is their energy. There is something about them that makes people want to watch them perform, which can't be quantified.

The unfortunate thing they share is how they are sometimes overlooked in favor of other Superstars. James was somewhat overshadowed by Stratus despite being on the same level.

During the first year of the women's revolution, Lynch often felt like the third wheel to Sasha Banks and Charlotte, but she worked hard and became the face of SmackDown's women's division.

James had some classic matches with many of the women mentioned in this article, and hopefully when she returns to face Asuka for the NXT Women's Championship at TakeOver: Toronto on Nov. 19, she will show everyone she hasn't lost a step.


Sasha Banks and Lita

Banks and Lita might not seem like they have a lot in common on the surface, but they share more qualities than you might think.

Lita was known as the biggest risk-taker in the women's division in the early 2000s, which is something Banks has become known for over the past few years.

Both of these talented performers have a charisma about them that makes them different from every other woman on the roster. It's why they stand out in a crowd.

As a member of Team Xtreme with Matt and Jeff Hardy, Lita connected with the fans on a different level than her peers. Her popularity was immeasurable, and when she had the biggest real-life heel turn in history, she embraced it to become one of the company's best villains.

Holding the women's title four times and being in the Hall of Fame are huge accomplishments, but her biggest standout moment came during Raw on Nov. 24, 2003.

For the first time in WWE history, two women headlined the show, as Lita battled Victoria in the first steel cage match contested between two female wrestlers.

Lita is passing on her knowledge as a member of the creative team, and she contributes to Raw and pay-per-view panels regularly, so her presence will be felt in the company for a long time.


Bayley and Molly Holly

Before Bayley was making kids smile and hugging everyone, Molly Holly stole America's heart with her fun personality and great wrestling ability.

Bayley is considered a superhero to every little girl who watches WWE, but Holly actually wore a superhero costume as part of her gimmick with Hurricane Helms.

Unfortunately, Holly came along during a time when there was already a lot of established women doing great things in the company, so it was harder for her to stand out.

She managed to win the women's title twice, but she can also claim to be one of the only other females besides Stratus to hold the Hardcore Championship, and she did it by pinning The Hurricane backstage at WrestleMania X8.

Like Stratus, her reign was shorter than a cup of coffee, but it was moments like this where she shined through the ridiculousness of what she was doing and stole the spotlight from everyone else.

Her storyline with Crash and Hardcore Holly is what got her over, and she worked hard every single day to prove she deserved the spot she had been given. As far as conversations about great women in wrestling are concerned, Molly Holly's name is left off the list too often.


Paige and Victoria

When it comes to the alternative crowd, few embody the culture more in women's wrestling than Victoria and Paige.

The Glampire was one of the first women to get the revolution going in NXT, and while her future with the company may be in doubt, there is no denying how much she has done for the division.

Like Paige, Victoria was the alternative to the stereotypical Diva of her time. She wasn't a model who learned how to wrestle. She was a wrestler who could model if she wanted to.

Her memorable cage match with Lita will always keep her in the discussion about the women's division in the early 2000s, but she did a lot of other great work to establish her legacy, too.

She is one of the few women who came up during the Attitude Era who is still wrestling today, which speaks to her dedication and love for the sport. Her 16-year career has eclipsed most women who enter the ring.

WWE may have mishandled Victoria toward the end of her run, but she always went out there and put everything she had into her performances, regardless of how ridiculous what she was being asked to do made her look.

As a woman who didn't conform to the way we expected our Divas to look back then, Victoria helped pave the way for Superstars like Paige who choose to embrace an edgier style over something fashionable.


Natalya and Jacqueline

We have talked about a lot of incredible women in this article, but no conversation about Attitude Era women's wrestling would be complete without mentioning Jacqueline.

She was the epitome of what a powerful woman could be, and someone on today's roster who has a lot of similar attributes is Natalya.

They are both a lot stronger than their opponents most of the time, and they also embrace a more old-school approach to wrestling over something flashy with less substance.

When WWE revived the Women's Championship in 1998 after being deactivated for three years, it was Jacqueline who was chosen to lead the division as its first champion.

She was the only standout wrestler when the division was occupied with the likes of Sable and Debra, two women who were more comfortable being valets outside the ring than performers inside.

A common thread among the women in this article is holding championships typically reserved for men, and Jacqueline is on that short list, thanks to a reign as the cruiserweight champion.

As someone who did a lot for her gender in wrestling, Jacqueline could justifiably have a huge ego, but her speech at the 2016 Hall of Fame ceremony showed a humble woman who was loved by her peers and truly thankful for the time she spent on the road.

During her induction, she showed class by paying respect to the man who trained her, Skandor Akbar, and the fans who supported her during her run. Jacqueline was a rare talent who helped usher in change when it was sorely needed in women's wrestling.


The Original Revolution vs. Today's Revolution

The women who are carrying the division on their backs have all reached that point through hard work and dedication, but they also had the women of the Attitude Era to inspire them.

Trying to compare which group of wrestlers is better is pointless because everyone brings something different to the table, but there is one major difference between today's revolution and the one that happened at the turn of the century.

WWE keeps telling us how much women's wrestling has advanced instead of just letting the work speak for itself. Today's talents don't need management to keep telling us changes are happening because we see them every week.

During the Attitude Era, nobody was talking about how those women were changing the game. They just did it, and we loved them for it.

And they did it without as much support backstage as today's women have. The Attitude Era was still a time when women were viewed as little more than sex symbols in pro wrestling, so stars such as Lita, Stratus and Victoria had to wade through the bad stuff to be allowed to main-event one episode of Raw.

Today's world is filled with a lot more success stories about women in sports, and WWE would have been stupid not to follow the trend and push its best and brightest to the forefront.

The women of today's WWE had to work their butts off to prove they were worth the effort, and they have the previous generation to thank for breaking down barriers and proving it was possible in the first place.


Thanks for reading, and follow me on Twitter @BR_Doctor. Congratulations to the Cubs for an amazing World Series victory Wednesday night. We never gave up hope.


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