Diva is a term used by WWE, an American professional wrestling promotion, to refer to its female performers. The term is applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers. The slogan of the divas division is Smart, Sexy and Powerful.
- 1 History
- 2 Diva Search (2003–2007, 2015–present)
- 3 Promotion
- 4 Championships and accomplishments
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 External links
Beginnings: The Moolah Days
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. 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 or title losses 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. 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. (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.
Sherri Martel debuted on July 24, 1987, defeating The Fabulous Moolah for the WWF Women's Championship. Renaming herself 'Sensational' Sherri, she reigned as WWF Women's Champion for fifteen months before losing it to Rockin' Robin; 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. 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. Sapphire would debut in November 1989 on WWF Saturday Night's Main Event as a fan cheering on Dusty Rhodes at ringside in his match against Big Boss Man. Sapphire began to manage Rhodes, who adapted Rhodes' gimmick as she adorned black outfits with yellow polka dots. Sapphire along with Rhodes later on entered into a feud with Randy Savage and Sensational Sherri as Sapphire teamed with Rhodes to take on Savage and Sherri in a tag team match at Wrestlemania VI. Sapphire pinned Sherri, with some help from Miss Elizabeth, who had allied herself with Sapphire and Rhodes after a previous incident that precipitated the match. Sapphire and Sherri would continue their feud competing against each other in singles and tag team matches up until August 25th, where she and Rhodes emerged victorious as a tandem. 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, joining Sapphire (who would then depart from the company in mid 1990) and Miss Elizabeth focusing on managing male wrestlers. Miss Elizabeth took a leave of absence in 1990, but returned in 1991, and was a key player in Randy 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 initially alligned herself with Shawn Michaels then later on with Bam Bam Bigelow feuded with Sherri and Tatanka; Martel would leave the company in 1993. Although the term 'Diva' did not exist until 1999, WWE acknowledges this time period as the beginning of their women's division.
The 90's (1993–1997)
In 1993, the WWF reinstated its Women's Championship, a title that had been vacant since 1990, and Debrah Miceli was brought in by the company to revive the women's division. She debuted under the ring name Alundra Blayze, because WWF owner Vince McMahon did not want to pay Miceli to use the name Madusa, which she had trademarked. 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.
After the tournament, Miceli asked WWF management to bring in new women for her to wrestle. Former champion Leilani Kai briefly returned to the company at Wrestlemania X facing Blayze for the Women's title. 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. Five months later on April 3, 1995, Blayze regained the title from Nakano on an edition of Monday Night Raw. As part of the storyline, immediately following the win, she was attacked by Bertha Faye, who broke her nose. In reality, the storyline was written so Miceli could take time off to get breast implants and a nose job. She returned to the ring in August 1995, losing the Women's Championship to Faye at SummerSlam on August 27. Two months later, she won the title a third time, defeating Faye on October 23. Later on as part of a short talent exchange with All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling, various Japanese female wrestlers including Aja Kong debuted leading to the second elimination match at the Survivor Series 1995 event. In December, due to financial troubles the WWF was having at the time, 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.
Sunny (Tammy Sytch) debuted in 1995 as the manager of The Bodydonnas. 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.
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. Marlena was the manager of Goldust, her then real-life husband, and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, Marc Mero. Sable, however, quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity 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. Luna Vachon would return towards the end of 1997 as the manager of Goldust.
Attitude Era (1998–2001)
In 1998, Debra debuted and shortly thereafter was featured in a Raw Magazine spread. At the beginning of her WWF career, she played the part of a shrewd businesswoman, wearing business suits. and Jeff Jarrett's girlfriend. Debra, however, began utilizing a new strategy during Jarrett's matches, distracting his opponents by unbuttoning her blouse. 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.
Sable's eclipsed popularity and her feud with Marc Mero and his new manager, Jacqueline  lead 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 Vachon, the more physical and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps.
Sable became the first WWF female to refer to herself as a "Diva" during the April 19 edition of Raw in 1999; the term shortly thereafter became the official title for WWF's female performers. 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. Moolah and Young then started taking part in 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 76-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.
In February 2000, Lita debuted; she performed higher-risk moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas. Shortly thereafter, Trish Stratus made her debut. Stratus started off as a valet who brought pure sexuality to the ring. Also, later that year, Molly Holly was added to the roster. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas because she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.
During 2000, the Women's Championship was defended in the main event on two occasions. On the March 30 edition of SmackDown defending champion Jacqueline wrestled Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. The August 21 edition of Raw defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley wrestled Lita.
In early 2001, Stratus became involved in a storyline with WWF Chairman Vince McMahon, the premise of the storyline would be when McMahon's wife Linda was kayfabe institutionalized following a demand Vince had made for a divorce during an episode of SmackDown! on December 7, 2000. Vince and Stratus' relationship increasingly angered the boss' daughter, then-heel, Stephanie McMahon. At No Way Out on February 25, Stratus and Stephanie squared off, with Stephanie scoring the victory after interference by William Regal. Later on it was revealed that Stratus was the victim of a set-up by Vince, Stephanie and Regal. 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. The storyline came to an end at WrestleMania X-Seven when Stratus slapped Vince during his match against his son Shane McMahon, becoming a fan favorite in the process.
Finally, 2001 saw the WWF's purchase of its chief competitors, World Championship Wrestling (WCW) and Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW), and the consequent entry of former WCW and ECW female talent, such as Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, and Jazz, into the WWF. Also later in the year, Chyna left the WWF due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. In the autumn of 2001, Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and drastically 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. Stratus would then enter in a prominent feud with Jazz who debuted at Survivor Series
Golden Era (2002–2008)
Much of entering the year of 2002 saw Trish Stratus continuing her feud with Jazz over the Women's Championship, where she was retained the championship at the Royal Rumble but lost the championship to her two weeks later on the February 4, 2002 episode of Raw. In April 2002, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first Diva to have neck fusion surgery. She was out of action for almost a year and a half. As she rehabilitated, she kept herself visible by co-hosting Sunday Night Heat on MTV.
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 (Nidia in 2001, Linda Miles and Jackie Gayda in 2002), which featured contestants aspiring to be professional wrestlers.
Sable 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. 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, Nidia, and Jazz all departed from the company mutually or due to budget cuts. 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 kept herself visible in Christy Hemme's feud with Trish Stratus before transitioning into Edge's valet. Sensational Sherri made a cameo appearance on the March 25, 2005 episode of SmackDown! in Shawn Michaels and Kurt Angle's feud, where Sherri and Angle sang a parody of Michaels' entrance theme. Molly Holly departed mutually from the company in April 2005, and Jackie Gayda and Dawn Marie departed from the company entering July 2005 as part of talent releases. Later on, Ivory also departed mutually from the company towards the end of July.
Melina made her debut part of the tag team trio as MNM in WWE on the April 14, 2005, episode of SmackDown!. 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". 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. 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.
Mickie James debuted in WWE on the October 10, 2005 episode of Raw, under her real name, as an obsessed fan of Trish Stratus. The storyline had James and Stratus competing together in tag team matches, with James' character becoming increasingly infatuated with Stratus. This would lead to various angles including 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 to even utilizing Stratus' signature finishing moves as her own during matches. Subsequently, the storyline between Mickie and Trish also developed into a lesbian angle after Mickie had a kiss with Trish under a sprig of mistletoe. 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. On March 6, 2006, the storyline had Stratus confronting James, telling her that they needed time apart from each other.
The climax of the storyline lead to James and Stratus wrestling each other at WrestleMania 22 for the Women's Championship, where James won the match, and became the new champion. Her angle with Stratus continued into Backlash during a rematch after Stratus legitimately dislocated her shoulder when James threw her out of the ring. Beth Phoenix then debuted 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. 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".
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 initiation. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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. At One Night Stand 2008, Beth Phoenix and Melina competed in the first "I Quit" Match to be contested between Divas.
Divas Championship; unification (2008–2012)
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. On August 17, 2008 at SummerSlam, Beth Phoenix and Santino Marella defeated Mickie James and Kofi Kingston in a Winner Takes All Intergender tag team match, where Beth became the new WWE Women's Champion and Santino the new WWE Intercontinental Champion. 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. Mickie James defeated Maryse on July 26, 2009 at Night Of Champions, ending Maryse's reign at 216 days (also longest reign of the title at time) and becoming the second Diva to hold the WWE Divas Championship and WWE Women's Championship. James lost the title 78 days later to Jillian Hall on Raw, where Hall lost the title four minutes later to Melina who became the third woman to hold both titles.
At the 2010 Royal Rumble event, Mickie James became five-time champion by defeating McCool and 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 after defeated Gail Kim in a tournament, becoming the first Diva to hold the title twice. Michelle McCool regained the title on February 23, 2010 on SmackDown defeating James in a match with Vickie Guerrero as special guest referee (aired on February 26, 2010). 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. Beth Phoenix became the new WWE Women's Champion for the third time on 25 April 2010 in an Extreme Makeover at Extreme Rules pay-per-view. On the May 14, episode of SmackDown, Layla won the WWE Women's Championship for the first time by defeating Beth Phoenix in a two on one Tornado Handicap match with Michelle McCool thus become the only British Women's Champion (Michelle McCool was unofficially the co-champion During this reign, she defended the championship in Layla's place on some occasions, but was not officially Recognized the the title holder). At WWE Fatal 4 Way, Alicia Fox became the first African-American and the youngest Divas Champion. (record later broken by Paige in 2014).
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, then McCool locked in her finisher The Faithbreaker, 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. McCool lost the title to Natalya on 21 November 2010 at Survivor Series in a handicap match involving Layla, and then they competed against Natalya and Beth Phoenix in the first tables match of the Divas Division at TLC: Tables, Ladders & Chairs. 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 third season of NXT but was released two weeks later, due to the company allegedly finding adult photos, and was replaced by Kaitlyn on the show. On the November 30 season finale of NXT, Kaitlyn was announced as the winner of season three, defeating Naomi in the final to become WWE's first "breakout Diva".
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. 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 WWE on August 5, 2011, due to frustration with WWE's lack of focus on the women's division. She was officially released, for the second 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. Beth Phoenix defeated Kelly Kelly for the title on 2 October 2011 at Hell in a Cell, becoming the fourth woman to hold the Divas and Women's title. 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, 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.
At the 2012 Royal Rumble event, Kharma competed in the Royal Rumble match making her the third woman to compete in a royal rumble match. In February, Eve Torres became involved in a storyline with John Cena and Zack Ryder, and turned heel after admitting in a backstage segment to The Bella Twins that she had used Ryder and had planned to use Cena also. On April 1, 2012 at WrestleMania XXVIII Kelly Kelly and Maria Menounos defeated WWE Divas Champion Beth Phoenix and Eve Torres in a tag team match. On the April 23 episode of Raw, Nikki Bella defeated Beth Phoenix in a lumberjill match for the WWE Divas Championship, ending Phoenix's reign as champion at 204 days. Layla returned from her injury on April 29, 2012 at Extreme Rules and defeated Nikki Bella to become the fifth woman to hold the titles. The Bella Twins' contracts expired the following night, where they were fired by Eve Torres in the storyline.
Wendi Richter made a cameo appearance on the June 18, 2012 episode 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. In July, Kharma was moved to the alumni section on WWE.com, and she later confirmed her release from the company. On July 9, 2012, Eve Torres and AJ Lee became the first Divas to main event Raw since Trish Stratus and Lita in 2004, in a tag team match alongside CM Punk and Daniel Bryan. Two weeks later, on the 1000th episode of Raw, Trish Stratus and Lita made 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 countout match. Lita won the match with help from the APA and a large number of WWE legends. During mid-2012, AJ became involved in various relationship storylines with wrestlers such as CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Kane, John Cena and Dolph Ziggler, including a stint as the General Manager of Raw.
On September 16, 2012, at the Night of Champions pay-per-view, Eve Torres defeated Layla to win the Divas Championship, becoming the first Diva in history to hold the title on three occasions. On September 28, Kelly Kelly was released from her WWE contract due to her absence from the company.
On October 29, 2012, Beth Phoenix left WWE after her contract expired. Her final match was on Raw defeating AJ Lee after Vickie Guerrero restarted the match. A month after Phoenix's departure, WWE published an article on their website stating that there was a new era for the Divas division. On December 16, at TLC, AJ turned heel by interfering in John Cena's ladder match against Dolph Ziggler, pushing Cena off the ladder.
Total Divas (2013–2015)
On the 20th anniversary episode of Raw on January 14, 2013, Kaitlyn defeated Eve and thus became the first NXT wrestler to win the WWE Divas Championship. Eve departed the company later that night after her contract expired. The Bella Twins returned to WWE on the March 11, 2013 episode of Raw. Kaitlyn lost her WWE Divas Championship to her former tag team partner AJ Lee on Payback, ending her reign at 153 days. The first in-ring Divas contract signing took place on the July 12, 2013 episode 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 the event.
In July 2013, the first season of the Total Divas reality television show starring WWE Divas premiered. On the August 26 episode of Raw, AJ Lee 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. At the 2013 Slammy Awards show, the Diva of the Year award was won by Brie and Nikki Bella. On January 8, 2014, Kaitlyn decided to depart from WWE to pursue other endeavors. Later on towards the end of the month, AJ Lee became the longest reigning Divas Champion in history, surpassing Maryse's reign of 216 days. On the March 12 episode of Main Event, AJ Lee successfully defended the Divas Championship against Natalya, in a match that lasted fourteen minutes—the longest women's championship match since 1987. On the March 24 episode of Raw, it was announced by Vickie Guerrero that AJ Lee 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 Lee retained her championship by forcing Naomi to submit.
On the post-WrestleMania episode of Raw on April 7, 2014, Paige made her debut on the main roster and would defeat AJ Lee for the Divas Championship, becoming the first NXT Diva to hold both the NXT Women's and Divas Championships simultaneously as well as becoming the youngest Divas Champion in WWE history at the age of 21.
Brie Bella would enter a storyline with Stephanie McMahon after at Payback — as part of her husband Daniel Bryan's storyline with Stephanie McMahon — McMahon threatened to fire Bella if, an injured, Bryan did not relinquish the WWE World Heavyweight Championship, which forced Brie to "quit" before slapping McMahon in the face. In mid-June, Vickie Guerrero would depart mutually from WWE, after losing to Stephanie McMahon in a pudding match. AJ Lee returned after a two-month hiatus, defeating Paige in an impromptu match to regain the Divas Championship as both then traded the championship until at SummerSlam then Night of Champions. At SummerSlam, Stephanie McMahon defeated Brie Bella in her first match from ten years, after Nikki Bella turned heel and attacked her sister, officially dissolving The Bella Twins. AJ Lee won the Divas Championship for a record-tying third time at Night of Champions against Paige and Nikki Bella.
Divas Revolution (2015–present)
On the February 23, 2015 episode of Raw, The Bella Twins faced Paige and Emma in a widely criticized match that lasted around 30 seconds. After the match, a hashtag on Twitter trended worldwide for around 1.5 days, called #GiveDivasAChance. This hashtag would bring attention to various multi-media outlets over the long-tenured controversy over the company's treatment of their women's division, including AJ Lee who publicly criticized Stephanie McMahon over the issue. AJ Lee would depart from the company on April 3, 2015, after the company would claim that Lee had retired from the ring. In June, Paige started serving as a judge on the sixth season of WWE Tough Enough, while Renee Young appeared as co-host of the show and Lita served as a coach.
On the July 13, 2015 episode of Raw, Nikki Bella would claim that there was no challengers for her championship as this would lead to Stephanie McMahon proclaiming that there would be a revolution in the women's division and would then introduce three NXT developmentalal female prospects ; they were Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and then-NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks. The three talents emerged dominant from the subsequent nine-person brawl. While critics approved of "some new life [being] breathed into" the "stagnant" Divas division, they disapproved of McMahon's involvement in the segment, feeling that she had hogged the spotlight from the debuting wrestlers, and questioning if a top heel should be the "face of positive change". Other critics felt WWE missed the chance to rebrand the women from their "lame", "degrading" and "tired" label of 'Divas'.
In the following weeks, a three-way feud began between the heels of Team B.A.D. (Sasha Banks, Naomi and Tamina), Team Bella (Alicia Fox, Brie Bella and Nikki Bella) - who alternated between babyface and heel weekly, and the babyfaces of PCB (Paige, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch), with the latter team being renamed from Submission Sorority due to links to adult content. During the faction war, WWE was praised for the "intensified spotlight and the improved quality of television time for the female wrestlers", but criticized for moving away from the revolution's "impetus" of dethroning Nikki Bella as champion. Even during the Divas Revolution, critics continued to contrast the Divas division with the NXT women's division, describing the former as having "undefined individual characters" and "matches for the sake of having matches", whereas the latter had "characters who make grown men cry when they succeed".
On July 29, WWE announced that Layla would depart from the company and retire. When a Brooklyn crowd reacted negatively to a multi-Diva tag match on the August 24 episode of Raw, Lance Storm attributed it to Nikki Bella saying just before the match that such matches were 'pointless' as her Divas title was not on the line. Storm further said that although Nikki had multiple submission losses in non-title matches, no title challengers were set up and he doubted if anyone could "even remember the last time she defended it".
On the August 31 episode of Raw, Charlotte won the first ever Beat the Clock challenge for a title shot, with the title match was set for Night of Champions on September 20, several days after Nikki Bella is set to surpass AJ Lee as the longest reigning Divas Champion.
Diva Search (2003–2007, 2015–present)
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 for WWE. The winner of the competition received a one-year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000. On March 29, 2015 it was announced by the company that the contest would return in fall of 2015 and would be exclusive on the WWE Network.
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.
Since 1999, seven WWE Divas have appeared on the cover of Playboy:
- 1999: Sable (2)
- 2000: Chyna
- 2001: Chyna
- 2003: Torrie Wilson
- 2004: Torrie Wilson and Sable
- 2005: Christy Hemme
- 2006: Candice Michelle
- 2007: Ashley
- 2008: Maria
Actual Playboy playmates, such as Carmella DeCesare and Karen McDougal have also appeared in the 2004 Diva Search. Past female talents such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, Michelle McCool, and Melina had said that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Trish Stratus 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. 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. Stacy Keibler refused to pose as she believes it would be better if she "left something for the imagination."
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. In addition, both appeared in two of Cyndi Lauper's music videos, "The Goonies 'R' Good Enough" and "She Bop".
From 1999 to 2000, Sable would appear as a guest star on an episode of Pacific Blue in 1999  and the following year, 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. In November 2001, Trish Stratus, Lita, and Stephanie McMahon appeared as contestants on The Weakest Link's "WWF Superstars Edition". Lita, Molly Holly, and Jacqueline appeared as contestants on Fear Factor in February 2002. In April 6, 2002 Lita appeared in a small role on Dark Angel., In March 2004, she appeared on an episode of Headbangers Ball.
In 2007, Ashley, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland. 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.
On April 22, 2013, it was announced that the Divas would be getting a show on E! network titled Total Divas. It would follow the lives behind the scenes of select Divas. Natalya, Naomi, Cameron, The Bella Twins, also Eva Marie and JoJo Offerman from developmental territory, WWE NXT were announced as the inaugural cast for the show. The show premiered on July 28. The show was an instant hit, and was renewed for a second season. On January 27, 2014, it was announced that Summer Rae would join the cast of the show in season two, while JoJo left the cast after the first season. Rosa Mendes was later announced to join the show for season three. Alicia Fox and Paige would go on to join in the second part of the third season.
Championships and accomplishments
|Championship||Current champion||Date won||Location||Previous champion||First champion|
|Divas Championship||Nikki Bella||November 23, 2014||St. Louis, Missouri||AJ Lee||Michelle McCool|
|NXT Women's Championship||Bayley||August 22, 2015||Brooklyn, New York||Sasha Banks||Paige|
|Championship||Last champion(s)||Date won||Date retired||Location||Previous champion(s)||First champion(s)|
|Women's Championship||Layla El||May 11, 2010||September 19, 2010||Rosemont, Illinois||Beth Phoenix||The Fabulous Moolah|
|Women's Tag Team Championship||Leilani Kai and Judy Martin||June 8, 1988||February 4, 1989||Omiya, Japan||Noriyo Tateno and Itsuki Yamazaki||Velvet McIntyre and Princess Victoria|
Hall of Famers
|The Fabulous Moolah||1995|
|Rookie Diva||Date won|
|Kaitlyn||November 30, 2010|
WWE Tough Enough
|Season Winner||Date won|
|Nidia Guenard||September 27, 2001|
|Linda Miles and Jackie Gayda||May 30, 2002|
|Sara Lee||August 25, 2015|
|Diva of the Year||Date won|
|Miss Elizabeth[a]||December 17, 1987|
|Sable[b]||March 21, 1997|
|Beth Phoenix||December 8, 2008|
|Maria||December 14, 2009|
|Michelle McCool||December 13, 2010|
|Kelly Kelly[c]||December 12, 2011|
|AJ Lee[d]||December 17, 2012|
|The Bella Twins||December 9, 2013|
|AJ Lee||December 8, 2014|
|Other awards||Winner||Date won|
|Best Buns||Sunny||March 30, 1996|
|Manager of the Year||Sunny||March 30, 1996|
|Best Dressed||Sable||March 21, 1997|
|Couple of the Year||Vickie Guerrero (with Edge)||December 8, 2008|
|Best Use of Exercise Equipment[d]||Rosa Mendes||December 13, 2010|
|Knucklehead Moment of the Year||LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool)||December 13, 2010|
|Divalicious Moment of the Year||Kelly Kelly||December 12, 2011|
|Kiss of the Year||AJ Lee (with John Cena)||December 18, 2012|
|Couple of the Year[d]||Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan)||December 9, 2013|
|Best Dance Moves of the Year[d]||The Funkadactyls (Naomi and Cameron)||December 9, 2013|
|Insult of the Year||Stephanie McMahon||December 9, 2013|
|Couple of the Year[d]||Brie Bella (with Daniel Bryan)||December 8, 2014|
- A – Award was then known as "Woman of the Year"
- B – Award was then known as "Miss Slammy"
- C - Award was then known as "Divalicious Moment of the Year"
- D – Awarded through WWE.com
Babe of the Year (2001–2004)
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. Stacy Keibler ended Stratus' reign in 2004 and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two.
Rookie Diva of the Year (2005)
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.
Diva of the Decade
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