A Diva here, a Diva there, here a Diva, there a Diva, everywhere a Diva! Where have all the female wrestlers gone? As an openly gay columnist for a predominately heterosexual sport, I find I am always alone in this battle when facing the subject of where female wrestling is heading these days. Most of my “straight” colleagues have no issues with seeing the beautiful, buxom, bouncy females strut down the ring and show off a little eye candy for their male (maybe even female) fans of the sport. They enter the ring, do a couple of amateur moves, jump around and that is considered a Diva’s match in the WWE, and we as fans have to accept that this is their level of competition. This can be proven moreover with the new addition of Total Divas on the E! Network. Although the ratings have started taking a downward spiral, fans of the show, who don’t normally watch wrestling, are started to connect the Diva branding to the face of female wrestling and it kind of pisses me off. Not to say that every Diva in the WWE is talentless, because they are not. They all have talent, some of them not that of a wrestler, but talent nonetheless. I’m sure that there is a Diva or two that can knit a fine sweater or maybe even change a flat tire but I digress. WWE has taken so much away from those women who can actually wrestle and compete because it is spreading the word to the world that if you don’t look good, you can’t wrestle good. And that my friends, is just simply hogwash. The talent that flows through some of the other federations that have women compete is unbelievable. If you were to tune into a match that had a female wrestler without the Diva moniker you would see, in most cases, high flying antics as performed like their male counterparts. You would witness compelling story lines and charisma that isn’t based upon how short their neckline is. I’m talking about real wrestlers, REAL!

WWE didn’t always have the Diva division in place. At one time they actually showcased female competitors like they do male wrestlers, as a viable and entertaining match that fans could enjoy tuning into. Stars like Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Wendy Richter and Alundra Blaze ( aka Madusa) came from the wrestling ropes of the WWE. Moolah led the division for some twenty plus years and forced integrity and passion from any female wrestler she had a scheduled match for. Audiences of her generation are still, to this day, talking about the capability and drive that Moolah had on the WWE’s Womens Divison. Although one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, Moolah didn’t carry the division by herself. She wrestled women like Mae Young, Judy Grable and Donna Christinello who were all top performers during their era in the wrestling industry and all of them helped mold and pave the way for other young women to get into the business of professional wrestling. But what happened to the competitive levels within the WWE when it concerns women’s professional wrestling? I can sum it all up for you with one word, the DIVA.

In the mid to late 90’s, WWE was knocked off of it’s ivory tower by a now defunct wrestling federation called WCW. The massive push from the fans made WCW the promotion to watch and it made WWE the promotion to watch when WCW was away on commercial break. With the fall of grace, Vince McMahon had to reshuffle and basically reinvent the wheel to even stay afloat, let alone be competitive. Vince decided that rebranding the WWE was the way to go, and it turns out, from a financial stand point, he was right. The WWE would now give the fans an edgier product and push the envelope of television standards when it came to professional wrestling. The revamped WWE’s Attitude Era had begun. With the Attitude Era came the birth of the Diva, a moniker which was first dawned by Sable, a former women’s champion and valet. Sable, an unexperienced wrestler, began her march toward validity by becoming the top female contender in the division. Sable, was a pioneer of sorts, she would gain momentum and pull fans into her matches just from her charisma, well partly because of her charisma. The Diva did have it’s downfall though, which would be the whole point of this column. When the Diva arrived in the WWE, so did the exit of talent. The division, which used to dawn stars like, Victoria, Jazz, Jacqueline and Ivory, was now caught up with the ladies who could show off their assets to the viewing audience instead of their competitive skills.  To most men, this aforementioned talent wouldn’t pose a problem; actually they would probably respond with a loud “Shell Yeah!” oops, I mean “Hell Yeah” to the sight of these in ring beauties. But for those of us who are interested in more than just the sight of scantily clad ladies, a resounding and constant disappointment was felt. What was once a place where we could depend on top performances from the female side of the business now was nothing more than a memory that passed through the back of our minds.

Now that many years have passed since the start of the Diva, WWE has tried to implement more integrity in the division to appease fans ever changing needs. The fans no longer want to see just beautiful women, they want to see beautiful women and maybe not so beautiful women, who can wrestle. Credit for that change can simply be accosted to TNA and the birth of the Knockout. TNA being the new promotion in town drew in fans quickly because they presented a product that was different from the typical WWE match. Mainly, their female wrestlers, known as the Knockouts, became a big reason to tune in to TNA in its early days.  The Knockouts came out of the box strong and ready for action and quickly found their place with wrestling fans from all walks of life. The tough competition was consistent and intriguing which made household names from people like Awesome Kong, Sarita and Madison Rayne. No longer was women’s professional wrestling a beauty pageant where competitors flaunted their “goodies” and people were satisfied with the levels of competition.  The time for serious “wrasslin” is now and fans won’t settle for anything less than just that.  WWE has to take a look at the success that TNA had with the Knockouts and see if there is something they can do to shine that successful light on the Divas.

NXT has changed the way we have perceived the typical WWE female wrestler. Yes, they are Divas in training but it seems to me that more and more we are seeing women with talent and skills to hold their own in the ring. Names like Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Bailey have all shown true talent in the ring and all of them look to unseat the current personification of the Diva. Charlotte herself has been a powerhouse in the NXT women’s division and has walked over competitors while remaining the NXT women’s champion. NXT hasn’t shied away from creating and developing top talent in the Diva’s division. Naomi is probably one of the most recognized new Divas as having a tremendous amount of talent, talent that we wouldn’t normally find on Raw or Smackdown. Naomi is proving that she is a force to be reckoned with inside the ring and amazes fans every time we see her, she is definitely a Diva worth watching. I guess you can’t talk about Naomi without mentioning her former tag team partner and Funkadactyl, Cameron. Cameron doesn’t have the physical talent capacity that Naomi displays but she does have a talent that Naomi hasn’t had the chance to hone in on just yet and that’s her mic skills. Cameron has charisma that outshines most and a work ethic that would blow your mind. She was told by the WWE Execs that she would now be Naomi’s valet and Cameron wasn’t having any of it. Instead of becoming a shadow of Naomi’s, she asked if she could be sent back down to NXT, work on her in-ring abilities and then return when she was capable and she did just that. Now that she has returned to the main roster, her skills inside the ring have improved, nowhere near Naomi’s skills, but still yet an improvement. Cameron really has begun to shine with her charismatic attitude that makes people want to hate her on so many levels and whether you like it or not, that’s talent. There is still hope when it comes to the Diva’s division it’s just unfortunate that most of the hope lies within the NXT female division.

The fact remains that although the Diva may not be at the top of your best wrestler lists, it has still made leaps and bounds from where they were twenty or 30 years ago when it comes to fan recognition and maybe that’s all they need. Vince McMahon isn’t the biggest supporter of female wrestling and we have all known that for many years, but you don’t have to support them to make them better. Women’s professional wrestling isn’t going to fade into the night and just disappear. There will always be women like Madison Eagles, Mercedes Martinez and Portia Perez who are spending day in and day out, massive amounts of time in the ring, perfecting and honing their skills so when fans come and see one of their matches, they leave fulfilled and amazed. The bigger picture has to be an upgrade of talent, it has to be the ability to wrestle and it has to be open to wrestlers who don’t just have beautiful flowing hair and large breasts, wrestlers that can actually wrestle. We, as fans, have to start taking a stand on what we want to see and what we don’t because most decisions made within the headquarters of WWE, is based solely upon viewership and ratings. That means that we need to scream it from the rooftops, send a fax, write an email, a pigeon, smoke signals, a message in a bottle, whatever it takes to tell the WWE that we are sick of being sick of the talent displayed by the Diva. Being devoid of talent would never fly within any male professional wrestling division, so why should it in the Diva’s division?

Clearly success can be judged on a plethora of different scales. Depending on who you talk to and what time of day it is, a fan of the WWE could say that the Diva is the most successful female brand out there and they wouldn’t be lying. The name value and recognition for the Divas has exploded since the addition of Total Divas on the E! Network. Fans from all walks of life can enjoy the Divas without ever having to turn a WWE show on. Publicity, in any form, is name recognition, which in turn adds value to each individual. Whether you like it or not! The Diva has been known to persevere and adding them to any network’s line up only increases their validity as an international brand. So, where does the Diva go from here? If you are asking me that question, I would say that it is time to make the Diva wrestle and allow them to get by on their talent and not on their beauty, but unfortunately the decision is not mine to make. If the Diva brand wants to become a viable brand that offers true skills from their competitors then they need to demonstrate the talent that will prove me wrong. The division cannot be hung up on one or two excellent performers and the rest just get to look good. No, the Diva brand has to be a brand that fans can turn on that negates those stereotypical comments about the lack of entertainment and talent that every wrestling fan makes when the Divas wrestle on a WWE sponsored show. The WWE needs to understand the importance of the Divas holding their own inside of a squared circle because as long as they continue down this long, bumpy and less than interesting path, more and more fans will begin to change the channel when a Diva dawns our televisions, but then again, that’s just my Chaotic Theory……