By Will Pruett
In honor of International Women’s Day, today I’m focusing solely on the women of the Smackdown show.
Alexa Bliss vs. all the other women on Smackdown was announced on this show as the Smackdown Women’s Championship Match at WrestleMania. This is a difficult proposition for me to get behind.
Let’s start by stating that WWE, in the last year, has done a lot to further the cause of equality for women’s wrestling. They moved the outpouring of support for solid women’s wrestling from their minor league to the majors with WrestleMania 32’s statement of radical equality. This was a watershed moment for WWE and one I’m not going to dismiss. In the time since WrestleMania, women have main evented the two major television shows, a pay-per-view, and (mostly) been presented as tellers of important stories. This is huge. I cannot understate what WWE has done.
Historically, WWE makes their biggest and most important statements of the year at WrestleMania. This is the show where WWE proudly proclaims who they are and what they do. Last year’s WrestleMania was highlighted by a major women’s match.
I decided to look back at WrestleMania history and see how women have been featured at WrestleMania throughout time (note: this does not include pre-shows, which are not actually WrestleMania). Here are some notable finds:
- There have been 24 total matches involving women as participants at WrestleMania.
- Of those 24, three have been mixed tag matches.
- There have been 11 one-on-one women’s matches at WrestleMania events.
- The last one-on-one women’s match at a WrestleMania was Melina vs. Ashley Massaro at WrestleMania 23. This, however, was a Lumberjack match with the rest of the women’s roster at ringside.
- The last one-on-one women’s match not to involve other women was Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James at WrestleMania 22.
- Out of the 21 matches that were supposed to solely feature women (example – not mixed tags), one was won by a man (Santino Marella at WrestleMania 25).
- There has been a women’s match at every WrestleMania since WrestleMania 14, with the exception of WrestleMania 29.
- The most matches with women as participants ever held at a single WrestleMania is two. WrestleManias 20 and 22 are tied for this record.
- There is an average of 3/4ths of a women’s match at every WrestleMania.
- The longest women’s match at WrestleMania occurred last year at WrestleMania 32. It was over 16 minutes long.
- The next longest match is the WrestleMania 14 mixed tag with Sable and Marc Mero taking on The Artist Formerly Known as Goldust and Luna. It was just over nine minutes long.
- The longest WrestleMania women’s match (before 2016) not involving male participants was Trish Stratus vs. Mickie James at WrestleMania 22. It was eight minutes, 48 seconds long.
- The shortest WrestleMania women’s match was at WrestleMania 2. Fabulous Moolah vs. Velvet McIntyre was one minute, 25 seconds.
- At WrestleMania 25’s 25-woman Battle Royal the match time divided by participant was 17.8 seconds/person.
This should paint a picture for you. Even as WWE has improved, history shows their treatment of women at WrestleMania has been less than spectacular. They may say their women are main event stars today, but what are they showing us on the biggest show of the year?
This WrestleMania looks set to break the record for most women-involved matches on a WrestleMania show with three. Those three are a mixed tag, a triple threat, and a full female roster jamboree. There is not a one-on-one match to be found. In fact, if this holds and WWE doesn’t change a match or add a one-on-one match, it will have been a full decade since women had a one-on-one match at WrestleMania.
Think about the epic WrestleMania matches and moments throughout history. Most of them have come from one-on-one encounters. Most WrestleMania main events have been singles matches. We remember the biggest matches from the biggest shows and they tend to be singles matches.
WWE, while I have to congratulate them for progress, repeated one of their biggest (and most frequent) mistakes with the Smackdown Women’s Championship match. Instead of focusing on a feud and allowing two women a chance to shine, they are focusing on everyone and allowing this match to fade to the background.
WWE knows better than this. WWE knows how to present stars like Mickie James, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch, Natalya, and (possibly) Naomi like individual major characters. They also know how to cram all of them into one match making sure no one receives the opportunity to stand out. This is an intentional choice. This is a lack of prioritization of women’s wrestling. This is WWE doing what they’ve done for the last 30 years.
After WrestleMania last year, I was optimistic. I saw the potential for more great matches and more great feuds. I saw the most talented women’s roster in WWE history poised to shine. I dared to speculate that one day maybe a full half of WrestleMania would be women’s matches and WWE would embrace the idea of gender equality.
This year, as I look at WrestleMania’s plans for WWE’s immensely talented roster, I see progress and signs for optimism, but I also see that it is not enough. WWE must take the idea of equality they have allowed to permeate their programming over the past year and embrace it further. It is WWE’s own documentaries and interviews that speculate about women one day main eventing WrestleMania. WWE has to work towards this goal.
Got thoughts on this show or my review of it? Hit me up with them! Check the Twitter @wilpruett, leave a comment, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.