In this era of WWE, we arguably have one of the most dynamic set of women wrestlers to ever lace their boots. As a whole, this is the golden age as far as athleticism and talent. But something is missing. While the opportunities are “better,” they are also still very scarce when it comes to this world class group of women.
In this very much male dominated sport, where WWE produces three hours of programming on Monday Night Raw and two hours of WWE Friday Night Smackdown, the women are averaging less than a third of the screen time allowed to their male counterparts. That must mean the males work harder? Absolutely not.
While the overall storytelling for the men and women is mostly lazy, women are working just as hard as the men. Some even more. The expectation of having the same advantages seems to be a foreign concept amongst the WWE executives. As well as the screen time, the pay also differs tremendously between the top male and female stars. But let’s talk talent. The biggest misconception is that opportunities are given to certain superstars based on popularity with management.
There are several well liked talents (such as Liv Morgan) who are not featured in main story lines and the consensus is that the creative team just simply doesn’t know what to do in the form of a believable feud. Does that mean their opportunities are being blocked by other superstars? No. Contrary to a popular belief, most superstars are given their stories and they play them out as scripted. There is not a barter system to get title shots and juicy storylines. Just simply, “here are your marching orders.” And those orders can change at the drop of a hat if deemed necessary, sometimes even the day of a major match. So what can they do?
The one thing that has always been a deciding factor with exposure on WWE is drive. Not to say that any of the non-featured talent lacks drive—but what exactly are they doing when the camera points at them? No matter how small the role is, or how short the match may be, it is imperative to make the most of any time you spend on camera. With the opportunities being limited as is, it’s up to the talent to make themselves noticed. If they give two minutes, one should strive to make it the most unforgettable two minutes of the show. The characters have to look good on paper and in person.
What about their favorite go to talents? The thing we all have to ask ourselves is why those go to talents are called upon so regularly. When a company sees an employee as an asset and knows they can be depended upon in a time of uncertainty and direct need, that’s who they call upon. It sounds complicated, but it’s very simple, make yourself that person they can depend on via your actions onscreen. Make the most of your time. What can they do now? We’re in a pandemic. While the crowd is visibly missing as far as the live performances, it was actually a perfect time to build new stars. This did not happen. With all brands under one roof and every star at their disposal, it should have been a no brainer to use the veterans to usher in a new wave of faces for front burner feuds. Again, this did not happen. But, you know, it’s because “certain people take all of the title shots.”
Actually, during this unprecedented time, two of the top female stars were out for an extended period of time. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, two driving forces in the division went out on leave within weeks of each other, leaving a void and opportunity for talents who had otherwise not been featured or felt overlooked to emerge on top. Vince Mahon has often spoke about talents needing to grab the brass ring, to step up and make moments when presented. Who would heed the call? In a division that features nearly two-dozen, there would only be one who truly stood out.
Sonya Deville, who had previously pitched a storyline for herself, was a star on the rise She’d gone to management and fought for her screen time and solo push. Sonya mentally prepared herself knowing that she either had to sink or swim and did her best to make the most of her moment. During an interview last summer with WWE personalities Renee Young and Paige on WWE Backstage, Deville revealed she went to management and asked for an opportunity to prove herself staying, “I knew going in that this was my moment. It was kinda like make or break and I knew I had to kill it. I had never really gotten mic time before and people didn’t really know I had a voice. It was something I had been asking for-for a long time leading up to that. I remember asking Vince and creative to give me one time on the mic and if I screw it up, you can take it away forever. I was confident that I had something to say in that time and place.”
That confidence enabled Deville to step into the spotlight and be what the company was asking for. There was an intensity, there was a determination, and most importantly, she looked like the future star WWE would get behind. Unfortunately, that was sidelined due to personal reasons that were no fault of her own. She was a phenomenal breath of fresh air that I hope to breathe in once again.
Outside of Sonya Deville, no one else answered the call on Raw or Smackdown. Instead the championships and screen time were relegated to involve five previous champions — Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka, Nia Jax and Shayna Bazler — leaving little room for new talents to be showcased in order to become top talents
While the gauntlet was dropped as far as calling out the seemingly stalled women’s division, call outs were made by the likes of Raw superstar Seth Rollins who made headlines in August when he was quoted as saying, “I think it’s no secret that Bayley and Sasha [Banks] have done their god damndest to fill in with Becky being out and the women’s division just being wide open. Charlotte Flair being out now too. The women have been lagging behind Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair for some time and now it’s time for them to step up and do their thing. Asuka has stepped up too, as well, but I do think Bayley and Sasha have been great.”
WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair also voiced frustrations with the state of the division and the constant backlash aimed at his daughter Charlotte Flair for simply doing her job. He welcomed her hiatus and hoped the division would produce new stars in her absence. “These people say, ‘Oh, you’re holding back?’ Okay. Well, you know what? The only way to find out who we’re holding back as turn it over to them. I’ll give you the list of names they keep running by me that the media keeps bringing up. Give Let’s see them stick a moonsault every night. Let’s see them do a corkscrew moonsault off the top rope onto five people. Give them a great match, not a good match, every time out. Come on, name the five women that could do that. Name the two. I just named the one.”
So what’s the missing piece? What’s missing is passion. While I’ll state again, more opportunities go to the men. Unfortunately this has been a norm in this business since its inception. The biggest issue outside of opportunities, in my opinion, is what is done when those chances are presented. As veteran superstars, the expectation of rising to the top is already built in, but as a talent looking to be the next big thing, you have to have the ability to be just as good if not better. A select few are leaving the lasting impression we crave. They’re making an impact where they were otherwise overlooked.
For example, Billie Kay rarely has matches, but her time onscreen is memorable due to her winning personality. Lana also made an impact by simply being the girl going through tables week in and week out. While these are not the hard hitting matches we want to see from the women of this generation, they are effectively laying the groundwork to the possibility of an eventual push. Opportunities were presented as far as mic time during the pandemic, but mostly, other than the faces we rely on to be the ringers of the division, no one seemed to emerge with a remedy to resolve the missing piece.
While a select few always rise to the occasion, some relax in a bubble of comfortability. And in a business where opportunities are few, hunger and passion to be the absolute best is what separates the good from the great.