One year later: 10 seminal moments from the Women’s Revolution in WWE
During the July 13, 2015, episode of Raw, NXT standouts Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks stepped into a WWE ring for the first time. They did so at the behest of Stephanie McMahon, who was acting upon a pledge to disrupt the current state of the Women’s division in WWE.
“Things are going to change starting right now,” Stephanie said that night.
One year later, her words proved prophetic.
Though many Superstars helped paved the way for this promised change, that fateful night in Atlanta became the watershed moment for all fans who hoped WWE would “give Divas a chance.” That chance transformed into the Women’s Revolution in WWE and has led to record-setting championship reigns, main event bouts and a WrestleMania milestone.
Now, take a look at 10 key moments from the past 365 days which demonstrate how the state of women’s wrestling in WWE appears permanently changed for the better.
July 13, 2015: Stephanie McMahon’s invitation lights the spark
Maybe it was the sight of venerated NXT fighters Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks standing in a WWE ring for the first time that makes this moment so significant. Or perhaps it was the realization that Divas Champion Nikki Bella, who was more than three-fourths of the way through her record-setting 301-day reign, now had three new challengers for the title.
Whatever the reason, the WWE Universe roared in delight at the WWE debut of this trio of fledgling fighters. WWE fans already knew this arriving trio had changed the game in NXT. Now it was time to see if they could do so again in WWE.
Sept. 20, 2015: Charlotte dethrones Nikki Bella
In her 301 days as Divas Champion, Nikki Bella took care of numerous challengers to her coveted title, thwarting attempts by seasoned veterans like Natalya and pesky grapplers like Paige. She likely expected a similar outcome when she squared off against Charlotte at WWE Night of Champions.
However, Charlotte missed the memo that she should be intimidated by Nikki Bella. Instead, she carried on the Flair family legacy by becoming a champion herself, one who was about to embark on a historic reign of her own.
Oct. 7, 2015: Bayley goes the distance against Sasha Banks
Some might prefer the entertainment value of the first battle between Bayley and Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn. However, few can deny the historical significance of their encore encounter at NXT TakeOver: Respect.
The rematch between Bayley and The Boss marked many firsts in the WWE Universe. Their clash, the first 30-minute WWE Iron Man Match in history to feature female grapplers, played out as the evening’s main event. More importantly, it demonstrated that there were more than just three female revolutionaries shaking things up in the WWE Universe. Bayley’s victory kept a spotlight on developments in NXT, where new faces like Asuka, Nia Jax and Alexa Bliss, among others, are now shining brightly.
Jan. 18, 2016: Becky Lynch wins a war of words with Ric Flair
In hopes of becoming the best (i.e. Divas Champion) at Royal Rumble 2016, Becky Lynch needed an opportunity to beat the best in Charlotte. To bring that match to a reality, The Irish Lass-Kicker chose an unenviable strategy: Rocking a microphone better than Ric Flair on Raw.
Lynch’s gamble worked, as she lured a proxy challenge from the “Nature Boy” by playing to his competitive ego like a fiddle. It was a sight to see and hear by Lynch, who handily won the war of words with one of the most outspoken WWE Hall of Famers of all time.
Jan. 27, 2016: Nikki Bella undergoes neck surgery
Given that they’re identical by birth, The Bella Twins already had the odds in their favor on becoming the face of the Women’s division in WWE. Of course, they didn’t become the standard bearers by looks alone since their 2008 debut. Brie Bella’s rise drew Stephanie McMahon herself into the squared circle at SummerSlam 2014, whereas Nikki Bella rewrote the history books with her record-setting Divas Championship reign.
When news broke in January that Nikki Bella would undergo neck surgery, the Women’s division suddenly had a void to fill — or, an opportunity for another Superstar to take the spotlight for herself. Brie Bella’s retirement announcement in April 2016 created a similar opening, symbolizing a changing of the guard.
Feb. 1, 2016: Sasha Banks exits Team B.A.D.
Only one of the three teams assembled by Stephanie McMahon in July 2015 actually survived into the following year. Team B.A.D., consisting of Naomi, Tamina and newcomer Sasha Banks, sustained a united front into 2016 while Team Bella succumbed to injury and Team PCB crumbled due to in-fighting.
Banks’ declaration in February 2016 that she no longer needed her Team B.A.D. allies likely came as a shock to Naomi and Tamina, who later responded by attacking their former protégée. Like her peers in the Women’s division, The Boss learned that her road to the top would be a lonely one.
March 28, 2016: Emma returns in support of Team B.A.D. & Blonde
Emma certainly made waves when she returned to WWE competition in March 2016. No longer the Goody Two-Shoes who danced her way into the hearts of the WWE Universe in 2014, the Australian Superstar looked meaner and acted with malice against the competition, a new attitude which explained why she ultimately aligned with Team B.A.D. & Blonde.
Aligned with Naomi & Tamina, Summer Rae and the debuting Lana, Emma fought mercilessly for her side against the Total Divas team during the WrestleMania 32 Kickoff. Team B.A.D. & Blonde fell in defeat in what turned out to be Brie Bella’s last match to date. Emma, however, impressed with her reinvented approach until a back injury knocked her out of action.
April 3, 2016: History is made at WrestleMania 32
After the Total Divas and Team B.A.D. & Blonde mixed it up during the WrestleMania 32 Kickoff, WWE Hall of Famer Lita stepped into the ring to make two important announcements. First, female competitors would no longer be referred to as Divas, but instead as Superstars, just like their male counterparts. Second, the Superstars scheduled for the Divas Championship Triple Threat Match would now be competing for a newly-created WWE Women’s Championship.
The combatants in that Triple Threat Match were the same three Superstars who brought the Women’s Revolution to the forefront in July 2015. Charlotte, the final Divas Champion in WWE history, and challengers Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks fought valiantly in a battle some critics consider among the best of 2016, let alone the match of the night at The Showcase of the Immortals. The Flair scion seized the new title, but the newly-recognized female Superstars were all winners on this night.
April 11, 2016: Natalya steps forward to confront Charlotte
One week after WrestleMania 32, a new challenger appeared for the WWE Women’s Championship in Charlotte’s possession. Natalya stepped forward to renew a longstanding family rivalry between the Harts and the Flairs. Now, one of the most experienced and talented female Superstars of all time wanted to take the reigning titleholder down a peg.
Natalya nearly pulled off the upset by successfully locking the Women’s Champion in the Sharpshooter. Though interference by Ric Flair saved his daughter’s title, the result only emboldened Natalya, whose renewed fighting spirit added a new dimension to the Women’s Revolution in WWE.
June 20, 2016: Sasha Banks returns to make a statement
The challengers just kept on coming for Women’s Champion Charlotte, who found herself defending the title on Raw in June 2016 against a feisty and reinvigorated Paige. The Flair scion secured the victory with a little help from Dana Brooke, the latest NXT alum to shake things up in WWE’s ranks.
As Charlotte and Brooke celebrated the controversial victory, a now-familiar face suddenly appeared. Sasha Banks, dressed in the same outfit she wore for her WWE debut in July 2015, looked as confident as ever, setting her sights squarely on the WWE Women’s Title.
One year earlier, neither Sasha Banks nor Charlotte plied their trade in WWE. Now, they were the standard bearers for a Women’s division where the competition has never been more fierce.