The evolution of the Divas division

Some of the WWE Universe might say the Divas division has been diminished, having lost a whole half-dozen of its best and brightest over the past twelve months. And it’s true: at least in terms of depth, fate carved quite the swath through WWE’s women’s division in 2012, but the depletion has also initiated a new era of opportunity for the remaining Divas. In one turn around the sun, Kelly Kelly, Beth Phoenix, Maxine, Kharma and The Bella Twins have all left WWE, with no small amount of shock.

At first glance, that’s a sudden, dark cloud hanging over one of WWE’s most time-honored divisions. But the whole process has turned out to be something along the lines of an evolution for the Divas. True, the abrupt change in the Divas’ landscape has been jarring for the WWE Universe. But the transformation seems to us a breath of fresh air, a chance at a fresh start, and an opportunity to redefine the very definition of a WWE Diva.

Natalya vs. Beth Phoenix: SmackDown, Sept. 28, 2012

After Natalya goes one-on-one with Beth Phoenix, Assistant to the SmackDown GM Eve suspends The Glamazon for being a suspect in the attack of Kaitlyn.

More importantly, it gives the current crop of Divas a chance to scale their own private mountaintop and make a name for themselves in the WWE ring. Consider Layla, who returned from a year-long sojourn due to knee surgery at Extreme Rules in April and won the Divas Title in her first match back. Tamina just returned from her own injury and immediately made an impact, putting the Divas division on notice as its resident powerhouse with a beatdown of both AJ Lee and Alicia Fox.

Elsewhere, Kaitlyn went from a bizarre love quadrangle on WWE NXT alongside Johnny Curtis, Derrick Bateman and Maxine to Beth Phoenix’s heir apparent as WWE’s pretty powerlifter, a surprise contender for the Divas Title who busts out power moves like the Torture Rack that would make any WWE Superstar, male or female, take some notice. Respect must be paid. Fellow fitness competitor and bodybuilder Aksana evolved from Teddy Long and Antonio Cesaro’s sultry arm candy to a strong, independent woman who’s free of a man and focused firmly on her own success. She’s also developed a brazen aggressive streak, attacking Kaitlyn in disguise on not one but two separate occasions before Divas Title Matches.

Natalya, who learned her trade in no less a school than the Hart Family Dungeon, didn’t achieve her life’s dream of a WrestleMania match but had one of our very favorite bouts of the year against Beth Phoenix on SmackDown. Alicia Fox remains on the periphery, but is impressive when given a chance to shine. Call us old-fashioned, but we find it hard to write off a Diva who packs as mean a scissor kick as she does.

And then, of course, there’s AJ. How many women do you know who went from the suppressed gal pal of a raging egomaniac to the former GM and occasionally vengeful sprite who put said egomaniac through a table, dumped him at the altar, took control of the show on which he wrestled and forced him into anger management within the span of a year?

But it’s tough to find a better Diva success story in the new landscape than Eve. She began 2012 as the archaically prototypical image of a woman in a man’s world: A damsel in distress, at the mercy of Kane and the object of Zack Ryder’s unrequited affections. Since then she changed the course of WWE single-handed with The Low Blow Heard ‘Round the World that installed John Laurinaitis as supreme GM. She then elevated herself to a position of power in not one but two separate administrations, recaptured the Divas title and revealed herself to be a dangerous jiu-jitsu practitioner worthy of the Gracie blue belt she earned outside the ring. She also won the million-dollar reality show, NBC’s “Stars Earn Stripes,” where she participated in a genuine boot camp.

Daniel Bryan confronts new Raw General Manager AJ Lee: Raw, July 30, 2012

Raw General Manager AJ Lee puts Daniel Bryan in a match against Sheamus.

In other words, The Divas division remains, as it always has, one of WWE’s premier attractions, only now it’s new and improved. The women who compete here are strong, proud, and they pack a punch as well, with no desire to sit on the sidelines as a pretty face. They’re working and fighting each week to achieve their goals, and they’re hitting their peaks one at a time. Between their successes in the ring and the boardroom – 2012 has brought us Executive Administrator Eve, Raw GM AJ and Managing Supervisor Vickie Guerrero – this the new breed of Diva, hard-boiled and business-savvy in equal measure.

So, yes. Losing those six could have been a disaster. But thus far, to the last woman among them, the remaining Divas have answered the call to fill the void and rebuild the division in their own indomitable image. It’s a woman’s world, WWE Universe. We’re just living in it.

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