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Divas fighting in a battle royal at WrestleMania 25

Diva is a term used by the professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to refer to its female talent.[1] The term is applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers.

Contents

History

1996–2000

The first modern day Diva in the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) was Sunny, who debuted as the manager for the bodybuilder-themed duo The Bodydonnas and went on to manage several other tag teams and singles wrestlers. Although the notion of a female manager had been popular throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Sunny's character was significantly sexualized, whereas prior female managers were depicted as being involved in either platonic or romantic storylines.

Between 1996 and 1997, Marlena, Sable and Chyna, joined Sunny as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Marlena and Sable were as equally sexualized as Sunny, with Marlena suggestively smoking cigars at ringside during matches and Sable coming to the ring in form fitting leather catsuits. Chyna was offered as an antithesis to the rest of the Divas, a masculine bodybuilder whose sexual identity was the subject of early storylines. Sunny, Sable, and Marlena were further marketed as sex symbols through WWF's Raw Magazine, which featured monthly spreads of the women in suggestive poses while either wearing provocative clothing or semi-nude. In 1998, Debra debuted and shortly thereafter was featured in a Raw Magazine spread in which she shed a series of business suits to reveal lingerie.

Marlena was the manager of Goldust, her then real-life husband,[2] and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, wrestler Marc Mero. Sable quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity.[3] Her popularity lead to the reinstatement of the WWF Women's Championship, as well as the hiring of more female wrestlers by the promotion. Sable became the first WWF female to proclaim herself as a 'Diva' during the April 19 edition of Raw in 1999; the term proved popular and shortly thereafter became the official title for WWF's female performers, be they managers or wrestlers. In February 1999, the WWF also debuted another veteran female wrestler Ivory.

Sable's popularity led to a shift in the role of women in the WWF, as the promotion began to rely less on its female performers as simply eye candy and placed a greater emphasis on female athletes who actually competed in matches. Having being one of the first female wrestlers to compete in such speciality matches as evening gown matches, inter-gender tag team matches as well as a strap match and the first ever bikini contest in which she competed against Jacqueline, she was also the first female wrestler to be a Playboy cover girl. Unlike Jacqueline, Ivory and Luna, the more physical Divas and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps.[4]

Her success also indirectly led to a push in popularity for Chyna. Her masculine features were de-emphasized and her clothing became more provocative. She was put into competition against male opponents, going on to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship three times. Chyna's popularity quickly grew to match that of Sable's, culminating in Chyna being featured as the centerfold in an issue of Playboy magazine.

2000–2002

February 2000 saw the debut of Lita, who performed higher risk moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas.[5] Her popularity encouraged a higher standard of athletic competition within the WWF Women's Division, while still retaining the sexual element.

The March 30th edition of SmackDown featured the first Divas match in WWF history to be the main event of any WWF show, a WWF Women's Championship match between defending champion Jacquline and Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley. The August 21 edition of Raw featured the first Divas match in WWF history to be Raw's main event, a WWF Women's Championship match between defending champion Stephanie McMahon-Helmsley and Lita.

Shortly after Lita's arrival, Trish Stratus made her debut. Trish Stratus started off as a valet, who brought pure sexuality to the ring. Also later that year, Molly Holly made her debut. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas because she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.[6]

In the Autumn 2001,Trish Stratus was trained by Fit Finlay, who was the road agent responsible for the women's matches, and improved her in-ring ability. She worked her way up to the top of the division and eventually won the Women's Championship at Survivor Series. Also in 2001, Chyna left the WWF due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon.[7] In April 2002, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first Diva to have neck fusion surgery.[5] She was out of action for almost a year and a half.[5]

2002–2006

Diva Gail Kim

On May 5, 2002, the WWF officially changed its name to WWE and brought in a host of new female talent. Over the next few years, WWE hired more Divas than ever before, including female winners of the reality TV show WWE Tough Enough featuring contestants aspiring to be professional wrestlers. Numerous Divas competed in contests from "Pillow Fights" and "Bra and Panties" match-ups to "Bikini Contests", which were based more on the sexual appeal of the women involved. Meanwhile, Trish Stratus, Lita, Jazz, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, Jacqueline, Ivory and Victoria competed for the WWE Women's Title featuring match-ups only previously participated in by men, such as Street Fights, Hardcore, Table matches and the first ever Women's steel cage match.[8] Molly Holly (competing as Mighty Molly), Trish Stratus, and Terri also held the Hardcore Championship briefly.

Beginning in 2002, WWE began hiring new Divas assigned to their development territories to train and wait to be called up to the main roster. These new Divas were recruited from model agencies, the independent circuit, and the Diva Search. In 2003, Gail Kim became the first woman with a Korean background to win the Women's Championship. Also, Jacqueline held the male title, the WWE Cruiserweight Championship briefly in 2004.

Also during this period, new Divas such as Beth Phoenix, Mickie James, Melina and Candice Michelle made their debuts in the company, and more and more of the previous generation of Divas slowly departed from the company.

2006–present

Michelle McCool became the inaugural Divas Champion at The Great American Bash

In mid 2006, Stacy Keibler left WWE to pursue an acting career, Trish Stratus retired at Unforgiven, and Lita retired at Survivor Series. Torrie Wilson retired in mid-2008 due to having back problems and Victoria left in January 2009 after a nine-year career with WWE. After Victoria left WWE she signed a contract with Total Nonstop Action Wrestlig (TNA) on April 2009 as Knockout with the ring name Tara. Lilian Garcia retired in September 2009 when she made her final WWE appearance on the September 21st edition of WWE Raw. In November 2008, however, Gail Kim returned to WWE after working for rival Total Nonstop Action Wrestling as a Knockout which leaving Gail Kim as the final Diva left from the previous generation of WWE Divas along with a vast majority of newer arrivals.[9]

The division continued to grow as the Divas began to compete in different types of matches. On the March 5, 2007 edition of Raw, Mickie James and Melina competed in the first falls count anywhere match to be contested between Divas. It was also the first time that the Women's Championship was contested in this type of match. At Vengeance: Night of Champions in 2007, Candice Michelle became the first former WWE Diva Search contestant to become the WWE Women's Champion.[10] At One Night Stand 2008, Beth Phoenix and Melina competed in the first "I Quit" Match to be contested between Divas.[11]

In December 2007, Trish Stratus, Lita, Molly Holly, and Sunny returned to WWE for a one night special appearance on an episode of RAW due to the show's 15 year anniversary.[12] On the June 6, 2008 edition of SmackDown, the then SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero announced the creation of WWE Divas Championship, a SmackDown Diva exclusive title. Natalya and Michelle McCool became the first two contenders for the new championship, and, at the The Great American Bash, McCool defeated Natalya to become the inaugural champion. At Wrestlemania 25, former WWE Divas Sunny, Victoria, Molly Holly, Torrie Wilson, Miss Jackie, and Joy Giovanni returned to WWE for a one night special appearance in the 25 Divas Battle Royal match to crown Miss Wrestlemania.[13] During the 2009 WWE Draft, then Women's Champion Melina was drafted to the SmackDown brand, making the Women's title exclusive to SmackDown. Later that same night, then Divas Champion Maryse was drafted to the Raw brand, making the Divas title exclusive to Raw, effectively switching both female champions and championships between brands for the first time in history. At The Bash in 2009, McCool defeated Melina to capture the Women's title, and became the first Diva to have ever held both the Women's Championship and the Divas Championship.

At the 2010 Royal Rumble event, Beth Phoenix competed in the Royal Rumble match, making her one of only two women to have competed in that particular match, the other being Chyna. Mickie James and Michelle McCool also set a record for the shortest WWE Women's Championship match in history, where James defeated McCool in 15 seconds to win the title.

Diva Search (2003–2007)

Candice Michelle is the first former Diva Search contestant to win the WWE Women's title.

The Diva Search was an annual competition that occurred every Summer. The purpose of the Diva Search was to find new women to be wrestlers, interviewers, and/or valets in WWE. The winner of the competition received a one year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000.

Promotion

The popularity of women in WWE has resulted in various cross-promotions with other brands featuring WWE Divas. Various Divas have posed in Playboy, and others have appeared in commercials for WWE and non-WWE products as well as men's interest magazines.

The WWE Divas normally go on an annual photoshoot every year, usually to a different location each time. The photoshoot is followed by a magazine featuring photos from the shoot as well as a television special or video release of highlights from the shoot.

Playboy

Chyna autographing her issue of Playboy, on October 8, 2007.

Since 1999, seven WWE Divas have appeared on the cover of Playboy:

It has become a WWE tradition for any Diva who appears on the front cover of Playboy to have a match at WrestleMania. Commonly, these matches would have the term 'Playboy' included in its name. For example, at WrestleMania XX in 2004, Torrie Wilson and Sable competed as a 'Playboy' tag team against Stacy Keibler and Miss Jackie. At WrestleMania 22, Torrie Wilson and Candice Michelle competed in a Playboy Pillow Fight. This tradition has since been discontinued after WWE made its content TV-PG in 2008; with Maria being the final diva to pose for the magazine, although in 2010, former ECW general manager Tiffany posed for the magazine, but this was before she joined the WWE.[14]

Actual Playboy playmates, such as Carmella and Karen have also appeared in Diva Search in 2004. Some former and current Divas such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, and Melina have indicated that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Trish Stratus has appeared on Canadian sports talk show Off The Record and said that she didn't pose because she wanted to be known as "multiple time Women's Champion Trish Stratus" rather than "the girl who posed in Playboy." Trish Stratus also claims that she refused the shoot because she says she can still be sexy without taking her clothes off.[15] Lita has said that she didn't pose because she felt it was wrong for her (who was known as a role model for young girls at the time) to pose for the magazine.[16] Stacy Keibler refused to pose as she believes it would be better if she "left something for the imagination."

Sunny claimed to have refused an offer by Playboy to pose for the magazine. Sable later claimed, however, that Playboy had actually never approached Sunny, and that Sunny had fabricated the whole story.[4] However, Sunny was not the first to report that she had turned down an offer.

Other

In 2007, Ashley, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland.[17][18] In the same year, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Maria, Layla, and Kristal appeared in an episode of the U.S. reality show Project Runway Season 4, in which designers were asked to design in-ring attire for their designated Diva. In 2008, Layla, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, and Melina appeared in the U.S. reality show Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp to get the celebrities in shape. Later the same year, Mickie James appeared on the USA Network show Psych, playing a roller derby girl.

Championships and accomplishments

Championships

Championship Current champion Date won Location
Smackdown brand
WWE Women's Championship Michelle McCool February 26, 2010 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Raw brand
WWE Diva's Championship Maryse February 22, 2010 Indianapolis, Indiana

Babe of the Year (2001–2004)

The WWE Babe of the Year contest is a contest where fans voted on who is their favorite WWE Diva for that year. Trish Stratus won the inaugural Babe of the Year competition in 2001. Stratus had her own mini-site on WWE.com and her photoshoot of choice was a space-type theme. The corresponding mini-site was fittingly named "The Stratusphere." Stratus retained her title in 2002 and received another mini-site on WWE.com. The 2003 edition was again won by Stratus. She also won the 'Diva of the Decade' award for Raw's 10th anniversary special. Stacy Keibler ended Stratus's reign in 2005 and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two. In 2008, WWE Magazine then declared Beth Phoenix as the 'Diva of the Year' which earned her a 2008 Slammy Award for that title.

Rookie Diva of the Year (2005)

The first and only Rookie Diva of the Year contest was held at No Way Out in 2005, where former WWE Diva Joy Giovanni defeated Michelle McCool, Lauren Jones, and Rochelle Loewen. Giovanni received more than half of the vote, followed by McCool who got just under 20%, Loewen got just over 10% and Jones received just 6%. The competition was hosted by former WWE Divas Torrie Wilson and Dawn Marie.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "Superstars > Divas". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/superstars/divas/. Retrieved 2007-09-19. 
  2. ^ "Goldust's Alumni Profile". World Wrestling Entertainment. http://www.wwe.com/superstars/wwealumni/goldust/bio/. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  3. ^ "Sable's Alumni Profile". World Wrestling Entertainment. http://www.wwe.com/superstars/wwealumni/sable/bio/. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  4. ^ a b Oliver, Greg (1999-01-11). "Sable looks beyond wrestling". SLAM! Sports. http://slam.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingArchive/jan11_sable.html. Retrieved 2007-06-03. 
  5. ^ a b c Berkowitz, Matt (October 2003). "Lovely Lita". Wrestling Digest. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FCO/is_3_5/ai_108049497. Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  6. ^ John F. Molinaro (June 30, 2001). "Molly Holly having a blast in the WWF". SLAM! Wrestling. http://slam.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingBiosH/holly_molly_01jun30-can.html. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  7. ^ Lilsboy (May 2005). "The truth about Chyna". http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2003560001-2005201210,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  8. ^ The Rick (November 25, 2003). "November 24, 2003 RAW Results". http://www.oowrestling.com/recaps/raw/20031124.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-25. 
  9. ^ WZ.com Exclusive: Update On Gail Kim In WWE
  10. ^ Lennie DiFino (2007-06-24). "Vengeance 2007 Results: Dream come true". WWE. Archived from the original on 2007-06-27. http://web.archive.org/web/20070627215602/http://www.wwe.com/shows/vengeance/matches/40811641115/results/. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  11. ^ "WWE ONE NIGHT STAND RESULTS". Wrestlezone. http://www.wrestlezone.com/article.php?articleid=214382253. Retrieved 2008-11-29. 
  12. ^ "Raw results - December 10, 2007". WWE. http://www.wwe.com/shows/raw/archive/12102007/. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  13. ^ http://www.wwe.com/shows/wrestlemania/matches/9525482/results/
  14. ^ Simon Rothstein (February 18, 2010). "Back in Play". UK's the Sun). http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/wrestling/2856434/WWE-Diva-Tiffany-aka-Taryn-Terrell-poses-for-Playboy-pictures.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter. Retrieved 2010-02-17. 
  15. ^ Tim Baines (November 30, 2003). "Trish hot in, out of ring". Ottawa Sun). http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Wrestling/2003/11/30/273168.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  16. ^ Amy Dumas (2004). Lita: A Less Traveled R.O.A.D - The Reality of Lita (p.213). World Wrestling Entertainment. ISBN 074347399X. 
  17. ^ KellyKellyWWe.com (April 20, 2007). "Ashley, Torrie, Maryse, Brooke, Layla and Kelly Kelly shoot Timbaland video". http://kellykellywwe.com/news/apr_07_kelly_timbaland.php. Retrieved 2007-04-20. 
  18. ^ Kara A. Medalis (April 20, 2007). "The Sexiet Women n L.A.". http://www.wwe.com/inside/news/4563070. Retrieved 2007-04-21. 

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