Last year saw a dramatic shift in the presentation of women’s wrestling in the mainstream. While women had been competing in intergender matches on the indies for years, with some even winning male dominant titles, in the larger promotions like the WWE, Impact Wrestling, or Ring of Honor, they were treated more like afterthoughts or special attractions than as legitimate parts of the programming. But last year saw a rise in women’s wrestling like no point in history, with women main eventing episodes of Impact Wrestling and WWE programming like it’s flagship Monday Night Raw, and the first ever women’s Hell In A Cell match between Charlotte and Sasha Banks.
This year showed no signs of slowing down. In fact, it only got better. And it wasn’t just the WWE amping up what it started last year, but many indie promotions finally crowning their own Women’s Champions for the first time in their histories. Here’s a look at some of the most prominent headlines in Women’s Wrestling this past year, as we head into 2018 with a profound optimism that Women’s Wrestling has finally reached the same plateau as their male peers in respect and presentation.
May 25, 2017: Asuka break’s Goldberg’s undefeated streak.
Kayfabe or not, Goldberg‘s undefeated streak of 173 straight wins from his WCW debut to his title loss to Kevin Nash is one of pro wrestling’s most revered records. NXT Women’s Champion Asuka won 185 matches in WWE before heading to Raw, where she’s piled on 20 more wins – 205 straight victories since her WWE debut in NXT in 2015. During that time, she held the NXT Women’s title an historic 510-day reign, the longest title reign by any WWE performer since the territory days of the 1980s.
May 28, 2017: Toni Storm becomes first PROGRESS Women’s Champion.
PROGRESS has been a story unto itself, emerging as Great Britain’s premier indie promotion with top notch storytelling and a cast of stars second to none. This spring they finally created a long overdue Women’s Championship, and no one deserved it more than New Zealand’s Toni Storm, who had become one of PROGRESS’ top stars and one of the most in-demand women’s wrestlers in the world. Storm had one of the greatest years ever for a women’s wrestler, not only appearing in the WWE Mae Young Classic, but by winning both prestigious Stardom tournaments in Japan – the Cinderella and 5★Star Grand Prix – as well as capturing Stardom’s top prize, the Wonder of Stardom Championship.
June 18, 2017: Carmella wins first Women’s Money In The Bank match in WWE.
While Charlotte and Sasha broke ground with the first Women’s Hell in a Cell last year, the women continued to get their own gimmick matches like the men in 2018, starting with the first ever Women’s Money In The Bank Ladder Match. The Princess of Staten Island won the briefcase, but help from her lackey James Ellsworth marred the initial win. A rematch MITB was held on Smackdown Live shortly after, but Carmella won it again, cementing her status as the first ever Women’s Money In The Bank winner.
July 13, 2017: Mae Young Classic begins in WWE.
Lots of promotions have had their own Women’s tournaments – Stardom has been doing them for years. But when WWE does something, it invariably has a greater impact on the mainstreams perception of Women’s Wrestling. With this summer’s Mae Young Classic, they did just that. Bringing together a solid blend of emerging NXT stars with some of the world’s top indie talent, including Toni Storm, Candice LeRae, Mercedes Martinez, Kay Lee Ray and more, the MYC became a showcase of the women’s wrestling scene, not just the WWE’s. Former Stardom champion Kairi Hojo (now known as Kairi Sane in NXT) won the inaugural tournament against AIW Women’s Champion and now NXT Superstar Shayna Baszler in a hard hitting, exciting finale.
July 16, 2017: Priscilla Kelly becomes SHINE Nova Champion.
SHINE continued to expand by announcing a secondary title for their promotion, to join the SHINE Championship and SHINE Tag Team titles – in essence, the SHINE Nova Champion would be akin to the WWE or IWGP Intercontinental title. After a tournament, “Hell’s Favourite Harlot” Priscilla Kelly capped off a great year by winning the new title.
December 2, 2017: Jessicka Havok becomes first AAW Women’s Champion.
— AAW Wrestling (@AAWPro) December 3, 2017
Chicago’s All American Wrestling (AAW) is one of the Midwest’s top indie promotions, featuring some of the greatest indie performers in North America, including the likes of Penta El 0M, Fenix, Sami Callihan, and more. This year saw their own tournament to finally crown the company’s first ever Women’s Champion, which was won by 13-year veteran and former Impact Knockouts Champion Jessicka Havok, in a Triple Threat against Lucha Underground/SHINE’s Ivelisse and Rachael Ellering.
December 9, 2017: Session Moth Martina becomes first OTT Gender Neutral Champion.
I am very excited about the prospect of this Gender Neutral title. I have wrestled as many men as I have women throughout my career.this is OTT breaking down barriers. This opens up not only the best women in the business,but men aswell.No one is off limits, everyone is equal. pic.twitter.com/8OBCUdd8qa
— SESSION CLAUS (@mothfromdaflats) December 11, 2017
With such a demand for intergender wrestling in the indie circuit (both from fans and women’s wrestlers alike), Ireland’s Over The Top (OTT) wrestling began a new championship that was considered open game to any wrestler of any gender, the OTT Gender Neutral Championship. To show it meant what it said, the finals to crown the first Champion featured two women (Session Moth Martina and Kay Lee Ray) against two men, Angel Cruz and B. Cool, with the winning pin gaining the title. Martina won the title to the delight of the crowd, and has since defended it against two men in a Triple Threat, both Adam Maxted and former RevPro Tag Team Champion Charlie Sterling.
December 16, 2017: Women of Honor Championship announced by Ring of Honor.
Ring of Honor has had women wrestling on their cards (often dark matches) nearly since it’s forming in 2002, but it wasn’t until they re-launched Women of Honor in 2015 that they began to focus on it as more than a sideshow attraction. It’s featured some amazing talent since then but many wondered why a company as rich on pro wrestling as Ring of Honor would keep the show as such an attraction without legitimacy of a title. All of those concerns were finally addressed at Final Battle last week, when it was announced that in early 2018, Ring of Honor’s first ever Women of Honor Champion would be crowned following a tournament. Qualifiers for the tournament are already underway.
December 16, 2017: Candy Lee becomes first transgender woman to win major Women’s title.
— 🎄Christmas Candy 🦄🍭 (@CandidlyCandy_) December 16, 2017
While she wasn’t the first transgender women’s wrestler or champion in history (Mariah Morena, aka Amanda The Bloodthirsty Vixen, accomplished both in 2011), New Zealand Samoan Candy Lee became the first transgender woman to win a major indie women’s title when she won the Impact Pro Wrestling Women’s title last week in New Zealand. IPW is New Zealand’s top indie promotion and one of Australasia’s top major indies.
December 18, 2017: First Women’s Royal Rumble announced by WWE.
This past Monday night, in an announcement that apparently even the women in the ring were unaware of, Stephanie McMahon finally addressed the rumors and declared that this coming January would see the very first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match, with the winner going on to WrestleMania 34 to face the respective Women’s Champion of their brand. We first reported on this possibility back in June and had some of our own predictions on the potential cast.
December 23, 2017: Killer Kelly becomes first wXw Women’s Champion.
— wXw Germany (@wXwGermany) December 23, 2017
Portuguese women’s wrestler Killer Kelly made her wXw debut this year and immediately made an impact. When wXW announced a year long tournament to crown their first Women’s Champion, Kelly overcame threats from Session Moth Martina, Jinny, and finally Melanie Grey in the finals as today’s wXw 17th Anniversary show to become wXw’s new alpha female and the company’s first Women’s Champion.