From TakeOver to WrestleMania: Women’s Revolution Hits Pinnacle with WrestleMania 35 Main Event

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Charlotte, Becky and Ronda WrestleMania
Credit: WWE, SEScoops

As far back as the conclusion of WrestleMania 34, the idea of a future WrestleMania main event featuring Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey was something that fans, pundits and former wrestlers all had on their minds. The thought was it could happen and a year out, it seemed WWE was building toward just that. Little did they know that Becky Lynch would turn into a huge star in the meantime, allowing them to weave such an intricate story with twists and turns and developing angles between three women who set the tone through their words and actions.

It’s a story that has become the focal point of not just Monday Night Raw but SmackDown Live as well as week in and week out, these three and their now vicious and personal-feeling feud over more than just the Raw Women’s Championship, has closed shows and been the best part of them as well. Its transcended brands and it’s invoked history from the days of the Attitude Era. And now, WWE has officially announced that the triple threat match between Lynch, Flair and Rousey will be the first-ever women’s main event at WrestleMania 35.

About 10 days ago, during a visit to Abu Dhabi where she was present for the kickoff to the 2019 Special Olympics, Stephanie McMahon spoke on the potential of this historic occurrence, telling The National, “It would mean more to me then I could describe for our women to be the main event at WrestleMania. Charlotte, Ronda and Becky could do it this year. There is so much momentum behind the story. They are so incredibly talented. I know they would deliver. But what I will say is that I hope it is the first of many.”

Shortly after that, on her Ronda on the Road youtube series, Rousey told her husband Travis Browne that she felt she had “already done everything necessary to make sure it’s the main event…It’s gotten to the point where people are talking about there’s rumors that it might not be the main event. It seems like such a foregone conclusion that I feel like I’ve already done everything I possibly can.”

To her credit, Rousey’s mainstream star is likely the biggest reason why WWE has opted to give this match main event status over Brock Lesnar and Seth Rollins‘ Universal Championship match or even Kofi Kingston and Daniel Bryan‘s WWE Championship match, which could see history made with the first-ever African American WWE champion. When Rousey first came to WWE, making a surprise appearance at the end of the 2018 Royal Rumble, she’s been one of the company’s biggest names. It was evidenced right away as, despite the event itself making history for featuring the first Women’s Royal Rumble and bringing back no shortage of WWE women’s wrestling legends, the headlines were focused on one name: Ronda Rousey. News sites that had probably never or seldom covered wrestling in the past had Rousey as their front page news.

In the year-plus that Rousey has been with WWE, the company has built her as an unstoppable force. At SummerSlam, in August 2018, just eight months or so after her arrival and four months after her in-ring debut, Rousey won the Raw Women’s Championship, which she still holds today. She’s successfully defended the belt against Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Nikki Bella, Mickie James, Natalya, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Ruby Riott and Dana Brooke in the ensuing 218 days and counting. In fact, in her WWE career, Rousey is undefeated in singles matches and has just one loss period, which came in January 2019 as she teamed with Natalya against the Boss’N’Hug Connection (Sasha Banks and Bayley). Natalya took the fall as Rousey is still unpinned, unsubmitted and mostly undefeated in her career.

Rousey has been booked about as well as she could have been but, she’s not the only reason why this match is in the main event slot. Enter someone else with the pedigree and the star power that comes from carrying the last name of a certain two-time Hall of Famer: Charlotte Flair. WOOOO!

Deciding to pick up wrestling in part to carry on the dream her younger brother Reid was never able to fulfil, Flair came into NXT with an extremely athletic background having played collegiate volleyball at North Carolina State University and having been certified as a personal trainer. Flair began training in 2012 and made her NXT debut a year later. Showing she had inherited her father’s traits, Flair rose quickly through the ranks despite not having the independent background much of her colleagues. When Paige was promoted to the main roster in 2014, Charlotte was immediately thrown into the women’s title picture and captured the vacant belt in her first ever NXT Women’s Championship match. Charlotte held the title for 258 days, successfully defending against Summer Rae, Banks, Bayley and Lynch. In July 2015, alongside Banks and Lynch, Charlotte was promoted to the main roster in what Stephanie McMahon noted was the kickstart of the Women’s Revolution. Charlotte wouldn’t lose her first singles match until nearly a year later, against Lynch in a DQ. Her first clean loss came a month afterwards.

In just under four years on Raw/Smackdown, Flair has already become one of the most successful women’s wrestlers of all-time. She’s made history numerous times, including at WrestleMania 32 where she became the first new WWE Women’s Champion, a title that replaced the Divas Championship, which she also won. Overall, Flair has won eight titles in WWE/NXT and was the first to capture at the time, the women’s version of the grand slam (NXT, Divas, Raw and SD).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xF8jPa4sv70

There is no doubt that a Rousey/Flair match could main event WrestleMania, but since the two had already wrestled before, the first-time only aura was gone. It’s very possible then that without the inclusion of Lynch, arguably WWE’s hottest star right now, male or female, and the intricate story that’s unfolded around her, that this match could have been sidelined for the Universal Championship. Lynch is the third piece in a puzzle where all three pieces led to this historic moment. And while it’s true that Rousey brings the mainstream attention and Flair brings the last name, Lynch brings the energy and has fueled the narrative to this story, one that is more than worthy to main event WrestleMania.

A professional wrestler since about 16 years old, Lynch has been wrestling since 2004. She joined WWE/NXT just under a decade later, the result of years of hard work and a journey paved along a rough road. Perhaps unlike Rousey or Flair, as Lynch has alluded to, she had to work for everything she got and more. Mainly allying with Bayley or Bliss, Lynch’s first full year in NXT in 2014 saw her feuding with the BFFs (Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks). Fittingly, Lynch’s first real NXT singles feud came against Flair, with later programs against Bayley and Banks, then NXT Women’s Champion. But unlike her fellow Horsewomen, Lynch never won the title. Upon her main roster promotion in 2015, Lynch was aligned with Flair and Paige as Team PCB. When the team dissolved, Charlotte found great success as a singles star while Lynch was mainly sidelined, used more on Superstars and Main Event than WWE TV.

Briefly, that all changed when Lynch became the face of the women’s division on SmackDown Live and won the first ever SmackDown Women’s Championship in 2016. Away from the shadows of Flair, Bayley and Banks, Lynch was able to flourish for a few months before her reign was cut short as she lost the title to Bliss. Given the division was small, Lynch never really found herself out of the title picture. Though, after finishing her program with Bliss, Lynch was merely on the fringes, having lost all the traction she had built up months prior. And to make matters worse, Flair was moved to SmackDown, seemingly putting Lynch right back in her former frenemy’s shadow. After primarily being relegated to Flair’s tag team partner, the cheerleader in her corner, as WWE seemed not to know what to do with her, Lynch decided she was done waiting for opportunities to come to her. After feuding with Carmella for months, Lynch’s breaking point came when Flair found herself inserted in Lynch’s title match at SummerSlam, and she won. Unable to be happy for her so-called best friend, Lynch turned heel and began turning into the character who soon became too beloved to boo. Lynch regained the women’s title at Hell in a Cell, defending against Flair before losing to the current champion, Asuka.

But in the midst of this, Lynch was supposed to face Rousey for the first time but had her nose broken by Nia Jax, allowing Flair to replace her in the match at Survivor Series. Upon her return, Lynch was perceived as a babyface, a turn she had slowly been making even prior to. This led to Flair becoming a heel and later on, Rousey becoming a heel as well, attacking in kayfabe, the very business she long since claimed to love.

Lynch, Flair and Rousey have built an incredible story that has its roots going back months if not almost a year. All three have played their roles to perfection and the various twists and turns and unexpected outcomes, have made this one that has been the talk of the town during this entire Road to WrestleMania. They set the standard and made the decision to stick them in the main event, not much of a decision at all. But as the saying goes, these three women, stand on the shoulders of giants. The WrestleMania main event is their accomplishment but it is also an accomplishment that has been years in the making and not just going back to the marketed Women’s Revolution either.

Progress is a ladder and the first rung of that ladder as far as women main eventing, came in 2000 when Stephanie McMahon defended her Women’s Championship against Lita. While it was technically the first-ever televised women’s main event for the company, it’s not often regarded as such given Lita was cornered by the Hardy Boyz and McMahon was cornered by the Rock, Triple H and Kurt Angle. While the women did wrestle to close the show, their match was simply part of an angle to advance a storyline going on with the men. For that reason it seems, WWE acknowledges the Raw 2004 main event between Trish Stratus and Lita, which drove its own story, as the first all-women’s main event in history.

Flash forward eight years when Raw saw it’s next main event involving women, though once again, the men had a part to play. It was a mixed tag team match pitting Eve Torres and CM Punk against AJ Lee and Daniel Bryan. While these women aren’t always given the respect they deserve, Lee is regarded by many as one of the girls who really started the current women’s revolution, even though it didn’t receive its name until years after she retired.

In 2015, in NXT, where the groundwork for the best generation of female wrestlers to hit the ring was being laid, Banks and Bayley competed in the first all women’s main event since their idols Lita and Stratus did 11 years prior. The match, which took place at NXT TakeOver: Respect, a fitting name, set the bar for future women’s matches to come. It was the first time women had main evented a major show card, the first time the women competed in an Iron Man or as the Full Sail crowd chanted, “Iron Woman” match, and the longest women’s match in history until the record was broken by the 2018 Women’s Royal Rumble.

Banks’ role in history-making moments advancing the cause of women’s wrestling wasn’t done there. A year later, with the Women’s Revolution finally beginning to flourish on the main roster, Banks and Flair engaged in a fantastic feud over the Raw Women’s Championship. The two traded the title back and forth for months which included two Raw main events (first since 2004), the first women’s falls count anywhere match since 2007, and the first women’s Hell in a Cell match, which also marked the first time the women main evented a WWE PPV. Stipulation matches and main events for the women became commonplace after that, so did seeing more than one women’s match on both TV and PPV cards. Such was the case at Elimination Chamber 2017, where three matches of an eight-match card were women’s singles matches, all with a story, all that went at least eight minutes long.

In January 2017, Lynch and Bliss main evented SmackDown Live, marking the first time women had done so, and they did it inside a steel cage. Naomi and Flair competed in a SmackDown main event in April as well. It may not have main evented, but in June, the women received their first Money in the Bank match, yet another step forward on the, this time, literal ladder of progress. That meant there was really only one stipulation the women didn’t have, a royal rumble match and that was rectified in January 2018 as the first-ever women’s rumble was held. It main evented the show as well, marking the first time a women’s match main evented one of the Big 4 (WrestleMania, SummerSlam, Survivor Series, Royal Rumble) show cards.

Then came Evolution, the first-ever WWE all-women’s PPV, which was main evented by Rousey vs Nikki Bella for the Raw Women’s Championship. Lynch and Flair also made history at that event, competing in the first-ever women’s last man standing match. A few months later, at TLC, in the first-ever women’s TLC match, Asuka defeated Flair and Lynch in the main event, which was also the first time the SD women’s title was featured in that spot.

Progress is a ladder and many likely expected the next rung of the ladder would be a main event at SummerSlam or Survivor Series, which seemed a possibility before Lynch got injured calling off her match against Rousey. But instead, they’ve jumped right to the top of the metaphorical ladder with a WrestleMania main event.

It wasn’t that long ago that women’s matches were being cut for time at WrestleMania, or used as gimmicks. That women, such as Molly Holly recently recalled in an interview with Ring the Belle, that women had to beg for their spot on the card. As Holly tells it, there was room for just one women’s match at WrestleMania 20 and it wasn’t going to be hers, despite her being champion. The match was set to be a pillow fight or mud match according to Holly, but she pitched a title match for herself that involved her head getting shaved. Holly shaved her head just to get on the WrestleMania card.

It just goes to show that while the progress is only just catching up, the passion has always been there from these trailblazers of the industry. Rousey, Flair and Lynch got to the main event of WrestleMania thanks to their own hard work and tireless efforts but without those who came before them, those who advanced the cause of women’s wrestling before the word “revolution” was first thrown around, there would be no women’s WrestleMania main event. Holly had to fight for her match. In the case of Rousey, Lynch and Charlotte, people, including those in the highest positions of the company, took up the fight for them.

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