In the 1980’s, the women played a significant role in the professional wrestling industry. There were even WWE women’s tag team titles because at that time, there was a lot of female talent. The belts were made important because of two great teams – the Jumping Bomb Angels and the Glamour Girls. That rivalry grew in intensity over time, and the company booked a two-out-of-three falls match for the 1988 Royal Rumble event. Unfortunately, they got rid of the belts, and kept the WWE Women’s title. Over the years, women’s matches still occurred on a weekly basis, but were mostly limited to a handful of minutes. They were also subjected to dance contests and evening gown matches. I am sure the women were not comfortable just showcasing themselves. Eventually, the crowds grew tired of it – and they voiced their desire for change, and change they received.

When Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch “graduated” from NXT to the main roster, in the summer of 2015, the matches became immensely longer, and also extremely enjoyable because the women were now allowed to display their true in-ring skills. As part of the new change in women’s wrestling, fans witnessed two matches inside the Hell in a Cell structure, and in January 2018, the first ever women’s Royal Rumble Match. On October 28, 2018, the Nassau Coliseum, in Uniondale, New York, bared witness to the first ever all women’s pay-per-view, Evolution, and what a show it proved to be. The first match featured four WWE veterans.

Alicia Fox and Mickie James battled Trish Stratus and Lita. The latter performed all the moves they were once known for. Lita even did a top rope moonsault that looked so crisp and clean. Fans went crazy! Trish executed her “Stratusfaction” flip during the contest. The match concluded when Trish hit a beautiful looking kick on Mickie James. Fans were thrilled with the result. I was impressed with the confidence the winners displayed during the match. After all, it was the first time they were in a competitive match in several years.

The Finals of the Mae Young Classic took place between Toni Storm and IO Shirai. Not many people knew who either one was, but throughout the match, fans could see that both wrestlers were working really hard and showing a lot of spunk, energy and emotion. The end came when IO attempted a moonsault, but landed on Storm’s knees. Toni quickly applied the Storm Zero for the pin. When the bell rang, and she was announced the winner, Toni broke down in tears. She displayed a show of respect, class and decorum by embracing and congratulating her opponent. Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, and Woman’s trainer, Sara Amoto entered the ring, congratulated both performers and presented the Mae Young Classic trophy to the winner, Toni Storm. This was a tremendous match, and I hope both young women will be given opportunities to display their talent and improve their skills in NXT and eventually, the main roster.

In a six woman tag, Bayley, Natalya and Sasha Banks took on the Riot Squad. Within the past few weeks, there have been singles and tag matches among these six on Raw, so they knew each other well going into this battle. During the match, Team Sasha honored some of their heroes: Bayley honored Randy Savage by performing a top-rope elbowdrop, Natalya executed a Sharpshooter in honor of Bret Hart, and Natalya and Sasha showed respect to the Hart Foundation by performing the Hart Attack clothesline. The ending transpired when Sasha went to the top rope and performed a brilliant Frog Splash on Sarah Logan, in memory of the late Eddie Guerrero. What a great sequence by these six wrestlers. We will see how long this rivalry will continue and what is next for all involved.

For the NXT Women’s title, the champion, Kairi Sane wrestled Shayna Baszler. These women know each other well since there were several previous encounters on NXT television. Shayna’s friends, Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke were ringside, and ended up playing a major role. When the competitors took the fight to the arena floor, Kairi tossed Shayna into the crowd. Duke then attacked the champion. The challenger applied her submission, but Kairi escaped. After an in-ring attack by Marina Shafir, Shayna once again locked in her submission. The champion tried to escape, but her efforts were futile. Kairi lost consciousness, and the referee was forced to stop the match. Shayna Baszler was declared the new NXT Women’s Champion. Fans were disappointed with this result. Now that Shayna has back-up, she is even more dangerous. Who in NXT will come out in support of Kairi to combat Shayna and her friends? Only time will tell.

The Smackdown women’s title was at stake as the champion Becky Lynch battled Charlotte Flair, in a Last Woman Standing match. The only way to win is to incapacitate your opponent, so they do not get up by the referee’s count of ten.

This match had everything. Excellent back and forth action and a plethora of weapons, including tables and chairs. At one point in the match when both women were on opposite sides outside the ring, they each tossed a few chairs into the ring. Fans loved it. Their screams and shouts echoed throughout the building. When they returned inside the ring, Becky attempted her Xploder suplex. The challenger reversed it, and hit a suplex of her own onto the pile of steel chairs.

Later, they once again battled outside the ring. With Charlotte positioned on a previously mangled table, Becky ascended to the top rope and performed a leg drop. With the challenger down, Becky took all the chairs available at ringside and tossed them on Charlotte. But, to the surprise of everyone, Flair rose before the ten count. Becky was stunned. They fought on the ring apron, and Becky executed a vicious powerbomb from the apron onto another table. This time, Charlotte stayed down and was unable to answer the ten count. Becky Lynch retained her title, in one of the best matches I have seen from the women of WWE in quite some time. Both women deserve recognition for putting their bodies on the line in such an extremely grueling match. The WWE should be commended for allowing these women the opportunity to display their skills in such a violent encounter.

The main event was for the Raw Women’s Championship. The champion, Ronda Rousey battled Nikki Bella. It was a highly competitive match. At different points, the champion took control with different submissions, even teasing the armbar submission on a few occasions. Nikki took over some of the match due to interference from her sister, Brie. The challenger displayed her anger and frustration after Ronda kicked out of the Rack Attack. The end occurred when the champion finally applied the armbar on her opponent for the submission. Ronda Rousey retained the Raw Women’s title to the delight of the Nassau Coliseum crowd. I think the right woman won. The question becomes who can dethrone Ronda? Whoever it is, will have to be tough and able to deal with Ronda’s submission style.

I was a little worried when the WWE announced an all-women’s pay-per-view. Despite the progress made on Raw, Smackdown and NXT over the years, I felt the matches would be short, and the women would not be allowed to show their entire skill set. I was wrong! All the women performed exceedingly well under pressure. Every match served its purpose. Even the Women’s battle royal, won by Nia Jax, was well executed.

In my opinion, the match of the night was Becky vs. Charlotte. It was the first Last Woman Standing match in the WWE, and these girls gave more than their all. They showed that women can be brutal, and compete in a no-holds barred type of environment. They also illustrated that they can be as brutal as their male counterparts if given the opportunity. It was also great to see the women of the past appear at the event. However, I hope the WWE does not become too dependent on those ladies, and they keep building the women of today. If the WWE decides to hold another women’s event next year, I hope it will be mostly centered around the women superstars on the main roster and in NXT.

WWE is undoubtedly attempting to show equality between the sexes. It is my hope that they consider equality of pay as well. There is no doubt in my mind that the women of the WWE have to work twice as hard to prove they can condition their bodies and subject themselves to the same kind of body slams and pain that the male superstars deal with. So, hats off to the women who entertained thousands with their skill and determination.

Azeem Kayum

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