The Evolution Of Women’s Wrestling — And Why I’ve Chosen To Pursue It

Dakota Kai giving the boot to Bianca Belair.

When I was six-years-old, I remembered the very first time I was exposed to watching sports on television. Well, it wasn’t until I realized that what I was watching was actually sports entertainment. My older brother introduced me to the World Wrestling Federation aka WWF (which is now World Wrestling Entertainment aka WWE). From the very first time I watched wrestling, I thought it was the coolest thing ever. When I was little, it was always what I looked forward to watching most on television.

Till this day, I still remember the day I was being tutored after school in the first grade. I remember telling my tutor at the time, “I need to finish earlier today, because I have something important to watch on television.” She asked me, “What do you have that’s so important to watch?” I enthusiastically responded, “Smackdown!” She appeared to be astounded and asked me, “Smackdown? What is Smackdown?” I just laughed a little and said, “Just a fun show I watch.” However, being the good little student I was, we continued on and completed the tutoring session. Fortunately, I still made it on time to watch Smackdown.

At such a young age, there was just so much I loved about wrestling. The one aspect that captivated me the most was when I noticed one of my favorite female wrestlers (perhaps, one of the greatest of all-time), Lita. Irrespective of gender, Lita may be one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. When I first noticed her on television, I thought she was just the coolest chick ever. She had all of the attractive and noteworthy qualities in a sports entertainment icon — she was athletic, extreme, edgy, sexy, and just an all-time favorite badass.

Lita, back in the days of WWF’s (now WWE) Attitude Era

This was my first glimpse of observing a woman being the total opposite of what society typically expects out of a woman. Like, do you ever see a woman on television doing moonsaults and giving male wrestlers the huracarranna? For crying out loud, this was also never seen live or on television before I was even born. Along with Lita, Trish Stratus also helped change the face of women’s wrestling. Specifically, Trish Stratus proved that she was more than just some pretty face or sex symbol in the ring — she really put herself out there and showed the crowds that she truly was a professional wrestler.

If you’re a wrestling fan, then you’re probably fully aware of how much of a male-dominated sport wrestling really is. Strong and empowering women, such as Lita and Trish Stratus showed how much grittier than men they can really be in the ring. These women inspired me so much for several reasons. One reason is they showed how any other woman, regardless of her background, can accomplish this sport all the way to a professional level. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the men were just as incredible. Some of my favorite male wrestlers growing up (and until now) have included Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, Dustin Rhodes, Razor Ramon, Randy Savage, Sting, and others.

Trish Stratus in 2018

More importantly, being inspired by pro wrestling helped me get through bullying as a child. As a matter of fact, it still does. When I was nine-years-old, I remembered hating waking up early in the morning because of how much I dreaded going to school. I knew certain girls were going to give me a hard time, make up a lie about me (which, usually was about something I didn’t do), and just continue to make my day difficult. Whenever I was done with the school day, all I wanted to do was go home and watch wrestling because it was an outlet for me. However, shortly afterwards, my television privileges were somewhat dead. The school I had attended had such a rigorous curriculum to the point students were told they had to study for exams every weekend — I mean, what kind of life is that for a nine-year-old? Throughout that miserable year, I remembered two girls had given me such a hard time to the point that I physically hit them. So, yes — I was inspired by television and wrestling taught me to stand up to bullies by physically hitting them. I’m not saying that that’s the best response, but what was I really supposed to do if faculty wasn’t helping to stop this issue? Every time my parents complained, the faculty did nothing to help stop or prevent the bullying. In retrospect, no one can blame me for using my fists. If I cried, the girls made fun of me, which hurt even more. So, if words were not enough to help me fight back, then what was? Using my hands garnered the most attention, but it was counterproductive because it was what got me into trouble. My “punishment” at school would be detention. And, you know what I would do? Skip it. Why? Well, detention hall had no idea because my name was never on a list for detention — I would just be told to go to a detention hall, which was really pointless because I never went. Anyways, wrestling is what helped me get through bullying. Since teachers and faculty in fourth grade were never there for me, it almost felt like the wrestlers on television were there to tell me, “You’re better and stronger than this. You’re meant to wrestle.” I was also bullied last year. This time though, I didn’t use my fists. Two women were jealous of a situation I was in, so they decided to put their hurt and insecurities on me. Well, let me tell you — if you’re insecure and envious, then that is not my problem. Ironically, a few months later, a really dear friend of mine brought back my love of wrestling. At that moment, it was like a light switch had gone off in my head. Last summer, I had gone home one day to watch the greatest women’s wrestling match I thought was ever fought between Lita and Trish Stratus — the one they headlined at 2004’s WWE Raw. After watching that match, that’s when I made the decision to pursue professional wrestling.

Last year’s bullying gave me the fuel to become a beast at certain things — powerlifting, fitness, writing, and now wrestling. The same goes with how certain men have treated me throughout my life — my dad, my exes, the men who’ve ghosted me, the men who’ve used me, and the men who’ve broken my heart. These men made me feel like I wasn’t good at anything, including pro wrestling. Well, I am better than “good enough” and to all the men who’ve made me feel this way — I can whip all of your asses in one go.

Since watching that memorable match between Trish and Lita, I realized I hadn’t watched wrestling for nearly fourteen years. One can imagine how stunned I must’ve been to see how much women’s wrestling had evolved over the years. I was left feeling incredibly stunned and even more inspired to take this up.

In the older days of WWE, not many women were taken seriously as wrestlers. In particular, so many of them were just viewed as being sex symbols and almost nothing more. I remembered being exposed to the degrading bikini contest segments that WWE would present in between match breaks and it just didn’t make sense to me, until I realized that this was how WWE seemed to make most of its money. Remember — it’s sports entertainment. But, still. I just thought that it was disrespectful for these women to just go out there and do things they may have not felt comfortable doing — bikini contests, bra and panties matches, and mud wrestling to name a few. To me, that was never wrestling. These women were almost made to appear as and be treated like pornographers. It was just such a relief when I saw women wrestlers like Molly Holly, Lita, Trish Stratus, Mickie James, Victoria, and Gail Kim slowly changing the game. It took awhile, though.

In WWE, it wasn’t until after both the Attitude Era and the Ruthless Aggression Era that women wouldn’t be required to possess the so-called “diva look.” During those eras, as long as women were physically attractive or had modeling backgrounds, and agreed to gain wrestling training, then they were pretty much good to go. Well, not anymore. Nowadays, especially in some of the biggest wrestling promotions, women are hired for their charisma, skills, talent, and (most importantly), their athleticism. That means no more mud wrestling, no more bikini contests, and no more bra & panties matches. And, physical features aka “looks” don’t matter anymore. Before the 2010s, I don’t ever recall watching a woman land another woman through a table. Now, I do and it’s bloody awesome!

I may not be a fan of WWE’s product and storylines today, but I must give it credit for its women’s divisions. In today’s WWE, some of the greatest and most talented female wrestlers include Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, Mia Yim, Io Shirai, Candice LeRae, Rhea Ripley, and Tegan Nox. In All Elite Wrestling, some of the best female wrestlers there are Hikaru Shida, Allie, Anna Jay, Britt Baker D.M.D, Taynara Conti, Big Swole, Kris Statlander, Nyla Rose, Penelope Ford, and Thunder Rosa. At Impact Wrestling, some of the best there are Jordynne Grace, Deonna Purrazzo, Kiera Hogan, and Tenille Dashwood. These women are confident, fearless, fierce, powerful, and ruthless — all qualities I’ve loved in female wrestlers ever since I was a kid, and still do.

AEW’s Britt Baker and HIkaru Shida in what was probably the best match fought between the two of them

I’m really glad to see how much women’s wrestling has come so far. It’s at its peak now and I strongly believe that it’s going to keep growing from there. Had I not witnessed the tremendous growth and development in women’s wrestling, then I likely would not have ever considered wanting to pursue it professionally. As a kid, I lost interest because I didn’t see it going anywhere. It took me years to finally see that massive transformation and I couldn’t have been more grateful for that. Not only have I become one of the biggest wrestling fans out there, but I’ve chosen to pursue it as a career and I would never have thought of that in a million years.

There is an incredible number of female wrestlers worldwide right now and that’s all thanks to its incredible evolution. I can’t reveal how excited I am to be a part of it soon, but I’m also damn well sure excited to continue changing its game — both personally and professionally.

My purpose is to encourage authenticity & open-mindedness. A safe space. This is how we will all reach our full potential, and create a more humble environment.