WWE's first all-women pay-per-view event will take place on Sunday October 28.
It was an announcement which represented the latest crack in the earth in WWE’s groundbreaking women’s wrestling movement.
Never before has the biggest wrestling company in the world staged a pay-per-view comprised solely of women’s matches.
It is the latest step on a path to true equality to a company who has increased the screen time and prominence of its female competitors, with Evolution being the next natural instalment of that.
We were granted an exclusive interview with WWE’s chief brand officer Stephanie McMahon, as she broke down the details of the latest development…
How did Evolution come about?
“It really started with a movement that our fans really organically started – #givedivasachance – that was created in response to a match that took place in February 2015, a tag match of our then divas division that lasted for all of 30 seconds, which unfortunately was more the norm.
“Our women were treated more as secondary characters to the storyline and our fans had had enough and they were specifically calling for longer matches, better athleticism, better character development and better storylines.
“Their voices were so loud that this hashtag trended for three days worldwide, until our chairman and CEO Vince, and yes he’s also my father, he said ‘yes we hear you, keep watching #givedivasachance’. So later at the next Wrestlemania, in front of our biggest audience ever, over 100,000 people, we had Hall of Famer Lita go out and announce the rebranding of the divas division to the women’s division,
“She unveiled the new championship belt that was more akin to the men’s, but still feminine, and announced that the women would now be called superstars, same as the men. Since that time our women have been more regularly headlining and main eventing our television and pay-per-view events.
“We signed Ronda Rousey, one of the greatest athletes male or female, and this past December, in Abu Dhabi, for the first time ever our women were allowed to perform. During the match a chant broke out in the crowd – there were men and women shouting ‘this is hope’ and there were tears in the eyes of little girls in the front row.
“This is what WWE’s women’s evolution is all about.”
Going back further, you grew up in the industry and you’ve seen it all, what did you think might be possible?
“I do go all the way back and I had the privilege and the honour of knowing the great Mae Young, I saw these trail blazers, these pioneers.
“I saw Alundra Blayze, I saw Wendi Richter, I saw Bull Nakano and what these women were able to do in the ring and then as I continued to grow and evolve and then become a part of the business myself, there was Chyna, there was Trish Stratus, Lita, all of these amazing women who all had the in-ring ability but they just weren’t being given the spotlight and there was a feeling that that’s not what the audience wanted.
“Additionally, when my husband took over talent development, recruiting, relations, he started recruiting women the same as the men. So he started recruiting athletes versus models, and he started training them the same as the men and giving them the same opportunities on the live events.
“When they had the opportunities to really learn and hone their craft in front of live audiences, the same way the men did for the same amount of time, well they basically just started to steal the show and steal the spotlight.
“They took advantage of the opportunity more than anyone else to the point where the crowd started to cheer ‘this is wrestling’ and that was really what started the whole women’s evolution but you could look at it all the way back to The Fabulous Moolah and the great Mae Young. Any woman who’s ever set foot inside the squared circle, across any organisation, that’s what’s given rise to the movement.”
You’ve said before you don’t think you’ll have made it until women main event a Wrestlemania, how far are we from that?
“God I hope not far! We’re certainly making strides and changes are happening every single day. They can’t happen fast enough for me – but we’ve definitely seen positive momentum and moves towards that.”
If that’s the big goal, will this come from continuing to grow the female fan base or from appealing to the already existing, mixed fan base?
“I think the whole rise to the women’s movement across everything, sport, media, it takes both. It’s not just one gender, one person, it’s going to take all of us and that’s what I love so much about what’s happened in WWE because it has been the voice of both men and women, it has been both male and women superstars, it’s been everyone , everyone believes in this movement with all their heart.”
Will you be returning to the ring at Evolution?
Laughter “That’s yet to be determined, we want to make sure our superstars really get the spotlight they deserve but if it makes sense then absolutely. But that’s yet to be determined.”
Will the women’s tag team titles be added here?
“Not quite yet but that’s absolutely something we’ve heard loud and clear from our fan base and it’s something we’re keen on implementing as soon as we are able to.”
On the broader female athlete movement going on at the moment…
“I think we’re seeing it everywhere, in film, in sport, across all platforms, there’s a rise of women coming into their own, demanding equality and showcasing their abilities.
“At the end of the day it’s all about who deserves the opportunity and women are showing and proving that they deserve it just as much as the men.”
What does the female superstar of tomorrow look like?
“They will continue to be the incredible women that they are today. When you think about our women – not only are they athletes, actors, they’re philanthropists, public speakers, they’re out engaging in corporate activities, they’re out there performing in front of thousands and thousands of people live and millions of people around the world.
“They’re travelling internationally, they’re constantly on the road, they’re doing reality tv, films, they are doing all of these incredible things. They are multitalented, strong, intelligent strong beautiful women.
“Their beauty on the inside and their strength is what shines through on the outside and I think you’re only going to continue to see that grow as our women become role models for more and more girls and women, and boys, around the world.”