It’s a question I’ve seen debated so many times; who’s the greatest women’s superstar in history?
Whilst, for the most part, that’s a discussion for another time, there is an incredible wealth of talented women who debuted, and were influential in the Attitude Era. The legacy of some of these women, and the Era itself, are still visible in the industry today.
Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Jordynne Grace, Shotzi Blackheart, Asuka, Nikki Cross, and even Charlotte Flair – I see the Attitude Era in all of them.
But, alas, we aren’t here to discuss the now in the industry. We are here to discuss the women who graced the Attitude Era. So let’s start with the one that I always think of when I think about women in the Attitude Era; Chyna
The first match I saw Chyna compete in, was the 1999 King of The Ring Quarter Final against Road Dogg. One of the better matches on the card, it stood out to me as unique being an intergender match, but it was her promo before the match which I remember most
“When I was little I only wanted to be a princess, but now I’m all grown up, and tonight, I’m gonna be a queen.”
Chyna had the tag line, “The 9th Wonder of the World”, after Andre the Giant had been designated the 8th of course; it was well deserved. Backstage politics aside, Chyna was always destined for greatness in the business. Her physique, her glamour, her personality. She managed to get all of that over in the ring, and in promos. Granted, I’ve heard better promos, and they probably wouldn’t hold up in the current era where every word is analysed, but of the time she was competing, she was the one who cemented the fact that the days of female superstars being little more than ‘damsels in distress’, or just eye candy at ringside, were coming to an end, and that women could win the same championships that men did, notably winning the Intercontinental Title twice.
I could do a whole article on Chyna, and her hall of fame spot, and one day I might, but for right now, I’m gonna move onto another female, who again debuted in the Attitude Era, and would go on to have a hall of fame career. Whereas Chyna set the standard for physicality in the ring, this lady set the standard for high flying in, what was then, the divas division.
Amy Dumas. Better known as Lita. From her debut in WWF, on an episode of Sunday Night Heat as Essa Rios’ valet, where she would perform her soon to be iconic Lita-sault on Gillberg, moments after Rios had taken the Light Heavyweight Title from him with a moonsault of his own. As time went on, Lita would split from Essa Rios, and join up with The Hardy Boyz. This would begin one of the most popular teams in the company’s history; Team Xtreme. It also signalled the start of one of the most significant and ongoing rivalries in history, as The Hardys would begin a feud with T & A, better known as Test & Albert, managed by the blonde bombshell, Trish Stratus.
That name in itself, is iconic, even without the Lita rivalry, which wouldn’t become as huge until after the Ruthless Aggression Era began.
Trish Stratus, now, is a seven time WWE Women’s Champion and a Hall of Famer. But when you look back at Fully Loaded 2000, nobody gave her a snowball’s chance in hell of winning against Lita. It was clear, to me anyway, that Trish’s original involvement was to look pretty and be used in the sexually charged storylines and moments; wearing Kurt Angle’s medals around her neck in such a way so they disappeared into her cleavage immediately comes to mind. And of course the Infamous mistress angle with Vince McMahon, is something that I look back on with a sad shake of the head. As much as I hated that angle, It did have one big plus though – the payoff.
Wrestlemania X-Seven; at the Houston Astrodome; unquestionably one of the best, if not THE best Wrestlemanias of all time. Recognised by many as the place where the Attitude Era ended. And the women, rightly, took centre stage.
All of the women already mentioned were involved in this star studded card; Chyna was challenging for the Women’s Championship, after an intense rivalry with the Right To Censor over her image, and her appearing in Playboy; something which WWE would continue to affiliate with and use in storylines for years following. It wasn’t an angle I was particularly happy with, as Chyna had, under kayfabe, suffered a broken neck from a piledriver from Val Venis, and then ‘re-injured’ it in a match against Venis’ stablemate, Ivory, for the aforementioned Women’s Championship at the 2001 Royal Rumble event two and a half months earlier. This was also where I learned that kayfabe was a thing, as I knew you couldn’t recover from a broken neck to compete in a ring in that period of time.
Ivory, by her own right, is a Hall of Famer who was phenomenal throughout her own career, through the earlier part of the Attitude Era, but alas I was late to the party, so I hadn’t, and ashamedly still haven’t seen, with this being her last big storyline before her own retirement. The squash match that followed at Wrestlemania X-Seven was to close the angle emphatically, and not a true representation of the excellent work that both Ivory and Chyna put into that angle. Chyna would go on to defend the title a few times, but quietly dropped it off screen and left WWE around November of that year, sadly never to appear in the WWE again.
The other two ladies I have mentioned in this article, both of whom Chyna defended her newly won Womens Title against, Trish and Lita, had massive roles on that same night, and they weren’t officially on the card.
Lita’s stablemates Jeff Hardy and his brother, her real life boyfriend at the time, Matt, were involved in the greatest no holds barred match in history; TLC 2 – Tables, Ladders & Chairs 2 for the Tag Team Championship, against Edge & Christian and the Dudley Boyz, with both of those teams having their associates, Rhyno and Spike Dudley respectively, getting involved. There wasn’t even a need to know what was happening when Lita ran down the ramp; the crowd had popped. Lita was over with the fans to such a degree, that if someone had told me that four years later she would be one of the most despised women in the industry, for her real life relationship issues, I’d never have believed them. Lita delivered a hurricanrana, cracked Spike Dudley with a chair before ripping off her top, thankfully wearing a bra, and turned around into D-Von & Bubba Ray Dudley’s 3-D move. The impact Lita made in that match was significant, and until December 2018, remained the only woman to be involved in a TLC match, and she did so on multiple occasions.
Trish, however, had a different role. Going into the showcase of the immortals, her character had been pushed as McMahon’s ‘plaything’ in the build up to Wrestlemania, even having Vince’s daughter Stephanie put Trish’s head into a mop bucket to remind her of her place in the order of things, again something I found hard to watch, even then – coupled with the storyline of Vince having his wife Linda (both on and off screen) committed to a sanitarium, which also wouldn’t fly today. Needless to say, when I saw Trish pushing Linda down to ringside in a wheelchair during Vince’s street fight with his son Shane, I had very little expectation for what happened.
Trish slapped Vince McMahon, denouncing the heel side and becoming a face in process. And to top that moment off, Linda McMahon even stood up from her chair and kicked Vince in the grapefruits. Justice was delivered on that night, by the three count of Mick Foley, but it was what happened next for Trish that was so significant. Dave ‘Fit’ Finlay started training her.
Eight months later, at the last night of the InVasion storyline, Trish Stratus won the vacated Women’s Championship at Survivor Series. The rest is history.
Obviously, I haven’t mentioned everything these amazing women accomplished, or this article would be longer than anything else I’ve ever written in my life, but if there’s enough request, I may delve deeper into each of their careers
Thanks as always for reading, hope you enjoyed!
I’m Outta Here