At WrestleMania 32, when Charlotte Flair stood with the new WWE Women's Championship held high and fireworks filling the sky behind her, it wasn't just a WrestleMania moment. Her victory and the newly renamed championship signified the birth of a new era for WWE's female performers: The Women's Evolution.
Women have been part of sports entertainment from its earliest incarnations, including WWE Hall-of-Famers like Mae Young and the Fabulous Moolah. 2018 WWE Hall of Fame inductee Ivory contributed to this history, including in 1999 when she defended her Women's Championship against Tori in the first-ever Women's Hardcore Match.
But the last few years have seen an unprecedented ascent for women within WWE, with female Superstars achieving landmark after landmark. The last year alone has brought us the first-ever women's Money in the Bank match, the first ever women's Hell in a Cell match, the first-ever women's Royal Rumble (which main-evented the 2018 Royal Rumble event) and the first-ever women's Elimination Chamber match.
This renewed focus on women's in-ring competition has been welcomed by both fans and the female Superstars themselves, who've stepped up to show they can carry these huge new opportunities.
"I know I have to over-deliver every time, because the reason we continue to get these opportunities is because we continue to succeed," SmackDown Live Women's Champion Charlotte said. "That means always evolving, finding ways to get better whether it's inside the ring or out. It's a responsibility I take seriously."
Men and women alike find this new era of female Superstars inspiring and exciting. It takes a high caliber of competition to attract someone like WWE's newly signed Superstar Ronda Rousey, a global icon of women's athletics.
It's remarkable to think that in New Orleans' previous WrestleMania, just four years ago, hardly anyone knew of contemporary main-roster mainstays Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair. While those three were present for WrestleMania 30, they appeared incognito, wearing golden masks as extras in Triple H's ring entrance. Heading into WrestleMania 34, two of them now hold gold of their own: Alexa Bliss as the Raw Women's Champion and Charlotte Flair as the SmackDown Women's Champion.
At WrestleMania 34 in New Orleans, some of the most highly-anticipated matches include female Superstars. We may mourn The Undertaker's broken WrestleMania win streak, but the mesmerizing and fearsome Asuka's WWE undefeated streak remains alive and well, though she'll surely face her toughest test yet here at her first WrestleMania.
Charlotte Flair's win at WrestleMania 32 was also her WrestleMania debut. "That WrestleMania stage is unlike any other," she says. "You need to have been mentally preparing for it. That first time, you're thinking: Am I the right girl? How do I do this opportunity justice? I would say having WrestleMania experience gives me an advantage, but actually with every WrestleMania, the pressure piles on to shine even brighter."
We all know how the feats of athletes and Superstars can inspire and WWE Women's Evolution has ignited a fire of possibility in a whole new generation of fans.
The SmackDown Women's Champion, unsurprisingly, doesn't shy away from the prospect of competition. "I think it's great," she said. "A larger division means more competition, and I welcome it. It just makes me up my game."