WWE’s female talent had longer, more competitive matches and fans finally respected women’s wrestling in the mid-2010s. The change was followed by the first women’s Hell in a Cell match, Money in the Bank match, and others. Treating female wrestlers as talent meant eliminating many match types, most of which were designed to titillate straight men. Let’s examine nine matches from WWE’s less enlightened past that fans will never see again.
9. Evening Gown Match
WWF Unforgiven 1998 PPV: WWE’s first three-minute evening gown match At Your House 21 featured Sable and Luna Vachon. This gimmick match’s goal is to rip off the opponent’s evening gown. WrestleMania 20’s “Playboy Evening Gown Match” and Armageddon 1999’s four-way version in an above-ground pool followed. These matches demonstrated that WWE at the time viewed their women as nothing more than eye candy for male audiences.
8. Wet N Wild Match
Ruthless Aggression was just as bad as the Attitude Era at demeaning women’s matches and making them look bad. The summer was always an easy excuse to get the Divas to engage in some water-based shenanigans, and June 2006 introduced the Wet & Wild Match, which was basically a wet T-shirt contest as a wrestling match, as competitors wore all white and attacked one another squirt guns, water balloons, and the like.
Maryse and Victoria faced Michelle McCool and Cherry in the 2008 SmackDown Diva Search with Eve as the Special Referee. The first of these took place on Raw between Candice Michelle and Torrie Wilson.
7. Paddle on a Pole Match
Even after Vince Russo overused the “on a Pole” match in late-period WCW, WWE continued to use it. In the first of several Paddle on a Pole matches, Terri Runnels and Trish Stratus faced off in 2002 Raw. The winner was the one who grabbed the paddle off the pole. The winner would spank her opponent, humiliating her.
6. Summer Swimsuit Spectacular
Many fans disliked Raw’s 2010–2011 “guest host” era, when former wrestlers, athletes, musicians, and actors hosted every episode like Saturday Night Live. Seth Green, Robot Chicken co-creator and actor, hosted the first “Summer Swimsuit Spectacular” as a non-wrestler. It was just a regular six-woman tag team match in swimsuits. WWE revived it in April 2010 with a Baywatch theme and David Hasselhoff as guest host.
5. Divas Battle Royal
Women’s battle royals, including the Royal Rumble, will continue for years. The three-minute Divas Battle Royal, where women wear skimpy costumes and are thrown between the ropes, is unlikely to return. The Miss WrestleMania Battle Royal from WrestleMania 25 was the crown jewel/nadir of this match type, where two dozen women were eliminated in six minutes. Santino, billed as Santina won, which I thought was disrespectful.
4. Any Match That Included Mud
WWE inflicted mud wrestling on its female talent because straight men find it titillating. While it’s not always mud, it’s still the same principle, with chocolate pudding or, in 2001, eggnog. On the 6/23/2014 Raw episode, Stephanie McMahon humiliated Vickie Guerrero, which led to her WWE exit.
3. Extreme Makeover
WWE is no stranger to the absurdly themed street fight, rolling out pumpkins for a Trick or Street Fight or setting up instruments for a Symphony of Destruction match. In 2010’s Extreme Rules pay-per-view In Baltimore MD, Michelle McCool defended her Women’s Championship against Beth Phoenix in an Extreme Makeover match, where the props included cosmetic products and for some reason domestic housekeeping products. After strategic use of items like hairspray, ironing boards, and a mop, Beth Phoenix put Michelle McCool away with a Glam Slam this is a very rare instance that we would see women compete in an Extreme Rules match in the 2010’s era.
2. Pillow Fight
One would have expected pillow fights to be a WWE match type during the dark ages. With a bed in the center of the ring and competitors wearing lingerie, the objective of the pillow fight was to hit one another with pillows and engage in provocative situations until a pinfall victory is achieved, typically within three minutes. The first competitors in WWE’s various pillow fights were Terri Runnels and Stacy Keibler, with Keibler prevailing after stuffing her pillowcase with an alarm clock.
1. Bra & Panties match
Of course, the signature Attitude Era/Ruthless Aggression era Divas match — their equivalent of NXT’s 2/3 Falls match or Lucha Underground’s Grave Consequences — was the Bra & Panties match, which occurred more frequently during the ruthless aggression era. In this expanded version of the Evening Gown match, the objective was to strip the opponent down to their underwear, regardless of what they were wearing. With WWE’s overhaul of its presentation of women’s wrestling, the match type that is frequently referenced to demonstrate how far the division has come is the one that fans are most likely to see again.