Action Girl: Professional Wrestling

  • Pretty much any woman who wrestles could qualify, though there are those who are more physical than others. Some of the earliest examples were Nancy Hanks in the early 1800s, who in hooking lore was known to make locals money when they bet visiting men couldn't beat her in wrestling matches and Josie Wahlford, who became the first recognized professional wrestling World Champion on record in the 1890s.
  • When Mildred Burke was forced out of the National Wrestling Alliance, she took her own WWWA promotion on tour over seas, particularly in Australia and Japan, where even after the collapse of the WWWA itself the efforts of All Japan Womens Pro Wrestling made the its title belts more prestigious than the NWA Women's equivalents for a time. But even though they were eventually eclipsed in popularity, the NWA still had its share of capable athletes, with Burke's successor June Byers being considered one of the toughest of all time and going on to establish the American Wrestling Association's World Women's division.
  • The Mexican national women's title has existed since at least the days of Chabela/Isabel Romero and Irma Gonzales in 1958, which went on to be defended in several promotions around the country, though it wasn't officially recognized by the Mexican Box Y Wrestle Comision until Reyna Gallegos's reign in 1986 when they lifted Mexico city's ban on women's wrestling in Mexico city. CMLL continued to recognize it even after establishing its own World Women's division around Bull Nakano and Xóchitl Hamada in 1992.
  • Many women's wrestling fans regard All Japan Womens Pro Wrestling in early-to-mid 90s as the Crowning Era of Awesome for women's professional wrestling, with stars such as Manami Toyota, Aja Kong, Bull Nakano, Akira Hokuto and Kyoko Inoue at the top of their game, and several contenders for "best women's match of all time" (including Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada's hair vs hair match, Toyota and Kyoko Inoue's 60-minute draw, and Akira Hokuto vs Shinobu Kandori at Dreamslam 1). AJW's 80s era tends to be considered the runner-up, with the Crush Gals (Lioness Asuka and Chigusa Nagayo) generating heat comparable to Hulk Hogan at the same time. One can't forget the first native stars really get over to the point of being household names though, The Beauty Pair in the 1970s.
  • In 1983, The World Wrestling Federation cut all ties with the National Wrestling Alliance and retroactively established its own, separate women's division, and women's Tag Team division, the former of which quickly hit its peak in 1984 Wendi Richter became its champion and de facto face, then went on a gradual decline after she was screwed out of the title until the belt was retired after Rockin Robin's reign in 1990. The tag team division peaked with the Jumping Bomb Angels but was retired a year earlier due to an unauthorized title change to the Glamour Girls. A later attempt to revive the singles division around Madusa and several talents from All Japan Women's Wrestling fell short and lead to another in active period when Madusa defected to WCW. Chyna was the first proper Action Girl in the World Wrestling Federation following after this period of dormancy. She was introduced as a bodyguard for Triple H and actively competed in the men's division, even capturing the Intercontinental title three times. She was also the first woman to compete in the Royal Rumble and King of the Ring tournament and even became number 1 contender to the WWF Championship. Technically there were others in the interrim such as Jacqueline, who was known for competing in plenty of intergender matches (she even won her second Women's title from a man, don't ask) and went on to briefly hold the Cruiserweight title, but the time period between Madusa and Chyna was characterized primarily by panties and Mud Wrestling.
  • While Capitol Sports Promotions had sports promotions had a women's division since the mid 1980s with memorable matches from respectable champions such as Wendi Richter and Monster Ripper(and Puerto Rican women had established themselves on both sides of the pacific long before that), a Puetro Rican woman had not really broken out as a pro wrestling star in Puerto Rico until La Tigresa won the belt in 1992. As a face she enjoyed a five year reign and as a heel was tough enough to quickly recover from a Shovel Strike delivered by Eddie Colon. Despite inspiring a fearsome pool of women wrestlers to choose from, the collective women's division of the major promotions was inactive for eight years following Tigresa's 1998 arrest and then metaphorically bounced between the World Wrestling Council and IWA Puerto Rico for half a decade before being fazed out on the final day of 2011, women's pro wrestling only remaining a fixture of independent promotions such as EWO.
  • Due to circumstances surrounding the NWA and WWF women's titles, as well as the gradual decline of the AWA, the most well known of the USA in the mid to late 1980s typically competed for GLOW. Much of the roster had signed on to use it as a stepping stone to further their acting careers but the employment of trainer Mando Guerrero ensured wrestlers would take the deliberately camp promotion as seriously as possible. Though she was never a title holder of any kind, The Face of GLOW was Mountain Fiji.
  • With women's pro wrestling in the United States not being in the best of states, the PGWA opened up in 1992, building itself around former NWA Word Women's Champion Sue Greene, promoting itself with longer matches between women that the five minutes that were standard at the time and highlighting raising awareness of the "action girls" as TV Tropes would call them across the pro wrestling landscape through it's magazine, Lady Sports. In particular it was known for bringing in 'Girls' from Mexico, mostly from LLF in Monterrey but also CMLL valet Angelica, who would wrestle for WWF/E as Lita and from the UK, mostly from Pippa L'vinn's Wrestling Factory but also Nikita, who would go onto TNA as Winter.
  • As they were wont to do, WCW imitated the WWF, bringing in Akira Hokuto and Toshie Uematsu from the Japanese promotion GAEA to start its own women's divisions. Unfortunately for viewers in the United States, those divisions competed almost exclusively in Japan.
  • AAA established the Reina de Reinas Title in 1999 during the ongoing campaign the Moreno family (Esther and Rossy in this case) waged against Xóchitl Hamada. Their World Mixed Tag Team titles in were established in 2003, requiring units to consist of both a woman and a man, the major founders being Lady Apache, Tiffany and Faby Apache(Electoshock, Chessman and Gran Apache being the male halves). While Japan was still seen as the place to go for most wrestlers, women included, between these and CMLL's divisions Mexico had the highest profile women's matches of the 2000s and 2010s after All Japan Women's closed its doors. In 2012, CMLL gave viewers the best of both by partnering with joshi fed REINA to create two new international divisions built around Ray and Leon.
  • When Chikara was starting out, it experimented with an all women's sister promotion called Kiryoku Pro(Which was represented in Chikara proper by Mercedes Martinez and Sumie Sakai). When that and nothing else panned out it was decided that there would no longer be any practical distinction between men and women in the promotion.
  • Around 2002-ish WWE began making their women's division more about athleticism than eye candy and 2003 was definitely the peak of the women's division with the cream of the crop being Trish Stratus, Lita, Nidia, Victoria, Ivory, Molly Holly, Jazz, and Gail Kim. Sadly, this didn't last. Later examples on WWE programming include Beth Phoenix (has also competed in the Royal Rumble), Michelle McCool, Natalya, Mickie James, Melina, Layla, Alicia Fox, Eve Torres and AJ Lee, though with the second Divasearch of 2004, women's wrestling wasn't treated as a priority by the company.
  • In 2004, IWA Mid-South established a women's division based on the belief fans wanted more from women in wrestling besides pretty faces but after the collapse of All Japan Women's Pro Wrestling in 2005, there was an incentive to do more and a dedicated women's promotion in the United States called SHIMMER Women's athletes starting up with the mission statement of increasing the respect for women's wrestling on an international level. Similar promotions followed in it's wake such as WILD Wrestling, while Wrestling Superstars Uncensored was retooled into an all women promotion and Absolute Intense Wrestling started its "Girls Night Out" shows with specific intent to "beat SHIMMER at it's own game".
  • A corollary to lackluster women's division usually found in WWE is the praise generated by those of found in a couple WWE farm leagues. The Ohio Valley Women's title did not have prestigious origins, basically being willed into existence by ODB during 2006, but many of the wrestlers who competed for it became stables of SHIMMER and went on to make appearances in France and Japan. NXT did not burst out of the WWE bubble like OVW before and initially offered up the barely trained Kaitlyn but NXT Women's division became a highly praised part of the programme, boasting kickass girls such as Paige, Summer Rae, Emma, Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte.
  • After failing to secure the World Women's title from the NWA, TNA created its own knockouts division in 2007, which saw the returns of Gail Kim after being rejected for not fitting into WWE's "new" direction and former WWWA Heavyweight Champion Amazing Awesome Kong to national television. TNA quickly backed up their claim to have the best women's wrestling as far as the USA majors were concerned, especially when it came to quality on a consistent basis and could even, ever so briefly, compete with AAA and CMLL for claim of the best national division in North America.
  • In 2013, the World Wrestling League began showcasing women's wrestlers from the aforementioned NWA, AAA and CMLL, as well US mainland based Pro Wrestling Revolution, U Know Pro and the Bolivia based New Xtreme Order. In 2015, it would give the Puerto Rican majors their own women's title again with the Diosas division, initially a false start with former WWC women's champion La Morena then a more successful attempt with a woman who had been present during much of their collaboration with the other promotoions, Ivelisse Vélez.
  • One noticeable trend that immediately set Lucha Underground apart from the established wrestling shows nationally televised in the United States druing 2014 was a much higher frequency of women who regularly traded holds and blows with men(at trait inherited from AAA and Perros Del Mal Producciones). Despite not having a proper women's division, Ivelisse Velez was a third of their first champion trios team(which also lead to a subversion, as a broken ankle forced her to sit on the sidelines during much of their reign and her attempt to fight on crutches led to them to losing the titles)