There was once a time in 2015 when MMA fighter Ronda Rousey looked like the most unstoppable force in MMA fighting, man or woman. It looked like she would dominate for years to come. Then suddenly, and inconveniently for the sport, she lost to Holly Holm. Her invincible image had cracked. Some thought she could come back from it and become the dominant Rousey again, but instead, she lost again.
In two years she went from unbeatable to completely done.
For real competitive fighting, it was a devastating blow, but for pre-determined fighting, it was one of the best things to happen. Because Rousey became a free agent for the WWE, and the key piece in what will become the greatest achievement in women's sports entertainment history: closing the show at WrestleMania.
Though I've gone on long breaks every now and then, I love professional wrestling, and the itch to jump on the never-ending train that is the WWE is coming back. Apart of that appeal is the shock at how much progress WWE women's wrestling has gone to in just a few years.
For the longest time, women wrestlers were "Divas" and were pretty a joke in WWE. The most compelling stories and characters were all male figures, and the women often felt like filler at best.
There are plenty of industries over the years that have had their glass ceilings, but in the wrestling business they not only had glass ceilings for women, but every floor of the building had a glass ceiling except for the basement.
It's almost comical at how women wrestlers and personalities are used in the testosterone-fueled wrestling business. Some were used eye candy, some were the cause of love triangles, others were gold-digging managers. Even the most respected "Divas" in WWE history like Chyna, Trish Stratus, and Lita were dragged through the slime and the mud in awful angles forged out of stupidity.
Go back to the 90s and think watch announcer Jerry Lawler squeal at women's boobs by calling them "PUPPIES!"
Go and look at the Playboy pillow fights between Divas that would be the height of their lackluster careers.
Oh, and women's wrestling icon Mae Young gave birth to a hand...
When I think of women's matches at WrestleMania, there are two that come to mind and both were awful.
At WrestleMania 25 in 2009, the only "Divas" match was the Women's Battle Royal in which they chalked up all the women wrestlers together where the winner would be crowned as Miss WrestleMania.
The match was won by Santina Marella. Who claimed to be the twin sister of WWE superstar Santino Marella. The thing about that was that it was beyond obvious to everyone who had eyes that Santina Marella was really Santino dressed as a woman. But that was the joke, meaning that the first and only Miss WrestleMania was a man dressed as a woman without ever admitting that she was a man.
The other WrestleMania "Divas" match I think of often was five years ago at WrestleMania 30 in New Orleans. The only women's match of that card was also a case in which they chalked up all the ladies together for 8-way or 10-way or whatever bout for the Divas championship. The match was won by my favorite woman wrestler A.J. Lee, who would retire from wrestling a year later (to join her notorious ex-WWE star husband) to become a best-selling author and mental-health awareness advocate.
But the only reason I remember the match at all is because it was sandwiched in-between the two most emotionally charged wrestling matches of my lifetime. The first was Brock Lesnar defeated The Undertaker, my favorite wrestler of all-time, and ended his 21-0 undefeated streak at WrestleMania. For wrestling fans, The Undertaker's streak was the most sacred thing in sports entertainment, and no one thought it would ever end.
On one side of the spectrum of shock and devastation, the match that followed was on the complete opposite of that spectrum with joy and elation when Daniel Bryan, my favorite current-day wrestler, won the WWE World Championship in the main event. Even though the top good guy winning the championship at WrestleMania should be predictable, us fans felt like the WWE had no desire to let the small bearded guy get the glory on their biggest show and that they grudgingly gave into our wishes for one shining moment. I know the outcome of matches are "pre-determined", but the effort the wrestlers give in the ring to entertain fans and tell compelling stories is unlike anything in the world. And for rare occasions, whoever wins or loses matters to us.
And sandwiched in-between the two most incredible WWE moments of the 21st century was a "Divas" match that was filler at best. Fans weren't even paying attention to the match because they were still in shock of The Undertaker losing. Lee would also drop the Divas title the next night on Monday Night Raw to a debuting Paige, which is now portrayed in the movie "Fighting With My Family."
That is why it is truly unbelievable to think after decades of women's wrestling being a joke in WWE, the main event of WrestleMania 35 is actually going to be a women's match. The match is a triple threat between Rousey, Charlotte Flair (daughter of The GOAT Ric), and Becky Lynch.
If you're not a wrestling fan, you need to know that main eventing WrestleMania is the highest honor any superstar can receive, male or female. It's the ultimate nod of respect from the business in trusting two or three people to close the biggest show of the year and leaving a lasting impression to millions around the world.
I can still remember my frustration as a fan when my favorite wrestler, C.M. Punk, was denied the Main Event of WrestleMania in favor of John Cena and The Rock because he just barely missed the glass ceiling of those two icons. And here we are now, and three women are about to break through a glass ceiling that even most elite male wrestlers don't get.
What a time to be alive.
While I like to think that I'm a feminist, as a man I'll never really know what it's really like to be in a women's position. It looks like an uphill battle with no end in sight. But if all of this work and dedication over the years for female equal opportunities leads to a main event match at WrestleMania, then I say it's one hell of a victory.
Because to me, being in the main event of WrestleMania is honestly bigger than being a President, Prime Minister or a King.
This main event at WrestleMania is not only for Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch, it's also for those who came before them like Mae Young, Miss Elizabeth, Sensational Sherri, Chyna, Trish Stratus, Lita, Beth Phoenix, AJ Lee, Paige, the real-life women of "Glow", and every women wrestler who carried the torch to get to this place.