Women’s professional wrestling has come an incredibly long way since the Attitude Era. Although the overall industry was arguably at its most popular, things weren’t looking too hot on the female side of things. That’s speaking figuratively, of course, as the one thing most of the female wrestlers of the ‘90s did have going for them was their supermodel looks. Some of those gorgeous women were even great athletes as well, but the industry simply wasn’t letting them prove it, at least not on the top level. Instead, sensationalism was on full display, and these talented superstars were forced to wrestle in swimming pools, puddles of mud, and always controversial bra-and-panties matches.
Thankfully, the WWE Universe has evolved to a point where women wrestlers are receiving almost equal screen time to the men while actually being treated like serious competitors. In order to keep up with the biggest promotion in the business, most smaller companies have done their best to follow suit. There are also dozens of female-only wrestling organizations on the indie scene doing things the WWE divas of yesteryear probably never would have thought possible. On top of it all, they still look pretty damn amazing, too.
Saying one person is better looking than another is pretty crass, not to mention entirely subjective, so there’s no point in splitting hairs about what era of wrestling literally looked better. However, viewing hotness as a sum of many factors and taking technical skills into account, there’s really no question that women’s sports entertainment today is streets ahead of what it used to be. Keep reading to see 15 modern-day female wrestlers hotter than any Attitude Era diva.
15. Brandi Rhodes
It was bad enough that Vince McMahon clearly had no idea what to do with Cody Rhodes, and it makes things that much worse to realize they may well have had the same problem with his wife, Brandi. Not too long ago, both Cody and Brandi were working for WWE, where the latter was generally relegated to roles as a ring announcer or a backstage interviewer using the name Eden Stiles. Although Brandi was perfectly acceptable in these roles, she clearly had a lot more to offer, not the least of which was her energetic smile, which deserved more air time. Flipping the usual script, Brandi and Cody have already gone on to prove they had much more to offer in TNA, where Brandi especially has vastly increased her role to highly impressive results. Given the Rhodes family history, it’s amazing WWE was able to ignore both Cody and Brandi for so long. Granted, the same thing would be true if the two were separate, as Brandi should be able to catch anyone’s eye, no matter what her name is.
14. Eva Marie
All right, let’s face it — Eva Marie wouldn’t be on this list based on wrestling talent alone, considering she infamously has almost none. Even compared to the Attitude Era divas, Eva Marie is hopeless enough in the ring that WWE has made a running joke out of it, turning constant “You Can’t Wrestle” chants directed at The Red Queen into a literal statement. Unsurprisingly, Marie’s career path was fairly similar to said divas, having joined the WWE Universe solely to star in the reality show Total Divas rather than anything related to actual wrestling acumen. Despite this negative perception, one area Eva Marie truly does excel in is generating heat and making crowds hate her, a rare skill amongst women with such naturally alluring looks. Marie also deserves at least a little credit for genuinely trying to improve her skills by accepting a demotion to NXT, something an entitled diva like Sunny or Sable never would have considered had their era made such a move necessary.
13. Becky Lynch
Through her perseverance alone, Becky Lynch endured far more than anything asked of the average WWE diva well before her career even began. Lynch started her training when she was only a teenager, learning the ropes at Fínn Balor’s wrestling school in Ireland. From there, Lynch turned into a reasonable star on the European circuit competing as Rebecca Knox, but things almost came to an early end when a potentially serious brain injury temporarily led to her retirement. Out of nowhere, Lynch decided to return to the sport at the NXT Performance Center and then WWE Universe, and wrestling fans everywhere have been appropriately thankful for it. Immediately upon her comeback, Lynch took an integral role in the burgeoning women’s revolution, from her days defining the concept in NXT to bringing it with her to the main roster on both Raw and SmackDown. No matter where Lynch goes, revolutionary wrestling is bound to follow, and what could be hotter than a professional Irish Lass Kicker?
In retrospect, it’s kind of shocking it took professional wrestling so long to create a Ravishing Russian like Lana. Then again, the world may simply have never had someone quite as perfectly suited for the role as CJ Perry, the real name of the woman behind the role. Unlike many others on this list, Lana actually entered the WWE Universe by way of acting and modeling, making her closer to the Attitude Era divas that her contemporaries have made a goal of besting in the ring. Regardless, this unspectacular background is hardly to Lana’s detriment, as her skill is in being one of the best female managers in recent history, perhaps even of all time. Luckily, WWE resisted the urge to force her into a wrestling role, letting her bombshell looks and vocal charisma take all the attention. The one downside is that her husband, Rusev, will crush anyone who stares at Lana a little too long, but wrestling fans have always been the kind of people willing to take that risk.
Whether working solo or supporting her obnoxious husband, there’s no denying Maryse always looks awesome while she does it. In a manner of speaking, she bridged the gap between the Attitude Era divas and modern-day women wrestlers, and that she literally competed between the two time frames is only a small part of this designation. More than that, Maryse got her start in the industry after getting spotted as a model while nonetheless carrying a serious passion for the industry, having been a fan for many years. She rapidly improved to a point where she could win and defend the WWE Diva’s Championship on two separate occasions, yet her true calling would eventually reveal itself as being her husband’s manager. Most fans would argue Maryse is doing the best work of her career today, and this could easily continue even as she appears to have resumed a physical role in the ring. Whether or not she keeps wrestling or sticks to the microphone, Maryse will never stop being welcome, so long as she and her husband think they’re awesome.
A dancer she isn’t, and acting like a literal supermodel might not be for her either, but acting silly and turning into a running joke haven’t done anything to make Emma less alluring. Loving wrestling from a very young age, Emma has been in the industry since she was a teenager, working for PWA Australia. She soon left the land down under for Canada, where Lance Storm trained her at his Storm Wrestling Academy. From there, Emma was prepared to take over the world of indie wrestling as Tenille Tayla, specifically making waves at Shimmer Women Athletes and Extreme Canadian Championship Wrestling. This recognition caused the WWE Universe to come calling, and Emma’s star power has continued to rise since she started working for NXT. Comedic roles and goofy characterizations haven’t been enough to stop fans from gravitating to Emma’s beauty, and in fact, her commitment to the roles is in and of itself a highly attractive quality.
Believe it or not, the best thing possible for Karlee Perez’s career was probably WWE giving her the lick of death, allowing her to head to Lucha Underground as Catrina. Granted, chances are she would have also excelled in the WWE Universe, where she got her start as Maxine while competing for NXT. Feeling that her talents were being misused, Catrina willingly left the company and almost instantly became one of the standouts in LU. Using her feminine wiles to their fullest potential, Catrina was also amongst the most powerful people in the company on a kayfabe level, justified by her magnetic looks and considerable command of the microphone. Quite frankly, Vince McMahon might not know what to do with a woman as unique as Catrina, with her ambitiously power-hungry character posing a threat to his family. When it comes to her in-ring abilities, Catrina may not be quite as compelling, but on the plus side, Lucha Underground has been able to deal with this by simply keeping her out of a wrestling role.
8. Alexa Bliss
Big things can come in little packages like with the incredibly talented and gorgeous Alexa Bliss, who stands a mere five feet tall as she dominates the WWE Universe on Raw and SmackDown. There’s a cliché that in order to be a supermodel, one has to be fairly tall, yet the homunculus blonde is definitely one of the most attractive women in wrestling history. On top of it, she’s wildly talented inside the ring, which is why WWE so quickly decided to make her the female face of SmackDown after calling her up from NXT. Literally speaking, Bliss has achieved more success based on her looks than anyone else on this list, by way of her incredible facial expressions adding immeasurable emotion to her every match and on-screen segment. On a more superficial level, she’s definitely turned plenty of heads, as well, always making sure to give onlookers plenty to enjoy in the ring while they have trouble looking away.
7. Billie Kay
Generally speaking, there haven’t been many wrestlers from Down Under to become famous in America, making Billie Kay and her fellow outbacker, Peyton Royce, fairly unique in the industry. Kay and Royce definitely beat the hell out of The Bushwhackers from a visual perspective, to say the least, and though these women have a way to go, nothing is stopping their team from becoming a female equivalent of the Fabulous Kangaroos. That Kay appears on this list and Royce won’t shouldn’t be seen as a sign one is better than the other, but rather, that there isn’t much to say about them yet, except that both look great, in and out of the ring. The Iconic Duo, as they are now known, both got their starts in Pro Wrestling Women’s Alliance, Kay making her debut earlier but Royce coming with slightly more experience as a student of Lance Storm. They’ve teamed and feuded on and off since they were called Jessie Kay and KC Cassidy, and chances are, both ladies will continue to excel in the WWE Universe, whether together or apart.
6. Alicia Fox
Why would WWE need any more divas now that they have a fox? Truth be told, Alicia Fox isn’t as renowned for her in-ring skills as some other female wrestlers of today. She isn’t hopeless, however, which at least puts her above the weakest Attitude Era ladies, like Sable or The Kat. Because the industry today is stronger, in general, Fox has more talented opponents than those women as well, making her matches more bearable through their combined efforts. Better than that, WWE is wise enough to generally keep Fox out of the ring, where her looks have somehow been enough to keep her employed almost 10 years. This beats the hell out of the average turnover rate females in WWE seem to experience and largely owes to Fox’s surprising versatility as a performer. Despite her incredible tenure with the company, Fox has earned only one major title, reigning as WWE Diva’s Champion for two months in 2010. Regardless, gold doesn’t make the woman, no matter what era it is.
When it comes to a female wrestler representing a total package, there’s no better example than the currently (as of this writing) undefeated NXT Women’s Champion, Asuka. Hailing from Osaka, Japan, the self-proclaimed Empress of Tomorrow was clearly influenced by her homeland in both her wrestling skills and exotic, scandalous ring gear. More than merely a beautiful and extremely talented grappler, Asuka has also found considerable success as a graphic designer, working with both Nintendo and Microsoft. Asuka’s career in sports entertainment appropriately started in the Land of the Rising Sun, where she performed for companies like Pro Wrestling Wave, Smash, and DDT Pro-Wrestling, amongst others using the ring name Kana. While still wrestling as Kana, she came to America and wrestled for Shimmer Women Athletes, soon enough catching the attention of WWE and getting signed to NXT. This puts Asuka way ahead of the Attitude Era divas, who rarely wrestled outside of WWE, if they trained at all. It’s been over a year and a half since Asuka made her debut, and she still remains undefeated, getting a little bit hotter each time she flashes her creepy smile at a new victim.
4. Ember Moon
Even before getting a glimpse of her bewitching eyes and unbelievably flashy moonset, NXT fans were enamored with the mysterious and enigmatic Ember Moon. From the moment she flew off the top rope with her first Eclipse, a top rope corkscrew stunner, it was clear Moon was a true innovator ready to join the cause that is increasing women’s value in pro wrestling. Prior to joining the WWE Universe, wrestling’s self-proclaimed War Goddess competed as Athena for promotions like Women Superstars Uncensored, Shimmer Women Athletes, and Anarchy Championship Wrestling. Moon’s training speaks more to the men of the Attitude Era than the women as she boasts Booker T amongst her trainers, all of whom turned her into a true superstar in and out of the ring. Considering the incredible progress she’s already made building her profile in NXT, it will likely take no time at all for Moon to become a major player in WWE when she gets called up, allowing her to burn brightly like the star she more than has the potential to become.
3. Nikki Cross
Excelling in evil looks and lacking in traditional sanity, Nikki Cross typically portrays dark, vicious characters, but she prefers to call herself “the White Chocolate Cheesecake of Sports Entertainment.” That’s what she used to say back when she was still Nikki Storm, anyway, the name she used while competing in her native Scotland and throughout the UK wrestling scene. While there, she received some training from current WWE superstar Fínn Balor, already showing signs of her impressive pedigree. Surprisingly, Cross already has one mainstream failure under her name due to her lack of success in TNA’s British Boot Camp, although there’s still plenty of time for her to make up for it. It’s probably better for her career that she wound up in the WWE Universe instead anyway, where she gets to hang with Sanity as one of the most important women of the group. It may not be on the main roster, but Sanity, in general, shows how females have become more important in wrestling, with very few examples of earlier mix-gender stables where the women held important roles.
2. Kimber Lee
Fans watching her WWE debut probably don’t even realize Kimberly Frankel had already made history before signing with the promotion, let alone that she’s a Princess. Granted, that second accolade was merely a ring name, yet one wholly deserved, considering Kimber Lee was the first woman to hold the top title in a well-known non-female wrestling promotion. To accomplish the landmark feat, she defeated Hallowicked to win the CHIKARA Grand Championship, defending the belt with pride for nearly six months. Outside of CHIKARA, Kimber Lee has also found great success in Shine and Shimmer Women Athletes, often teaming with her partner Cherry Bomb to form The Kimber Bombs, one of the greatest tag teams in women’s indie wrestling. It looks like WWE is taking a slow-burn strategy with introducing Kimber Lee to the mainstream, and only time will tell whether this causes her fame to burn out before she has a real shot, or if taking it slow will simply make her hotter.
Quite frankly, the Attitude Era divas were presented as more of “huggers,” and this personality trait was, at times, the source of their appeal. At the risk of sounding socially conservative, sometimes, a little restraint can be a good thing, especially in terms of allowing the public to recognize a woman’s wrestling skills over her dating life. Case in point would be Bayley, who won over legions of fans without ever flaunting her natural good looks. Said good looks do obviously exist, of course, but the focus has always been on Bayley’s unbridled enthusiasm and hopefulness, coupled with a wrestling ability that expertly showcases both qualities with her every move. Part of her success is thanks to training for years on the indie scene as Davina Rose prior to getting scooped up by the WWE system, teaching her the fundamentals of the sport before she was thrust into the spotlight. Now that Bayley has experienced reigns as both the NXT and Raw Women’s Champion, the industry as a whole is going in her direction as she gives proverbial hugs to female wrestlers everywhere along the way.