In spite of a revolution trying desperately to negate the perception, decades of wrestling history have conditioned fans to believe women in the business are primarily there to serve as eye candy. Though hard the work and dedication of a select few vanguard superstars is doing well to right that wrong, unfortunately, certain high-powered wrestling fans seem to believe the old way is still the only way. Chief amongst them is WWE CEO Vince McMahon, who to this day seems to base at least half of his hiring practices on first impressions alone, specifically whether or not he’s impressed with how his potential employees look.
This doesn’t mean there are no talented female wrestlers, however, even within the ranks of McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment. In fact, nowadays, there are more talented female wrestlers on the roster than there are untrained models, which at one point was virtually the only type of woman WWE would even consider hiring. Especially thanks to NXT, the number of talented female wrestlers in the WWE Universe will likely continue to exponentially expand into the future, but chances are as long as Vince is in charge, a handful of gorgeous women with no wrestling skill whatever will keep rising to the top, as well.
In an ideal world, the WWE Performance Center will reach a point where they can mold even the least talented young diva into a bona fide WWE superstar. We’re not quite there yet, though, so for now we’re stuck with a 50/50 chance every woman in WWE will be a fantastic wrestler or a complete dud. For insight into the which side of the spectrum the women in the company today fall into, keep reading to discover 8 female WWE superstars hired only for their looks and 8 who can actually wrestle.
16. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Alexa Bliss
In fairness to Alexa Bliss and several others on this half of the list, she isn’t here for lack of trying. Bliss has been rapidly improving over the past three years in NXT, and yet it still feels as though she isn’t ready to hold the SmackDown Women’s Championship she won at TLC 2016. Alexa was a cheerleader and competitive bodybuilder for most of her life prior to signing with NXT in 2013, gradually transitioning from a role as Blake and Murphy’s manager into her own standout career as a solo wrestler. The truth is, though, Bliss hasn’t proven to be as naturally adept at wrestling as some of her contemporaries the other half of this list will cover as it continues. What Bliss does have in her favor is her looks, and we mean this in more ways than one. In addition to her natural beauty, Bliss has a great skill at speaking volumes with her eyes alone, able to show a range of emotion with a wink of her brow. Should she continue to show off her acting skills while gradually improving in the ring, there’s a good chance Bliss will end up on the other half of this list before long.
15. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Paige
One of the key factors separating the talent female wrestlers from the supermodel divas of WWE yesteryear is actual experience in the ring. In this regard, WWE has rarely had women quite as well prepared to enter the squared circle as Paige, the only woman to concurrently hold championships in NXT and WWE. Paige’s advantage is her heritage, and the fact both of her parents were also wrestlers. Ricky Knight and Sweet Saraya had in ways been training Paige to wrestle since she was as young as 10, heading to the WWE Universe shortly after turning 18. She quickly stood out in FCW and then NXT, followed by her bombastic entrance to the main WWE roster in 2014, winning the Divas Championship in her first match. Paige has recently been making headlines more for her tumultuous personal life and multiple violations of the WWE Wellness Policy than for her abilities in the ring, but that doesn’t mean her talent has in any way diminished. Paige remains one of the best in-ring female talents in wrestling, and so long as she can keep her act together, she’ll be back to proving it in no time.
14. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Tamina
In professional wrestling, there’s more than one look that can get a woman hired, case in point being Tamina Snuka, one of WWE’s resident oversized female monsters. While her family names hurts more than it helps these days, Tamina is still unique in a positive way for her impressive frame compared to the average female wrestler. Making it clear she’s only kept around because of her size, Tamina has primarily been performing in enforcer style roles for the past few years, most notably as AJ Lee’s bodyguard and then as the muscle for Team B.A.D. The flipside of Tamina’s height advantage over the other females in the company is that none of them have been able to work with her in an entertaining or believable way, leaving Tamina a footnote of the division when her protective services aren’t in vogue. Controversial though it is, her family name and connections within the industry will likely keep her employed despite her lack of in-ring talent.
12. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Nikki Cross
Although she’s relatively new to the WWE Universe, Nikki Cross has already proven herself to the wrestling world in her native UK as a force to be reckoned with. Wrestling for companies like Insane Championship Wrestling and Pro-Wrestling: EVE as Nikki Storm, she mostly stood out due to her intense storylines and skills on the microphone. Cross is no slouch in the ring, either, though, which is why she was in demand with American promotions like Shine, Shimmer and Women Superstars Unleashed before WWE started to take notice in 2016. She started receiving additional training at the WWE Performance Center in April and recently made her NXT debut, already standing out as one of the top females in the brand as a member of SAnitY. Prior to her time in WWE, Cross had already received training from future WWE Universal Champion Finn Bálor, a superstar whose success she surely hopes to match now that she is following in his footsteps.
12. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Emma
Perhaps WWE simply hasn’t let Emma shine as a wrestler in the roles they’ve given her, because she definitely isn’t without training as an in-ring performer. She’s been wrestling with her family from a young age, participating in the Australian promotion PWA Australia when she was just a teenager, later moving to Canada to continue her education in wrestling under Lance Storm. Emma made her way towards the WWE Universe in 2011, finally receiving much needed shoulder surgery in anticipation of her debut in August of 2012. She wrestled for NXT for the better part of two years, moving up to the WWE main roster in 2014 and gaining fame for her gimmick as a goofy, clumsy dancer. Emma herself acknowledged she needed more training by returning to NXT after getting called up to the main roster, but she didn’t seem to improve much when she made her main roster return in early 2016. Recently, Emma has attempted to rebrand herself as Emmalina, with increasingly delayed vignettes promising she may have gained some wrestling acumen at long last, though this remains to be seen.
11. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Natalya
Given her family history, it should be no surprise that Natalya Neidhart is one of the most technically proficient females in WWE. Her father Jim Neidhart was one half of The Hart Foundation with uncle Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and other notable uncles Ross and Bruce Hart started her training at the infamous Hart Family Dungeon. After stints in the Hart family promotion Stampede Wrestling and a few other territorial companies in Canada, Natalya made her WWE main roster debut in 2008. Emulating her legendary family, Natalya has always utilized a far more mat-based technical style than the other females in WWE, and yet it has only brought her championship success on one occasion. Natalya has also been forced to suffer one of the worst and most embarrassing gimmicks ever thrust upon a WWE superstar, where her alleged flatulence started costing her matches. There’s no logical explanation for why WWE chose to misuse Natalya on the level they do, but it hasn’t stopped her from excelling in the ring whenever given the chance in spite of the company’s confusing whims.
10. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: JoJo
In a manner of speaking, it isn’t fair to include JoJo on this list, because her job isn’t to wrestle in the first place. However, the point is that she’s not a particularly good ring announcer, either, and many fans have voiced the opinion she was only hired for her good looks and because of who her father is. JoJo is the daughter of former MLB player José Offerman, who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers for five seasons in the early ‘90s. JoJo is also a singer, having performed the music for Tons of Funk along with the Funkadactyls. While competent enough on vocals, JoJo’s disposition is too cheery for a ring announcer, and her poker face is nonexistent whenever utilized as a backstage interviewer. She looks like an overexcited fan rather than an interested reporter, which to be fair might be the point. Nonetheless, some wrestling traditionalists feel JoJo and recent hires in her ilk are more damning to WWE’s views on women than the in-ring performers who aren’t quite up to snuff.
9. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Asuka
While many of the women in WWE today got there by idolizing Lita or Trish Stratus, Asuka’s interest in wrestling began as a fan of Keiji Mutoh, Tiger Mask, Akira Maeda, and Antonio Inoki. Wearing her influences on her sleeves, Asuka has one of the most unique and hardest hitting move sets of any female in wrestling today, a lesson harshly learned by the challengers to her NXT Women’s Championship. Asuka honed her skills in her native Japan from 2004-2011, wrestling for promotions like AtoZ, Zero-One, and Smash. She made her American debut for Shimmer Women Athletes, later appearing in the WWE Universe in late 2015. She almost immediately proved herself as a class above the other females in NXT, where she is poised to dominate for some time. Asuka’s skills in the ring are of such a high caliber that wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer has described her as “maybe the best worker in WWE, man or woman.” While this is merely the opinion of one person, it nonetheless happens to be one shared by many fans in the WWE Universe.
8. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Carmella
Despite the fact she grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, Carmella was no stranger to flashing bright lights when she made her NXT debut in late 2014. Prior to deciding to become a wrestler, Carmella had already been a cheerleader for the New England Patriots, and when that wasn’t high profile enough for her, she also spent two years as an LA Laker Girl. Carmella fast became one of the most high profile women in NXT thanks to her association with Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady, who she managed before they were called up to the main roster. While Carmella was a decent addition to their comedy team, she repeatedly proved unable to stand on her own whenever wrestling in solo matches. For whatever reason, WWE chose to split Carmella from Enzo and Cass entirely upon her call up to the main roster, and she’s more or less been unable to recover. Putting Carmella in a high profile feud with Nikki Bella only further exposed her as being one of the weaker workers in the division, but we’ll get to Nikki’s problems as the list goes on.
7. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Bayley
NXT has produced hits and misses like any other developmental territory, but wrestlers like Bayley make it clear the brand is fully capable of making a huge star when the right talent comes along. Bayley wasn’t an entirely blank slate when she joined NXT, having a few years of experience at smaller companies like Big Time Wrestling, Championship Wrestling from Hollywood, Shine, and Shimmer. The bright eyed and optimistic hugger Bayley made her NXT debut in mid-2013, and has been rapidly improving into one of the most assured and confident performers in WWE today from then on. Though Bayley has struggled somewhat since getting called up to the main WWE roster, her time in NXT was filled with landmark moments in women’s wrestling, many of which were based entirely around her reign as NXT Women’s Champion. Bayley’s strengths as a wrestler lead to the first ever Iron Woman Match in WWE history, also the first time a women’s match headlined a WWE Network special event. Her opponent also played a big role in this, and thus we’ll cover Sasha Banks’ contributions soon enough.
6. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Dana Brooke
It isn’t fair to assume anyone with a past as a bodybuilder used that fact during his or her job interview with Vince McMahon, but it almost definitely helps to hold an International Federation of BodyBuilding & Fitness pro card like the one Dana Brooke earned in 2012. That she’s also gorgeous doesn’t hurt, either, even despite the fact she’s one of the weakest in-ring performers in WWE today. Brooke has coasted on her blonde locks and relative physical strength to her contemporaries, but it hasn’t been enough to disguise the fact she drags down every match she’s involved in. Her association with Charlotte Flair has been highly criticized for not adding much to the proceedings, and her feud against Bayley was so uninteresting that it nearly destroyed any momentum Bayley had from her sterling tenure in NXT. In fairness to Brooke, it isn’t entirely her fault that she’s no good in the ring, as she simply doesn’t have the same level of experience as most opponents of late. Her NXT debut was in fact her general debut in wrestling as well, leaving her with less than two years to learn how to act like a superstar.
5. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Charlotte
Brother David notwithstanding, Charlotte’s last name alone should have been a sign she was predestined to become a great wrestler. While her father’s career in the ring was slowing down, Charlotte was a standout high school sports star, particularly in volleyball. She briefly worked as personal trainer before signing a WWE developmental contract in 2012, making her NXT debut the next year. With only a few months in the wrestling industry under her belt, Charlotte won an eight-woman tournament in May of 2014 to become the second-ever NXT Women’s Champion, further setting the tone for women’s wrestling in America as she defended the title over the next nine months. Charlotte ultimately lost the championship to Sasha Banks at NXT TakeOver: Rival in a fatal four-way match also involving Bayley and Becky Lynch, a group that exemplifies the peak of what women’s wrestling can be. Charlotte has since continued proving she was arguably the most successful of her friends in The Four Horsewomen by reviving the WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32, thus far holding that belt three times.
4. HIRED FOR HER LOOKS: Eva Marie
Simply appearing on the reality series Total Divas doesn’t mean that a woman was hired only for her looks, but in the case of Eva Marie, it’s a pretty damning fact. The issue at hand was that Eva was announced as a cast member on Total Divas before she ever wrestled a match, having been one of the last females hired by WWE almost exclusively based on her merits as a model. That isn’t to say Eva Marie isn’t trying, because a later stint in NXT would acknowledge she’s aware of her reputation as a bad wrestler, possibly even trying to improve. Unfortunately, she hasn’t, at least not yet, although WWE is apparently still aware of it. Eva Marie’s role in the company at this point is essentially to troll the audience, using the fact she’s a bad wrestler to get her booed. This tactic has been tried before, and although it works in the short run, the ultimate result is that Eva will forever be marred with her negative reputation, even if she one day improbably becomes a better wrestler than any of the women on the other half of this list.
3. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Becky Lynch
Since she was only a teenager, Becky Lynch has wanted nothing else than to be a pro wrestler, a fact she proved by starting her training with Finn Bálor when she was 15. By the time she turned 18, Lynch was ready to compete for a variety of European promotions, usually under the name Rebecca Knox. Less than a year later, not even in her 20’s, Lynch received a career threatening injury that took her away from wrestling for the better part of five years. She returned to managing in 2011, and finally felt ready to return to the ring in late 2013 after signing a developmental contract with WWE to compete in NXT. Despite her many years away from the ring, Lynch showed no signs of ring rust whatsoever upon her return, immediately ingratiating herself into the ongoing women’s wrestling revolution in matches against Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Charlotte. Lynch was called up to the main roster with Banks and Charlotte in the summer of 2015, and has since become the key figure in SmackDown’s burgeoning women’s division.
2. HIRED FOR (T)HE(I)R LOOKS: The Bella Twins
As the ad execs at Doublemint etched into the public consciousness, double the pleasure, double the fun. Considering they star in multiple reality shows, Brie and Nikki Bella fit the textbook definition of people who simply want to be famous and will do anything to achieve that status. After trying for years to become actresses and/or models, the twins settled on pro wrestling when they competed in the 2006 WWE Diva Search. Although they didn’t win, they were signed to developmental deals with Florida Championship Wrestling, learning a few marginally smoke and mirrors techniques like Twin Magic to cover the fact they’ve never been particularly adept in the ring. High profile relationships with John Cena and Daniel Bryan made their appearances on Total Divas and the upcoming Total Bellas significantly more popular than most women’s wrestling matches until very recently, helping both sisters to reigns as WWE Divas Champion. Chances are, the twins will continue to hold top roles in the company regardless of their skillset and increased emphasis on wrestling because their outside fame, as well.
1. CAN ACTUALLY WRESTLE: Sasha Banks
Idolizing Eddie Guerrero before she was a teenager, Sasha Banks wouldn’t be content if she merely became one of the best female wrestlers in WWE. From the beginning, her goal was to be one of the best wrestlers in the world male or female, a status The Boss has slowly been doing her best to deserve by enhancing the prominence of women’s wrestling in WWE to the point where the distinction soon might not even need to be pointed out. Banks spent several years training and working for Chaotic Wrestling and New England Championship Wrestling prior to signing with WWE in 2012, at which point she slowly but surely became one of the most bombastic and exciting performers in NXT. She continued growing and mastering the art of wrestling when she was called up to the main roster of WWE, revolutionizing wrestling as promised by participating in the first ever women’s match to main event a WWE Pay-Per-View at Hell in a Cell 2016. Though Banks lost that match, she since regained the WWE Women’s Championship from Charlotte, in yet another match that exhibited the highest heights possible in women’s wrestling. If these matches are any indication, Sasha, Charlotte, and whoever else gets to compete against them will most likely continue showing the rest of the women in wrestling what the sport should look like for a long time to come.