In the 1990s, the then-WWF began to showcase more and more female talent on its television product.
From the infancy of Sunny’s tenure, through to Sable and her sexed-up antics, the game-changing presence of Chyna, not to mention the likes of Ivory, Jacqueline, Terri, Tori and Co., plus the arrival of Trish Stratus, Lita and a new generation of women, the ‘90s was a hot bed for the WWF.
Of course, with the famed Attitude Era happening, the WWF took a far more adult turn, be it in the violence stakes, the language on show, or the more risqué, sexual nature of its performers. Not only was the bar raised, the bar was completely smashed as lines were crossed time and time again as the WWF and WCW were at each other’s throats in a ratings battle to the death. A ratings battle that WCW would famously (and spectacularly) end up on the losing end of. And while in-ring product and storylines played a huge part, so too, in a lesser way, did the WWF's resident Divas.
Some of the women featured in this article are some of the most famous and beloved women in wrestling history, and now here’s a chance to see 15 of the rarest pictures of these ‘90s women of wrestling that you’re ever likely to see.
16 Unused Photo Shoot
This picture right here is from one of the first photo shoots that Lita did during her time in the WWF/E.
Having made the move to Vince McMahon's company after a brief stint in ECW, this future Hall of Famer did what so many of the other "Divas" of the time did - partake in scantily-clad photo/promo sessions. Remember, this was a time where fans had become accustomed to such similar shoots from the likes of Sable, Terri Runnels, The Kat, and Jacqueline.
The picture shown, however, is from an early photo shoot that never actually ended up being used in the end. Still, this is the Internet, after all, and so these things tend to have a habit of making their way into the public eye eventually.
15 Sable's Playboy Shoot
When Rena "Sable" Mero posed for Playboy back in 1999, the dreams of millions of young adolescents were met.
At that point in time, Sable was the hottest female in wrestling, and it's no exaggeration to say that her popularity in the industry was only realistically matched by Stone Cold Steve Austin.
This image here is from said Playboy shoot, with a cameraman on hand to capture some video footage to be used at a later date if needed.
Of course, while many made goo-goo eyes at Sable back then, it may not be quite as wise an idea to be doing that these days. After all, Rena Mero is nowadays known as Rena Lesnar - as in the wife of Brock Lesnar.
14 The Business Look
Many know Terri Runnels as the glamorous WWF superstar of the late 1990s who seemed averse to wearing a bra. Before that Terri, and before even her stint as the freaky Marlena, this buxom performer was making a name for herself over in WCW in a role that was far, far different to what she'd become famous for in the Attitude Era.
As Alexandra York, Terri headed up the villainous York Foundation stable that featured Terrance Taylor, Richard Morton, Michael Wallstreet, Thomas Rich, and Mr. Hughes over its shelf length.
In this role, she was portrayed as a strict, thorough, well-versed business sort who was often ahead of the game in order to help get the ever-important W for her clients.
Of course, by the time she arrived in the WWF, the wrestling business was undergo a sexed-up change of attitude, and thus wrestling fans got to see Terri in a whole new light.
13 Kandid Kat
Stacy Carter, aka The Kat, wasn't in the wrestling business for all that long, but she certainly left an impression during her time in the spotlight.
Debuting in the WWF in 1999, Carter would be gone from the company by 2001, and then there would only be a few sporadic independent appearances to follow before she took up a career in real estate.
When she entered the WWF, Carter was in a relationship with Jerry "The King" Lawler, and the pair were married from 2000 to 2001. The above images show Miss Kitty at her most candid, and highlight why she caught the eye of Lawler.
Following that, Carter was married to another wrestler, Sinn Bodhi, who some may remember for his uber-brief stint in the WWE as Kizarny, from 2010 to 2013.
12 Trish And Owen
To this day, many a wrestling fan and those involved directly in the business miss Owen Hart. Whether it was as The Rocket, The King of Harts, The Black Hart, or even The Blue Blazer, Owen was always entertaining and never less than excellent between the ropes.
In an extremely rare photo, here we get to see Owen stopping for a quick photograph with none other than Trish Stratus. At that point, Trish was still mainly doing fitness modelling work and had yet to sign with the WWF.
Of course, Owen would tragically pass away at the 1999 Over The Edge PPV. Stratus would debut with the company 6 months after the tragedy, and she'd eventually go on to be revered as one of the greatest female performers the wrestling industry has ever seen.
10 Pals With The Boss
The sad demise of Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna, was a tragedy to see unravel. And even more uncomfortable, so much of Joanie's troubles took place in the public eye and over social media.
Here, though, is a rare photo from a happier time for this former Intercontinental Champion. Despite how her relationship broke down with Vince McMahon, here we see a Chyna clearly having some fun with her boss.
Now while Laurer may not be revolutionary in how she changed the in-ring depiction of female wrestlers, she is most definitely a game-changer when it comes to female performers being put on a par with their male counterparts - as shown by her many battles against male superstars over the years.
9 Inspiring Future Generations
That's just Lita casually signing an autograph for an avid fan, right? Wait, but who's that? Yes, that is indeed a young AJ Lee who's openly sobbing at meeting her hero.
Granted, this picture is actually from 2001 rather than the '90s, but we're all friends here, so I'm sure you can let that slide purely for how remarkable the image is. In fact, there's also video footage of this meeting in which you can see how intensely touched and emotional AJ is at meeting Lita.
It's pictures like this that make you realise just how important and influential women like Lita really were, for by being a role model to this youngster it had inspired a young girl to work her tail off and become a future WWE superstar and Divas Champion herself.
When Chyna first appeared in the then-WWF back in 1997, the wrestling world had never seen anything like her. A physical specimen who was far more intimidating and imposing than the majority of the male roster at that point in time, Joanie Laurer had arrived in a huge way.
Of course, her early WWF days saw her positioned as a bodyguard-cum-enforcer for Triple H and then the initial incarnation of D-Generation X alongside Hunter, Shawn Michaels, and briefly Rick Rude.
In this rare black and white shot, we can see Joanie enjoying one her early WWF days alongside two of her biggest supporters at that point in time - it was actually Shawn and Hunter who helped get Laurer hired by the company!
7 Jacqueline Moore, Taekwondo Master
It's safe to say, out of all of the women's wrestlers around in the 1990s, there was none more legit tough than Jacqueline Moore. Whether it was the WWF, WCW, USWA, or SMW, this Dallas native was one tough cookie.
In these rare photos here, Jackie took part in a rather bizarre Taekwondo photo shoot.
Now this may not have been quite as glamorous or revealing as some of the more sexy and seductive photo shoots that other female grapplers of the day were regularly partaking in, but Jackie was a different kind of performer.
While she did indeed take part in some more glamorous shoots at times, Jackie was largely seen as the badass of the female roster, and so seeing her getting ready to crack some skulls seems like a far better suited photo session.
6 Bath Time
Given how Matt and Lita were a real-life item for such a long time, it's no real shock that such pictures exist. It is, though, a little surprising that they've made their way into the public eye. But again, they have because... well, because of the Internet.
Both Matt and Lita have moved on with their lives by now, with Lita having been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and Matt doing some of the best work of his career in TNA whilst also having married Reby Sky and become the father to King Maxel.
5 Extreme Proposal
Way before there was Matt Hardy, Kane, or Edge, the first real on-screen romance angle for Lita was back in her ECW days.
As Miss Congeniality back then, Lita found herself being proposed to in the ring at the Heat Wave 1999 show. She was managing Danny Doring and Roadkill at the time, and it was Doring who got down on one knee.
Unfortunately, before the whole angle could really go anywhere, Amy Dumas left ECW and the Miss Congeniality moniker behind and headed to the WWF to become Lita.
It's often cited that Doring was one of the people who helped further Amy's training, and certain quarters even suggest they were dating at one point, although there's never been any firm confirmation of that from either party.
4 Team Xtreme-ly Happy
Bad pun aside, just look at the big grin on the faces of Matt Hardy and Lita there. Aw, the joys of young love.
And then there's Jeff... err, simply being Jeff, likely thinking of bizarre paintings, obscure musical lyrics, and just when he'll have the chance to debut his bonkers Willow character on international TV. But nobody would ever let something as stupid as Willow make it to television, right? Oh, wait, TNA. Oh well.
Anyway, here we have an Xtreme-ly rare shot of Team Extreme enjoying some relaxation time, soaring through the airs and just have what looks like an all-round awesome time.
At this point in time, Lita was enjoying her first real taste of huge superstardom, with her rivalling the popularity of the Hardy Boyz with whom she was perfectly partnered.
3 Sunny Days
To be fair, it's kind of hard these days to search for pictures of Tammy "Sunny" Sytch without getting something X-rated and that would be totally inappropriate to post here. But, y'know, if you've ever really, really, really wanted to see far too much of Sunny, Google is your friend.
Over the decades, many wrestlers have spoken of how Sunny was in a longstanding on-off relationship with Shawn Michaels all while she was still in a "proper" relationship with poor Chris Candido. Depending on what day of the week you catch her on or what online ramblings she's spewing out that particular week, Sytch has both confirmed this to be true and also vehemently denied it ever happened.
In this rare photo, we see one plucky fan sat to a clearly hazy Heartbreak Kid with a smiling Sunny perched on his lap. And where's Chris Candido at this point? Likely in his hotel room while the love of his life made her way through the locker room.
2 Sherri And The Deadman
It's been exceptionally rare to see The Undertaker breaking character in even the slightest of ways over the past several decades, but here we get to see The Deadman letting his guard down.
Not only is 'Taker letting his guard down, but here we see The Phenom partaking in a rare shot with the legendary Sensational Sherri. Judging from the outfits involved and the time that both were in the same company, it's likely that this is early 1993 just before Sherri departed the WWF.
While The Undertaker isn't known for cracking huge smiles and jumping around in excitement, the small hint of a brooding smirk on show is a totally rare sight and shows his fondness for Sherri Martel.
1 Stratusfaction Guaranteed
Trish Stratus. Lingerie issue.
That brief selection of words is enough to get the blood pumping of many an adult who grew up in the Attitude Era and its immediate aftermath.
Many wrestling fans are aware that Trish was a fitness model before she signed for the WWF, but it's rare that you actually get to see her pre-wrestling work. Luckily, an issue of Musclemag from June 1998 has somehow made its way online, and yes, you guessed it, that particularly issue is a lingerie special that just so happens to feature none other than future WWE Hall of Famer, Trish Stratus.
Looking at this photo shoot, it's not easy to see why Trish would grab the eye of Vince McMahon and the WWF higher-ups. And just over a year after this magazine hit newsstands, the feisty Canadian would be signed up by Vinny Mac.
Sources: www.wikipedia.org; www.wwe.com