2008 is now long gone, and a new year has begun. The WWE said goodbye to a few Divas, and said hello to some as well. 2008 also saw the creation of a brand new title for the Divas to compete for. Before the end of the year, one Diva returned and another was crowned a champion. The Divas roster seems to be on the upswing, and even, as far as I'm concerned, beating their competition in the TNA Knockouts, who've resorted to copying the old WWE pattern of meaningless tag matches with no direction. What can 2009 bring to these girls? Here's what it can be:
Melina returned from a near-six-month-long injury sabbatical in solid fashion, and is now the No. 1 contender for Beth Phoenix's Women's Championship, to be contested at the Royal Rumble. Although many expect Melina to win, I don't. The introduction of Rosa Mendes (Diva Search-reject) and developmental Diva Milena Roucka tells me interference is more than likely. I foresee Beth and Melina meeting once more at Wrestlemania 25, with Melina pulling off the win. Melina is the most logical choice to become the new top face on RAW, and give Mickie James a much-deserved rest from the top spot.
Although the Mendes fan angle—most closely associated with Mickie and Trish Stratus—is played out, it's at least an interesting one. My concern with it is when Rosa actually steps into the ring. I've seen Roucka wrestle, and I'm definitely not impressed. Hopefully Roucka is getting some training from Beth. Thanks to this gimmick with Santino, Beth has a new side to her and is much more interesting to fans. She will continue to be the top heel, and I don't think she can have a bad year or a bad feud.
As for WWE's most popular Diva, I think the beginning of the year will see less of Mickie. She practically carried 2008 on her shoulders, and she will get a much needed rejuvenation. Like Candice Michelle, I don't think Mickie will wrestle much longer, and the end of this year will tell us that.
2009 can also be a good year for the continued growth of Kelly Kelly. I feel she's still too green, but is much improved being on RAW rather than ECW, where the only other Diva to wrestle was an equally-green Layla. Kelly will continue to build her character as well as improve her wrestling skills and eventually, by the end of the year, she will put herself in line for a title shot.
This will also most likely be the year for Candice Michelle, a final step-up if she is to have any future endeavors. Her returns this year were both disasters; the first resulting in injury and the second in botched moves and timid wrestling. She was unable to re-capture the fans' interest and has fallen to last in line on the faces roster.
I would hope Jillian would get a big push now being the only actively-wrestling heel Diva next to Beth, but I won't hold my breath. Layla is good in her spot as a heel manager and I hope she gets involved in Regal's matches. She is an alright wrestler, when allowed, but seems to be more effective as a valet/manager. With the heels, I definitely see a draft selection coming, and I for one think Natalya will be switching shows.
SD! enters the new year with a new Divas Champion in Maryse. As I said in a previous article, I believe her to be the Diva roster's hidden gem. Although her wrestling skills won't really impress anyone, her mannerisms and charisma in the ring more than make up for it. I do believe her to be a transitional champion with Gail Kim coming, but the two can definitely put on a solid feud, and I think 2009 will continue to see Maryse rise to the level of a top diva.
Speaking of Gail Kim, the best option for her upon her return is Smackdown!, as the program needs a capable top face Diva to fight Maryse and Michelle McCool. Gail's presence can do wonders for the show, especially in helping develop the Bellas in wrestling and with the fans, as she did so well in helping develop the TNA Knockouts.
Judging by the status of the Knockouts now, Kim's existence in the TNA locker room is definitely missed. Either by WM25 or sometime soon after, she will be Divas champion and pull the Triple Crown of being the only woman to be Women's, Knockout's, and Diva's Champion. Feuding with both Maryse and Michelle will do wonders for both in terms of their status with fans as heels as well as their in-ring skills. Gail can give Maryse a tough veteran to face and put on good matches. With Michelle, she can bring her much needed charisma and personality and earn the fans' ire.
I'm in the middle of the road when it comes to Maria and The Bellas. Although Maria is definitely popular, so was Ashley, and they both are about equal in wrestling abilities. Maria needs to step up her game in-ring. This feud with Michelle is good for her in terms of character development, but McCool can't carry her in a solo match. The Bellas very much need some charisma and character development.
Although the intrigue and interest was there with The Bellas' twins factor, they're now generic divas, who, to escape from losing, switch places. It's a bit heelish, and I think one of them will turn against the other; most likely Nikki since she's the one who gets all the pins. Eventually they will have to have solo matches and/or lose some tag matches. Continually beating Victoria and Natalya in tag matches has gotten very old very quick.
The new year also brought us a new Michelle McCool. I like this heel turn and think it comes off much more naturally than her being a face. She definitely needs to work on mic skills, as the best heels are great on the mic; i.e. Jericho, Orton, The Rock, Austin.
My concern is that her domination of the SD! roster will not change. I hope Gail's return will give her a back-and-forth win/loss record, as well as putting over one of the new girls—either one of The Bella Twins or a new diva. Hopefully for her, this heel turn will get the fans interested, as they weren't when she was a face.
This is most likely Victoria's final year. If she is not champion or in contention to be champion by summer's end, she won't ever be. I believe she deserves a much-needed final run and quite frankly, one more psycho in-ring snap like she did so greatly on RAW in the bikini match. This woman has done everything asked of her and should be rewarded with holding a title one more time.
Like I said for RAW, I think Natalya will be making a roster switch. With The Legacy rising, she's an obvious selection. Also, now that McCool has made a heel turn, Natalya would be much better served on RAW, especially going up against the solid stable of faces they have and now that they are short one heel on their roster.
Katie Lea made a roster change with the new year. I'm saddened that the WWE dropped her development so soon after debuting and getting a title shot against Mickie. Like Natalya, I don't think the WWE really knows what to do with legitimate women wrestlers, with the exception of Beth Phoenix, who herself was quite stale in her first title run. This however, could be good. Lea has a much more seemingly vicious way about her, and is great on the mic. I think the Land of the Extreme can be good for her to shine. Thanks to the talent exchange, she can continue to showcase her talents on RAW.
It seems ECW is also becoming the place for developmental Divas, shown by Tiffany and Alicia Fox. Fox, from what I've seen, is good in the ring, and against someone with great talent like Katie, can put on a good feud. Tiffany is expendable and replaceable for me, as was Lena Yada. I see Angela Fong being called up, and she is also a good wrestler. This could be the year the developmental Divas rise and give the other girls a run for their money, and ECW is a good place for them as opposed to overpopulating RAW and SD!.