Welcome back to Diva Debate.
This week has been an eventful one for women's wrestling in WWE. A decorated former Diva Search winner made her final appearance for the company while an NXT standout captured her first championship. Another woman indicated that she greatly misses the title that, at one time, was hers.
In TNA, the pigeons were let loose as a Beautiful Person earned her first shot at the Knockouts Championship since her return while officiating controversy may have sparked a new rivalry.
Also, the votes were cast and the winners declared. The third round of the Greatest Diva Ever tournament kicks off today.
All of this plus much more awaits you inside.
In last week's Diva Debate, it was indicated that an item regarding AJ Lee's recent heel turn would be covered in this week's article. Due to the late-breaking coverage of Eve Torres' departure from World Wrestling Entertainment, that topic will be saved until next week's Diva Debate No. 10.
I apologize for any inconvenience or disappointment.
On Monday night’s Raw, Divas Champion Eve Torres dropped the title to Kaitlyn, in a match that may very well go down as one of the finest in her nearly six-year career.
Unfortunately, it may also go down as the final match of said career.
The winner of the 2007 Diva Search competition, Eve had enjoyed the greatest success of her career in 2012. Beginning the year as the girlfriend of Zack Ryder, she underwent a challenging transition from babyface to heel and, in the process, turned in her finest performances.
As the manipulative, vindictive Jezebel, she stopped at nothing to better her position within the company, jockeying for the position of assistant to then-GM John Laurinaitis. As an onscreen authority figure, Eve enjoyed the greatest exposure of her career, appearing weekly on Raw and SmackDown.
In the ring, she improved and evolved into the most complete female performer on the roster. She was a tremendous heel who could use body and facial expressions to help get herself over with the audience. She also seemed to thrive as a worker in her new role, appearing more comfortable as a heel who controlled the match than as a babyface who fought from underneath.
The most important attribute Eve contributed in her final year with the company was her ability to carry a storyline. For the first time in quite awhile, the creative team gave the Divas a program to work, rather than having them wrestle a series of matches. Eve was a major part of the story’s success. Her feud with Kaitlyn dominated the Divas Championship scene and gave the audience a reason to care about the women competing over the title.
At Night of Champions, Kaitlyn was attacked prior to her title match with Layla. This allowed Eve to slide into her spot and capture the title. In the weeks that followed, Kaitlyn searched for the woman guilty of attacking her, eventually revealing that Eve had put Aksana up to the task so that she, herself, could benefit.
This set in motion a feud over the strap that would last nearly four months, culminating in a title match on the 20th anniversary edition of Monday Night Raw.
In her final match as champion, Eve left fans with something to remember her by: a title match between two women whose work with each other in the months prior prepared them to deliver when given the opportunity and time.
Kaitlyn took the title from Eve in a match that featured several near-falls and a hot crowd that bought into those same near-falls and exploded when the challenger caught the champion with the Spear for the win.
The Divas division has suffered its fair share of losses in 2012 and early-2013, but the loss of Eve may prove to be the most significant.
Whereas Beth Phoenix was a tremendous in-ring worker, and the Bella Twins and Kelly Kelly were beautiful women who were passable workers, at best, Eve was a combination of beauty and ability.
As of press time, it remains to be seen if there is a woman currently on the roster that can talk, work and portray their character the way the former Divas Champion did.
Have a favorite Eve moment? Let your fellow Bleacher Report readers know in the comment section.
No Way Out 2001 featured a showdown between Trish Stratus and Stephanie McMahon that absolutely caught an entire fanbase off guard in terms of its quality.
For two women with little or no wrestling experience, they tore the proverbial house down, and would have stolen the show were it not for epic clashes featuring Steve Austin taking on Triple H and The Rock challenging Kurt Angle for the WWE Championship.
The match was not built through a series of matches. In fact, No Way Out was the first time the two women met in a one-on-one contest. Instead, the rivalry was built exclusively out of the ring, through a story involving Vince McMahon and his unfaithfulness to his wife.
Trish was the gold-digging blond that had set her sights on the owner of the then-World Wrestling Federation. Stephanie was the protective daughter who recognized Trish’s manipulative maneuvers and would stop at nothing to prevent her from getting her claws into her father.
The rivalry featured a number of cat-fights and attempts by each woman to humiliate the other. It was one of the more personal rivalries heading into the No Way Out event and the result was a heated match that proved the two women were extremely talented entertainers.
Today’s Diva roster is one of limited experience. Natalya has the most in-ring experience, competing all over the globe since 2003. Layla and Rosa Mendes have been employed by World Wrestling Entertainment since competing in the 2006 Diva Search. Alicia Fox has appeared since 2008. Kaitlyn, AJ Lee, Aksana and AJ Lee made their debuts in 2010 as contestants in the female-only NXT Season 3.
The point is that the majority of today’s talent has less than five years total of in-ring experience.
So why should the company attempt to build rivalries based on a series of matches when they can build to a single match by crafting quality, entertaining storylines featuring their female performers?
While the program between Kaitlyn and former Divas Champion Eve Torres was mainly built through in-ring competition, the fact that they had an external story surrounding them helped the audience buy into their work between the ropes, as was never more evident than in the final bout between the two on Monday’s Raw.
In recent years, Vickie Guerrero, Eve and AJ have all proven to be more than competent when it comes to performing on the microphone. Both of the latter women enjoyed their greatest exposure as on-air talent, because they showed that they could carry a storyline on their own, without a male crutch to lean on.
With so many of the Divas proving to be strong representation for the company in its various charitable events, there is reason to believe they could succeed in building a rivalry fans would be interested in and, eventually, want to see blown off in a high-profile pay-per-view match.
Building a rivalry of this type would result in less televised in-ring action but, at the same time it would give the Divas more airtime to develop characters and connect with the live and viewing audiences.
It is highly unlikely the company would ever revisit the booking style they proved could be highly successful with the Trish Stratus-Stephanie McMahon match from 12 years ago. Instead, they would rather throw two Divas out to have a forgettable three-minute match on Monday Night Raw, hoping that the audience will react in even the slightest way.
Shortened television matches are something male performers, most of whom have their own individual clusters of fans, can overcome. For a roster in such transition as the current Divas roster is, utilizing a tried-and-true booking method could go a long way in ensuring that they maximize their potential and enjoy as much success as possible.
On Monday’s Raw, Kaitlyn finally defeated Eve Torres to win the first of what may very well be multiple Divas Championships.
The match was perfectly booked, as the two women teased several spots that call back into memory their bouts of the past, including a spot that played a key role in the finish of the bout.
Outside the ring, Eve tossed Kaitlyn into the timekeeping area and hightailed it back into the squared circle. Confident she could retain her title via count-out, Eve was ignorant to the fact that the challenger had snuck back into the ring and now had her in her sights.
As the champion turned around, she was stunned by a massive, high-impact spear by Kaitlyn. Three seconds later, and the Houston native had captured her first championship in World Wrestling Entertainment.
It was a triumphant moment for the winner of NXT Season Three and a fitting match with which to have Eve to exit the company.
Thursday on Impact Wrestling, Velvet Sky was faced with the task of defending a Knockouts Championship match against Gail Kim, whom she had defeated at Sunday’s Genesis pay-per-view.
An officiating botch by referee Taryn Terrell, however, created doubt that Gail had truly lost the No. 1 Contender’s Gauntlet match. They set out to clear up any doubt on Thursday’s broadcast.
Gail was her typically great self, holding the match together on a night where Velvet was not at her best. Nevertheless, both Knockouts put together a solid match. Eventually, Sky was able to execute the “In Your Face” finisher and pick up the decisive victory.
The match sets the stage for a Velvet-vs.-Tara championship match that, arguably, should have happened already. The company badly mismanaged Velvet’s return, but they have the opportunity to make up for it with a match that can be considered relatively fresh.
Secondarily, there is potential for a program between Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell. The seeds have already been planted, and the match would be a tremendous opportunity for Taryn to learn from one of the finest in-ring performers in women’s wrestling.
There is something about working with someone as talented as Gail Kim that will help the New Orleans native perform in a way that training down in Ohio Valley Wrestling (and working with other developmental Knockouts) never could.
It remains to be seen if Velvet Sky can cap off her return with a championship victory, or if Gail Kim and Taryn Terrell will have any future interaction.
On Friday’s SmackDown, Kaitlyn made her first appearance since capturing the Divas Championship on Raw, doing battle with Aksana.
Kaitlyn picked up the win in a relatively uneventful match, but it is what occurred in the backstage area that may give an indication as to the direction the company takes in the post-Eve era of the Divas division.
Prior to the bout, Kaitlyn was backstage with Alicia Fox and Layla, both of whom congratulated her on her title win. As the new champion turned her attention to Alicia, Layla held onto the title, staring at it and completely tuning out Kaitlyn.
With her match moments away, Kaitlyn attempted to take the belt back, but could only do so after snapping Layla out of whatever trance she was in.
The interaction seems to be pointing at a program between Kaitlyn and Layla over the Divas Championship. Layla showed great improvement upon her return in 2012 and, considering her past performances as a member of LayCool, a heel turn would be incredibly simple.
The match would have great potential and would serve as a solid stopgap between now and WrestleMania.
The second round of the Greatest Diva Ever Tournament is in the books, and upsets were at a premium. Gail Kim once again advanced despite a less-than-stellar WWE career, while Stacy Keibler managed to fight off tough competition in the form of Maria Kanellis.
All other Divas dominated their match-ups.
We are only two weeks away from the finals of the tournament, and your votes are more important than ever. Remember, your favorites cannot continue on unless you let your voice be heard.
Round 3 matchups are as follows:
- Trish Stratus vs. Beth Phoenix
One of the very best matchups of the tournament thus far, Trish meets the most dominant Diva of the era immediately following hers. Beth is an internet favorite, and if any of Trish's opponents have had the chance to eliminate her from the tournament to this point, it is Phoenix.
- Lita vs. Gail Kim
It appears as though Gail Kim's Cinderella run may come to an end here in Round 3, as she meets the one Diva equally as dominant as Trish Stratus through the first two rounds of competition.
- Stacy Keibler vs. Mickie James
Stacy Keibler may be the most naturally gorgeous woman in WWE history, but she faces a tough challenge in the form of the always-popular Mickie James. One of the most decorated champions in WWE Divas history, she has the opportunity to make a statement by advancing to the semifinals.
- Victoria vs. Melina
Two "cult favorites" who may never have been the most popular women on the roster but have very solid, vocal fan bases of their own meet, as Victoria squares off against Melina with a chance to advance to the semifinal round on the line. Will the current TNA Knockouts Champion continue on, or will the former manager of MNM steal a victory for herself as she did on numerous occasions for her team?
As was the case with Round 2, submit your votes for this week's matches in the comment section below. If you do not have a Bleacher Report account, you can tweet them to me @ErikBeaston.
The winners will be announced in next week's Diva Debate, as will the semifinal round matches. And remember, if your favorite did not make it through to the next level of competition, vote and encourage your friends to do the same.
Inside Diva Debate No. 10, I will discuss AJ Lee's heel turn, whether or not it has lost steam in recent weeks, and if there is any realistic long-term success that can come from it.
Also on the docket is a look back at the history of the WWE Divas at the Royal Rumble and the numerous different roles they have played on the annual January show.
As usual, I will also cover the week that was in women's wrestling in both World Wrestling Entertainment and Impact Wrestling, as well as recap the third round of the Greatest Diva Ever Tournament.
Until then, remember to vote, either in the comment section or over at my Twitter account (@ErikBeaston). You can also leave any questions or comments about Diva Debate or anything related to the Divas of WWE or the Knockouts of TNA in those same areas.
I look forward to hearing from all readers. Without you, this column would not exist.