The WWE Divas Championship, still in its infancy, has seen its titleholders struggle for relevancy in an era where focus often strays from female wrestlers while the Women's Championship has been around long enough to see a collection of highs and lows.
The wrestlers who held the Women's Championship had their struggles too but stand as proof of what is possible when they are taken more seriously, booked as bigger stars and given more opportunities in the spotlight.
The butterfly-emblazoned title was born in July of 2008. The championship that came before it has pre-WWE origins. The Fabulous Moolah brought the NWA World Women's Championship into the company.
In September 2010, WWE folded the belt, making the Divas Championship the top prize for its female division. Examining the top titleholders of both championships reveals how much has changed about women's wrestling in WWE and how much has stayed the same.
AJ Lee recently passed Maryse as the longest-reigning Divas champion in history. Her reign is now over 215 days.
Moolah, not counting the title reigns in between that WWE doesn't officially recognize, held the women's title from 1956 to 1984. AJ just has 9,950 days left to catch up to her.
The Women's Championship history has seen a number of long reigns, nine of which are longer than AJ's time with the belt.
|Women's Championship reigns over 215 days|
|Champion||Date Won||Length of Reign in Days|
|Fabulous Moolah||September 18, 1956||10,170|
|Wendi Richter||March 31, 1985||239|
|Fabulous Moolah||November 25, 1985||220|
|Fabulous Moolah||July 9, 1986||380|
|Sherri Martel||July 24, 1987||441|
|Rockin Robin||October 7, 1988||451|
|Alundra Blayze||December 13, 1993||342|
|Trish Stratus||January 9, 2005||448|
|Michelle McCool||June 28, 2009||217|
One thing that stands out when looking at this list is Moolah's dominance. She held fast to that title back when it was an NWA property and didn't often let go of it. Fans complain about John Cena hogging the top spot today, but he has nothing on Moolah.
WWE relied on her as the top female wrestler decade after decade.
During that span, Buddy Rodgers, Bruno Sammartino, Bob Backlund and Hulk Hogan all served as top stars. In the female division, WWE stuck with what worked. Moolah had a slew of challengers during that span, but it wasn't until Wendi Richter came along that even a rival came close to her in terms of star power.
There has to have been talented women capable of being effective champs at that time. WWE, in the business of making stars, didn't make one other than Moolah for too long. AJ is obviously far from being the champ for a stretch of decades, but WWE would be wise to learn from the past here.
Excitement fades when a champion lacks worthy challengers. After her feud with Kaitlyn ended, AJ has seen a number of rivals step up but not stand out. The Bella Twins or The Funkadactyls simply don't feel like they are on AJ's level.
Having Tamina Snuka turn on AJ, bringing up Paige or paying more attention to crafting a Natalya and AJ rivalry would help the division capture some of the energy it had in the '80s and later when Trish Stratus and Lita rose to prominence.
Trish ruled the '00s, holding the Women's Championship seven times. Eve Torres is the only woman to hold the Divas title three times.
Eve feuded with Layla, Kaitlyn, Natalya and others during her reigns. Fans won't remember those rivalries the way they do Lita vs. Trish, though.
The current formula seems to be to push a single Diva at a time. Beth Phoenix got her turn on top with no real rival. Eve, Kelly Kelly and Kaitlyn each had a run. Now that it's AJ's turn with the title, she lacks someone to push her to her best.
Trish and Lita's great chemistry had their matches rival what many of the men were doing.
They were also afforded opportunities that we don't see in the Divas division today. Lita battled Victoria in a steel-cage match, Trish took Victoria on in a Street Fight. They were allowed to make history that just isn't being made today.
The champion and her challengers were given stories to go with their matches, an element that elevated their work and added interest in who was carrying the belt. Mickie James won the title from Trish in a match that followed an angle about obsession.
The history of the Women's Championship is by no means perfect.
What the title's time line offers, though, is a look at what is possible when the title is given some attention.
It's hard to remember what narratives Kelly Kelly's reign centered around or what Maryse did in her 216 days as champ. WWE hit the right notes when Kaitlyn and AJ collided at Payback but has failed to find a similarly engaging story to provide the Divas with.
In search of the women's title, Martel met Moolah in a battle of two generations, Lita defeated Stephanie McMahon for the title in the main event on Raw and Chyna came back from a kayfabe neck injury to dethrone Ivory at WrestleMania X-Seven.
Kaitlyn was a part of a Tonya Harding-inspired story before her title win, so there is a parallel with Chyna's narrative, but the climax occurred on Raw, not WrestleMania.
The Divas title has yet to be defended at "The Showcase of the Immortals."
Being left off the biggest card of the year didn't start for women when they switched titles, though. While the Women's Championship was on the line at the first two WrestleManias, it wasn't a part of the event again until WrestleMania X. The next women's title bout at the pay-per-view after that didn't happen until Sable beat Tori at WrestleMania XV.
The first SummerSlam that featured the Women's Championship was 1994, the seventh edition of that event. That speaks to inattention to the female wrestlers that is just as much as issue today.
The last two SummerSlams didn't feature the Divas Championship, but the 2010 and 2011 versions did, pitting Melina against Alicia Fox and Kelly Kelly against Phoenix respectively.
Both championships clearly suffer from inconsistency. When there is a hot pair of names in the division, say Richter and Moolah or Trish and Lita, WWE has zeroed in on them. That was true for AJ and Kaitlyn for a spell, but the company appears to be putting the women on the proverbial back burner once again.
When AJ broke the record for longest-reigning Divas champ, the response was whimpering fanfare from WWE.
It certainly makes a title feel insignificant when someone becomes the greatest champ ever with just a pat on the back to show for it. She didn't defend the belt down the stretch, facing opposition at TLC and then offered no challengers after that.
Who is the Trish to her Lita, the Richter to her Moolah?
The Divas Championship has been in existence long enough to have the highlights that the Womens' Championship had, but it's already mirroring that title's low points. At least no one has thrown the Divas title in the trash yet, though.