Lita backstage at Raw 1000
Last night on Monday Night Raw, WWE announced Lita as the third member of the 2014 class of the WWE Hall of Fame. She's the seventh woman to be inducted, following The Fabulous Moolah, "Sensational" Sherri Martel, Mae Young, Wendi Richter, Sunny and Trish Stratus.
I saw a handful of people complaining about this online, and while they were far from the majority, I need to get this out of the way: It's the WWE Hall of Fame. While in the last decade it's been expanded to include wrestlers who didn't make their name in WWE, it's still a WWE-centric Hall of Fame and the biggest priority is to sell tickets to the event and WrestleMania DVD/Blu-ray sets. By that standard, she's a great candidate.
When was Lita at her best in WWE?
Stratus went in last year as part of the most loaded class to date, where she was joined by Mick Foley, Booker T, Bob Backlund, Bruno Sammartino and "celebrity wing" inductee Donald Trump.
She did not look out of place at all. While there have been better female wrestlers in WWE over the years, she was a really good all-around performer who was easily the best full-time/long-term star of the women's division. Lita was, on and off, her biggest rival for Stratus' entire WWE run, going back to her first match of note at Fully Loaded 2000 and culminating in Stratus' retirement match in her hometown of Toronto.
Lita was unlike any other "WWE Diva" when she showed up.
She wasn't a carbon-copy, Barbie-esque blonde, instead having a unique look. She immediately had appeal as an athlete in that her calling card was doing high-flying moves, and she was supposed to be a tomboy, especially once she became Matt and Jeff Hardy's valet. She was still idealized, but in an approachable way that was different from all of the other women in the company.
As a performer, I would say there are a couple things that stand out in her career. The first is the series of matches with Stratus that encompassed their entire WWE careers, with two specific matches standing out.
The first was a 2004 Raw match, one of the few women's matches to ever main event a WWE television show. Best known for Lita (who had already broken her neck a few years earlier when shooting an episode of the show "Dark Angel") overshooting a tope to the floor and folding over when she landed head first, it was probably the best singles match of her career. The novelty of the match being the main event, proving to be worthy of the spot and Lita's near-injury made it one of the most memorable women's matches in WWE history.
The other famous match between the two was Stratus's retirement match at the Unforgiven pay-per-view in 2006. The roles were reversed, with Stratus as a babyface winning the title from Lita, who was now a heel, and Lita also retired a couple months later.
Besides the Stratus series, there's also her run as Edge's valet. Unfortunately, it's colored by the real-life affair that led to WWE cashing in on the tabloid drama surrounding them and Matt Hardy, but she did great, incredibly underrated work.
WWE had been trying to get Edge to break through for years and it never quite worked until Lita was made over as his "trashy" valet and he adopted the "Rated-R Superstar" gimmick. She was vital to the act and did an incredible job as a character completely different from the one that made her a star.
Not to take away from Edge's accomplishments, but there's an argument that's her greatest achievement in WWE: turning a long-time prospect into a legitimate main event star.
David Bixenspan has been Bleacher Report's WWE Team Leader and a contracted columnist since 2011 and is now part of the team putting together Figure 4 Weekly, available to F4WOnline.com subscribers along with other content including the Wrestling Observer Newsletter and variety of audio shows. You can follow him on Twitter @davidbix and check out his wrestling podcasts at LLTPod.com.