Royal Rumble Latest Reminder WWE's Women's Division Has Surpassed the Men

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2021

Credit: WWE

Somewhere around the midway point of Sunday's Royal Rumble pay-per-view, one thing became crystal clear: After five years of Horsewomen, revolutions, Evolution, Rowdy and The Man, women's wrestling has surpassed men's in WWE.

On the surface, it sounds like a bold or reactionary claim, but the buildup to the Rumble, the execution of the women's match at the show and a look toward the future suggest it is not quite as outlandish as one may think.

       

The Build

The lead-in to the Royal Rumble highlighted a women's division in which there was a greater emphasis placed on storytelling and character development.

From Bianca Belair establishing her EST character by showing off her raw athleticism and unbridled confidence in her feud with Bayley, to Lacey Evans filling the role of evil stepmom as she targeted Charlotte Flair's father Ric, the women's division featured genuine storylines and characters that fans could invest in.

Love her or not, even Lana's story arc as the underdog who was repeatedly bullied by Nia Jax and put out of commission for weeks ahead of the Royal Rumble did immeasurable good for her character.

There was Billie Kay's struggle to fit in, Carmella's entitled champagne-sipping heel's quest to dethrone Sasha Banks, and Alexa Bliss' descent into darkness.

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Meanwhile, so many of the male competitors were expected to go to the ring and battle it out for no real reason. Their characters were underdeveloped, storylines rushed or nonexistent, and it became more and more difficult to invest time or energy in them as a fan because they were so woefully underwritten.

The lack of star power and depth in the men's division, in particular, reared its head in the final week before the Rumble, where the winner was not obvious. Not because WWE had done such a fantastic job of setting up multiple victors, but because there was such a lack of genuinely credible performers that it was nearly impossible to pick one.

      

The Rumble

Then came the Rumble matches themselves. As usual, the women went first, tasked with delivering in the first of the pay-per-view namesake matches. 

They did not disappoint.

The women's Rumble match, the best incarnation WWE has produced since its introduction in 2018, was a brilliant presentation rife with the latest chapters in ongoing storylines, character work and a badass finish.

Kay's struggle to fit in, joining forces with former Divas champion Jillian Hall while still coming to the aid of her Riott Squad "friends" Ruby Riott and Liv Morgan, was phenomenal. Naomi wowed fans for nearly 50 minutes. 

Flair and Evans teed off in a brawl that spilled to the floor, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax proved their friendship exists exclusively in regards to the women's tag team titles, and Lana avenged her months of torment by eliminating The Irresistible Force from the match.

And then there was the finish, a throwback to a year ago when Flair stood in the NXT ring alongside Belair and Rhea Ripley and essentially dubbed them the future of the business. Things came full-circle Sunday night as Ripley and Belair erased disappointing losses to The Queen and battled it out for the right to contend for championship gold at WrestleMania.

Conversely, the men's match failed to create the intrigue of its counterpart, nor did it contain as much character and storyline advancements.

Sure, there was the cool Bad Bunny spot and the emotional hug between Edge and Christian, but the match served as the perfect representation of all things wrong with WWE's creative process in regards to its jam-packed roster. It never made the audience care.

Guys did moves, there was a cool spot here or there, but the overall product lacked the excitement, emotion and feeling of greater things to come—no matter how much you may love Edge and his incredible comeback.

         

The Fut-Her

Women's wrestling is as healthy as it has ever been. 

WWE has a roster full of diverse, exciting talents. Flair, Bayley, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch are the cornerstones of the division and will continue to be for many years to come. They are the godmothers of the sport and the measuring sticks. And rightfully so.

Unlike the men's roster, where there are a handful of stars around whom storylines and shows are built while everyone else just roams aimlessly waiting for an opportunity that may (or may not) come, WWE appears to have a clear direction for its female talent.

Belair, Ripley and Baszler are just three of the women poised to carry the mantle for years to come. Then there are NXT's Shotzi Blackheart, Dakota Kai and Toni Storm, all whom received exposure in the Rumble and have been major parts of that brand's efforts to get the next crop of talent ready for the main roster.

Kay has "breakout star" written all over her, while Carmella continues to make the most of any character or opportunity presented to her.

Can you realistically look at the men's roster right now and unequivocally state that any male talent is absolutely destined to be a star given the inconsistent booking of most call-ups from NXT?

Make no mistake about it, the WWE creative process is anything but perfect. Even women like Asuka and Baszler, who were dominant in NXT but struggled at times in WWE, receive ample television time and opportunity.

The same cannot be said for some like Aleister Black and Ricochet, whose talents have been wasted in a company large enough to build all of the stars but would rather focus only on the tippy-top performers.

Taking the effort put into the division, the care both writers and performers have shown the characters and stories, and the ever-evolving in-ring performances, it is not difficult to see a scenario in which women continue to set the standard for sports-entertainment in WWE.

Will Roman Reigns and Drew McIntyre still dominate and main-event pay-per-views? Absolutely. It has always been that way and until women are given consistent opportunities to headline those shows and prove fans will flock to see them, it will remain that way.

But a main event does not make an entire roster and right now, based on character, opportunity, in-ring output and attention to storytelling details, there is no denying the women's division within WWE has far eclipsed men—with no signs of slowing down or reversing course.

For WWE, the future is bright and the future is women.