WWE has been making sure that the fans who are now in their thirties are getting the ability to go down memory lane with in-depth documentaries on the WWE Network or Peacock. The Ruthless Aggression Series is particularly spotlighting the superstars and storylines of the early to mid-2000s. This docu-series is incredible to me because of the nostalgia surrounding this time. This was the time when I, as a preteen, was defining what programming I liked to watch as a wrestling fan. The second season of Ruthless Aggression allows women wrestling fans to be in for a treat with an episode entirely dedicated to the golden era for women in the WWE.
As it is entitled, the First Revolution documents women in WWE from 2001-2006 who had to face an uphill battle during this time. In the Attitude Era, WWE only hired the women for T&A, and their role didn’t get better when Vince McMahon acquired WCW. Their short time on screen became minuscule because of the wealth of talent under the WWE umbrella.
They would cut their time short if a guy’s match went over. It hurt people like Molly Holly, who wanted to show off her talent and years of experience in places like WCW. Holly trained at the power plant, which was the early predecessor to the performance center in WWE now, with veterans like Madusa. She even had a solid amount of time wrestling in WCW as Miss Madness under the Macho Man’s all-women’s stable.
Torrie Wilson wanted to prove that she wouldn’t be relegated to just being eye candy for the rest of her career. This was when Fit Finlay was brought in as a producer to help train the women’s roster. Initially as a joke or merely as a way to keep him busy. Yes, this is very disrespectful, but not out of the ordinary in this company.
The joke was on them because Finlay was up for the task. He proved that he could mold these women into true athletes. He did his job so well that his bosses reminded him that he made the women look too much like wrestlers. Talk about being appreciative of someone doing the job they were ASKED TO DO.
The women saw Finlay as their confidant, motivator, and, as Victoria described, best friend.
Stephanie McMahon also got an upgrade on screen when she took on the general manager of Smackdown role. Her weekly battles with Eric Bischoff over which brand would reign supreme was must-see TV. She pulled no punches to make sure that Smackdown was on top.
Another coveted role that usually only consisted of men in the business was given to Stephanie during this time. The behind-the-scenes creative team tried to make it seem like Stephanie did a lot to help women once she got to this power level, but truthfully that wasn’t the case. There was much potential for the women on Smackdown, but they never had a title on the show. Most of the women were only doing specialty matches or Playboy photoshoots.
Finally, women were getting storylines that led up to an anticipated PPV match. Trish Stratus soon became the head of the division on the Raw brand, and newcomer Victoria soon started a legendary feud with her. Even hardcore matches where you knew that both women held nothing back. Lita and Victoria had the first women’s ladder match on Raw during this time and helped the fans stop yelling ‘We want puppies’ during the women’s segments.
For Wrestlemania 20, the women from both brands were told that there wouldn’t be a women’s title match on the card. Instead, Torrie Wilson and Sable, “the models” as Molly Holly called them, will have a playboy pillow fight. Holly threw some major shade with that comment, but I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained by this moment from the usually demure Molly Holly. However, the playboy pillow fight advertised Sable and Torrie’s joint playboy photoshoot.
Devastated, Molly Holly asked if she shaved her hair off would she perform. It worked because Holly had a stellar match with Victoria but lost and had to keep her promise of getting her head shaved. The stipulation of their battle was made for great TV and one of the most memorable moments for women at Wrestlemania.
Wrestlemania 20 also saw a payoff from a feud on Raw with Trish Stratus and Chris Jericho, which ended with Trish turning heel and having a short affair with Christian to get back at Jericho for betting on her a few months prior. A true woman scorned storyline.
In 2005, the dreaded Divas Search competition began and took valuable time from the women’s matches on Raw. However, a standout from the Divas Search, Michelle McCool, immediately showed her drive, athletic talent, and love for competition during the Divas vs. Models kickball competition.
Lita and Trish were still trying to show that the women’s matches were necessary, so they continued their long-standing feud and were rewarded with main eventing on Monday Night RAW.
As Lita was dealing with an injury after this match, Mickie James came in and started a perfect feud that genuinely paid homage to the single white female film and any other craze and obsessed women that you come to mind. The fans were into this storyline big time, and Mickie showed that she was the main event starting at her coming-out party during Wrestlemania 22 that same year. Mickie was the heel going into the match, but she was so good at being a freaking psychopath that she was cheered for everything that she did in that match.
In 2006, Trish had her retirement match, and two months later, Lita followed her best friend. The two breviaries felt they couldn’t contribute any more to the company as it went back to the old way they viewed women wrestlers.
Although I am not a fan of the mid to late 2000s in WWE, the divas’ search did bring in many women like Layla, The Bella Twins, Christy Hemme, Ashley Massaro, Maria Kanellis, and more. As I continued to watch this episode, it was a bit shady that they snubbed Jazz, Gail Kim, and the Smackdown women’s accomplishments during this time.
Of course, we know that both Gail and Jazz have fallen out with the company. However, WWE does this thing to erase women from the industry, which can be downright infuriating. On her first night, Gail Kim won the Women’s Championship and had an excellent matrix-like character that added diversity to the roster. Trish Stratus became the face of the division, but that had a lot to do with how Victoria and Jazz framed her in those matches—making her shine like gold. Jazz also had two very successful title runs and was a champ when she tore the house down at Wrestlemania XIX with Trish and Lita, but they were never mentioned in the episode.
Torrie and Dawn Marie had a great feud on the Smackdown side, but they usually end up half nude during their feud? Yes, but they seem to build up some steam behind their angle and provide a natural soap-opera-like storyline for the fans to indulge.
Phenomenal wrestlers like Nidia, Shaniqua, and Jacqueline were trying to bring solid matches to the roster, but we were cut off before they could get started. After developing a great feud with Chavo Guerrero, Jacqueline became the second woman to hold the Cruiserweight Championship. Once again, none of this was mentioned in the episode.
WWE was so obsessed with Trish and Lita that they didn’t show any other fan favorites at that time. All in all, I would still recommend this episode because it did an excellent job of showcasing this precious moment in time for women’s wrestling in WWE. We can’t love this era we’re in now if we don’t honor this first Revolution during the Ruthless Aggression Era.
Be sure to check out the Ruthless Aggression Era series on Peacock in the US and WWE Network everywhere else.
Also, if you want to continue going down memory lane and revisit Mickie James’s feud with Trish, go on and look at Women’s Wrestling Talk’s Top 5 Moments of Mickie James.