After years of building toward this moment, WWE announced on Monday that the main event of WrestleMania 35 will be the triple-threat match between Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch for the Raw Women’s Championship.
It marks the first time in WWE history that women will be given the coveted spot on the WrestleMania card, capping off a movement that started in earnest back in 2015 when the #GiveDivasAChance hashtag sparked the “Women’s Evolution.”
In the four years since then, women in WWE have taken tremendous strides in revamping how female professional wrestlers are viewed and have been a part of historic firsts, including Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber and Royal Rumble matches.
While the women have performed in the main event of pay-per-views during that time period, WrestleMania remained the elusive target for the division.
It all started with a Rumble...
The seeds for next month’s WrestleMania blockbuster were planted more than a year ago, when former UFC star Ronda Rousey made her debut in WWE at the Royal Rumble. Rousey’s arrival gave the women’s division the kind of crossover star that could help catapult it into mainstream media.
Rousey quickly impressed during her in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34 and she has shown a commitment to improving and elevating her ability to perform in her subsequent matches, eventually winning the Raw Women’s Championship at the “SummerSlam” pay-per-view last August.
As Rousey’s career continued to skyrocket, on Smackdown Live -- WWE’s other weekly show -- two of the pioneers of the “Women’s Evolution,” Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, were developing one of the greatest rivalries in recent memory.
At the same event where Rousey captured her championship, Lynch turned heel on her real-life friend Flair, causing the Brooklyn crowd to erupt and laying the foundation for a series of matches that would culminate in a Last Woman Standing match at “Evolution,” WWE’s first-ever all-women’s pay-per-view event.
Flair and Lynch put on what many consider to be the best WWE match of 2018 at “Evolution,” and with Lynch retaining her Smackdown Women’s Championship, she was in-line to face Rousey at “Survivor Series” a few weeks later. Despite suffering a real-life injury that would force her to miss that match, fans were so in-tune with the storyline between Rousey and Lynch -- much of which was built by the latter’s superb work on the microphone -- rumors started to surface that they would be considered to main event WrestleMania 35.
Although Lynch would eventually drop her championship to Asuka, WWE set up the path to the WrestleMania main event by having Lynch eliminate Flair in the women’s Royal Rumble match in January. In the weeks that followed, Lynch would once again be built up as an anti-authority figure and babyface by feuding with not only Rousey, but the McMahon family as well.
The logic behind picking this match
The reality here is that WWE did not have any choice but to put Rousey, Lynch and Flair in the biggest spot of the year.
Rousey, who has recently turned heel, is still a top draw for casual and crossover fans as well as a major box office name. While she has become the target of fans because of her sometimes questionable ability to cut a promo, Rousey has been a consistent presence on “Raw” programming since her debut and has dedicated herself to the industry, as evidenced by her development as an in-ring performer.
Lynch has been arguably the most popular WWE superstar -- male or female -- since Daniel Bryan and his ascent prior to WrestleMania 30 in 2014. Lynch’s in-ring ability always made her a fan favorite, but it wasn’t until she established her persona as “The Man” that she was able to truly separate herself from every other wrestler on WWE’s roster.
As for Flair, she is already among the most decorated female stars to ever set foot in a WWE ring. She is a seven-time champion and her in-ring ability and athleticism are unparalleled in WWE today. Prior to Rousey’s turn, Flair was able to play heel to both Lynch and Rousey perfectly, helping to promote the match and generate heat as an entitled, hand-picked star in the months leading up to WrestleMania.
In addition to the personalities in the match, WWE is offering fans something different at its biggest event of the year by putting the three women in this spot.
Roman Reigns, who has been in the main event of WrestleMania each of the past four years, recently made his return after battling leukemia and currently isn’t in a title picture per se. While Seth Rollins was in position to main event alongside WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar, Lesnar was in the main event last year and WWE audiences have shown some fatigue when it comes to the former UFC heavyweight champion.
The only other logical option would have been to put WWE Champion Daniel Bryan in that spot against (presumably) Kofi Kingston, but as of this writing and WWE’s announcement, that match has yet to be officially booked for the card.
Rousey, Lynch and Flair are three of the best representatives of just how far women’s wrestling has come. Vince McMahon and WWE vowed it would listen to its fans when they pleaded to #GiveDivasAChance. Four years later, Divas aren’t getting a chance -- women are -- and it’s coming on the grandest stage of them all.