If you’re a fan of the WWE and you read those two simple words “Excuse Me,” the voice in your head isn’t saying them politely… it’s screaming in an obnoxiously deafening tone. This is the work of one of the most successful and recognizable women in the WWE, Vickie Guerrero. Sometimes it takes a loud voice to get heard, and the women of the WWE and the WWE Universe have certainly been shouting as well. And now, they’re being heard.
I was honored to chat with Vickie Guerrero after she had made an appearance at Steel City Con in Monroeville, PA, last month. We talked about a lot of things, some of which I’ll keep to myself because KAYFABE, and locker room gossip shouldn’t be general public knowledge out of respect for the business of sports entertainment. We did, however, talk a lot about the women of the WWE and how things have changed over the years.
Women in the WWE: From “Divas” to “Superstars”
Women have been an integral part of sports entertainment for decades. We could go through a whole history to remember the Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Sensational Sherri, Miss Elizabeth, Alundra Blayze, and more, but let’s just talk about the past handful of years.
The term Diva was coined by Sable during the height of the Attitude Era. This time period saw the women as eye candy, with storylines that weren’t taken seriously. These ladies competed in things like evening gown matches, bikini matches, bra-and-panties matches, and pillow fights.
“I remember Eddie calling home often and telling me not to let the girls watch that night,” Guerrero explained, after he learned what matches would be included in the night’s television lineup. Things were a little more raunchy back then. Do we all remember Debra’s “puppies?” I admitted to Vickie that, even as a life-long WWE fan, I had stopped watching for a time because of the annoyance of this phrase and the disgusting representation of the women in the business.
Body image was something that was exploited in the Women’s Division. Guerrero and I discussed Chyna as an example. She was a powerful, strong, talented, and beautiful woman. Yet, they dressed her in bikini-style attire, when the focus should have been more on her athletic ability.
The tides changed slightly when women like Molly Holly, Lita, and Trish Stratus debuted. Their ring attire was more modest, and their athletic abilities were unmatched. Lita performed higher-risk moves including moonsaults and diving hurricanas. She flew through the ring just as effortlessly as her Team Xtreme brothers Matt and Jeff Hardy. Still, the women were showcased as a novelty, with a handful of decent matches, but the WWE was still a very male-dominated business.
The ladies started to get some more attention paid to them with the debut of Total Divas, a reality show on the E! Network based on the personal lives of several of the women in the WWE. The show, which debuted in 2013, highlights real-life situations of love, money struggles, family drama, travel, injuries, and more. Total Divas and Total Bellas are a guilty pleasure, myself included, knowing that a show about the WWE can only be so open before the kayfabe curtain stands in the way. Still, it let the public in, giving these women more respect and admiration for their wild lives.
A giant wakeup call to the WWE creative team came in the form of a hashtag that was a surprising worldwide trend. After a match in February 2015 featuring The Bella Twins versus Paige and Emma that lasted less than 30 seconds, #GiveDivasAChance lit up Twitter like a Christmas tree. The WWE Universe ran with it. Media outlets ran with it. And even the superstars themselves ran with it. The heads of WWE noticed, and it seems that things haven’t been the same since… in a good way.
The WWE Divas Championship, created as part of the brand extension to SmackDown, was introduced by then-General Manager Guerrero in 2008. The Divas belt lasted 8 years until the title was changed to the WWE Women’s Championship (eventually becoming the RAW Women’s Championship) at WrestleMania 32 (2016). In a meeting with the women prior to the event, WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon announced: “You will no longer be referred to as Divas, you will simply be Superstars. There is no reason why there should be any difference between the caliber of performance of our male and female performers.”
McMahon’s words that night were just the start of the history-making advances that the WWE would make with the Women’s Division over the next few years: The Women’s Revolution. Hell in a Cell and Money in the Bank were just the beginning. The women got their first major pay per view main event at the 2018 Royal Rumble.
First Ever Women’s Royal Rumble
All it took was a phone call from Vice President of Talent Relations Mark Carrano for Vickie Guerrero to agree to make an in-ring appearance as an entrant in the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble. With the match fielding 30 competitors, the current women’s roster wasn’t large enough to fill the card. Fan speculation began over who would come back or get called up from NXT.
Guerrero’s call came in December, and she was told to keep it a secret. “I kept quiet about it because of the respect for the business, but to keep the surprise for the fans as well.” The women who were participating in the event didn’t know who was rounding out the card until everyone arrived at the hotel conference room for rehearsal the night before the event. It was then that they were all told that their match would be the main event of the pay per view, much to everyone’s surprise and delight.
As part of her ring attire, Guerrero packed slouch heeled boots. “I figured I’d just cheat and slide out of the ring! I was told no, I had to get eliminated by going over the top rope, so if I twisted an ankle, just play it off.” She had considered doing some shopping for different shoes on the day of the event, but couldn’t risk being seen out in public in Philadelphia. Guerrero spent less than a minute in the match before being eliminated, giving her the shortest competitive time of any entrant. “I got booed and I got to hit Carmella with her Money in the Bank case! It was amazing!”
It’s no surprise that even after his untimely passing in 2005, Eddie Guerrero’s legacy still lives on today.
“Eddie was a perfectionist. I would often catch him rehearsing his lines in the bathroom mirror,” explained Vickie. “Every time I cut a promo, I would think ‘What would Eddie do.’ I always wanted to make him proud.”
Eddie and Vickie’s eldest daughter, Shaul, spent a few years wrestling in the WWE’s developmental league, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), which was later rebranded as NXT. As her ring name Raquel Diaz, she held the Queen of FCW and FCW Divas Championship. However, she left in-ring performing in 2014. In 2016, she married Matt Rehwoldt, better known to all of you as Aiden English.
But one current superstar who has been very vocal that Eddie Guerrero is her inspiration is Sasha Banks. “I tried to avoid seeing Sasha during the weekend of the Rumble. I knew if I saw her, I’d cry,” Guerrero admitted. The two were able to sit and talk, and the WWE cameras captured their conversation.
So, what’s next for Vickie Guerrero? She recently celebrated her 50th birthday by skydiving, she’s attending college for medical administration, she just launched her YouTube channel, and she’s penning a book. She’s also involved with a new promotion called Wrestle Kings 3 Productions, which will work closely with charities such as the Veterans Freedom Project.
What’s next for the women of the WWE? Paige was recently named SmackDown Live’s General Manager, making her the third woman to hold a general manager position on the weekly episodic shows. Last year, the WWE and NXT introduced the first full-time female official Jessika Carr, who I had the opportunity to see at a recent local NXT Live event. So still, the women continue to make history. Guerrero’s hunch? “Extreme Rules and Summerslam are coming up soon. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!”