In the summer of 2012, word came down that independent wrestler and widely-acknowledged best American female wrestler Sara Del Rey had signed with WWE.
The move came as quite a surprise to both her fans and folks who were only familiar with the WWE's Divas division. Death Rey, as she was known throughout the indy and international scenes, is an attractive woman, but cut from a more natural, athletic cloth than the majority of WWE's aspiring spokesmodel-types. She was also known for working great pro wrestling matches, not the slap fighting and botched finish affairs that gave women's wrestling the "bathroom break" stigma it still has among mainstream fans.
The announcement that Del Rey, real name Sara Amato, would not be wrestling in WWE, but serving as a trainer in their developmental system in Orlando, Florida, was met with mixed reactions. While many were disappointed that she wouldn't be working under the bright spotlight that Vince McMahon's company provides, there was relief that we'd never have to see the woman who had gone toe-to-toe with Japanese legends and some of the best male indy stars subjected to a dance-off segment.
And there was hope that she would actually be able to instill some of her technique and passion in the next generation of Divas.
Anyone who has seen the matches between Paige and Emma in NXT, or who's watched the development of Summer Rae from leggy lady with attitude to leggy lady with attitude who can tell a great story in the ring, has seen that Amato has made an impact at the Performance Center. But there are still some, like me, who saw the difference in the match quality, character development and narrative between Raw and NXT and wondered if all the training in the world would be enough to change the corporate attitude toward women and wrestling.
Well, this new article from John Clapp on WWE.com provides evidence for the believers and gives hope to us cynics. Entitled "WWE's secret weapon: How Sara Amato is changing the Divas division". Clapp's article puts over her accomplishments as Sara Del Rey, and ties her to current WWE stars Daniel Bryan and Cesaro (sorry, Claud-el Rey 'shippers - no light is shed on the rumored but never confirmed partnership with former stable-mate and frequent rival Claudio Castignoli).
It also delves into Amato's philosophy for the women she's working with, which includes both main roster stars and developmental prospects. And it's good news for fans of her former stylings as Death Rey and those that like the fitness model workers WWE usually promotes:
Diversity is really entertaining to me, and I hope other people feel that, too. All of these girls were signed for a special talent or a specific reason, and that's awesome. Let's go with that. If you want to be sexy, I'm not going to tell you not to be. The important thing is to give the best that you have to offer and to feel comfortable doing it. I think when you're genuinely happy and good at what you're doing, it's going to show, and it's going to make you a better performer.
Cesaro sees big things for women in the WWE, and opportunities that are provided by WWE Network:
The women's division is going to be under an even closer microscope with WWE Network. The division is just going to get more and more competitive, and I think people will be surprised by how competitive it will get. It's just going to be more enjoyable for the viewer and it's going to be great wrestling, great entertainment, because of it.
And for all of us holding out hope that the 33 year old Amato might yet get a chance to show the WWE Universe why Sara Del Rey was considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, well...
If the opportunity comes up, I definitely wouldn't say no. After all, that's why we train.
What do you think, Cagesiders? Does this make you optimistic for women in WWE, or were you already there?
Anybody else ready for Sara Del Rey to lead an invasion of NXT women onto Raw this summer?