Coming in to this special, I was a bit cynical.
Given the coverage in the media of WWE's women's revolution, where the stories were heavily focused on Stephanie McMahon's role in the development of women's wrestling at the expense of everyone else, especially the women themselves, I expected more of the same here. And at the beginning, it felt like that might be what we were getting yet again, but once we really got into the special, that wasn't what this was at all.
Rather than focusing on management as the heroes for "giving" the women these opportunities, it made the women themselves the heroes of this story for taking these opportunities and running with them. Their decision to put the focus on the women themselves who made this possible made this special stand out and actually convey a powerful message.
Whether they were women like Trish and Lita or Natalya and Nikki who had to deal with a lot of crap to get where they wanted to be, or women like Sasha and Becky and Charlotte and Bayley who were fortunate enough to come up in a time where they got more opportunities, but showed they deserved them by building on the work that those women did before them and taking it to the next level, everyone got their due, and everyone got the respect they deserved here.
The way they framed the special by taking a longform look at the history of women in WWE and then focusing on the two WrestleMania matches (and a brief detour to a woman who's hopefully poised to make her own impact on women's wrestling in WWE someday... call her up already!) was a brilliant choice.
The link was highlighted by Lita with the great line about the ten woman tag featuring "women who were ready for the revolution, when the revolution wasn’t ready for them," while the championship match featured the flagbearers for the next generation of the women's revolution building on that foundation.
Even their past history was used effectively to put the focus on the women, and their perseverance and strength. It started with the Attitude Era, and as Trish explained, "To come to WWE in the year 2000, I had to be aware of the world I was entering." Finlay also talked about how the women did try to step up at times in Trish and Lita's era but they kept getting pulled back because WWE didn't treat women like professional athletes back then.
And even Stephanie made clear that it wasn't an easy time to be a woman in WWE and acknowledged that they did exploit women's sexuality, which was shockingly honest. They didn't run from their own history and try and sugarcoat the way they treated women in the past. It's somewhat strange for them to be this honest with so many of those same people still in positions of power, but hopefully that willingness reflects that the old ideas are starting to break down even amongst those that once supported them.
As Trish said, "When we were starting to make the transition to 'we're going to fight like the guys, we're gonna have real matches', they wanted us to have catfights and I remember a line being given to me was, 'that's not how the women fight', but... we just did... what does that mean?"
Whereas in NXT, Hunter said to Paige "if you think you can go as good as the guys, here's the opportunity." Sasha acknowledged "in NXT, we were so blessed, we were given so many opportunities." It's a completely different culture, but the onus was still on delivering, and that's just what they did, and why they kept getting more and bigger opportunities and responsibilities.
All of this served to illustrate what the women of the past were up against, which is so important because it allows for the Horsewomen to get their deserved credit for the incredible things they've done while not casting unfair aspersions on the women that came before them either, because their situations and opportunities were simply different.
Women's wrestling fandom throughout the internet fanbase can often be very contentious, because even still, with whatever positive changes have been made, the women don't get enough time, and too often, if a woman isn't in the title picture, she's just forgotten and taken off television completely.
With a male superstar that's one of your favorites, even if they're not pushed to the level you might want, for the most part, you still get to see them every week, whereas with women's wrestling, it feels like the women have to fight over scraps, and it understandably makes the entire thing so combative at times because of the extreme zero-sum nature where so few women are featured, and one woman being featured means another one isn't.
But what was so cool about this special even more than the special itself, which was excellent, were the reactions I saw to it afterwards. A really common sentiment that came across was the idea that the special made people want to support all the women, not just their favorites, and that's awesome. You can tell very clearly that that is what the women themselves want when watching this special.
The camaraderie displayed among the entire locker room were some of my favorite moments of the special, like Brie and Sasha supporting each other before their big matches at Mania, Becky being awed watching Naomi's split legged moonsault, the Bellas commiserating with Becky about her stitches after the war she'd just gone through, or just how genuinely happy all the women seem to be for each other's successes across the board.
One of my favorite independent wrestlers, Nicole Matthews, gave an awesome quote on Twitter after Bayley's big debut at Battleground, "I hear about how girls are catty, or all girls hate each other. Tonight, there was so much love for such a beautiful person and such a hard worker/talented worker within the women's wrestling community that I call absolute bullshit on that. The wrestling community is wonderful, and the women's wrestling community is even more wonderful. I'm so proud to be part of it." And that sentiment echoed throughout this special so much from all the women in the locker room now or those that paved the way.
All these women are working hard, whether they came up in NXT where they got chances women never received in the past and excelled to heights people never thought possible for women or whether they came up in WWE and had to scratch and claw for everything they got.
And this special casts a light on all of them.