If you’re like me, then the only reason you tune in to watch the WWE is because Total Divas got you hooked on women wrestlers, and you must tune in every week to see what’s going to happen next with the Bella Twins, Paige and Naomi, which then results in your obsession with the other women wrestlers not on the E! reality television show.
It turns out, not everyone is like me.
WWE is a male dominated industry that would much rather focus on a throwaway match like Baron Corbin’s frowny belly button vs. Dolph Ziggler’s mesh-butt pants than it would rather focus on the storytelling of any women’s match other than the current championship feud. Fortunately, in 2015, that all changed with the Divas Revolution, which came to fruition in 2016 with the Women’s Evolution. Women wrestlers went from popcorn matches that lasted six minutes, to main event, Hell-in-a-Cell matches that lasted longer than most men’s matches on the rest of the card.
Still, when it comes down to it, most WWE fans couldn’t name the best women’s matches of the year; they can only remember main storylines. If you ask a WWE fan what the best women’s match of 2016 was, they’d likely respond with, “the Sasha/Charlotte feud.” But there’s more to women’s wrestling than just one championship feud.
That’s why I’m here. After sifting through my oddly sharp memory (and the depths of the WWE Network) of 2016 women’s matches, I’ve compiled a list of the five best WWE Women’s Wrestling matches of the year.
Stipulations: This list takes a lot into consideration. First, it does not contain NXT content. The main roster featured great matches, and even though NXT also has some great talent and storytelling, the RAW, Smackdown and pay-per-views already provided way too many great matches to narrow down to just five - also, let’s keep it real; if you compiled a list of the best men’s matches, fans would expect one list for main roster and one for NXT. We expect the same for the women as well. It’s 2017. Gender Equality is in full force.
In addition, the “best” doesn’t just mean technical ability. A match can have two performers with great skillsets, but if it doesn’t further the overall storyline or the performer’s career (or even makes both of those worse), it doesn’t fit the description of the best. Because no matter how great a match is, if it’s just one match, you can’t build a career or storyline off that.
Without further ado, here are the five best WWE Women’s Matches in 2016:
5. Charlotte vs. Brie Bella @ Fastlane
The Charlotte/Brie Bella feud came and went far too quickly in my opinion because the WWE used Daniel Bryan’s retirement to showcase Brie (his real-life spouse) as a contender in between the Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania, where the company clearly planned for a Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks triple threat match. But this Diva’s Championship match did a lot for the women’s division overall. First, it showcased Brie Bella and her move-set for what seemed like the first time in her career because when she was getting pushed, it was when women’s matches lasted around five minutes, and after that, she just became a glorified jobber that generally served her sister Nikki Bella when she was Diva’s Champion. The match has a solid pace, showcases both Charlotte and Brie’s signature moves, and it opened secondary storylines for the women’s division that weren’t necessarily there (or if they were, they weren’t executed properly). It was Brie’s best match to date, and it allowed for the women’s division to have a championship feud and a secondary feud, which led to two quality matches at Wrestlemania 32. This match may have seen Brie lose, but it gave the women’s division the opportunity to win. And it also gave us arguably the best heel segment in 2016 - Goat Faced Vegan Babies, anyone?!
4. Nikki Bella vs. Carmella @ TLC
When Nikki Bella became the longest reigning Diva’s Champion in WWE History, most of the WWE universe didn’t give her much credit because her matches didn’t last long, her move set didn’t do much, and they felt she had only gotten far in the industry because of her relationship with John Cena. But when she underwent almost career ending neck surgery and made a surprise comeback at Summerslam, Nikki’s presence spiced up the Smackdown women’s division. Her feud with Carmella also gave the opportunity for women to have more than just one storyline at a time because both were getting decent match times and exposure even though neither were in the women’s championship feud. This led to the peak of their feud: their final match at TLC. The match had a better pace than the championship match that took place later in the night, and the finale features a really solid fire extinguisher cameo, with Nikki yelling, “You wanna talk about my family?!” There’s not much more I’d ask for.
But more than just storytelling, the match improves both wrestler’s careers by showing Nikki's versatility in the ring and establishing Carmella as a top notch talking head – I’ve never been so excited to see someone throw John Cena shade than I was when Carmella attacked Nikki. It also gives undercard storylines more depth because this feud lasted three months, and it is immediately followed by a Nikki Bella vs. Natalya feud. And after the brand split in July, this match established Smackdown's Women's Division far ahead of Raw's, which only relied on the championship feud between Sasha Banks and Charlotte.
3. Sasha Banks & Bayley vs. Charlotte & Dana Brooke @ Battleground
Following the brand split, the women’s division was left divided and somewhat incomplete. The Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte feud was forced to end with Lynch’s departure to Smackdown, and the rest of the women’s division suffered from suspensions, injuries, a lack of storylines, or a combination of all three. So, when Sasha Banks was given a women’s championship push, storylines had to wait until the brand split went into effect at the end of July. This led to a lot of throwaway matches at the Battleground pay-per-view, one of which featured Charlotte and Dana Brooke vs. Sasha Banks and a partner of her choosing. The WWE took this opportunity to give Bayley, who hadn’t been officially called up to the main roster yet, a chance. The match earned notoriety alone for the pop Bayley got from the crowd. But it also got Banks a stronger storyline in the title picture, which eventually set up some legendary, groundbreaking matches. It also started to establish Charlotte away from Dana Brooke, which showed that you can be a heel and a boss-ass bitch, something missing from women’s storylines, which often featured heels cheating to win.
2. Charlotte vs. Sasha Banks, Raw July 25, Women's Championship Match
Following Sasha Banks and Bayley’s win at Battleground, Banks received a title opportunity the following night on RAW. The match was legendary, featuring Banks’ first title win and a solid, Eddie Guerrero tribute that may have brought a tear to my eye. The match started the notorious, iconic, arguably greatest feud in WWE Women’s Wrestling history, which led to legendary matches like the first ever Women’s Hell-in-a-Cell match, a falls count anywhere match, and the second ever Iron-Woman match. And while all of those matches technically cemented these two performers’ legacy in WWE history, none of them met the standard this first match set. It was executed perfectly from a technical standpoint, and it made perfect sense story wise, something that the rest of the matches in this feud struggled with. And that’s why only one match tops it this year.
1. Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks @ Wrestlemania 32
If you haven’t seen this match, you should watch it. It was in the middle of the card during Wrestlemania 32, but almost everyone agreed that it stole the show with a perfect combination of technicality and storytelling. I could go on and on, but I wouldn’t do it justice. Just watch. You won’t regret it.