As much as I adore wrestling, it has to be said that it does have its problems. Possibly the biggest drawback of all to this industry is its clear gender inequalities. As someone who’s focused the majority of their university studies on sexism, feminism, and representations of gender, it pains me that one of my biggest loves in life is plagued with unequal gender opportunities, and at times, overt sexism. Thankfully though, gone are the days of the Bra and Panties match, and bikini contests, as the major companies have finally realised that the fans aren’t actually watching their products for partial nudity and mild titillation, we’re watching for some good ol’ fashion wrasslin’.
Over the past few years, mainstream wrestling has allowed female competitors more time, more opportunities, more platforms, more respect, and more credit for what they can do between the ropes. Admittedly, it’s still not perfect, and unfortunately women sometimes still have to jump through hoops just to gain some of the benefits that men are often handed, yet the vast improvements in comparison to just fifteen years ago cannot be denied. Women are main-eventing Raw, they’re winning major championships that are usually exclusive to men (such as the Lucha Underground Championship, and the Chikara Grand Championship), and they’re putting on some of the best matches of the past decade. However, as good as women’s wrestling currently is, it’s not always been as bad as it may seem. In fact, there have been some incredible female wrestling matches over the years that sadly haven’t been given the notoriety or respect they deserve due to the nature of the wrestling industry. That’s why today, I’m going to show you 10 Women’s Wrestling Matches That You Need to See, in the hopes that these great bouts will get more exposure and ultimately, more respect.
As this is a list of matches “that you need to see”, I’ve decided to only include content that can be easily accessible, either on YouTube or the WWE Network, so that most readers will actually be able to enjoy them. Another point is that I am not including any match that has already been given a lot of exposure, so I will be excluding the likes of the Sasha vs Becky matches, Trish vs Lita, and any Wrestlemania match, as it is more than likely that the majority of people will have already seen them. Also, these have not been ranked in any way; they are simply ten wrestling matches that I love, and each one of them is well worth your time. Since there are so many underrated women’s wrestling matches from various promotions around the world, a list of ten is simply not enough, therefore there will definitely be a follow-up article of ten more matches you need to see at some point in the future. With that being said, let’s get down to some wrestling.
Melina vs Alicia Fox
Let’s just start with many people’s favourite match of all time. What more needs to be said, it doesn’t get any better than this. I may as well just not bother with the rest of this article, but I will anyway for your benefit.
(Now let’s start this thing for real.)
Sasha vs Bayley vs Charlotte vs Becky Lynch – NXT Takeover: Rival
Okay, so let’s begin with the match that most of you have probably already seen. With the huge boost to the women’s division on the main roster last year, and the incredible matches Bayley and Sasha Banks put on, I feel as though this fatal four way hasn’t quite gotten the love it deserves. It was the start of NXT’s Four Horsewomen: we witnessed each of these wrestlers characters’ grow and develop, leading to an incredible build-up for this match. It really felt like everyone involved had truly discovered who they were in that ring, and at the time, the potential was extremely exciting. The match was clearly well thought out as it was so effortlessly fast-paced, with each member having their own memorable moments to shine. If you weren’t watching NXT by this point then this match is definitely one you need to go back and watch, whereas if you’ve already seen it, it’s well worth another viewing.
Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai and Mayumi Ozaki – AJPW 11/04/93
Only two women’s matches have won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s prestigious Match of the Year Award, and both of them feature Manami Toyota. To anyone who read my Top 15 Favourite Finishers of All Time list, you will know how much I adore this woman’s work. In my opinion, Toyota is the best female to ever step between the ropes, and one of my personal favourite wrestlers of all time. In fact, it was hard not to dedicated this entire list to Manami’s matches; I’ve had to limit myself to including just two (but there will be another list in the future so I can rave about her incredible ways some more).
The first in a trilogy of all-time classic tag team bouts, everything about this match is fantastic: it’s probably the best display of athleticism in a women’s match I have ever witnessed, especially by Toyota; brilliant heel work from both Kansai and Ozaki throughout; stellar teamwork and double team moves displayed by both teams; world-class selling of moves from everybody involved; possibly the best series of dropkicks I’ve ever seen; and Toyota’s ring gear looks like something straight out of a Winter Olympics’ figure skating final, it’s wonderful. Choose not to watch this, and you will be missing out on perhaps one of the greatest tag team matches in history.
Alundra Blayze vs. Bull Nakano – SummerSlam 1994
You all know who Alundra Blayze is – she’s a 2015 WWE Hall of Famer, she put the WWF Women’s Championship in a bin live on Nitro, and she’s pretty much the only woman WWE talk about from the New Generation Era – but have you actually seen one of her matches? Well, there’s a reason why she was so dominant during that period of women’s wrestling. In this Summerslam match, both Alundra and Bull display more athleticism, technical ability, and in-ring psychology than the vast majority of the WWF male roster could at the time. Bull dominates Blayze for the majority of the match whilst keeping her glorious, gravity-defying hair intact in an overlooked classic.
1994 was a pretty awful year for the WWF, both outside of the ring due to the infamous steroid trial, as well as inside the ring because of the lack of big names at the time, and when talking about the few positives of the year, most people can only name Bret vs Owen, and the Michaels vs Razor ladder match, yet I think this match definitely deserves to be in the same conversation.
Combat Toyoda vs. Megumi Kudo (No-Rope Electrified Barbwire Deathmatch) – FMW 29/04/1997
This match will not be to everyone’s taste, but it has to be included because of how extraordinary violent it is in comparison to the average female wrestling match. The deathmatch, and hardcore wrestling in general, is thought of as an almost exclusively male genre, yet this bout proves that women can be equally as barbarous and savage.
The main attractions to this match are actually the psychology involved in avoiding the electrified barbwire ropes, and the vicious array of moves executed, including the Kudo Driver (also known as the Vertebreaker), innovated by Megumi herself. If you take away the blood, pierced flesh, and explosions, it’s actually a high quality, psychological wrestling match. Watch for the curiosity that the extreme name provides, stay for the great in-ring action.
Trish Stratus & Lita Vs. Gail Kim & Molly Holly – Unforgiven 2003
Clearly these women weren’t given the time they deserved, but they made every second of it count. This match is an all-out, fun, fast-paced brawl from start to finish filled with great tag team spots. Despite its short duration, this match packs in so much action in such a small space of time that it is definitely something worth tracking down on the WWE Network.
Gail Kim vs Awesome Kong -TNA Turning Point 2007
Awesome Kong may well be the best female heel I have ever seen, using her dominating size mixed with despicable tactics to destroy her opponents. If you need one match that encompasses every aspect of her character, this is it.
The match starts with Kong blind-siding Kim, and embarking on a remorseless assault around ringside. The two competitors establish a perfect balance throughout; although Kong’s size is a huge factor, at no point does it ever seem one-sided. It seems as though both wrestlers have an equal chance of winning, and the build to Kim finally knocking Kong off her feet is executed perfectly. Personally, I don’t think there are many matches in the TNA library worth going back to watch, however this classic is a clear exception.
Akira Hokuto vs. Shinobu Kandori – AJPW 4/2/93
During the late 80s and early 90s, it was apparent by the performances they would put on that Japanese female wrestlers were really trying to prove themselves, trying to show how good they were and how they deserved just as much respect and admiration as male wrestlers. This determination led to a plethora of fantastic matches, and as we’ve seen previously on the list, most were hard-hitting, often bloody and dangerous affairs. This match is no exception.
Although it does take a while to truly get going, this bout is personal, painful, and extremely physical. With both women fuelled by hatred and covered in blood, they hit each other with everything they have with brutal results. It’s not the best match on the list, yet it is definitely still worth your time.
Bull Nakano and Akira Hokuto vs. Mayumi Ozaki and Cutie Suzuki – WCW World War 3 1995
Worth watching for Nakano’s hair and Hokutos’ entrance outfit alone, this is one of the few all-Japanese women’s matches available on the WWE Network. WCW were always willing to bring in international talents, especially Japanese, in order to gain more mass appeal, introduce new styles to a western audience, and attract the more technical wrestling fan. In fact, they did multiple supershow PPVs with New Japan Pro Wrestling, including the infamous Collision in Korea. In 1995, WCW brought in four Japanese women to put on an exhibition for the American fans during one of their biggest PPVs, and they did a fantastic job.
At the time, WCW didn’t even have a Women’s Championship, so the fact they would bring in these women to display their talents on such a big stage was surprising, and a sign of change in the company. The following year when they were crowning the inaugural Women’s Champion, WCW brought in several Japanese wrestlers from the newly established GAEA promotion in order to compete in a tournament for the belt, which was eventually won by one of this match’s competitors, Akira Hokuto. The trend wasn’t carried on through their boom period during the late 90s, and their willingness to display technical, women’s wrestling wasn’t picked up by any other major western company for a long time, yet WCW’s enthusiasm to exhibit international female (and male) talent was important and at the time, refreshing.
Although they were only brought in for this one PPV match, and another tag team match on the following Nitro, these women put on a memorable show.
Lita vs Victoria – (Steel cage match) 2003 RAW 24//112003
Here we have one of the few female gimmick matches on WWE television at the time that wasn’t degrading or involved clothes being pulled off. Despite the fact this is the shortest match I have featured, and it did not get the time it rightly deserved, these two legendary WWE women did not waste a single second. It’s sad that televised matches like this are often rushed, and ultimately end up being forgotten about due to the shire amount of content WWE produces, yet if the people involved utilise the opportunity they have to their full advantage, like these two women did, their talent will shine out and be remembered no matter how short it is, or how long ago their match was.
Manami Toyota Vs. Aja Kong AJPW 26/03/95
This match is worth watching for the pure brutality alone. Although I don’t think it quite deserves the Five Stars that Dave Meltzer gave it, it is still a wonderfully physical match featuring a barrage of some of the stiffest strikes, piledrivers, slams, and submissions I have ever witnessed in a wrestling match. Toyota’s ability to absorb Kong’s constant barbaric punishment is at times hard to watch, yet always impressive, much like the picture perfect suplexes she performs throughout the match. As great as this match is, and it is more than worth your time, it’s arguably not even the best one-on-one match Manami was ever involved in, but I guess that will have to be saved for another article.
Do you have a women’s match in mind that you think I need to see? Please leave your suggestion in a comment below or tweet it to me @hairywrestling