Experience: WWE Evolution

Posted by Julie Visser on

Most people outgrow watching wrestling, for me the passion of watching Monday night RAW faded as a pre-teen and is only something that I came back to within the past few years. I relentlessly made fun of my significant other for watching when we first started dating, fell asleep on the couch as he watched, and eventually convinced myself to watch an episode of Total Divas.  After the first episode I was hooked, perhaps it was because it was cheesy reality TV but there was something to it, something that resonated with me as a person. While I’ve never set foot in a wrestling ring I found myself relating to these women in so many ways. I was working in a male dominated industry at the time trying to prove myself as a store manager , but also as a woman. Watching The Bella Twins and The Funkadactyls have their match cut at Wrestlemania brought tears to my eyes, and then I was hooked. I knew that if I wanted to see these women in the ring for more than small snippets I would have to watch RAW and Smackdown, so I gave it a shot the next time I was with my boyfriend. He had to explain basic things to me so I’d understand what was happening and know what moves were called, but we sat there and watched and I just remember asking ‘when are we going to get to watch the girls wrestle?’ and then I learned that it wasn’t totally uncommon  for shows to not even utilize female talent some weeks. And that absolutely broke my heart, Total Divas had bonded me to these women and all I wanted to see was them compete in the ring. My boyfriend introduced me to NXT, the developmental division and told me they give everyone a better shot and that I would be able to watch women wrestle that way. I was stoked to finally find women to follow, even if it wasn’t the women on Total Divas.

Like everyone else my new found obsession was met with following my favorites on social media accounts getting a better look into their personal lives. And like most female wrestling fans I was drawn to The Bella Twins, mostly to Brie who I found a deep connection to in ways I choose to live my life. It was so amazing to see this woman using her platform to talk about animal cruelty and sustainable living.  As the Total Divas evolved so did all of the women and it felt like I was evolving alongside them as I began to find myself. I continued to watch RAW and Smackdown every week, until I finally had the opportunity to attend a NXT house show. I got to watch the likes of Bayley, Carmella, and Peyton Royce compete and kept wishing and wishing that there’d be more women’s matches. In 2016, the Divas Championship was retired and reinvented as the Women’s Championship at Wrestlemania 33, the first true step towards gender equality.  Over the past couple years as I started to become more of a fan I got to watch the women accomplish so many firsts in WWE, the first Hell in a Cell match, the first Money in the Bank Ladder Match, the first Ironwoman match, and so on. These women were banging down doors left and right to get ahead.  And that brings me to Sunday October 28, 2018, the first ever all-women’s pay per view, WWE Evolution. I remember when they announced the event and when they announced it would be in Long Island, my boyfriend and I knew we had to go. If not just for our love of wrestling but also in support of these women, and for me it was in support of female empowerment.  Right when we walked into the venue the energy was infectious, seeing so many younger girls dressed in their favorite’s merch was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

If there’s something most women don’t talk about, it would be all the hard times they go through. From abusive relationships  to unequal pay to the daily catcalling women are faced with it becomes increasingly hard to speak about, for some. Personally I have a tough time opening up about situations I’ve gone through and while the #MeToo movement has begun to bring all these issues to light that still doesn’t change all these feelings I and many other women have held for so many years. So, what does a WWE pay per view have to do with all of this? For a massive publicly traded company to put on an event with just its female talent speaks volumes for women of all ages. For the superstars of yesterday to today’s current female roster and to the young girl in the crowd watching, this pay per view is everything. It’s the start of what I hope will become the norm, it’s the evolution of a division that has continued to raise the bar event after event. The event began with a video package about the evolution of the women’s division and just how far it’s come, I was in tears and so were so many women around me, each and every one of us related to that package about working twice as hard and just how much it takes as a woman to get ahead in nearly every industry.   8 matches took place that night and every single one of them featured women pouring their everything into this one night.  It was beyond inspiring, these women stole the show and I’ve got my fingers crossed that Becky and Charlotte take Match of the Year for their Last Woman Standing Match.  Despite the fact that I don’t own a business that has anything to do with wrestling, I left that arena full of inspiration for my brand and the next steps I want and need to take.  I got to watch the Bella Twins in action (and to be honest they’ve always been favorites of mine) and have been following them in both wrestling and as businesswomen for a few years now. And despite all the criticism these two women endure from the WWE Universe, to the comments on their social media accounts they are one of my biggest influencers. They constantly build other women up while building their empire, both in and out of the ring. All of these women embody that exact energy of banding together to lift women up, and to see them have done this so well that it earned them a whole 4 hour pay per view is amazing.

So, what does this mean to me now almost 2 weeks later? This gives me hope that one day women won’t be fighting for these opportunities. It brings tears to my eyes to know that all of those little girls in that arena got to see their role models doing what we never thought possible just a few years ago. Most of all, it inspires me. It’s inspired me to be a better businesswoman and build my community around those who build women up, not tear them down. It’s inspired me to keep going every single day with this dream even though there are so many telling me its worthless, and the majority of my naysayers are women. WWE Evolution taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to and to not just quit when it doesn’t happen overnight, but to keep challenging myself and working hard because one day it will just happen. 

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