While WWE’s various women’s divisions are now home to some of the best female wrestlers in the world, back in the early 2000’s the landscape looked very different. Something that the likes of Trish Stratus, Lita, Victoria and producer and trainer Fit Finlay worked so hard to change.
Following the closure of WCW in March 2001, Finlay effectively hung up his boots to become a trainer with WWE. It was during this period that he helped nurture the fledgling talents of John Cena, before working alongside what were then known as WWE’s ‘Divas.’
As Finlay moved into his new role, Trish Stratus began to make the transition from valet and manager to wrestler.
This led to a close working relationship between the pair as they began the push to change the perception of women’s wrestling within WWE. Up to this point, there wasn’t much of a women’s division to speak of and the company’s biggest female star, Chyna (who didn’t want to wrestle women anyhow) had recently left for pastures new.
Speaking to Renee Paquette on her Oral Sessions podcast, Stratus reflected on this period, praising Finlay and how different women were brought in to try and build a female roster.
“He’s so incredible. I remember the year of work we were doing where he and I were leading the cavalry. It was a rotation of feuds and we were like what can we do now. I think Lita had her neck injury. So Jazz was brought in, then Victoria was brought in and then Mickie James was brought in. We would sit and be like OK we got to present different characters and we created storylines. It was the chance to be the same as the guys. We would slip in these moves and present something more solid match-wise. It was something different. When I was given the title in 2001, six pack challenge, I was the underdog. It was like I have this ball I better run, bye! There was no looking back from that. There was no women’s division prior to that.”
The Hall of Famer went on to explain how Chyna’s departure and the lack of other female performers meant they were starting from scratch. The Canadian also revealed that Finlay initially thought it was a rib when he was told he was going to be working with WWE’s women.
“Chyna was the last champion and it wasn’t a division thing, for her it was this entity and character thing. Kind of like a money in the bank thing. She left the company and took the title with her. So there’s not title and no division. At that point all you are fighting for is character establishing. They finally brought back the championship and we are going to do this, Fit we are going to have you lead this. He thought it was a rib because it was like ‘Ha you’ve got to work with the girls now.’ It was an opportunity to change the perception of what the girls can do in the business. We went out and tried to do that, I think we did pretty good.”
Elsewhere in the interview Stratus discussed her dislike of the term ‘Diva.’ The seven-time Women’s Champion explained that she was never behind the use of the term.
Stratus retired from full-time competition in 2006, but has continued to make sporadic appearances. The former Superstar most recently returned to the ring in 2018, where she went head to head with Charlotte Flair.