Note: this is an ongoing project that will be updated throughout the year as more or better information comes in, or any corrections need to be made. All the data on matches and match times were taken from http://www.profightdb.com and http://www.cagematch.net.
Results are for matches that were completed or scheduled as of August 4, 2022.
For anyone new to what I’m doing here, I logged all of the televised women’s matches for WWE, AEW, and Impact through all of 2021. I did this because I got some bad vibes from the way women’s matches were being treated on television and I wanted to find out if I was reading things right or not, because complaining about something that isn’t actually happening doesn’t really help anyone, does it? Now like I said last year matches alone are not the end all be all of judging how well the shows treat their women’s divisions. Promo segments, backstage scenes, are equally and sometimes more important as the mere existence of matches, even great ones. But in every company the men’s side seems to get in all the matches they need, and some that they don’t, so yeah we do need to count just how many matches the women are getting and how much match time they get. And promo segments should not be taken as a suitable replacement for having matches at all or limiting those matches to two minutes.
As it was last year and every year before, the biggest problem in women’s wrestling right now on TV is rationing. Too often the women’s side of the ledger is treated like a quota system – every week they get X number of matches (usually 1 or 2), X number of segments, etc while on the men’s side it really feels like no one is keeping count at all. With the number of women working for each company there’s no reason to stick to that every week. This also applies to promo segments as even Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair are often ushered in and out in five minutes or less for promos (ten if they’re interrupted and some incident happens) while several men get to monologue for ten, fifteen minutes at a time even if it’s not hitting with the crowd. And then there’s the other issue….
Non title feuds continue to be in short supply across American women’s wrestling. In WWE so far in 2022 there have been two that have gone to completion: Naomi vs Sonya Deville and Natalya vs Aliyah; while there were some new feuds with Rhea Ripley vs Liv Morgan and Becky vs Asuka those ultimately ended or hit their high note on one pay per view. (Note: whatever was to have originally become of Becky vs. Asuka turned a title feud due to the situation with Naomi and Sasha Banks). So far this year there has been one women’s match (gimmick matches notwithstanding) on a WWE Pay Per View that was not for a title, and even that involved then Smackdown Women’s Champion Flair. One feeds the other of course; the fewer women’s matches you have the less space exists for non title feuds. Men’s wrestling suffers from that too, but nowhere near to the same degree.
But back to the matter at hand. How are things for the women’s divisions on TV? As with 2021 I am looking at the following data points, for the entire year:
- Total number of matches
- Number of matches every week
- Time for each match, more specifically were the matches less than four minutes or not
- How many women wrestled on each show
- How many main events have the women had all year. And by main events I mean matches that ended the show, not just the last match on the show as some episodes end with promo segments, contract signings etc.
I gave each show a grade based on how they handled all those things in total. RAW being three hours puts it in a different place in that they should have more of everything just because, so as a result my grades are a mashup of individual performance and relative performance to everyone else. So for example in last year’s report it was noted that NXT had almost the same amount of matches as RAW for the year despite having an hour less every week of TV time to work with, which was great for them while reflecting badly on all the other two hour shows that fell far short of what they were doing. And should RAW fall short of shows that have less running time then they will be penalized accordingly.
Two things before we move on: I changed the time threshold for what I’m calling a short match now. What I’ve found from watching so many matches is that five minutes wasn’t the point where matches go from feeling rushed and implausible to feeling like they were able to get everything in. There are lots of good, or at least good enough, matches that run between four and five minutes and adding 15 seconds to a match that went for 4:45 doesn’t magically make it better. I chose four because that lines up a lot better with that kind of transition from bad to good. The other change is how I count mixed tag team matches. I included mixed tags and intergender matches last year because there were only a handful and they didn’t skew the results. Early on this year they did affect the results on RAW and AEW Dynamite, so I made the decision to exclude them in the overall match count but still credit the women who were in them and still record the match time.
Anyway, how are we doing this year? Let’s see:
Monday Night RAW
- Total matches: 53 (on pace for 89 this year, down from 109 in 2021)
- Matches per week: 1.7 (down from 2.09)
- Matches under four minutes: 25
- Women with over 10 matches: 8
- Women wrestling per week: 5.4 (down from 5.81)
- Main event matches: 8
High points: High volume of quality work from Asuka, Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, and Liv Morgan. The number of main events so far.
Low points: Week to week consistency, overall volume compared to last year
RAW was really strong for most of 2021 but has since fallen way back. At this time last year they were averaging 2.04 matches and 6.03 women wrestling per week, now they are down to 1.72 and 5.5, respectively. They have eleven episodes with only one match so far, up from six at the same time last year. And last year they had six episodes with three matches by mid July vs. two this year so far. Eight women were getting regular, almost weekly ring action (nine if you count Lacey Evans prior to going out on maternity leave) vs. five (Asuka has been in ten matches over thirteen weeks and Alexa Bliss went eight for eight respectively after returning) this year. At this point last year twenty-three matches went longer than 10 minutes as opposed to eighteen this year. Last year at this time less than a third of the matches (20 out of 64) were under four minutes but this year almost half have been less than four minutes (25 out of 53). Which means that in 2021 there were more matches at this point going over 10 minutes than there were going less than 4 (23 vs 20), as opposed to the opposite this year (18 vs 25). Finally, this year a quarter of the division was effectively benched for the last four weeks going into WrestleMania despite being able to go.
So what’s been good about RAW this year? Well, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, and Liv Morgan did very well as the workhorses of the show through the doldrums of January through April. All three logged in over 10 matches (Liv got to 20 before she moved to Smackdown!) and could top 30 by year’s end. The gauntlet match the week of Elimination Chamber was great and ran a ridiculous (in a good way) 44 minutes. The run up to WrestleMania did feature some fun matchups with women from Smackdown coming over to set up the tag team title match, and the first week of May had an excellent six woman tag team match that main evented and went 15 minutes. But outside of that the best things from the RAW women’s division prior to WrestleMania were not matches but Bianca whipping Becky with her hair and cutting Becky’s hair a month later. And while those were some great moments they don’t fall into what we’re talking about here. As far as matches go Bianca’s short feud with Sonya Deville, and Asuka and Alexa getting regular weekly action since returning have been recurring post-Mania highlights. And they’re on pace to have more main events than last year, which in itself was a step up from 2020. Overall things got much better starting at the Monday before Backlash.
Present grade: B-. The week before Backlash was looking like the ‘wake up’ point for this year. Since then they’ve booked two matches a week and have seven main events. January through April is going to keep them from getting an A again but they did A work for May through Hell in a Cell. The post-Cell period, however has seen a regression from 2.5 matches for 6.67 women to 1.7 and 5.3, respectively since. Without some turnaround those five weeks from May 2 to May 31 are looking like an anomaly.
How to improve: Keep booking more matches! This really is a case where the simplest solution is the easiest, and they did it just last year! Those five weeks in May were on par with what NXT has done this year, but then they slipped back. They need to keep it up all year and to have as many short matches as they have this year with a three hour show is inexcusable. And book a feud of some kind that is not a title feud, or a title adjacent feud like Becky vs. Asuka became. There is enough time and there are enough women to have a few just get into some kind of beef with each other.
- Total matches: 40 (on pace for 69, up from 68 last year)
- Matches per week: 1.33, up from 1.31 last year
- Matches under four minutes: 24
- Women with over 10 matches: 2
- Women wrestling per week: 3.43, down from last year’s 3.48
- Main event matches: 3
High points: Emphasis on women’s title, inclusion of tag team titles, Naomi!
Low points: Too many short matches, too many long absences, not enough roster usage
Smackdown was not very good for most of last year and has kept that up in 2022. At this point last year they were averaging 1.28 matches and 3.48 women wrestling every week, not far off from the yearly average for 2021 and this year so far. There have been some egregious offenses this year like the 3 second match between Natalya and Aliyah, which was the only match that week, two weeks with zero matches, and a ‘match’ on May 6 between Charlotte and Aliyah that ended with Charlotte beating Aliyah down before the bell rang and being intercepted by Ronda Rousey. (I didn’t include that or the two scheduled matches in back to back weeks in July where Aliyah went to the ring and the match didn’t happen) And like RAW they disappeared a third of their roster for the month leading into WrestleMania. The six pack challenge that took place on June 3 was as good a microcosm as one could get; minus Charlotte, Sasha, and Naomi the ladies who were there got less than five minutes for all six to do something and finish the match. Yikes.
We’ve also gotten the answer to the question of whether or not more people will get a chance if Charlotte or Sasha don’t wrestle on TV almost every week; that answer is a resounding no. Despite Charlotte working the fewest matches on TV so far in her career and Sasha missing both January and since May 13, no one new has gotten much experience in their places. As great as Naomi has been this year she was a been TV regular for much of her career. Aliyah had about four weeks of matches with Natalya but that came to an abrupt end in February with nothing replacing it until a beat the clock challenge in April and then she went another five weeks without a match. Xia Li, who could use the reps, has only had two matches on TV all year as did Shotzi until the last week of April (the same beat the clock challenge as Aliyah). Shayna Baszler, after being the busiest woman on TV last year with over 40 televised matches, didn’t get in the ring on TV until March 11. Yikes. They’ve papered over things on two separate episodes with an impromptu tag team match and the six pack challenge but given how things have gone all year those look more like gimmicks than a sign of improvement because there was nothing stopping them from doing those earlier in the year. And they’ve twice teased matches involving Aliyah that started and ended with her being attacked before the bell.
Positives? First and foremost, Naomi. From her singles program with Charlotte that landed a Match of the Year candidate in February to teaming with Rousey through Elimination Chamber to hooking up with Sasha Banks to revive the tag division, she has to be in the running for an MVP award this year. She’s done it all this year and should be commended. Beyond that there’s Sasha’s ring work from March through early April and the three main events they’ve run already, as many as the entire year last year. There have been two feuds so far this year that did not revolve a title, Naomi vs. Sonya Deville and Natalya vs. Aliyah; a third between Aliyah and Shotzi was brewing but was shelved and replaced with one between Aliyah and Lacey Evans. And in the last week of April they had four women’s matches, the most in any episode since at least 2020. But the deployment problems remain as they did for most of 2021.
Unfortunately, an unexpected obstacle has emerged in the form of Naomi and Sasha’s suspensions. Smackdown has lost the two women who have worked the most on TV this year until their departure, and is without Charlotte until sometime later this summer. Raquel Rodriguez getting called up plugged some of that hole but right now there is no one there other than Natalya and Liv Morgan who the bookers trust to work in the ring every week which is a huge problem, and forcing Ronda Rousey into more regular duty runs the risk of taking some of the shine off of her as an attraction. Nothing reflected that more than Nattie winning the six pack challenge on June 3 to face Rousey at Money in the Bank, and then Morgan cashing in Rousey to win the title after that match was over. Morgan’s title win wasn’t just a big moment it was necessary because quite frankly they needed another woman that they trust on TV every week. We all expect Bayley to be back soon but until it happens there’s gonna be slim pickings until at she and/or Charlotte comes back.
Current grade: C-. They’re about on pace to match last year’s numbers, which were not good but are par for the Smackdown course since 2020. They continue to try and make us accept having only one match most weeks, but I’m going to keep banging the drum for two matches to be a regular and not sporadic thing. They also didn’t have the women’s champion waste two months chasing the tag team titles like last year, which is a plus.
How to improve: Same as RAW, book more matches, particularly with women other than Nattie and now Liv. Get the newer women the time they need to get reps and get better.
Before we go any further, let me sum up RAW and Smackdown this way: they do a mostly good job at showcasing the top third of the division. On RAW Becky, Bianca, and Rhea Ripley are treated as important all the time, Asuka always gets on TV and is always talked up as if she’s a big deal. And room gets made for Alexa Bliss. On Smackdown Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and (until she left) Sasha Banks were always showcased and highlighted. But after that there’s a lot to be desired. Naomi was finally getting the time she always should have gotten and Liv Morgan graduated to being a TV regular on RAW before moving to Smackdown. And the booking has left a bit to be desired in some places, too. Doudrop and Nikki ASH have been jobbed out all year and Alexa Bliss has had mostly meaningless matches all year. Lacey Evans was inexplicably featured in five weeks of vignettes on Smackdown, then sent to RAW where she cut one promo, then sent back to Smackdown.
The rest of the roster on both shows go on and off the grid and anyone not in a title program, even someone like Bayley going back to last year, is not safe from that treatment. And it’s not simply a matter of how much time is available or how big the rosters are because Smackdown’s roster last year was thin enough that no one should have gone more than a week or two without getting to work a match. There was no excuse this year to put a quarter of the roster across both shows in mothballs for a whole month going into WrestleMania, nor to keep up the on and off routine that happens on Smackdown. It was better on Raw in May but not enough to relieve any of the pressure we should be putting on them. Going into Summerslam everyone outside the title picture on RAW was relegated to short tag team matches while on Smackdown we got two weeks of matches that were announced but ended before the bell even rang.
- Total matches: 72 (on pace for 120 this year, up from 98 last year)
- Matches per week: 2.3, up from 1.92
- Matches under four minutes: 27
- Women with over 10 matches: 7
- Women wrestling per week: 6.87, up from 5.14
- Main event matches: 6
High points: Time management, match distribution, roster usage
Low points: None really (as far as ring time goes)
NXT has been the gold standard in 2022 for putting women’s matches on TV. They punctuated the last week of April by getting three women’s matches and a mixed tag team match on TV in two hours, and the seventh time they’ve gotten three matches in on an episode. They even ran the Women’s Dusty Cup tournament on television without displacing the regular slate of women’s matches. They’ve juggled over 20 women on their active roster without anyone being off so long that you think they’re in witness protection, something you can’t say for RAW or Smackdown. In the last week of April they featured ten women in the ring and another 14 in vignettes, promos, etc which has got to be some kind of record. And even when they’ve cooked up some gimmick like the Dusty Cup or the Breakout Tournament, they don’t put those matches in place of the regularly scheduled women’s matches, they use them to augment them.
There’s really nothing to complain about here at all in terms of how much the women get to wrestle. Hell, they’ve even figured out how to lay out the shorter matches so that they make sense and don’t end abruptly the way that they do so often on RAW and Smackdown. I don’t expect to keep up the pace they ran at when they were doing the Dusty Cup and Breakout tournement, but it’s safe to feel like they’ll stick to the 2 – 3 match per week clip based on what we’ve seen. Every two hour wrestling show should be taking notes and doing the same. And the one three hour show should figure out how to do this kind of thing themselves.
Overall grade: A
How to improve: Well there is the matter that Athena (formerly Ember Moon) brought up, that the stylistic/wardrobe changes that recently took place were strongly suggested and not just chosen by the women themselves. That’s got nothing to do with how many matches they book every week but it’s worth noting. But outside of that, this is about as good as you can expect anyone to book women’s matches on television. It’s been so well done that I fully expect some type of regression next year because there’s no way they can keep this up.
- Total matches: 32 (on pace for 54, down from last year’s 56)
- Matches per week: 1.03, down from 1.08 for 2021
- Matches under four minutes: 5
- Women with over 10 matches: 0
- Women wrestling per week: 2.45 (up from 2.42)
- Main event matches: 2
High points: average match time
Low points: everything else
Same sh-, different year. One match, two women, rinse and repeat. I can type ‘one match, two women’ every Monday and rarely have to change it (5 times this year), that’s how predictable they are. It’s no better on a substantive level, either. After treating Britt Baker like an actual champion last year things have regressed as current champion Thunderrosa barely gets on television to the point where you’d think Baker was still the champion! What’s worse, that or having Hikaru Shida sit in the stands like a customer last year? You tell me. And as with last year the only saving grace is that the one match they do have usually gets somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, sparing you from the barrage of rushed 2 and 3 minute matches that happen on RAW and Smackdown. But beyond that, forget it. Even when they come up with something like the TBS Title tournament or the Women’s Owen Hart tournament those matches simply take the place of the regular women’s match that week. But unlike RAW and Smackdown during even their worst periods they haven’t thrown us any bones like the gauntlet match or the six woman tag match.
Overall grade: F. The big differences between Smackdown and Dynamite is that Smackdown does use multiple women in spots every week even if they’re not getting in the ring, and that Smackdown book short matches for the men, too, thus lessening the gender disparity a bit. They also put their Women’s champion on TV frequently enough that you don’t forget who she is, sometimes even for 10 minutes in one episode and not 10 minutes combined overall several weeks. And when they do have a big hyped up match they don’t gimmick it up with blood to try to make a point. If Smackdown is disappointing then Dynamite is an excercise in futility. Smackdown does at least come through every now and then with the match lineup, and they do involve their top 4 women in something every week.
How to improve: Same as last year; add a second match every week. Give your women’s champion more TV time than the woman she beat, and at least as much time as your secondary women’s champion. If you’re going to do a tournament, don’t use it to replace your regular women’s matches on TV.
- Total matches: 52 (on pace for 87, up from 63 in 2021)
- Matches per week: 1.68, up from 1.26 for last year
- Matches under four minutes: 18
- Women with over 10 matches: 4
- Women wrestling per week: 4.58, up from 3.9 last year
- Main event matches: 2
High points: Consistency, overall talent depth
Low points: the past two months
Impact started out hot, with two or three matches in 8 out of the first 9 weeks and a title match in week 2. On the pay per view front they capitalized on Mickie James getting the invite for the Royal Rumble by booking her in the main event of their first pay per view of the year, Hard to Kill. They were rolling along pretty well through April 7 and then the wheels fell off in the worst way. There were only 4 matches over the next 5 weeks, a spiral that went on until the ship got somewhat righted on May 19 but still hasn’t gotten back to where it was. While they remain well ahead of last year’s pace if they have another swoon they’ll be right back to where they were last year.
Overall grade: C. A month ago I’d have given them a B, maybe even an A-. But they’ve been on a terrible downward spiral in April.
How to improve: Get back to how things were going through March.
2022 has been a year of stagnation, if not regression outside of NXT 2.0. Even with the stark improvement in May Raw has taken a major step back from 2021 while Smackdown and Dynamite continue at the pedestrian pace they were on last year. Impact was neck and neck with NXT until Spring but has fallen back since; while the quality of it’s women’s division remains high the allotment of time is still spotty. On it’s two main brands WWE continues to be hit and miss outside of the title feuds; a few brief flourishes of fuller inclusion do not make up for the stretches where half the roster is getting booked like they’re about to get released. AEW continues to highlight Britt Baker and Jade Cargill, and their faction mates, while the other women have a hard time getting on Dynamite for more than two weeks in a row.
That leaves NXT 2.0 as the one place that manages it’s entire roster well and books enough matches to get everyone on at least once or twice a month. That they are on pace to have more matches in a year than 3 hour RAW is both great for them and an indictment of how the main roster is handled in WWE. Can it turn around quickly? Sure. RAW found much better footing in May, but has regressed again in June and July. As of now they would need to book two matches every week for the rest of the year and three matches for 13 of those weeks to catch up to last year’s total. Smackdown has been an absolute wasteland outside of the women’s title feud most of the year; March through mid-May was looking up with the Women’s tag team title program but since Naomi and Sasha left and Charlotte took some time off, it’s been mostly bad with scattershot booking papered over by the occasional six pack challenge or six woman tag match. The WWE main roster is basically feast or famine.
And that’s the state of things in 2022 right now as far as women’s wrestling on TV. Let’s see where it goes from here.