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 as of May 18, 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 matches are easy to quantify and in every company the men’s side seems to get in all the matches they need so it does actually matter. And as I said before, promo segments should not be taken as a suitable replacement for having matches at all or limiting them to two minutes.
As it was last year and every year before, the biggest problem in women’s wrestling right now on TV can be summed up to 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 ushered in and out in five minutes or less for promos (ten if they’re interrupted and some incident happens) while 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 are some new feuds with Rhea Ripley vs Liv Morgan and Becky vs Asuka right now we don’t know that those will be anything more than one offs for a Pay Per View. So far this year there has been one women’s match (Royal Rumble and Elimination Chamber matches notwithstanding) on a WWE Pay Per View that was not for a title, and even that involved 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, and 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 be 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. This year they do 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. If things change and the final results are no longer skewed I will go back to fully counting them for consistency’s sake.
Anyway, how are we doing this year? Let’s see:
Monday Night RAW
- Total matches: 32 (on pace for 83 this year, down from 109 in 2021)
- Matches per week: 1.6 (down from 2.09)
- Matches under four minutes: 19
- Women with over 10 matches: 3
- Women wrestling per week: 5.4 (down from 5.81)
- Main event matches: 4
High points: High volume of quality work from Belair, Rhea Ripley, and Liv Morgan
Low points: everything else
RAW was really strong for most of 2020 but has since fallen way back. At this time last year they were averaging 1.88 matches and 5.5 women wrestling per week, now they are down to 1.44 and 5.2, respectively. They have ten episodes with only one match so far, up from four at the same time last year. And last year they had two episodes with three matches by the end of April vs. zero 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. three this year. At this point last year twelve matches went longer than 10 minutes as opposed to five this year. And this year a quarter of the division was effectively benched for the last four weeks going into WrestleMania despite being able to go.
So is there anything good to say about RAW this year? Yes! Well, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, and Liv Morgan have done very well as the workhorses of the show. All three have already logged in over 10 matches and if they stay on RAW after the draft they’ll be near 40 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 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 were Bianca whipping Becky with her hair, cutting Becky’s hair a month later, and Bianca’s short post-WrestleMania feud with Sonya Deville. As great as those were they don’t make up for how badly everything else has been run.
Present grade: C. Despite the bright spots I mentioned the overall booking and deployment has been mostly bad.
How to improve: Book more matches! And now that Asuka is back use everyone more often. This really is a case where the simplest solution is the easiest, and they did it just last year! As great as it is for Bianca, Rhea, and Liv to get the work in that they do there are plenty of others who should be able to get more time in the ring. And to have as many short matches as they have this year with a three hour show is inexcusable.
- Total matches: 25 (on pace for 68, same as last year)
- Matches per week: 1.31, same as last year
- Matches under four minutes: 16
- Women with over 10 matches: 1
- Women wrestling per week: 3.16, down from 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 maintained that pace in 2022. At this point last year they were averaging 1.27 matches and 3.38 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 in my count, by the way) And like RAW they disappeared a third of their roster for the month leading into WrestleMania.
Along the way we’ve also gotten the answer to the question of whether or not more people will get a chance if Charlotte doesn’t wrestle on TV almost every week; that answer is a resounding no. Despite her working the fewest matches on TV so far in her career, no one new got to get any experience in her place. As great as Sasha Banks and Naomi have been this year they’ve been TV regulars for all and much of their respective careers. 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. Xia Li, who could use the reps, only had one match 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.
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. 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.
Current grade: C-. They’re about on pace to match last year’s numbers, which were not good! 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. But the non title feuds and the main events that have taken place get them some points in the plus column. They didn’t have the women’s champion waste two months chasing the tag team titles, either, which is a plus.
How to improve: Same as RAW, book more matches, particularly outside Naomi, Nattie, and Sasha. If Charlotte’s days of wrestling almost weekly are over then get someone else some work. They get a C instead of a D because they only have two hours to work with and not 3. Get the women who have been missing out of witness protection.
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. Until this year room was always made for Alexa Bliss. On Smackdown Ronda Rousey, Charlotte Flair, and Sasha Banks are always showcased and highlighted. But after that there’s a lot to be desired. Naomi is finally getting the time she always should have gotten and Liv Morgan has graduated to being a TV regular on RAW. The rest of the roster on both shows go in and out of witness protection, and even Bayley was not safe from that treatment last year. 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 it shouldn’t have happened to any of it’s members. There was no excuse this year to put a quarter of the roster across both shows in witness protection for a whole month going into WrestleMania.
- Total matches: 46 (on pace for 120 this year, up from 98 last year)
- Matches per week: 2.3, up from 1.92
- Matches under four minutes: 17
- Women with over 10 matches: 0
- Women wrestling per week: 6.35, up from 5.14
- Main event matches: 2
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. 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.
- Total matches: 20 (on pace for 55, down from last year’s 56)
- Matches per week: 1.05, down from 1.07 for 2021
- Matches under four minutes: 4
- Women with over 10 matches: 0
- Women wrestling per week: 2.32 (down 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. After treating Britt Baker like a actual champion last year things have regressed as new champion Thunderrosa hasn’t been on TV for even 10 total minutes since winning the title. What’s worse, that or having Hikaru Shida sit in the stands like a customer last year? You tell me. Dynamite remains the easiest show to update as I can type in 1 match, 2 women every Monday and almost never have to change it. 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 bright spot, forget it. Even when they come up with something extra 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. And like with RAW the numbers are skewed by a mixed tag team match. But unlike RAW 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 big spots every week even if they’re not getting in the ring. They also put their Women’s champion on TV every week long 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 than 10 minutes of TV time since she’s won the title. If you’re going to an add on tournament, don’t use it to replace your regular women’s match.
- Total matches: 33 (on pace for 90, up from 63 in 2021)
- Matches per week: 1.74, up from 1.26
- Matches under four minutes: 11
- Women with over 10 matches: 0
- Women wrestling per week: 5.1, up from 3.9
- Main event matches: 2
High points: Consistency, overall talent depth
Low points: the past month
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 non TV 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. The past 4 weeks they’ve had three matches total, the most recent of which was an under a minute squash. While they remain well ahead of last year’s pace if they keep it up 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 up until a month ago.
2022 has been a year of regression outside of NXT 2.0. Raw has taken a major step back while Smackdown and Dynamite continue at the pedestrian pace they were on last year. Impact was following a similar path as NXT but April was a real setback. On it’s two main brands WWE continues to be hit and miss outside of the title feuds; a few brief flourishes of full inclusion do not make up for the longer stretches where half the roster seems like they’re about to get released. AEW continues to highlight Britt Baker and Jade Cargill while the other women have a hard time getting on Dynamite for more than two weeks in a row. Impact usually manages it’s full roster well but then April happened. 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 WWE. Can it turn around quickly? Sure. I imagine we’ll get the obligatory added matches in June when it’s time to select women for the Money in the Bank match. But what about after that? Will RAW keep doing what it’s doing now or find it’s way back to it’s 2021 form?
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.