Note: this is ongoing report that will be updated throughout the year. For previous year’s tallys and commentary you can check out 2021 and 2022.
All numbers are as of May 6, 2023.
For those who are new to reading my work, I started doing this in 2021 because it sure felt like the women’s divisions in WWE were getting shortchanged, particularly on Smackdown. I decided to keep the party going that I started in 2021. Last year saw big gains for NXT and Impact, while RAW took a step back and Smackdown and Dynamite more or less maintained status quo. So as of right now, how are things faring? Now as I always do let me make clear what my philosophy is here:
The number of women’s matches that make it onto a TV show or pay per view are a sign of how well the division is being utilized. Should there be a quota of matches every week? No. But should there regularly be more than one a week? Yes. With two or three hours of television for each show, and the size of the women’s rosters for each show, then there’s no reason why you can’t have more than one a week. Back when there were only six to eight women per show then having one match was understandable. But in 2023 we’re talking double digit rosters for each company with a national TV show. Even if one is a squash match against a local talent, there are more than enough resources to make that happen enough so that when you do have only one match on a show it’s not a big deal. By my own admittedly made up standard you should average one women’s match for each hour of TV you have.
But matches aren’t all there is! What about promos, vignettes, backstage fights, and what not?
Matches alone aren’t the only thing that matter, but they cannot simply be replaced by those other things. Too many times that is exactly what happens, and we’re told that those other things are sufficient. But the same methods can be used to book a women’s match on TV that are often done with men’s matches – like a beef that springs up in the hallway that leads to a match that happens on the same night – and thus not requiring and existing story to set up. Not to mention that they book plenty of story-free six woman tag and multiwoman matches on the week of Premium Live Events like Elimination Chamber and Money in the Bank. The only excuse I’m willing to accept is availability. If you only have five or six healthy women for your show then yes you are limited in what you can do, but when you have ten or more that you can use then you should use them in the ring. We never see this lack of action on the mens’ side no matter who’s out, so spare me any talk about that with the women.
And this year in particular should invite more scrutiny, not less, because the women’s rosters in WWE and AEW are the largest they’ve ever been. Between RAW and Smackdown there are over 30 women who can get in the ring (full time wrestlers plus wrestlers who primarily act as managers like Valhalla and Scarlett), and the women make up one third of the main roster. AEW has a bigger roster for its own shows, and has women who primarily work for Ring of Honor but do cross over sometimes. So there should be more of everything just off of having more women to work with alone. So just matching last year’s output is unacceptable and even a slight increase should not be applauded either. There should be significantly more in 2023.
But I have chosen to respond to that criticism by looking at the other parts of the booking. Now I am also discussing the creative side of things – storylines, TV time for things other than matches, etc. And let me be clear in what I am calling a storyline. It’s just that: a story. Announcing a match then doing a couple of TV angles to accompany said match is not a storyline. A storyline has some kind of through line, a beginning and eventually some kind of resolution. It has points in the middle that build on the struggle between the characters. It’s not just a couple of promos, one ending in a fight, before the match happens. It’s not a collection of contrived ‘put these two in the same space and set off the fireworks’ sketches.
Monday Night RAW
- Total matches: 31, up from 27 by May 2, 2022
- Matches per week: 1.72, up from 1.5 by May 2, 2022
- Matches under four minutes: 8, down from 16 by May 2, 2022
- Women wrestling per week: 5, down from 5.22 as of May 2, 2022
- Minutes of women wrestling per week: 14:30, up from 11:30 as of May 2, 2022
- Main event matches: 3
Two words that can best describe RAW after 18 weeks are consistently inconsistent. They opened the year with two matches in back to back weeks, then went three straight weeks with only one match, then had three matches a week for two weeks, then it was 1, 3, 2, 1, and then 2 each of the final two weeks before Mania. There are more matches per week this year (1.72 vs 1.5 in 2022 at this point) and the same number of women wrestling per week. As for the total numbers, RAW will finish in a virtual tie with last year if the current patterns hold up throughout. A few positive notes are that RAW so far has more women’s main events so far this year than at the same point last year (3 vs 1), and that on average the women’s matches are getting more time in total than last year, just under fifteen minutes per episode vs eleven and a half in 2022. Now the bad news. RAW had anywhere from twelve to fifteen full time active women available all year prior to the draft and while you can’t put them all in matches every week there is no excuse to ever have one match between two women as your entire slate on a three hour show, which has already happened six times in three-plus months. So altogether it’s a mixed bag in that there is a higher allotment of matches than last year at this time but the distribution is all over the map, and the increases in matches and time allotted do not square with the increase in the size of the women’s roster.
The big setback this year is creatively. Last year there were nine or ten matches on TV that contributed to active storylines in a meaningful way going into WrestleMania. RAW this year has been chock full of throwaway matches that could have been completely excluded without hurting any ongoing stories; at the most generous count I’d say they’ve had five so far that were really necessary. And that’s just matches. In terms of storylines in 2023 we have……the pending Damage Control breakup, which is a continuation from Damage Control vs Becky Lynch and friends that started in 2022, which itself is a continuation of Damage Control vs Bianca Belair and friends. Other than that we got a month of Bianca vs Alexa Bliss, and now pot-Mania we’re getting Lynch vs Trish Stratus. That’s it. In 2022 by Mania there had been Becky vs Doudrop, Becky vs Lita, Becky vs Bianca, the women’s tag team title match buildup for Mania, and Rhea Ripley vs Nikki Cross. Then in April post-Mania there was a quick but effective program between Bianca and Sonya Deville. Now the 2022 well did dry up afterwards – there were four real storylines the whole rest of the year – but even that would be a step up over right now. Nowhere can this be seen better than in the build for Asuka and Bianca’s Mania match, where the two women stared at each other for four weeks before finally having a bit of a row after the age old ‘coexist’ tag team match in week 5 and zero contact of any kind on the go home show. That is absolutely egregious and to call that any kind of storyline is just absurd. Now imagine if Lynch wasn’t there to continue the Damage Control feud or go into the Trish feud, there very well may be nothing of any consequence happening on RAW right now. That is pathetic and a far cry from just a year ago.
- Total matches: 20, down from 23 as of May 6, 2022
- Matches per week: 1.1, down from 1.28 as of May 6, 2022
- Matches under four minutes: 10, down from 14 as of May 6, 2022
- Women wrestling per week: 3.44, up from 3 as of May 6, 2022
- Minutes of women wrestling per week: 6:48, down from 7:16 as of May 6, 2022
- Main event matches: 0, down from 3 as of May 6, 2022
On paper, Smackdown is doing a little worse than it was last year – slightly fewer matches per week, slightly more women wrestling per week, and fewer main events (0 this year vs 3 at the same point in 2022). But on a substantive level it’s taken a step back. There has been one consistent storyline all year, Charlotte’s January program with Sonya Deville. The build for the Womens’ Titile Match at WrestleMania was better than RAWs but fell far behind last year’s for Charlotte and Ronda Rousey. In hindsight the only bad thing about that was Ronda’s promos; she and Charlotte were getting physical in some way or another almost every week whereas Charlotte and Rhea had three interactions in nine weeks, only got physical once, and the creative people ignored 95 percent of the history they had together to focus on only one of their many matches against each other. Last year the first four months had the resolution of a feud between Naomi and Deville, a program with Natalya and Aliyah, and a large part of the build for the Women’s Tag Team Title Match at Mania. This is sad, and it also points to obvious elephant in the room that is the absence of Sasha and Naomi. The two of them not only anchored the tag team division through Mania, but they were both big match participants who could work a main event or long match on TV any week you wanted them to. By this time last year Charlotte and Naomi had worked three matches against each other on TV, including a main event that was one of the best women’s matches of the year, while Naomi and Sasha went on to work several matches for the tag division and Naomi got a long match against Deville in one week as well. So far this year there has been nothing close; you can’t name even one women’s match on Smackdown that’s worth recommending on a quality basis or that played a meaningful role in setting up any big matches this year. In fact outside of WrestleMania there haven’t even been any big matches on the Smackdown women’s side to speak of.
The elephant in the room here is the makeup of the Smackdown women’s roster. Last year at this time there were Charlotte, Ronda, Sasha, and Naomi, all of whom had worked big matches at Big Four premium live events and had some great performances in big matches on record. This year there haven’t been more than two available at the same time, and that was Charlotte and Rhea in March on the way to Mania when Rhea wasn’t even an official member of the roster. I’m sure HHH will tell you how great their roster is but he sure as hell didn’t book it that way; if you feel like I’m slighting anyone you should ask HHH why he doesn’t treat them the way you think they should be treated. The last time they ran a women’s main event was the Charlotte/Ronda Beat the Clock Challenge on May 6 of last year, and there were no signs before the draft that there’s going to be another one anytime soon. The draft does bring some hope; Charlotte remained while Bianca, Asuka, and Damage Control all came over giving Smackdown several women who have been in big matches. Now it’s up to HHH to book them accordingly.
Roster size is a factor in my assessment here as well. Going into Mania last year Smackdown had 10 women available; this year that number was 14. So as with RAW, a bigger roster did not lead to more of anything. As of this update they have 13 available women who are full time wrestlers plus another two who are mostly managers but can get in the ring. And yet on May 5 for the third time this year they had zero women’s matches (May 5 did have a mixed tag match, but I do not count those). If you’re telling me that on three different ocassions they couldn’t cook something up creatively to make room for one match, then what are we doing here? I know, I know….you shouldn’t just tally up the number of matches, but zero? No, you will not justify having ZERO women’s matches on a two hour show when you have ten women or more available.
Before I get to everyone else, I just have to issue a commentary on the WWE Main Roster as a whole. The booking and creative for the division has been mostly bad all year. I decided to branch out into commentary on the creative side this year because statistically things haven’t changed drastically on RAW and Smackdown in total and yet by my own assessment and those of several people I’ve talked to, things sure as heck don’t seem like they’re doing as well as they did last year. In previous years the numbers tracked a lot closer to everything else going on with each show, mainly because there were more stories happening so there were more matches with purpose. This year way more matches on both main roster shows have been completely disposable and either unconnected to anything else or totally inconsequential in the bigger picture.
And I have to specifically harp on the virtually nonexistent women’s tag team division. At this point in 2022 there had a month long build to the WrestleMania match and the promise of better days built around Sasha and Naomi. Today there’s nothing resembling that, and the titles weren’t even defended at Mania. That’s just outright pathetic. The draft has brought some promise with two teams promoted from NXT but until we see things done consistently in practice I will remain skeptical. A few good weeks, or even a good month, have happened before only to see the ball dropped again and again.
Now, on the rest of the shows
- Total matches: 41, up from 39 as of May 3, 2022
- Matches per week: 2.28, up from 2.17 as of May 3, 2022
- Matches under four minutes: 20, up from 14 as of May 3, 2022
- Women wrestling per week: 6.67, up from 6.06 as of May 3, 2022
- Minutes of women’s wrestling per week: 14:26, up from 11:12 at this point in 2022
- Main event matches: 5
Last year’s winner is slightly behind last year’s record breaking slate, but ahead of the pace they were running at the same point after 13 weeks in 2022. When the dust settles they may be exactly where they were in 2022 or maybe a bit behind. Expecting them to match what was a record breaking slate of women’s matches in 2022 is a big ask; if they come close they’re still doing better than anyone else. And on a substantive level by my count they have four active storylines going on this year and a bunch of other things. They’re on pace to match last year’s number of main events as well, and are getting in a few more minutes or ring time per week in 2023. The only caveat to NXT’s count is that so many of their matches are under four minutes; but that’s to be expected when you are dealing with a roster that is largely made up of women who came in zero experience. But all in all this is as good as you can book a women’s roster, especially when you consider that they only have two hours to work with and not three like RAW or with a spare third hour of TV that AEW has with Rampage.
- Total matches: 18, down from from 19 as of May 4, 2022
- Matches per week: 1, down from 1.06 as of May 4, 2022
- Matches under four minutes: 2, down from 4 as of May 4, 2022
- Women wrestling per week: 2.5 up from 2.33 as of May 4, 2022
- Minutes of women’s wrestling per week: 7:42, down from 8:55 as of May 4, 2022
- Main event matches: 1
Same s-, different year. Same as it ever was. There’s nothing much to say here. The numbers are virtually the same as a year ago and have no signs of changing. The one positive is that more women are getting to wrestle since they have featured more tag team and multiwomen matches. But it’s still one match a week, every week. Creatively they got the feud between the Saraya and the Outcasts vs Britt Baker, Jamie Hayter and all the other AEW natives. And then there’s the weird pocket universe that Jade Cargill exists in. Who knows what they’re doing, to be honest.
- Total matches: 24, down from 32 as May 5, 2022
- Matches per week: 1.33, down from 1.78 as May 5, 2022
- Women wrestling per week: 3.39, down from 5.11 as May 5, 2022
- Minutes of women’s wrestling per week: 10:01, down from 11:54 in 2022
- Main event matches: 2
Major step back from last year’s progress for Impact. In 2022 they’d moved ahead of Smackdown but right now they’re just ahead of Dynamite’s abysmal offering. In their defense they’ve lost several players from last year – The Inspiration, Mia Yim, Chelsea Green, Taya Valyrie (again), Rachel Ellering, and Lady Frost – and haven’t sufficiently replaced them. And now champion Mickie James is out injured. But that doesn’t mean we just give them a pass and let them get away with almost cutting their output in half. As I always say, you cannot let up or else they will slack off. Some drop off is understandable given the circumstances but there’s got to be some middle ground between where they were last year and where they are now. But times may be a changing because as I was updating this the news came across that Trinity Fatu, Naomi to most of us, has come aboard. And in the same week they ran 3 women’s matches on their weekly show one of which was the main event. The year has been a letdown so far but a turnaround may well be here.
The short versions:
- RAW: more matches, more time, same number of women wrestling, far fewer storylines
- Smackdown: same matches, same time, a few more women, no main events, far fewer storylines
- NXT: same number of matches, same number of women, a little more time
- Dynamite: a few more women, otherwise no change
- Impact: less of everything, with a few bright spots and a promising future
All in all I gotta call it unsatisfying so far compared to previous years. The biggest issue by far is the total lack of storytelling on RAW and Smackdown, which have been in virtual cruise control since February 3. This continues a practice that’s been happening going back to last year and it’s inexcusable. And let me say that no amount of correction is going to absolve several months of doing the bare minimum creatively. That leaves NXT as the only place in WWE that’s doing things creatively with their whole division and putting on a good number of matches per week. Kudos to them but the rest of the company needs to pick it up.
As for the world outside of WWE, well……. Impact had a great story going with Mickie James title chase and subsequent title reign, but James injury has cut that short. They’ve had a couple of other things going on with their tag team titles and Tasha Steelz return to action and face turn. I’d say they’re doing fine creatively but their numbers have fallen behind last year’s leap. But now with Trinity’s arrival I have high expectations for the rest of the year. AEW has the infamous Outcasts vs Homegrown feud – it’s not great but it’s something, I guess. Numbers wise they are exactly in the same place they’ve always been. And while I am not tracking them because I just don’t have the time I will give a nod to MLW for restarting their divsion this year, and to Ring of Honor for picking theirs back up as well. Based on what I’ve heard and read, if Stardom was running on American television they’d likely be the best player this year.
So to do something new, here’s how I rank the five shows:
Statistically: NXT, RAW, Smackdown, Impact, Dynamite
Creatively: NXT and Impact (tie), RAW, Dynamite, Smackdown