The women of the WWE will take center stage on Sunday, Oct. 28 with Evolution, the company's first pay-per-view event featuring an all-women lineup. The event is the direct result of a massive shift within the WWE, which is finally taking steps to put its female talent on equal footing with their male counterparts. Although the women are being granted more opportunities than ever before, such as main-eventing the 2018 Royal Rumble, the WWE still has a ways to go before reaching true parity in wrestling.
Still, Evolution marks the company's continued efforts to allow its women to really let loose in the ring just like the men, and it stands as a major achievement for the female superstars of today — and yesterday — who never thought they'd see something like this come to fruition. Among the badass women scheduled to throw down in the ring is Nikki Bella, who, after more than a decade with the WWE, has etched her place in history as one of its biggest and brightest stars. She'll go toe-to-toe with Ronda Rousey for the Raw Women's Championship in what is sure to be one ground-shaking matchup.
Ahead of the big event, we hit up the self-proclaimed fearless superstar to dish on finally getting to compete in an all-women pay-per-view, the heavily-maligned Divas Era and why she wants to change the name of her reality series Total Divas.
How do you hope Evolution changes things for the women's division in the WWE?
Nikki Bella: I hope it just gives the women more. I hope it gets to a certain point where it's not about history-making events anymore, that it just becomes normal that women are having two to three storylines every show. That they're having longer matches, more matches on pay-per-views. Where we consistently, once a year, do have an all-women PPV so we can honor the women and what everyone has done. I just hope [Evolution] gives the women more just like the men and that it just becomes something where we no longer talk about it, we just see it.
During the Royal Rumble in January, a lot of women rocked superhero-inspired garb for the historic Battle Royal. Do think that we'll see superheroes and feminist icons represented in women's wrestling gear at Evolution?
Bella: It's gonna be a very emotional time for us in a beautiful way and I feel like women are going to want to represent these icons. It's showing that women are here, [that] the superheroes are here; we're fierce, we're powerful, we're magical. So I definitely think we're gonna see that. That's what so fun. It's a part of our characters and our storytelling, and I think what the women do so well is bring those characters into their gear. They're telling a story when they walk out to the ring.
What changes are you making to your gear for this special event?
Bella: I love staying true to who I am. Fearless Nikki and what I wear, that's my Superwoman outfit. When I put that on, that's like putting on my cape and I'm ready to battle and be who I am. I'm changing things up a little bit. I felt like I needed to be a little more in sync with Brie, so Brie and I are gonna have the same feel. I'm bedazzling up a little more stuff. And because I love my Bella Army so much, I'm bringing in more of the red camo just to honor them and how incredible they are.
Evolution will see a lot of alums returning to the ring, including Molly Holly and Ivory. Who are you most excited to see throw down in the squared circle again?
Bella: I'm very excited that Trish and Lita are teaming up. I really wanted Melina to come back in a singles match. I've always loved Melina in the ring, I just think she's amazing. Who knows, maybe that still can happen. But I would love to see her compete again. I think it would be so funny to have Jillian Hall in some segment, to see some new girl take her out. That would be awesome.
I thought it would have been so cool to see Nattie and Beth [Phoenix] team up against Tamina and Nia [Jax]. Here you have third-generation women. I know Beth isn't, but Beth has always been so strong with Nattie. We can honor Jim Neidhart, Jimmy Snuka... Then all of a sudden, imagine if Lacey Von Erich's music hits and she's our guest referee. For me, those matches are so amazing and bring history to the table because sometimes people don't realize how iconic these women's dads are or how iconic these women are. To have something like that, I'd be like hell yeah!
As one of the faces of the Divas Era, I think you've been given a lot of flack for what boils down to a severe lack of opportunities for the women during that period. Do you feel like people are glossing over the accomplishments you guys made during that era?
Bella: 100 percent. We didn't make diva a bad word. A lot of us were like, 'How are we gonna make this strong and fierce, powerful and beautiful?' That's what we were taught to do and we were happy about that. And the women of SmackDown, we finally had something to compete for. Only on Raw did the women get to compete for a championship--not the women of SmackDown. I wish people could know the blood, sweat and tears that went into that [butterfly] championship and that word. That meant everything to us. It meant change for us and that word has helped with change.
I think that's why you have such a split view on it. [Women from the past] remember how hard they worked for that. I mean, we had some amazing diva champions. And I think because those women who weren't there for that era, they didn't see what we went through backstage. They didn't see what we fought for, what we cried about, what we had to lift each other up about. That's why I'm back, to remind people of what that championship means and what it's meant to so many women and how hard so many have worked to get to Evolution. If it wasn't for us women and the women before me, there would be no Evolution. There'd be no reason to have this change.
With the word diva now having such a negative connotation on Raw and SmackDown, I heard you wanted to change the name of Total Divas. Can you tell me more about that process and what that journey has been like for you?
Bella: There's been a lot of discussion for a few seasons about whether or not we should change the name. The first discussion about it was happening when we were changing [the name of female wrestlers from diva] to WWE Superstars. I was actually for it but the one thing we all discussed is, it's really hard when you have a hit reality show to all of a sudden change the name. There becomes a disconnect. But I also felt there's gonna be a disconnect no matter what because if we're making this word so bad and then you have women working so hard putting their personal lives out there, it's not fair to them either.
I think in the end, the majority just felt [we should] keep the name. But I felt it would have been the best story for the season to talk about the evolution [of the division], and this was before we had our own PPV. The evolution of how this change and to end the season finale on like, 'Bam! Now it's called whatever,' that's what I wanted when I was at WrestleMania a few years ago. I think it would be cool one day to change that.
It would be amazing to make the show focused back on women's wrestling. That's what makes it special and that's what makes us unique. And I think if we're telling certain stories in the WWE about the change of the women's division, we definitely need to do it on Total Divas. Because that's what helps bring so many women and girls to [want to] watch more women wrestle. And so, I feel like we've lost that a little bit on that show and we need to bring it back.
Catch Evolution streaming live on the WWE Network Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7/6c.
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