Becky Lynch: The man and the icon
Wrestling hasn’t always been the most feminist sport in history, but women are continuing to gain prominence in the sport. Although this change hasn’t been particular to one company, but the main company recognised around the world is the WWE. Looking back at the history of the WWE, most of its branding has been focused on their male audience members. In all fairness, the main viewership of WWE has historically been boys and men. Male wrestlers have been prominent throughout the sport as they are featured in main storylines and matches such as WWE’s shows ‘Raw’ and ‘Smackdown’, as well as the pay-per-view events.
In comparison, women have rarely achieved the same status, with their matches often being very short. Women participated in ‘bra and panties’ matches in which women stripped their opponents into their underwear while sexist language was used to describe the women. This died down when WWE took on a more PG format. However, female matches remained short, and women didn’t always get the TV time they deserved. While women like Trish Stratus and Lita also were featured on ‘Raw’, they still had matches cut out, or cut short, in favour for the men’s matches running longer.
Cue the 2010s and women’s treatment in the WWE improved substantially. By 2016, women were a part of a ‘revolution’ in WWE. Termed as being the ‘Women’s Evolution’, women’s TV time increased and there were shifts away from sexist storylines. The programming saw the first-ever women’s ‘Hell in a Cell’ match and the first-ever women’s pay-per-view. This was reflected by the growth in women watching WWE as they now made up 40% of the audience.
During this time many women rose to the top of the ranks in terms of sports entertainment. One key woman here is Becky Lynch. Lynch, from Ireland, debuted in wrestling in 2002. Following an injury, she spent time as a flight attendant and studied acting. Starting her debut in WWE in 2013, Lynch was a member of the developmental roster until 2015 where she made her ‘main roster’ debut alongside Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks. The moment was noted as being an early part of the women’s revolution and Lynch became a popular name amongst fans.
Lynch, Banks and Flair competed in the first match for the WWE Women’s Championship (replacing the previous ‘Diva’s Championship’). Despite not winning, Lynch continued to be a fan favourite. Winning the inaugural ‘Smackdown Women’s Championship’ in 2016, her talent shone through. Often being considered an ‘underdog’, Lynch resonated with the crowd through her acting talents, promotional interviews and character style. Feuding with Charlotte Flair, Lynch stated that opportunities were always given to Flair after a match loss at ‘Summerslam’ in 2018 against Flair and Carmella. At the time, WWE attempted to make Lynch a ‘heel’ (or, villainous) character as opposed to a ‘babyface’ (or, hero). However, upon Lynch actually being favoured by the crowd, she was only further seen as the underdog.
Becky Lynch entered a full storyline with Flair , where she won the ‘Smackdown Women’s Championship’ for a second time and competed against Flair in a ‘last-woman standing’ match at the Evolution pay-per-view.Shortly after this, Lynch began to use the nickname ‘The Man’, a nickname often reserved for those who are at the top of the company – a position that had only been reserved for men prior to this.
Lynch’s success continued when she won the 2019 ‘Royal Rumble’. Lynch then went on to challenge Ronda Rousey for her ‘Raw Women’s Championship’ in the main event of ‘Wrestlemania’ in the same year. Eventually winning both ‘Raw’ and ‘Smackdown Women’s Championships’ in a triple threat against Rousey and Flair, the first woman to hold both titles at the same time, Lynch became WWE’s biggest star.
Receiving multiple accolades, being compared to The Rock in terms of her rise and stardom, and being the highest-paid woman in WWE, earning $3.1 million in 2020, Lynch’s career is already cemented. She went on to hold the ‘Raw Women’s Championship’ title for over a year, and hasn’t lost it but instead relinquished it when announcing her pregnancy in 2020. She hasn’t been on TV since, but with the recent return of WWE’s crowds fans have been eager to see her return.
Becky Lynch is one of the most successful wrestlers in recent history, and with her return to wrestling expected to be imminent, it is likely that she will go on to continue her legacy. Lynch represents what women’s talent can achieve as she takes her place amongst the ‘Four Horsewomen’ of WWE, alongside Flair, Banks and Bayley.