Thanks to a new generation of female superstars, women’s wrestling is healthier than at any point since its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. The one-two-three punch of Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Asuka has the WWE facing an interesting question: When your best wrestlers are women, will your pay-per-view main events eventually begin reflecting this fact? If the "Iron Man" marathon match between Sasha Banks and Bayley is any indication of what’s to come, we’re hoping they get there soon. Here’s a look at some of the top competitors in the business today.
Bayley: Since debuting in 2012, the former NXT Women’s Champion Bayley (Pamela Martinez) has gone from perennial underdog to imposing contender. A great worker with tremendous athleticism, Bayley is only 27 and has a bright future ahead of her. If she weren’t surrounded by loads of other great talent, she’d clearly be the WWE’s top dog.
Sasha Banks: Banks (Mercedes Kaestner-Varnado) is rapper Snoop Dogg’s cousin, and it shows—she’s arguably the best on the microphone out of the current crop of women’s stars. Banks is no slouch in the ring, either, having worked an epic “Iron Man” match against Bayley and a “Triple Threat” match at WrestleMania 32 that ranks among the best in history.
Charlotte: Charlotte (Ashley Fliehr) is the daughter of WWE legend Ric Flair, but she performs the type of high-risk, high-reward moves her dad never could, ripping off high-arcing moonsaults, impressive flips and handsprings. She’s also proved a remarkably enduring titleholder in a division previously characterized by rapid title changes, holding the Women’s Championship since September 2015.
Becky Lynch: Becky Lynch (Rebecca Quin) was trained by current NXT superstar Finn Balor and then spent years learning the ropes in independent promotions throughout Europe, Japan and North America. The experienced Lynch is the Bret Hart of her generation, a technically proficient, no-nonsense competitor who always knows how to keep her matches exciting.
Asuka: The Japanese wrestler formerly known as Kana (Kanako Urai) is among the greatest performers in the sport’s history. Despite speaking minimal English, this former hairdresser and videogame journalist mixes wild facial expressions, daredevil high-flying maneuvers and “hard style” punches and kicks to keep audiences enthralled. Still undefeated in NXT, she seems likely to challenge Charlotte for the Women’s Championship.
Natalya: Natalya (Natalie Neidhart) is another second-generation wrestler whose time has come. After experiencing ups and downs in the Divas Division, which included a run with the title, significant face time on Total Divas and a stint in “Divas of Doom,” Natalya appears poised to remain a top contender in a Women’s Division that now places a premium on athleticism.
Nia Jax: Nia Jax (Savelina Fanene) is the Rock’s cousin and has followed a similar path to the WWE. She was a college athlete, playing basketball at Palomar College, and has started slowly, losing well-regarded matches to the likes of Asuka. But Jax’s charisma and potential as a powerhouse in the Bull Nakano mold foreshadow future stardom.
Dana Brooke: Former International Federation of Bodybuilding pro Dana Brooke (Ashley Sebera) has yet to win any of the WWE’s top honors, but she has proven adept at drawing heat from irate fans who despise her arrogant ring persona. She also recently aligned herself with Charlotte, ensuring that she will receive a run in the spotlight.
Emma: Australian-born Emma (Tenille Dashwood) has been on the WWE’s payroll for many years, portraying a variety of characters and moving between NXT and the main roster, but she only recently found her footing in a feud against Becky Lynch. Unfortunately, Emma hurt her back during the blowoff match in that series and is now sidelined indefinitely.
Tamina: At age 38, Tamina (Sarona Snuka) is no longer the next big thing, but Jimmy Snuka’s daughter continues to anchor the midcard of the improved Women’s Division. A capable performer whose career has been derailed by injuries, Tamina may have one more great run left in her before she hangs up her boots. To read how women’s wrestling became the greatest show on earth, go here.