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Diva is a term used by the professional wrestling promotion World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) to refer to its female talent. The term is applied to women who appear as wrestlers, managers or valets, backstage interviewers, or ring announcers.

History

Perhaps the first "Diva" in the WWF was Sunny, who was the manager for various wrestlers. The female managerial role was not a new concept in professional wrestling. Miss Elizabeth, Sensational Sherri and Luna Vachon preceded Sunny in the WWF, yet she brought a sexuality to the position that had seldom been seen in the business before.

From 1996 to 1997, Marlena, Sable and Chyna, joined Sunny as prominent female on-air talent in the promotion. Marlena was the manager of Goldust her then real-life husband, and Sable was manager for her then real-life husband, wrestler Marc Mero. Sable quickly eclipsed her husband in popularity. Her popularity lead to the re-instatement of the WWE Women's Championship, as well as the hiring of more female performers by the promotion. Sable became the first WWF female to refer to herself as a 'Diva' saying "I am the Diva of the WWF," on the April 19 edition of RAW in 1999. The term was coined instantly. However, unlike Jacqueline and Luna, the more physical Divas and experienced wrestlers at the time, Sable later admitted that it was written in her contract that she was not allowed to take bumps. Nicknamed "The Ninth Wonder of the World", Chyna debuted as the laconic bodyguard of the highly popular stable D-Generation X in 1997, and later gained popularity in her own right competing against male wrestlers, even becoming the #1 Contender to the WWE Championship at one point. She held the WWE Intercontinental Championship three times between 1999 and 2000.

Although Sable would leave the WWF after several years, the WWF would sign many more female performers during and after her employment with the company, and would promote them as "Divas." In 2000, newcomer Lita would focus her attention on the WWF Women's Championship. Lita performed more risk taking moves than the Divas before her, such as moonsaults and diving hurricanranas. Her popularity encouraged a higher standard of athletic competition within the WWF Women's Division, while still retaining the sexual element. Lita is the only Diva to have won the Women's Championship in two of RAW's main events.

Around the same time of Dumas' arrival, Trish Stratus made her debut. Stratus started off as a valet, who brought pure sexuality to the ring. Also later that year, Molly Holly made her debut. She was a contrast to most of the other Divas because she was given a more wholesome gimmick and more modest ring attire.

In the Autumn of 2001, Stratus was trained by then-Diva trainer Fit Finlay and improved her in-ring ability, working her way up to the top of the division and winning the Women's Title. Lita and Trish Stratus have been credited as the women that changed the face of Women's Wrestling, as they brought sexuality and ability to the ring in such even amounts and kept the fans entertained.

In 2001, Chyna left the WWF due to real-life issues between herself, Triple H, and Stephanie McMahon. Her last feud was with Lita. However, in April 2002, Lita suffered a neck injury and was the first Diva to have neck fusion surgery. She was out of action for approximately one year.

Also during 2002, WWF changed its name to WWE and brought in a host of new female talent. Over the next few years, WWE hired more Divas than ever before. Stacy Keibler, Torrie Wilson, Christy Hemme, Miss Jackie, Dawn Marie, a returning Sable and numerous others would often compete in contests from "Pillow Fight" and "Bra and Panties" matchups to "Bikini Contests", which were based more on the sexual appeal of the women involved, while distinctively Lita, Trish Stratus, Jazz, Gail Kim, Molly Holly, Jacqueline, Ivory and Victoria competed for the WWE Women's Title featuring match ups only previously participated by men such as Street Fights, Table Matches and the first ever Women's Steel cage match.

From 2002 to the present, WWE began hiring new Divas assigned to their development territories to train and wait to be called up to the main roster. These new Divas are recruited from model agencies, the independent circuit, and the Diva Search.

In 2003, Gail Kim became the first woman with a Korean background to win the Women's Championship. Also, Jacqueline held the WWE Cruiserweight Championship (a male title) briefly in 2004.

In the summer of 2006, WWE Announcers began referring to the Divas as "The Sexiest Women on Television."

Towards the end of 2006 Trish Stratus and Lita left WWE, leaving Torrie Wilson, Victoria, and Lilian Garcia from the previous generation of WWE Divas with a vast majority of recent arrivals. By this time, RAW ring announcer Lilian Garcia had been with WWE longer than any other current WWE Diva.

Controversy

There has been some measure of controversy relating to WWE Divas. The risqué matches and storylines the WWE Divas have taken part in were cited as part of an extensive campaign against WWE and the content of its programming throughout the late 1990s.

Harassment of the company's females has also been an issue. Rena Mero left WWE for several years, claiming that she was harassed by other performers in the promotion. Harassment claims were also made by Nicole Bass and Amy Weber. Mero sued the company for $110 million over issues of sexual harassment and the licensing of the "Sable" name.

This aspect of the industry draws widespread criticism for its misogynistic treatment of women as sex objects, who usually appear either scantily clad or 'glamorous' in the form of evening gowns and the like. These issues have been portrayed in angles involving divas.

WWE Diva Search

The Diva Search is an annual competition that occurs every Summer. The purpose of the Diva Search is to find new women to act as wrestlers, interviewers, and valets in WWE. The winner of the competition receives a one year contract worth $100,000. Previously the contract was worth $250,000.

Promotion

The popularity of women in WWE has resulted in various cross-promotions with other brands featuring WWE Divas. Various Divas have posed in Playboy, and others have appeared in commercials for WWE and non-WWE products as well as men's interest magazines.

WWE photoshoots

The WWE Divas normally go on an annual photo shoot every year, usually to a different location each time. The photoshoot is followed by a magazine featuring photos from the shoot as well as a television special or video release of highlights from the shoot.

* 1999, WWE released their first Divas video Come Get Some: The Women Of The WWF, which features interviews and footage of the Divas. Debra, Chyna, and Tori made the cover.
* 2000, WWE introduced their second Divas home video franchise with Postcard From The Caribbean. The photos were released on a special Swimsuit edition of RAW Magazine. Divas in this photoshoot all had their own cover.
* 2001, the DVD In Hedonism was released as well as the first of the now annual magazines. Lita earned the cover of the magazine. Also, all Divas made it on the DVD cover including Trish Stratus, Debra, and Lita.
* 2002, a UPN special entitled WWF Divas: Sex on the Beach aired. It was then later released on VHS and DVD format as WWF Divas: Tropical Pleasure with Trish Stratus on the cover. However, the home video was missing the mainstream music and Molly Holly, who had appeared in the special.
* The first lingerie shoot, WWE Divas Undressed was originally a special on TNN (now Spike TV). The program was a competition or "Thong-a-thon" as Jerry Lawler called it. All of the divas, except for Jazz and Lita, were involved, however Trish Stratus only competed in the first round due to a "kayfabe" attack by Jazz. It was later released on VHS and DVD with behind the scenes photoshoot sessions. Jazz participated in the photoshoot session despite being injured. Stacy Keibler was the covergirl of the WWE Divas Undressed magazine.
* 2003, the Divas traveled to Arizona to participate in a variety of outdoor activities as part of WWE Divas: Desert Heat. Trish Stratus, Stacy Keibler, and Terri Runnels went on a Jeep tour and got to use a gun. While Victoria and Nidia got to relax and go rafting. Jazz, Ivory, and others spotted a rattlesnake. The magazine covergirl was once again Trish Stratus.
* 2004, the Divas went to the beaches of Mexico as part of WWE Divas: South of the Border. To determine who would make the cover of the magazine, a poll was taken on WWE.com, where fans voted Torrie Wilson as the covergirl.
* 2005, the Divas traveled back to Mexico for Viva Las Divas of the WWE. The more experienced Divas traveled to the beaches of the Grand Xcaret and Grand Cozumel, along with the 2004 Diva Search winner, Christy Hemme and longtime WWE ring announcer Lilian García (in what was her first divas shoot in the 6 years she had spent so far with WWE). The newer Divas, including Joy Giovanni, Amy Weber, Michelle McCool, and Maria Kanellis visited only the Grand Cozumel. Some controversy arose when it was apparent that Molly Holly was not on the DVD, with some fans of Molly sending complaints to WWE. However, a few pictures of her were featured in the magazine. This was the second time she had been removed from the yearly Diva video. Conversely, Amy Weber (who had left the company before the DVD and magazine became available) was in the DVD and not the magazine. Christy Hemme was the covergirl of the 2005 edition of the magazine.
* 2006, a lingerie photoshoot took place in New York, and a DVD entitled WWE Divas Do New York was released. Much like in 2004, WWE.com let the fans decide who they wanted on the magazine cover. They chose Trish Stratus, who appeared on her third Divas' magazine cover that hit newsstands on Valentine's Day. Candice Michelle originally landed the DVD cover that was released a week later, but it was replaced with a multi-Diva cover.
* 2007, the Divas took part in a western-themed lingerie shoot for WWE Divas Do San Antonio. This photoshoot took place in San Antonio, Texas because WWE was in San Antonio for the Royal Rumble. Only select WWE Divas were chosen: Rebecca (who was later released), Lilian Garcia, Kelly Kelly, Kristal, Mickie James, and Victoria. Several of the photos and a video of the photoshoot were released on WWE.com, but the annual magazine was not released.
* June 2007, the Divas took part in a photoshoot, the second of 2007, in Los Angeles for Divas in Los Angeles. This is the 2nd time in the past few years that there has been two photoshoots in the same year. This shoot, unlike previous years, has a special section to the Development Divas. The development Divas that are featured were Milena Roucka, Beth Phoenix, Maryse, and the Garcia Twins (Brianna & Nicole), though, Maryse and Beth are already on the main roster. Candice Michelle, Torrie Wilson and Mickie James are on the cover.
* 2008, the Divas took part in a bikini photoshoot for Divas Uncensored, this photoshoot took place at a beach in Tierra Verde, Florida. Only select WWE Divas were chosen: Ashley, Maria, Mickie James, and Eve Torres. Several photos are seen in a WWE magazine that came out in April which in a section Maria, Ashley and Mickie give advice regarding relationships and where Eve Torres answers questions from fans though a photo from this photoshoot of Mickie James was featured in WWE.com's Daily Diva section.

Playboy

Since 2003, a WWE Diva has posed nude and appeared on the cover every year:

* 1999: Sable
* 2000: Chyna
* 2003: Torrie Wilson
* 2004: Torrie Wilson and Sable
* 2005: Christy Hemme
* 2006: Candice Michelle
* 2007: Ashley Massaro
* 2008: Maria Kanellis

Playboy playmates, such as Carmella DeCesare and Karen McDougal have also appeared in Diva Search in 2004. Some former and current Divas such as Trish Stratus, Lita, Debra, Sharmell, Stacy Keibler, and Melina have indicated that posing for Playboy magazine is out of the question for them. Stratus has appeared on sports talk show Off The Record and said that she didn't pose because she wanted to be known as "multiple time Women's Champion Trish Stratus" rather than "the girl who posed in Playboy." Stratus also claims that she refused the shoot because she says she can still be sexy without taking her clothes off. Dumas has said that she didn't pose because she felt it was wrong for her character (who was known as a role model for young girls at the time) to pose for the magazine. Stacy refused to pose as she believes it would be better if she "left something for the imagination."

Tammy Lynn Sytch (Sunny) claimed to have refused an offer by Playboy to pose for the magazine. However, Rena Mero (Sable) later claimed that Playboy had actually never approached Sytch, and that Sytch had fabricated the whole story.

Other

In 2007, Ashley, Torrie Wilson, Maryse, Brooke, Layla, and Kelly Kelly shot a video for music producer and rapper Timbaland. and, in the same year, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle, Michelle McCool, Maria, Layla and Kristal Marshall appeared in an episode of the US reality show Project Runway, in which designers were asked to design in-ring attire for their designated Diva. In 2008, Layla, Mickie James, Kelly Kelly, and Melina appereared in the US reality show Celebrity Fit Club: Boot Camp to get the celebrities in shape.

Women's Championship

Further information: WWE Women's Championship

WWE Babe of the Year

The WWE Babe of the Year contest is a contest where fans get to vote on who is their favorite WWE Diva for that year.

Trish Stratus won the inaugural Babe of the Year competition in 2001. Stratus had her own mini-site on WWE.com but she left and her photoshoot of choice was a space-type theme. The corresponding mini-site was fittingly named "The Stratusphere." Stratus retained her title in 2002 and received another mini-site on WWE.com. The 2003 edition was again won by Stratus. This time Stratus claimed she would let the fans decide the winner. While picking out her outfits, Trish ran into a fan who said that they would decide everything for her.

Stacy Keibler ended Stratus's reign in 2004 and won the honor, receiving her own mini-site and a photoshoot for every month in the year, sometimes two. The photoshoots were usually themed from the holiday of that month.

Rookie Diva of the Year

The first and only Rookie Diva of the Year contest was held on the SmackDown! PPV No Way Out 2005, where former WWE Diva Joy Giovanni defeated Michelle McCool, Lauren Jones, and Rochelle Loewen. However, McCool is the only one of the four who ended up receiving wrestling training, improving her abilities, and staying in WWE as of 2008. By this point, Giovanni, Jones, and Loewen have already been released from the company and left the business. (Credit: Wikipedia)

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