The WWE Network has produced several great documentaries under the “WWE 24” banner. This week after Raw, they premiered a film they called WWE 24: Empowered that focused on the women’s wrestling division and a special behind the scenes look at the first-ever women’s Royal Rumble match.
The documentary opened up with clips of the women in the Royal Rumble match meeting at the hotel in Philadelphia where they went over the match. It was really cool to see the women of today’s WWE interacting with some of the women from the past brought in for this year’s Rumble match. The women were really excited when they were told they would be in the main event of the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.
If you watch WWE programming regularly, you know how much they push the women’s division and how much it’s evolved over the last few years. The phrase “making history” is repeated all the time and if you watched this WWE 24 special, you heard it many times over the course of the 52-minute documentary. I joked on Twitter that if you did a drinking game for every time they said “making history” you’d probably die of alcohol poisoning.
It’s true, but I do understand why WWE says it all the time because they want to drive the point home and that’s what they do. Like the great Bart Simpson said many years ago: “Repetitiveness is my job.”
For this review, I’ll cover the key points of the documentary including the ways WWE has made history — especially in the last few years — the Royal Rumble match itself with plenty of behind the scenes footage and then Ronda Rousey’s surprising WWE debut.
Women’s Wrestling Making History
“I’m incredibly proud and blown away by that moment.” – Stephanie McMahon-Levesque talking about WWE women wrestling in Abu Dhabi.
The doc focused on some key moments in the women’s evolution in WWE, beginning with Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks competing in the first-ever women’s Hell in a Cell match that headlined the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view in 2016.
Carmella was also shown winning the first ever women’s Money in the Bank match in June 2017. What they didn’t mention is they had to do the match at the pay-per-view and then a few weeks later on Smackdown due to James Ellsworth’s interference. Carmella won both matches to become Miss Money in the Bank.
There were clips of the WWE Abu Dhabi event on Dec. 7, 2017 that featured a match between Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss and Sasha Banks. They had to wear special outfits that covered their bodies head to toe because, as Stephanie McMahon put it, “they had to be respectful culturally and had their skin covered.” A clip aired of the match while some fans chanted “this is hope” for them with Stephanie talking about how it was much bigger than WWE itself.
Highlights were shown of women from WWE’s past: Sensational Sherri, Wendi Richter with Cyndi Lauper, Alundra Blayze, Sable, Chyna, Lita, Trish Stratus, Michelle McCool and then they focused on current stars. It was interesting to see Chyna there. She passed away recently and before that, WWE said they couldn’t honor her because she did pornography, but they chose to include her here. I thought it was smart to include her and I like seeing that because you can’t ignore the fact that she made a huge impact in WWE during the Attitude Era.
The Mae Young Classic tournament from the summer of 2017 was shown. It was an all-women’s wrestling tournament featuring 32 women with Japanese sensation Kairi Sane beating Shayna Baszler to win the Mae Young Classic. They showed a clip of Sane looking all excited to be a part of the Rumble match.
Royal Rumble 2018 Behind the Scenes
“Congratulations to everybody here. This is an incredible, historic moment that every single one of you has had a huge hand in making this happen. This happened because of you. Remember what you’re doing today and make history. Years from now, little girls will be walking to that ring as grown ups living their dreams because of moments like this when they say I sat there as a little girl and watched that Royal Rumble match. This will be one of the greatest moments of your life. Remember what you’re doing today and make history.” – Triple H talking to the 30 women in the Royal Rumble match.
The majority of the documentary focused on the Royal Rumble match. There were some funny moments where they showed Asuka riding to the arena with Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks and Bayley, with Asuka saying she beat them. Triple H talked about being aware of Asuka when she was wrestling in Japan (Triple H is in charge of hiring talent in WWE) and they were able to sign her. Triple H called Asuka a foundation of NXT when she was there for two years with her undefeated streak.
There were clips about some of the newer women stars like Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. It mentioned their Absolution trio along with their mentor Paige, who they had a history with from the Tough Enough reality show in 2015. Paige was a judge on the show while Mandy and Sonya were contestants. They didn’t mention Paige’s serious neck injury that has kept her out of action for months and she is medically disqualified.
A few minutes were spent with women on the roster speaking about how Stephanie McMahon’s been so encouraging and supportive in the women’s division. Stephanie spoke about how her three daughters were going to be ringside watching the Rumble and how it is about showing today’s generation that they can be and do anything.
It was cool to see them feature my favorite woman of them all, Mickie James. She has an interesting connection with the women because she was there in the mid-2000s until 2010 and then she was brought back full time in 2017. Other women talked about how it being like a reunion while mixing in with the new talent as well.
Ember Moon, the NXT Women’s Champion, was really excited to see the women from the past and talked about how she was jumping for joy seeing everybody.
Prior to the women’s Royal Rumble match, Triple H gathered the women together and gave them a speech. I wrote what he said up above. That was followed by Paige shown in tears on her own because it really hurt her that she didn’t get to be a part of it. Carmella said they got supe-hyped during that moment.
At around the 35-minute mark of the documentary, they got to to the Royal Rumble match with Sasha Banks entering in the number one spot. Becky Lynch talked about how amazing it was to be in the ring when Lita entered at #5 in the match.
It was funny to see Vickie Guerrero doing her “Excuse Me” promo and all of the women backstage were laughing at how funny she was. Vickie was not a wrestler, but she was an entertaining character that knew how to get the crowd to hate her.
There was a backstage shot of #25… Asuka. That was a big moment because Asuka won the Rumble match. There were not a lot of comments from Asuka because English is a second language for her since she’s Japanese, but WWE has booked her like a huge star.
The last woman in the Rumble match was Trish Stratus at #30, who has the most Women’s Championships in WWE history with seven. They didn’t show much of Stratus in the match except when she was eliminated by Sasha Banks with Charlotte Flair talking about how cool of a moment that was.
The final three in the match were Asuka against Nikki and Brie Bella. There were shots of the other women in the match watching backstage as Nikki shockingly eliminated Brie. Shortly after that, Asuka eliminated Nikki to win the match as expected. Women like Alexa Bliss, Natalya and Carmella talked about how special it was for Asuka to win the Rumble match.
Ronda Rousey’s WWE debut
“It was so competely indescribable. It was really something to be able to be myself out here instead of just a fraction of myself. I’m only the fighter part of myself when I get out there and today I’ve been absolutely on clound nine since the second I woke up. I feel like I’m five years younger today.” – Ronda Rousey
As the Rumble match was going on, Ronda Rousey was shown walking off a bus. She was with Triple H, who had gone to the bus to get her and some other were with Rousey as well. Rousey walked into the arena in a hoodie. Dana Brooke talked about how they didn’t know Rousey was there and that WWE kept it quiet.
After Asuka won the Rumble, she stood in the ring with Smackdown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair and Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. That’s when Ronda Rousey made her entrance and the crowd went crazy for her. It was a massive ovation. The documentary did a great job of showing fan reactions to Rousey’s appearance. When Rousey got backstage, she was greeted by Triple H and a big hug.
Alexa Bliss said she was surprised and they were not expecting Rousey there. The Rousey rumors existed for many months, but it was not a sure thing that she would be at the Rumble pay-per-view.
Rousey was shown walking backstage where she was greeted by all the women in the Rumble match as well as other WWE people like Shane McMahon. Rousey talked about Roddy Piper’s son Colton bringing her the “Rowdy” Roddy Piper jacket and how she grew up a huge Piper fan. They shared a hug backstage. Rousey also had this cool moment with Charlotte Flair.
“What makes Ronda Rousey so special is she’s an attraction, she’s a star and it goes to show that sports entertainment is where everyone wants to be.” – Charlotte Flair
The final few minutes of the documentary featured clips of the women celebrating and bonding over what they did. They added in other clips from big women’s wrestling moments. The last image was a picture of the 30 women who competed in the Royal Rumble match.
Other Notes From “WWE 24: Empowered”
** It was disappointing that they didn’t show Trish’s special moment with Mickie James in the match. That was my favorite part of the whole match because of their memorable feud in 2006 that was one of the best women’s rivalries ever. I enjoyed this shot of Trish mentioning her 7 Women’s Title reigns while Mickie is a six-time Women’s Champion. It was cool to see them having fun with that.
** I was surprised that the Bella Twins weren’t featured more in the documentary. Considering they have two reality shows with Total Divas and Total Bellas, I guess WWE felt like they didn’t need more attention. It’s odd because they were booked so strongly in the match by lasting until the final three, yet there wasn’t much of them in the documentary. There was a brief moment where Brie talked about how it was her first match in two years since she had a daughter last year (with husband Daniel Bryan). Nikki wasn’t shown that much, though, other than some random backstage clips.
** There were no comments from WWE’s Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon. I was surprised by that just because I think it would have added something to have Vince talk about it. Instead, Triple H and Stephanie spoke quite a bit. Vince has taken a backseat in the last few years in terms of delegating more to Hunter and Stephanie. That’s not surprising since Vince is in his 70s now, but I figured he might want to say a few words about how proud he is of the women.
** The above clip wasn’t shown in the documentary, but it was featured on WWE’s YouTube channel. It’s Dana Brooke talking about how boyfriend Dallas McCarver passed away last summer and she wore something special on her gear in tribute to him.
** Michelle McCool, who is married to The Undertaker and was wearing a “Deadman Inc” shirt backstage, was only shown a bit. She eliminated the most women in the match with five eliminations. I found it odd that she eliminated more than Nia Jax, who eliminated four women. Since McCool had such a big role in the match, I figured she would talk more.
It was a very good documentary like usual from WWE. They do a fantastic job on this “WWE 24” series whether they are covering an entire WrestleMania or focusing on a single wrestler like Seth Rollins or Finn Balor (available on WWE Network). This one focused on the women in the company that have worked so hard to make women’s wrestling feel like it is on the same level as what the men do.
The first-ever women’s Royal Rumble was a historic match that deserved the attention that it received in this nearly one-hour special. Well done to the women in the match and everybody behind the scenes that made it happen. Like Triple H said, they are going to inspire the next generation of fans that are watching at home. The days of women’s matches getting only three minutes or not being featured are way behind us. Kudos to WWE for evolving as much as they have in the last few years.
You can watch WWE 24: Empowered on WWE Network on demand. It’s in the “Originals” section and all you have to do is find the listing of “WWE 24” and you’ll see it there. I highly recommend it.