People often talk about wrestlers whose potential in WWE were wasted: Colt Cobana, Deonna Purazzo, Vader, Dusty Rhodes, and many, many more. While it's true that all of those are examples, the biggest waste of potential is not a wrestler, but an entire roster. Not the 2001 WCW roster, because Ted Turner screwed that up just as much as Vince did, but rather the 1995 AJW roster. Vince McMahon had access to All-Japan Women's Wrestling at the peak of its popularity, and they used it for four minute Raw matches.
We talk a lot today about how great it is that WWE is using Joshi stars such as Meiko Satomura, Kairi Sane, Asuka, and Io Shirai, and AEW having women like Hikaru Shida and Riho as champion lately. As cool as this is, and as great as Aja Kong showing up for AEW was, just a couple of small changes could have seen Aja Kong as WWF Women's Champion. Before the belt returned in 1998 and became a constant, the Women's Championship was being vacated and reactivated whenever the WWF felt that they could sell more tickets with women wrestling. In 1993, a tournament was held to determine the new Women's Champion, and if you can find more than just the finals match then congratulations you're deep down the rabbit hole into matches WWE just doesn't care about anymore. It does ultimately come down to Heidi Lee Morgan and winner Alundra Blayze. From this match we already run into problems. Heidi would get a rematch and a second shot at the belt, and that match would go under two minutes. Heidi Lee Morgan is a good wrestler and could have been a bigger part of the division, but would never get another title shot. The 1993-1995 Women's division's biggest issue is the lack of continued pushes and making stars. Only three women would hold the title in this time period, and they are the only ones WWE cared about(even then maybe only two of them, and we'll talk about that), and Heidi Lee Morgan was not one of them. It's hard to build a division around only three people, so of course it flopped. But WWE didn't need to do that, and the fact that Heidi Lee Morgan and Alundra Blayze weren't given a longer feud is just sad. Blayze's other title defenses were against Leilani Kai at Wrestlemania X which was a cool clash of eras, Luna Vachon, and then Bull Nakano. Most fans have seen Alundra Blayze vs Bull Nakano from Summerslam 1994, but Blayze retained in that match. Bull Nakano would eventually win the belt, but not in America, and not even at a WWF show.
Bull Nakano would win the WWF Women's Championship at Big Egg Universe, a ten hour celebration of women's wrestling that definitely deserves an article from me at some point. The show was hosted by a few different promotions, but All-Japan Women's Wrestling was the main host. This was the first time in this run of the belt we would see the belt at an AJW show but not the last. Many hours into this show Bull Nakano beat Alundra Blayze for the title in a match that I think just barely tops their Summerslam match. Bull would then keep the belt in Japan from November until April, and here we have a second problem with this time period for the belt. Vince and Co. were clearly fine with the belt being defended in AJW as Bull put on a fantastic title defense against Kyoko Inoue(the longest title match of this period clocking in at 17 minutes) but just that one. Why didn't Bull have more matches in AJW for the belt, or put the belt on someone else who could defend it then pass it back to Bull before she comes back to America? The other problem is that that match didn't air on WWF programming. If you don't want to put on Women's Championship matches you could at least let the all women's company in Japan put on matches and just dub the commentary. But none of that happened, and when Bull Nakano returned to America she dropped the belt on a random Raw to Blayze. That would be Bull's only run with the belt, and in steps our third champion, Bertha Faye.
The third big mistake WWE made in this period was how they treated Rhonda Sing. The woman known in Japan as Monster Ripper was turned into Bertha Faye: a comedic character from a trailer park dating Harvey Wippleman. The plan had been for her to feud with Bull Nakano, but Nakano had a cocaine charge that put an end to that. She feuded with Blayze instead, and ending up winning the belt for a 57 day reign, again though, as a comedic character. There is nothing wrong with comedic characters, and in fact I think we need more comedic women. But they should be characters we are laughing with not laughing at. As Bertha Faye, Sing wasn't allowed to do bigger moves because Vince didn't want her outshining the men. So they reduced her character to just being big. Google Monster Ripper and you'll find her competing in brutal chain matches, but here you get no such thing. Sing cited fan interest in women's wrestling waning towards the end of 1995 as reason for her leaving, but if she and Blayze were having no holds barred fights and 15 minute chain matches the crowd would certainly be interested. Speaking of late into 1995, they finally brought in other wrestlers. Survivor Series 1995 saw what is still one of the best women's Survivor Series matches as Aja Kong, Bertha Faye, Lioness Asuka and Tomoko Watanabe faced Alundra Blayze, Kyoko Inoue, Sakie Hasegawa and Chaparita Asari. It's a great example of storytelling in a match as Alundra Blayze took out three of her opponents and Aja Kong did the same. It came down to Blayze and Kong and in her WWF debut Aja Kong won. It had to be a shock to fans at the time, and if more attention was given to the division then maybe more people would have cared. This brings us to the fourth problem: wasting the AJW roster. Lioness Asuka was in WWF and the only singles match she has was a dark match. First of all, the Women's Championship was barely being defended and when it was it was in a dark match? No wonder no one cared, no one knew who was wrestling to care about. If given more time on screen and more matches then maybe something amazing could have happened. WWE put themselves in this position by giving the women nothing at all, and then throwing a whole bunch that no one in America had seen in a Survivor Series match hoping that would fix their problems. Aja Kong had a couple of short matches on Raw building towards a match with Blayze, but there was one problem.
Of course, this brings us to our fifth and final issue: Vince made a division that his top star felt alone in. Blayze, now again under her Medusa name, left WWF for WCW and we all know that story. She has talked many times about why she did it, and regretting it, but she wouldn't have been able to be swayed by Bischoff if Vince had given her a better division to be in. Ultimately, what WCW gave her was even less, but the promise of better was enough. Vince had two years to build a good division, but after turning monsters into comedy gimmicks, wasting his other wrestlers and ensuring that the rare women's match would be the same two people, and somehow making a clash of ages feel boring, there was nothing for Medusa to feel excited about. She was scheduled to face Aja Kong at the Royal Rumble in 1996, and she was so jaded that getting to have that dream rematch of their first fight from 19990 wasn't enough. With no Blayze and the belt in the trash, Vince gave up. He didn't even bother, and that mistake gave us three years with no Women's Championship. He could have made a new Joshi Championship, put the belt on Aja Kong after a match with say, Lioness Asuka, but no. He could have let Kong defend it in AJW until he felt the time was right, but no. Vince took his ball and went home.
So there you have it. Some of the best wrestlers in history, wasted on short matches, dumb gimmicks, and the one story that could have saved everything cut short because it was too little, too late. Of course Meltzer star ratings aren't everything, but Kyoko Inoue alone has more 5 star matches than the entire history of main roster WWE(main roster has 5, NXT and NXT UK combined have 8), and surely that at least means her matches should be freaking televised! We are now in a truly great age of Women's Wrestling on American TV, but we could have been there twenty years years earlier if WWE hadn't missed their biggest potential.