Looking back on Trish's first WWE Women's Championship 20 years ago
Brian Lusczki November 18, 2021
This year marks 20 years since Trish Stratus captured her first-ever WWE Women's Championship. It was the start of a stratusfying ride to a record-setting 7 championships.
Looking back, you could say things aligned perfectly in the Stratusphere.
In 2001, Trish suffered an ankle injury during the summer that would require surgery and keep her sidelined until fall. During her recovery, she became co-host of WWE's newest Saturday night show, Excess. But, while she fit that role nicely, she was quietly preparing for bigger plans
RELATED: Trish has surgery to repair injured ankle
Upon her return, the 'Trish Stratus' fans knew had something different about her - and it wasn't her looks. This 'Trish Stratus' had aspirations to compete in the ring, which quickly showed from a small sample of matches that followed. Her in-ring style was notably different, with a marked improvement that included a bevy of new moves. Even her finishing move – a running bulldog – was upgraded to a more intricate version, which later became her signature finisher known as the Stratusfaction.
"Being on the road for 300 days of the year didn't leave a lot of room for anything but travel and competing. But the injury gave me a moment to step out of the fray and reflect on what I wanted out of this business and how I wanted to contribute," said Trish. "That time allowed me to go back to watching the product as a fan, remembering and appreciating things that got me excited, and so I dove into studying old matches and promos. For all those months I was rehabilitating, I completely immersed myself in studying my craft. I set my intention, and that was to go back and be one of the best female wrestlers in history and change the perception of what a woman was capable of doing in the business."
As Trish returned and was honing her craft and gaining experience in the ring, WWE was looking to bring the spotlight back onto the now-defunct women's division after contract negotiations with then Women's Champion Chyna fell through, leaving the division with no champion. But who would be the woman to lead the charge? There was no shortage of options as the women's roster began to grow as WWE secured talent from WCW and ECW.
For months the women's title wasn't seen or mentioned until Survivor Series rolled around and WWE announced a 6-Pac Challenge featuring all 'working' women to crown a new champion. This, of course, was welcome news to the women's roster – finally a Championship to fight for. .
The match was set: it included high flyer Lita, grappler Molly Holly, veterans Ivory and Jaqueline, and featured the surprise debut of ECW's former resident badass Jazz. Amongst the stacked talent was Trish Stratus, former valet and the underdog of this match.
The time finally came on November 18th, 2001 to find out who would shine and lead the charge of the resurrected Women's Division. The match showed the fans that they now had a viable Women's Division as the women put on a spectacle. It could have gone any direction, each woman worthy of taking the crown. But that night, Trish's hard work and determination paid off as she became WWE Women's Champion for the first time. As the crowd roared in approval, the company put their trust and all their hopes into the underdog to build the future of the Women's Division.
"I knew how important this win was and that it was the start of something fresh and new and a chance to showcase the women and that division in a different light. I was thrilled, honored, and excited about the responsibility and ready to take this division to a level unseen before."
That night WWE gave Trish the ball, and she took off running with it and never looked back. She grew in the ring on a nightly basis during each title defense and brought new eyes to the women's division. The product saw an increase in the female demographic, and the stands previously male-dominated began to fill with women who were cheering on their female heroes in the ring. With groundbreaking matches, memorable storylines, and character work, Trish laid down the foundation of a career worthy of a Hall of Fame nod. That Survivor Series title win was the building block to 7 title reigns. A record that held up for over a decade.
Recently, Mattel released an action figure donning the pink & black gear Trish wore that night, commemorating her crowning achievement. (ORDER YOURS)
It's safe to say the WWE Universe and Stratuspherians would agree that WWE made the right decision that night.
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