Women’s wrestling has come so far over the last 30 years. Fabulous Moolah, who became the first woman to wrestle inside Madison Square Garden in 1972 held the WWF Women’s Championship for an astounding 27 years, was certainly one female who paved the way for the rest.
Chyna AKA “The Ninth Wonder of the World” became the first woman to main event a pro wrestling prime time show by taking down Triple H and The Undertaker in an episode of Raw is War in 1999, marking a monumental leap for women in WWE/WWF. The scene looks a lot different today thanks to the women’s revolution in 2015 and the “Four Horsewomen” in Charlotte Flair, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks, who helped lead the charge in considering female wrestling’s star wrestlers as opposed to sex symbols.
However, that wasn’t the case at the turn of the century. Seven-time Women’s Champion Trish Stratus, Lita, Jazz, Molly Holly, Mickie James, Victoria, Gail Kim, Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler all gained fame during the Attitude Era in the early 2000s, and they had to essentially had to strip down to do so.
What Was The “Bra And Panties Match”?
The WWE was creative during these non-politically correct and often grimy times, pitting their female wrestlers against each other in gown matches, catfights, mud matches and, most famous of all, the “bra and panties match.”
The premise of these fights was simple: rip off your opponent’s clothes into nothing but her “bra and panties” and the belt is yours. WWE fans, especially the men, went wild for this type of stuff. What’s sad is that the organization objectified their female wrestlers’ bodies the way they did. But hey, we’ve progressed, right?
“I respect the women that had to do the bra and panties match, because I could never do that. You’ve got to respect that, because they did that for us to be able to do what we do now,” WWE SmackDown wrestler Alexa Bliss told FOX in an interview in 2020.
However, most of the women from that era do not speak fondly of those days.
“I look back, and I know that every time I did roll my eyes, I was one step closer to moving away from it. I was like, ‘I don’t think I can take another bra and panties match because I know I can do more than that. I think I can hold their attention and not be in my bra and panties, let’s try that.’ Everything was a stepping stone towards the changing of the tide,” Stratus told The Niagara Falls Review.
The First Bra & Panties Match: Trish vs. Lita
World Champion Wrestling (WCW) may have held a “rip-off-the-clothes” match in 2000 before the WWE did, but Trish Stratus and Lita made it famous. On October 23, 2000, the two Divas got together on WWE Raw and, well, ripped each other’s clothes off in front of thousands of fans.
The thing about this lingerie match was that it featured some pretty exciting wrestling. Lita breaks out what’s called the “Hurricanrana” (a move that once cost three cracks in her vertebrae) in which she jumps toward Stratus, wraps her legs around her head and throws her to the ground. It’s wicked, and just reason No. 568 that these ladies were way more than just pretty faces.
Lita won the match and Stratus scurried out of the ring essentially naked. So many more of these matches followed soon after.
More Bra & Panties Matches
The following year in 2001, Trish Stratus and Lita teamed up to beat Torrie Wilson and Stacy Keibler in a bra and panties match as part of WWF InVasion. During an episode of Raw in 2002, Stratus and Keibler continued their feud by taking part in another underwear match… in the mud.
It’s true that some of the most memorable of these came between the blonde-haired Stratus and the long-legged Keibler, who was dubbed the “Weapon of Mass Seduction.” The same year they wrestled in the mud, they took part in a “paddle-on-a-pole” match that ended in Stratus spanking Keibler. You won’t find that type of stuff on TV these days.
Bra and panties matches weren’t limited to two women, either. Mickie James and Candice Michelle fought Torrie Wilson and Maria Kanellis in a tag team version in 2006, and Ashley Massaro defeated Kanellis, Wilson, Michelle and Victoria in a terrific gauntlet match during New Years Revolution on January 8, 2006.
Bra & Panties Match Controversy
It’s easy to understand why the WWE put on these matches. A male-dominated audience and fanbase tells the story. That doesn’t make them any less scummy, however.
“Never looked at it that way. I just have to say out loud that this along with some other gimmick matches similar in nature were some of the most traumatic moments of my life that I have to live with, feeling like I never had a choice,” former WWE Diva Gail Kim wrote on Twitter in response to Bliss’ interview.
These WWE women were (and still are) better wrestlers than the men. Plus, there’s something infinitely cooler watching two women perform flips and powerbombs than the men. Thankfully, the ladies today are considered “superstars” instead of underwear mannequins for the pleasure of creepy men.