Tuesday, Pro Wrestling Illustrated announced plans to integrate women’s wrestlers into their annual top 500 pro wrestlers ranking, the PWI 500.
PWI made the announcement on Tuesday via Twitter. In 2008, the long-running pro wrestling magazine introduced a list of the top 50 women’s wrestlers. They expanded the ranking into the “Women’s 100” in 2018.
This year, women will also be eligible for the PWI 500 again. Editor-in-Chief, Kevin McElvaney posted the following statement on the magazine’s Twitter account.
In recent years, we’ve ranked women exclusively on our Women’s 100 list. This year, things are changing a bit. Historically, the PWI 500 has overwhelmingly been a men’s list. Occasionally, women who excelled against men were ranked: Jacqueline Moore, Chyna, Sara Del Rey. Not long after the creation of the Women’s 100 (formerly the “Female 50”), the 500 more formally became a men’s list.
Meanwhile, our annual ranking of the top women’s wrestlers addressed the fact that pro wrestling is still largely segregated by gender. Using our traditional criteria, how could we rank Becky Lynch against Seth Rollins when they can’t compete against each other in a WWE ring?
This challenge is by no means exclusive to WWE. In AEW, Ring of Honor, the NWA, or even in top promotions in Japan and Mexico, women are unable to challenge men for top heavyweight titles. Women competing in those places deserve recognition. And yet ..
This gender segregation is also outdated. Women are winning traditionally “male” championships in major promotions the world over. Many of indie wrestling’s top stars are women. We’ve also seen quite a few non-binary and gender-fluid wrestlers make a big impact.
Ignoring the achievements of those wrestlers is wrong. But it also seems premature to get rid of the Women’s 100 list entirely, since not everyone is competing for the same proverbial prizes in the ring. So, what do we do?
Effective this year, the PWI 500 will include wrestlers who, regardless of gender, best fit our usual criteria:
Influence on the sport
Success against the highest grade of competition
Success against the most diverse competition
This year’s PWI 500 will include wrestlers who excelled against opponents of any gender or who held traditionally “male” (or gender-neutral) championships. For the first time, multiple women will be included on the list. Frankly, this is long overdue.
Women who compete exclusively (or almost exclusively) in women’s divisions/promotions won’t be ranked in this year’s 500. However, they will be eligible for the Women’s 100 list. We acknowledge this is an imperfect system, but it seems to us the most equitable approach for now.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Asuka will likely be ranked near the top of this year’s Women’s 100. Could they one day rank as high in the PWI 500? They very well could. Wrestling is evolving, and Pro Wrestling Illustrated will evolve, too.
Bottom line: We are moving in the direction of a PWI 500 that is truly gender-inclusive. For now, we want to ensure that everyone has a chance to be acknowledged for their accomplishments. We feel that opening up the list in this way is a step in the right direction. —Kevin M.
What do you think? Drop a comment below and be sure to check back with Bell to Belles for more women’s wrestling news.