By Keith Elliot Greenberg
When Becky Lynch signed with WWE in 2013, she made a bold prediction. She intended to main event at WrestleMania.
“It’s good to dream,” a friend counseled, “but be realistic.”
The flame-haired Irish native refused to be dissuaded. “I ran my mouth,” she tweeted, “put in the miles, took the bumps…’til they couldn’t deny me any longer.”
On Sunday, Apr. 7, Lynch’s dream will become a reality when she steps through the ropes in front of 80,000 fans at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium to battle Ronda Rousey -- the women’s champion on WWE’s Monday Night Raw (Mondays at 8/7c on USA) -- and Charlotte Flair – the female titlist on SmackDown Live (Tuesdays at 8/7c on USA) -- in a “Triple Threat” collision.
It’s the first time a women’s match has ever been the main event at WrestleMania, and it comes a few short years after the female competitors were cut from the card at the annual extravaganza.
But much has changed during that time. In 2015, Lynch and Flair were among the graduates of WWE’s heralded developmental league, NXT, sent up to the main roster as part of the “women’s revolution” they helped ignite there. Rousey, the first female inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame, debuted in WWE last year at WrestleMania 34, bringing legions of crossover fans with her.
All three main eventers participated in the company’s first all-female pay-per-view in October, WWE Evolution, and their highly charged interactions promise to command the attention of both Raw and SmackDown watchers in the months following WrestleMania 35.
WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley has compared Lynch’s current momentum to that of the immortal “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
“Becky Lynch has succeeded in becoming the biggest name in our business,” he told Sky News.
Once known as the “Irish Lass Kicker,” Lynch displayed a hidden aggression at SummerSlam in August, viciously attacking Flair following a loss. Rather than jeering Lynch, though, fans cheered wildly and chanted her name, relating to her sense of frustration. At the Royal Rumble in January, she satisfied her supporters again, inserting herself into the 30-woman elimination match in place of an injured competitor, once again going after Flair.
Charlotte, WWE’s self-professed “Queen,” had already been in the match for an astonishing 50 minutes when Lynch disposed of her, winning the contest.
Because a Royal Rumble victory allows the winner to challenge for the title, Lynch went on Raw the next night to demand a match for Rousey’s championship.
By this point, Lynch had begun calling herself “The Man,” playing off the slogan, “To be the man, you have to beat the man” -- the catchphrase favored by “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Charlotte’s father and, arguably, the greatest Superstar ever to lace up a pair of boots.
But backstage forces seemed to be conspiring against Lynch. She was suspended at one point for refusing to see a doctor after a knee injury -- and took out her anger by attacking Raw commissioner Stephanie McMahon and her husband Triple H.
Still hobbled by her injury, Lynch was told that Flair would be placed in the number-one contender’s spot for WrestleMania 35 -- unless the fiery redhead could vanquish the Queen at the Fast Lane pay-per-view in March. When Rousey interfered, earning Flair a disqualification, the WrestleMania 35 main event was changed to a Triple Threat battle.
Hoping for a one-on-one confrontation, Lynch went on SmackDown Live last week and characterized Flair as an “undeserving third wheel.” Flair proved her wrong later in the evening by defeating “The Empress of Tomorrow,” Asuka, for the SmackDown Women’s crown.
It was Flair’s eighth championship in WWE, a women’s record.
Despite their differences, all three competitors are respectful of the role they’re playing in WWE history.
The opportunity to main event WrestleMania, Flair said in one tweet, “was never just talk. It was the hard work of every woman, past, present and future. We don’t let you down.”
The WrestleMania 35 Kickoff Show airs this Sunday at 6/5c on USA Network!
Keith Elliot Greenberg is the co-author of the autobiographies of WWE Hall of Famers Ric Flair, Freddie Blassie and Superstar Billy Graham, as well as the third edition of the WWE Encyclopedia of Sports Entertainment.