Wrestler of the Week: Lita

Kimberly Schueler
Lita (source: WWE)

RondaRousey.com’s Wrestler of the Week series profiles significant wrestlers from the past and present. 

Before the Women’s Revolution shone a spotlight on female wrestlers, Lita and the groundbreaking work she did in her six-year WWE career stood out. Her athleticism, risk-taking, and unique style entertained fans in the Attitude and Ruthless Aggression eras, and continue to influence the wrestling world for the better today. In this week’s performer profile, we’ll look at how and why Lita made her mark on the business and inspired future wrestlers like Ronda Rousey, AJ Lee, and more.

Stepping Into The Squared Circle

Though she would spend most of her career in WWE, Lita was inspired to train as a wrestler after watching Rey Mysterio, Jr. in WCW. She actually traveled to Mexico, despite not knowing anyone there or speaking Spanish, to start her in-ring education; she then learned more back in the States on the independent circuit, ECW, and at Dory Funk, Jr.’s wrestling school. At this point, most of her work was as a valet and/or manager, but that caught the attention of the then-World Wrestling Federation (WWF). She made her WWF debut in 2000, accompanying luchador Essa Rios to help him win the Light Heavyweight Championship.

An Extreme Alternative

Lita became the wrestler and personality fans know and love today when she formed the Team Xtreme stable with the Hardy Boyz (Matt and Jeff Hardy). She put her own spin on their alternative style and stood out from other women in the company with her dyed red hair, baggy pants, and tattoos. Her daredevil attitude matched her look, and we saw her push boundaries in the ring with the Hardys. Her moonsault became iconic, as it was more athletically impressive than a lot of women’s wrestling at the time. She won the Women’s Championship four times, retained against Jacqueline in a hardcore match during her first reign, and wrestled in the first women’s steel cage match in WWE history against Victoria.

Lita was also the first woman to get involved in a TLC match and locked up with wrestlers like Triple H, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, Edge, and Christian during intergender tag bouts. Later in her career, she even challenged Dean Malenko for the Light Heavyweight Championship, the same title she had previously helped a man win when she first showed up on RAW.

The extreme Diva also linked up with male wrestlers in ways not exactly considered as badass as her matches. After being sidelined from in-ring competition by a neck injury in 2003, Lita entered into a storyline where Eric Bischoff fired her for rejecting his advances. The next year, she had a storyline with Matt Hardy and Kane that involved stalking, coerced sex, kidnapping, pregnancy, a marriage won in a wrestling match, and a miscarriage. She eventually betrayed Kane (after supposedly falling in love with her abuser) and moved on to a villainous persona and an even edgier relationship with, well, Edge. After Edge won the WWE Championship from John Cena, their “Live Sex Celebration,” in which the Rated R couple simulated sex in the ring on Raw, drew huge ratings at the time.

A Stratuspheric Rivalry

One storyline aspect of Lita’s career that does hold up, though, is her years-long rivalry with Trish Stratus. The in-ring rivals and real-life friends pushed each other’s boundaries and made the WWE women’s division an unmissable part of PPVs and weekly TV programming. The two women first faced off in the ring before they were known as singles stars, when Lita was a plus one to the Hardy Boyz and Stratus managed Test & Albert. The visual and personality contrasts were dramatic, with Lita’s punk look and attitude in comparison to Trish, a blonde former fitness model and all-around more traditional fit for the word “Diva.”

Though they tagged together at times—like during the WWE vs. Alliance storyline in 2001, in a feud against Molly Holly and Gail Kim in ‘03, and in a Battle of the Sexes match against Christian and Chris Jericho—Trish and Lita were one of those pairs destined to always end up on opposite corners. Their rivalry became probably its most heated in 2004, when Lita returned to competition in the women’s division after that Kane pregnancy storyline and sought revenge against Trish for verbally abusing her while she couldn’t wrestle. A beatdown of a match at Survivor Series ended in a DQ, but Lita eventually defeated Stratus in the main event of RAW to win the WWE Women’s Championship for the second time.

In 2006, Lita lost her third championship to Trish in the latter’s retirement match… but won it back in the tournament for the vacated championship, a kind of posthumous W in their rivalry.

Lita’s Legacy

Disappointingly, Lita didn’t get the same victorious send-off as her constant rival. She lost the Women’s Championship to Mickie James in her final match, and to add insult to injury, tag team Cryme Tyme gave away a box of her stuff, including underwear, in a “Ho Sale” to audience members.

But Lita’s legacy would go on to transcend sometimes controversial and sexist storylines. She’s worked for WWE as a writer and color commentator, was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014, and unveiled the new WWE Women’s Championship at WrestleMania 32. She even returned to the ring at the first Women’s Royal Rumble in 2018, representing #TimesUp with her shirt, as well as the names of legendary, late women wrestlers—
including Luna Vachon, Mae Young, and Sherri Martel, women who pushed wrestling forward for her like she did for the next generation—on her arms.

You can watch the WWE Collection Trish and Lita: Evolutionary on the WWE Network.

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