Was Lita really that good?
Fresh off of his hugely popular Sting article, Adz takes a look at the legendary Lita, and once again asks; Was she really that good?
Women have often been looked at as the toilet break for wrestling fans for the longest time. It wasn’t until WWE started taking their women’s division seriously on the main roster, that wrestling fans started taking women’s wrestling seriously. Sure, other companies were showcasing women’s wrestling better than WWE’s main roster had for years, I mean the Knockout’s had some super skilled female wrestlers. Even NXT took note of women’s wrestling with the likes of Paige, Charlotte, Sasha, Bayley and Becky, hell they even whacked the women in main events on Takeover shows. WWE’s main roster was still hiring models and cheerleaders. Looks and the willingness to bare all on worldwide TV, got you paid on the main roster, and had done since the Attitude Era. But, before Paige and her trailblazing buddies, way before the Beth Phoenix's and the Natalya’s, there was one woman risking her body with stupid angles and was taken seriously by fans of her generation. That woman was Lita! Ultra-popular within WWE during the attitude era, and despised during the ruthless aggression era, she was certainly a polarizing character. So, let’s take a look at her career and body of work as we ask that weekly favourite; Was Lita really that good?
Born Amy Christine Dumas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1975, Dumas finished high school 6 months before graduation. Majoring in education at Georgia State University, she dropped out in 1993 because she felt it was too much like high school. Moving to Washington, D.C., she played in a few bands, playing bass, and working as a roadie also. It wasn’t until later that Dumas became interested in wrestling after seeing Rey Mysterio Jr. On Monday Nitro.
In 1997, she packed up her stuff and buggered off to Mexico to learn more about our sport and how to wrestle! Training under multiple wrestlers, including El Dandy, Kevin Quinn, and Ricky Santana. Dumas financed her training by dancing in clubs under the stage name Misty. She completed her training in 1998 and made several appearances as Angelica for Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre (CMLL). She returned to the U.S. soon after and became a valet on the independent scene, still using the Angelica name, eventually valeting for our guy, Christopher Daniels! It was during this time on the indies that she first met two very important people in her career, Matt and Jeff Hardy, in NWA Mid-Atlantic, with the brothers offering to train with her.
Come April of 1999, the future Extreme Diva was approached by the mad scientist himself, Paul Heyman, about working for his promotion ECW. Dumas snapped the offer up and was whacked on TV as “Miss Congeniality” and paired with Danny Doring as his storyline girlfriend. The highlight of this angle came in the form of a proposal with a condom! You just can’t get more ECW than that really! However, it was during this stint in ECW that Rob Van Dam introduced Dumas to the legendary Dory Funk Jr. And he invited her to his wrestling school “The Funkin’ Conservatory”, training with 23 other men and was the only female in attendance. She graduated in August 1999, and after Funk and his wife put together a highlight reel tape and sent it to WWF, she was signed to a developmental contract. In just two years she had been signed by the almighty WWE! Dumas only spent a little over 6 months with ECW and working with Heyman, but they were probably some of the most beneficial months of her career!
Enter Monday Night RAW, 5th July 1999, there Dumas was on national TV branded a “Ho” and accompanying The Godfather to the ring, while she honed her craft and sharpened her skills in Memphis Championship Wrestling, the WWE’s developmental territory at the time. Once she had paid her dues down in Memphis, she was repackaged as Lita and paired was Essa Rios, debuting on the 13th February 2000 edition of Sunday Night Heat defeating Gilberg for the WWF Light Heavyweight Championship. Fun fact; Lita and Rios didn’t know their ring names until post-production! Lita and Rios had a notable feud with Eddie Guerrero and Chyna over the European championship, in which Eddie retained the title.
Unfortunately for Rios, Lita stole his spotlight, in much the same way as Sable did with Marc Mero before. The WWE audience had never seen anything like Lita before. She would moonsault and hurricanrana the guys who were double her size, she would jump off things and developed a bit of a reputation as the “cool diva.” WWE saw more potential in the Extreme Diva than in Rios and she was quickly split from Rios and paired with more fitting partners, the daredevil Hardy Boyz. Rios would turn on her for accidentally costing him a match against Matt Hardy and then proceed to powerbomb Lita, with the Hardyz coming to her rescue, putting Lita and real-life partner Matt Hardy together.
After leaving Rios, Lita dropped the all-red clothing and adopted a look more fitting for the time. Bands like Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Korn were smashing it in the mainstream charts and Dumas had always been a bit of a punk girl, so she brought that to her character, wearing baggy pants with a thong on show, ooh edgy! It’s safe to say that in teaming Lita with the Hardyz, Uncle Vinnie had struck gold! Lita was now THE diva. All the teenage fans rife with hormones fell in love with Lita and her star exploded with popularity. She had gone from random Sunday Night Heat body, to a genuine reason people tuned in. She had become so popular that she main evented back-to-back episodes of RAW, winning the WWE Women’s Championship from Stephanie McMahon in the main event of the 21st August 2000 edition of the flagship show, and to my knowledge this was the first women’s title match to main event RAW! Lita was also the first female to be involved with a Tables, Ladders and Chairs match, interfering with both the inaugural TLC match at SummerSlam 2000 and TLC 2 at WrestleMania X-7 in notable spots and taking bumps in TLC 2.
It’s safe to say that Lita was a huge part of WWE’s Attitude Era success, as one of the more popular cogs in the machine. Post Attitude Era, she went on to have a lot more success in the Ruthless Aggression era. She was involved in an angle with Kane, which involved, but was not limited to pregnancy, weddings, “ownership of Lita” matches, a miscarriage, a big weird looking dude punting baby dolls and shouting “it wasn’t my fault!” and then a neck injury. Wrestling is f*cking weird man. Then it happened, one of the biggest wrestling scandals of the last 20 years...
Image courtesy of WWE.com
I’m not going to delve too much into this but the basic gist is this; Matt Hardy was out injured, he asked his real-life best friend, Edge, to look after his real-life girlfriend Lita while on the road, and Edge took "looking after” to a whole new level! Whilst taking care of Lita, the two grew close and eventually “Body slammed” each other if you catch my drift. Lita cheated on Matt with Edge. Matt found out through a voicemail that Edge had left for Lita and was super vocal about this, and he let EVERYONE know about it. The Heat on Lita was so much, that the WWE had no choice but to pair her up with Edge and come out as a couple on TV and turn heel. Matt got himself fired with his antics, the fans got him rehired and Uncle Vinnie could smell the money and put them both in a steel cage at Unforgiven 2005 (I see what you did there Vince!) and then again in a ladder match for Edge’s Money in The Bank briefcase on the 3rd October 2005 RAW Homecoming. As you can imagine, these matches were brutal! Matt was the Loser of the ladder match and had to leave RAW, resulting in his move to SmackDown. Now Vince had milked all he could from the very real issues, he decided he was finished with his new toy and put Matt away in a separate box.
After Matt Hardy was no longer in the picture, Lita spent a lot of her time being involved in high profile matches and managing the WWE Champion when Edge cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase. She was part of a live simulated sex scene on RAW celebrating Edge’s title win, which gave birth to his “Rated R Superstar” gimmick. She recently spoke out about the angle on her 12th January 2021 Twitch stream and claimed that herself, Edge and even the almighty John Cena himself tried to stop it from happening but she was apparently threatened with a good old-fashioned firing if she didn’t do it. Vince, you dirty old bastard!
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Lita continued to manage Edge seeing him through an awesome feud with Mick Foley, which included an absolutely stonking WrestleMania 22 match and tagging with Foley and Edge in the mental One Night Stand match against Terry Funk, Tommy Dreamer and Beulah McGillicutty. Soon after, she won her third women’s title from Mickie James and lost it to possibly her greatest rival, Trish Stratus, in the latter’s retirement match at Unforgiven 2006. With Trish retiring, the title was now vacant and, you know what WWE likes to do with vacant titles? It was tournament time baby!
Lita worked her way back to the title defeating Mickie James once again in the first ever “Lumberjill” match. The two would continue to face each other frequently after the finals of the tournament, in handicap matches, each time the handicap swayed Lita’s way and she swatted Mickie away with help each time in the form of blindfolds or Mickie having a hand tied behind her back. These plots didn’t last very long though as Mickie defeated her on 13th November 2006 episode of RAW, after DX-Generation X squirted mustard in her face.
Lita had had enough of the fans who had made her life miserable for the last 18 months, calling her a “whore” and a “Slut” at every given chance, chanting for Matt Hardy during her matches and basically heckling her whenever she was in front of an audience, but some took it to the extreme and started attacking “Amy Dumas” and not “Lita”. Now, as fans, we have every right to chant whatever we want and let the performers know how we feel, and the fans let her know alright! I mean she did boil the piss of many, many fans, but that gave them no right to attack her personally for choices she made in her personal life, and I genuinely believe that Vince making money from the angle and putting it on national TV made it so much worse for her! Fans would have hated her either way, but WWE playing into it and morphing her character around her choices in real-life just enhanced the hatred and people couldn’t let it drop.
Survivor Series 2006 would be Lita’s farewell to the WWE audience. Well... That’s not strictly true, I was just trying to be polite. Survivor Series 2006 was WWE’s massacre of Lita on her way out of the door. She was ridiculed so severely, that it was akin to a super villain’s backstory. Here’s what happened; She had her final match with Mickie James, in which she did the job for Mickie and put her over as the new women’s champion. That was all pretty standard stuff, it was after the match that things went tits up for her. Post match, Lita would have Lillian Garcia announce her as “the greatest women’s champion”, the crowd booed and Lita berated them, then WWE sent out Cryme Tyme, it was all downhill for her from there. Armed with a box of Lita’s things they had “stolen,” they were “selling” the contents of the box to anyone willing to pay and named it the “Ho’ Sale!” The items included: Lita’s bra, Monistat, which is a yeast infection cream, her panties which JBL bought because he was “the only man in America who doesn’t have her panties” but before buying he asked if he could sniff them, and finally “Lita’s little buddy” which was a sex toy. Degradation at its lowest here folks!
Image courtesy of Wrestling News Blog
From there she moved back to the indies debuting for UWF against Christie Hemme and April Hunter and made several more appearances for them. She would also wrestle for a handful of other small companies and eventually found herself making her way back to WWE, albeit sporadically, and eventually entering the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014. She has had a few in-ring stints since then, in the 2018 women’s Royal Rumble and at WWE’s all female PPV, Evolution. In 2020, Lita and Christy Hemme tried to start a new company called “KAYfABE” which was set to become a company that “blended real life with scripted drama.” They launched this venture on Kickstarter and after only raising $63,000 of their $400,000 target to film a pilot episode, they tabled the idea and cited the worldwide COVID-19 issues as a reason for the campaign failing, promising they would somehow cobble together the cash from elsewhere. As of 27th January 2021, nothing else has happened with this idea.
Image courtesy of WWE.com
So, that just about wraps up her career up to date, now let's look at her body of work. I always found Lita very rigid in the ring, her hurricanrana and moonsault makes me wince every time I see it. I get that being dangerous and edgy were cool, but there is a difference between working dangerous and working safe whilst looking dangerous. She wasn’t very fluid, and everything looked pretty forced or like she struggled. Her promo skills weren’t good either, as I can't recall a single significant promo from Lita, but I can recall significant promos which included Lita’s presence which just felt like she had positioned herself well. She has one of those voices that makes you want to pull your eyes out and use them as ear plugs so you don’t have to watch her nearly snap her neck every time she does her “horridcanrana”, and you don’t have to listen to her talk at the same time, it’s a win-win.
I don’t know if you can tell, but I can’t say I have ever been a fan of Lita’s generation of female wrestling. That being said, she managed to skyrocket her popularity and was one of the only Diva’s doing some actual wrestling at the time. She was a shock factor more than a wrestler early on and she did somewhat improve and try to better her craft, albeit not all that well. It's a tricky one to call.
So, was Lita really that good? I’d have to say no. She was an interesting spectacle during her era because of the crazy spots she would do and she definitely stood out because of that, but if you watch her work and compare it to the likes of, say, Hikaru Shida, Asuka, Deonna Purazzo, Thunder Rosa, Bayley and many, many more, she just doesn’t stack up. She will be remembered fondly and looked at through rose tinted glasses by Attitude Era fans, but that doesn’t translate very well in today’s world.
And that’s just my two cents.
Do you agree with my verdict? Do you have any suggestions on who you want to see me dissect next? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading.