Gail Kim is as accomplished a wrestler as there is in the industry. That goes not only in terms of women’s wrestling, but relative to all of it. While she hasn’t had the platform afforded to male counterparts for most of her career, whatever shortcomings there are concerning her being the best female wrestler of all time isn’t hers – it is on many others.
Kim was the women’s revolution before we even knew it. Her 16-year wrestling career – which is unheard of for nearly all women performers – should cement her as an all-time great regardless of gender, wrestling style, or promotion performed in.
Sure, the WWE is currently trotting about its own “Universe” with a revamped and revitalized women’s division, dropping the patronizing Divas tag from it, but Kim has been doing things in the ring that should have kickstarted the company’s willingness to value in-ring quality over whatever it views as sex appeal. It is patently absurd she hasn’t been the face of the WWE – much in the same way John Cena has been for the men – of the company’s women’s division for a decade.
To be fair, when she debuted on WWE programming the women’s division was just that – a division mostly focused on the talent of the women in the ring. Trish Stratus, Victoria, Lita and other well respected female performers were trotting about the squared circle. That was short-lived, though.
Kim was released by WWE on Nov. 3, 2004 as a result of cost cutting. Apparently caught off guard, she was told that management wanted to take the women’s division in a “new direction.”
That new direction, slowly it is worth adding, morphed into what can be called the dark days of women’s wrestling, as the WWE clearly went the route of looking more for models than women who were gifted in the ring. That, in turn, would inevitably result in the Divas Era of wrestling being birthed on July, 4 2008.
In hindsight – though, this is giving those then in charge far too much the benefit of the doubt – the WWE made a mistake. Kim was (and still is) as gifted an in-ring performer the women’s division – any version of it – has ever seen.
The industry itself has taken small strides in that, but Kim was a pioneer in this area in many ways. Whatever “new direction” she didn’t fit in not only didn’t stop her from continuing her excellence, but she continued to reach for a brass ring (the only major company at the time, the WWE) no longer actually available to her.
She was instead wrestling out of the love she had for the industry, to showcase her abilities, and to make a living doing a profession in what has traditionally been much easier for men to do so in.
In a weird, twisted way, Kim’s absence made many casual wrestling fans realize how much someone as gifted as her as performer was missed. She might have never been directly called a performer the people were clamoring for, but this new version of today’s WWE women in wrestling would not exist had fans not seen people like Kim wrestle first, then stumble through eras of watching less talented women in the ring casually wrestle matches as if they were broken mops.
Kim is 39-years-old now. Still being one of the very best wrestlers on the planet in a supposedly financially floundering TNA. For 16 years she has been one of the best – if not the very best – female wrestlers of many different eras.
She was the WWE’s women’s revolution before the company even knew it wanted it; that her abilities as an in-ring performer is all we as wrestling fans should have ever needed; and that she has quietly become – thanks to the inabilities of others – possibly the most overlooked mega-talent to ever step a foot in a wrestling ring.
And, yes, Gail Kim has been the great for that lengthy period of a time that she not only deserves such acclaim, but we fans should be ashamed we didn’t recognize it long ago.