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I'm having trouble pinpointing a year of the when the decline of the Women/*sigh* DIVAS division started to become the abomination it is now
 

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2004. With the Diva Search coming in and the great talents like Jazz, Ivory and Molly Holly leaving, the direction shifted in a shitty way. As the next couple of seasons went on, you just had more and more girls who had no business being in a wrestling ring and less and less women's athletes who were there to be athletes. 2006 was another bad year. They lost Trish and Lita and Mickie James was left to carry the division (until Melina and Beth showed up).
 

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In terms of match quality, it's actually not as bad now as it was. The WWE found that it couldn't sustain interest with a women's division with great wrestling after Alundra Blayze left in 1995 (and even then, it didn't approach the popularity of the division back when Wendi Richter was screwed over for having the audacity to want to be fairly compensated). 1995 is really the year that the WWE lost interest in having a workers' division made up of women.

After the division started back up, it struggled to find an identity (and even seemingly disappeared along with Chyna for months at a time) until they crowned Trish Stratus (yay) in the first Women's Championship match in 6 months. It started to improve in both quality and fan interest until peaking around 2003. As certain wrestlers started leaving the company or getting injured for long periods of time, it got progressively worse (so much so that the WWE left the title on Stratus throughout a long-term injury, because they had no other option - no one else was popular enough to not kill the division in her absence).

It got better with the addition of Mickie James, Lita's return to competition, and Melina's sudden rise in quality; but losing Trish Stratus and Lita back-to-back prevented the division from reaching another 2003-esque peak. Mickie James and Melina (Backlash 2007, FTW) were pretty much all they had going, and despite excellent use of Candice Michelle, the dependence on lesser quality Divas (both in terms of ability and popularity) caught up to the WWE on many nights. More than that, Candice Michelle was never the same after her injury, so even when they added Beth Phoenix as a heel, they lost a very popular face for her to wrestle.

Faith in Michelle McCool (that was a pun) let them stretch the division too thin to manage successfully when they added another title, especially when Mickie James was released. Thankfully, Eve Torres improved to a Candice Michelle level (and is excellent for marketing purposes), and despite a stigma from their early work, Kelly Kelly and Brie and Nikki Bella learned how to work a match well enough.

Right now, they're missing a quality heel to replace Michelle McCool. Maryse Ouellet was supposed to be that heel, but she has had injury problems. Natalya Neidhart needs to settle her tea kettle and learn how to be a heel. Beth Phoenix has earned too much respect to be the evil heel that the division needs to really get Kelly Kelly over, but she's the best option they have at the moment, and there is a certain amount of chemistry there.


So, to answer your question... 1985, 1995, 2001, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010.
 

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First off, the current incarnation of the division, starting in 1998, was never met to be taken fully seriously : diva, it says it all. The root of all evil, so to speak, starts with the branding of this word. What happened in 2000-2004 was more or less an accident.
The beginning of the current decline is clear : 3 november 2004 (firing of Gail Kim, Jazz and Nidia to make room for diva search contestants).
After that it's been a progressive decline.
First half of 2005 was very bad : all the wrestlers had been fired, had left or were injured.
The last serious Wrestlemania diva match is from WM XXII in 2006.
In 2006 Trish & Lita left.
In 2008 Mc Cool's and the Bellas' pushes of doom started.
In the first half of 2009 the divas were not on the ppvs at all.
From mid-2009 onwards creative only cared about Laycool.
In 2011 with all the departures, it's probably an all-time low since 1998 (or 2001).

(so much so that the WWE left the title on Stratus throughout a long-term injury, because they had no other option - no one else was popular enough to not kill the division in her absence)
This is debatable (you can't kill a thing that's already dead). From mid-2004 to the end of 2005 Trish buried all the faces except Lita for no good reason. McCool also had a very similar run. I wouldn't bet it's not the usual backstage politics BS rather than a well thought creative decision; or the officials simply did not care about anybody but the top girl of the division and didn't bother to create a new one, a pattern that has happened many, many times in WWE as a whole, even outside the diva division, but again not a wise choice.
 

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It's been on slow decline since 2004, I think. But it really got bad around 2006 time, Trish left and we had our last good diva's storyline with her and Mickie.

I really don't know why WWE bother to be honest. They obviously see it as a joke. Keep Kelly Kelly for marketing purposes (like Hornswoggle) and release all the other Diva's so they can jobs doing what they love, you know, wrestle.
 

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This is debatable (you can't kill a thing that's already dead). From mid-2004 to the end of 2005 Trish buried all the faces except Lita for no good reason. McCool also had a very similar run. I wouldn't bet it's not the usual backstage politics BS rather than a well thought creative decision; or the officials simply did not care about anybody but the top girl of the division and didn't bother to create a new one, a pattern that has happened many, many times in WWE as a whole, even outside the diva division, but again not a wise choice.
Well, let's not get confused: The women's division has, at times, actually been dead. 2004-2005, despite being especially weak from the contract purging in late 2004 (which is why Stratus went over so many soon-to-be departing wrestlers), was not one of those times. With Stratus out, the only active female wrestlers the WWE had were (if I recall) Victoria (face), Christy Hemme (face), Torrie Wilson (face), Michelle McCool (face), Joy Giovanni (face), Stacy Keibler (face), and Dawn Marie (pregnant). And that was spread out over two rosters.

They ended up turning Victoria heel out of necessity to feud with Christy Hemme in a re-hash, but even attempting to turn what they had into a viable championship division in three months would've damaged the title that had already died multiple times, as the WWE was actively trying not to hotshot singles titles in the middle of the decade. It was less risky to hide the deficiency until they could build up a stable of newly-over heels (Victoria, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle) and faces (Trish Stratus, Mickie James, and Ashley Massaro) for after SummerSlam, and it paid off in the form of the strongest Women's Championship feud in the company in a very long time.
 

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Aside from the obvious Trish/Lita departures (which hit the division incredibly hard) but they did still have Mickey, Victoria and Melina was emerging too.

The day that absolutely killed it...Candice freaking Michelle winning the title in 2007. I mean...really? fpalm
 

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Well, let's not get confused: The women's division has, at times, actually been dead.
Yes. It died in 1990-93, 1995-98, and also practically in 2001.

the contract purging in late 2004 (which is why Stratus went over so many soon-to-be departing wrestlers)
I don't know. I am not sure. But it seems to me that the firings caught everybody unawares. Even so, the burial of Nidia was not necessary.

even attempting to turn what they had into a viable championship division in three months would've damaged the title that had already died multiple times, as the WWE was actively trying not to hotshot singles titles in the middle of the decade.
It was less risky to hide the deficiency until they could build up a stable of newly-over heels (Victoria, Torrie Wilson, Candice Michelle) and faces (Trish Stratus, Mickie James, and Ashley Massaro) for after SummerSlam, and it paid off in the form of the strongest Women's Championship feud in the company in a very long time.
Having your champion injured and not defending the belt for months doesn't hide the deficiency of a division, it makes it glaringly obvious. It also makes the 30-day rule more of a laughing stock than it already is. I am not sure having a second-rate champion is a much worse, more risk-taking solution.

WWE put the title on Gail Kim in 2003 on her first night but they can't run the risk of putting the belt back on, say, a heel Victoria for the third time in 2005 til Trish comes back as a face ? I have a hard time believing that. It wouldn't have hurt the Ladies in Pink to have the championship either to start this stable. And it's not like the diva division is the center piece of the show anyway.
I find some other explanations more believable, like, after WM, WWE had not entirely lost hope with Hemme, but realized she needed work, so they put her in a feud with Victoria to learn the job, without the title involved, and Victoria was seen already more valuable as a good hand than as a champion...

WWE found itself in a bad spot in 2005 because of all the bad decisions they made in 2004, so WWE putting the blame on the girls not being good enough to carry the title is... funny in a sad way. They put all their hopes in the Lita-Trish feud, both got injured. Bad luck, but in 2003 they would have no problem plugging the holes with good talent (when Lita was injured too), just like in 2002-2004 they had no problem rotating the belt championship.
They hired the diva search contestants, the Hemme WM match clearly showed that the girls were nowhere near ready. It took WWE a full year to admit the complete faultiness of the 2004 strategy. It was only at the end of 2005 that WWE chose to bring the OVW girls to the main roster : Mickie, Melina, and in 2006 Beth. They quickly became the backbones of the division for the next five years, because they were wrestlers who were ready. Who would have guessed, uh.

The bottom line is, after Bad Blood 2004, while Trish started to have serious health problems, she kept the title for two years and put fewer and fewer girls over, actually Mickie was basically the only one. In the same fashion, WWE later even made their top monster heel in the division job cleanly to a long retired Trish... Same thing for the WM 27 match. What good did it do for the current crop of divas ?
 

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The last really good Diva storyline was Trish/Mickie coming up to WM22 and possible Trish/Lita with Tish' retirement later that year.
 

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To me, it feels like it was at its all time worst after McCool left. There were literally no storylines, Divas were getting released or injured, the belt was rarely defended and they were using all the wrong Divas when they tried to start something. But ever since Dustin Rhodes took over, it's been progressively better, I mean, Kelly Kelly is still the focal point of attention, but she's become less cringe worthy in the ring. Slightly.
 

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I'd say around 2006 maybe? Trish and Lita both retired and nobody else really took over.

They could have had the divas division revolve around people like Beth-Melina(they even had a feud between those 2), but didn't really do anything.

I think the Kharma storyline showed that if WWE put a good diva in an important role and gave her time to do stuff, people would actually care.
 

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Wrestlemania 25. That match there was horrid and the division has never really recovered from the stupidity that match spawned.
 
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