Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. This is probably the quietest week of the year because everything is pre-recorded and it’s all festive themed on the main roster brands. That said, RAW and NXT UK had title matches, and NXT UK had a fatal four-way for the number one contender’s spot, so it wasn’t that quiet. There was also a major announcement on RAW.
Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon def. Mickie James, Alicia Fox, and Dana Brooke
Ronda Rousey def. Natalya
The women’s tag titles have been confirmed in the most low-key way ever. Vince McMahon did a segment dressed as Santa Claus and reeled off a list of gifts he was giving out, John Cena is coming back and will be on both brands, there will be women’s tag champs in 2019, and Dolph Ziggler and Drew McIntyre are getting a steel cage match next week. That was the announcement, sandwiched between two other items of business with no fanfare. It was kind of refreshing, to be honest, but I’m sure it will be hyped to death by the time we set eyes on the belts and find out how they will be awarded.
Mickie James, Dana Brooke, and Alicia Fox vs Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon
Can’t really argue with a six-woman match on a Christmas show, and it was an entertaining match.
One of the really nice things was getting to see a decent stint from Dana Brooke. She’s suffered from lack of chances this year, she’s turned up on Main Event more often than RAW (and had a couple of good matches as well). She’s obviously done a huge amount of work in that time to encourage them to give her a chance. I hope she gets one, she looks the best she’s ever been.
It wasn’t a long match. Everyone got their bit in them Ember Moon took out Alicia Fox, while neither were legal, with an Eclipse, and Mickie James took the backstabber into Bayley to Belly double team finisher from Banks and Bayley.
The Riott Squad attacked Sasha Banks, Bayley and Ember Moon after the match. Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Sarah Logan didn’t give them the opportunity to fight back, they just cleared them from the ring and had their own music played.
Charly Caruso asked Natalya, in a backstage pre-match interview, how she feels about having the match against her close friend and training partner. Natalya said she would expect nothing but the best from Rousey and vice versa. Nobody knows Ronda Rousey better than her because she helped to train her. Caruso talked about how difficult the year has been for Natalya and asked what it would be like to bring home the RAW Women’s Championship. Unsurprisingly, Natalya agreed that the year had been a challenge, but said she’s focused and ready. The title would be an amazing gift to bring home.
Ronda Rousey (C) vs Natalya – RAW Women’s Championship match
I’m not sure what I was expecting from this match, but this wasn’t it. It was a good match, but very slow and tactical. The pace never really picked up at all.
The big story in the match was Ronda Rousey’s reaction to fighting Natalya, she didn’t want to hurt her. Every hold she got her in was careful, and with every offensive move she made she seemed to grow increasingly conflicted. Natalya had no such conflict. She was there to show she was still a serious contender for the title, she wanted the win.
The upshot of this was a lot of energy sapping holds and submission attempts interspersed with the odd burst of action. At one point Rousey kicked Natalya off her to stop her applying the Sharpshooter and Natalya fell through the ropes awkwardly. They cut to an ad and Natalya was in control when we got back, but before they cut away Rousey looked extremely worried about her friend.
It was only when Natalya had worn her down to the point where it looked like she might be in danger of losing her title (as if that was ever going to happen on a pre-recorded RAW in front of half a crowd at best), that Rousey picked things up. Natalya started to get mean, unnecessary slaps that didn’t add anything and some trash talk. It was some trash talk that did the trick to fire Rousey up. Natalya leaned in close to her and said something the mics didn’t pick up. Rousey dodged her next move then knocked Natalya down.
A series of punches started Rousey’s offence proper, but she looked like she really didn’t want to be doing it. Natalya responded with a discus lariat and went for a pin. When Natalya went for another Sharpshooter Rousey kicked her off and delivered the Piper’s Pit, but she hesitated before the armbar and ended up in a Sharpshooter.
After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to get to the ropes, Rousey rolled out of the hold and locked on the armbar. Natalya tapped.
Rousey let go the second the bell went and started crying. She apologised profusely to Natalya, helped her up, and they hugged. Natalya raised Rousey’s arm in victory and they hugged again and left together.
Superstar’s Christmas wishes segments were shown throughout the show. Alexa Bliss used hers to be mean about her colleagues.
You’ll notice that, once again, there are no matches to report for SmackDown. It would appear that SmackDown’s Christmas present to their women’s division was to give them the night off.
There were some sightings from the women’s roster. Carmella appeared with R-Truth in the opening segment. Zelina Vega accompanied Almas to the ring for his match against Mustafa Ali, wearing ring gear, but didn’t get involved other than as a distraction. Lana was valeting for Rusev. Mandy Rose tried to get a kiss from Jimmy Uso, under what looked suspiciously like holly rather than mistletoe, and got a shoe thrown at her by Naomi – she’d have got much worse if Uso hadn’t been physically restraining his wife.
It’s irritating because when SmackDown’s women’s division booking is good it’s the best in WWE, but there are still too many occasions where it’s just absent.
Bianca Belair def. Lacey Evans, Mia Yim, and Io Shirai
Io Shirai vs Mia Yim vs Lacey Evans vs Bianca Belair – Fatal four-way to become number one contender for the NXT Women’s Championship
It’s a shame Lacey Evan has already been announced as heading to the main roster, it makes it a four-way match with a three-way possible result (they did the same thing with Heavy Machinery’s title shot). Nevertheless, it was a great match and Evans was never one of my picks to win it anyway.
Commentary mentioned, during Shirai’s entrance that she’s effectively in the same position as Shayna Baszler was on her arrival in NXT, having gotten to the Mae Young Classic finals but not won the tournament.
Lacey Evans bowed out of the initial part of the match, stepping back through the ropes and signalling to the others to fight it out amongst themselves. Weirdly, they actually did. They ignored her completely and Yim and Shirai ganged up on Belair, causing her to roll out of the ring. Mia Yim followed her with a suicide dive. Shirai got attacked by Evans but turned being flung into the ropes by Evans into a suicide dive on Belair. Io Shirai’s suicide dives always make me hold my breath to see if she’s ok. She puts so much trust in her opponent.
Yim and Shirai’s alliance continued right up until Lacey Evans ducked Yim’s kick and Shirai caught the full force of it. Bianca Belair was still down outside the ring, so Evans took control. Belair returned with a bang when she intercepted Shirai being flung across the ring by Evans and picked her up to slam her. Evans got indignant, so Belair used Shirai to knock her down.
Evans and Belair argued, then joined forces to suplex Mia Yim, except Io Shirai was there to lower Yim to safety. Shirai launched herself at them, they caught her and Yim dropkicked them over. That actually got Shirai a two count on Evans and Belair.
They broke each other’s pin attempts and beat each other down until all four were laid out in the ring. Belair was the first to recover and tried pinning Shirai then Yim then Evans. All three kicked out and Belair looked like she’d had enough.
Io Shirai got close to a cover on Belair after a run of beautiful offence (Io Shirai is incredibly beautiful to watch wrestle, so fluid and graceful), but Evans broke it up and tossed Shirai out of the ring. Mia Yim took a Woman’s Right from Evans and Shirai barely made it back in to stop the pin.
Shirai landed a moonsault on Evans only to have that pin attempt stopped with Bianca Belair’s hair whip. Belair picked her up on her shoulders and tipped her over her head and out of the ring, straight onto Mia Yim.
There was no one left to stop Belair delivering the KOD to Evans and pinning her to become the number one contender, and still un-def-eat-ed.
I’m really pleased with the result. It was always going to be either Bianca Belair or Io Shirai. There’s no doubt that Io Shirai will add NXT/WWE titles to her list of professional accolades, but it’s not her time in NXT yet. Bianca Belair has pulled herself up from nothing in a relatively short time. Watching her develop and improve has been a pleasure. She’s an impressive athlete with a massive future ahead of her.
Rhea Ripley def. Deonna Purrazzo
No women’s division match on the first episode of the week, but Toni Storm called herself a title shot at the NXT UK Women’s championship during the announcement of NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool. She talked about the year she’s had, winning the Mae Young Classic at Evolution, and said that entitles her to a title shot of her choosing (was that one of the prizes?). She wants Rhea Ripley in Blackpool. Johnny Saint agreed.
Rhea Ripley interrupted an interview Johnny Saint and Sid Scala were giving. She said she heard them talking to Toni Storm about NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool, but she’s the champion and she’ll choose her own opponent. She also told them she wants to defend her title on the next episode and demanded they provide someone for her to face. Saint and Scala went back into the office for a few seconds then reappeared and said Ripley will face the debuting Deonna Purrazzo. – What Ripley said about choosing her own opponent for UK TakeOver was apparently not accepted by Saint and Scala, because Toni Storm was re-confirmed as her opponent on the following episode alongside a big hype package for her.
Isla Dawn got an interview on the first episode as well, about how she’s bouncing back from defeat against Ripley. She said she’s sad it wasn’t her time, but she’ll get back up and carry on along her path to the title. Jinny interrupted and told Dawn that she would have walked out of that match as champion, ‘but that is the difference between a witch and a queen’.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Deonna Purrazzo – NXT UK Women’s Championship match
This main evented the second episode of the week, which was just as well because it was the only in-ring action over the two episodes.
Purrazzo wasn’t messing around she took it to Rhea Ripley from the bell and Ripley was taken slightly off guard. Ripley regained control fairly quickly though, after Purrazzo had kicked her out of the ring. She put Purrazzo on her shoulders and dropped her face-first into the apron.
The frustration started to show on Ripley’s face as Purrazzo kicked out of a series of pin attempts, and she turned it into vicious blows to the back of Purrazzo’s head while he kept her in a leg scissors for an extended period. They weren’t enough to submit Purrazzo, neither was the modified Texas cloverleaf. Deonna Purrazzo managed to get to the ropes to break that, and Ripley still pushed it to the limit before she released her.
Purrazzo hurled herself off the apron at Ripley after avoiding getting suplexed on the outside and landing a kick. She got Ripley back in the ring but the flatliner into a submission hold wasn’t enough to secure the victory, Ripley managed to flip them over so Purrazzo’s shoulders were on the mat and she had to let go.
Deonna Purrazzo’s best change should have been after she suplexed Ripley from the middle turnbuckle, but she wasn’t able to capitalise and they both staggered to their feet exchanging blows.
The finish wasn’t far away. Both women were clearly feeling the intensity of the match. Purrazzo charged into the corner and Ripley dodged, that was the misstep that cost the challenger the match. After Deonna Purrazzo crashed into the corner, Rhea Ripley dragged her out and delivered the Riptide to retain the title.
After the match, Ripley attacked Purrazzo again and Toni Storm ran down to make the save. Storm chased Ripley out of the ring, exchanged a wary fistbump with Deonna Purrazzo before Purrazzo left the ring.
Interesting way to debut Deonna Purrazzo. Making her first match on the brand a title match signifies she is a serious player within the division, but a debut loss isn’t ideal. That said, she still came out of it looking like a force to be reckoned with. I hope she sticks around, she’s a great addition to the roster.
Main Event was a recap show again this week with no original action. There were no women’s division highlights for them to show from SmackDown, but they showed highlights of Ronda Rousey versus Natalya from RAW.
I’ll be back next week when everything will be roughly back to normal and the Royal Rumble build will be in full swing. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!