Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s been an up and down kind of a week. We now know when the women’s tag titles will come into play, and Nikki Cross had a main roster match. But there has been some nonsense going on as well and I guess we have to talk about that too.
Sasha Banks and Ronda Rousey def. Tamina and Nia Jax
Bayley, Natalya, and Nikki Cross def. The Riott Squad
Ronda Rousey and Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax and Tamina
Sasha Banks and Nia Jax kicked things off in the first match of the night. Banks had the measure of her and Jax hadn’t had any effective offence by the time Sasha Banks tagged Rousey in.
Tamina tagged in for her team and was quickly overcome by Rousey. Nia Jax had to pull her from the ring to prevent her ending up in an armbar, and Tamina was reluctant to get back in. While Tamina was still taking her time, Banks took out Jax on the outside with double knees from the apron.
By the time we came back from the compulsory ad break, and before the match was interrupted by a film trailer, Sasha Banks was being completely dominated by Nia Jax. It was apparently a superkick from Tamina that turned the match in Jax’ favour.
Tamina eventually came in and Banks started to fight back. Tamina pushed Rousey off the apron so Banks couldn’t tag out but Rousey got straight back up and tried to enter the ring. That distracted the ref, but the expected double team or additional punishment for Banks didn’t come. Instead, Banks evaded the charge from Tamina, despite Jax trying to hang on to her and Tamina’s second attempt sent her into her own partner.
With Jax on the floor, Sasha Banks locked Tamina in the Bank Statement and tapped her out.
There was a post-match in-ring interview for Banks and Rousey. Rousey said it was easy for them to trust each other because they respect each other. Sasha Banks is at the top of the division. It was an honour to tag with her and it will be an honour to defend the title against her at Royal Rumble. A victory over Sasha Banks will be her greatest achievement as RAW women’s champion.
Banks said she’s glad Rousey has already chosen where she ranks on her list of accomplishments as champion. Rousey tried to say that’s not what she meant. The only way she knows to show Banks respect is to do everything she can to tap her out at Royal Rumble. Banks asked if Rousey thinks she’s the only one who can tap people out. She will face any woman of any size anywhere. It will be her pleasure to teach her how to lose with class.
Rousey said Banks can teach her by example and could keep the title of world’s classiest loser because Rousey doesn’t want it. They argued a bit and Banks told her she’s going to tap her out and Royal Rumble and she’s not scared of her.
Sasha Banks stormed off and Rousey followed, apparently attempting to make peace. Banks just gave her another mouthful and walked away again. Rousey looked annoyed and frustrated by as she followed.
Backstage Banks and Rousey were yelling each other with Bayley and Natalya holding them apart. Once they’d sent them off in opposite directions, they started arguing amongst themselves. They were stopped by the arrival of the Riott Squad to wind them up. Ruby Riott and friends said there is nothing they like better than to take a bad situation and make it worse. They challenged Bayley and Natalya to find a friend and face them. Natalya accepted on their behalf and Bayley looked less than pleased.
The Riott Squad vs Natalya, Bayley, and Nikki Cross
This was awesome. The first thing we learned is that the NXT call-ups will be spending time on both shows before a final decision is made as to where they will go. I’m still hoping Nikki Cross goes to SmackDown (unless they move Sanity to RAW with her). Lacey Evans was shown hanging out backstage as well.
Cross started the match after asking Bayley to let her. After a few moments with Sarah Logan, then with Liv Morgan, the entire Riott Squad advanced on her. Bayley and Natalya were there in an instant but Cross shooed them away, screaming, let Nikki play, then took on all three herself. Bayley and Natalya only got involved when it looked like Cross might be in trouble.
As Ruby Riott crawled back into the ring, Cross appeared from under the ring skirts and dragged her backwards until Riott was trapped in the skirt, then beat on her a bit.
After the break, Bayley took an extended period of punishment while The Riott Squad displayed their excellent teamwork and one or two underhand tactics. Natalya tagged in with a bit more success, but Ruby Riott broke up her pin attempt on Sarah Logan and Bayley had to come in to deal with Riott. Nikki Cross stopped Liv Morgan pinning Natalya then tagged herself in when Morgan kicked Natalya back into their corner.
Nikki Cross came in off the top turnbuckle, dragging Morgan from Natalya’s shoulders and repeatedly smashing her head into the mat. Between them, Cross and Natalya took down Logan and Riott in and out of the ring.
Once back in the ring with Morgan, Cross almost got caught in a roll up, aged in Bayley, then delivered a neckbreaker to Liv Morgan, with Morgan’s feet on the top rope, to leave her in the perfect position for Bayley’s elbow drop pin.
Nikki Cross is always so much fun to watch. I hope she gets real chances, wherever she ends up.
Well, that was the good stuff, now onto a gripe. There was another Moment of Bliss segment this week. That was fine, if bizarre, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The grossness came before it. For absolutely no justifiable, excusable, or rational reason, WWE decided that the man delivering Alexa Bliss’ coffee would catch her topless. Bliss yelled at him while covering herself with a shirt… and that was it. The clip served no useful purpose. I would have expected to see something like this 20 years or more ago, but surely we’re past that kind of thing by now.
The Moment of Bliss segment itself, started great, then got odd. Bliss announced that the women’s tag titles will be awarded at Elimination Chamber. As expected, it’s one set between the brands (leading to increased rumours of the brand split ending, which would be a shame). Three teams from RAW and three from SmackDown will compete inside the Elimination Chamber itself to become the inaugural champions. She also unveiled the belts. I really like them and most of the comments I saw online were positive. Some people, of course, will hate them.
Once that was done Bliss brought out Paul Heyman. Well, she tried to but he took over and did his own introduction as usual. He invited Bliss to throw him her best questions. She asked him about his emotions in the light of the opponent change for Lesnar at Royal Rumble (that was still undecided at that point, but it ended up being Finn Balor). He said it had nothing to do with emotion, it was all strategy. He started to go through the attributes of the potential challengers, John Cena, Finn Balor, Drew McIntyre, and Baron Corbin, but he didn’t get to finish because Otis Dozovic wandered onto the stage, looked around, made some noises, called Bliss a pretty lady, then was dragged off by Tucker Knight and a couple of officials. Deciding they couldn’t compete with RAW’s introduction to Heavy Machinery, and with the bell for the four-way match having rung, Bliss and Heyman just quietly left the stage.
Becky Lynch def. Peyton Royce
Asuka def. Billie Kay
Becky Lynch opened the show with an interview, kind of. She was asked if she really believes she’s ready for Asuka. She said they already knew the answer, but she’d go answer it in the ring. On her way there she passed New Day and Heavy Machinery with some kind of disgusting looking smoothie concoction. New Day looked horrified as Otis Dozovic offered it to her. She took it, drank a little, handed it back, and said it was a little week before carrying on to the ring.
Once she got to the ring, she said she gets the opportunity to take back her title at Royal Rumble. The same title she got the whole world talking about. The whole roster thinks that what she’s doing is a fluke, that everything she’s doing is easy, until they try it. And they’re all trying. Everyone’s stepped up a gear, trying to be a badass ever since she broke through. And Asuka is now finding out how hard leading the division is. There are those who try to discredit Lynch and say it’s all hype, but she delivers on everything she says, every single time.
But if we want to talk about hype. Asuka walked into last year’s WrestleMania indestructible, unbeatable if you believed her hype. And yet, she lost. Not only did she lose, it shook her to her core, and she fell off the radar. The invincible Asuka couldn’t beat once, the woman Lynch has beaten around the world for months, but Asuka asks if Lynch is ready for her?
That was the moment Asuka arrived. Asuka very casually did her entrance stuff then said ‘you like talk, you like hype. Buzz, buzz, buzz like a little bee but no sting. After Royal Rumble, you will not be in Charlotte’s shadow, you will be in mine.’ I like Asuka promos, to the point, no fluff.
Speaking of fluff, The IIconics appeared next and told Asuka that making scary faces and threats is not how a champion behaves. Where’s the dignity and class. They labelled Becky Lynch ‘Bossy Becky’ and said it was a typical behaviour from a man. Apparently, it doesn’t matter who wins the match between Asuka and Lynch, because The IIconics are going to win the Royal Rumble then become the first tag team champions then make WrestleMania IIconic.
Becky Lynch turned to Asuka and said ‘you want to know what all the buzz is about? I will show you why I’m the talk of this industry.’ Then asked Royce and Kay which one of them wanted to step in the ring with her.
Becky Lynch vs Peyton Royce
By the time we got back from an ad break, it was Peyton Royce who had taken the challenge, and Asuka was sat at ringside. The first move of the match was a punch from Becky Lynch that sent Royce out of the ring.
Lynch to time to make sure Asuka was watching as she controlled and punished Peyton Royce. But Asuka was also watching when Royce kicked Lynch in the face and took over. No one is halting Becky Lynch’s momentum for long and Royce had to stoop to escaping from the ring and catching Lynch with a clothesline while she was busy throwing Billie Kay out of the way.
Royce was in control after another ad break, and Lacey Evans was shown watching backstage.
Again, Becky Lynch stepped it up a gear and Peyton Royce had no real answer. She had one more shot, from a kick in the face, and got a two count but she found herself tapping to a Dis-Arm-Her before she could regroup.
Asuka got into the ring after the match and started yelling in Japanese. She chased after the retreating IIconics and dragged Billie Kay int to ring.
Asuka vs Billie Kay
This was a match in that there was a bell at the beginning and end, but it lasted seconds. A hip attack and a sliding knee from Asuka, followed up with Asuka’s armbar, aimed at Becky Lynch. Billie Kay tried to roll Asuka up and wound up tapping to the Asuka Lock.
Becky Lynch and Asuka got nose to nose but were distracted from fighting by AJ Styles music. Styles walked down to and around the ring, then left through the crowd.
Nikki Cross was shown behind a mesh panel that made her look like she was caged, rattling the metal and shouting at Rey Mysterio to ‘Let Nikki Play’. Mysterio was on his way to fight Andrade (who has lost the rest of his name) which was awesome, but I’d enjoy Mysterio vs Cross.
There is one more segment we have to talk about. Mandy Rose has been making advances towards Naomi’s husband, Jimmy Uso, for a while now. This week it came to a head. Rose sent Uso a key to her hotel room and we were left waiting to see what he’d do. Meanwhile, she revealed to Sonya Deville, that this was all about making Naomi miserable. The best way she can think of to do it is to break their marriage up. Naomi has talked on Total Divas several times about divorce being one of her biggest fears.
Uso went to the hotel room where Rose opened her robe to reveal the lingerie (it covered as much as her ring gear, it was just black) she was wearing. As he told her they couldn’t do it and put his hand out to stop her advancing, a photographer appeared from the bathroom and started taking pictures. Mandy Rose told him it was never about him, it was about the fact she despises his wife. Her hatred comes from her opinion that Naomi walks around like she owns the place but she’s not as hot as Mandy Rose is. The objective is for the pictures to ruin Naomi’s life – apparently Rose was unaware of the cameraman filming them from three feet away.
Jimmy Uso left, and Naomi appeared. She and Rose scrapped all over the hotel room until Mandy Rose managed to throw Naomi over a chair and escape. Jimmy Uso came back into the room to check on his wife after Rose left.
Naomi and Mandy Rose have a match next week.
I haven’t sourced a picture for it. It’s on YouTube if you feel the need. It won’t be hard to find. It’s right up there alongside the Alexa Bliss changing segment among the WWE videos with the highest numbers of views this week. I think that’s the most disappointing thing of all. We can believe we’ve moved past these kinds of segments and storylines all we want to, but when they happen they are viewed. When they are viewed they are perceived popular, and so are more likely to be repeated and extrapolated from.
There wasn’t a women’s division match this week, but there was a build segment for Bianca Belair versus Shayna Baszler at NXT TakeOver Phoenix. Belair came out and talked about sending Nikki Cross packing and 2019 being her year. She sent a message to Baszler that she was walking out of TakeOver with the title because she’s un-de-feat-ed, except she never got to finish it because Baszler’s music hit, and she appeared with Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir.
Baszler said she doesn’t see the EST of NXT. She’s seen Belair’s records at the performance centre, she’s clearly the fastest and strongest. But she’s obviously not the smartest, because if she had half a brain she’d see it didn’t matter how big or strong her arms were, Baszler is going to tear them off at TakeOver Phoenix.
Belair was unimpressed and told her the only thing her arms were going to be doing was holding the title over her head.
Baszler said Belair is like every other superstar that comes out but won’t put their money where their mouth is and fight her. She’s afraid Baszler will break her arm, silence the hype and change her vocabulary from undefeated to overrated.
Belair didn’t look worried until Duke and Shafir crowded in close behind Basler. Shayna Baszler smiled and asked if she was worried about them. She made a big show of ushering them into a corner and said they’re the least of Belair’s problems because it would just be the two of them in Phoenix. As she turned back around, Bianca Belair slapped her.
Shafir checked on Baszler while Duke tried to kick Belair, who dodged her and slipped out of the ring just before Marina Shafir grabbed at her.
I would have liked to see a women’s division match as well, but that segment really needed to happen. There needed to be some interaction. Belair is a completely different type of opponent for Baszler and the TakeOver match has the potential to be awesome.
Jinny def. Isla Dawn
Isla Dawn vs Jinny
Jinny clearly thought she was going to have everything her own way in this match, and she dominated Dawn at the start. Isla Dawn came back quickly but there was no sense of urgency and Dawn resorted to controlling and manipulating Jinny without trying to capitalise. It took Jinny breaking away and initiating an exchange of blows to get things moving.
A trio of forearms from Dawn later, Jinny took a breather on the outside. When she got back onto the apron, she grabbed Dawn by the head and dragged her onto the ropes.
After softening Dawn up a bit, Jinny locked in an abdominal stretch, but Dawn powered out. Isla Dawn has the superior power, Jinny the more extensive skillset to draw on. In this match, they almost seemed to cancel each other out.
Neither could maintain an advantage for long, so the end, when it came, came quick. Jinny caught Isla Dawn with an X-factor and got the pin.
Mickie James and Alicia Fox def. Dana Brooke and Ember Moon
Dana Brooke and Ember Moon vs Mickie James and Alicia Fox
Fun match, mainly to advertise the fact all these women will be in the Royal Rumble. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate the number of times Dana Brooke switches sides. It’s now impossible to tell whether she should be cheered or booed until you see who she’s fighting either with or against.
It’s all about tag teams now, and who works well as a team. In this one, Fox and James had the experience advantage, generally, but also because they’ve been working together as Alexa Bliss’ lackeys for a while. That gave them the edge, and they dominated Ember Moo for a long portion of the match.
Dana Brooke came in to clean house, but couldn’t finish the match. Even the fancy dive off Ember Moon’s shoulders wasn’t effective, although that was down to Mickie James’ interference. James paid for that interference with a forearm from Moon.
A big boot from Fox, after she’d tagged out, put Dana Brooke down, a Mick-DDT finished her.
NXT TakeOver Phoenix – Preview and Prediction
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship match
Other than the interaction on this week’s NXT, there’s not much of a build required for this one. Bianca Belair earned the opportunity to take on Baszler by winning the number one contender’s match.
They two have comparable levels of WWE experience, but very different experiences within the company. While Baszler forced herself straight into the title picture and has stayed there ever since, Belair has been running through everyone put in front of her with an impressive undefeated streak.
It would be the fairytale for Belair to walk out of NXT TakeOver Phoenix with the title, still undefeated. She’s a different type of opponent for Baszler. Shayna Baszler has been out skilled and beaten on speed, but I don’t recall her ever been overpowered, and that might happen in Phoenix.
However, in her undefeated run, Bianca Belair hasn’t made any friends and Shayna Baszler has two. It’s possible they’ll be banned from ringside before the match, they haven’t been at the time of writing. If they accompany Baszler to the ring, that’s a huge distraction in terms of advantage, even if they never get involved. And they will get involved.
I think Belair is ready for a title run, but I don’t think it starts this time. I’m not as confident in that prediction as I’d like to be because, in all honesty, I’m struggling to see the direction NXT are taking the women’s division. I see a lot of women who could step up to the title picture, but I don’t see anything being built for any of them. With that in mind, I can see Baszler retaining through nefarious means and Belair being granted a rematch down the line.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler
I’ll be back next week with he NXT TakeOver Phoenix results and Royal Rumble preview, in addition to the usual round up to make sure you don’t miss anything important.
In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why.