Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It was the run-up to the first PPV weekend of the year and, as far as matches go, it was a quiet one for the women’s division. There was plenty of build-up to Roya Rumble going on though, and the week finished in spectacular style with NXT TakeOver Phoenix. But let’s start with RAW.
The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection def. Ronda Rousey and Natalya
The only women’s division sighting in the first two hours of RAW was Dana Brooke talking to EC3 backstage. Hour three started with A Moment of Bliss. Alexa Bliss started by announcing known entrants to the Royal Rumble match (see below), then brought out Nia Jax.
Bliss asked who Jax would pick to face if she wins the Rumble, but Jax didn’t time to answer before Ember Moon came out and snatched the mic out of her hand. Alexa Bliss asked Moon if she was invited and Moon told her she was tired of sitting in the locker room waiting for an invitation so she was taking the moment to make her claim, she’s going to win the Royal Rumble.
Alicia Fox came out next for the same reason, then Mickie James, then The Riott Squad, Dana Brooke, Tamina, and Nikki Cross. Bliss had to stand on a chair and shout at them. She told them if it broke out in a brawl they’d be ruining her reputation as well as being a bunch of catty women not supporting each other.
Of course, it broke down almost immediately when Nia Jax shoved Ember Moon into everyone else. The brawl quickly spilled backstage and Alexa Bliss was left on the stage alone. She used the time to announce her entry into the Royal Rumble match. Lacey Evans strolled onto the stage and announced her entry as well. She got crickets, I’m still worried about her gimmick holding up on the main roster.
Anyway, here are the rumble entrants so far.
1. Bayley, 2. Tamina, 3. Lana, 4. Sonya Deville, 5. Mandy Rose, 6. Dana Brooke, 7. Sarah Logan, 8. Ruby Riott, 9. Liv Morgan, 10. Ember Moon, 11. Peyton Royce, 12. Billie Kay, 13. Carmella, 14. Alicia Fox, 15. Natalya, 16. Mickie James, 17. Nia Jax, 18, Nikki Cross, 19. Naomi. 20. Zelina Vega, 21, Charlotte Flair, 22. Alexa Bliss, 23. Lacey Evans.
I’ve just numbered them to keep track. By my reckoning we’ve got seven free spaces. Hopefully they’ll be used wisely.
Ronda Rousey and Natalya vs The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection
Yep, we’re using Sasha Banks and Bayley’s tag team name now. WWE are using it on the results page of the website, so that’s it. I guess it makes sense with the Women’s Tag Team Championships due to be awarded at Elimination Chamber in just a few weeks.
Rousey’s pre-match interview asked what she’d like to say to Sasha Banks. She said she’s been wracking her brains to find any reason why she owed Banks an apology, but she doesn’t owe her a damn thing. She took time during her Moment of Bliss interview to tell the world how underappreciated Banks was and how worthy she was of a title shot and all Banks did was insult her. Since she got to RAW, she’s been nothing but respectful and all she’s had in return is resentment. Rousey doubts Banks commitment to being a champion and thinks she’s high on her own hype.
Sasha Banks got to respond when she got to the ring. She asked Rousey who the hell she thinks she is and reminded her she’s a four-time women’s champion, first woman to be in Hell in a Cell etc… and that the world doesn’t need to be told she’s a worthy competitor because they already know. Rousey didn’t give her anything She earned her opportunity when she tapped Nia Jax out, just like she’ll do to Rousey at Royal Rumble.
It almost turned into a scrap then, except Bayley and Natalya held them apart. Natalya convinced Rousey to let her start the match, against Banks, and got onto the apron. Sasha Banks used her first shot of the match to knock Rousey to the floor. The ref stopped Rousey getting into the ring and she was forced to watch while Banks and Bayley isolated Natalya on their half of the ring.
It got too much for her at one point and she stormed into the ring and cleared Banks and Bayley from it. She and Natalya were side by side looking down at their opponents as we went to the ads.
We came back just in time for Natalya to tag Rousey in, briefly. She did little more than shout at Banks and then tag out again. Natalya was soon back to being dominated by Banks and Bayley.
Rousey tagged back in just as Natalya dropped Banks backwards off her shoulders, and went straight for Piper’s Pit. Banks wriggled free and managed to lock on the Bank Statement. Natalya broke it up with a kick to the back of Banks’ head. Banks tagged Bayley in and they went for the backstabber into Bayley to Belly finisher, but Rousey countered Bayley with a hip toss and got a two-count on her.
Rousey had some momentum and it looked like a matter of time for Bayley, but Bayley managed to tag out. Sasha Banks found herself in an armbar and got to the ropes, then knocked Rousey down with a kick to the head. Rousey was close enough to tag out and Natalya soon had Banks in a Sharpshooter.
Bayley broke that up and knocked Rousey off the apron before being put down with a discus lariat from Natalya. Sasha Banks avoided the powerbomb (yes there was a wardrobe malfunction, these things happen) and hit Natalya with the backstabber into Bank Statement.
Natalya tapped out. While Rousey wasn’t involved in the result, this was her first loss on RAW.
After the match Banks and Rousey went nose to nose yelling at each other.
Mandy Rose def. Naomi
Becky Lynch opened the show, which is getting to be something of a habit. She said there is nothing more she likes than standing in the ring fighting, but The Man has something to say. It wasn’t too long ago that no one was paying attention to her, but ow everyone has an opinion on what The Man should be, doing and how she should be acting. But the only thing The Man should be doing is main eventing WrestleMania and slapping the heads off every single person that gets in her way to get there. That journey starts at Royal Rumble with Asuka. Lynch has watched Asuka clean out NXT, and steamroll her way through the main roster. She is undoubtedly one of the best in the world, but Lynch is better. Asuka never beat her for the title and that fact that isn’t eating Asuka up tells Lynch everything she needs to know about her as a woman. She, and everyone else, have been warming themselves on the fire Lynch lit. But that all changes on Sunday. She’s already dethroned the queen and she’s coming to break the empress because she will walk through fire, through hell, and do whatever it takes…
Asuka came out then, casual as ever. There’s a complete confidence in the way she just ignores people until she’s ready. Once she was ready, she yelled at Becky Lynch in Japanese until they were interrupted by Charlotte Flair’s music.
Flair didn’t come to the ring, she stayed on the ramp to say her piece. She said much as she’s excited for the title match, nothing is going to be as exciting as when she throws twenty-nine other women out of the ring and wins the Royal Rumble. Then she’ll have choices. She can choose between either Sasha Banks, who she’s beaten so many times she’s lost count, or Ronda Rousey, who probably still has bruises from the kendo stick attack. Or either Asuka, whose streak she broke at WrestleMania, or Becky Lynch, who may have owned her the last few months, but she has owned this division for the last four years and she is the main event.
Asuka attacked Becky Lynch from behind as Flair finished talking and they brawled while officials tried desperately and ineffectually to separate them. Becky Lynch was thrown into a barricade, Asuka went over the announce desk, which Lynch launched herself off after she’d spent a few moments smacking Asuka with her coat. Eventually, Becky Lynch allowed herself to be ushered away while Asuka screamed after her from the floor.
After the ads, Lynch and Asuka were shown rolling around on the floor backstage while officials tried again to separate them.
Naomi vs Mandy Rose
The soap opera style recap of the storyline leading up to the match did not improve the feel of the story in the slightest. It’s still awful.
Naomi didn’t wait for Mandy Rose to get to the ring, she went to the ramp, shoved Deville out of the way, and dragged Rose there. She smashed Rose’s face into the edge of the ring and Rose was holding it and checking her teeth for the rest of the match.
Apparently, Naomi dominated all through the ad break, and we re-joined just I time to see Rose take control. She didn’t keep it for long though. Naomi was far too angry for that.
A forearm from Naomi sent Rose into the ref. While he was distracted, Sonya Deville grabbed Naomi’s leg and kicking her distracted Naomi enough for Mandy Rose to shove her face-first into the corner. Rose dragged Naomi back into the ring and pinned her.
Jimmy Uso was there to comfort his wife as Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville left. The worst thing about this result is it means the storyline isn’t over yet.
Charlotte Flair and Carmella had a backstage conversation after Carmella accidentally upset R-Truth and he stormed off. Carmella asked Flair if she really thinks she can waltz into the Royal Rumble match, like she waltzes into everything else, and win. She tried to tell her what it’s like to be in a Rumble match, likening it to a tornado, because Flair wasn’t in last year’s, and pointed out she’s number 30. Flair said Carmella should be confident, but she’s confident because she’s Charlotte Flair. She said the Rumble isn’t the tornado, she is.
Kairi Sane and Io Shirai def. Tanea Brooks and Amber Nova
In addition to this week’s match, we also got a hype package for Shayna Baszler versus Bianca Belair.
Kairi Sane and Io Shirai vs Tanea Brooks and Amber Nova
This was little more than a squash and appeared to be largely there to establish that best friends Sane and Shirai are an effective tag team.
It would have been a complete squash if Brooks hadn’t caused a distraction when Sane went to the top turnbuckle. That gave her and Nova a few seconds advantage over Sane before she tagged Shirai in to clean house.
The tag team finished was cute. Shirai assisted Sane into an elbow drop then Sane assisted Shirai into a moonsault.
A couple of ads later, an interview with Sane and Shirai was shown. They were talking about being unstoppable. Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir appeared and called them adorable then welcomed Sane back to NXT. They told her not to get comfortable and wandered off.
Kairi Sane and Io Shirai vs Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir takes place next week, so will be filmed in front of the TakeOver crowd.
Nina Samuels def. Lana Austin
Nina Samuels vs Lana Austin
I have to admit, with the exception of Rhea Ripley and Toni Storm, I’m not enjoying how the NXT UK women’s division is being built. I was a fan of a lot of these women before NXT UK was a thing, and I still can’t find much in the way of reason care about the division as a whole. I’m not sure this match helped.
There was nothing wrong with it, a bit short maybe. All commentary felt the need to tell us about Lana Austin was the fact she has three children. She’s been wrestling for five years, they could have mentioned that at least.
Nina Samuels had the first women’s division match on NXT UK, but she’s been a bit anonymous since. She dominated Austin for the most part, despite the crowd being firmly I Austin’s corner. Austin’s fightback was brief and ultimately unsuccessful. Nina Samuels delivered her Prima Donna finisher to get the pin.
There was also an interview with women’s champion Toni Storm, from NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool. She said the Mae Young Classic changed her but she’s going to step it up and defend that title the way it deserves to be defended.
This week’s Main Event joined in the Royal Rumble build-up. There was no original women’s division action but they did show some of the interaction between Sasha Banks and Ronda Rousey on RAW and a hype package for Becky Lynch versus Asuka.
NXT TakeOver Phoenix
Shayna Baszler def. Bianca Belair
This is a copy and paste from my NXT TakeOver Phoenix review. The full review can be found here.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Bianca Belair – NXT Women’s Championship match
On the pre-show, Sam Roberts talked about Bianca Belair not being TakeOver ready. He was wrong.
Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke did not accompany Baszler to the ring, which gave Belair two fewer things to worry about. Nonetheless, it was a tentative start. Belair’s nerves were apparent, but she refused to be intimidated. She even got some trash-talk in, although that may have been unwise.
Baszler used Belair’s braid to pull Belair hard into the ringpost, it took a nine-count for Belair to make it back into the ring and the champion took control of the match. It was obvious that Belair’s left arm was injured when she got back to the ring, and Baszler zeroed in on it. A stomp had Bianca Belair screaming in the corner, and Baszler wasn’t nearly done.
It looked like Baszler was toying with the challenger by this point, but when told Belair she was overrated that was the trigger for Belair to fire up and fight back. She even landed a spear with the injured shoulder, but the regret was obvious and she had to cover awkwardly.
Baszler got her knees up on Belair’s splash and landed a knee strike that put Belair down in obvious pain.
Bianca Belair’s hair whip made contact with Baszler’s stomach, the camera shot showed it actually cut her.
Baszler sent Belair flying into the ref and grabbed the braid while she was down. Belair hit the K.O.D. but the ref wasn’t up to count. Marina Shafir ran in and Belair put her down, Jessamyn Duke followed, and Belair slammed her onto Shafir with a double chicken-wing facebuster.
Baszler slapped on the Kirifuda Clutch but not only did Belair not tap or pass out, she picked Baszler up, twisted her around and suplexed her.
Belair had to pause on the top turnbuckle to kick Jessamyn Duke off the apron. It was enough for Baszler to move out of her way and get the Kirifuda Clutch back on. Belair fought to her feet twice, but Baszler kept in cinched in and Belair eventually passed out.
Royal Rumble Preview and Predictions
Women’s Royal Rumble match
Ronda Rousey (C) vs Sasha Banks – RAW Women’s Championship match
Asuka (C) vs Becky Lynch – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Women’s Royal Rumble match
I’m not predicting this, there are too many variables. If the SmackDown Women’s Championship match goes on before the Rumble and Becky Lynch loses, I can’t see past her coming in and winning it. Of the currently announced names… nope, too many variables. Becky Lynch is announced to be part of the Rumble match, but it’s still hard to see past her as the most likely victor.
Ronda Rousey (C) vs Sasha Banks – RAW Women’s Championship match
I have one fundamental thought about this match, Ronda Rousey isn’t losing that title before WrestleMania. After that, there’s a limited amount to say. Sasha Banks absolutely deserves to be challenging, the build-up has been fine, the match should be great. Rousey is winning.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey
Asuka (C) vs Becky Lynch – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
This is a much tougher one to call. Asuka may be champion but it’s Becky lynch with all the momentum in the world right now. The Man is arguably the most over person in WWE at the moment, and she’s never been so good. Thing is, I just can’t see her winning. It doesn’t make sense. The obvious WrestleMania big match, the one the majority are clamouring for, is Ronda Rousey versus Becky Lynch, and unless they are planning champion versus champion at WrestleMania, Lynch has to lose here and win the Rumble match. It’s a long shot, but that’s the most sensible story to tell.
Of course, just because it’s the most sensible story to tell, doesn’t mean it’s the one WWE will go with. Asuka really needs this win. She’s a champion who is being overshadowed by more than one of the division she presides over and that’s not good. A compelling win here would raise her status again. But Becky Lynch back as champion, with her current attitude, is a tempting prospect. I don’t honestly mind who wins this one, but I’ve got to predict it the way I see it.
Prediction: Becky Lynch
Enjoy Royal Rumble. I’ll be back next week with the Rumble weekend fallout, and everything else that’s going on.
In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why.