Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It was another historic week as the first NXT UK TakeOver took place in Blackpool. It was also the week WWE announced the opening of a UK Performance Center. Elsewhere, it was all about the build-up to Royal Rumble weekend. The challengers for both the RAW and SmackDown Women’s Championships were decided this week. So let’s start at the beginning.
Ember Moon and Apollo Crew def. Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal
Sasha Banks def. Nia Jax
Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal vs Ember Moon and Apollo Crews
I’ll be honest, I have no idea why this happened. It started with an in-ring segment with Fox, Mahal, and the Singh Brothers. Fox led the Shanti chants, then Jinder Mahal started calling out random audience members for not participating. He started on the whole audience and was quickly interrupted by their opposition.
Crews and Mahal started things off but Alicia Fox tagged herself in as soon as Mahal started to look like he was in trouble, which didn’t take long. After the tag, Crews tipped Mahal out of the ring and dived over the top rope onto him and the Singh Brothers.
Back in the ring, Fox took a dropkick, a crossbody, and a forearm in the corner before she was thrown to the middle of the ring and Ember Moon delivered the Eclipse for the win.
The whole segment was less than five minutes and I’m still not sure what purpose it served.
Alexa Bliss’ new talk show started this week, A Moment of Bliss. She started by insulting the city and demanding coffee and showed a video package of the highlights of Ronda Rousey’s 2018 before bringing Rousey out.
Rousey refused Bliss’ handshake and sat down. Bliss asked her to tell them about her year and what’s next for her. Rousey said it had been an exceptional year but, as RAW women’s champion she wants to look forward not back. She wants to be a champion everyone can be proud of and to do that she has to chase after her limits with a vengeance.
There’s one woman who has pushed everyone in the locker room to their limits in the ring. Someone with more athleticism in her little finger than Charlotte Flair has in her whole body. A woman with a more harrowing story than Becky Lynch who puts Rousey’s love for the business to shame because she is the business. There was a bit more but she was talking about Sasha Banks.
Bliss said she thought she was talking about her. Rousey laughed and said no, then Nia Jax came out making vomiting noises.
Jax accused Rousey of having a ‘girl-crush’ on Sasha Banks then asked if she’d forgotten about her. They have some unfinished business, she wants a rematch.
Sasha Banks came out before Rousey could say much and told Rousey she’s honoured by her words and she’d love to face her for the RAW Women’s Championship. It would be her pleasure to teach her to lose with dignity and class.
Jax got up in Banks face threatened her a bit and told her to get in line. Banks said ‘Bitch, what line’, and challenged her to a match – winner faces Rousey.
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Not only was the match authorised in the ad break but Bayley and Tamina came to ringside to support their tag partners.
Banks tried to build some momentum in the early portion of the match, and it was working for a while. She took a chance on a guillotine, but Jax powered out and delivered a vertical suplex. It was Jax’ turn then. There was a brief diversion as Bayley and Tamina brawled outside the ring. When Banks stepped in to help Bayley, Jax picked her up and paraded around with her over her head before dropping her face first onto a packing crate. Jax went back to the ring to wait for the count out but Banks made it back in on nine.
Jax couldn’t keep control of the match. Anything she landed had an effect, but Banks kept getting up and stayed on the offensive. Double knees from the corner got Banks a two count but she couldn’t quite lock in the Bank Statement. Jax powered out and for a facebreaker punch but Banks rolled out of the way and she punched the mat.
A Samoan drop would have got Jax the three count if Banks hadn’t put her foot on the ropes. Jax climbed to the second rope to go for a Samoan drop from there. Banks struggled free then went back to the corner on the attack. Jax got her on her shoulders and dropped her across the corner so her throat hit the top rope and Banks rolled out of the ring.
Nia Jax was smiling as she went after her. She rolled her back into the ring and went for a lazy cover. Sasha Banks kicked out. Banks rolled out of the way of a leg drop and Tamina tried to grab her while she was near the corner. Bayley dropkicked Tamina through the corner then flung her into the barricade.
Banks sidestepped Jax as she charged her on the apron and Jax hit the post hard. Still on the apron, Banks went for a hurricanrana that sent Jax face into the apron and herself crashing to the floor. Sasha Banks recovered first and rolled Jax away from the ropes. This time she got the Bank Statement locked in and Nia Jax tapped.
Becky Lynch def. Carmella and Charlotte Flair
Mandy Rose interrupted The Usos title match, wrapped in a towel, and distracted Jimmy Uso by asking him if she left her gear in his hotel room. It worked and the Usos lost the match. Backstage with Sonya Deville, she took the towel off to reveal she was wearing the gear she was enquiring about. Naomi appeared and flew at Rose, Deville intervened, and Naomi tried to take them both on. Jimmy Uso arrived to find his wife gasping on the floor as a result of a Sonya Deville kick to the stomach.
All three women involved in the triple-threat had a promo segment slotted somewhere in the show.
Carmella said no one thinks she’s going to win, she’s seen as the third wheel. Why? Because she looks good? Because she does it with style? Because she likes to have fun? Maybe it’s because Charlotte learned how to use a kendo stick, or Becky learned how to have a personality. She was SmackDown women’s champion for 130 days and in that time she beat both Charlotte Flair and Asuka, twice. She became champion by winning Money in the Bank. In that briefcase was an opportunity and that’s all she’s ever needed, and tonight she has another opportunity and she’s going to use it to prove she’s everything she’s ever said she is.
Becky Lynch said she has to jump through hoops to get back to the championship no one beat her to have. The title that she made the talk of the world, with a title run that woke up the entire industry. But that’s ok because the triple-threat she can do whatever she wants, Charlotte and Carmella are just a formality. And at Royal Rumble, Asuka is going to have to a whole lot more than just climb a ladder. She knows she’s on borrowed time until the man comes around to settle the score.
Charlotte Flair said Carmella was last year’s hottest thing, Becky Lynch is this year’s hottest thing, but Charlotte Flair was the hottest thing on RAW and SmackDown for the last four years running. She’s seven-time women’s champion, she’s main evented RAW, SmackDown, and multiple PPVs. It’s different now. She’s not there to prove herself to anyone, she’s there for herself and the SmackDown Women’s Championship. First, she’ll focus on Becky Lynch and Carmella, then it will be Asuka, and they should get ready to be humbled by the queen.
Becky Lynch vs Carmella vs Charlotte Flair – Triple-threat match for the opportunity to face Asuka at Royal Rumble
The crowd were almost completely behind Becky Lynch at the start of the match. It seemed to work for her, she was fired up and every bit The Man.
It was the usual triple-threat chaos. Flair and Lynch got to exchange chops for a while which devolved into rolling around the ring punching each other until Carmella put a boot in to break it up.
Carmella got Flair in the Code of Silence, but Flair managed to stand up and break it. Becky Lynch came off the top turnbuckle and Flair made sure Carmella was the one to take the dropkick. Charlotte Flair was the one to take advantage, suplexing Lynch and giving Carmella a big boot.
Flair lined Lynch and Carmella up side by side on the mat and went up for the moonsault. Becky Lynch jumped up and followed her up but Flair kicked her back down and hit the moonsault of both of them. She tried covering each in turn, but only got two counts.
Carmella got a near fall on Flair and the frustration started to show. She hit Becky Lynch with a suicide dive, and they started fighting on the outside. Charlotte Flair went for the moonsault to the outside and missed both of them. Carmella took a Bex-ploder at ringside and was thrown into the barricade. Becky Lynch rolled Carmella back into the ring but caught a big boot from Flair on the apron. Carmella tried to roll Flair up. Becky Lynch tried to put Carmella in the Dis-Arm-Her, and Flair delivered Natural Selection to Lynch from the turnbuckle. Carmella tried to steal the pin, Flair launched herself at them and they all took a few moments to recover.
Carmella was the first to recover and went for Flair, who got her locked into the figure eight. Becky Lynch caught Flair with a leg drop from the top before Carmella could tap.
Becky Lynch got the Dis-Arm-Her on Charlotte Flair and it looked like she was going to tap, but Carmella kicked Lynch in the face to break it up.
Carmella threw Flair out of the ring but she got back and delivered a spear to Lynch while Carmella was trying to suplex her. Carmella kicked Flair in the face. Lynch locked Carmella up in the Dis-Arm-Her and Charlotte Flair was much too far away to do anything about it. Carmella tapped. Becky Lynch gets the title match at Royal Rumble.
Asuka came out at the end of the match and danced her way to the ring. She paid no attention to Becky Lynch until after she’d finished her entrance antics, then held the championship belt up in front of her and yelled at her in Japanese.
Bianca Belair def. Nikki Cross
Nikki Cross vs Bianca Belair
This was billed as a double main event with EC3 versus Adam Cole. That’s nice, but it was the tag match that took the top spot on the card. The women took the second segment, first match of the show, but they got a decent amount of time.
The match started with Belair shoving Cross and Nikki Cross laughing at her. Cross shoved back then launched herself at Belair. Bianca Belair dumped Cross out of the ring, but when she went to follow her Cross caught her up in the ring skirt and battered her.
Cross rolled Belair back into the ring and went to the top turnbuckle, but Bianca Belair knocked her legs out from underneath her and picked her up over her head. A gorilla press slam and standing moonsault wasn’t enough to put Cross away, but Belair had control of the match.
Nikki Cross got some momentum back when she turned Belair’s delayed vertical suplex into a DDT because Belair delayed too long. She got a good run of offence going, but once Belair kicked out of a pin attempt, she took too long to get back to it and took a spear from Belair.
That wasn’t enough to keep Cross down and the frustration started to show on Belair. She went for a splash but Cross got her knees up then delivered The Purge, but Belair rolled out of the ring. Cross followed her and jumped on Belair’s back. As in their first match, Belair drove herself backwards and slammed Cross into the ramp. It looked like it might be a double count out like the first match, but they made it back in at nine.
The got to their feet at the same time and started punching it out. Cross sent Belair into the post, then nearly pinned her with a roll up. Belair bought herself some breathing room by knocking Cross down with a forearm and it took them both a while to get up.
Nikki Cross dived off the top turnbuckle, but Belair moved, dragged her onto her shoulders and delivered the K.O.D. for the win.
Excellent match. Belair remains undefeated and Nikki Cross leaves NXT for the main roster. There was no way the result was ever going to be any different. Belair wasn’t going to lose before her TakeOver match against Baszler, and Nikki Cross honoured the tradition of ‘going out on your back’.
Isla Dawn def. Xia Brookside
I am hoping that TakeOver Blackpool will be the end of this double episode format.
In the first episode there was a press conference with Toni Storm and Rhea Ripley. Storm was asked about winning the Mae Young Classic and what it would mean to her to win the NXT UK Women’s Championship. She said it would mean a lot to her because she lives here and wants to represent properly. Ripley was asked what she’ll do to keep hold of the championship. She shouted at the person who posed the question and pointed out that her opponent was sitting right next to her (with Sid Scala and Johnny Saint between them), so she wasn’t going to give her secrets out. Then she told Storm it wouldn’t matter because she’s beaten Storm and Storm has never beaten her.
The next question to Toni Storm was what’s changed between Ripley beating her before, and now. Storm said that when bad things happen people change. They become more dangerous than they were before. She got kicked in the back and lost feeling in her legs and that was hard. But she went on to the Mae Young Classic and won (those two events happened that way round but the women’s title tournament wasn’t shown until after Evolution). Things change. She asked what chance Ripley has, now she’s done all that. Ripley kept piping up that Storm hasn’t beaten her. Storm said at NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool, she’s taking what’s hers, the NXT UK Women’s Championship.
The final question, to Rhea Ripley, should have got the person asking it destroyed. He asked her to react to people saying her win over Storm was a fluke and she’s nothing more than a Toni Storm impersonator (she’s definitely more Pete Dunne than Toni Storm in style, I think). Ripley asked if he was implying she was a joke, a copycat. She’s one hundred percent herself. It’s not Toni time, it’s her time. Then she started shouting at Storm that she beat her and it will never be her time. Storm took her coat off and stood up but Saint and Scala stopped it getting physical.
Isla Dawn vs Xia Brookside
This was also on the first episode of the week. There was a nice handshake to start the match and it was all very friendly as they exchanged holds. Isla Daw got he first significant amount of control, but they soon went back to a slow and deliberate hold for hold switch around.
It wasn’t the most exciting match to watch, but it was interesting and engaging.
They were going counter for counter when Xia Brookside didn’t manage to counter quickly enough and got pinned.
The match finished with a handshake show of respect, just as it started.
Backstage, Isla Dawn was attacked by Jinny and told that was the difference between a witch and a queen.
I’m not sure what that match was for, except to tick a box and fill a few minutes. Dawn and Brookside are both working as babyfaces on NXT UK. I’m not sure why they were fighting. No quibble with the match itself, but surely the slot could have been used towards building something in the women’s division.
There wasn’t a women’s division match on the second episode of the week. Instead, there was a long hype package for Rhea Ripley vs Toni Storm. Excellent video package, as ever.
There was no original action at all on Main Event this week. The triple threat from SmackDown and the Moment of Bliss and following match from RAW were recapped. I hope this isn’t a new format.
NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool
Toni Storm def. Rhea Ripley
Jazzy Gabbert and Kay Lee Ray were shown in the crowd during the show. When that happens at an NXT TakeOver, the superstars show up a few weeks later on the roster. They would be incredible additions, to any of the rosters.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Toni Storm – NXT UK Women’s Championship match
The video package for the match gave it a real sense of occasion. To be honest, I was less than enthusiastic about NXT UK TakeOver Blackpool as a whole, but it has made me more invested in the brand. It was a good show overall, and this was a really decent match.
Ripley made the first move, but Storm was ready and they exchanged blows until Rhea Ripley decided to take a break on the outside. Storm followed and chased her around the ring. Ripley went through the ring out back out the other side. This time Storm followed via suicide dive.
Toni Storm threw Rhea Ripley back into the ring but when she tried to follow Ripley grabbed a handful of her hair and kicked her in the head, then shoved her back-first into the barricade.
Ripley took control then, and the duelling chants from the Blackpool crowd started in earnest. For some reason, commentary brought Rhea Ripley’s age into it, Toni Storm might be way more experienced, but she’s only a year older than Ripley.
A delayed vertical suplex only got Ripley a two count, so Ripley followed it up with a couple of bodyslams. The only got two as well. Storm countered Ripley’s submission attempt and sent her flying into the post, but she couldn’t capitalise in any meaningful way and she almost got pinned from a dropkick.
A headbutt from Storm laid them both out after Ripley threw her around for a while. They recovered at the same time and exchanged strikes in the centre of the ring. Toni Storm delivered two German suplexes, but Ripley countered the third. Storm tried to set her up for Storm Zero but Ripley countered that too and Storm countered that.
Rhea Ripley moved on to trying to submit Storm, but Storm freed herself and got Ripley in an ankle lock. Ripley got to the ropes.
Toni Storm became the first person to kick out of the Riptide. Rhea Ripley couldn’t believe it. They were both looking exhausted and desperate by this point.
Another headbutt from Toni Storm allowed her to deliver Storm Zero, but Ripley kicked out.
There were nice duelling chants from the crowd as Rhea Ripley went for a second Riptide. Toni Storm wriggled free and kept hold of Ripley’s hair to drag her into position for Storm Zero. This time, Ripley couldn’t kick out and we have a new NXT UK women’s champion.
I’ll be back next week with the continued build to Royal Rumble weekend, including the NXT TakeOver Phoenix preview. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why.