Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Fastlane, the final stop on the road to WrestleMania, kicked the week off for us, with three women’s title matches on the card.
Asuka def. Mandy Rose
The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection def. Nia Jax & Tamina
Becky Lynch def. Charlotte Flair
The IIconics were guests on the Kickoff show panel. They spent much of their slot telling Sam Roberts to shut up (which seems fair enough), but when they weren’t doing that, they were complaining about The Boss ‘N’ Hug connection not coming to SmackDown Live yet. They wouldn’t entertain the prospect of Nia Jax and Tamina winning the titles and having to challenge them instead, and both picked Bayley and Sasha Banks to retain.
Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville had a backstage interview on the Kickoff show. Kayla Braxton suggested that Rose only beat Asuka because she faked an eye injury and asked if winning tonight was a long shot. Rose said Asuka attacked them from behind which means she’s in Asuka’s head. It seems like Asuka is trying to get any advantage she can and it’s her who is the long shot for the win. Deville said this is the biggest night of Mandy’s career. She’s strategic and focused and now she has the mental edge. EC3 appeared and made a cringe-worthy and spectacularly smarmy attempt to chat up Rose. He got torn a new one by Deville and sent on his way
There was more aggravation between Carmella and Zelina Vega. They argued on the Kickoff show about a petition Carmella was touting to get R-Truth another US title shot. At the moment, they are just two valets grumping at each other (sorry, Mixed Match Challenge partner and business manager respectively), hopefully, they’ll move it into the ring soon. That could be a really good feud if it was given the opportunity.
The US title match was turned into a fatal four-way and there was yet more aggravation between Vega and Carmella while they were at ringside. Carmella tackled Vega to the ground and pounded on her after Vega superkicked R-Truth. Andrade and Truth were so busy separating them they almost allowed Samoa Joe to pin Rey Mysterio. Samoa Joe won the match in the end anyway.
Asuka (C) vs Mandy Rose – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Mandy Rose still seems like an odd choice of competitor. It’s not that she isn’t good enough, it just feels like she jumped the queue. Anyway, this is the match we got, it was second on the card, and it wasn’t bad.
Sonya Deville, of course, accompanied Rose to the ring. Rose engaged with the champion straight away, but it wasn’t long before she found herself struggling for the bottom rope to break a submission. Three times in the first minute or two, Deville caused a distraction to try to give Rose the advantage. It finally worked when Asuka caught a knee in the face from Rose.
Mandy Rose maintained the advantage for a little while but found herself in another submission. She managed to power out of that one, but couldn’t build any kind of momentum in the face of Asuka’s strikes.
Asuka’s experience advantage was evident at times in that she had more resources to draw on. Rose did have one good pin attempt though, off a knee to the face when Asuka’s attempted hip attack hung her up in the ropes. She was unable to deliver her finisher though and took a knee in the face from Asuka.
Sonya Deville spent a lot of the match looking under the ring. That turned out to be instrumental to the result. Deville grabbed a kendo stick, but before she had a chance to use it Mandy Rose slipped on the ring apron that Deville had shoved into the ring. She didn’t have time to recover before Asuka kicked her in the face and pinned her.
After the match, Deville kept trying to apologise to Rose, but Mandy Rose wasn’t interested in listening and pushed her away. Is it just me or is it weird that the SmackDown Women’s Champion is being used as a prop in the breakup of a mid-card tag team?
The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection had a backstage interview before the match. Charly Caruso asked how they felt about some people considering them underdogs in their first title defence. Bayley said Nia Jax and Tamina are physically dominating, but if they’re still seen as underdogs after all they’ve been through, so be it. Sasha Banks said they welcome the competition because they want to face the best. They will never take the titles for granted because they are everything they’ve ever worked for. Between them, they said they’ve worked way too hard for it to end tonight. It’s not enough to be the first champions, they want to be the greatest tag team champions of all time. They’re going to defend the titles on all brands, starting with Jax and Tamina.
The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection (C) vs Nia Jax & Tamina – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
It still feels special that the women’s tag titles have arrived. Beth Phoenix was guest commentator for the match to add to the big match feel.
Bayley and Tamina got things going but both tagged out quickly. Jax put an end to Banks and Bayley’s apparent fast tags strategy by throwing Banks at Bayley when she came in, taking Banks temporarily out of the equation. As it was, she was back long before Bayley had the slightest chance of getting back to their corner.
Bayley was on top form, she’s having a quietly brilliant run recently. She still took a ton of punishment on her stints in the ring, but she got to deliver some of the strongest offence as well. It was Bayley who had Nia Jax reeling, and still found time to deal with Tamina, twice. She tagged in Sasha Banks to help knock Jax out of the ring then fly off the top turnbuckle onto them. Jax and Tamina caught Banks, so Bayley dived over the top rope and took everyone out.
Banks and Bayley got Jax back into the ring. Banks landed double knees from the top, Bayley followed it up with an elbow drop, and Tamina pulled Bayley off Jax to prevent the pin.
Bayley dealt with Tamina by hanging her up on the second rope then was hoisted up onto Jax’ shoulders. She managed to flip Jax over and pin her before Jax could struggle free.
There was no time for celebrating. Jax and Tamina attacked Bayley before Banks was even back in the ring. When she did get back in, they were on her too. They threw Banks and Bayley out to the floor, superkicked Bayley and sent Banks over the announce desk.
With both Banks and Bayley down and out, there was an argument between Tamina and Beth Phoenix which devolved into violence. Phoenix threw the first shot and knocked Tamina down, but Nia Jax was there to hit her from behind.
Jax and Tamina kicked at Phoenix then rolled her into the ring. She took a leg drop from Nia Jax, but before Tamina could land the splash Natalya ran down to make the save for her friend. It didn’t work out great for Natalya, although it did draw attention from Beth Phoenix because Jax and Tamina were just too busy beating her up instead. Officials forced Nia Jax and Tamina out of the ring eventually.
Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair
The depth of the hype package for this match really displayed how much effort they have put into building it, and how much screen time it’s had. It was an epic drama all by itself.
Charlotte Flair had to dominate this match for her own credibility. Becky Lynch was using a crutch to get to the ring and her shoulder was taped up. Flair started the match hopping around and mocking Lynch with slaps and shoves. Lynch punched her repeatedly.
That made things get serious, or serious in between Flair’s trash-talking anyway. Obviously, Flair went for the injured knee. What else was she supposed to do? Lynch fought out of the half-crab by turning over but Flair kept hold of her leg and carried on with the punishment. Becky Lynch eventually broke the hold by kicking Flair in the face and tossed her out of the ring. Flair slammed Lynch’s injured knee over the bottom rope.
As soon as she was back in the ring, Flair tacked Lynch to the canvas then took a few moments to point at the sign before going back to working Lynch’s knee.
Lynch did get the odd piece of offence in, but she wasn’t mobile enough to build any momentum and Flair quickly regained control each time. Lynch’s best chance came from a roll up, but she only got a two count.
When Lynch took a breather on the outside, Flair followed and swung her into the barricade then rolled her back into the ring. It may have been a mistake for Flair to step on Becky Lynch’s face before she went up for a moonsault, because Lynch jumped up and shoved her off the top turnbuckle to the floor. Flair crawled back into the ring and Lynch quickly got her in the Dis-Arm-Her. Flair broke it by flipping over and got Lynch in a figure four.
Ronda Rousey ran in and punched Becky Lynch. Flair was immediately disqualified, and Becky Lynch declared the winner. Becky Lynch is going to WrestleMania.
Rousey stood in the corner for a few moments, then left the arena.
On balance, I think this was the perfect, and almost inevitable, finish. Becky Lynch had to win the match. But if Charlotte Flair was beaten by a woman who hobbled to the ring with a crutch, where does that leave her as a challenger? Becky Lynch was almost certainly going to tap, so Flair has everything but the victory itself and we have the triple-threat we’ve all assumed we were getting since Royal Rumble. For now, anyway.
Nia Jax def. Natalya
The road to WrestleMania is busy and I understand not everything can be given priority placement every week, but the women’s division was short-changed this week.
Ronda Rousey addressed her actions at Fastlane in a bitter and entitled rant. She doesn’t give a damn about what us ‘bandwagon bitches’ think. She hasn’t forgotten the crowd chanting ‘You Deserve It’ after Flair beat her with a kendo stick. Everyone booing her would cower if they couldn’t hide behind the safety of a barrier. Becky Lynch is the hero we deserve, a coward. There’s no escape for Charlotte and Becky, she’s going to embarrass and humiliate them both on the grandest stage of them all. That’s why she got Flair disqualified, so she could make one hundred percent sure she can do that, and expose WWE as the ‘carny con artists’ they always have been. She’s walking through Flair and Lynch and walking out of WrestleMania still RAW Women’s Champion. She offered WWE the option of making it a handicap match, Lynch and Flair versus her, and she’d still be embarrassed if she broke a sweat.
Dana Brooke came out to make the case for the defence. She said we’d heard enough of Rousey’s venom and at this point, she has nothing left to lose. She’s not going to let Rousey disrespect WWE or the WWE universe, and she’s not going to let her disrespect the women’s locker room. She might not be some big-time fighter, but she loves WWE. She worked her tail off to be there, to earn the respect of the women’s locker room, and to prove she belongs there.
Brooke had got to the ring by that point, and climbed inside. Now face to face with Rousey, she said, each week on RAW she fights for a chance but she doesn’t get the time of day, let alone a match. So, she might not be on tv and she’s not a household name like Rousey, but all she wants is a chance. It’s the night after a PPV and Rousey normally issues an open challenge. She wanted to accept.
Rousey kicked her in the stomach and chased her out of, and back into, the ring dragging her around by the arm the whole time. Once in the ring again Rousey delivered Piper’s Pit then set Brooke up for an armbar. Three officials arrived the stop her breaking Brooke’s arm. Rousey slapped one of them before she left. The beating took less time than Brooke’s speech.
Brooke is looking amazing, and I’m fairly sure this was the longest promo she’s ever had in WWE. I liked it. She sounded vaguely terrified when she came out, like she knew how it was going to turn out, but her speech sounded heartfelt and genuine. There is something powerful about having Dana Brooke, arguably the most mistreated and neglected woman on the roster, be the one to defend the company against Rousey’s vitriol.
Alexa Bliss hosted another Moment of Bliss to announce the host of this year’s WrestleMania. It’s her. Bliss is the host.
Lacey Evans’ catwalk bit deviated from her normal routine. She took a trip o the announce desk instead and was still on the stage when Nia Jax and Tamina came out for Jax’ match. Evans stood her ground and they had a stare-down until Jax dismissed her as an irrelevance with a hand wave, and carried on to the ring.
Nia Jax vs Natalya
This was the only match of the night for the women’s division and it was a complete non-event. Before the match started, Natalya came to the stage and said after what Jax and Tamina did to her and her friend at Fastlane, it’s got her thinking about who has her back. She used to think Ronda Rousey had her back, but she guesses she didn’t know Ronda the way she thought she did. She doesn’t trust Nia Jax of Tamina, but there is one person she could trust, her best friend, Beth Phoenix. Out came Phoenix and the went to the ring.
The bell rang and Nia Jax charged in hard. Jex landed three or four moves before she got Natalya in the corner for a splash and Tamina grabbed Natalya’s leg to keep her there. Beth Phoenix had seen enough and charged into the ring to beat on Nia Jax. Once she’d thrown Jax out of the ring, Tamina decided to have a go, and Phoenix took care of her too.
It’s looking very much like Beth Phoenix is coming out of retirement.
Jax and Tamina left Natalya and Beth Phoenix in the ring. Moments later, cameras cut to the backstage area where Bayley and Sasha Banks had jumped Nia Jax and Tamina. Officials eventually separated them.
Asuka def. Sonya Deville
Asuka vs Sonya Deville
The match itself was short but fine. Sonya Deville didn’t really have an answer for a fired up Asuka, but she got a couple of moments. A roll-up was her first pin attempt, a spear got her another. But Asuka never really lost control.
Deville took a break to the outside after being rocked by a knee to the face. Asuka dropkicked Mandy Rose at ringside and Deville kicked Asuka in the gut and rolled her back into the ring.
While Deville was stood on the apron ready to get back in the ring, Rose was trying to get to her feet. She grabbed hold of the edge of the apron and pulled it from under Deville’s feet. Sonya Deville slipped to her knees and Asuka kicked her in the head before applying the Asuka Lock for the win.
It was unclear whether Rose pulled the apron away deliberately, and Deville didn’t seem sure either. They argued a bit at ringside after Asuka left, and Rose walked away alone.
I’m still uncomfortable with the fact Asuka is being used as a prop in the breakdown of Rose and Deville’s relationship. The SmackDown Women’s Champion is a tool in someone else’s storyline without having one of her own in place.
The IIconics had a promo segment. They accused Bayley and Sasha Banks of dodging them. They’ve laid down the challenge, they want to be The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection’s next challengers. I think they’re probably right, or they should be. As far as the current tag team options, The IIconics are by far the most established. Some of the screechiness is going (which is good because it upsets my dog) and they seem a lot more serious recently.
Becky Lynch addressed her ‘win’ at Fastlane. We got a long recap of both Fastlane and Monday’s RAW. She threw the crutch away on the stage and walked to the ring. The first thing she said was, it feels good to walk down the ramp on her own two feet. She’s been through it, but she’s back. Back on her feet and back in the main event of WrestleMania.
This is the match that she set in motion by picking Ronda Rousey after winning the Royal Rumble. Then Charlotte Flair got shoehorned in there by Vince McMahon. She had to earn her way into her match twice. Once by winning the Royal Rumble and by playing Ronda Rousey like a fiddle. Do you know how hard it is to play mind games on a woman with no brain? But she did it. She got Ronnie so wound up she did her bidding for her. Her message to Rousey, ‘Thanks for that Ronda, you little weirdo. I’ll repay you at WrestleMania by taking your title and ripping your arm off.’
So Lynch doesn’t care who she has to beat anymore. Whether it’s the golden girl, Charlotte Flair, or whether it’s Ronda Rousey. At WrestleMania, she’s reclaiming everything they have tried to take from her to give to someone else. Charlotte Flair’s music started up and Lynch said, ‘Speaking of someone else.’
Charlotte Flair appeared and congratulated Lynch on making it into her main event. While Lynch was off getting suspended and arrested, doing everything she could to stay out of the ring, Flair was putting in all the work. Her resume speaks for itself. She said, ‘Let me tell you something, sweetheart, it’s one thing to be hot for six months but I’ve been hot for four years. That’s why I was chosen.’ She was chosen to get the job done. The WWE universe supports Lynch because they feel sorry for her, like Flair felt sorry for her, and Rousey felt sorry for her at Fastlane. And no matter how hard Lynch tries to spin it, she got a handout. Never in her life has Flair seen someone do so little but take credit for so much. That’s why she has to make Lynch and Ronda Rousey relevant again, when they bow down to The Queen. According to Flair, she is Miss WrestleMania.
Flair had the division by the throat for four years and did nothing with it, she comes along and they’re the main event of WrestleMania. They don’t need a queen and never did. What they need it The Man. Becky Lynch punctuated it with a smug-looked mic drop to end the segment.
There was more aggravation between Carmella and Zelina Vega when they accompanied R-Truth and Andrade to the ring. They argued before the match. It got physical again when Vega grabbed Rey Mysterio’s leg to try to stop him tagging R-Truth. Carmella grabbed Vega’s feet and pulled her out of the ring so she landed on her face on the floor.
Bianca Belair vs Io Shirai – No Contest due to interference
Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair
This was the match to decide Shayna Baszler’s NXT TakeOver New York opponent. Baszler joined commentary for the match.
Baszler called Shirai ‘a nobody from Japan’. Shayna Baszler needs a history lesson. Shirai has an eight-year experience advantage of Bianca Belair (twelve years versus four), and at times it showed. Belair has clawed her way up from green as green can be, to a completely credible title challenger in those four years, but there is nothing like experience for the depth of knowledge to draw on.
Experience didn’t do Shirai much goo early in the match when Belair hoisted her up onto her shoulders and dropped her face first onto the steps. That was the start of a strong period for Belair and she did her best to capitalise. She couldn’t quite manage it though.
Shirai got back into it with a lovely sequence including a tiger feint kick and a springboard dropkick. But when she went up for a moonsault, Belair took her legs out to hang her in the tree of woe and hair-whipped her.
Belair went to the top. Shirai followed her up and they both came down via an Io Shirai frankensteiner. Shirai went back up and landed the moonsault, but Bianca Belair got her knees up then hit Shirai with a spear.
At that point, Shayna Baszler left the commentary desk and made her way to the ring. She pulled Shirai out of the ring by her foot, so she landed with a thud on the floor, then climbed in and locked Bianca Belair in the Kirifuda Clutch. Kairi Sane ran down to help Belair out. It kind of worked, Baszler let go of Belair and locked the Kirifuda Clutch onto Sane instead. She kept the hold on until Io Shirai hit her from behind. They had a tussle and Shirai threw Baszler from the ring. As soon as Shirai knelt to check on Sane, Baszler was back in the ring and locking in the third and final Kirifuda Clutch onto Io Shirai.
Cathy Kelley caught up with Baszler outside and asked her to explain the attack. Baszler said all these women think they want a shot at the title but nobody’s done a thing to show they deserve it and she’s just gone out there and proved it. There’s not a single woman back there who deserves a shot at her title.
Kelley, slightly hesitantly, told her that William Regal had just made an announcement. Due to Baszler’s behaviour, the NXT Women’s Championship match at TakeOver New York will be a fatal four way – Shayna Baszler vs Kairi Sane vs Bianca Belair vs Io Shirai. She asked for Baszler’s response, Baszler just walked away.
It makes sense as a WrestleMania weekend match. It should be amazing and there are lots of ways it could play out. It’s an interesting choice to put all built title contenders in the same match, it will be even more interesting to see who steps up to challenge once it’s over.
Kay Lee Ray def. Candy Floss
Jinny had some interview time this week. When the first question started by mentioning Toni Storm and Rhea Ripley, Jinny interrupted and asked if the interview was only happening because Toni Storm was unavailable. She’s sick of hearing Storms name. She doesn’t care about Toni Storm, the only thing she cares about is the NXT UK Women’s Championship. Because having that title means you are the centre of attention and the only person who deserves the spotlight is the queen. She asked if the interviewer had any other questions, then told him to go and ask Toni Storm.
Xia Brookside talked about her family name and the impact it has had on her life and career so far. She’s proud of being a Brookside but coming from a pro wrestling family got her bullied as a child. She learned to stand up for herself, but she hates bullies and the biggest bully on NXT UK is Rhea Ripley. Ripley has bullied and taken advantage for her since day one and she’s not going to stand for it anymore. She’s not the same Xia Brookside Ripley has pushed around in the past, and next times she steps in the ring with her she’s going to find that out the hard way.
Kay Lee Ray vs Candy Floss
I feel like this was a little unfair on Candy Floss. Could they not have given someone else to Kay Lee Ray for her debut match.
Kay Lee Ray dominated the early going and quickly squashed Candy Floss’ first attempts to fight back. Actually, she pretty much squashed Candy Floss. Standard for a debut match, I guess. Kay Lee Ray finished it with a gory bomb after a very short match.
No original women’s division action on Main Event again this week. Ronda Rousey’s rant on RAW was covered, but not her beating up Dana Brooke. And the Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair interaction on SmackDown was covered.
Rant time. Let me start by saying I absolutely support all the things WWE say they are doing with the women’s division. All the ‘historic firsts’ are amazing and should be shouted about. However, for the women not featuring in those firsts, things are not looking so good. People are disappearing for long periods of time with nothing to do, and match lengths seem to have dropped significantly. The sub-three-minute match is a regular thing once more, and the sub-two-minute match has happened a few times too. It just feels at the moment like there is a bit of smoke and mirrors going on, the big flashy gestures are all there, but the supporting structures are lacking. Sadly, this is affecting all brands. It hurts me the most to say NXT are just as guilty, although considering the semi-regular decimation of their women’s division it may be more understandable. All the brands have the talent available to them, they’re just not getting the writing.
Right, now I’ve got that off my chest, I’ll be back next week with all the highs and lows from WWE’s women’s divisions. In the meantime, connect with me on twitter @manda_why and let’s talk wrestling. Make sure you’re following @RearViewReviews so you never miss a review.