Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. The big news this week is the crowning of the first NXT UK women’s champion. Ok, so it happened a while ago now, but they only aired it this week and it’s still a milestone. Another first announced this week is a women’s TLC match, but more about that later. Let’s start at the beginning, with a network special.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Ember Moon def. Nia Jax, Tamina, Mickie James, and Alicia Fox
Starrcade was essentially a televised house show and we only got to see highlights. The women’s division action took place right at the beginning, after Nia Jax, Tamina, Mickie James and Alicia Fox interrupted Elias and Ric Flair’s opening segment. They said they wanted to ‘walk with Elias’. Mickie James and Alicia Fox danced, sort of, Nia Jax sang, at least I think that’s what it was, then Elias brought Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Ember Moon out to shut her up.
Nia Jax, Tamina, Mickie James, and Alicia Fox vs Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke, and Ember Moon
I’m not going to spend a lot of time and detail on this because it was a non-storyline house show match. It was fun to watch though.
Ember Moon and Mickie James started things off, then James faced Dana Brooke for a bit, but she was less inclined to face Bayley and we got the bizarre sight of Mickie James clinging to Tamina’s legs like a limpet.
There was double-teaming from Jax and Tamina on the tag transition which floored Bayley, and she was the one to take the extended punishment for her team. Because Bayley and Mickie James, and Ember Moon and Alicia Fox, have Mixed Match Challenge matches this week, commentary spent most of the match talking about that.
The live crowd got the good show they paid for. The got to see Bayley fight back and wipe out all of the other team except Fox, then tag in Sasha Banks to save the day. They got to see finishers from everyone in the pre-finish chaos before Sasha Banks got the Bank Statement on Alicia Fox for the win.
Ember Moon def. Alicia Fox
There was a little backstage conversation between Baron Corbin and Alexa Bliss with huge implications for the RAW women’s division. It started with Bliss sucking up to Corbin, telling him what a great job he’s doing, and offering her help. Corbin took her up on it and put her in charge of the entire women’s division. I’m guessing Bliss needed longer out than first anticipated and this is a way to keep her relevant, involved, and creating trouble while she recovers. Much was made by commentary of the fact Bliss is still an active member of the roster, completely ignoring the fact Baron Corbin is also an active member of the roster and is currently acting general manager.
As it was the post-thanksgiving episode, Nia Jax started her in-ring promo, with Tamina by her side, by saying she knows the RAW roster are thankful for her for being the sole survivor at Survivor Series (after sabotaging her own partner) and leading the RAW team to victory. What she’s thankful for is breaking Becky Lynch’s face and putting her on the shelf with a concussion. She’s happy she took the match away from Rousey, and Rousey should get used to her taking things, because she’s taking her title at TLC. She thinks Rousey’s career hasn’t been going so well since she faced Jax at Money in the Bank. She showed footage from Money in the Bank and Survivor Series to illustrate. There was waffle and bad impressions and Jax said she’s actually the top of the mountain, not Rousey, eventually, Rousey came out.
Rousey said she’d give Jax some credit. It wasn’t luck Jax won the battle royal at Evolution. Jax is lucky that she comes from a warrior culture where one punch from her could be heard around the world and she is lucky the Becky Lynch’s popularity gave Jax some infamy in the facebreaker hashtag (Rousey used more words). But Jax’s luck has run out, Rousey guards the top of this mountain (enough with the mountain), and at TLC she’d going to rip Jax’ arm off and slap Charlotte Flair across the face with it.
But since Jax is so eager to fight, and Rousey was born ready, how would she like to do it there and then. Jax stalled for time, then told Rousey she was stalling for time, until Tamina closed in behind her.
Before Jax and Tamina could attack, Natalya’s music hit and she ran out to make the save. As she got to the end of the ramp The Riott Squad appeared from nowhere and started beating on her. Rousey chased them off, and that was how the segment, finally, ended.
Look, it takes a lot for me to point out in so many words when something was bad, but this was really very bad. Jax hasn’t found herself in this role yet and it’s all a bit off., like Roman Reigns’ ‘suffering succotash’ phase. And Ronda Rousey always seems to be moments away from saying something indefensibly offensive, and she does like a long, tortured, metaphor. Happily, the match is likely to be much more fun. Oh, and ending the segment with three people who weren’t in the segment attacking a fourth person who wasn’t in the segment, is very bizarre. Were The Riott Squad just hanging out there all night on the off chance Natalya would appear?
Sasha Banks and Bayley had a locker room segment with Alexa Bliss. Bliss suggested the problems they’ve had with each other might be solved by getting to know each other better. Sasha Banks tried to throw her out, but Bliss decided Banks and Bayley would do an ‘open forum’ in the ring to answer questions from the WWE universe. Bayley tried to say no, but Bliss is in charge now.
Ember Moon vs Alicia Fox
The main purpose of this match was to advertise the Mixed Match Challenge match Moon and Fox, plus partners, are having this week and to introduce Curt Hawkins as Ember Moon’s new partner. That’s not good for Moon. She’s gone from Braun Strowman to a man who is trying to break a losing streak of 236 matches.
Alicia Fox started the match by kicking Moon in the face and took control straight away. Alexa Bliss was shown watching. Ember Moon threw them both to the canvas to fight out of Fox’s grasp, landed three or four moves, and hit the Eclipse for the win. Ridiculously short match.
Hawkins and Moon got caught up in No Way Jose’s conga line on their way out, Moon did not look impressed.
Alexa Bliss brought out Sasha Banks and Bayley after explaining that she wanted the WWE universe to get to know the superstars better. Charly Caruso was on hand to take the question from the audience. In the end, only one question was asked – what would they change in the RAW women’s division – and that came after Bliss had spent some time insulting random audience members.
Bayley said she wouldn’t change anything. Sasha Banks said she’d ship Bliss back to SmackDown, Bayley then changed her answer to say she’d ship Bliss back to hell.
Mickie James, Dana Brooke, and Alicia Fox attacked Banks and Bayley from behind at that point, and it was kind of a mercy. It was slightly odd considering Brooke teamed with Bayley and Banks two days before, but we’ll ignore that.
Bayley and Sasha Banks cleared the ring to end the segment.
Asuka won the Battle Royal
Paige opened the show to bring out Becky Lynch. Is there anyone more over in WWE right now than Becky Lynch? Lynch said, When you’re the hottest thing in the entire industry any time away is too much time away. After she attacked RAW, she bled, she fought, and she won. Then she showed up the next night to fight and she showed up to Survivor Series to fight but she was stopped, trying to hold her back. Not no more, she’s done watching. The Man is putting herself back in the game. At Survivor Series she had to watch someone else step into her shadow and fight Ronda Rousey. She called out Charlotte Flair.
Lynch said she told Flair to give Rousey the beating she would have, and she came pretty close. Of course, if it was the champ in there ‘Ronnie’ wouldn’t have been standing the next night. Lynch asked Flair to step up, but she’s not sure Flair knows who Flair is, because it took Flair channelling her to take it to the RAW women’s champion.
Flair said she wasn’t trying to be Lynch, she was just being herself, Charlotte Flair, the seven-time women’s champion and the only woman on either roster capable of giving Ronda Rousey the beating she deserved. She’s more capable because she’s genetically superior and she has the mindset to do any solitary thing possible to get the job done.
Lynch accused Flair of going from copying her old man to copying The Man. She’s a bootleg Becky trying to take what’s hers again, and she won’t have it. But at least Flair isn’t pretending any more, she’s glad she managed to beat the phoniness out of her in the last few months.
Charlotte Flair said Nia must have hit her harder than they thought because Lynch went from quirky to delusional. Becky Lynch is the one copying Flair’s old man and still managing to ride Flair’s coattails. Addressing Rousey to camera she said the queen stands out in the crowd, she’ll be at TLC and she was the one born ready. And she had one last thing for Becky Lynch, she didn’t fight for her she fought for herself and because Lynch couldn’t, and she’ll fight her again
Paige stopped them to announce that, at TLC, it will be Becky Lynch versus Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship in a Tables Ladders and Chairs match. Another first.
Mandy Rose appeared with Sonya Deville, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, and Zelina Vega. Rose said it was insulting for Paige to say no-one has shown the desire. Everyone is out there talking about what Flair did to Rousey, but the reality is that any one of them could have done the exact same thing. And any one of them deserves a title match against Becky Lynch but Paige won’t give them the time of day. Paige left Absolution and now all she only gives opportunities to her old PCB teammates.
Naomi came out with Asuka Carmella and Lana and said surprisingly, they agree with Mandy Rose. With all due respect, she knows Paige can’t be questioning her desire. The entire SmackDown roster is packed with talent and any one of them could be champion.
Becky Lynch offered to smack the head off any one of them and Paige backed her off. Paige said she loves to see the passion. Then she set a battle royal for that night with every woman in the division (except Flair and Lynch) to compete, and the winner will be added to Flair and Lynch’s TLC match.
I’m sad about that. Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair would have been match of the night (actually, Ambrose and Rollins have a match at TLC as well, so maybe co-match of the night). Both women are on fire at the moment and adding another person to the dynamic can only water it down.
Carmella vs Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville vs Lana vs Zelina Vega vs Peyton Royce vs Billie Kay vs Asuka vs Naomi – Battle Royal for a place in the TLC match
So, that’s it, the entire women’s division except for Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch. It’s kind of small. There’s no excuse for that anymore. Plenty of women who could more than hold their own.
Zelina Vega was the first elimination thanks to a pull from outside by Lana who was sent through the ropes by Sonya Deville and so not eliminated. Vega attacked Lana at ringside before Lana had a chance to get back in the ring.
She didn’t last much longer though, Royce and Kay eliminated her and then had to deal with Asuka. They didn’t manage it. Asuka got them both on the apron and hip attacked them to the floor.
Carmella took Asuka down with a superkick. They had a brief exchange then Carmella ended up screaming on the apron, Asuka took a step back, helped Carmella to calm herself, then kicked her off.
It was down to Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Naomi, and Asuka so the tag team alliances set in.
Naomi and Mandy Rose faced off and ended up on the apron. Rose tried to pull Naomi’s leg out from under her but only succeeded in making her do the splits. Naomi sent Rose flying into the post on to the floor. Sonya Deville kicked Naomi off the apron.
Down to Asuka and Deville. Mandy Rose tried to pull Asuka off the apron for the outside and got kneed in the face. Instead of getting back in the ring, Asuka pulled Deville onto the apron to join her. In a finish very reminiscent of her Royal Rumble exchange with Nikki Bella, they kicked each other in the face, then Asuka kneed Deville in the face and off the apron.
Asuka was the best possible outcome, the match will be good, great even, but Charlotte Flair versus Becky Lynch one on one would still be better.
Mia Yim def. Vanessa Borne
NXT was on tour for this week’s episode, in San Jose California, which always gives it a bit of a house show feel.
Kairi Sane, Dakota Kai, and Io Shirai were interviewed together. Sane was asked about the possibility she got her shoulder up on the final count of the TakeOver match. She said the referee’s call is final, but she’s not finished with Shayna. Dakota Kai and Io Shirai were asked why they got involved in the match/ Kai said her history with Shayna Baszler is not secret, she doesn’t like her. They’re not going to stand for the fact she has Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. Shirai said Sane is her best friend and she’ll protect her.
Kairi Sane said they want all three and Kai and Shirai agreed. Looks like we’re going to be seeing Duke and Shafir on NXT tv sooner rather than later.
There was an attempt to interview Candice LeRae about the cause of her recent attitude change, but it was unsuccessful. The bubbly and smiley Candice LeRae of a few months ago is gone and this version walked straight past the reporters without saying a word.
Mia Yim vs Vanessa Borne
Two grumps to get off my chest before I get to the match, I dislike the ‘Head Baddie in Charge’ tag they’ve been using for Mia Yim – it’s just bad, and I think Vanessa Borne has the Aliyah problem. I know she’s beautiful and arrogant, but the entire locker room falls into one or both of those categories and I don’t think that qualifies as a character any more.
Borne took Yim’s proffered handshake but slapped her face at the same time to set the tone for this one. Vanessa Borne saying ‘do you know who I am’ to Mia Yim was faintly ridiculous unless Borne had an absentminded moment mid-match and forgot her own name.
It was Vanessa Borne that took control of the match, via a thumb to Yim’s eye while the ref was busy dealing with the ring skirt Borne had dragged into the ring. There’s nothing wrong with Borne’s in-ring, she looked great in this match. She’s no match for Mia Yim though.
It took the majority of the short match for Yim to build some momentum, but once she got there it was the simple matter of a series of kicks leading into her Seoul Food finisher.
Xia Brookside and Millie McKenzie def. Charlie Morgan and Killer Kelly
Rhea Ripley def. Toni Storm
The first episode of the week had a tag match ad profile pieces on Toni Storm and Rhea Ripley ahead of the NXT Women’s Championship Tournament final on the second episode.
Xia Brookside and Millie McKenzie vs Charlie Morgan and Killer Kelly
Dear oh dear, Charlie Morgan deserved more of a response than she appeared to get from the NXT UK crowd. Good to see her wearing the rainbow flag as well, albeit discreetly. Millie McKenzie was over with that crowd though.
Interesting match with a lot of technical skill on display. Slow and steady, not a flying about kind of deal, but all the better for it. The majority of the crowd and the viewing audience won’t have seen a huge amount of most of these women and this was a great match for getting to know styles.
Killer Kelly tried to interfere by grabbing Brookside while she was on the turnbuckle. But, while the ref was telling her off, Millie McKenzie snuck into the ring and speared Charlie Morgan. Xia Brookside folded Morgan up and got the pin.
Rhea Ripley vs Toni Storm – NXT UK Women’s Championship Tournament final
The match was well hyped throughout the show and quite rightfully main evented. We won’t dwell on the fact the first ever NXT UK women’s championship was contested by two Australians, they both deserved it.
It was clear from the outset that this wasn’t going to be a pretty and technical bout with lots of clever bits, there were clever bits aplenty, but they were always going to kick seven shades out of each other between them.
They spent a good amount of the early part of the match on the outside tenderising each other’s flesh with the help of the barricades. A backdrop from Ripley on the apron had Storm whimpering in pain on the outside and barely avoided getting counted out. Her back was an issue for the rest of the match.
Rhea Ripley was in control from then and she didn’t give Toni Storm a moment to recover. She moves from kicks and strikes to holds designed to wear Storm down then to a submission attempt. Toni Storm made one unsuccessful attempt to fight back before she ended up in Ripley’s submission hold. Storm got to the ropes and Ripley kicked her wrist when she was forced to let go.
Toni Storm had a resurgence then, and delivered three suplexes, with a headbutt before the third. It still only got her a two count. Storm kept up the momentum with a hip attack and double knees in the corner and the crowd got behind her as she looked for a finish.
Rhea Ripley stopped Storm’s momentum with a dropkick, but it was only enough for two. Storm managed to send Ripley into the post but was unable to get the pin. She went for Storm Zero, but Ripley tipped her out of the ring.
Ripley dragged Toni Storm back into the ring, tried for a pin then went for her Riptide finisher. Storm countered but was unable to lift Ripley for Storm Zero due to the earlier back injury.
Rhea Ripley got the Riptide on her second attempt and got the pin to become the first NXT UK women’s champion.
Post-match, Johnny Saint and Triple H presented the championship to Ripley with the roster on the stage to witness it.
Mixed Match Challenge
Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal def. Ember Moon and Curt Hawkins
Bayley and Finn Balor def. Mickie James and Bobby Lashley, with Lio Rush
We’re into the playoffs now, so we’ve moved from the round robin to an elimination format, and this week was RAW’s turn. Interestingly, now it’s all serious because the prizes have been announced, the team names have vanished. Speaking of the prizes, the vacation part of the prize is awarded to the team, so they have to go together. Everyone’s playing for that number thirty Royal Rumble match entry though.
Ember Moon and new partner Curt Hawkins were interviewed in the opening preamble. Hawkins was obviously annoying her already with his over-confidence. I think we all had a fair idea of how this was going to go.
Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal vs Ember Moon and Curt Hawkins
I’m a little disappointed that Hawkins was chosen as Ember Moon’s partner. I would have liked to see her win it but as soon as I saw them on RAW, I knew it was all over. The fact she was begging him to focus while they were walking to the ring, only served to confirm that knowledge.
Moon and Fox started things off and Ember Moon gave the distinct impression she was going to try to stay in the whole match. That would have been fine, they work really well together. Sadly, for Moon, Alicia Fox tagged Jinder Mahal and Curt Hawkins was forced, reluctantly, to come in.
He didn’t do badly, for a few moments at least. He took down Mahal with a dropkick and tipped him out of the ring, but he got distracted taking out the Singh brothers when he followed Mahal out and got kicked in the face. He spent the next few minutes being beaten up in the ring by Mahal. Eventually, he got to Ember Moon and it all got fun again.
Curt Hawkins caused their defeat. He tagged himself in as Moon went up for the Eclipse, then tried to pin Alicia Fox. Ember Moon tried for damage control by double Eclipsing the Singh brothers, but Mahal delivered the Khallas to Hawkins and pinned him before Moon could get back in.
That’s 237 losses in Hawkins’ streak now, and it will be 238 if Ember Moon gets her hands on him – They should definitely do that, quietly on Main Event if they don’t want it on RAW.
Mickie James and Bobby Lashley, with Lio Rush vs Bayley and Finn Balor
Considering the beatdown Balor got on RAW the previous night, and Lashley’s part in it, Balor was keen to get his hands on his opponent. The initially started things off, but Lashley tagged out before Balor got near him.
Bayley was attacked by Mickie James on RAW as well, so there’s some bad feeling there too. Bayley allowed herself to get distracted by Lio Rush though, and Mickie James took control. Neither could get a result on the other, so they tagged out.
Lashley and Balor just had a match. Now that number thirty spot is on the line, all the fun and games are over. The tournament has lost something as a result. It’s still good, but it’s not as much fun.
Mickie James prevented Balor from tagging out when he desperately needed to, by pulling Bayley off the apron. She hit her face on the way down, but she was ready by the time Balor got back to their corner and the first thing she did was to slide between James’ legs and return the favour.
Lio Rush got involved by grabbing Bayley’s foot and tripping her as she rebounded off the ropes for a suicide dive on Mickie James. Finn Balor dived onto both him and Lashley.
As soon as Balor took out Lashley and Rush, Mickie James charged at Bayley in the corner. Bayley caught her and smashed James’ face into the turnbuckle then delivered a Bayley to Belly for the win.
For no apparent reason, Bayley and Balor closed the show by trying to recreate the lift from Dirty Dancing, unsuccessfully.
The RAW semi-final will be Alicia Fox and Jinder Mahal versus Bayley and Finn Balor. Next week it will be Asuka and The Miz versus Jimmy Uso and Naomi, and Charlotte Flair and Jeff Hardy versus R-Truth and Carmella.
No original women’s division action on Main Event this week, just highlights of Nia Jax and Ronda Rousey from RAW, including the Riott Squad attacking Natalya, and highlights of Charlette Flair, Becky Lynch and Paige from SmackDown, including some of the Battle Royal.
I’ll be back next week with the continued build to TLC, and whatever else the week throws at us. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why.