Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. With Evolution finishing the week, there should have been a big focus on the women’s division this week. There was hype and build, and the excitement for the show is there, but it all came alongside a reminder that some things are just more important.
Ruby Riott def. Sasha Banks
Ember Moon def. Tamina, Dana Brooke, and Nia Jax
There was a lot of action from the women’s division in one way or another on RAW this week. But it was all overshadowed by the news that Roman Reigns is battling leukaemia and will be stepping away from WWE while he kicks its butt. We all wish Joe Anoa’i a fast and complete recovery and a speedy return to being Roman Reigns.
The show must go on, and it did, albeit in a stunned and upset fashion.
Sasha Banks vs Ruby Riott
Before the start of RAW, WWE announced that The Riott Squad will face Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya at Evolution. To hype this, we got Banks versus Riott. In all honesty, I’d rather have seen Ruby Riott versus Sasha Banks as the Evolution match and stuff the six-woman tag.
Good match, with very little outside interference for the bulk of it. There was a standoff at ringside mid-way through, and the finish involved the extras, but for the most part, Riott and Banks were left to get on with it.
Ruby Riott dominated Banks for long sections of the match, but Banks got back into it with a knee to the face and followed up hard with double knees into the corner and off the turnbuckle. She got Riott with the backstabber into the Banks Statement, then it got messy.
Bayley came in to stop Sarah Logan breaking the hold and they rolled out of the ring fighting. Liv Morgan helped Logan throw Bayley into the barricade. Natalya was too slow to save Bayley and got beaten up by Logan and Morgan when she arrived.
Meanwhile, Ruby Riott had broken out of the Bank Statement, or Banks had let go, we didn’t see either way, and Sasha Banks got out of the ring to help her Evolution teammates. She punched Morgan and Logan to the floor, but when she got back in the ring Ruby Riott kicked her into the post. Riott followed up with a Riott kick for the win.
Ronda Rousey and Nikki Bella had a contract signing. The Bella Twins came to the ring first but scooted out of it when Rousey arrived.
Their excuse was that Rousey was obviously there to fight and they were there for a contract signing. Nikki Bella also slipped an insult about the town in as well, just for the cheap boos.
Rousey said she wasn’t there to beat her up tonight, she was there to make sure she signs the contract for her to beat her up on Sunday. She promised not to lay a finger on them and said, unlike them, her word is her bond. Nothing they could say or do would make her break her promise. And anyway, if either of them was able to hurt her, even with her hands behind her back, her mother would be ashamed of her.
The Bella Twins got into the ring and Nikki decided to up the trash talk. She had a sarcastic exchange with Brie about the importance of Rousey’s word, then turned to Rousey and said, ‘speaking of your mother’. She asked if Rousey promised her mother she would win the Olympics and the world championships, and not to get hurt in the octagon, and to retire undefeated. Did she give her mother her word for all those things? Doesn’t she get it, her mother is already ashamed of her. And imagine what her mother will think when a Diva beats her for her title.
Surprisingly, Rousey didn’t crack. She handed the pen and contract to Nikki Bella. Bella signed it and slapped Rousey across the face. Ronda Rousey smiled, signed the contract, and said, ‘on Sunday I will end you. I give you my word’.
Tamina vs Dana Brooke vs Nia Jax vs Ember Moon
Nia Jax and Dana Brooke both had promo segments for the Battle Royal on Sunday during the show. Ember Moon got one during the match intro’s’.
The match was less than two minutes long. Ember Moon won it with an Eclipse on Tamina. Not much else I can say about it really.
Lita and Trish Stratus had a backstage interview interrupted by Alicia Fox. By some combination of camera angle and heels, Fox appeared to be around seven foot. I know she is tall, but she towered over everyone.
Mickie James attacked Lita and Stratus from behind while they were responding to Fox’ comments, and Fox joined in the beatdown. Notably, amidst injury rumours, Alexa Bliss was not present. Fox and James kind of came out on top and Lita and Stratus were removed. While Mickie James and Alicia Fox were yelling that that’s how they do it around here, Lita and Stratus came back and jumped them. This time the Hall of Famers were the clear victors, sending their opponents into a pillar before telling them that’s how they did it in the Attitude Era.
Note: On Friday night, WWE confirmed that Alexa Bliss will not compete at Evolution. Alicia Fox will take her place beside Mickie James and Bliss will accompany them to the ring for the match.
Naomi and Asuka vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville – Didn’t Happen!
As part of the build-up to their Evolution match, SmackDown showed footage of Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch at the performance centre. Flair was giving a talk to a crowd including Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Mia Yim, Lacey Lane, and Kacy Catanzaro. She spoke about respect, working hard, utilising the resources, and Evolution and was answering questions from the women there, when Becky Lynch interrupted.
Lynch told them not to make friends with anyone or they will hold you back and they will blindside you as soon as they get the chance. They’ve gotta do what she’s doing. They’ve gotta strike them before they strike you. If they want the education of a lifetime they should watch Evolution and see what she does to Flair, study it, take notes, and be in awe. Because no amount of training or privilege or self-righteousness will prepare her.
Of course, it got physical. They brawled until they were separated. As Lynch was pulled away, Flair screamed, ‘who are you?’ Lynch replied, ‘I’m the women’s champion’.
After the footage, it cut to an emotional Charlotte Flair, who addressed herself to Lynch and said after all the attacks and all the insults, what she did at the performance centre was unforgivable. Lynch disrespected the foundation of what got them where they are today. That fight proved this isn’t about titles. Lynch has changed and there’s no going back because there’s no line she won’t cross. At Evolution, when Flair wins back her women’s championship, she won’t just be standing over a defeated opponent, she’ll be standing over a friend who lost her way.
Naomi and Asuka vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
All of these women are in the battle royal at Evolution. I would have argued that, at the very least, both Naomi ad Asuka deserved proper matches. I know the battle royal winner gets a title shot, but everyone else just gets a trip over the top rope. When Asuka debuted on the main roster after her historic run in NXT, would anyone have expected her anywhere except in a well built, or at least well hyped, singles match?
The IIconics came out before the match could start to talk about how excited they are about Evolution. They think they’re going to win the battle royal together by the sounds of it. Lana came out next and only got to wish everyone a Happy Lana Day before Carmella followed her and called a dance break. While they were dancing, Zelina Vega attacked Lana from behind and it turned into a free for all preview of the battle royal except most of the women went through the ropes rather than over them. It got down to Vega and Lana, and Lana rolled out of the ring after Vega’s double knees in the corner. Asuka appeared behind Vega and kicked her out of the ring.
Needless to say, the match didn’t happen. It was a fun segment, but that makes it the second week in a row, the two weeks leading up to the first all-women PPV, that SmackDown hasn’t had a women’s division match. Is that not faintly ridiculous?
Mia Yim def Aliyah
Mia Yim vs Aliyah
It was great to see Mia Yim in an NXT ring. Aliyah’s character, according to commentary, is spoiled brat. I don’t think that tells me anything, but the aggressive style she’s working now is working for her.
After Mia Yim’s opening flurry, it was Aliyah who took control of the match. Yim had to fight her way out of a submission hold to take it back. Once she did, it took just a few big kicks a clothesline and a cannonball to soften Aliyah up for her Seoul Food finisher.
Not a long match, but Mia Yim will get plenty of chances to shine. She’s one hell of an addition to the roster.
Bianca Belair was shown demanding a title shot from William Regal. He said he’d take it under consideration, but she’s got a good shout for it. After all, she is un-de-feat-ed. We also got a hype package for Lacey Evans. She’s another one who needs to be taking her place in the title hunt soon (personally, I’d put a few ahead of her, but she seems to be on the fast track. I question how her character would translate on the main roster).
Kairi Sane will defend the NXT Women’s Championship at Evolution. In a night of hype packages, this match got the biggest one. Another great package, but the NXT ones always are.
I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about how incredible Nikki Cross has been through the whole Aleister Black storyline. She has been the thing that tied it all together, and she’s played her part to perfection. Last week’s ending, with her giving Black the name of his attacker, led perfectly into this week’s show. Cross appeared three times. First to warn William Regal’s security team that Black was on his way, in her own wonderfully odd fashion. Second at the end of Kassius Ohno’s match to tell Ohno that she knows what he did (we still don’t). And third to run into the beautifully set up segment for Black’s return, to tell everyone he was there just moments before Aleister Black himself stormed into the ring. The crowds have enjoyed every second of her contributions, the ‘Nikki’s got a secret’ chant has been consistent, and she’s fed off that. Most importantly, she has cemented herself as a wonderfully chaotic and bizarre character who is somehow extremely endearing.
Mae Young Classic
Toni Storm def. Meiko Satomura
Io Shirai def. Rhea Ripley
The semi-final matches were both awesome. Very different matches, but both completely engaging and entertaining. The final will be amazing. Full details can be found here.
Mixed Match Challenge
B ‘n’ B def. Team Pawz
Awe-ska def. Day One Glow
B ‘n’ B vs Team Pawz
Mixed Match Challenge is such a fun show, so lighthearted it’s a joy to watch with everything else going on. It does take a long time for any kind of match to begin though.
Before this one got underway, Natalya gave Bayley a cat ears headband and Bobby Roode and Finn Balor swapped jackets. Balor looked like a kid wearing his mum’s dressing gown, and Bobby Roode looked like he’d picked his wife’s jacket up by mistake. Roode ‘too sweet’ed’ Balor on the forehead, Balor did Roode’s glorious pose. Roode didn’t like that and struggled to take the jacket off so he could hit Balor, but Balor got in first while Roode was still stuck. The ref and Natalya tried to help Roode struggle out of Balor’s jacket, but he tagged Natalya in so he could get out in peace.
That didn’t quite work because Bayley pointed and laughed at him when she got in the ring, but, eventually, wrestling happened. It started as a friendly tactical exchange, that gradually got less friendly, culminating in Bayley being outside the ring and Natalya threatening a suicide dive. Bobby Roode tagged himself in and reminded Natalya she doesn’t do that.
While they were still arguing Balor tried to roll Roode up, and they actually got to some wrestling as well. Natalya had to come in to stop Balor pinning Roode, then Bayley used the men as stepping stones to take out Natalya. Natalya pulled Bayley out of the ring before she and Balor could share a celebratory hug and the women took each other down with clotheslines on the outside while Roode tried and failed to roll up Balor in the ring.
Roode decided he’d try for a Coup de Grace, but he took forever so Balor moved, dropkicked him in the chest and showed him how it’s supposed to be done.
Team Pawz are now 0-3 in the competition and B ‘n’ B 2-1.
Day One Glow vs Awe-ska
Naomi and Asuka weren’t keen on fighting each other, but they got into it. It quickly degenerated into hugging and dancing and Miz got annoyed. Jimmy Uso came in to defend the hugging, shared a hug with Asuka, and they all tried to hug Miz.
When Miz tried to leave Uso dragged him back and put him in a bear hug, I guess it still counts. They had a decent exchange until Jimmy Uso superkicked Miz in the face and they both tagged out.
This time Naomi and Asuka were ready to get into it and it was great. Miz pulled Asuka out of the way of Naomi’s split legged moonsault and she tagged him back in.
Naomi broke up Miz’ pin on her husband and levelled Asuka with a kick. She faked out going for Miz and he flinched and turned into a slap from Uso. Miz intercepted Uso’s suicide dive and pulled Asuka in front of him as Naomi flew over the top rope. Naomi caught Asuka and hurt herself in the process.
Miz got back in the ring and hit the Skull Crushing Finale on Jimmy Uso to keep Awe-ska undefeated in Mixed Match Challenge.
After the match, Asuka berated Miz for sacrificing her to save himself, and Jimmy Uso dragged Naomi out (he could have picked her up, that’s just rude). Day One Glow are now 1-2 in the competition.
This week’s Main Event showed highlights of the Women’s Championship contract signing on RAW, and Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair’s Performance centre confrontation on SmackDown.
Evolution – Preview
Ronda Rousey (C) vs Nikki Bella – RAW Women’s Championship match
Becky Lynch (C) vs Charlotte Flair – Last Woman Standing match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship
Kairi Sane (C) vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Toni Storm vs Io Shirai – Mae Young Classic Final
Battle Royal for a future Women’s Championship match
Trish Stratus and Lita vs Alicia Fox and Mickie James, with Alexa Bliss
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya vs The Riott Squad
I watched the Road to Evolution preview show WWE put out this week. It was an ok recap of #GiveDivasAChance and the firsts leading up to this PPV, but it was no more than a 22 minutes hype package for the show. There’s nothing wrong with that, WWE do great hype packages. Just don’t expect any extra insight from it. WWE have worked very hard on the last minute media hype, which is better than nothing but doesn’t replace the build the event should have had. It’s worth checking out WWE.com, and the Facebook and YouTube pages for lots of interviews and snippets. Tag titles are still being teased and hinted at, so maybe they’ll pick Evolution as the time to announce them.
The announce team and kickoff show panel have been announced. Renee Young and Beth Phoenix are doing both shows, with Paige rounding off the kickoff panel and Michael Cole in his customary seat on commentary.
I have decided not to do predictions for the PPV because a number of the matches have no storyline value and… to be honest, I just don’t want to. It’s tough to even formulate a match by match preview because there is so little background to most of them.
The main roster exception to this is Becky Lynch versus Charlotte Flair. Their Last Woman Standing match will be brutal and beautifully told. It still bugs me that it’s being talked about as the first Last Woman Standing, rather than the first for a main roster title, but if it’s half the match Asuka and Nikki Cross had on NXT, it will be a highlight of the event. With so few women’s division storylines having anything more than a superficial build, the emotional intensity of this one has been amazing.
Kairi Sane versus Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship will be a fantastic match. But the feud needs to be over. It’s been very well played out over the months and it’s not a case of it becoming boring, it’s simply that there is a rather large queue forming for a title picture no-one can get into. Just look at the volume of talent in the NXT locker room.
The match of the night is probably going to be the Mae Young Classic final between Toni Storm and Io Shirai. I could not care less who wins, it will be an awesome match. I’ve been a big fan of Toni Storm for a while now, and I’m an enthusiastic new fan of Shirai’s. I’ll be happy whoever wins, just enjoy the match.
Bayley, Sasha Banks, and Natalya versus The Riott Squad, sadly, isn’t hugely interesting. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a great match, but it has no emotional resonance or practical purpose. What I’d really like to see from the match is a performance from Ruby Riott that announces her presence as the title contender she absolutely is.
The Ronda Rousey vs Nikki Bella title match isn’t hugely exciting. I’m interested to see how much Rousey has developed since her last match. I’m sure it will be entertaining, but I’m not hugely invested in the Bella Twins as a threat. There’s always a chance that WWE will give Nikki Bella a quick title run, nothing is ever out of the question in WWE, but I see no sense in doing so and I can’t see it happening. With Brie Bella at ringside, and no obvious choice for someone to have Rousey’s back, this has shenanigans written all over it.
Probably the most disappointing match, booking-wise, is the Battle Royal. There was always going to be something like this. WWE promised us ‘over 50 women’ competing, they had to put them all somewhere. But the number of women in this match who should have had either a singles match or a tag is saddening. Announced for the match so far are; Naomi, Asuka, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Lana, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Nia Jax, Ember Moon, Tamina, Dana Brooke, Zelina Vega, Carmella, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Alundra Blaze, Ivory, Molly Holly, Kelly Kelly, and Maria Kanellis. That still leaves them short of the 50 mark. They’ve labelled it, past, present, and future, so we can expect some of the NXT roster to join the fun, and probably an MYC competitor or two as well. I’d expect to see Bianca Belair and Lacey Evans. I’m hoping for Candice LeRae and Nikki Cross. I have no idea who will win the title shot, but wouldn’t it be incredible if they gave it to someone like Cross or Belair and allowed them a main roster shot. Alternatively, and probably more realistically, I’d love to see Ember Moon in the title picture.
I’ll be covering WWE Evolution for Rear View Reviews, so make sure you check in from a few hours after the even for the full review. If you miss it, I’ll post a link to the review in next week’s column. Also in next week’s column, now the Mae Young Classic has come to an end, I’ll be adding NXT UK to the roundup. I’ll do a catch up on it next week, then it will become a regular section alongside all the other news and action from WWE’s women’s divisions. That’s all next week though. In the meantime, enjoy Evolution, and if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to chat about, tweet me @manda_why.