Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. WrestleMania is upon us, and by this point most of us haven’t slept for days. NXT TakeOver New Orleans was amazing, and the big event is tonight. We’ll get to the TakeOver review and the WrestleMania preview later. First, we need to see how WWE wrapped up the build by looking at the ‘go home’ shows. We’ve also got the final of the Mixed Match Challenge to go through. Let’s start at the beginning, with RAW.
Bayley def Sonya Deville
Asuka and Dana Brooke def Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
The face to face between Ronda Rousey, Kurt Angle, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon opened the show. Jonathan Coachman hosted and was supposed to be asking questions from the WWE universe, but Triple H wanted to ask his own question – to Kurt Angle.
He started by saying what a shame is was that deafening roar for Ronda Rousey would become a deafening silence after they beat them on Sunday. He talked about Ange’s three I’s Intensity, Integrity, and Intelligence and said he never associated the third one with Angle, and this is a prime example. He ruined one of the biggest signings in WWE history by setting her up for a loss on her debut on the biggest stage possible. He just wants to know why.
Before Angle had time to answer, Ronda Rousey said she’d like to know why they signed her with ulterior motives.
Stephanie McMahon condescendingly apologised to Coach on Rousey’s behalf saying she doesn’t understand the format yet but they’ll polish her up when they rebuild her career after they beat her at WrestleMania
Rousey said she understands a Q&A, she asked a question, where’s her answer.
McMahon said they signed her because she’s a big star. She’s what’s best for business in spite of her appalling attitude. More waffle about money and hierarchy, then McMahon asked Rousey who the hell she thinks she is. Angle replied, she’s Ronda fricking Rousey, and reeled off her accomplishments, ending with and on Sunday, she’s going to make you tap out.
Triple H said none of that matters in a WWE ring. Rousey’s been dreaming of coming to WWE her whole life, to them it is their whole life. There’s a massive learning curve, They make the rules, that’s how they know them so well. She will lose.
Two questions got answered – How important is it to win? Asked to Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. – Answer, Very to remind everyone who’s in charge.
How excited is Angle to be teaming with Rousey? – Very.
Final thoughts – From Stephanie McMahon to Ronda Rousey she chose this path, her first match in the WWE will be a loss, to her, and the whole world knows how she handles losses.
Rousey’s response was to ask McMahon which hand she writes with, because she still wants her to be able to sign her cheques when she rips on arm off.
Finally, there was the photo op. All four stood in front of the tables. Triple H and Kurt Angle squared up but managed to shake hands for the picture. Ronda Rousey left Stephanie McMahon’s hand hanging so McMahon started trash talking her, Rousey stepped up, Angle tried to get between them, Triple H hit Angle in the back of the head with a mic. Rousey grabbed Triple H by the throat, and Stephanie McMahon put Rousey through a table.
Corey Graves mentioned from commentary, during one of the many recaps, that this is Stephanie McMahon’s first WrestleMania match. I wasn’t aware of that (I know I should have been), she’s involved herself in so many I just didn’t realise she’s never had one of her own.
Bayley vs Sonya Deville
Commentary mentioned how much Deville’s confidence has grown, and they’re right. She looks at home on the main roster now. You have to wonder how she’d fare if she were not part of Absolution, would her confidence have grown quite so fast?
The Women’s Battle Royal trophy was at ringside for the match. It’s, well, it’s certainly a trophy, let’s leave it at that. Bayley, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose are among the names already announced for the match.
Good match. Deville is a bit clunky in places still, but it’s less jarring because of her semi-shoot style. She’s a good opponent for the renewed aggressive streak Bayley has been showing of late. Best of all Mandy Rose was hardly involved, and not until right near the end. She distracted Bayley by getting up on the apron and allowed Deville to take advantage. Unfortunately for Sonya Deville, Bayley managed to roll her up and pin her moments later.
Bayley had hardly drawn breath when Mandy Rose attacked her. Sasha Banks ran down to save Bayley from the Absolution beat down. The problem arose after Bayley and Banks had cleared the ring. Banks insisted on Bayley raising her hand, Bayley refused, and it got physical. While they were rolling around brawling, Absolution came back in and laid them both out.
Alexa Bliss and Mickie James did a promo segment for Bliss’ title match on Sunday. I say promo, that’s too strong a word. It was just a bunch of fat jokes and insults aimed at Nia Jax. The big letters across the screen for emphasis were too much. I know it’s a storyline but it’s uncomfortable to watch and I want it to be over.
John Cena mentioned the women’s division in his speech about The Undertaker not responding to his request for a match. The storyline is Cena will be going to WrestleMania as a fan. He talked about the gifted performers he is proud to be watching, including, ‘not just one but all of the women’s matches at WrestleMania, because the women’s division continually proves that success is not based on gender’. It was a nice thing to say, but it raises the speculation that Nikki Bella will be one of the unannounced Women’s Battle Royal competitors.
Nia Jax appeared in a pre-taped interview with Renee Young. Jax talked about how Bliss’ comments took her back to when she was growing up and insecure about herself. But she’s learned that she has to respect herself, honour herself, and be true to herself. She knows who she is, she’s not a goddess and doesn’t claim to be, she’s just her. When Young said a lot of the locker room admire and respect her for who she is, Jax thanked her and said she was disappointed in herself that she trusted someone who made her doubt herself. She never thought Bliss thought she was dumb, needy, gullible, or desperate. The comments took a toll on her confidence, but she took a look at herself and realised she’s Nia Jax and she doesn’t take this s**t. She shouldn’t feel sorry for who she is. Bliss represents everyone who ever told her she couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do this.
Addressing the camera to talk to Bliss directly, she added ‘Alexa you’re nothing but an insecure little girl, a pathetic fly, and at WrestleMania I’m going to squash you like a bug.
Alexa Bliss and Mickie James vs Asuka and Dana Brooke
Nice to have a sighting of Dana Brooke in a match on RAW rather than holding a clipboard for Titus Worldwide. She was mainly there to take the punishment instead of Asuka, and spent the majority of the match with Asuka screaming at her about not losing the streak for her. She looked great in the match though, like she had something to prove.
When Asuka came in, against Mickie James, she was ready to finish thing quickly. She hip-attacked Bliss off the apron, and nearly knocked Mickie James out with a sliding kick. Mickie James had a couple of brief chances before Asuka ducked out of the way of her coming off the top turnbuckle, and locked in the Asuka lock.
After the match Bliss and James attacked Asuka and Dana Brooke until Nia Jax ran down to make the save. Jax managed to get Bliss by the hair but Mickie James jumped on her back and allowed Bliss to escape. After splashing he into the corners, Jax stared down Bliss as she gave James a Samoan drop.
Charlotte Flair def Natalya
In the spirit of showing she’s always ready for competition, Charlotte Flair was in action twice this Tuesday, although the title wasn’t on the line either time.
Charlotte Flair vs Natalya
This was a rematch from two weeks ago, when Carmella’s distraction caused Flair to lose by roll up. It was fine, good even, but there’s no relevance to the narrative, so no stakes. It’s storylined simply by Natalya being arrogant and Flair trying to shut her up.
It was a longish match, Flair and Natalya know each other so well they are always likely to tire each other out before a winner can be decided. Charlotte Flair took at least as much punishment as she gave out. A banal sentence, but important for the events which followed.
Natalya got her knees up for Flair’s moonsault, they took each other down with simultaneous clotheslines, then Carmella’s music hit, again. Flair wasn’t having any of it this time. She kicked the briefcase out of Carmella’s hands before she could hand it to the ref, then booted Carmella in the face. Carmella rolled out of the ring and, just like last time, Natalya went for the roll up.
Flair kicked out this time and locked in the Figure Eight. Natalya tapped out.
While Flair was celebrating, Asuka appeared. She said, ‘at WrestleMania, the queen will bow down to the empress. Because no-one is ready for…’. She didn’t get any further than that because Charlotte Flair grabbed the mic and said ‘yep, I’m ready. The question is, are you ready’. Then they looked at the sign and smiled excitedly at each other again. I hope the match lives up to its full potential. It could be incredible.
Kairi Sane def Vanessa Borne
Strangely, when every other women’s division appearance recently has been about them, the title match participants didn’t feature on NXT this week. We did get a match though.
Kairi Sane vs Vanessa Borne
Lovely match between these two. Kairi Sane is so much fun to watch. Vanessa Borne is fighting hard to establish herself as a heel, even modelling a couple of Baszler’s moves. It seemed to work for the Full Sail crowd, she got a good number of boos.
Nice back and forth match. Kairi Sane in unbelievably quick and very charismatic. Borne had the edge in power, but didn’t have anything to counter the speed and skill of Sane.
Kairi Sane went up for the InSane Elbow. Vanessa Borne climbed the turnbuckle and tried to superplex her off it. Instead Borne ended up upside down receiving a double stomp from Sane. She rearranged Borne on the canvas and went back up for a second try. This time, she hit the Insane Elbow and got the pin.
There was also an interview with Lacey Evans. She made a statement that she couldn’t do anything in NXT until William Regal stopped allowing ‘societal trash’ to walk around. She obviously meant the rest of the women’s division and discussed them one by one. She called Nikki Cross a complete psycho. Said Ember Moon has never made a difference or shown the strength of a woman. Brushed of any mention of Dakota Kai, and called Kairi Sane the pathetic pirate princess. Evans plans to take Sane’s opportunity, and try not to lose her manners in the process. It was announced later that Lacey Evans versus Kairi Sane will take place next week.
It was a WrestleMania ad heavy Main Event this week. There was a brief clip of Stephanie McMahon putting Ronda Rousey through the table, but no other women’s division action.
Mixed Match Challenge
Asuka and The Miz def Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
I’m still not happy this happened, but I guess it’s one way of hyping the WrestleMania match. It would have been nice if the first time Asuka and Charlotte Flair had touched in combat had been at ‘Mania, but that’s not how it happened.
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode vs Asuka and The Miz
The Miz and Bobby Roode started the match, eventually. There was a lot of posturing and catchphrases before anyone made contact. Asuka was worrying about her undefeated streak, and shouting at Miz. And after all that it was a bit of a slapfest before Miz tagged in Asuka.
Commentary talked up the fact this was a WrestleMania preview, the first time they’ve ever locked up in the ring. I still can’t believe they wasted that on this. All they did was roll about a bit and then Miz tagged himself in.
Some wrestling happened for the guys this time. Miz mocked Charlotte Flair while putting Bobby Roode in a figure four, and even did the Flair strut at her. It cost him though. Roode sent him flying but he managed to get back to Asuka for the tag.
No messing about for Asuka this time. She was straight in with all the kicks, and a hip attack. Flair came back with chops, and they gave us a quick preview of exactly how good they’re going to be on Sunday. Flair hit the moonsault, Asuka connected with some powerful kicks, and they kept it almost fifty-fifty until the guys came back in.
Miz and Roode were on their own as they came close to pinning each other a few times. Asuka was laid out at ringside while Miz came within milliseconds of ending her streak for her. Flair was back on the apron and got sick of him making fun of her and trying to figure four Roode. She entered the ring, speared Miz and put him the a figure four. Asuka appeared, finally, and kicked Flair in the head to make her let go.
Asuka saved the match, and her streak, by kicking Bobby Roode in the back of the head as he was going for the Glorious DDT, then preventing Flair from breaking up the pin when Miz hit the Skull Crushing Finale.
Asuka and The Miz are the first winner of Mixed Match Challenge and win $100,000 for Rescue Dogs Rock.
It’s been a much better series than I first expected. I hope they bring it back next year. To sign off on it, here’s a picture of Asuka and The Miz visiting their chosen charity.
NXT TakeOver New Orleans
Shayna Baszler def Ember Moon
The Women’s Championship match was second on the card. Normally I’d complain about the placement of the women’s title match so early, especially as it was the only women’s match, but with the TakeOver card, it’s fair enough, everything’s got to go somewhere.
Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Ember Moon came out first but got a live music entrance. I’m completely convinced she’s heading to the main roster very soon.
This was a great match, but it was tough for anything to follow the ladder match which opened the show. As a result, there was a lot of polite applause, and the quiet moments of a live crowd still trying to process what they just saw.
The match start was a missed dropkick from Moon, but it didn’t slow her down and she started with intent. It wasn’t long before they were on the outside, with Baszler managing to take Moons feet out from underneath her and send her face first into the apron, before throwing her into the barricade. No nice padded barricades for NXT either, they were the metal ones with just a thin fabric covering.
Lots of submission stuff, as you’d expect from Baszler, and Moon wanting to prove she can beat her at her own game.
Ember Moon gave Baszler a taste of her own medicine by stepping on her hand then stomping her elbow, like Baszler did to Dakota Kai. Baszler was together enough to knock Moon off the turnbuckle when she went for the Eclipse, but was in obvious pain. While Moon was hung up in the ropes, Baszler was seen attempting to put her shoulder back in by banging it on the ringpost.
She went back to Moon, who knocked her off the apron to the floor and dived off the top turnbuckle onto her wiping them both out. They made it back into the ring together at the count of nine and a bit.
Baszler got the Kirifuda clutch in, but Moon yanked the injured arm and Baszler let go. Baszler got a triangle, but Moon managed to break it by picking her up and dropping her
Moon went for the Eclipse again, but Baszler countered it into the Kirifuda clutch. That’s the first time the Eclipse has ever been countered. Baszler kept it locked in, holding her own hair instead of using the injured arm, while Ember Moon struggled and fought. Eventually Ember Moon passed out.
Shayna Baszler is the new NXT Women’s Champion.
WrestleMania Preview and Predictions
Charlotte Flair vs Asuka – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Alexa Bliss vs Nia Jax – RAW Women’s Championship match
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
Women’s Battle Royal
Four women’s division matches on a WrestleMania card, well, sort of. The biggest thing is two women’s division singles matches on the same WrestleMania card, that’s both incredible, and wonderful.
Women’s Battle Royal
Announced so far, we have;
- Sasha Banks
- Mandy Rose
- Sonya Deville
- Mickie James
- Becky Lynch
- Ruby Riott
- Sarah Logan
- Liv Morgan
Number of participants isn’t specified on the match preview. It does say that there will be some members of the NXT roster included. I ducked out of predicting the Royal Rumble result, and I’m ducking out of this one too. There’s a good chance that Sasha Banks and Bayley will be the last two, in which case I would say Bayley takes it. But there’s an equally good chance that they take each other out part-way through the match and the winner is someone who hasn’t even been announced yet.
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
I’m really not looking forward to this match at all. But it’s not for me. This isn’t one of the matches on the card aimed at wrestling fans, there are plenty of other matches for us. This one is for the casuals and families. It has done a good job of establishing Ronda Rousey as a personality, but I’d rather have seen her established as a part of the women’s division.
As far as the build for it. Kurt Angle told Rousey during her contract signing that Triple H and Stephanie McMahon only signed her so they could control her. Then he got upset when Triple H smacked him for letting the cat out of the bag. Rousey had been given her choice of opponent for her WrestleMania debut, so she chose Stephanie McMahon, and Angle made it a mixed tag, so he could get some retribution on Triple H. That’s essentially it, barring some posturing and both Triple H and Ronda Rousey being put through tables.
There’s no sensible outcome other than a Rousey debut win unless they want to drag this storyline out even further. Whatever happens it looks like Kurt Angle’s days as general manager are probably numbered.
Prediction: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Nia Jax – RAW Women’s Championship match
I’ve made no secret that I hate this storyline. It has been pointed out to me that all wrestling is essentially the bad guy bullying the good guy, and I will admit my own history with bullying may have coloured my views on this, but it’s just been to true to the ways in which women tear each other down.
The logical way for this to go is for Jax to get her hands on Bliss, vanquish the bully, and make everything right again. But this is WrestleMania and I’m not sure that’s how it’s going to go. I do think Bliss will get her comeuppance at the hands of Jax, but I don’t think Nia Jax is walking out of WrestleMania as the RAW Women’s Champion.
For a start, I think Alexa Bliss will find a way to cheat to win, as she has so many times before. But I can’t shift the feeling that, however off the wall and convoluted it may be, Carmella may choose to cash in on Bliss at the end if the match. I can’t find anything to say Carmella has to cash in on the SmackDown champion, and I think this may be her best option for a successful cash in. It would also be a neat way to move her to RAW if Asuka is going over to SmackDown, in order to even up the numbers. I’m almost certainly wrong, but if you can’t fantasy book in the predictions section of your own column, when can you?
Prediction: Alexa Bliss – Carmella
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Asuka – SmackDown Women’s Championship match.
My first prediction for this match is it could steal the show, and on a card of around 13 (14 if/when Cena vs Undertaker happens) matches, that’s no mean feat. It could even end up being a match of the year contender – I know, I’m setting myself up for disappointment, but I’m really psyched for this match.
The story is minimal. Asuka won the Royal Rumble match and chose Charlotte Flair as the champion she wanted to face. They have met in the ring to discuss it, but this will be a first time one on one match up. They both seem extremely excited, and everything is very respectful. It’s been quite lovely.
Of course, it’s not just Charlotte Flair’s title on the line, Asuka’s undefeated streak is at stake. It’s interesting that recently Asuka has looked a little less unbeatable, a couple of opponents have come closer to beating her than anyone has before. She did triumph over Flair in the Mixed Match Challenge, although it was her partner who got the pin. I still wish they hadn’t had them in the ring together but it was a teaser to show how good the match is going to be.
I went back and forth over the result. I’m excited for the match but the result is almost secondary to the way they will get there (maybe that’s just me, we all like different things). On the one hand, Charlotte Flair is absolutely a worthy person to be given the honour of ending Asuka’s streak. On the other, she doesn’t need that accolade, it won’t add anything to her legacy. Charlotte Flair is a good champion, but the only way I could see her walking out with the belt is via a DQ (which would also potentially give her the opportunity for the heel turn she keeps saying she wants). I hope it doesn’t work out that way. I’d like the match to be as respectful as the build.
Asuka could potentially benefit from a move to SmackDown. She’s run through all the competition on RAW and moving her now means they can keep her and Rousey apart a little longer. SmackDown could also benefit from the addition of Asuka. There’s not a lot of direction in the current women’s division, it’s all some combination of the Riott Squad versus some combination of everyone else. The addition of Asuka could at least give us some fresh and exciting matches.
On balance, I think my choice is clear.
I’ll be back next week with all the results from the WrestleMania matches, and the all-important RAW, SmackDown and NXT after ‘Mania. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.