Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s wrestling new year, with WrestleMania having marked the end of old business, and the beginning of the new chapters. That was a bit of a theme this week. It started on the ‘grandest stage of them all’ and so will we, with one of the best, and definitely one of the longest, WrestleMania’s in history.
Naomi won the Women’s Battle Royal
Carmella joined the Kickoff show. After telling everyone that the potential title cash in was the only thing anyone was talking about, Renee Young tried to get her to pick a winner between Charlotte Flair and Asuka. She refused, said she was bored, then went off to get ready for the Women’s Battle Royal. I guess they just wanted to remind everyone she was around.
Women’s Battle Royal – Kickoff show
The Women’s Battle Royale was the final kickoff show match. Paige and Beth Phoenix joined commentary. Phoenix got a special introduction, but Paige didn’t. There was a heart-breaking moment when Michael Cole reminded everyone she was injured and couldn’t compete. Paige said, ‘maybe next year’, and the camera stayed on her long enough to watch her face fall (more on Paige later).
There were some surprises amongst the competitors Becky Lynch, Bayley and Sasha Banks got full entrances, with Lynch being the first person announced, and Bayley and Sasha Banks being the last two to the ring. Everyone else came out in a group after Becky Lynch’s entrance.
From NXT we had Peyton Royce, Bianca Belair, Kavita Devi Taynara Conti, Kairi Sane, Dakota Kai. The other competitors were, Naomi, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Carmella, Lana, Dana Brooke, Mickie James, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose
Everyone ganged up on Carmella and made her the historic first to be eliminated. Then they did the same to Dana Brooke. The NXT women pulled Kairi Sane up from the mat to stop her being next and it broke into every woman for herself, with all the main roster women being shoved into the corners of the ring, or out of it completely.
The NXT women stood in the centre of the ring. Peyton Royce yelled, ‘we are NXT’ and led them in an ‘NXT’ chant, until Becky Lynch broke up the party by attacking Kavita Devi and telling her she can’t wear orange because that’s her colour. Then it all broke into chaos again. Mandy Rose was eliminated next, then Sonya Deville.
Lana, Kavita Devi, Kairi Sane, and Taynara Conti were next out. Becky Lynch took Bianca Belair’s hair whip, then made her pay for it by throwing her out. Sasha Banks eliminated Dakota Kai. Mickie James eliminated Becky Lynch. Ruby Riott took out Micki James, Sarah Logan dumped Peyton Royce over the top rope, with a little help from her friends. Bayley and Sasha Banks teamed up to throw Natalya and Liv Morgan over in quick succession, then tossed Ruby Riott out of the other side. Sarah Logan nearly got Sasha Banks out but Banks got away and they were both on the apron. Bayley chose to shove Logan to the floor.
It looked like Bayley and Sasha Banks were the last two. Banks went for the handshake and Bayley quickly threw her over the top rope. Bayley turned around to start celebrating and came face to face with Naomi, who was never eliminated, she just rolled out of the ring after a Dakota Kai kick. Naomi delivered a rear view then threw Bayley onto the floor beside Sasha Banks and became the winner of the first WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal.
It was a nice, fun, chaotic match. Bianca Belair, Dakota Kai, and Kairi Sane all got to make a good impression. The battle royals are the perfect kickoff show matches, lively enough to get the crowd going, but what’s at stake isn’t enough to feel like it needs a main card place. I hope they keep that format going forwards, but I felt for the Cruiserweights. They had an incredible championship match and were still not on the main card.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Asuka – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Fun fact: I got worried at the start of this match because I’ve been looking forward to it so much I feared I’d overhyped it in my head. I needn’t have worried, it was awesome.
Surprisingly, it was the second match on the card, but they started with the Intercontinental Championship triple-threat, so I’m choosing to believe it’s not a reflection of importance. Maybe they wanted to showcase this one before everyone got too tired to care.
Everything had been done in the build to give this a high-stakes feel, and it worked. It was about more than a title and a streak, these are the matches that legacies are built on and neither was going to concede easily.
There were all the strikes and submission attempts you’d expect, they really do seem evenly matched, and with counters for days. Asuka managed to capture Flair out of the moonsault into the Asuka lock, but Flair managed to get out. Asuka suplexed Charlotte Flair from the apron to the outside. Charlotte Flair hit a Spanish fly from the top turnbuckle. Asuka countered the Natural selection into a submission and heavily worked over Flair’s arm. Charlotte Flair hit a spear that nearly cut Asuka in half.
While Asuka was still trying to recover from that, Charlotte Flair locked in the Figure Eight, one-armed because she couldn’t put any weight on her left by then, and Asuka tapped out. The streak is over, Asuka has been defeated. Complete shock.
After the match, Asuka took to the mic and said, ‘Charlotte was ready for Asuka. Congratulations.’ Then they hugged. Both were crying. It was a simple and emotional moment.
The aftermath was slightly marred by a commotion involving John Cena (a ref ran down to speak to him in the crowd and Cena jumped the barricade and ran up the ramp) before Charlotte Flair had even managed to leave. I found that a bit disrespectful after such a well built and important match.
Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H
Ok, confession time, I was wrong. I said this match was going to be awful, and that wasn’t right. I stand by saying Stephanie McMahon isn’t a wrestler, and Kurt Angle is nowhere near what he used to be. But Ronda Rousey was much better than anyone could have hoped, and Triple H was Triple H. It definitely didn’t contain the best wrestling of the night, not by a million miles, but it was in the conversation for match of the night. Pure sports entertainment.
The trash-talk levels before the match were set too high, and Stephanie McMahon made her intentions clear before the bell by pulling Rousey over by her ponytail. Triple H told the ref to remember who signs his paychecks.
Angle and Triple H started, and it was… well, it was a slow start. Rousey made a couple of ‘rookie errors’ by distracting the ref and allowing Triple H and Stephanie McMahon to cheap shot and double team Angle. It was pedestrian at best, but it was just the prelude to the best of the action. Triple H almost punched his wife when Kurt Angle ducked. McMahon delayed the inevitable tag to Rousey by running around the ring and dragging her off the apron. Finally, Angle sent Triple H into the corner and out of the ring and made the tag.
As soon as the tag happened, Rousey ran across the ring and dragged Stephanie McMahon into the ring by her hair. The crowd got loud for their first sight of Ronda Rousey beating up the boss. It looked like it was going to be a one-sided affair until McMahon raked Rousey’s eyes, but there was no-one in her corner to tag, Triple H was still on the floor.
Stephanie McMahon took control for a while, but she got too confident and Rousey caught her. Triple H pulled the ref out of the ring to prevent the pin, then pulled Rousey out when she said she’d just continue to beat up his wife. Angle and Triple H fought on the announce desk, the Triple H ended up in the ring with Ronda Rousey. Triple H put the ref in the corner, told him to stay out of it, then beckoned to Rousey to bring it. She brought it. Genuinely one of the most fun exchanges in the match, spoiled by Stephanie McMahon pulling Triple of Rousey’s shoulder then slapping her.
McMahon ran away, but Rousey caught her and sent her into the barricade. In return, McMahon sent her into the ringpost and they were both laid out on the outside for Angle and Triple H to have another go. Stephanie McMahon got involved again, and Angle put her in the ankle lock. He took a pedigree for that, and Ronda Rousey had to break up the pin. Triple H teased Pedigreeing Rousey but went for a powerbomb instead, which she countered with a hurricanrana and put him in an armbar. Kurt Angle looked on, but Stephanie McMahon broke it up. There was a double submission attempt by Rousey and Angle, but it didn’t come to anything.
Triple H and Stephanie McMahon went for the double pedigree, but it resulted in McMahon being locked in the armbar which made her tap out.
Very entertaining match, and a good win for Ronda Rousey on her debut.
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Nia Jax – RAW Women’s Championship match
Mickie James came to the ring with Alexa Bliss. Nia Jax stormed down the ramp and gave Mickie James a pre-match beatdown. Seemingly a very effective way of making it a true one on one match. Mickie James wasn’t seen again during the match.
Bliss looked terrified but still chose to slap Nia Jax when Jax grabbed her by the hair. They screamed at each other, Jax in anger and Bliss in fear, then Nia Jax put on a display of power and domination until Bliss managed to roll out of the ring to regroup. Having taken a moment to think Bliss decided the best course of action would be to grab the title and get out of there. She got as far as getting the title, then Jax took her down by running through her, and rolled her back into the ring.
Bliss started with the dirty tricks then, with a thumb to Jax’ eye while the ref wasn’t looking. She secured the upper hand moments later, by jumping on Nia Jax’ knee while she was caught up in the ropes.
It was a couple of minutes for Bliss from then. Nia Jax started to make a comeback, but Bliss moved as Jax charged into the corner and Jax went shoulder first into the ringpost. It probably would have served Bliss to try and take the count out victory from there. Instead, she hit Twisted Bliss from the top turnbuckle to the outside.
They both made it back in before the count and Bliss sent Jax face first into the turnbuckle. She even taunted Jax with a fake apology before delivering a DDT. When she started slapping Jax and screaming abuse at her after she only got a two count, Jax got annoyed. She told Bliss to shut the hell up and slammed her into the canvas.
Now it was Nia Jax’ turn to shine. She threw Bliss around the ring, countering all attempts at offence with sheer power. Even Bliss raking her eyes again only slowed her briefly. After flinging Bliss to the canvas with a sickening thud, Jax screamed that she had loved her, slung Bliss across her shoulders and climbed to the second turnbuckle.
Nia Jax hit the Samoan drop from the second rope and pinned the champion.
Nia Jax is the new RAW women’s champion.
That’s it. No cash in, no twist, just the nice logical conclusion. Bully gets her comeuppance and loses her title. Victim of bullying gets the prize, and a huge WrestleMania moment as well. It’s exactly as it should have played out, the match was good, it even feels like the right result, but somehow, it’s underwhelming.
Nia Jax and Ember Moon def Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
Mandy Rose def Sasha Banks
Lots of women’s division action on RAW this week, which is fantastic to see. There is also some big news. Next week the superstar shake-up is happening. Everyone on the RAW and SmackDown rosters will be eligible to be moved, although I wouldn’t rule out another NXT surprise or two (or maybe not as NXT hasn’t been mentioned).
RAW opened with Stephanie McMahon this week. She limped out to the ring with her arm in a brace and told the crowd that she expected better of them than the ‘you tapped out’ chant. She insulted them then said she deserved their accolades for having brought out the best in Ronda Rousey, and made a huge deal of her own performance, calling herself amazing. When she’d finished blowing her own trumpet, she brought Ronda Rousey to the ring.
When Rousey got there the crowd chanted for her and Stephanie McMahon said, she’d made her tap out, she was the better woman, and a role model for people everywhere. She talked about how far Rousey could go with the corporate machine of WWE, specifically Stephanie McMahon herself, behind her. Ronda Rousey still hadn’t said anything when McMahon reintroduced her, as ‘my friend Ronda Rousey’.
They hugged, then the huge grin Rousey had been wearing the whole time disappeared. She put McMahon into an armbar and ripped the brace off while Stephanie McMahon screamed. Rousey left McMahon to be dealt with by the medics.
As McMahon was helped to the back, with the crowd signing her out, the announcer asked for some respect for Stephanie McMahon and the singing turned to boos.
Nia Jax came to the ring and showed off the championship belt, to ‘you deserve it’ chants. Alexa Bliss and Mickie James appeared, and Bliss said it looks like there’s no bigger bully here than Ronda Rousey, except Nia Jax. She made a comment about Jax throwing her weight around, and what a lot of weight it was, and the crowd called her an asshole. Apparently, the reason she lost the title was Nia Jax’ beating of Mickie James causing her emotional distress. She’s sure Nia Jax loved every minute because deep down she’s cold as ice. Everyone in the locker room knows it, and that’s why she doesn’t have a partner to face them.
Finally, Nia Jax told her to shut up. She had to say it twice, then confirmed she did indeed enjoy every second of beating them both up at WrestleMania, and now she’s the new RAW women’s champion. But Bliss was wrong about one thing, she does have a partner – Ember Moon.
Nia Jax and Ember Moon vs Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
So good to see Ember Moon making her RAW debut. I do hope she and Asuka end up on different brands in the superstar shake up though.
Nia Jax started things off, with Mickie James, after James and Bliss argued about who was going to get in the ring – neither of them was particularly up for it. Jax threw James around a bit, then threw Bliss about, and at one point both at the same time. Then she tagged in Ember Moon.
Moon looked great out there. The RAW after WrestleMania is known for attracting the hardcore fans, which meant she got good reactions because most people there watch NXT. She got to show anyone who wasn’t familiar with her exactly what she was about, first against Mickie James, then against Alexa Bliss. Slightly surprisingly, it was Alexa Bliss who took the Eclipse that finished the match.
Sasha Banks vs Mandy Rose
Sasha Banks came out alone to face Mandy Rose. Rose had Paige and Sonya Deville with her. Before the match could begin, Bayley’s music played, and she made her entrance then stood quietly in Sasha Banks corner. Banks seemed suspicious about why she was there, but the crowd were happy they got to sing ‘hey Bayley’.
The match was short but decent. Sasha Banks got caught out when she was posturing at Bayley, and she ended up face first in a turnbuckle.
After a brief exchange, including Banks delivering double knees from the top turnbuckle, both Banks and Rose ended up on the outside. Mandy Rose shoved Bayley, but when Bayley went to retaliate Rose moved and Bayley punched Banks instead. Sasha Banks stared at Bayley while Bayley tried to apologise, then she got back in the ring.
As soon as she did, Mandy Rose kneed her in the face and pinned her.
Bayley walked away looking upset, Sasha Banks looked annoyed and hurt as she followed. Bayley vs Sasha Banks was announced for next week, via social media. It sparked a short twitter exchange between Bayley and Sasha Banks.
There was no post-match Absolution beatdown because something far more important was about to happen
Following the match, after Bayley and Sasha Banks had left, Paige stood in the ring with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. She started to talk, and they melted away leaving her alone. Paige started by saying how hard it was to sit on the sidelines of WrestleMania because the ring is har heat, her soul, and her blood. Then she, sadly, confirmed what we’ve known for a while. Due to neck injuries, she is unable to compete as an in-ring superstar. She has to retire.
It was heart-wrenching watching her try to control her emotions as the crowd chanted ‘thank you Paige’ and she ran through the list of people she wanted the thank. She thanked every single female superstar back there and said how proud she was to be part of the division and everything they’ve built. She thanked her family. Daniel Bryan and Edge got personal shout-outs, Bryan for giving her hope, and Edge for showing her there was life outside the WWE ring. She said she needs to find something else to do now. Finally, she thanked WWE and the fans for letting her entertain everyone for the last four years. New Orleans is where she debuted and won the Divas Championship, now New Orleans is where she officially retires.
The crowd chanted ‘Thank you Paige’ and ‘This is your house’. She struggled with tears (didn’t we all) as she said, ‘This will always be my house’, put the mic and her t-shirt down in the ring, and left.
That was a moving, and difficult moment. It’s never easy to see someone forced to give up something they love, and Paige is only 25 years old.
Naomi def Natalya
Carmella def Charlotte Flair
Shane McMahon started the show to announce that Daniel Bryan has stepped down as General Manager of SmackDown Live to become a full-time WWE superstar again. Why am I reporting that here? Because his replacement was Paige. Twenty-four hours after telling us she needed to go and find something else to do, she has. She said the first person she spoke to when she walked through the curtain after her retirement speech was Shane McMahon. Her first act as GM was to make the main event of the evening Daniel Bryan versus AJ Styles. Not too shabby a start.
Natalya interrupted Naomi being interviewed about her Women’s Battle Royal win. She complained that Naomi was the least favourite pick to win, everyone felt that way and her twitter feed had blown up saying it was the disappointment of the night. She told Naomi she couldn’t wait for her to be shipped off to RAW in the superstar shake-up. Naomi said that means it could be her last chance to get her hands on Natalya. Natalya stormed off in a huff, and the match was made.
Naomi vs Natalya
A good match, but nothing spectacular. Zero stakes and no storyline other than the intermittent back and forth bitching. Still an enjoyable watch.
Natalya dominated for the majority of the match. Her best opportunity came from a massive powerbomb, but even that only got a two count.
Naomi turned it around with a kick to Natalya’s head followed by a split-legged moonsault. That was enough to get Naomi the pin and the chance to celebrate her battle royal win with the SmackDown fans.
Charlotte Flair started to do her champion’s address. She thanked Asuka and rhapsodised about how special the match was. When she got to pondering who she would face next we got a SmackDown Live debut – Peyton Royce and Billie Kay, the Iconics now instead of the Iconic duo.
They got an NXT chant. They introduced each other and told Flair her match at WrestleMania was good but it wasn’t ‘iconic’. They did some impressions of Flair, while she looked on unimpressed. Billie Kay told her to stop talking about a match that happened in the past. Peyton Royce picked it up with, especially when she’s looking at the future. It’s out with the old and in with the Iconics. Then they attacked.
They comprehensively beat Flair up, inside and outside the ring. They tore her robe off her and kept it two on one however much Flair tried to fight back. Charlotte Flair was sent flying over the announced desk then dragged up and sent back over it. After repeatedly kicking and pounding on her, throwing her into a ringpost and the steps, and slamming her into the floor, Kay and Royce had to drag her back into the ring as a dead weight to pose and stand over her.
As they were leaving, with Charlotte Flair still semi-conscious in the middle of the ring. Carmella ran down with the briefcase and screamed at the referee to cash it in. The ref seemed unable, or unwilling, to understand but he eventually complied. One kick from Carmella, while Flair was obviously barely able to stand, was all it took to put her flat out on the mat. We have a new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
There was a backstage interview with Carmella. She said ‘when a queen overstays her welcome there is always a princess waiting to end her reign’. She’s waited 287 days to find the perfect moment to cash in and now she’s done it. She got ‘choked up’ and thanked herself, because she made history all on her own, just like at Money in the Bank. She refused to acknowledge the part Peyton Royce and Billie Kay played in the victory. She said ‘Mella is money and now Mella has the gold’. Then she moonwalked away.
Kairi Sane def Lacey Evans
In the post-WrestleMania fallout, the NXT women’s division lost Ember Moon to RAW, and Billie Kay and Peyton Royce to SmackDown. However, there was the lovely moment in the Women’s Battle Royal that showed some of the talent still remaining in the women’s division. Bianca Belair, Kavita Devi Taynara Conti, Kairi Sane, and Dakota Kai were part of that moment. We also still have Nikki Cross, Candice Le Rae Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne, and undoubtedly a few I’ve forgotten as well. But we still have the superstar shake-up to get through, I wouldn’t rule out losing another one or two in that, although I haven’t seen any NXT changes rumoured.
Kairi Sane vs Lacey Evans
The women’s division opened the show this week. Lacey Evans has been very vocal in her disdain for the rest of the women’s division. In her last interview, she referred to Kairi Sane as the ‘pathetic pirate princess’. It was that comment which resulted in this match being set.
Kairi Sane is well used to giving up the size and strength advantage to her opponent, and she certainly did in this one. She’s incredibly fast and agile though, and extremely skilled. There are very few wrestlers whose styles I enjoy watching more than Kairi Sane’s.
Good match for both of them. Evans has become a very coherent character. She dominated Sane for much of the match but fell foul of Sane’s dynamism, and her spear. Evan’s powered out of Sane’s submission attempt but got caught with a spinning back fist which laid her out long enough for Sane to hit the InSane Elbow for the win.
With this being the post-TakeOver episode of NXT there were roundups and backstage interviews galore. After the recap of Ember Moon losing her title to Shayna Baszler, Baszler was interviewed. She talked about people congratulating her who haven’t been behind her so far and said, ‘it’s not a bandwagon, it’s a war-wagon’. She said this was just an average weekend for her and Rousey (I doubt that). Things will be are going to change in the NXT women’s division. It isn’t going to be about who gets the most compliments on their hair and outfit, it’s about who can wrestle because that’s what she’s here to do.
That was followed by some footage of Ember Moon’s debut on RAW, and a Backstage interview with her. Moon was accompanied to the interview by her new friend Nia Jax. She said it’s a dream come true, she’s really excited to start a new chapter on her path on RAW. She regrets leaving the rest of the NXT women’s division in Shayna Baszler’s clutches, but she knows how strong they are and they’ll find a way to dethrone her.
There was no women’s division action on Main Event this week. They did show highlights of Monday night’s altercation between Stephanie McMahon and Ronda Rousey, and of Paige being introduced as the new SmackDown general manager.
I’ll be back next week with all the details of the superstar shake-up, and everything else that goes on in the WWE’s women’s divisions. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.