Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. All the big hype this week was for Ronda Rousey’s first match on RAW, which of course main evented the show but more on that in a bit. There were two women’s division matches on each show this week, well technically anyway. If this is the result of announcing the Evolution PPV then I am all for it.
The Riott Squad def The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection
Ronda Rousey def Alicia Fox
The women’s division didn’t really feature on RAW until two and a half hours in. There had been a hype package or two for Ronda Rousey and Alicia Fox, and a shot of Rousey and Natalya backstage, but they did get the final two matches of the show. No complaints, it was just a bit odd.
The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection vs The Riott Squad
I have a problem with this match. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan have been used consistently while Ruby Riott has been out injured, against Ember Moon and against Banks and Bayley. That’s great but nothing has escalated. It’s not a feud, it’s just repeated matches and variations on those matches. There is no obvious reason for them to keep fighting each other.
That’s not to say it wasn’t a good match, it was fine. Bayley and Sarah Logan, and Sasha Banks and Liv Morgan, are in-ring pairings that work well, they just need a storyline to go with it.
Bayley took the majority of the punishment in this one, and Logan and Morgan were dominant for most of the match as a result. Of course, when Bayley managed to tag in Banks they got a chance to show how united and in-synch they are again with some fancy teamwork, and they had the Riott Squad reeling.
As Bayley launched herself off the apron at Liv Morgan a hooded figure grabbed Morgan and pulled her out of the way, sending Bayley crashing into the barricade. Morgan hit Bayley with a step-up enziguri when she stood up, and turned to find that her mystery saviour was Ruby Riott. Judging by the look on Morgan and Logan’s faces, they had no idea she was back. Sarah Logan recovered from the shock quickly though, while everyone was distracted by Riott’s arrival, she pinned Sasha Banks.
Ronda Rousey vs Alicia Fox
As I mentioned in the intro, this main evented RAW this week. That’s not really a surprise but it does diminish Rousey’s ‘no special treatment’ vibe a bit. There aren’t many superstars who main evented RAW in their third wrestling match. However, it did have a rather delightful side effect.
Alicia Fox, who has been overlooked and underappreciated for years, was suddenly being made into a really big deal. Her status as the longest standing member of the division was celebrated, as was her contribution to the division over the years. It’s the first Fox based hype package I can remember seeing, and it was lovely.
There was an in-ring interview before the match with Fox and Alexa Bliss. Charly Caruso started to ask Fox about Ronda Rousey and Bliss berated her for it, then gave Fox a beautiful introduction. It all got a bit weird from there, well Fox is still doing her crazy thing so there was no other way for it to go. Bliss did say some genuinely nice things about Alicia Fox though, in celebration of her lengthy career. Unfortunately, she spoiled it at the end by saying the only woman who wasn’t grateful to Fox was Ronda Rousey, then going off on a tangent about Rousey having a title match. Rousey, accompanied by Natalya, eventually cut them off.
Alicia Fox was a great choice for Rousey’s first RAW opponent. She has the experience to deal with any mess-ups, and she’s a safe pair of hands for the expensive rookie. Actually, Rousey is doing great. She’s clearly still learning but she’s drawing heavily on what she knows in the meantime and it’s working for her.
Bliss tried to get involved early in the match. Natalya pulled her off the apron and Bliss shoved Natalya into the ringpost. The ref held Alicia Fox back while Rousey looked down at Natalya (not sure why) and while he was doing that, Bliss pulled Rousey’s legs out from under her. That put Rousey down long enough for Fox to get some offence in. That was the only chance she got though.
Ronda Rousey’s expression changed, and Alicia Fox was done from that moment on. Escaping the ring after the first flurry of offence only got Fox thrown into the barricade like she did to Rousey last week. Alexa Bliss’ attempt at interfering again ended with Rousey putting Fox in an armbar right in front of her, and making her watch while Alicia Fox tapped out.
After the match, it was Rousey’s turn to be interviewed. Alexa Bliss attacked her from behind and got thrown over Rousey’s shoulder to the mat. She escaped up the ramp and Rousey grabbed the mic and said, ‘Alexa, it doesn’t matter how tight you hold onto that title, because at SummerSlam it’s mine’.
Next week on RAW, Renee Young will make history by joining Corey Graves and Michael Cole on commentary. It will be the first time a woman has called a whole episode of RAW. You can read superstars reactions to the news here.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair def The IIconics
Zelina Vega def Lana
Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch had a slightly awkward conversation backstage before their tag match. Flair told Lynch she wasn’t trying to ruin her moment by getting into the title match at SummerSlam but when Paige made the match, Lynch knows how competitive she is, it was nothing personal.
Becky Lynch said it’s ok, they want the same thing and that’s probably part of the reason they get on so well. But it’s put her in a really tough position because she wants to be happy for her but she wanted Carmella to herself and now it’s a triple-threat and the hill she has to climb just got a bit bigger, or a lot bigger with a tall blond boulder on it. That’s ok because at SummerSlam she gets to prove she’s the best by beating the best.
Flair said that means a lot coming from her and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She asked if they were ok for the tag match tonight. Lynch said yes, they’re not Bayley and Sasha Banks, and they did their little teatime thing.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair vs The IIconics
Carmella joined commentary for the match, which of course meant she was the focus rather than the match. Unfortunately, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay had microphones for their entrance. They played a word association game. They called Charlotte Flair overrated and a bad dancer, and said nothing springs to mind for Becky Lynch, they couldn’t even see her out there, no she’s where she’ll always be, in Charlotte Flair’s shadow.
Interestingly, the crowd were chanting, ‘boring’, during the IIconics’ entrance banter. I think it’s been fairly obvious I’m not a fan of their attempts at banter or the mean girl vibe. I genuinely thought they’d have been split up in NXT but I’m now convinced the long-term plan includes tag belts for the women’s division, so I think it’s less likely. I like both of them as wrestlers, Peyton Royce especially, but I don’t want to listen to them talk. Maybe they’ll tone it down if they keep getting those reactions.
A broadcasting hiccup meant we got a little of the match with no commentary at all. It was surprisingly lovely. It was especially nice considering commentary were chatting to Carmella rather than talking about the match.
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair always work well together and look like they’re having fun doing it. Peyton Royce and Billie Kay are an experienced tag team. It’s not s surprise this was an entertaining match. Seriously, if there isn’t a tag titles announcement before, or at, Evolution I will be amazed. At least then these endless tag matches would make sense.
Becky Lynch had Royce in the Dis-Arm-Her but Billie Kay broke it up. Flair tagged in, landed a moonsault on both Royce and Kay then made Royce tap out in the Figure Eight.
After the match, Carmella stood on the announce desk and held the belt up while she had a shouting match with Flair and Lynch.
Backstage, Charlotte Flair was excited and commented on how much she loves tagging with Lynch and how great they are together. Becky Lynch said there is nothing like tagging with her best friend, but that was today and in two weeks it’s going to be a whole different story. SummerSlam, things are going to be a little different. Flair said she guesses they’re just going to have to be great against each other then. Lynch agreed, they did their teatime thing, then had a bit of a stare-down.
Zelina Vega vs Lana
A rematch from last week because Lana blamed her loss on Aiden English, or something like that. Women’s division matches on SmackDown beats no women’s division matches on SmackDown so I’m not arguing too much.
Before the match, Lana had a backstage segment with Rusev telling her he would be accompanying her to the ring and Aiden English apologising for accidentally costing her the match last week. They forgave him but told him to stay in the back for this one.
It was a good enough match. Somewhere along the line, it turned into Rusev vs Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas on the outside, which wasn’t a massive surprise. That started with Rusev attacking Almas for getting up on the ropes and distracting Lana. Zelina Vega kicked Rusev in the back of the neck and Almas waited for Rusev to turn around then flung him into the ringpost.
Vega blew Rusev a kiss and turned in time for Lana to kick her in the head. Lana climbed the turnbuckle while Almas was attacking Rusev just below her. Aiden English ran down to rescue Rusev and slammed Almas into the bottom rope, sending Lana crashing to the mat.
Zelina Vega hit Lana with double knees in the corner and pinned her.
WWE have now announced Rusev and Lana versus Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega for the SummerSlam Kickoff show.
Nikki Cross def Amber Nova
Taynara Conti def Vanessa Borne
No build to the women’s title match at TakeOver in this week’s episode. They’ve already done the contract signing, so I guess there isn’t much more to say. Instead, there was a qualifying match for the final place in this year’s Mae Young Classic. Oh, and a squash.
Nikki Cross vs Amber Nova
I’ve called this a squash match, but it was fractionally more interesting. But then, it was Nikki Cross. Amber Nova’s gimmick is apparently classic car enthusiast. It’s different.
Nova got in a touch more offence than you would normally expect, largely due to Nikki Cross’ tendency to get distracted. She even got a pin attempt and controlled Cross with a straightjacket hold for a while.
There was no illusion that she had any chance though. Nikki Cross fired up and took over. She finished the match with The Purge.
Before the qualifying match, there was a backstage interview with Vanessa Borne. She was asked about her game plan and said it was simply to win. As the nice and generous person that she is wouldn’t want to deprive the world of the vision. The Mae Young Classic is all about having the most immaculate women’s performers but how can that be possible when she’s not even in it. So, unfortunately for Taynara, Borne is going to get what she deserves, the world is going to get what it deserves, and ‘Vanessa the vision’ will take the last spot in the Mae Young Classic. Then she told the interviewer to go away.
Taynara Conti’s pre-match promo was limited to a shot of her walking purposefully through the backstage area on the way to the ring.
Taynara Conti vs Vanessa Borne – Mae Young Classic Qualifying match
There is a distinct difference in style between these two, something that commentary played up a lot. Conti’s background is all martial arts based, whereas Borne’s training is all pro wrestling.
The stakes for the match were high, but I found it strangely difficult to get invested. Borne has been a bit part player in the division, at best, and Taynara Conti hasn’t been seen for months. They tried their best to make it feel important, including a ton of trash-talking during the match.
It wasn’t a bad match either, the stylistic differences made for an intriguing contest.
Taynara Conti countered a crucifix into a slam and got the pin to secure her place in the Mae Young Classic.
Next week, Kairi Sane has a match against Aliyah.
Main Event showed highlights of the Ronda Rousey match from RAW, although they actually showed the hype package and build to the SummerSlam match for far longer than the match highlights.
NXT TakeOver Brooklyn – Preview and Prediction
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Kairi Sane
This is going to be an interesting match. Sadly, we haven’t quite got to two women’s division matches on a TakeOver yet, so it’s the only one on the card. At this stage, I don’t understand why they can’t shove a match on the kickoff show if they don’t want to make TakeOver itself more than five matches.
Anyway, the history between Baszler and Sane goes back to the final of last year’s Mae Young Classic. Kairi Sane was victorious on that occasion, but Baszler won their next match. Since then, Kairi Sane has frequently stepped in to break up Baszler’s bullying tactics with the other women on the roster. Baszler has stated that she thinks Sane is delusional, but she’s definitely warier of her than most of the others.
Kairi Sane said at their contract signing that she can beat Baszler, which we know she can, and that she will beat her, which remains to be seen.
I’m in two minds about the result. There’s no clear and obvious path for either of them. It would make the perfect lead-in to this year’s Mae Young Classic to have last year’s winner as NXT women’s champion when it airs (it was filmed this week). That’s a fairly compelling reason to do it. Kairi Sane has been a champion in waiting since day one, this could well be her time.
On the other hand, there are sound practical arguments for keeping the title on Shayna Baszler. The NXT women’s division is still in a period of major rebuild. It is harder to build hated characters than loved ones, and there are more well-developed faces than heels in the division right now. Shayna Baszler is an easy character to build feuds against, her lack of respect alone is enough to make people want to fight her. I’m not sure the division is currently weighted in the right way to support a champion that everyone loves.
There’s not much to go on beyond that and a vague and unsubstantiated feeling that the match Baszler drops the title in would have had a more dramatic build. And I’m still not convinced they won’t go for the feel-good storyline to give the Mae Young Classic an extra bit of attention.
Prediction: Shayna Baszler
I’ll be back next week with all the go home shows, the NXT TakeOver Brooklyn results, and the preview for SummerSlam. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.