Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s full steam ahead for Royal Rumble weekend now. As Rumble is one of the duel brand PPVs, there will be a TakeOver before it, and we have the first women’s Royal Rumble match to look forward to. But we’ve got a few weeks to go before that, and plenty of storyline required to get us there. Let’s dive in with the New Year’s Day edition of RAW.
Asuka def Alexa Bliss – non-title match
Alexa Bliss opened the show this week, by accosting Kurt Angle backstage while he was on his way to the ring. Unsurprisingly, she was trying to get out of her match with Asuka. She asked Angle what he was thinking. He said he wanted to start the new year with a WrestleMania worthy match. Bliss argued that his thinking was flawed because Asuka interrupted and attacked her last week, and Angle is rewarding her by giving her a shot at the champion. Plus, Asuka has entered herself in the rumble match, so could earn an opportunity to face her at WrestleMania. Having stated her case asked him to reconsider. He told her he wouldn’t change his mind, if Bliss has a problem with Asuka she can settle it in the ring, and Bliss is just lucky it isn’t a title match.
Kurt Angle confirmed the rules for the women’s Royal Rumble match will be the same as for the men. There will be thirty participants, and they will have to be thrown over the top rope to be eliminated. The winner will get a title shot at WrestleMania.
Sasha Banks’ declared that her new year’s resolution is to win the first women’s Royal Rumble match. She revealed this in an old school style Royal Rumble promo. It might have only been for the New Year’s Day edition, but I hope they keep doing them.
Dana Brooke is currently working as a part of ‘Titus Worldwide’, as some kind of admin assistant. Surely she has to be one of the thirty rumble participants.
Nia Jax chose Enzo Amore over ‘best friend’ Alexa Bliss. Jax was trying to leave the building, holding a Tupperware pot of chicken soup. Bliss stopped her and asked her to be in her corner for the match against Asuka. Jax said that Amore was in the hospital and he needed her, so she had to go (it was reported earlier in the day that Enzo Amore had been taken to the hospital with flu). Bliss gave Nia Jax an ultimatum – it’s him, or me. Jax chose Amore.
Alexa Bliss vs Asuka
They called this a ‘WrestleMania worthy’ match, then bunged it on the card at the end of the first hour. If it’s such a big match, let it main event.
Alexa Bliss’ strategy for this match was, try to stay out of the way. They had a lock-up at the start, then Bliss dived for the ropes when Asuka went for a strike. They exchanged a few holds, then Bliss went back to the ropes. Bliss took a long break on the outside after taking a hip attack and really didn’t appear to want to get back in.
That was probably a good call. Asuka was in control when she finally returned. We went to a break with Bliss on the outside again, but by the time we came back, she was in control courtesy of a kick to Asuka’s ribs according to the replay.
Alexa Bliss worked on injuring Asuka’s ribs for the rest of the match. There was a lot of exchanging submission holds. I like it, it shows a different aspect to both their games. Unfortunately for Bliss, she decided slapping Asuka was a good idea. Asuka slapped her back, then stepped up a gear.
Bliss stepped up a gear as well, it almost looked like she was going to be able to keep pace with Asuka indefinitely. Long-ish match, and they kept the pace slow. Up to now, the main roster crowds have mainly seen the fast-striking elements of Asuka’s talents, so it was good for them to see something different. They managed to keep Asuka looking unstoppable, while making Alexa Bliss look every inch the worthy champion – even with all her cowardly antics.
In the end, as it had to be, Asuka made Alexa Bliss tap to the armbar. It was always unlikely they’d end Asuka’s undefeated streak in a non-title, non-main event, match on RAW. I really hope that when Asuka’s undefeated streak ends, it means something.
Bayley has also officially entered the Royal Rumble match. She’s going to hug her way to WrestleMania after she wins. Absolution have entered themselves as well.
Are we really going to get every woman declaring herself a participant? There are thirty competitors, there are fewer than that on the rosters of RAW and SmackDown combined. The champions can’t be in it because the prize is a shot at one of them. So, surely, the rest of the rosters will be participating.
Riott Squad def Natalya, Tamina and Carmella
Carmella, Tamina, Natalya and Lana have all declared themselves for the Royal Rumble match. That was revealed in a backstage interview before their match, so we didn’t get individual promos for each one individually. After talking about that, they discussed the Riott Squad. They said that before there was a Riott Squad, there was a Welcoming Committee. And, while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, there is no substitute for the real thing.
Yes, that’s right. After a 2017 filled with multi-woman matches on SmackDown 2018 began, with a six-woman tag match.
During the entrances we heard that Ruby Riott has declared herself part of the Royal Rumble match, but not Liv Morgan or Sarah Logan, so far anyway.
Liv Morgan and Natalya started things off, then Sarah Logan and Carmella took over. It’s good to see Morgan and Logan getting in-ring time, but judging by the crowd reactions they’re not making connections with the crowd as individuals yet. Ruby Riott gets a moderate reaction, but I guess it’s going to take a bit longer for the other two.
Fun enough match, too short for much in the way of character or story development, but decent enough. Sarah Logan attacked Natalya on the apron while Carmella was trying to tag her, and Tamina took out Liv Morgan in retaliation once Carmella tagged her in. Ruby Riott tried to tip the balance in her teams favour, and ate a superkick. She Samoan dropped Logan, and it looked like she might get the win. But, with the rest of the Welcoming Committee down, the numbers caught up with her when she went to the top rope.
While Ruby Riott distracted the ref, Liv Morgan pushed Tamina off the turnbuckle. Sarah Logan pinned her after delivering a knee to the back of the neck.
After the match, Ruby Riott gave a speech about the Riott Squad being real, while insulting the crowd like a good heel. Then she said that Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan were joining her in the Royal Rumble match.
Charlotte Flair came out and said, she’s a dreamer. She believes in the power and magic of her dreams. But, as Riott believes in reality, she’ll give her a dose of reality. Actions have consequences. Then she brought out Naomi, followed by the returning Becky Lynch. Nice pop for Lynch, the crowd were chanting for her before she came out.
The two groups met on the ramp and brawled into the ring. Becky Lynch celebrated her return by giving Liv Morgan and Ruby Riott a Bex-ploder, before the Riott Squad retreated back up the ramp.
At this rate, SmackDown are going to have to bring in women’s trios titles. It could actually work, but they’d need a couple more teams. Obviously, I don’t believe they’d do that, but it would give all these multi-woman matches a purpose, something they are sadly lacking in at the moment.
This week NXT had a two-hour review of the year show. There were no matches, but they gave a rundown of some of the women in the division, and showed a beautiful package for Ember Moon. Well worth checking out if you’ve got time. The women’s division didn’t get as much airtime in the review as it should have, but there’s no arguing that NXT had a spectacular year last year.
NXT year end awards are now open for voting. Full details can be found here. Voting is done via twitter, please take a few moments to vote for your favourite female superstar. There are categories for Female Competitor of the year, and Overall Competitor of the year, so there’s a chance to make sure one of the women gets an award in a direct head to head with male superstars.
Dana Brooke def Mickie James
Actual women’s division action on Main Event for the first time in ages. Dana Brooke hasn’t been wrestling much recently, and it was a concern that her new position in Titus Worldwide would keep her out of the ring. Happily, that doesn’t appear to be the case, O’Neil and Crews were with her at ringside for the match against James.
Fun match. Brooke looked a bit clunky in places, but Mickie James is looking good. She had the measure of Brooke for most of the match, so much so that Brooke eventually rolled out of the ring for a pep-talk from O’Neil.
Once she got back in the ring, it looked like Mickie James was ready to finish it. But Dana Brooke managed to power out of the Mick-DDT, and pinned Mickie James in an awkward looking roll up.
Main Event also showed some extremely brief highlights of the women’s division action on RAW and SmackDown. It’s nice that there is a bit more of a spotlight on the women at the moment because of the Royal Rumble match. I’m sure it won’t last after the event, but we can hope.
Royal Rumble Counter
We don’t know how many of the 30 woman Royal Rumble match will be confirmed, and how many will be surprises on the night. It’s reasonable to assume most, if not all, the main roster women will take part – except the champions of course – but not all have confirmed yet. So far, we’ve got 14 confirmed names.
From RAW: Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Paige, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville.
From SmackDown: Naomi, Lana, Tamina, Carmella, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan.
Mixed Match Challenge
I’ll admit to not knowing too much about this yet. It’s some kind of tournament which will air on Facebook Watch (whatever that is), and starts on January 16th. Superstars will compete in teams of two, one male and one female. This week, the general managers of RAW and SmackDown started to announce their teams. So far we have:
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor
Nia Jax and Apollo Crews
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
Lana and Rusev
Naomi and Jimmy Uso
If I manage to figure out how to watch it, I’ll cover the show here. It looks like it could be a lot of fun. The video clips of each team being informed are available on WWE.com. Not everyone has been completely thrilled about their allocated partner.
That’s the lot for another week. Not a bad start to the year. I’ll be back next week to make sure you don’t miss a thing from 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.