Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. WWE announced last week that after WrestleMania single branded PPVs will be no more, so tonight’s Elimination Chamber is one of the last (SmackDown have Fastlane coming up). It’s an interesting decision. I can see why they’ve done it, but I feel that it waters down the brand split. A lot will depend how it’s handled, and only time will tell us that. Anyway, before we get to Elimination Chamber, there’s a whole week of action to discuss.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Mickie James vs Alexa Bliss, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
Ahead of RAW Dana Brooke sent out a tweet saying that as the men have seven competitors in their match she should be included in the women’s match. She mentioned being overlooked and called herself the invisible woman. By the end of RAW, that hadn’t happened, I’m guessing it won’t, but we’ll see.
Most of this week’s RAW was taken up by a massive gauntlet match featuring the men’s Elimination Chamber competitors which lasted almost a full two hours. The six-woman tag main evented, and they still managed to fit in a segment for Asuka and Nia Jax.
Asuka had an in-ring interview with Renee Young. She asked Asuka how concerned she was about the prospect of Nia Jax breaking her streak and being added to the match at WrestleMania to make it a triple threat. Asuka said she controls her own destiny, her destiny is to win the championship at WrestleMania. When asked about the things Jax has said she said they were very strong words from a very strong woman, but she didn’t look so strong after their last match when she was limping away from the ring.
Renee Young asked about Nia Jax saying she was going to mess Asuka’s face up. Asuka replied that Nia Jax likes to talk but she won’t be talking on Sunday because she will tap out. Then Young had to rush out of the way as Jax appeared. Asuka struck first and got in several kicks, but Jax delivered a Samoan drop, and followed it up with three leg drops. Jax walked out leaving Asuka laying in the centre of the ring.
There was an interesting hype package for Ronda Rousey ahead of her RAW contract signing at Elimination Chamber. They showed pretty much all of her Royal Rumble appearance, some training footage, media appearances, and comments from the SmackDown women’s roster. That seemed like an interesting choice when she’ll be joining the RAW roster, to only have superstars from the opposing brand talk about her. There are several reasons they might have chosen to do it that way, I’m just not sure yet which one is right.
Sasha Banks, Bayley and Mickie James vs Alexa Bliss, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
Another six-woman tag match, and this one makes no sense at all on the face of it. Last week Alexa Bliss teamed with Mickie James against Absolution and she’s clearly been trying to build and alliance, this week she’s teaming with Absolution against James.
Bliss seemed very keen to avoid getting in the ring with Mickie James in this match. They should have started things off, but Bliss tagged in Sonya Deville instead. Deville is looking more of the complete package every time she steps in the ring. I’m thrilled, I really like her.
Mandy Rose was in next, she’s settling in well too, although she didn’t look as smoothto me in this one. She did a hair flick at Bayley, which caused quite a stir on social media as some people took it as a slight on Bianca Belair. There was some friction in the Bliss and Absolution team, Rose and Deville seemed irate when she tagged herself in after Mandy Rose had started to get the better of Bayley. She didn’t stay in long though.
There was some confusion with the ref and a missed tag while Bayley was in big trouble. He didn’t see her tag to Sasha Banks, and Banks trying to sort it out meant Bayley took more punishment and Mandy Rose crashed into Sasha Banks, sending her out of the ring. Mickie James tagged in soon after it was sorted, but Bayley was out on the floor for a long time. While Mickie James was in Alexa Bliss once again refused to get in the ring with her.
Bliss did come back in, when Mickie James tagged in Sasha Banks, and that was the final part of the match. After taking out Deville on the outside with the double knees, she hit Bliss with them twice. Mandy Rose prevented the pin, Bayley dealt with her, and a few moves later Alexa Bliss was tapping to the Bank Statement.
After the match Absolution beat up Sasha Banks and Bayley, then turned their attention to Alexa Bliss. Mickie James came in to save Bliss. They delivered a double DDT to Sonya Deville, then left together to close the show.
Riott Squad def Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, and Naomi
This section of the column right here represents what’s wrong with SmackDown at the moment. Normally, between the heading and the match report, I’d have a little rundown of pre-match interviews, or promos, or even something that showed the build to the match. I’ve got nothing to put here, there is no storyline. The Riott Squad arrived, the others don’t like them and have been fighting it out in various combinations ever since, that’s the whole thing. All that talent and they’re in some kind of holding pattern. It’s sad and depressing.
Charlotte Flair, Naomi and Becky Lynch vs The Riott Squad
My expectation going into this was that we wouldn’t see much of Charlotte Flair in this match on account of her having her Mixed Match Challenge match later. Actually, I underestimated her. Flair started the match and wanted Ruby Riott, but Riott wasn’t interested so she got Sarah Logan.
This was a really good match, my favourite of the two six-woman tags this week (please understand, I’m not condoning two six-woman tags in a week, but we’ve got to make the best of what we got). There’s a lot of focus on Sarah Logan at the moment, she got to face all three of the opposition before tagging Ruby Riott in.
There was a lot of good teamworking on both sides. One of the upsides of the endless multi-woman matches has been that several combinations of the women now work really well as a team. If the brand split continues in its current form (with PPVs going cobranded after WrestleMania that doesn’t seem as certain as it did), it would surprise me if the SmackDown women’s division ended up with tag titles or even a trios title. At least it would set them apart.
Charlotte Flair came in again towards the end of the match. She was distracted by Liv Morgan on the outside and caught a chop block from Logan. She managed to get to Becky Lynch though. Lynch versus Riott, when we eventually get the one on one extended run, will be excellent. It broke down around them a bit, but Ruby Riott finished things off with a Riott kick on Becky Lynch for the pin.
Charlotte Flair cut a promo aimed at Ruby Riott. She said there are two things Riott needs to know about her. One, she always gets what she wants, and two she never backs down from a fight. So if that means putting her title on the line to get to her, so be it. Riott will end up like Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan, another victim destroyed by the queen.
In Ruby Riott’s answering promo she said, one down, two to go, then offered Naomi a match next week. She knows Charlotte Flair wants her all to herself but the only way that will happen is if she brings the title to Fastlane.
Following the promos, it was announced that Charlotte Flair will defend her title at Fastlane against Ruby Riott.
It seemed a bit odd to me, like the promos were aired the wrong way around. Charlotte Flair’s promo felt like a response to Ruby Riott’s ultimatum, not the other way around.
Nikki Cross def Vanessa Borne
This week’s NXT was another big match episode, sadly not for the women though. It was Johnny Gargano fighting for his place on the NXT roster, so anything else was going to take a back seat.
Nikki Cross vs Vanessa Borne
It’s been a while since we’ve seen Vanessa Borne and she seems more polished and confident than in her last appearance. You had to suspect from the outset that it wasn’t going to do her any good in this one. Vanessa Borne has fought Nikki Cross before, under the name Danielle Kamela (her real name). Technically, she holds a win over Cross from that contest, but only because Cross carried on beating her up after pinning her until the referee reversed the decision.
Unsurprisingly, Nikki Cross went into this like a woman possessed. Vanessa Borne managed to regain a modicum of control, but it was short lived and Cross laughed most of the way through Borne’s offense.
It really was a short match. I’d love to see more of Nikki Cross in longer matches. Her last woman standing match with Asuka Last year was a match of the year contender. This was ok, but there’s a limit to what you can do in under four minutes. Nikki Cross won the match with her spinning fisherman’s neckbreaker, which is now called The Purge.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week. They did show highlights of the RAW six-woman tag match and the Ronda Rousey hype video.
Mixed Match Challenge
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode def Nia Jax and Apollo
This week was the final first round match of the Mixed Match Challenge. The winner of this one will go on to face Lana and Rusev in the second round.
Nia Jax and Apollo vs Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
Charlotte Flair seemed less than impressed at Bobby Roode’s attempts to emulate her father. Nia Jax was definitely less than impressed with Titus Worldwide – Titus O’Neil and Dana Brooke – accompanying Apollo to the ring. By the time the match started she looked ready to knock them all out herself. Charlotte Flair made a point of saying hello to Dana Brooke and telling Bobby Roode she was her protégé.
Roode and Apollo started things off. I’m not a huge fan of Bobby Roode, I find him a bit dull. And it makes me sad how much WWE could have done with Apollo, but maybe they still will. Anyway, they had a decent enough contest before Charlotte Flair demanded in.
Not many people would volunteer to get in the ring with Nia Jax, but Flair likes to prove herself. Dana Brooke got involved by grabbing Flair’s leg. Nia Jax yelled at her to stay out of her business. Eventually Flair managed to kick Jax out of the ring, but Jax pulled her into the ropes as she was getting back in and took over.
Again Dana Brooke got involved, this time by causing a distraction and allowing Jax to knock Flair off the apron to the floor. And again, Jax yelled at her for getting in her business. Their bit of the match was very enjoyable. Charlotte Flair was outwrestling Jax at every turn, but had no answer to Jax power. She managed to get the figure four on, but couldn’t bridge into the figure eight. I hope the next shake-up or draft puts them on the same roster an extended program between them would be intriguing. Jax broke the figure four by headbutting Flair. After that, they both went for the tag and the men came back in.
Nia Jax broke up Roode’s pin attempt then went for Flair in the corner, Flair pushed her off the turnbuckle and hit a moonsault. They rolled out of the ring just in time for Roode to deliver the Glorious DDT to Apollo and get the pin.
The post-match interview with Renee Young was just Flair giving everyone a Woo, and letting Bobby Roode have a (poor) attempt. Nia Jax took the mic and told Titus O’Neil he’s not a coach, and Dana Brooke is not a statistician. They disrupted the training the strategy and the match. Lots of sass from Jax, until she got bored, pushed O’Neil over, and Samoan dropped Brooke.
The round two brackets are:
– Sasha Banks and Finn Balor vs Asuka and The Miz
– Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman vs Naomi and Jimmy Uso
– Lana and Rusev vs Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
As you can see this leave us with three teams for the semi-final. The fourth semi-finalist will be decided by a second chance fan vote.
Elimination Chamber – Preview and Prediction
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Sasha Banks vs Bayley vs Mickie James vs Sonya Deville vs Mandy Rose – Elimination Chamber match for the RAW Women’s Championship
Asuka vs Nia Jax
In what will be one of the last single branded PPVs we get two women’s matches, one of them history making, and biggest contract signing for a very long time. Some people will hate that, but it’s true. Ronda Rousey is a huge signing for WWE, she will draw mainstream media interest, and probably some new casual fans. Whether she’ll also be a major asset to the women’s division is yet to be seen. I’m cautiously hopeful, she obviously knows how to work hard (you don’t win an Olympic medal without hard work) and there’s every reason to hope she might be decent, eventually. I hope people give her a chance to settle in. I would expect to find out what, or rather who, is in her immediate future at the signing. The fact only SmackDown women made comments on the hype package shown on RAW felt important considering she’s joining the RAW roster. I do wonder whether something will happen to make that make sense, but I’m probably being optimistic. Maybe they just didn’t want the people she’ll be competing against saying nice things about her. Enough about the contract signing, let’s have a look at the matches.
Asuka vs Nia Jax
If Nia Jax wins this match she will be added to Asuka’s WrestleMania match to make it a triple threat. In the run up to this, two have happened. Nia Jax has been rebuilt as the monster they brought her into RAW as. And Asuka has been made to look more vulnerable than she has since her arrival in NXT.
Jax’ reconfirmation as a monster force has seen her squash some local talent, and level her fellow superstars. In particular she has ambushed Asuka, and left her laying in the ring, and taken out Sasha Banks and Bayley after the two had finished a pretty intense match. Jax has also given interview after interview saying she’s the only one who isn’t afraid of Asuka, and the only one capable of beating her. No mention has been made of the times Asuka beat Jax in NXT, we’re clearly supposed to have forgotten about that, but Nia Jax has improved a lot since then.
Asuka, on the other hand, has started to look beatable. Not only has she been levelled by Jax in sneak attacks, twice, she’s also been taken to the very limit by both Sasha Banks and Bayley. However, Asuka’s undefeated streak is still unbroken.
Will it stay that way? I think so. Elimination Chamber has a history making event already, and it has the Rousey signing, I don’t think it needs the loss of Asuka’s streak as well. I know it’s the last RAW brand PPV before they go cobranded again, but I don’t think it’s a big enough setting for the end of this run. Also, I don’t think Nia Jax is going to be the one to take it. Sadly, I think that will probably fall to Ronda Rousey, but I hope I’m wrong.
Whoever takes away Asuka’s undefeated streak, and I think it’s coming sooner rather than later, I don’t think it will be Nia Jax at Elimination Chamber.
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Sasha Banks vs Bayley vs Mickie James vs Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville – Women’s Elimination Chamber match for the RAW Women’s Championship
There’s a lot going on here. It’s the first time the women’s division have been given and Elimination Chamber match. Alexa Bliss’ title is on the line. And there are all kinds of alliances and dynamics to account for.
In the last couple of weeks Alexa Bliss and Mickie James seem to have formed something of a bond. James did make it clear to Bliss that it was temporary, and she was coming for the title in the chamber, but it will be interesting to see if it lasts long enough to affect other eliminations. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville are both members of Absolution. We can expect them to work together unless it reaches a scenario where they are the only two in the chamber. Unless of course Absolution is going to be dissolved off the back of Paige’s injury, in which case it would be a perfect opportunity to drive them apart.
Sasha Banks and Bayley are the other two in the match, and there is enough going on in that relationship for a column of its own. They are best friends, that’s reinforced at every opportunity, but it hasn’t been plain sailing for either of them. Over the past year Sasha Banks has gone from holding the title for extremely short runs, without a successful defence, to repeatedly losing out on opportunities to get back in contention. Her attitude has hardened, we’ve started to see more and more of the NXT style ‘Legit Boss’. And she’s started to belittle Bayley.
She’s not the only one who’s belittled Bayley. When it comes down to it, Bayley’s had a shocking few months. She’s been too nice to the point of being labelled a wimp, and I think we’d all rather forget the kendo stick on a pole match. She has been so broken down the crowds started to boo her – How do you boo Bayley? It’s like kicking a puppy. However, she’s fought back. Recently, we’ve seen a new side of Bayley. Or, more correctly, we’ve seen the Bayley who left NXT after taking Asuka to the absolute limit at TakeOver. In the last couple of weeks she, once again, took Asuka to the limit, earning a respectful handshake, and she’s beaten her ‘best friend’ Sasha Banks.
Banks didn’t take that loss well. It looked like the turn we’ve been expecting was finally going to come, until Nia Jax flattened them both. It’s almost been dragged out too long now. I’m fairly patient with storylines, but even I’m screaming at the tv for Banks to get on with it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, NXT boss-bitch Sasha Banks was the best Sasha Banks. I’d expect Banks and Bayley to work together initially, but I can’t see a more perfect set up for the turn than within the chamber.
Finally, the chamber itself needs to be considered. We don’t know who will start the match, we don’t know which order the pods will open, and we don’t know who will be eliminated and when. Which means we don’t know which combination of superstars we’ll actually see. All the dynamics I’ve been through are great, but there’s no guarantee any of them will be able to play out in the chamber. That makes it kind of hard to pick a winner.
Theoretically, any of the six could win it. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville won’t, they’re too new, not established enough, and there is no reason for them to have a title right now. Mickie James feels unlikely as the winner. I’d loved to see her get another run with the belt, but I don’t think it’s here. Sasha Banks and Bayley seem equally possible, but I believe it’s more likely that they’ll take each other out and keep each other occupied through WrestleMania season. That only leaves one person, so I guess I’m going for Alexa Bliss to retain her title. Logic dictates that it’s one of the least likely of the options, for the champion to walk out of that kind of match with her title intact. But, in this case, it makes sense to me. I hope I’m wrong, the division could do with a shuffle in the power dynamic, and it’s crying out for fresh storylines. Given a choice, I’d like Bayley to win.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss
I’ll be back next week with another round up of the events in WWE’s women’s divisions, including the review of the women’s Elimination Chamber match. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.