Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s another long one this week which is good because it means there was a lot going on. It’s lovely to get to cover the historic firsts and see how far the WWE women’s divisions have come. When I started writing this weekly column (this is the 90th one) a single three-minute match was the norm for RAW and SmackDown (sometimes one or the other), and they were lucky to get five minutes on a PPV undercard. Now they’re having historic matches on PPV and women’s matches main eventing RAW is barely even noteworthy. There is still a long way to go, but so much progress has been made. On that note, let’s get straight into the Elimination Chamber PPV.
Asuka def Nia Jax
Alexa Bliss (C) def Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, Sonya Deville, and Mandy Rose
The kickoff show panel had Paige on as a guest. She said she’s very upset to not be taking part, but Absolution are a unit and she’s sure Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville will do well. Her prediction was that one of them would become champion. They are the only true team in the match and they know to stick together until it’s just the two of them, then fight it out.
Renee Young asked her about Ronda Rousey. Paige’s take was that it’s a good thing someone of her calibre wants to be part of the WWE. However, in UFC they fight maybe twice a year, and in WWE it’s a hundred times that. The panel were very excited about Rousey’s arrival and gave it a good amount of hype.
The hype package for the Elimination Chamber match focused mainly on friendships, with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville framing themselves as the only two going in as friends who would also be leaving as friends. Combined with Paige’s interview this is a strong focus on the dynamics within the women’s division. It’s a hopeful sign, dynamics lead to feuds.
Bayley and Sasha Banks had a backstage interview. They were asked about Absolution teaming up. Banks said that Rose and Deville have a lot to learn. Bayley said it’s every woman for herself, but if she and Banks have to team up to make sure they’re the last two women fighting it out that’s great because there’s no-one she’d rather share this with than her best friend. Banks pulled a face when Bayley talked about winning and going on to WrestleMania, then contradicted with ‘when I win’.
Mickie James interrupted the interview and said no-one was using her and this isn’t her first rodeo. They might think they know everything, but they don’t, and their friendship will be over ‘quicker than a hiccup’ when the pods open.
The Asuka versus Nia Jax promo package focused heavily on Jax being the only one Asuka can’t beat. I know Jax has improved considerably since NXT, but Asuka has beaten her. All the Kickoff show panellists except Peter Rosenberg picked Nia Jax to win.
Alexa Bliss vs Mickie James vs Bayley vs Sasha Banks vs Mandy Rose vs Sonya Deville – Elimination Chamber match for the RAW Women’s Championship
A quick recap of Elimination Chamber rules before we start:
- Two of the superstars begin the match with the other four locked away in individual pods.
- Every five minutes a pod will open at random until all pods are empty.
- Eliminations can occur from the first bell and are by pinfall or submission.
- The winner is the last woman left.
The women’s match opened the show. I think that’ fair enough considering the women’s rumble match main evented, can’t be too greedy now.
In the pods were Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, and Mandy Rose. Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville came out together, with Paige accompanying them as far as the stage, and walked around the pods together eyeballing everyone before Rose entered her pod. They had new matching gear as well. That left Sonya Deville and Bayley to start the match.
There were some nerves on display and a lot of excitement. It was nice that the cameras caught a lot of expression while the women were waiting to come out of their pods. It was a huge deal, making history once again, and it’s good to see how much it means to them.
There were no eliminations by the time the first pod opened, and Mandy Rose joined the match. But Bayley had already been thrown into the chamber wall and climbed on it as a result. And Sonya Deville had been sent flying into it. One of the most enjoyable things about the match (and it was a great match) was how much the women used the chamber, they more than justified the match being held in there.
With Absolution reunited, Bayley was in trouble. She did ok for a while, but the number game had caught up with her by the time the next pod opened, and Sasha Banks was released. Once Banks was out, Mandy Rose became the first woman to be thrown into a pod. Just
before the next pod opened, Mandy Rose also became the first person to be eliminated.
Mickie James was the fifth person into the match and she came in fired up. There were mats on the chamber floor this year (I can’t remember if there were last year) so the steel wasn’t exposed. That’s an excellent thing considering some of the bumps they took onto it. Bayley was knocked down to the mat from pod height as she tried to stop Mickie James climbing. She failed, and Mickie James became the first woman to jump off a pod, straight onto Sonya Deville to eliminate her. Deville hadn’t even left the pod when Bayley followed up Banks’ backstabber on James with a Bayley to belly and eliminated her too.
Mickie James looked stunned to have been eliminated and exchanged a look with Alexa Bliss before she left. Bayley and Banks agreed an alliance and got their breath back while they counted down the few seconds to Bliss being released.
Bliss tired shutting the pod again, then tried to climb away from Bayley and Banks, but they followed her. Alexa Bliss made it to the top of a pod. Sasha Banks and Bayley followed her. Banks made it up but as she leant to pull Bayley up, she grabbed her hand, then kicked her down to the floor.
The three brutalised each other for a few minutes until Bliss the opportunist found her moment. Bayley had delivered a Bayley to belly to Sasha Banks from the second turnbuckle, but before she could pin her Alexa Bliss rolled Bayley up and eliminated her.
Bayley was still leaving the chamber when Bliss went for twisted Bliss, but Banks got her knees up and the fight continued. Bliss went to the top of a pod and delivered Twisted Bliss from there, but somehow Banks countered the pin attempt into the Bank Statement. Unfortunately, they were outside the ring and by the time Banks rolled them in Bliss had manged to get out. Finally, after pushing Banks face-first into the edge of a pod and hitting a DDT with Sasha Banks hanging off the top turnbuckle, Alexa Bliss pinned her to retain the RAW Women’s Championship.
In her post-match interview Alexa Bliss was tearful and talked about proving that anyone could follow their dreams, ‘dare to dream and dream big’. It was all soft and sweet with the crowd chanting ‘you deserve it’, until she turned it round and told them none of them would ever accomplish any of their dreams. She came out to prove there is no-one better than her, and she did.
Asuka vs Nia Jax
There was stipulation on the match that if Nia Jax was victorious she would be added to Asuka’s WrestleMania match.
Nice little visual in the lead up to the hype video. Nia Jax was shown on her way through the backstage area, stamping on Asuka’s mask. When Asuka arrived at the ring she was wearing a yellow one instead.
Nia Jax had the best of the early going, and the match was every bit as hard-hitting as you’d expect. Both women came out of it with their reputations intact. Nia Jax threw Asuka around like a ragdoll and ran through her like a truck. But every time Asuka landed a strike or a kick it was devastating.
It was short for a PPV match and very much displayed the Jax was chasing something while Asuka was defending against it. The majority of Asuka’s offence was to counter Jax’, with Jax being the primary aggressor.
Even the finish was more of a defensive move than an aggressive one. Nia Jax powered out of the armbar by picking Asuka up and slamming her into the turnbuckle. Asuka managed to take her down as she went for a powerbomb, roll her up, and pin her.
Jax attacked Asuka after the match, eventually running her through a barricade leaving her needing to be helped to the back by officials.
Alexa Bliss was show laughing while watching on a backstage monitor, then asked by Renee Young for her thoughts on Asuka being her WrestleMania opponent. Bliss said Jax might be disappointed by the result, but she’s not disappointed in what Jax just did to Asuka. No-one is ready for Alexa.
Ronda Rousey Contract signing
They saved this until the final segment before the men’s chamber match, which main evented. When a contract signing is that high up the card, even a prestigious one like Ronda Rousey, you know shenanigans are occurring.
The segment started with Kurt Angle coming out, followed by Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. McMahon let the crowd chant ‘Triple H’ for a while, looking ecstatic, before she, and Triple H talked about Rousey being one of the greatest athletes in the world today, and how that’s the type of person they are constantly scouting. They compared signing her to signing Kurt Angle. It was a long night and they went on a bit, but eventually they brought Rousey out.
However things work out with Ronda Rousey’s WWE career, the sheer joy on her face at just being there makes me warm to her instantly. She gave a nice, and slightly bashful, speech about it being an honour to be around Kurt Angle, about Roddy Piper being her hero, and wanting to make his family proud. Then she told the crowd she wanted to earn everyone’s respect in the ring. The crowd chanted for her throughout and she seemed genuinely overwhelmed.
Triple H made a point of stating that Rousey had asked for no special treatment but wanted an invite to WrestleMania, then told her she was getting a non-title match there.
She was just about to sign the contract when she spotted Angle and Triple H chatting and asked Angle if he wanted to say something. Kurt Angle initially said no, then expressed his admiration for Stephanie McMahon and Triple H for managing to sign her without her knowing their motive is to manipulate her. He said Triple H had said ‘three years in the making and now we own the b**ch’.
Triple H interrupted, told everyone that Angle had been in hospital with the flu and was having a relapse. He asked McMahon to finish the contract signing while he took Angle to the back. As they got to the top of the ramp Angle reminded Stephanie McMahon she told him that Ronda Rousey was a has been and even she could take her.
Rousey squared up to Stephanie McMahon, but Triple H got there in time to prevent her hitting her. He got McMahon out of the ring and went back to Rousey who put him through the signing table. McMahon got back in the ring and slapped Rousey, then exited the ring quickly when she saw the look on her face. Rousey signed the contract and threw the clipboard onto Triple H, then left.
Stephanie McMahon was guest on RAW Talk after the PPV. She said everybody needs to be managed, things got a little out of hand. Tomorrow Kurt Angle needs to apologise for the things he said, she doesn’t know where they came from. Ronda Rousey signed the contract so now reports to her, as does Kurt Angle, and they just need to be reminded of their roles. WWE are proud of having Rousey there. Everything will be smoothed out on RAW. Once this is all sorted Rousey will fit right in, she’s an A+ player. She was also full of praise for the rest of the women’s division.
Asuka, Bayley and Sasha Banks def Mickie James, Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax
Before the opening segment of RAW there was a recap of Elimination Chamber with an extended look at Ronda Rousey’s contract signing. They showed more of that than they did stills from the Elimination Chamber match and Asuka versus Nia Jax combined.
RAW proper started with Alexa Bliss giving a victory address to the WWE universe, accompanied by Mickie James. Apparently, Asuka is definitely facing Bliss at WrestleMania now and, as Asuka beat Nia Jax on Sunday, the match will be one on one. I haven’t seen an official announcement or heard Asuka confirm the match, but commentary were talking like it’s a done deal, so maybe I just missed it. I still have a gut feeling that Asuka will face Charlotte Flair, but that might be wishful thinking.
Bliss talked up her own achievements then credited Mickie James as someone she, and all the women in the locker room have learned from. Moving on to talk about the other women in the chamber she said Absolution have a bright future, just not while she’s champion, Bayley is a ‘sad situation’ and Sasha Banks massive ego is her worst characteristic.
She was talking about going to WrestleMania and ending Asuka’s streak when the power of saying the name brought Asuka to the ring, just as Bliss said she couldn’t wait to finish what Nia Jax started. Asuka looked to be in get stuff done mode, no dancing and wearing a very dangerous smile. Bliss baited her by saying Jax deserved to win the match and deserves to be in the match. Then she did a highly questionable ‘speaking slowly to the foreigner’ thing which I wish she hadn’t.
Nia Jax came running to the ring. Asuka took out James and Bliss before she got there and managed to get Jax in a triangle. Keeping the hold left her vulnerable to Bliss and James attacking, so Bayley and Sasha Banks ran down to help Asuka. I bet you can guess where this is going.
Asuka, Bayley and Sasha Banks vs Alexa Bliss Nia Jax and Mickie James
RAW’s women made history again on Sunday night, so what did WWE do to keep that momentum towards WrestleMania going? That’s right, a six-woman tag match.
It wasn’t a bad match, at all. It was actually pretty good. But it was a lazy vehicle for storyline development which could probably have been done better in other ways. At least storylines are developing though.
The big talking point was Sasha Banks going for a desperately needed tag to Bayley, and Bayley jumping off the apron to avoid it. Before that, when Banks tagged herself in, it had been with a hard enough tag on Bayley to qualify as a slap.
Banks managed to tag Asuka in without taking any more punishment, so no damage was done in the match, but it sent a message, especially when Bayley came back in to rescue Asuka from being double teamed by Mickie James and Alexa Bliss.
Asuka made Mickie James tap to the armbar for the win.
After the match there was a shot of Sasha Banks sat by the barricade looking utterly betrayed, while Bayley walked away looking sad.
Asuka took the crowd applause with Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax staring at her. Jax still had murder eyes, but Bliss looked more than a little worried.
The segment for Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle to ‘explain their actions’ closed the show. Stephanie McMahon and Triple H came to the ring and Stephanie McMahon explained that Kurt Angle had been hallucinating as a result of double pneumonia and that’s why he said those things. The action Rousey took was understandable under the circumstances, but not acceptable in WWE. She slapped Rousey to try to get through to her, to speak her language. However, during the chaos, Rousey did sign her contract. Because of that Rousey, like Angle, reports to her, and WWE owns her.
Stephanie McMahon invited Kurt Angle to the ring, but Rousey showed up instead. Angle followed her in time to stop her doing anything and tried to calm her down. He said that her coming to WWE is the best decision she ever made. She said she’s never been slapped before, she refuses to be disrespected, and she’s no-one’s property. He told her she needs to work within the system, and he needs this job, so he has to tell her he lied. He’s not sure why, he misheard something, he doesn’t even know what he said, but it wasn’t true.
Stephanie McMahon said they should put it all behind them and make her the superstar she deserves to be. Rousey said they’d addressed everything except the slap and McMahon needed to apologise to her. And if she didn’t then Rousey wouldn’t hesitate to rip her arm out of its socket. Stephanie McMahon gave the most aggressive apology I’ve ever heard. She got right up in Rousey’s face to do it, while the crowd chanted ‘rip it out’ and apologised profusely.
As Triple H and McMahon left the ring, Triple H punched Kurt Angle in the face. RAW closed out with Rousey checking on Angle and staring at McMahon and Triple H.
The rumoured WrestleMania match is Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey versus Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, which sounds awful. I’d love to see Ronda Rousey versus Triple H, but WWE will never be that brave. It’s an interesting choice to put her straight into an Authority storyline, I guess it’s one way of stopping people booing her immediately. I’m more than a bit curious to see how it plays out, and that’s all I can ask at this stage.
Ruby Riott def Naomi
I berated SmackDown last week for endless multi-woman matches and no storylines. I stand by it, but it does mean I have to comment on how pleased I was to see a singles match this week. Carmella was shown backstage during the match, she was answering questions on twitter through the show.
Ruby Riott vs Naomi
Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair came to hang out in Naomi’s corner to neutralise the threat of the ever present Riott Squad. It was just moments into the match, after a slap from Naomi, when Ruby Riott took a break on the outside. Naomi followed her, and we went into an ad break with a three on three stand-off at ringside.
By the time we came back they were back in the ring. It was a good match, but there wasn’t the chemistry I was hoping for. I’m a big fan of both women and I wanted to see them hit it off in the ring. Maybe it will come with time.
Ruby Riott finished off Naomi with the Riott kick, an important victory in the run up to her title match against Charlotte Flair at Fastlane. Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch were straight into the ring after the finish to prevent the Riott Squad’s usual post-match attack.
Shayna Baszler def Kairi Sane
I’m starting to have some concerns about the NXT women’s division. There is a ton of talent there but nothing much seems to be developing. The only women involved in anything resembling a storyline at the moment are Ember Moon, Shayna Baszler, and Kairi Sane. I’m starting to miss the ‘iconic duo’, and I never thought I’d say that. They might be annoying (the characters, I’m not being mean) but at least they were visible. They should be back soon though (I’m not repeating the rumours as to where they’ve been, but if they’re true it should be quite obvious when the duo return). We’ve seen a fair few different women’s matches recently, but we need more stories.
Kairi Sane vs Shayna Baszler
Not only is Kairi Sane not afraid of Shayna Baszler, she has righteous anger on her side. Baszler’s attempt to intimidate Sane at the start of the match only served to fire her up.
Kairi Sane is incredibly quick but doesn’t have the power of Shayna Baszler, so she did best when she was evading Baszler’s clutches. Any time Baszler caught her, she was in trouble. Sane did have the upper hand for long portions of the match, she definitely showed it’s possible to get Baszler down and keep her there, at least for a while.
As Kairi Sane went to the top turnbuckle to drop the InSane elbow, Shayna Baszler scooped her up and dropped her into the Kirifuda Clutch. Sane tapped out.
After the match Baszler screamed at commentary that Ember Moon is a coward and she’s calling her out. If Moon faces her again she knows she’s either leaving with the title or a limb.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week. They did recap the Ronda Rousey segments from Elimination Chamber and RAW, and show a few stills from the women’s matches at Elimination Chamber.
Mixed Match Challenge
Asuka and The Miz def Sasha Banks and Finn Balor
This was the first week of the second-round matches, and this week’s contest was RAW vs RAW.
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor vs Asuka and The Miz
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor looked like they were having great fun on their way to the ring and waiting for their opponents. Miz and Asuka , on the other hand, were already having problems in their pre-match promo, when Miz tried to share in the glory of Asuka’s undefeated streak. Miz didn’t help matters when he insisted on starting the match and almost got pinned by Finn Balor. Asuka was getting very agitated on the apron while Balor dominated Miz, more so after Miz kicked out of another pin attempt. She screamed at Miz in Japanese, but he still didn’t tag her in.
Eventually, she tagged herself in and locked up with Sasha Banks. Rather than the comedy we’ve been used to seeing in the Mixed Match Challenge, Banks and Asuka were all business. I think that’s a testament to what’s going on in the RAW women’s division. It’s easier to blur the character boundaries for this and have some fun with it if you’re facing someone who isn’t your direct rival week in and week out. Because they’re both RAW teams it was just an extension of a normal day at the office.
After Asuka and Banks had beaten each other to the point they both needed to tag, Miz and Balor came in again. Both Asuka and Banks had to break up pin attempts, and there was the obligatory all in to do moves at the same time spot. At one point Balor and Banks had Miz and Asuka in submissions but Asuka got Sasha Banks into the Asuka Lock and Banks tapped out. Unfortunately, that distracted Finn Balor, the legal man for his team, and Miz rolled him up for the win.
If Asuka is counting Mixed Match Challenge as part of her undefeated streak then I’m guessing they will win the whole thing, unless she loses elsewhere in the meantime. Can you imagine the outrage if this was where that record-breaking streak ended?
Next week it’s Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman versus Naomi and Jimmy Uso.
Somehow, that ended up being a longer column than that Royal Rumble one. The RAW roster made it an eventful week. I’ll be back next week with all the usual action, and the preview for Fastlane where we’ll see if the SmackDown roster can see off single branded PPVs in style. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.