Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s another long one this week. With the Royal Rumble, the Mixed Match Challenge, and the RAW 25th anniversary show coming up, there’s a huge amount going on. Unfortunately, we have to start with some horrible news. I normally avoid reporting rumours, but this one sadly seems likely to be true.
On Friday PWInsider.com reported the Paige will be forced to retire from in-ring competition, effective immediately, as a result of her recent injury. The injury occurred in a tag match at a recent house show. At the time of writing, there has been no official confirmation from either Paige or WWE, but it is highly unlikely that this is error or exaggeration. If it is true, it’s very sad news indeed. Paige is just 25 years old, and has been in and around wrestling all her life. Things seemed to just be getting back on track for her as well. We can only hope that she is being retired as a precaution, and has not suffered any long-term damage. Hopefully WWE will find her a role within the company, if that’s what she wants.
Sasha Banks and Bayley def Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville
Bayley and Sasha Banks, with Mickie James vs Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, with Paige
Mickie James accompanied Banks and Bayley, to counteract the presence of Paige, who was ringside with the rest of Absolution. I’m sick of these multi-woman matches, the division has no real one on one feuds, and it needs some to stop it stagnating – Although, in light of the rumours about Paige’s health, the match does make more sense. That’s no reflection on the quality of the match though, it was actually pretty good.
It was a good showcase for Rose and Deville. Sonya Deville demonstrated her ‘put your hair up, and square up’ mantra while in the ring, which seemed a bit time wasting. Surely you shouldn’t have the time to stop and put your hair up when you’re in the middle of a match with Sasha Banks, at least do it when you get tagged in.
They may have acquitted themselves well in the match, but it wasn’t their night for a win. Sasha Banks managed to get the Bank Statement on Mandy Rose, while Bayley had Sonya Deville occupied on the outside. Rose tapped to give Banks and Bayley the win.
The Nia Jax and Enzo Amore storyline is still a thing. Amore was hurt during his cruiserweight championship match. He injured his ankle, and was busted open by a stray kick. Jax had been shown watching the match backstage, and visited him the trainer’s room to check up on him.
Alexa Bliss Visited Asuka in the locker room. She said she wasn’t there to fight, and Asuka got lucky when she beat her. But she should enjoy it while it lasts because when Nia Jax finds out what Asuka called her, Bliss wouldn’t want to be her. I know Bliss does the cowardly and manipulative thing, that’s part of her schtick, but rumour spreading is just juvenile.
Later, Jax spoke to Alexa Bliss backstage. Bliss was looking to make good on her promise to make Nia Jax think Asuka had been talking about her behind her back. Jax wasn’t buying it. They started with Bliss asking Jax how Amore was, and telling her she was worried he was holding her back. Jax said he inspires her, and that’s why she’s entering the Royal Rumble match. Bliss said Jax is her favourite to win, but a lot of people are backing Asuka. But, if Jax could take Asuka out before the rumble, then Jax would win, and they could have the championship match at WrestleMania. Nia Jax said she knew Bliss was just upset because Asuka beat her, and Bliss tried to crowbar in something about Asuka talking behind Jax’ back. It looked like Nia Jax might have taken the bait when she insisted that Bliss tell her what was said. When she did, Jax asked if Bliss spoke Japanese, because Asuka’a English isn’t good enough to have said that, and walked away.
Asuka had a scheduled match after Bliss and Jax had had their conversation. It never started. While Asuka was stood on the turnbuckle, still wearing her entrance finery, Nia Jax attacked her from behind, picking her up on her shoulders, and dropping her to the mat, before landing a senton on her.
Askua was announced as Miz’ partner for the Mixed Match Challenge during RAW. He was over the moon with the pairing, and she seemed fairly happy too. Alicia Fox was revealed as Goldust’s Mixed Match Challenge partner, they were both adorably delighted. It’s made all the better with the news that superstars apparently weren’t told who their partners would be before the recorded reveal.
Becky Lynch def Ruby Riott
Prior to the match, Becky Lynch announced her entry into the Royal Rumble match. She said it was appropriate that she was the last woman on SmackDown to declare, because she’s going to be the last woman standing.
Ruby Riot vs Becky Lynch
Charlotte Flair and Naomi accompanied Becky Lynch, to neutralise the threat of The Riott Squad who were, of course, with Ruby Riott. There was a bit of ‘hold me back’ posturing from Riott before the bell rang, then they went for it.
The Riott Squad’s attack on Lynch was responsible for writing her out for a few weeks. Now she’s back, she’s looking for revenge. Honestly, this is one of the feuds I really hope gets developed, I’ve got a lot of time for both wrestlers.
It didn’t take long for The Riott squad to try to get involved. Sarah Logan tried to grab Lynch’s ankle, but Lynch refused to get distracted, and was ready for Riott’s offence. Becky Lynch threw Ruby Riott through the ropes to her friends, as we went to the ads.
By the time we came back, Ruby Riott was in control. Unsurprisingly, this was a good match. Strikes and holds rather than big high-risk moves, and very entertaining. The combination of battle of wits, and battle of wills, really works for these two.
When Ruby Riott tried to set up for her Riott Kick, Becky Lynch managed to turn and get her into the Dis-Arm-Her, and Riott tapped out.
There was a sweet and goofy segment revealing Sami Zayn as Becky Lynch’s partner for the Mixed Match Challenge. Zayn disguised himself as a fan outside the arena, and surprised Lynch when she asked if he wanted an autograph by telling her he wanted a partner. Judging by the jumping around and screaming, they were pretty happy to be paired up. Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura were paired up as well. Natalya was offensively happy that she didn’t get Sami Zayn, and Nakamura meowed at her.
Shayna Baszler def Dakota Kai
It should be all eyes on the NXT women’s division at the moment, considering there are definitely some available spots in the Royal Rumble match and there must be some NXT contenders for them, but not a word has been said. I’d expect an appearance from Peyton Royce, probably Billie Kay, possibly Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane, and hopefully Nikki Cross, but I guess they are unlikely to be pre-announced.
Shayna Baszler vs Dakota Kai
There is no doubt that Baszler is the new monster heel of the NXT women’s division. It’s been clear since her arrival in the Mae Young Classic, that this was going to be her role. She’s going to be great in it too, and her in-ring debut this week, was a good start.
They could have given her a speedy squash match, instead they opted for a respected competitor, and even a bit of storyline which was brilliant. During Baszler’s entrance they showed her applying her rear naked choke hold to a trainee called Jess, just so she can see how it feels, and then refusing to let go when she tapped. Dakota Kai stepped in to help the trainee, and that’s how the match was set up.
Actually, match might be a bit of a strong word for what happened. They had the initial lock-up, and a bit of a shove, then Baszler got hold of Kai’s arm. There was some joint manipulation of Kai’s wrist and elbow, a couple of kicks, then Baszler stamped on Kai’s bent arm. The referee stopped the match due to injury. While Dakota Kai cried in pain, Shayna Baszler put on the rear naked choke and refused to let go.
Ember Moon ran to the ring, and Baszler released Kai. She laughed as she backed away from Moon, and left the ring.
There was a backstage interview with Shayna Baszler after her debut, but she didn’t get to answer any questions. Instead, she found herself on the end of a talking to from William Regal. He said he’s been in the business for35 years, and he sees through her games. Attacking people from behind is not going to get her an NXT women’s championship match. Her only response was, ‘Are we done here?’
Later, WWE.com posted this video interview with Dakota Kai. She said she was going for x-rays, and it didn’t feel good. Despite some of the social media outbursts aimed at Baszler, there is nothing to suggest this is anything more than a storyline, and a good one at that. This should mean that Dakota Kai will carve herself the place she deserves on the NXT. She’s already said she’ll be looking for revenge once she’s healed, so that gives her an instant feud, and it could potentially be a prominent one too. Kai is exactly the kind of competitor NXT need on their roster, so let’s hope that’s how it plays out.
Alicia Fox def Dana Brooke
A women’s Match on Main Event two weeks running, we are priviledged indeed. It’s actually a really good spot for a women’s division match, the opening match of Main Event, because they tend to get the best part of ten minutes. Sadly, that’s a lot more than many of the women’s singles matches on RAW.
Dana Brooke vs Alicia Fox
While no-one is paying much attention, Dana Brooke is quietly improving. The association with Titus Worldwide has given a new expression for her character, and her in-ring is getting more consistent. Alicia Fox is still the most underrated female talent on the roster.
It’s a shame how few people (compared to RAW audiences) will see this match. It was good, very character led. Brooke may have beaten one veteran last week when she faced Mickie James, but she wasn’t destined to repeat her success. Alicia Fox won the match with an axe kick.
Royal Rumble Counter
As expected, more women have declared their intent to compete. Commentary said Mickie James had announced her entry, before the women’s match on RAW. Nia Jax told Alexa Bliss she was entering on during a backstage segment. Just Dana Brooke and Alicia Fox to be officially announced for RAW, although Brooke has posted her intent to enter on social media. Becky Lynch announced her intention to enter on SmackDown, the final woman on the SmackDown roster to do so.
We now have 17 confirmed entrants (16 if Paige is forced to withdraw as expected). Dana Brooke is likely to be confirmed, and I’d expect Alicia Fox in there too (making it 18 without Paige). Most of the rest are likely to be surprise entrants. However, with RAW’s 25th anniversary show coming up, I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of announcements were made there. I would expect most of those 12 to come from NXT – some or all of Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Kairi Sane, Nikki Cross, and Shayna Baszler seems most likely. Personally, I’d love to see Candice Le Rae show up as a surprise entrant. She has signed with WWE now, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility, and it would make my night.
From RAW: Asuka, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Paige (now unlikely), Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Mickie James, Nia Jax.
From SmackDown: Naomi, Lana, Tamina, Carmella, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, Sarah Logan, Becky Lynch.
Mixed Match Challenge
This starts on Monday 16th, on Facebook Watch. This isn’t available in the UK (sorry, not sure about anywhere else), so UK fans won’t be able to watch live. The good news is, it will be shown a couple of days later on WWE network. Hopefully that also means it will be stored on network for anyone not wanting to watch at 3am (UK time), or preferring to binge watch.
Some of this week’s pairings were decided by viewer poll, sort of. The choices for Bayley’s partner were Elias, Samoa Joe or Jason Jordan. The winner was Samoa Joe, but he was revealed to have picked up an injury, so second placed Elias got the honour instead. Viewers helping to pick Carmella’s partner, had to choose between the members of New Day. The final line up is:
Bayley and Elias
Asuka and The Miz
Alicia Fox and Goldust
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor
Nia Jax and Apollo Crews
Carmella and Big E
Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn
Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
Lana and Rusev
Naomi and Jimmy Uso
The brackets have now been announced as well. They can be found here. The first match will be Sasha Banks and Finn Balor versus Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura. It looks like they will be showing one match per week, for 12 weeks. WWE have also announced that each team will be representing a different charity. The charities will all receive $10, 000, with the winning team’s charity receiving $100,000.
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.