Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Royal Rumble and TakeOver are getting closer, and it’s RAW’s 25th anniversary show next week as well. It’s all go for the WWE universe, and the women are no exception.
Asuka def Nia Jax
Sonya Deville def Sasha Banks
Nia Jax vs Asuka
Asuka isn’t going to lose her undefeated streak on a bog standard episode of RAW in a zero-stakes match. Ok, there is always the possibility that is exactly what WWE will do, just to watch the fans break the internet, but it’s a fairly remote possibility at this point. Maybe they’ll feed Asuka to Ronda Rousey when she finally arrives, which may actually be worse…
Anyway, I digress. Jax has improved tenfold since she and Asuka met in NXT, and this was one of the better matches Asuka has had recently. At least she looked like she had to get out of first gear. Jax powered out of the first few attempts Asuka had at making her submit, and was able to withstand a lot of Asuka’s strikes. In return, Asuka refused to stay down from a huge powerbomb.
The match turned when Jax found herself caught in a kneebar. She managed to get to the ropes, but not without damage. They took things to the outside, and Jax climbed the stairs holding Asuka by the hair. Asuka kicked Jax’ leg out from underneath her and it was trapped between the steps and the ring. Jax beat the count back into the ring but was unable to stand. The ref called for a stoppage. Medics, and Alexa Bliss, checked on Jax in the ring.
In a trainer’s room segment, Alexa Bliss was fretting about the fact Jax ended up hurt when she had been so sure Jax would win. Enzo Amore came in and Bliss tried to tell him she’d got this. Bliss looked to Jax to tell Amore to go away, but found herself ejected instead.
Sasha Banks vs Sonya Deville
During the entrances, commentary announced that Paige will be unable to compete in the Royal Rumble due to a neck injury. There has been no other word from WWE about Paige’s injury, and Paige herself appears (from social media) to have not given up on a comeback. The general consensus from other sources is still that it’s unlikely to happen, but we can all hope for the best. She has confirmed she will be at Royal Rumble to support the other members of Absolution.
With Paige out, it’s time for Absolution to find their own feet on the main roster, and this was Deville’s chance. Both Paige and Mandy Rose were at ringside with her, and Banks had Bayley and Mickie James. The only time anyone got involved was the smallest distraction from Mandy Rose, which had no significant impact on the match.
I’ve been a fan of Deville’s since her debut, so I’m pleased to see her getting a chance to shine. She manhandled Sasha Banks for a lot of the short match, but got to show her resilience to Banks offence as well. They kept it short, which isn’t a bad idea while the newcomers are still carving out their place, and the finish was quite unexpected. Sasha Banks went to the top rope but, as she leapt off, Deville kneed her in the chest and pinned her. Big win for Deville and, importantly for her credibility as a solo performer, completely clean.
The Riott Squad def Naomi, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch
As part of the Royal Rumble match build-up, now all of SmackDown’s women have entered, there was a promo segment this week. All the women did short promos, on what looked like phone cameras, in the style you used to see before Royal Rumbles years ago. They all basically said they would throw everyone else over the top rope and win it, but in their own style. It was a really nice ‘old school’ touch.
Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Naomi vs The Riott Squad
For crying out loud SmackDown. Enough with the multi-woman matches! There are several talented women on the SmackDown roster, all more than capable of holding a one on one feud with another talented wrestler. Why won’t they let them do it? Do they not have enough writers? Do they not trust the talent? I don’t get it. The women’s division is highly visible, which is good. But it’s going nowhere right now.
Anyway, that’s what we got. It was fine. Honestly, there’s not much more I can say about it. All we got to see was a couple of minutes either side of an ad break. The Riott squad are maturing as a team, utilising more tag team strategies, but Flair, Lynch and Naomi are all very talented, and well used to working together by now.
Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan did most of the heavy lifting for The Riott Squad, which stands to reason as they’re the ones who need more help getting established. Ruby Riott still managed to be involved in the finish though. She kicked Naomi in the head, from the apron, which allowed Liv Morgan to roll her up and pin her.
Mixed Match Challenge was advertised heavily through SmackDown, but we’ll get to that later.
Lacey Evans def Aliyah
Aliyah vs Lacey Evans
It’s interesting to see who NXT are using at the moment, as they are most likely to be the replacement regulars. Lacey Evans has always been earmarked for success, Aliyah has been around for a long time, but has never seemed to find her place. Her character and the heel/face dynamic of her matches is all over the place. It’s a shame because she’s actually pretty good.
Not a long match, but that’s standard for NXT (and it wasn’t really about the match). Lacey Evans won by punching Aliyah out cold.
After the match Evan took to the mic and asked how Mr regal could allow the lowest forms of societal trash to walk around the NXT women’s division. It’s time for a sophisticated, powerful woman to clean house. She’s going to start with Nikki Cross and Ember Moon apparently.
Shayna Baszler came out to the stage, and Evans shut up and left. Baszler ignored her and went to the ring to put the Kirifuda Clutch on Aliyah. Ember Moon rushed out to make the save.
Moon told Baszler to try that on her and demanded she get in the ring. Baszler said she didn’t have her gear, and she’d do it when it’s for the title. Moon said she could name the time and place. Baszler named Philadelphia, TakeOver.
William Regal confirmed the match, saying it was against his better judgement, but he acquiesced to the champion’s wishes.
In other, excellent, news, we can expect to see Candice LeRae on NXT soon, as she joined the performance centre this week.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week.
Mixed Match Challenge
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor def Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura
I wasn’t able to watch this live, as Facebook Watch isn’t available in the UK. Luckily for all of us not residing in the US, WWE put it on network on Thursday night.
Beth Phoenix joined Michael Cole and Corey Graves on commentary. She didn’t say a huge amount, but give her some time to get into it.
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor vs Natalya and Shinsuke Nakamura
Poor Natalya, she was trying to do Nakamura’s moves, but the girl has zero rhythm, it was all a bit (a lot) cringeworthy. Finn Balor trying to do Sasha Banks trademark posturing was just hilarious, apparently his hips just don’t move like that.
The match itself was decent. I was amused when Nakamura caught Sasha Banks in mid-air while she was trying to dive onto Natalya. Even more so when he put her down and she dived over him anyway. I’d rather see intergender than mixed tag wrestling. I’ve always found the tagging in mixed tag matches to be disruptive to the flow of the match.
That said, this was a fun contest, and it’s an interesting way of seeing some of the SmackDown and RAW rosters interacting. The tournament will be an enjoyable watch, I’m curious to see if it’s a one off, or if it leads to anything else.
Sasha Banks and Finn Balor won, courtesy of Banks locking the Bank Statement on Natalya.
Next week Carmella and Big E take on Asuka and The Miz.
Royal Rumble Counter
With Paige confirmed as unable to compete, we have 18 official entrants into the women’s Royal Rumble match.
From RAW: Asuka, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke.
From SmackDown: Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Carmella, Natalya, Tamina, Lana, Naomi, Becky Lynch.
That leaves 12 spaces to fill. Most of those will be surprises, and at least some of them will come from NXT. However, RAW’s 25th anniversary show is on Monday, and there will be several former superstars making an appearance. I’m fully expecting at least one or two to declare themselves as entrants during the celebrations.
NXT TakeOver Philadelphia
Ember Moon vs Shayna Baszler
I’ve got to start by saying, this match makes no sense to me. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about the way Baszler got the match, or about the fact she’s been in NXT for half a minute and has already got a title match on the TakeOver card, but I’m fine with all of that. My problem is I can’t see how they have a good match without damaging the standing of one, or both, of them.
Ember Moon was built up huge when she arrived in NXT. From that build followed a rocky road to the title, which she still only won after Asuka vacated it. She’s only had the title since November, and this will be her first TakeOver defence (she has defended once, against Sonya Deville). If Moon is to be a cornerstone of the NXT women’s division, it makes little sense to take the title off her so quickly.
Shayna Baszler was dominant in the Mae Young Classic, only losing out to Kairi Sane in the final. She has been in NXT for just a couple of weeks, and has made her mark by attacking the defenceless, and ‘injuring’ Dakota Kai. She is being set up as the monster heel of the NXT women’s division, and she’ll be great in that role. So a TakeOver loss makes no sense as it can only make her look like she is conquerable. Equally, a win doesn’t make any sense, it would reek of setting up another Asuka situation where the champion is completely untouchable, and the crowds aren’t invested enough in her yet.
For those reasons, I can’t see this finishing clean. Either there will be a disqualification, or a count out, or some interference. The ‘Iconic Duo’ would have a decent cause for interference on account of having been overlooked for the title shot. My personal pick, if someone is going to interfere, would be Nikki Cross. Surely she has to be in line for a shot. However the finish goes, I would be disappointed to see a the title change hands here, but not necessarily surprised.
Prediction: Ember Moon
I’ll be back next week to make sure you don’t miss a thing from WWE’s women’s divisions. We’ll be looking at RAW’s 25th anniversary celebrations, the TakeOver result, and looking ahead to the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.