Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Huge week this week, and a huge column to reflect that. There were celebrations on RAW, NXT TakeOver Philadelphia was last night, and tonight will see the first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, and Asuka def Alicia Fox, Sonya Deville, Mandy Rose, and Nia Jax.
This week was RAW’s special 25th anniversary show. Broadcast from both the Barclays Centre, and the Manhattan Centre – where RAW’s first episode was held. The women only appeared at the Barclays, but that was where the bulk of the action came from. The Manhattan Centre crowds were a little hard done by. If you get a chance, go onto the WWE YouTube channel and check out some of the videos they’ve posted, there were a lot of blasts from the past and it was a lot of fun.
Nia Jax, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, and Alicia Fox vs Sasha Banks, Bayley, Mickie James, and Asuka
We were never getting a story-laden match in this episode. RAW 25 was about giving the audience as many names as possible in one show, like the tour shows when RAW is broadcast from the UK.
It started with a brawl, but the ref eventually got control and started the match. The early part reminded me of a house show match, almost everyone getting in to do their minute or two and get their stuff across. Only Bayley and Mickie James played no real part in the match.
Sasha Banks and Alicia Fox did most of the latter half of the match. When it eventually descended into a brawl on the outside, after Sonya Deville tried to push Sasha Banks off the turnbuckle Fox and Banks stayed in the ring and kept going. Not for long though, Sasha Banks caught Alicia Fox in the Bank Statement, and Fox tapped out.
After the match, while they were celebrating, Asuka dumped all her teammates over the top rope one by one. Just to remind everyone there’s a Royal Rumble match on Sunday.
Alexa Bliss was interviewed backstage. She was asked if she thought she would still be champion at WrestleMania to meet the winner of the Royal Rumble match (if it’s a RAW superstar presumably – it hasn’t actually been specified whether the winner has to fight the champion of their current brand or if they can choose). She never got to answer the question, other than calling the interviewer rude. Charlotte Flair appeared – one of a number of SmackDown superstars who visited for the celebrations – and said the only reason Bliss is champion is because she’s on SmackDown, and she highly doubts Bliss will still be champion by ‘Mania. Then she quoted her dad, and brought him out to say that, while Bliss may be a champion now, Charlotte Flair will be a champion until she decides to hang up the robes. Much ‘Wooing’ closed the segment.
Natalya and Dana Brooke both appeared as part of a poker game segment, with the APA and a combination of current superstars and legends.
For weeks now, WWE have been adding names to the list of legends who would be appearing for the 25th anniversary show. A lot of us were quite excited to see all these women appear, until it happened. Instead of a nice interactive segment, even one with all the women at once, they were simply paraded out to the stage to wave. The GMs were also treated like this, it wasn’t just the female legends. Lita was notable by her absence. It would be interesting to know why she wasn’t invited to participate.
They still had a nice list of women appear for the two minutes they were on screen. Maryse and Maria Kanellis (both heavily pregnant), the Bella Twins, Kelly Kelly, Lilian Garcia, Jacqueline, Torrie Wilson, Michelle McCool, Terri Runnels and Trish Stratus.
Interestingly, Nikki Bella was the only one wearing ring gear. It felt like an attempt to remind us all that she’s not technically retired yet, and maybe a Royal Rumble tease (I’m an optimist, it just feels like there should be a Bella twin in that match). I was actually really disappointed that none of the female legends declared themselves as entrants. I still think we’ll have to get at least one or two, not all of the 12 remaining spaces can be filled from NXT, but it would have been nice to be able to look forward to them.
Naomi def Liv Morgan
There’s no-one left on SmackDown to declare for the Royal Rumble, all eligible women are already entered. All they can do now is try to increase the excitement for this historic match.
Naomi vs Liv Morgan
Yay! A singles match. Naomi was brave enough to come to the ring alone, despite Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan accompanying their Riott Squad teammate. Liv Morgan is a good opponent for Naomi. They are probably the two most athletic on the SmackDown roster, something they played a lot on in this brief match.
It looked like there might be interference, and not from the Riott Squad. Natalya, Lana and Carmella strolled down to the ring just a couple of minutes into the match, closely followed by Becky Lynch. They didn’t do anything though, and the match finished on its own shortly after.
It was too short to say much about. There could be a good feud in there, but it’s hard to tell. Naomi pinned Liv Morgan from a sunset flip, after kicking her in the head.
After the match Ruby Riott and Sarah Logan jumped Naomi. Becky Lynch stepped in to help out, then Natalya, Carmella and Lana got involved, and there was a bit of throwing people over the top rope. Becky Lynch even had a go at throwing Naomi over when her guard was down. Well, it will be every woman for herself on Sunday.
Charlotte Flair, who had no need to get involved as she’s not in the Rumble match, came to the stage. She praised Becky Lynch for trying to throw Naomi over, then reminded them that allegiances mean nothing when you’re trying to win an opportunity to face the queen. To finish the segment, she wished them all luck, especially the winner.
Bianca Belair def Latoya Allsopp
Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler met in an interview segment, hosted by Percy Watson, ahead of their match at NXT TakeOver Philadelphia. Throughout the interview, Moon kept her eyes, complete with red contact lenses, fixed on Baszler.
Watson asked Ember Moon why she called out Shayna Baszler. She said it’s because Baszler is a bully, and suggested she is overcompensating because she knows she couldn’t cut in the NXT women’s division the right way.
Baszler said she did the whole thing to goad Moon into giving her a title match. Moon said she knew that but that showing Baszler that you can’t just walk in and do what you like was more important. She has a responsibility as champion, there’s a code they live by of skill, honour and heart. Moon has to protect that.
When Baszler was asked what her expectations were for TakeOver, she talked about Moon having achieved her dreams through hard work, and good for her. But Baszler doesn’t care if anyone knows about her struggle, she’s worked just as hard on her path. At TakeOver she’s going to walk away with Moon’s dreams.
They stood and faced off while Watson asked the final question. What did Baszler want the NXT universe to know about her? She doesn’t care what they think about her, or how she got there, they’re just going to have to get used to it.
I’ve enjoyed the story work in this feud. They’ve built it fast, but it works. Ember Moon is the principled and proud champion, determined to protect the division from the newest bully in the playground. Shayna Baszler is looking to take the fastest route to what she wants, and she’s doesn’t care who she has to take out to get there. It’s simple and effective.
Bianca Belair vs Latoya Allsopp
I might not be a fan of the trademark hair whip, but I like Bianca Belair a lot. The way she was talked up on the Mae Young Classic was a good indicator that she’s seen as important in the future of the NXT women’s division. Commentary told us that Latoya Allsopp has ten years’ experience, and has competed in the UK and Japan, as well as the US. This was her NXT debut and she mainly there to make Belair look good.
Just a short NXT standard match. Bianca Belair got to show off her considerable strength, Allsopp got enough offence in to make Belair look good by overcoming it. The hair whip came into play when Allsopp launched herself off the second turnbuckle and got smacked in the midsection with it. While she was still writhing around she was dragged up onto Belair’s shoulders and slammed face-first into the mat. She didn’t get up again. A win for Bianca Belair.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week. Hardly surprising when eight of the women were used on RAW.
Mixed Match Challenge
Asuka and The Miz def Carmella and Big E
This was the second, first-round, match of the twelve-week tournament. Sasha Banks and Finn Balor progressed last week.
Asuka and The Miz vs Carmella and Big E
Carmella and Big E had matching gear for the match. There was a heavy emphasis on fun and games. Big E started things off, but the crowd started chanting for Asuka. Miz tagged her in, and Carmella wasn’t at all keen to join her. The second Asuka approached her Carmela ran screaming for the ropes.
Big E took a large foam L from under the ring and encouraged Carmella to ‘give Asuka the L’. Asuka took it and ripped it apart so Carmella tagged straight out.
Carmella broke up a pin attempt, Asuka came in to sort her out, and Miz and Asuka did the ‘It Kicks’.
The comedy was all gone after that, while Miz took Big E apart. Eventually Asuka tagged back in. It was actually going quite well for Carmella, until she slapped Asuka in the face a few times. Asuka kicked her in the face a bit, then slapped on the armbar until Carmella tapped. Asuka and The Miz progress to the next round.
Next week is Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman versus Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn.
NXT TakeOver Philadelphia
Ember Moon def Shayna Baszler
Ember Moon (C) vs Shayna Baszler – NXT Women’s Championship match
Ember Moon’s first TakeOver title defence, and only her second defence overall. Shayna Baszler may have taken shortcuts to get her title shot, but she’s a formidable opponent. Baszler got the ‘Goldberg style’ fighter’s entrance, with the cameras following her from backstage right to the ring. No nonsense, no fuss. Mauro Ranallo has started calling Ember Moon ‘The Shenom’, I hope it doesn’t catch on.
It was a good match, but it felt like a bit of a let down on the night. Not because there was anything wrong with it, it just felt slow and deliberate after the matches before.
Shayna Baszler stamped on Ember Moon’s arm, the same way she stamped on Dakota Kai’s. The ref allowed the match to carry on, and Baszler focused everything on the arm from then on.
Ember Moon fought through the pain, avoiding using the injured arm. She hit the Eclipse, but hurt her arm more, so there was a period where Shayna Baszler was lying flat on her back and Moon was being tended to by medics. And nothing was happening.
As soon as Moon walked over to Baszler she was locked into an armbar. Moon got to the ropes, but it was only a temporary reprieve. Baszler locked the armbar back in and the rolled around the ring like that. Ember Moon managed to shift her weight over Baszler’s shoulders and held her down for three to retain the title.
Shayna Baszler attacked Ember Moon on the ramp after the match and put her in the Kirifuda Clutch, twice.
We also got the first, unofficial, appearance of Candice LeRae at TakeOver. She attacked Zelina Vega to protect her husband, Johnny Gargano, during his match with Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas.
Royal Rumble Preview
Asuka, Bayley, Nia Jax, Sasha Banks, Mickie James, Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Mandy Rose, Sonya Deville, Naomi, Natalya, Ruby Riott, Sarah Logan, Liv Morgan, Becky Lynch, Tamina, Lana, Carmella and 12 others – First ever women’s Royal Rumble match.
Thirty women will compete in the first women’s rumble match. We have 18 of those names. It should have been 19, but Paige was withdrawn due to injury. The same rules apply for the women as the men, over the top eliminations, and the winner gets a title shot at WrestleMania. Maria Menounos has been named as special guest ring announcer for the match. It has also been announced that Stephanie McMahon will join commentary. I’m not sure how I feel about that to be honest, but she may turn out to be surprisingly good.
This is one of the biggest milestones in the women getting the same opportunities as the men. There aren’t too many firsts left now, and this is arguably the biggest. The favourites seem to be Asuka, Becky Lynch, and Nia Jax. There are rumours galore about the identity of the remaining 12 participants. We can certainly expect some NXT names, and a few surprises. The most bandied about surprise rumour is that Ronda Rousey will make an appearance. There are even people talking about her winning it, which I think is highly unlikely, but you never know. Personally, I want to see Candice LeRae debut in the rumble match. And, if I’m making a wish list, can we have Nikki Cross as one of the NXT entrants, pretty please?
I’m breaking with tradition here, and not making a prediction. Why? Because it’s impossible. Asuka and Becky Lynch are both good shouts, and it’s most likely that a safe option like that will be the way WWE take it. But this is Royal Rumble, and a historic occasion, there’s an outside chance someone entirely unexpected to pick up the win. We don’t even know who over a third of the participants will be. For example, Ember Moon could lose at TakeOver, debut at Rumble, and win the whole thing, or Shayna Baszler could – you just never know. As long as there isn’t a screwy finish like the first Money in the Bank ladder match had, I’ll be happy. Enjoy the spectacle, we can sort through the fallout after.
Prediction: Who cares, just enjoy it.
Enjoy Royal Rumble, I know I will it’s my favourite PPV of the year, and I’m excited for the women’s rumble match. I’ll be back next week with all the results, and all the aftermath. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.