Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. There’s a lot to talk about this week. Most of it concerning Sunday night’s Royal Rumble, and its immediate aftermath. It’s definitely a ‘grab a coffee and a biscuit’ kind of column, so I’m not going to waste words on small talk, let’s dive straight into it.
Asuka won the Women’s Royal Rumble match
Two hour kickoff for Royal Rumble because it’s one of the big four. The women were the focus for a lot of the show, which was to be expected considering the occasion. It somehow served a little to remind me how shoved in a corner the women’s division is sometimes. Why shouldn’t they have equal airtime?
Alexa Bliss joined the kickoff panel. She expressed a little disappointment that she wasn’t going to be taking part in the match. It was during Bliss’ segment that Renee Young revealed that the winner of the rumble matches would face the champion of their choice at WrestleMania. Apparently, it was announced earlier in the day – but that was the first I heard of it. Bliss said she wanted Nia Jax to win so she and her best friend can have their WrestleMania match. She acknowledged that the favourite was Asuka and said she’s happy to face her at ‘Mania because she’d have sufficient time to prepare. There is no-one she wouldn’t be happy to face.
Bayley did one of the camera phone promos WWE are using recently, I quite like them they’ve got a bit of an old school feel to them. She didn’t say anything surprising – historic occasion, honoured to be part of it, really excited, wants to win and point at the WrestleMania sign – everything you’d expect.
Charlotte Flair was the next kickoff show guest. She looked genuinely excited about the whole thing, and disappointed at not being part of it. She talked about her pride at being part of the lead up to this event. When she was asked who she wanted to face she talked about Becky Lynch, as her best friend, and Nikki Bella. Only problem with that was, Nikki Bella hadn’t been announced as an entrant at that point. She also mentioned Sasha Banks. Like Bliss, there was no-one she wouldn’t want to face.
Alundra Blayze also joined the kickoff panel and talked about the history of the women’s division, how every generation of women paved the way for this, before talking about her favourites. She said she’d love to be in there and she’d like to beat Asuka. She clearly has a great friendship with JBL, the banter between them when he was trying to get her to answer a question was sweet. Under duress, she picked Nia Jax.
During the kickoff show Kurt Angle released a tweet saying that Alicia Fox was out of the rumble match due to injury. WWE later confirmed she will also be removed from the Mixed Match Challenge. It was later revealed she broke her tailbone during rehearsals for the match and is expected to be out for several months. She’ll be missed, but hopefully she’ll be back stronger than ever as soon as possible.
The first ever Women’s Royal Rumble match.
The Women’s rumble match main evented the show. A brave decision by WWE, and not universally popular, but it marked the historic nature of the match. It was weird having the men’s match in the middle of the show (I’m a creature of habit) but the women deserved it.
As usual, the video package which played several times through the kickoff and main shows was excellent. I honestly don’t remember the last time I was this excited about a match. Of all the history making moments for the women’s division, this feels like the biggest to me.
I’ll level with you. I’ve never tried to cover a rumble match before, and I’m not sure where to start. But let’s give this a go. Here’s how the entries went.
|1||Sasha Banks||11||Liv Morgan||21||Jacqueline|
|2||Becky Lynch||12||Molly Holly||22||Nia Jax|
|3||Sarah Logan||13||Lana||23||Ember Moon|
|4||Mandy Rose||14||Michelle McCool||24||Beth Phoenix|
|6||Kairi Sane||16||Vicky Guerrero||26||Mickie James|
|8||Dana Brooke||18||Natalya||28||Brie Bella|
|9||Torrie Wilson||19||Kelly Kelly||29||Bayley|
|10||Sonya Deville||20||Naomi||30||Trish Stratus|
If you’d like a comprehensive review of the women’s Royal Rumble match, and the rest of the card, check out Arnold Furious’ review here. I loved every minute of it, even the inevitable slightly dodgy bits. The match most of us thought we’d never get to see. Here are a few highlights and notable moments. I could have gone on for hundreds of words, but who has time to read all that.
As previously announced, Stephanie McMahon joined commentary, and Maria Menounos was the special guest ring announcer. Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair had ringside seats for the match. I had reservations about Stephanie McMahon’s commentary, but I shall eat my words, she was very good.
It made sense for Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch to be one and two. Neither were likely to win (although you never know), but as two of the four horsewomen it was right for them to be given some sort of accolade. I’m not sure where Sarah Logan coming as number three falls into that theory.
Lita came in at five, the first of the legends. She had a list of names written on her arm representing all the women who couldn’t be there. It led to commentary listing through some of those names which was a nice moment.
Mandy Rose was eliminated by Lita just before entrant six came in. She was the first one out. Tamina was also eliminated by Lita, then Lita was immediately eliminated by Becky Lynch. Torrie eliminated Dana Brooke.
Michelle McCool eliminated Sonya Deville, Liv Morgan, Molly Holly and Lana in quick succession.
Vicky Guerrero brought a microphone with her and screamed excuse me at everyone. Michelle McCool, Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Ruby Riott threw her out. Guerrero took her anger out on Carmella as she came down the ramp and hit her with her MITB briefcase.
Ruby Riott eliminated Becky Lynch after 31 minutes.
Nia Jax eliminated Jacqueline and Kelly Kelly, then hung Ruby Riott over the corner before throwing her out too.
Naomi had the Kofi Kingston elimination avoidance spot. She landed on a load of people and ended up on the barricade without touching the floor. She stayed there for a while, then used Maria Monounos’ chair, put her feet on it and pulled herself back to the steps with her hands. She jumped of the top turnbuckle onto Nia Jax, who threw her out.
Natalya eliminated Beth Phoenix after they had a hug in the middle of the ring.
Ember Moon hit an Eclipse on Asuka, Asuka then eliminated her.
Nikki Bella might have been spoilered, but Brie turning up was still a surprise. It was good to see the Bella’s working together again, for a few minutes anyway.
Trish Stratus coming in as the final entrant got a huge reaction, as did her face off with Mickie James which ended up with James being eliminated..
All the remaining superstars ganged up to eliminate Nia Jax, then Sasha Banks turned around and eliminated Bayley, shouting ‘That’s why I’m The Boss’ after her. Banks eliminated Trish Stratus a few minutes later.
The Bella twins eliminated Sasha Banks after 54 minutes 46 seconds.
It came down to Nikki Bella and Asuka, after Nikki Bella eliminated her sister.
Nikki Bella tried to throw Asuka over the top rope but she clung on and stayed on the apron. Asuka used her leg to drag Nikki Bella over the top rope by her neck. Bella hit Askua and knocked her to the apron, Asuka kicked her legs out from underneath her and she fell to the floor.
Asuka is the winner of the first ever women’s Royal Rumble match.
Both champions joined her in the ring after the match and she looked back and forth between them as they held the belts high. But Asuka didn’t get to make her choice of champion because Ronda Rousey came out.
Rousey got into the ring, studied the women in it like she was looking down a police line up, then pointed at the WrestleMania sign. She put her hand out to shake Asuka’s, Asuka looked at her then slapped it away. They smiled knowingly at each other, then Rousey pointed at the WrestleMania sign again and left.
She stopped on the way out and had an uncomfortable, wary looking, handshake with Stephanie McMahon. She had one final point at the WrestleMania sign, at the top of the ramp, to close out the show.
ESPN immediately broke the story that Rousey has signed a full time deal with WWE. The best thing about her appearance is she was wearing Rowdy Roddy Piper’s jacket, given to her by his son before the show. Piper gave permission to Rousey to use the Rowdy nickname before his death, and she dedicated the last win of her MMA career to him. There is an interview with Rousey just after the PPV finished, here. WWE had her new, Rowdy Roddy Piper inspired, merch up for sale within the hour.
The major debates of the week have been whether Rousey’s appearance took away from the historic thing we’d just witnessed. And whether Ronda Rousey should be in WWE at all. Personally, I’d rather she turned up like she did than turned up in the match, or worse won it. Did it detract from Asuka’s moment? Maybe, a little, but arguably less than all the debate about Rousey has done. I would have preferred to see her turn up the following night on RAW, but that would have been less buzzworthy. As for whether she should be in WWE, she was always coming. She’s incredibly marketable, with good mainstream appeal, so she’s a great asset to the company. As for whether she’s a great asset to the wrestling ring, we’ll have to wait and see. She deserves the same chance to prove herself as anyone else.
Overall, the first Women’s Royal Rumble match was great. It wasn’t perfect, there were some very obvious rest periods with people on the outside, some of the spots were a bit clumsy looking, and the bit where Naomi was caught and put on the barricade was ponderously signposted. None of that matters, it was all about the occasion. Next year (if they do it next year) I’d like to see fewer legends, and more NXT stars. For the first one it felt important for the legends to be there, for them to have a part in the this new era.
Asuka def Sasha Banks
The women opened the show this week. Well, Stephanie McMahon opened the show, but she brought Asuka out fairly quickly. Before Asuka appeared, McMahon said a few words about the historic nature of the Royal Rumble match and ran through a couple of highlights. She also mentioned Rousey’s appearance, describing her as ‘WWE’s newest superstar, the former UFC bantamweight champion, Rowdy Ronda Rousey’.
When Asuka got to the ring, McMahon told her she might want to wait a while before choosing her WrestleMania opponent, because Alexa Bliss might not be champion by then. In another historic first, Bliss will be defending her championship in and Elimination Chamber match, at the PPV in four weeks. Then she gave Asuka the mic.
Asuka delivered most of her speech in Japanese then said ‘At WrestleMania I will become champion, because no-one is ready for Asuka’,
Sasha Banks’ music hit, and she made her way to the ring. She apologised for the interruption, then talked about Royal Rumble being a dream come true, having shared a ring with 29 incredible women, including Asuka. But she proved in the rumble match she could go the distance (she was in there the best part of an hour), and she’s ready for Asuka, tonight.’
Banks and Asuka stood nose to nose as Stephanie McMahon made the match official.
Asuka vs Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks had a short pre-match interview with Renee Young. She just said she’d been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. Asuka made history last night, now it was her turn.
Banks and Asuka could have a good run of matches together. They had the match of the night by quite a distance. It was nice to see the match get a decent amount of time. Every time the women are given a longer match they deliver, I’m not sure why no-one booking the show is picking up on this.
It definitely feels like Asuka’s winning streak is coming to an end soon. I’ve got a horrible feeling it’s going to be Ronda Rousey that takes it (we’re all assuming Rousey will go to RAW, right? I genuinely can’t see her going anywhere other than the flagship show). There were a few times during this match that I genuinely believed Sasha Banks would be the one. She got the Bank Statement on several times during the match, but Asuka always managed to just about get out.
Asuka kicking Banks in the face while Banks was mid suicide dive looked grim. And Asuka took a nasty fall from the ring when Banks moved the ropes when she went for the hip attack. Banks delivered the double knees to Asuka inside the ring, and on the outside. She took some of Asuka’s stiffest looking offence as well.
Asuka finally won the match with the Asuka lock. She hasn’t used that for a while, it’s too similar to Baszler’s Kirifuda Clutch I think, but they obviously wanted her to bring out something bigger than the armbar to beat Sasha Banks. It won’t be the last time we see that match, and I’m very pleased about that.
It’s a little disappointing that Asuka and Sasha Banks were the only women we heard from on RAW. Thirty women had an incredible experience at the Royal Rumble, and we only heard from two. Ronda Rousey’s appearance was recapped, alongside screenshots of some of the press coverage, but Rousey herself wasn’t there, nor was she interviewed. Even a video package of some of the women’s post-match thoughts would have been something.
NO WOMEN’S DIVISION MATCH THIS WEEK.
Charlotte Flair, in an in-ring interview with Renee Young, said sitting at ringside for the Royal Rumble match was the first time she didn’t want to be champion. She wanted to be in the ring competing. She couldn’t have been more proud of the women in there, but she wanted to see if she could hold her own against all the legends. Flair knows she’s going to walk into WrestleMania as champion, she now wants to know who’s going to be stood opposite her.
Ruby Riott came out with the Riott Squad and said forget about Asuka and Ronda Rousey. Flair’s ego is as big as her father’s, of course Flair thinks she’d have won the Royal Rumble match. Riott described Flair as impossible talented, but impossible arrogant, entitled and unoriginal, just a cheap imitation of her father.
She came out to tell her that her time is over and if she has her way Flair won’t even make it to WrestleMania.
Charlotte Flair asked if she was done yet, then Woo’d in her face. Riott hit her, and Flair held her own in the three on one attack until the Riott squad backed off to ringside. They came back in though, as a unit, and this time Flair didn’t stand a chance. Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan had to hold her up by the time Ruby Riott was ready to deliver the Riott kick.
When the Riott Squad left Charlotte Flair lying in the centre of the ring Carmella’s music hit. She ran down to cash in her Money in the Bank briefcase but, before the ref could start the match a kick by Carmella, aimed at Flair knocked the ref headfirst out of the ring. Carmella screamed at the ref to get up without success. In the meantime, Charlotte Flair recovered and struggled to her feet. Carmella noticed that Flair was no longer a vulnerable target, got out of the ring, grabbed her briefcase, and left.
In an interview afterwards, she said it was just a reminder to Flair, and she never intended to cash in. She’d never cash in with a broken nail.
This was the only women’s action we got from SmackDown this week. Maybe they wanted to give as many of the women as possible a break after the rumble match, but it doesn’t send a good message to not have a single women’s match on the show after such a historic occasion. We still haven’t really heard much from the women about the match. I would have expected a couple of interviews mixed into a promotional video, or something, anything. There is, apparently, a documentary about the women being filmed. Maybe they’re saving all the reactions for that. It’s just a bit odd.
Nikki Cross def Lacey Evans
The NXT after a TakeOver is always full of recaps and post-match interviews. Shayna Baszler’s post-match backstage interview was shown after a recap of her losing effort to claim the NXT Women’s Championship. She said Ember Moon didn’t beat her, she barely survived, then told the interviewer to go and check on Ember Moon to see which one was acting like a winner. Moon’s appearance in the Royal Rumble was shown as part of the segment as well.
Nikki Cross vs Lacey Evans
An unfortunate side effect of the recap-filled post-TakeOver episodes is that the matches this week were short, really short. The arrogant heelish character Lacey Evans is working with at the moment seems to suit her, and it’s a little easier to swallow than the All-American hero, but they may just be a non-US perspective.
Anyway, for what it was, it was a good match. There’s probably some decent matches to be had with these two, but it’s hard to tell in a three minutes match. Cross starting the match by flying at Evans, then catching her in the ring skirt and beating on her some more was very much on point for her.
Evans is a lot more methodical then Cross, but that’s kind of a given. She got some good offence in on Cross, but seemed slightly disturbed when it just made Cross laugh.
Methodical didn’t cut it this week for Evans. Nikki Cross caught her in the spinning fisherman’s neckbreaker and got the pin. Immediately after the decision, the ref had to hold Cross back to stop her going back in for another go.
Bayley def Sonya Deville
SmackDown may have let us down this week, and the NXT match might have been ridiculously short, but Main Event went some way to making up for it.
Bayley vs Sonya Deville
I’m forced, by cynicism, to ask whether this is an unusually good match for Main Event, or if Bayley has just slipped into confirmed mid-card status. I hope it’s the former. Whichever it is, I like Sonya Deville, and Bayley, and they got five minutes, so I’m not complaining.
The first part of the match was Sonya Deville showing Bayley what a tough opponent she really is. I’m glad they’re continuing to build her like that, I want to see Deville as a credible threat for Nia Jax and Asuka, and Rousey when she arrives I suppose.
Bayley showed she wasn’t intimidated by tying Deville’s arm up in the ropes and ruffling her hair. Deville might have superior strength, and some good fighting skills, but Bayley is by far the superior wrestler with far more experience. That played out well in this match. Deville easily overpowered Bayley in straight power situations, but Bayley was cleverer and had moves at her disposal Deville didn’t have an answer for.
The match went to the outside, where Bayley delivered a dropkick though the corner. Mandy Rose got involved to tell Bayley to give Deville a minute, and Bayley wasted time pushing Rose while Deville was getting back in the ring. When Bayley followed, Deville caught her with a kick. But as she dragged Bayley into the ring, Bayley rolled her up and pinned her. Sensibly, she got out of there before Absolution could get their revenge.
I’m guessing there must have been online snarkiness about Bayley being on Main Event, and she felt the need to defend the decision in this tweet.
Main Event also covered the Ronda Rousey appearance, and showed highlights of Sasha Banks versus Asuka.
Mixed Match Challenge
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman def Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn.
Asuka and The Miz, and Sasha Banks and Finn Balor have already progressed to the next round. This week it was Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn versus Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman battling it out to join them.
Becky Lynch and Sami Zayn vs Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman
It was Becky Lynch’s birthday on Tuesday. The crowd chanted happy birthday at her during the match. Braun Strowman and Alexa Bliss made for a comedy team, their training video with Strowman trying to get Bliss to flip a car was cute. It is weird seeing Strowman smiling and having fun though.
I think I knew how this was going to end when I saw the Strowman and Bliss’ charity is Connor’s Cure, one of WWE’s primary charities. Zayn and Lynch were fighting for Unicef. The public were given the choice of whether Sami Zayn of Becky Lynch would start the match, they chose Becky Lynch.
Lynch dominated Bliss for their first stint, including a comedy spot with Bliss ending up in the wrong corner after Lynch rolled her around a bit. Eventually Bliss tagged in Strowman, Sami Zayn wasn’t best pleased and used some avoidance tactics. Strowman caught him once and Zayn tagged out, then tagged straight back in when Strowman turned his back. When that didn’t work, he tagged Becky lynch back in.
This time, they had a good contest for a few minutes, until it was time for men to come back in. While Becky Lynch was checking on Sami Zayn Alexa Bliss shoved her into the ringpost. Strowman threw Sami Zayn over a barricade, and tagged Bliss back in. Becky Lynch was still out from the impact with the post, so Bliss delivering twisted Bliss from Braun Strowman’s shoulders finished the match.
Renee Young interviewed the winners. Alexa Bliss said they won because of her strategy. Strowman said Bliss’ personality is as big as he is, they get along professionally, and he thinks she’s kind of cute. Bliss said she thinks he’s kind of cute too, like a truck with a smiley face on the front. They’re going all the way… to a victory in the Mixed Match Challenge. Weird flirting is so uncomfortable.
Next week it’s Naomi and Jimmy Uso versus Goldust and Mandy Rose (Alicia Fox’ replacement due to injury). That should be a lot of fun. The whole tournament has been fun so far. Nice to have something a bit different.
That’s it for a historic week for WWE’s women. If you made it through the whole column, I thank you. I’ll be back next week with all the goings on for 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.