Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s another week with a lot to discuss and I have to admit I’m loving it. WrestleMania season is well and truly upon us and, for once the women’s division has a decent amount of build. The final PPV before ‘Mania is tonight (March 11). It’s the SmackDown branded Fastlane, which will also be the last of the single branded PPVs. However, it was RAW that gave us the most to talk about again this week, so let’s dive in.
Asuka def Nia Jax
Bayley def Mandy Rose
Another Ronda Rousey segment started this week’s RAW. It started with Kurt Angle talking about the times he’s had to swallow his pride and do what’s best for business since he came back to WWE, and how Triple H crossed the line when he punched him. He called Triple H out but got Stephanie McMahon instead.
She said Triple H wasn’t there yet. Then she went straight for the jugular by talking about Angles children and alimony payments, and how being an Olympic gold medallist and WWE Hall of famer doesn’t pay the bills, but being RAW general manager does. According to her Triple H was provoked by Angle ruining the contract signing, and it was Angle’s fault Rousey put Triple H through a table. But now they’re even and they can go back to being good managers.
Ronda Rousey made her entrance then, smiling away and stopping to slap the hands of almost everyone in the front row. I have to admit, her sheer joy at being in WWE has won me over. I really want her to succeed. I’m not the only one, the crowd chanted for her before she got to speak. When she did, she said that what they did to Angle was very enlightening and she starting to realise the people who brought her here are not who she thought they were. But that’s ok because she’s dealt with difficult people and bully bosses her whole career.
McMahon took exception to being called a bully boss and said she understands that employees don’t always understand the decisions they’re bosses make, but Rousey signed her contract, which makes her part of the bit of WWE that she oversees. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, they gave her the thing she asked for, her debut match at WrestleMania – yep, Rousey isn’t going to have a match until WrestleMania, none, not one.
Rousey checked that the contract allows her to choose her opponent. Stephanie McMahon confirmed she could choose anyone on the active roster who isn’t a champion then tried to get the crowd excited about hearing who it was going to be, she even got a drum roll played. Rousey named her.
Triple H appeared then. He said that wasn’t going to happen and told Angle to do his job, pointing out his wife is an executive of the company. After Kurt Angle had picked up on him being there when McMahon said he wasn’t, he said that while Stephanie McMahon did have an executive contract, she also had a second contract as a superstar. But Stephanie isn’t the only one with a second contract, Triple H has one too. So, the WrestleMania match will be Triple H and Stephanie McMahon vs Kurt Angle and Ronda Rousey.
Rousey had to stop McMahon slapping Angle, then Triple H had to rescue his wife and ushered her out of the ring, then he attacked Angle. While Ronda Rousey was watching the fallout of their altercation, Stephanie McMahon hit her from behind, then legged it.
She came back in time to pull Triple H out of the ring, and out of Angle’s ankle lock, and Ronda Rousey pulled her into the ring by her hair, flung her onto her shoulders, and dropped her to the mat.
Rousey went back to being all smiles again as she left with Kurt Angle, leaving Triple H laying at ringside clutching his ankle, and Stephanie McMahon flat out in the ring.
The match was confirmed later in the show after a segment about Rousey being inducted into the International Sports Hall of Fame and an extremely long recap of the opening segment.
Honestly, I’m exhausted just thinking about how bad that match might be, and by all the possible reasons they could have chosen to do it. We’ve got five more weeks of build-up. We’ll go through it all nearer the time.
Nia Jax vs Asuka
Alexa Bliss was shown being interviewed backstage, with Mickie James by her side, during the early part of this match. Charly Caruso asked Bliss if she liked Jax’ chances of winning. Bliss said yes, Jax needs this win and might end Asuka’s career as well as her streak.
In the meantime, Nia Jax was throwing Asuka around like a ragdoll. Asuka countered with an octopus submission attempt, but it didn’t go anywhere and Jax was soon back in control.
That’s how the match went. Jax controlled it and Asuka occasionally countered but mostly took a lot of punishment. Asuka kept kicking out though.
Asuka managed to get Jax in an armbar when Jax reached down to pick her up. She turned it into a triangle and hung on, even when Nia Jax slammed her into the mat and then into the turnbuckle. When Jax picked her up and bounced her off the ropes Asuka transitioned the triangle back into an armbar and clung on until Nia Jax tapped.
The cameras cut to Bliss looking horrified, then back to Jax crying and holding her arm in the ring. For some reason they kept the camera on Nia Jax for the whole of her walk up the ramp, I’m not sure what the intention was but it came across as awkward and a little unnecessary.
Bayley vs Mandy Rose
Before Mandy Rose came out Bayley was interviewed in-ring, sort of. She was about to explain what happened when she refused to tag Sasha Banks last week when Absolution came out. Paige had a mic and congratulated Bayley for growing a backbone, then told her she was stupid for pushing away the only person who cares about her. There is strength in numbers. Life is easier if you have backup, and if you have no-one you have nothing.
It a good match. Mandy Rose is looking settled now, and a lot more confident, and there’s an edge to Bayley’s performances recently that’s been missing for most of her main roster run. Rose had several tries to put Bayley away, but couldn’t get more than two, and as the match wore on Bayley was starting to dominate.
Sonya Deville got involved towards the end to try and provide a distraction, but Bayley reversed Mandy Rose’s attempt at a roll up into one of her own and got the win.
The Absolution beatdown began the second the bell rang, with Paige shouting from the apron. Sasha Banks ran down to help Bayley out and cleared Absolution from the ring. She pulled Bayley to her feet and raised her arm, then held her arms out for a hug. Bayley pushed her away and walked out. They both looked sad as Bayley paused at the top of the ramp, but she didn’t go back.
WWE are helping to celebrate women’s history month this month. This week’s segment was on Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the creator of the Special Olympics.
There was one other segment for the women this week and I’m going to go into it a bit because I found it really uncomfortable. Before I explain, I know it was in character, and scripted and all that stuff. It was a job well done by Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax, because it was awful in the right way. We’ll call it a demonstration of toxic friendship. Alexa Bliss visited Nia Jax in the trainer’s room while Jax was icing her arm. Bliss initially had Mickie James with her but dismissed James to talk to Jax alone. From that point it was all concerned voice and expression combined with character assassination and words designed to break Nia Jax self-esteem. Bliss talked about how embarrassed and disappointed in herself Jax must be feeling to have been beaten again. But she mustn’t feel like a failure or that she’s let herself or her family down, even though she’s not on the WrestleMania card. How Nia Jax has been an outcast her entire life, was bullied at school for being ‘so much bigger than the other kids’, how people still stare at her at the airport. But Jax mustn’t let this get to her or people will lose all respect for her. By the time Bliss had finished Jax was sobbing in a close-up camera shot.
The breaking down of Nia Jax is clearly the story here. She was angry after her loss to Asuka at Elimination Chamber, upset after her loss to Asuka on RAW, and destroyed by the words of Alexa Bliss. I, along with half the internet, have been convinced for a while that Asuka will go for the SmackDown title at WrestleMania and face Charlotte Flair (providing Flair wins at Fastlane and Carmella doesn’t successfully cash in before ‘Mania). This would leave the path clear for the WrestleMania match Alexa Bliss has long claimed to want, one on one against her best friend Nia Jax. That’s the only way I can see it playing out on the current information. If that’s not the way they go then there better be a spectacularly good payoff for Jax at the end of it.
The women opened the show this week, with a promo segment rather than a match. Charlotte Flair and Ruby Riott were both brought to the ring, Riott was accompanied by the rest of the Riott Squad. Dasha Fuentes started things off by saying this all began a month ago. That was as far as she got before Ruby Riott told her that wasn’t where it started, and she would take it from here.
Riott said it all began November 14 2017 when Flair became SmackDown women’s champion. All her life Flair’s been set up for success, but when she won the SmackDown Women’s Championship she became the first women to win the NXT, RAW, and SmackDown women’s titles and Riott watched as the myth began to form that Flair was the personification of the women’s revolution. Two weeks later, she formed The Riott Squad, with one sole purpose, to destroy the myth.
Flair countered by saying, the only myth that exists about her is that she’s been handed anything. She’s probably had to work harder than everyone else because of who she is. She has the weight of expectation on her shoulders. If she fails, her failures are magnified, and it reflects her entire family. She can’t just succeed to in order to be successful, she has to be transcendent. The fact she has accomplished everything Riott listed is proof she has transcended any myth about her. And the reality is she is every bit as good as they’ve heard.
Riott said that’s what makes this so exciting. Whether she was placed there, or she put herself there she’s on a pedestal and all that is on the line at Fastlane. So, when she wins Flair will no longer be the queen, her reality will crumble, and she’ll just be another bleached blond failure with a famous last name.
As Flair stepped forward and Riott stepped back, Ruby Riott gave the nod to Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan to join her in the ring. With Charlotte Flair having no back-up nearby, it looked like she was about to take a pre-Fastlane beatdown. Slightly bizarrely, it was that moment that Bobby Roode’s music hit and he made his entrance. He was only there to join commentary for the next match, but he is Flair’s tag team partner in the Mixed Match Challenge. She certainly seemed touched that he caused the distraction which saved her.
Becky Lynch vs Carmella
Anyone else feel like Carmella’s momentum with the Money in the Bank briefcase has stalled? I’m hoping that’s a deliberate ploy to make the cash in more shocking. We’ll see, but more and more I’m struggling to see a scenario where she cashes in successfully.
Anyway, this match was apparently set up via twitter and a hashtag while Carmella was answering questions last week. Some context is better than nothing I guess.
Carmella hasn’t ditched the screeching. I think it might be an offensive weapon on its own. She employed it a lot in this relatively short match. She’s a lot more aggressive in her style than she used to be, and it suits her. She was dominant for a clear majority of the match.
Becky Lynch got the Dis-Arm-Her locked in almost against the run of play, and Carmella tapped out.
Naomi had been shown watching the match from backstage. After the match they cut to her again and Natalya appeared to talk to her. Natalya said Becky Lynch was lucky, and Carmella had been suffering from the flu which is the only reason Lynch won. Then she told Naomi she should stay away from Lynch as all her friends tend to get burned.
Naomi suggested Natalya was jealous because people like Becky Lynch, but Natalya refuted that. She said she was sat right next to Carmella when Lynch challenged her and she chose Carmella not her because she knows she couldn’t beat the best there… you know the rest.
Naomi challenged Natalya to team up with Carmella to face her and Becky Lynch at Fastlane. Natalya accepted and said she could use a tune up before WrestleMania, because she’s going to challenge the winner of the Fastlane match at ‘Mania.
I’m now convinced Asuka will challenge Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania. And I hope I’m not wrong because I really want to see that match.
Bianca Belair def Miss Drew Renee
NXT this week annoyed me with their match choice. We’ll go through the match we got, then I’m going to need to get a few things off my chest.
Bianca Belair vs Miss Drew Renee
We’re all aware Bianca Belair is destined for greatness. NXT decided to reinforce the point with a squash match. It lasted five moves plus a bit of pushing and posturing. That’s it. Belair won with her, admittedly impressive, fallaway powerbomb.
Now I’m having a rant. Let’s look at the current NXT women’s division. I may have missed a couple, and these are in no particular order.
- Ember Moon,
- Shayna Baszler,
- Kairi Sane,
- Nikki Cross,
- Lacey Evans,
- Bianca Belair,
- Peyton Royce,
- Billie Kay,
- Candice LeRae (not debuted yet but working live events),
- Dakota Kai,
- Vanessa Borne,
- Taynara Conti,
- And any number of other Mae Young Classic competitors who have made the odd appearance (Marti Belle, Rhea Ripley, Serena Deeb as examples).
Kai and LeRae aren’t listed on the NXT superstars page yet, but Kai is fighting again next week and LeRae’s signing was well publicised. I refuse to believe they signed someone of the calibre of Candice LeRae to only have her be Mrs Gargano. Zelina Vega appears to have done a few live shows against LeRae, so that could be a thing that happens. Nixon Newell must be due back from injury soon as well, and she could (should) be a major player.
Can you see the problem? All that talent having to compete against a sizeable tag division and a huge men’s roster for a spot on one hour a week of television. NXT usually has three or four matches a week. It is rare to get more than one women’s division match on a show. And with all that talent, they still felt it was ok to give us a squash match against a non-regular instead of using the time to develop a story for that impressive roster.
I’ve always praised NXT for the way they treat their women’s division. I hope they give me the opportunity to do so again very soon.
This week’s Main Event showed highlights of the Ronda Rousey segment and match announcement from RAW, highlights of Ruby Riott and Charlotte Flair’s promo segment, and the women’s history month segment.
Mixed Match Challenge
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman
Second week of the quarter finals, and it’s back to RAW versus SmackDown this week. The pre-match promo made me laugh with Naomi shouting about how her husband wasn’t afraid of Braun Strowman and Jimmy Uso in the background looking like he wasn’t quite sure he agreed.
Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman vs Naomi and Jimmy Uso
When Braun Strowman decided to start the match, Naomi spent a while kissing and cuddling Jimmy Uso like she was worried he’d be leaving on a stretcher. From the first few minutes of the match it looked like she might have been right. He was fine, he got thrown around a bit then tagged Naomi in to face Alexa Bliss.
Naomi was getting the better of Bliss and Bliss wanted out. Jimmy Uso took the brave step of pulling Strowman off the apron to prevent the tag, then ran away. It seemed to be their strategy because he entered the ring a little later and kept kicking Strowman off the apron.
Things got a bit awkward when Naomi kicked Bliss out of the ring, then knocked her off the apron. The first time Strowman caught her and returned her to the apron. The second time she knocked him over and landed astride him. There was a definite moment, which Jimmy Uso decided to comment on. That turned out to be a mistake because Strowman chased him and bowled him into a barricade, and the floor.
Naomi was distracted by Strowman wielding a set of steps at her husband and jumped Naomi from behind to gain control of the match. Bliss and Naomi work very well together. Naomi finally got back into it when Bliss couldn’t resist trash talking with Uso. He was being very encouraging on the apron, but it was clear he didn’t want to get back in there with Strowman.
Braun Strowman took that decision out of his hands when he got in the ring to get his own back for Uso knocking him off the apron earlier, after Bliss yelled at him to do something. He didn’t stop there though, he followed Jimmy Uso to the outside, threw him into a barricade again, then put him through the announce desk.
While Naomi was looking on in horror, Alexa Bliss rolled her up and pinned her.
Next week is an all SmackDown match. Bobby Roode and Charlotte Flair versus Rusev and Lana.
Fastlane – Preview and Prediction
Charlotte Flair vs Ruby Riott – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs Carmella and Natalya
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs Carmella and Natalya
This one came a bit out of the blue. There’s all the previous aggro from The Welcoming Committee stuff, but that was months ago and there has been very little recently. Actually, Natalya hasn’t seemed to be around much at all, and apart from her match this week Carmella has been mostly waving the briefcase around. So, there’s not much build, but I’m not going to complain about having a second women’s match on the card.
Hopefully, this match will be used as a jumping off point for one or more storylines. If that’s the case then anything could happen. I doubt they’re building Natalya for another title challenge, but anything is possible. Naomi and Becky Lynch could both have a shout at number one contendership down the line, so a win for them would make sense. Carmella needs to gather some momentum if a successful cash in is to look remotely feasible.
In the absence of any knowledge about the direction the women’s division is moving in, I see no reason for the heels to win this one. If I’m wrong, I hope it’s for something good.
Prediction: Naomi and Becky Lynch
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Ruby Riott
I’ve liked Ruby Riott since she debuted in NXT. Charlotte Falir was a different story, but she’s earned my respect and I now genuinely believe she’s one of the best in the company. I don’t think it’s Ruby Riott’s time yet. There are still stories to be told with Flair holding the belt.
Honestly, I don’t have much more to say about it. Ruby Riott isn’t well enough established on the main roster to walk into WrestleMania holding the title. The only way I see her winning is if Carmella cashes in immediately, and I don’t see Carmella walking into WrestleMania as champion either, so that would mean a title switch on SmackDown between now and then. It could happen, but it’s too messy to be likely.
Prediction: Charlotte Flair
Here’s a little extra prediction. I think it might be Fastlane where Asuka turns up and declare her intention to go for the SmackDown Women’s Championship at WrestleMania.
And we’re done. Enjoy Fastlane, whatever it brings us. I’ll be back next week to break down the results, the fallout, and all the other action 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.