Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. WWE said goodbye to single brand PPVs this week, with the SmackDown branded Fastlane. It was also the final PPV on the road to WrestleMania and it gave us some talking points. Actually, talking points is a bit of a theme this week, there’s a lot to go through, good, bad, and downright ugly. So let’s dive in.
Carmella and Natalya def Naomi and Becky Lynch
Charlotte Flair def Ruby Riott
Naomi and Becky Lynch vs Carmella and Natalya
I wish they’d bothered to make some kind of storyline for this match other than some bitchy comments in a single backstage segment. But at least we got a second women’s match, one step at a time I guess.
I watch a lot of wrestling and there are few things that really annoy me. This match had too much of one of the few things that does, excessive hair pulling. Carmella was responsible for most of it, although Natalya did her fair share too.
The match seemed to be set up round making Carmella look strong. She took the majority of the ring time for her team and really got to show off her aggressive streak. She’s been a bit anonymous recently, like they weren’t sure what to do with her post-Ellsworth, so it’s good to see her getting back into it. She looks the best she’s ever been right now. Still screechy though.
There were no hugely flashy moves or bumps, no-one flying off things or into things, just some really solid tag team wrestling. The women of SmackDown have been shoved into so many multi-woman matches, in various combinations, that they’re starting to demonstrate an argument for women’s tag titles (it could work. They’d need more women, but that’s ok, NXT have got loads they’re not using).
At the finish, Natalya tried to give Carmella the briefcase, but Becky Lynch stopped her by forearming her off the apron. As Lynch turned back around, Carmella landed a superkick and pinned her.
Dammit, I got that prediction wrong, it was a bit of a coin toss. I’m not great at predictions, but they are definitely easier when there’s a clear story arc. At least this match gives Carmella some momentum back ahead of whenever she cashes in.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Ruby Riott – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Ruby Riott made a statement by coming out alone, but I don’t think anyone believed for a second that she was going to stay alone.
In fact, Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan turned up quite early in the match. The first time Flair and Riott ended up outside the ring Flair threw Ruby Riott into the barricade a couple of times, rolled her back into the ring, and turned to find herself looking at the Riott Squad. They didn’t attack her, but they distracted her long enough for Ruby Riott to kick her in the back of the head and take over the match. She landed the Riott Kick, but Charlotte Flair kicked out.
Rather than play fair, Ruby Riott threw Flair out of the ring and distracted the ref by complaining about her eye, so Logan and Morgan could do some damage. They didn’t get chance because Becky Lynch and Naomi ran down to provide Flair with some much-needed backup.
I’m sad about the others being at ringside. Ruby Riott and Charlotte Flair should have had a fantastic singles match, and there wasn’t technically any outside interference, but the presence of the other women detracted from the match somewhat. It was still great, but that’s my point, the extras weren’t needed.
Charlotte Flair had a huge fall when Ruby Riott pushed her off the top rope to the outside and into the barricade. Riott tried to follow up with a suicide dive but Flair caught her, tossed her into the barricade, then hit the moonsault off the same barricade.
The extras problem was solved when Naomi and Becky Lynch were ejected from ringside by the ref for rushing the ring to prevent a Riott Squad invasion. While he was busy arguing with them, Logan and Morgan were beating up Charlotte Flair. The ref saw something amiss when he turned round, and sent the Riott Squad to the back too.
The loss of her friends knocked Ruby Riott off her game for a few moments, and Flair was all over her from then. After a huge spear, Charlotte Flair got the figure four on, and the second she bridged to the Figure Eight Riott tapped.
I got that one right. I also got my extra prediction right. While Charlotte Flair was celebrating her win, Asuka’s music hit and she danced her way into the ring. All she did was take of her mask, have an excited looking stare-down with Flair and point to the WrestleMania sign, then dance her way back up the ramp. That was all it took. They both looked thrilled with the decision. I can’t wait for this match. I can’t see any way for it to be anything other than amazing.
Charlotte Flair was a guest on on Talking Smack. She said Ruby Riott made a name for herself at Fastlane. She’s going to be a player, but she bowed down tonight. There were a couple of times where Flair wasn’t sure she was going to win. She put Ruby Riott over big time, I love that.
Flair said she’s never faced anyone like Asuka, but Asuka has never faced anyone like her. She’s going into WrestleMania the champ and she’s walking out the champ. WrestleMania is her chance to cement her legacy. She’s ready for Asuka.
I’m expecting to see campaigns on social media for this match to main event WrestleMania. It’s more likely that will go to either Roman Reigns versus Brock Lesnar, or AJ Styles versus Shinsuke Nakamura, but there’s a chance. Main eventing a WrestleMania is one of the few things left for the women to tick off on the list of history making moments.
Sasha Banks def Sonya Deville
Sonya Deville vs Sasha Banks
Mandy Rose and Paige accompanied their Absolution teammate to the ring. Bayley, surprisingly, was with Sasha Banks, and looked very unhappy to be there.
The match was good. Sonya Deville looks great out there now, all trace of the nerves she seemed to have when they first arrived have gone.
Let’s face it though, this wasn’t about Banks and Deville, it was about Banks and Bayley. When it came to it, Bayley did what she was there for. She pulled Mandy Rose off the apron when she tried to cause a distraction. That worked in Sasha Banks favour. When Sonya Deville tried to take advantage Bans sidestepped, then hit the backstabber into the Bank Statement.
The second Sonya Deville tapped out Bayley walked away. She didn’t turn round when Absolution attacked, and she didn’t save Banks from the beatdown.
There was a big announcement on this week’s RAW. It’s going to get bad for a minute, but bear with me, because it will all be ok. At this year’s WrestleMania there will be a battle royal akin to the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal the men have. All good so far, except they announced alongside a huge tribute to Fabulous Moolah, and decided it would be called the Fabulous Moolah Memorial Battle Royal. For anyone who doesn’t know, Moolah was a dreadful human being. I’m not polluting this column with details, google if you need to but please be aware it’s unpleasant reading. However, this is where it gets good. The WWE universe was less than happy, and it made its voice heard. On Thursday it was revealed that WWE would call it the Women’s Battle Royal and Stephanie McMahon released this tweet saying that the historic nature of the match was the thing we should all be focusing on.
Ok, it’s not as heart-warming as it first sounds. Fan power had a lot to do with it, via the sponsors – Snickers. It emerged that Snicker had threatened to pull their sponsorship because of the association with Moolah’s name. Fans shout loud, but money is louder. However it came about, the error of judgement is fixed, and the match will be awesome. It will feature women from RAW, SmackDown, and NXT, and possibly even a couple of surprises. WrestleMania is looking like a stacked card this year (seriously, it could easily run seven hours going on the match speculation) so I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a Kickoff show match, but it’s another box ticked.
Asuka was brought out for an interview with Charly Caruso about her decision to choose Charlotte Flair instead of Alexa Bliss at WrestleMania. She didn’t get to explain her rationale because Bliss turned up with Mickie James in tow and told Caruso she would explain on Asuka’s behalf because her English wasn’t very good.
According to Bliss Asuka is a fierce competitor and very smart. She and Mickie James did a little cutesy Q&A bit, which amounted to Asuka only has an undefeated streak because she avoids people she can’t beat, like Bliss. Some people might say it’s cowardly, but it’s just smart strategy to avoid a fight you can’t win.
Asuka responded saying she chose Charlotte because to be the woman you’ve got to beat the woman. She wants to face the best champion in WWE. She reminded Bliss she’s already beaten her once and she can do it again, right now if she wanted to.
Bliss said no, but Asuka gets to fight someone who has unfinished business with her, and tried to bring out what was obviously supposed to be Nia Jax. When Jax didn’t show Bliss shoved Asuka and Mickie James cheap-shotted her.
Asuka Vs Mickie James
In fairness, there probably is some unfinished business there. Mickie James return to WWE was to fight Asuka at NXT TakeOver Toronto. They had a good match there and it was a good match here.
If I’m honest, I see no reason to have Asuka fight between now and WrestleMania. She’s not getting beaten before going into the match with Charlotte Flair. They teased it a couple of times. Asuka kicked a ringpost quite hard and almost got counted out. Mickie James got a couple of near falls, frustration growing with every kick out. But a match loses something when it’s an obvious foregone conclusion.
This one finished with an Asuka Lock. When Mickie James tapped out Alexa Bliss walked off backstage in a strop.
Bliss was shown a few minutes later talking to Nia Jax. Jax told her Kurt Angle had told her not to come out because she had a match. Bliss said she’d set it all up so Jax could make up for her embarrassing loss last week and talked, again, about her letting people down, mixed with a declaration of love. Then she made Jax promise to be in her corner next week when she faces Asuka. I don’t love this toxic friendship/bullying angle at all, and it was going to get worse before the end of the night.
Nia Jax vs Joan King
Nia Jax’ opponent, Joan King, was Shayla Hyde. It was a simple squash match, all over in a few moves.
Jax finished it with a Samoan drop.
Then things got uncomfortable. The cameras cut to Alexa Bliss and Mickie James in the dressing room while commentary announced Bliss was to have an interview with Charly Caruso. The premise was that James and Bliss were unaware their comments were being broadcast, and that Nia Jax could see and hear them.
It started off with Mickie James calling Bliss out for the things she said to Jax last week. Not in the spirit of sticking up for Nia Jax, just in an ‘I can’t believe you got away with it’ way. Bliss said the truth hurts and she could have been meaner. They laughed and joked at Jax expense, with Bliss saying she’s happy just carrying her bags and ‘she needs to be coddled because she can’t handle the truth’. Bliss admitted to using Jax because she is a vulnerable human being. She called her easily manipulated because she’s needy and desperate to have friends like them, and she’s as dumb as she is big. They laughed about Jax’ reaction to Bliss telling her she loves her, then laid out the plan to get Jax to do all the heavy lifting next week and beat her up if she stepped out of line.
At around that point Charly Caruso appeared and told them everyone, including Nia Jax, had heard everything.
Jax started to walk up the ramp and they showed the moment her tears turned to rage. Bliss and James were gone before she got to the dressing room. Nia Jax tore the room apart while screaming.
Alexa Bliss versus Asuka is next week, but I think Bliss may have other things to worry about.
Well, that hit me in the feelings. It was brutal and vile. Most women have known someone like that. A small but significant number have been someone like that. Obviously, this is a scripted storyline, I’m not an idiot, I get that. But it hit close to home and I don’t mind admitting to having turned RAW off for a few minutes after it. That is a credit to the job done by Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, and Mickie James. My single concern is whether there was any coercion to participate in that level of bitchiness (what’s one step up from bitchiness, because honestly that was awful). If all parties were ok with it, then it’s all fine, job well done etc. I hope that’s the case. It wasn’t easy to watch.
Carmella def Naomi
Charlotte Flair came to the ring to meet with Asuka. She said she’s excited and honoured to be facing Asuka at WrestleMania and she wanted to make sure she was stood in the middle of the ring to greet her, woman to woman.
When Asuka arrived, Flair welcomed her to SmackDown and told her to be careful what she wished for. Asuka thanked her.
Flair said one of the questions she is always asked is, what would happen if she stepped into the ring with Asuka, if the queen went one on one with the empress of tomorrow who would back down? And they’re going to get the answer at WrestleMania. Iron sharpens iron and she wanted Asuka to pick her. She got goosebumps at Fastlane because she knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. She’s never faced anyone like Asuka, but Asuka’s never faced anyone like her. At WrestleMania she will end Asuka’s streak and cement her legacy.
Asuka said she chose her because she likes a challenge. Flair is the queen, but she is the empress. And Asuka bows to no-one because no-one is ready for Asuka.
They stared each other down with excited smiles on their faces, until Randy Orton’s music hit and ended the moment.
I love everything about they way they’re playing this. It’s all about mutual respect and wanting to find out who is the best. They haven’t resorted to name calling or cheap shots. There is no need for attacking each other. Asuka chose Charlotte Flair because she is the best champion there is, and Charlotte Flair know that. Flair is honoured to be the one to try to take Asuka’s streak at WrestleMania. It doesn’t get bigger than that. I haven’t decided who I think will come out on top yet. I don’t much care to be honest. But I can’t wait for the match, I think they might just steal the show on a packed WrestleMania card.
Naomi vs Carmella
I have déjà vu, but it’s another singles match so I’ll keep the complaining to a minimum. I’m guessing that if they fight each other enough times it kind of makes it a storyline. During Carmella’s entrance they played a promo of her declaring her entry into the Women’s Battle Royal. This was before the name was changed and the promo contained Carmella calling herself the ‘modern day Moolah’. Maybe just a touch problematic.
Anyway. One on one with no-one at ringside or guesting on commentary, so there was actual focus on the match. They’re definitely building Carmella back up ahead of her cash-in. She dominated the majority of the match. I like the aggressive streak, the viciousness of Carmella’s character now, but I’m still not loving the hair pulling and screeching.
Naomi’s fight back was the way I would have expected the match to go. I’m a little saddened that Carmella is looking strong at Naomi’s expense. I hope there is a payoff for Naomi down the line.
A good match, but short. As Naomi jumped on the ropes Carmella pulled her backwards (by the hair) and slammed her back first into the mat. That was all it took for Carmella to pin Naomi, again.
Dakota Kai def Lacey Evans
Dakota Kai vs Lacey Evans
If you blinked, you may have missed this match. Ok, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. After the initial lock-up Lacey Evans started working on Dakota Kai’s injured arm. Kai managed to twist round and roll Evans up. Match over.
After the match Shayna Baszler came out and advanced menacingly on Kai. She didn’t get a chance to do anything because Ember Moon appeared and started shouting at her. Moon said it doesn’t matter if she has one arm or two. Baszler may have started it but she is going to finish it at TakeOver New Orleans. Then they started to fight. They fought for considerably longer than the scheduled match. Baszler laid Moon out with a punch. Moon struggled to her feet, kicked Baszler in the face, and went for the Eclipse, only to be kicked off the turnbuckle. Dakota Kai saved Ember Moon from injury when she kicked Shayna Baszler away from bending Moon’s arm the wrong way, and Moon managed to hit the Eclipse to finish the segment.
Candice LeRae featured again this week. For some reason, not explained, she was there as backup for Aleister Black. He had a contract signing for his match with Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas at TakeOver, but he got Zelina Vega instead. She shouted at Black’s clam and dismissive nature, then slapped him after he sat cross-legged on the mat to put them on the same level and made some short jokes. He brought LeRae out as he was leaving. She flew at Vega and beat on her from the ring to the announce table and back again. The show closed out with her standing on the stage with Aleister Black.
I said it all last week, I’m not going to go through it all again. I appreciate the need to build the TakeOver match, but there is nothing outside of Baszler versus Moon going on in the women’s division, and there is so much talent in there. There is potential for something with Candice LeRae and Zelina Vega, but we’ll see. I’m looking forward to Candice LeRae getting to fight in her own feuds rather than just being Mrs Gargano.
This week Main Event showed a few stills of Asuka challenging Charlotte Flair for WrestleMania but no other women’s division action.
Mixed Match Challenge
Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
The all SmackDown quarter-final this week. The last same brand quarter-final turned out a lot more serious than a lot of the matches have been, so it was interesting going into this one to see if it had the same effect. Just a quick mention, it’s nice to see how much Beth Phoenix’ confidence has grown on commentary, she’s contributing a lot more and completely holding her own with Corey Graves’ banter.
Lana and Rusev vs Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode
Bobby Roode and Charlotte Flair had co-ordinating robes. She still won’t let him Woo though. Unlike last time, Rusev and Lana were not in matching gear.
The slightest tease on intergender again at the start of the match with Flair shoving Rusev and Lana slapping Roode, although she was aiming for Flair. It doesn’t count until the strikes go both ways. There is also the tease of some chemistry between Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode.
Eventually, they got the match underway. Flair and Lana started. Lana insisted on a test of strength at Rusev’s insistence, which didn’t work out so well. However, with a combination of luck and dirty tactics, Lana dominated a couple of minutes of the match. She even executed her finisher and got a two count. Unfortunately for her she got overconfident and started mocking Flair and Roode, which fired Flair up to fight back, so Lana tagged Rusev in.
Rusev nearly pinned Roode off a massive kick to the head, and he dominated their portion of the match. here was definitely less comedy than in the between brands matches. Seems like there might be a bit more pride at stake when it’s the people they’re in the locker room with ever week.
Roode badly needed a tag, and he got there in the end. Flair came in and took charge of Lana. She was just about to put the Figure Eight on Lana when Rusev dragged Lana away, so Charlotte Flair slapped him. Lana tried to roll her up while she was still distracted. Rusev got back in the ring, face to face with Flair because Roode hadn’t come back in, so she chopped him until Roode snuck up behind him and hit the Glorious DDT for the win.
Next week Asuka and The Miz face Alexa Bliss and Braun Strowman. The second semi-final will be Charlotte Flair and Bobby Roode versus the winner of the 2nd chance vote. You can vote via the Mixed Match Challenge Facebook page.
That’s it for this week’s action. It’s been an interesting one, if not always a comfortable one. I’ll be back next week with all the goings on for WWE’s women, including whether anything is said on RAW by way of explaining the name change for the Women’s Battle Royal. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.