Welcome to this week’s round up of WWE’s women’s divisions. We are now post-WrestleMania, and post brand shake up, so it’s clearly time to build towards the next big storylines. To that end, we had two number on contender’s matches this week and, encouragingly, some build for peripheral storylines as well.
Alexa Bliss def Sasha Banks, Mickie James and Nia Jax
First order of business post shake-up, find a number one contender for the RAW women’s championship. To that end, we got a fatal four way match between Sasha Banks, Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Nia Jax.
Banks and James started the match by throwing a retreating Alexa Bliss into Jax. Bliss rebounded and fell over, Jax didn’t even move. Jax and Bliss ended up outside the ring (thanks to transmission issues I have no idea how) and we got Sasha Banks and Mickie James feeling each other out for while, until Jax pulled Mickie James from the ring, and Banks flew through the ropes to take them both out.
After that the match descended into the expected fatal four way chaos, with all the near misses and close calls and big spots you’d expect. It showcased the high spots of each of the women, and teased at the new feuds available post shake-up. Mickie James and Sasha Banks look like they could have some real chemistry, I’m intrigued by that, and Bliss versus Jax seems to a popular choice on social media.
Alexa Bliss secured the victory through good sense and opportunism. She waited for Nia Jax to remove Mickie James from the equation, and to Samoan drop Sasha Banks, then dropkicked Jax out of the ring and pinned Banks.
Bayley was shown anxiously watching on a screen backstage during the match, waiting to see who she’ll face at Payback, but there was no reaction shot shown when Bliss won.
In a backstage segment Alicia Fox was showing Dana Brooke the video of her getting covered in white powder by a prank present on 205 live last week. Emma joined them and told Fox that Brooke had been laughing about it and showing people all week. Fox got offended, despite Brooke’s protestations that Emma was lying, and stormed off. Emma said that, as Dana Brooke had told her she didn’t need anyone any more, she was going to see if that was true.
After a period where RAW only used the same few women over and over, with part of the women’s roster being sorely neglected, it feels like RAW’s women’s division may be starting to sort itself out.
Charlotte Flair def Naomi
The women’s division got the first two segments of SmackDown this week. Charlotte Flair opened the show demanding a title shot like a spoiled, petulant child. Naomi came out to set her straight. She told her there are no kings and queens in SmackDown Live, just champions. She declared she’s never scared of a challenge and said she’d give Flair the title shot, there and then. Then she hit her. They brawled for a few moments until Naomi threw Flair out of the ring and an official tried to split them up.
Shane McMahon came out to get things under control. He told Charlotte that, despite her pedigree, she had to earn a title shot now she’s on SmackDown. And that she would do that by facing Naomi that night. As McMahon left Flair attacked the champ then threw her from the ring and held the belt aloft. Naomi refused to stay down, got back into the ring and removed Flair to take back her belt.
Natalya was waiting for Shane McMahon when he got back to the office. She angrily informed him that she is the only woman who deserves to be champion. McMahon told her she’d had a chance at WrestleMania, and failed, and that if she wanted a one on one shot she should have asked like Flair did.
Carmella pitched in and agreed that Flair getting a shot was unfair, before Ellsworth piped up and said Carmella was the one who deserved the shot. They were joined by Tamina, who added her own unhappiness to the collective voice. Then Carmella, with Ellsworth in tow, and Tamina were ushered away by Natalya, who said she had a plan.
As Charlotte Flair made her way through the backstage area for her match later that night, the group formed a ‘welcoming committee. Nothing happened, other than Natalya slightly shoulder barging Flair as she passed her, but the threatening undertones were clear.
Charlotte Flair vs Naomi
This has the potential to be a great feud, and this match was a good start. Since the brand split, Charlotte Flair has worked her butt off to deserve every bit of the success she’s had. Naomi is finally getting the opportunities she has waited much too long for. Neither want to give those positions up, and the battle for supremacy is a compelling reason for them to fight.
They’re still feeling each other out a bit, some of the match looked a little more measured and controlled than is ideal, but there’s definite chemistry in the pairing. I’m slightly surprised that the finish was clean. Charlotte Flair pinned Naomi off the Natural Selection.
On her way backstage from the match, Flair passed the group again, and gave them a Wooo.
So, the immediate fallout from the draft has been that the two big swaps between brands, Alexa Bliss and Charlotte Flair, are now the number one contenders for the title in their new brand. I would have liked it to take a little longer, at least for one of them, it all just feels too convenient, like they’ve just swapped places.
Aliyah and Liv Morgan def Peyton Royce and Billie Kay
I love NXT, but there are problems at the moment. This week we got another match between Liv Morgan, Aliyah, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, a combination we’ve seen before, but that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. On this occasion Morgan and Aliyah won, but I’m not sure it furthered any kind of storyline. It’s not their fault, the match wasn’t bad in any way, but there is a limit in what can be achieved in three minutes and thirteen seconds bell to bell, especially in a tag match. For the records, Aliyah pinned Peyton Royce after Liv Morgan stopped Billie Kay interfering.
Royce and Kay are mean girls, Morgan and Aliyah are not, and they all don’t get on. I get that, and fair enough, but the feud isn’t making them look like more credible challengers for Asuka’s title. Nikki Cross, Ruby Riot and Ember Moon all look more credible threats at this point, and Riot has only had one singles match.
The brand split robbed the NXT women’s division of its core, and it hasn’t fully recovered. The one hour time slot is fine if you’re bringing in and trying to establish the odd performer here and there, but it’s not long enough for rebuilding an entire division. There’s insufficient time for character development, and to show in-ring skills, and to build decent storylines, when there is also a men’s singles and tag division to deal with within that hour. Hopefully the women’s tournament will help solve the problem, but right now the division appears disjointed and directionless.
Also on this week’s show there was a nice package with the female superstars talking about Asuka, whose title reign is still breaking records. It was nice to see Daria Berenato included in the package (I believe she is getting a new name soon). The focus of the segment was to display Asuka’s dominance as champion, but also to highlight her increasing arrogance in the role and portray that as a potential weakness. As I’ve said before, the current gulf between Asuka and the rest of the division feels like it’s harmful now. I truly believe it’s time to take the title off her and move her to the main roster.
No women’s division action on Main Event again this week.
All done for another week. Next week we’ll have a look at the first post-WrestleMania PPV, the RAW branded Payback. And, of course, I’ll take you through all the goings on in the women’s divisions for the week. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, drop me a tweet @manda_why.