Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action in WWE’s women’s divisions. In addition to the first post-WrestleMania PPV, it was apparently show off the rosters week. Everyone who is healthy on the active rosters made an appearance this week, and a few new faces as well. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s start with Payback.
Alexa Bliss def Bayley to become RAW Women’s Champion
On the pre-show Sasha Banks was very vocal in support of Bayley, but there were a few hints dropped about possible interference in the match. I suppose we should have known then that it wasn’t going to happen. I’m actually glad it didn’t, the match really didn’t need it.
As Bayley made her entrance commentary announced that 25 of her family and friends were at ringside to watch her. At that point the sinking feeling of inevitability started.
Bliss’ character work is impeccable. From covering her ears while the crowd chanted for Bayley during the introductions to using Bayley’s hair as leverage for the whole of the five count on a few occasions, to throwing a tantrum when things weren’t going her way. And the match was great. Both women played their parts to perfection. Alexa Bliss was all spite and entitled viciousness, while Bayley was the picture of wholesome determination.
Bliss kicked out of the ‘Macho Man elbow’ which originally won Bayley the title. Bayley avoided or subverted Bliss’ finishing attempts. And there were periods where either could have believably taken the win. In the end, Bliss threw Bayley into the ringpost as she kicked out of a pin attempt. She held onto Bayley after Bayley failed in a roll up, and a DDT finished her off. Alexa Bliss became the first woman to win the title on both brands.
On the RAW talk after Payback, Alexa Bliss complained about the lack of celebration for her history making moment. She laboured the point to spoilt brat proportions, then pointed out that while everyone was talking about the four horsewomen, she was the one who achieved it.
Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Alicia Fox and Emma def Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke and Mickie James
The entire women’s division opened the show this week, many of them apparently there under duress, to celebrate Alexa Bliss’ championship win at Payback. Bliss declared that the queen is dead and she is the first goddess of WWE. Then she went through the rest of the division to give her ‘thanks’ to them individually.
First, she called Mickie James old, then reminded Sasha Banks that she pinned her to become number one contender in the first place. Unsurprisingly she didn’t have anything bad to say about Nia Jax. Then she climbed the podium and turned her attention to Bayley. After Bliss talked about watching Bayley’s family in the front row at Payback, and her nephew’s crying when Bliss pinned her for the title, she told Bayley they finally had a real role model to look up to. At that point, Bayley tipped her off the platform and a free for all brawl broke out.
When we got back from the ad break the tag match had begun.
Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax, Alicia Fox and Emma vs Bayley, Sasha Banks, Dana Brooke and Mickie James
This was announced as an impromptu tag match, despite the fact Alexa Bliss had announced it and mentioned tagging with Nia Jax during her earlier tirade. That aside, the match was decent. I’m not normally a big fan of these huge tag matches, but post-shake-up it made sense to do it once. All eight women featured in the tag match, and they got the first half hour of the show. Ok, so it was still just one match, but having them all together set out the current heels and faces situations nicely, and gave us a chance to see some of the dynamics at play. It’s not something I’d want to see every week, but it was a fun match.
Predictably, it descended into chaos a couple of times. The most interesting thing about it was seeing some of the possible feuds in the division. Mickie James vs Emma looks like it could be good. Alicia Fox is looking better than she ever has, and her versus Sasha Banks could be interesting.
The finish of the match was always going to be Alexa Bliss versus Bayley. When Sasha Banks tagged Bayley in she was full of fire and desperate for retribution. It would have been a fairly straightforward win, but Nia Jax broke up the pin attempt off the Bayley to belly and chaos broke out.
Somehow the ref missed Bliss raking Bayley’s eyes, but she followed the eye rake up with a DDT and pinned Bayley for the win.
RAW have stepped up with their women’s division post shake-up. Giving the women the first half hour of the show, and potentially building multiple storylines for the division is a huge step forward. So far, the division has focused almost exclusively on the title picture, and anyone outside that has been left by the wayside. Hopefully that is beginning to change.
Carmella and Natalya def Naomi and Charlotte Flair
Becky Lynch was met in the corridor by ‘The Welcoming Committee’. Natalya said they’d heard her call them snakes, but they’re just trying to protect her. She reminded her that Charlotte Flair has repeatedly stabbed Lynch in the back and, as the first female SmackDown draft pick, she should be getting the title opportunities. Carmella chipped in that no-one has anyone’s back but they are trying to change that, before Natalya urged her to join them. Lynch said she’d never thought of it like that, and asked them to let her think about it.
Immediately before the match Charlotte Flair said, in a backstage interview, that the Welcoming Committee just stopped the inevitable. It doesn’t change the fact she’s on SmackDown live. She might be tagging with Naomi that night, but the SmackDown women’s championship is her destiny. At that point she was attacked by Natalya, Tamina and Carmella and thrown into the ever present packing boxes. They left her laying on the floor holding her ribs, as Naomi’s music hit in the arena.
Naomi and Charlotte Flair vs Carmella and Natalya (with James Ellsworth and Tamina)
Charlotte Flair didn’t come out after Naomi so, once her opponents were in the ring, the ref made sure Naomi was prepared to go ahead in a two on one situation then rang the bell.
Naomi was doing well, until Natalya caught her doing a baseball slide, and slammed her head into the steps. With no-one to tag, and no chance to recover, Natalya and Carmella quickly got the better of her. Despite her attempts to fight back, it was looking like they were going to beat on her until they were ready to pin her, until Charlotte Flair limped to the ring holding her ribs.
Naomi tagged Flair and she came in all fire and aggression, periodically holding her ribs as a reminder of the earlier attack. Flair’s energy burst lasted just long enough to let Naomi catch her breath and she came back in revitalised. She got Carmella into position to pin her, off the Rear View, but Natalya was distracting the ref. Naomi kicked Natalya off the apron, then went to deal with James Ellsworth who had climbed onto the apron. While she was distracted Carmella rolled her up and pinned her.
After the match Carmella, Natalya and Tamina attacked Naomi and Flair. Becky Lynch’s music hit and in she came. She looked down at Flair laying on the mat, seemingly in pain, then told the Welcoming Committee she was in. She shook hands with the three women and held her arms out to hug Ellsworth. As he came in for the hug she threw him into the women and forearmed Natalya. It was a nice thought, but she was quickly overcome by numbers. The segment finished with the Welcoming Committee standing tall.
On Talking Smack the cracks in the Welcoming Committee started to show. They reiterated their position on Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, then Renee Young asked them who should be number one contender. Carmella and Natalya both want the shot, and both think they deserve it. They kept dragging themselves back to the respect and integrity between them, but the seeds are sown.
There was a match on NXT this week, and it was a big one, but we didn’t really get a proper result. The match was a 15 woman battle royal to decide the number one contender to face Asuka for the title at NXT TakeOver Chicago. It was a good opportunity to see some of the NXT talent who are not regularly making TV yet (and one or two who I don’t believe are signed yet), and the depth of talent in that ring was astounding. Based on that, and with the women’s tournament participants yet to be announced, NXT’s women’s division has a bright future – always supposing it’s built correctly of course.
Everyone you’d expect to be included was there; Billie Kay, Peyton Royce, Liv Morgan, Aliyah, Ember Moon (minus her red contacts), Nikki Cross, and Ruby Riot all took part. The numbers were made up by Lacey Evans (was Macey Estrella), Sarah Bridges, Sonya Deville (was Daria Berenato), Rachael Evers, Bianca Blair, Victoria Gonzalaes, Kimberly Frankele, and Candice LeRae, Some very exciting prospects for the women’s division amongst those names, I’m sure you’ll agree. Personally, I’d love to see Candice LeRae and Rachael Evers as NXT regulars, and I’ve been a fan of Sonya Deville since her first appearance.
The match was your typical free for all with bodies flying everywhere, many of them dispatched by Peyton Royce and Billie Kay working together, until the seven regulars were left. Aliyah went out next, eliminated by Nikki Cross, as was Liv Morgan a short time later. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were the next to go, both eliminated by Ember Moon.
Ember Moon, Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot were the final three, and they quickly set about showing us what a good triple threat that would be. But that was as narrowed down as the field got. Asuka appeared, knocked Moon off the top turnbuckle, and threw her from the ring into the barricade. The fall looked nasty, like she may have been supposed to hit the corner post but missed, and may have resulted in an injury to Moon (see below). Asuka then took out Ruby Riot and Nikki Cross with kicks, screamed ‘no-one is ready for Asuka’, then left the ring.
Ember Moon was left writhing on the floor outside the ring, with Cross and Riot laid out inside. Nikki Cross managed to crawl to the edge of the ring and laugh at Moon, then William Regal appeared on the stage. An angry looking Regal informed the crowd that the match for NXT TakeOver Chicago will be a fatal four way. Asuka will defend her title against Nikki Cross, Ruby Riot, and Ember Moon.
It seems like the perfect solution to take the title from Asuka. She is facing, arguably, the three most credible challengers in the division, and she doesn’t have to be pinned to lose the championship. Asuka could then be shipped off to the main roster without losing any of her super-strong build. However, rumours have surfaced that Ember Moon suffered a legitimate injury and will be unable to compete at NX TakeOver Chicago. She was seen holding her shoulder after Asuka threw her from the ring, and has been pictured at the performance centre wearing a sling. At the time of writing, no official comment has been made by WWE.
Also this week: WWE.com released a getting to know you interview with Lacey Evans which is well worth a read.
This week’s Main Event didn’t have any original women’s division action, but did recap the RAW segment.
Well, that was a bit of a week, and it’s not long now until NXT TakeOver Chicago and SmackDown’s Backlash PPV. I’ll be back next week with the build towards that, and all the other goings on in WWE’s women’s divisions. 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.