Welcome to this week’s round up of all the action from WWE’s women’s division. It’s a long column this week, there’s a lot going on at the moment. All three brands are building to one of the biggest events of the year, RAW and SmackDown to SummerSlam, and NXT to TakeOver Brooklyn. TakeOver happens the day before the next column, so this week there’s a preview and prediction for that. We’ve also got the Mae Young Classic coming up fast, so we have more competitor information. Basically, there’s a lot to get through. Grab a coffee and let’s get on with it.
Sasha Banks def Alicia Fox and Emma
Nia Jax def Dana Brooke and Mickie James
A few hours before RAW began, WWE announced that Bayley’s medical assessment has ruled her out of SummerSlam with a separated shoulder. As a consequence a new number one contender will need to be chosen. To achieve that they set two triple threat matches for this week, the winners of which will face off next week to determine who gets the championship opportunity against Alexa Blass at SummerSlam.
This is a neat solution to keep interest in the women’s title match high until a few days before the big event. I’m fairly sure at this point Bayley’s injury is storyline (although I ran a twitter poll and most people who voted disagree). It doesn’t ring true that a separated shoulder would take a week to diagnose. I hope that’s the case. A worked injury taking Bayley out of SummerSlam can be used for a big comeback push without costing Bayley months of her career and the pain of rehabilitation.
Bayley came out before the first of the matches to talk about how upset she is that she’s unable to compete at SummerSlam. She said she knew something was wrong straight away, but had to finish the match or no-one would take her seriously as a threat to Alexa Bliss. Normally she’s a happy person but she sat on her sofa feeling sad, angry, and bitter. She started to thank the WWE universe for tweeting her and sending well-wishes, at which point the crowd started booing. I’m not sure why, and Bayley seemed confused and upset by their reaction.
They moved on to talking about the matches that would decide her replacement at SummerSlam. Bayley was asked who she wanted to replace her. Unsurprisingly she picked Sasha Banks, who then came out to start the entrances for the first match. Banks and Bayley hugged and exchanged a few words before Bayley left the ring.
Sasha Banks vs Alicia Fox vs Emma
Alexa Bliss joined commentary for the match. They talked about Emma’s social media campaign to be given more screen time, and got Bliss’ thoughts on various other subjects. Happily, they did actually talk a bit about the match. Some of Alicia Fox’s moves are truly beautiful to behold, she’s been taken for granted because she’s been there for so long, but I genuinely think she’s better now than she’s ever been.
It wasn’t the longest of matches, but it was very entertaining. Everyone wanted the quick pin, so it was two counts and broken pin attempts galore. Emma seemed to be the favourite with the crowd. I’m not surprised, she’s looking focused and vicious, and worthy of the opportunities she’s been asking for.
I think we all had a hunch we knew how this one was going to end though, and we weren’t wrong. The finish came when Emma broke up Sasha Banks attempt to get Fox to submit to the Bank Statement. She tried to roll Banks up, but Banks countered and locked her submission in on Emma instead. Emma tapped before Alicia Fox had time to do anything about it.
Mickie James vs Dana Brooke vs Nia Jax
Alexa Bliss, once again, joined commentary to discuss her potential competition. This match was shorter than the first, 3 minutes or so, and consisted primarily of Brooke and James trying to knock Nia Jax down, and Jax throwing them around. Mickie James and Dana Brooke had a few moments to slug it out when they got Jax out of the ring, but it didn’t last.
For the finish, Jax threw James out of the ring, levelled Brooke, and hit her with a leg drop.
Nia Jax and Sasha Banks will face off next week to see who takes on Alexa Bliss at SummerSlam.
Charlotte Flair def Lana
Carmella def Naomi – non-title match
This week on SmackDown we got not one, but two singles matches. Someone is listening to me (they’re really not, but I’ll take the coincidence).
Charlotte Flair vs Lana
Before the match we saw a clip of Lana telling Tamina she wants to be a more ravishing and charismatic version of her, and that she was going to challenge Charlotte Flair for this week.
Flair seemed fairly amused that Lana had the audacity to challenge her, and she used to short but sweet match to show her why. Lana messed up and pulled Flair’s shorts down at the back, producing a crass ‘thank you Lana’ chant from the crowd. I wouldn’t mention it, but it was near enough Lana’s best offensive move of the match.
I like that Lana’s greenness is part of her gimmick, it makes matches where she’s outclassed ok. It must still grate on the experienced women sat twiddling their thumbs while Lana is getting opportunities, but it’s an ok storyline. As expected, Charlotte Flair outclassed Lana in every way for around two minutes, then put her in the figure eight and made her tap out.
After the match there was another segment with Lana and Tamina in the locker room. Tamina said it was Lana’s ambition not her wrestling ability that got her three back to back title shots, now Lana can help Tamina get hers.
Naomi (C) vs Carmella – non-title match
I’m not sure how this was supposed to work, with Carmella having the MITB briefcase. Surely, if she beat Naomi and thought the champion was sufficiently weakened she could cash in and pin her for a second time. That seemed to be commentary’s understanding as well. Anyway, this match was requested by Carmella as a result of Naomi making her tap out in the tag match last week.
Carmella has improved significantly since her main roster call-up, and her composure seems to have improved in the month that Ellsworth has been missing. She was actually fairly dominant for periods of this, admittedly fairly short, match. Naomi had pulled it back, and was in the ascendency, when Carmella had to be dragged away by the ref while pulling Naomi’s hair in the corner. Then came the shenanigans.
Unfortunately, it seems that James Ellsworth’s suspension is up. He appeared from under the ring and caused Naomi to lose her balance, get caught on the ropes, and walk straight into a superkick from Carmella.
Natalya was shown watching during Naomi vs Carmella. She cornered Carmella and Ellsworth backstage to warn them not to get involved in her title match at SummerSlam. Carmella postured with the briefcase and told Natalya she didn’t know what she was so nervous about. Then she, and Ellsworth, wished Natalya luck at SummerSlam and told her they were counting on her to win. Natalya looked concerned as they walked away laughing.
Becky Lynch didn’t appear at all this week. I’m told she wasn’t at live events either. I haven’t heard anything suggesting she’s injured, hopefully she’s just having a well-earned week off.
No women’s division action this week. It’s disappointing, but with only an hour per week and a lot of business to get through it’s understandable. We did get a little build towards a feud between the iconic duo and Ruby Riot.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were about to give a make-up tutorial when Riot walked into shot. Instead of delivering their cosmetic wisdom, the duo spent the next minute or so making unpleasant personal comments about Riot’s appearance, then turned off the camera.
Not my favourite segment – looks based insults – come on ladies, be better than that, please.
NXT also announced a contract signing between Asuka and Ember Moon for next week’s show. That will be the go home show for TakeOver, so it should be interesting.
Main Event gave a quick recap of the women’s division action on RAW, and its implications for SummerSlam, but there was no original women’s division action.
Mae Young Classic
Just a couple of weeks now until the first round of Mae Young Classic matches land on the network. As promised, here’s a short intro to some more of the competitors we’ll be seeing.
Kavita Devi: Is the first Indian woman to compete for WWE and owes some of her training to The Great Khali. She’s one of the least experienced competitors, I couldn’t find any record of her having any actual matches before the tournament but everyone has to start somewhere I guess. Her background is in weightlifting.
Dakota Kai: Previously known as Evie. She’s a former SHIMMER tag champion, with Ruby Riot. She made a losing appearance on NXT against Nia Jax. And she’s worked for promotions across Australia, New Zealand, The USA and Japan, including Shine.
Candice LeRae: One of my favourite wrestlers in the tournament. LeRae is an intergender specialist who has competed against several current male WWE superstars, including husband Johnny Gargano. She is one half of the world’s cutest tag team, with Joey Ryan. She has 15 years’ experience behind her, and is as tough as they come. If you only find time to YouTube a couple of candidates, make sure Candice LeRae is one of them.
Lacey Evans: Previously known as Macey Estrella. Evans has a military background, she was a police officer in the marine corps. She’s been seen several times on NXT, and has worked the NXT live shows fairly regularly. One of the powerhouses of the tournament, she might be a performance centre original with less experience than some of the other competitors, but she shouldn’t be underestimated. WWE clearly see big things in her future.
Reina Gonzalez: Her father is indie wrestler Ricky ‘Desperado’ Gonzalez. She’s a performance centre original with very little experience, just a handful of NXT live event matches before the tournament. One of the tallest competitors, at six foot, she has a background in college basketball. She auditioned for Tough Enough in 2015.
Rhea Ripley: Previously known as Demi Bennett. At 20 years old, Ripley is the youngest in the competition. She has four years in-ring experience, wrestling in Australia and Japan, and a background in soccer. Athletic and highly motivated, Ripley will be looking to make a fast impression.
NXT TakeOver Brooklyn III
Asuka (C) vs Ember Moon – NXT Women’s Championship match
As mentioned above, there is still an episode to go before NXT TakeOver. The contract signing for this match is due to take place, and there is always the possibility that something will occur to change the way the outcome looks. But this is my take on it as it stands now.
I have to admit I thought Ember Moon would take the title from Asuka last time they fought. Obviously, I was wrong. I’ve been under the impression she’s the natural successor to Asuka since before her debut, the way the promo videos built her suggested that was her role. I haven’t changed my mind about that. And I think it’s the right time.
A few days before TakeOver Asuka breaks the final record to become the longest reigning champion in the modern-day WWE (8th in the history of the company). This milestone is a definite honour, putting her in the record books, but it’s also a signal that it’s time for a change. She’s broken all the records for length of reign and longest undefeated streak. There is nothing to be gained from her holding the championship any longer. She’s been ready for the main roster for a long time, and either brand would be lucky to have her. I’m not sure if she’ll go up straight away, but I suspect she’ll go to RAW when it comes to her move (I’d rather see her on SmackDown, but I think RAW need her more. My worry is that we’ll just end up with last year’s NXT title picture replicated on RAW).
Ember Moon’s fight back from the injury which took her out of the last TakeOver has given her a new hunger, and I think that will be the difference maker. She proved a couple of weeks ago that the Eclipse was capable of laying Asuka out, all she has to do is hit it.
Prediction: Ember Moon
That’s it for this week. I told you it was a long one. Next week will be much the same as we recap TakeOver, and preview SummerSlam, in addition to the normal business of the week and introductions to the next batch of Mae Young Classic competitors. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you’d like to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.