Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Just a standard week for WWE this week, well nearly. There were no PPVs, but the recent UK tournament was shown on WWE network and that featured an NXT Women’s Championship match. More on that later. Let’s start at the beginning, with some interesting developments on RAW.
Natalya def Alexa Bliss
The Riott Squad def Sasha Banks, Ember Moon, and Bayley
The first appearance of by the women’s division was Sasha Banks backstage having a heated discussion with Kurt Angle. There was no sound, but all became clear in the next women’s division segment. Bayley was chatting to Alicia Fox backstage, telling her how good it was to see her. Kurt Angle joined them, welcomed Fox back, then asked to speak to Bayley alone. He said it was about her and Sasha Banks and Bayley said she didn’t want to talk about her. Then he told her she was going to have to team with Banks tonight. They’re much too valuable to RAW to be acting like this, and the Riott Squad are dangerous, so they needed to be on the same page. Bayley protested, but Angle stayed insistent and walked away.
After a long recap of last week’s Alexa Bliss and Ronda Rousey segment – like filling time long – Mickie James introduced Bliss as ‘the one and only goddess of WWE and your three-time RAW women’s champion’.
Bliss thanked her and told her she’s a good friend. James said she deserved it for having her celebration ruined by ‘that angry maniac’ Ronda Rousey. She asked Bliss is she was ok and expressed her surprise that she’s there tonight. Bliss said she’s a champion and a champion bounces back. She’s very glad Kurt Angle is ok, and that he now sees Rousey’s true colours. It seems like the baddest woman on the planet is the most entitled spoiled brat on the planet. Rousey clearly still doesn’t know WWE’s rules because her Money in the Bank cash-in was legal. James added it might go down as one of the greatest cash-ins in history. Bliss said she knows, and what does she get in return, to have to defend her title against ‘the bully’, Nia Jax. As long as Jax’ arm is healed and she’s not still reattaching it from what Rousey did at Money in the Bank.
Bliss went back into the bullying thing, again (please make it stop). She said Jax always makes herself into the victim. She thinks she’s the hero in her own story, WrestleMania was the end of her happy story and Backlash was the sequel. The ‘different’ girl overcoming the pretty, popular, mean girl works in Hollywood but in real life, Bliss is the hero. The crowd booed, and Bliss got annoyed with them, listing her accolades before telling them they can boo if they want, she’s still the champion.
Natalya came out at that point and said the countdown is on, 23 days until her friend and training partner Ronda Rousey comes back to deal with her. Bliss said she was impressed they can count backwards from 30. She’s more surprised she came back from her five-star total divas holiday to come and interrupt her. She moved on to making fun of Natalya posting every detail of her life on social media, then tried to dismiss her. Natalya said she’d spoken to Kurt Angle and they had a match. Oh, and she didn’t come back from the holiday alone. She brought out Nia Jax.
Alexa Bliss vs Natalya
For some reason, they started this during the ad break. When we joined it Bliss was in control and a replay showed her slamming Natalya into the barricade.
After struggling out of Bliss’ submission attempt Natalya went for the Sharpshooter. Bliss got to the ropes and pulled the ring apron up into the ring, which seems to be one of her favourite tricks. While the ref was sorting it out, she kicked Natalya’s previously ‘injured’ leg out from under her then kicked her in the head. Natalya still managed to power out of all of Bliss’ attempts to wear her down.
Mickie James attempted to grab Natalya’s leg as she bounced off the rope after running over Bliss. The roll-up Bliss got from that distraction only earned her a two-count. Nia Jax successfully grabbed Bliss’ leg as she bounced off the opposite corner. Alexa Bliss got up and stared at Jax then turned straight into Natalya’s discus lariat and Sharpshooter.
The post-match was a little odd. Alexa Bliss rolled out of the ring in Mickie James’ arms and there was a show of James cradling her like a baby. It’s of no significance, but it was a strange visual.
The Riott Squad’s pre-match destruction involved Jinder Mahal and Sunil Singh this week. They crashed Mahal’s photo shoot and trashed the camera. Mahal responded with a peaceful gesture and the Riott Squad moved on.
The Riott Squad vs Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Ember Moon
Sasha Banks was brought out first for her team, followed by Bayley. It was clear they wanted nothing to do with each other, standing as far apart as possible and staring each other down before pointedly looking away, while they waited for Ember Moon.
The match itself was decent. The Riott Squad are a good and cohesive unit and they look better every week. Ember Moon is a future multiple-time women’s champion without a shred of a doubt. She’s looked great every time she’s had an opportunity on the main roster. Ember Moon versus Ruby Riott needs to be a decent length program.
Let’s face it though, this match wasn’t about Moon or the Riott Squad. Ruby Riott rolled Sasha Banks up off a Liv Morgan distraction, then the real business of the segment started.
Bayley attacked Sasha Banks from behind within seconds of the pin, beating on her like she’ couldn’t stop. After throwing Banks into the ringpost from inside the ring, Bayley dragged her out and threw her onto the floor then into the steps, twice.
Bayley screamed at Banks about everything she’s done to her for the past few years and said, ‘you think you’re better than me this whole time, you ain’t shit’ – they muted out the last bit, but it was there. The attack was brutal and sustained, and Banks barely had chance to fight back. Sasha Banks had to be attended to by medics after Bayley stormed off. It was interesting to note the crowd reaction, apart from the chanting for tables which was just annoying. They were completely behind Bayley.
In his office, Kurt Angle told Bayley off. Sasha Banks was apparently in the trainer’s room receiving attention. He told Bayley she would have to attend mandatory counselling next week or she’s fired. – How many times have we heard them say they settle things in the ring on RAW? Why is this different?
Becky Lynch def Sonya Deville
There was an interesting little backstage segment with Naomi and Lana. They were arguing about the dance off and were joined by the cast of Glow. After the obligatory mutual appreciation, the Glow cast suggested Naomi and Lana should be working together. They came round to the idea quickly. We’ll have to see where that goes.
Becky Lynch vs Sonya Deville
This came about after Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville crashed Becky Lynch’s interview earlier today. Lynch was talking about how grateful she is for the fan support and how she wants to give them something to show for it. Rose and Deville walked up and made fun of her, saying ‘two wins and she’s Becky Balboa. Lynch said she could see four arms in from of her, which one did they want her to break. Deville stepped and here we are.
I’ve liked Sonya Deville since she first arrived at NXT, it’s great to see her looking comfortable and confident on the main roster. Becky Lynch has refocused and looks better than ever.
The first part of the match was a bit of a back and forth feeling out process with no-one coming out as clearly dominant. Lynch sent Deville over the announce desk as we went to the ads. During the break, Deville threw Lynch into the barricade and she was in control by the time we came back.
It was a good match, but a methodical one. A trade of competencies rather than an all-action thrill ride. That might sound a little negative, it’s not meant to. It was fun to watch. Becky Lynch has years of experience on Sonya Deville, but Deville fights in a style that is slightly different to most of Lynch’s competitors which Becky Lynch seems to enjoy. There is definite potential in the pairing
Mandy Rose got up on the apron as Becky Lynch started to climb the turnbuckle. The momentary distraction was enough to allow Deville to yank Lynch to the mat and try to pin her. She only got two.
While Sonya Deville was beating on Lynch by the ropes, with Rose screaming at Lynch from the outside, Becky Lynch managed to send Deville flying into her buddy. Without giving her a chance to recover, she slapped on the Dis-Arm-Her and Sonya Deville tapped out.
We now have to cover segments involving James Ellsworth because they directly affect the women’s division (honestly, I’m surprised you can’t hear me rolling my eyes – but at least he was interacting with Paige this week). He came out and said a lot of stuff. Apparently, he’s doing misogyny and cringe-worthy attempts at some kind of masculinity as a gimmick now. He was complaining about Asuka spoiling Carmella’s celebration last week and kicking him. He said he wasn’t ready for her last week, but he is now and called her out.
Paige came out instead and revealed that Asuka isn’t there. And that James Ellsworth knew that because he’d run around backstage and checked before he came out to run his mouth. She announced that Carmella will defend her title at Extreme Rules against Asuka. Ellsworth said they both know Asuka doesn’t deserve a championship rematch. Then he suggested it wasn’t the only reason she’d come out, he could see by the way Paige was looking at him that she wanted to ask him out on a date. Paige said, yes, he got her, she was, and suggested next Tuesday. When Ellsworth agreed she pointed out it wouldn’t be with her, and it wasn’t a date so much as a match, with Asuka.
I’m not sure what I think about this. Unless WWE have changed some pretty big boundaries, there are only two ways it can go. Option one is that Asuka comes out and beats Ellsworth in a couple of moves, without him landing a single piece of offence. Option two is that Carmella gets involved before Ellsworth can do anything, either by taking Asuka out before she gets to the ring or pretty much as soon as the bell rings. It would be more interesting to let them fight and have her beat him convincingly because she is the superior wrestler (which she is). But, judging by the Mixed Match Challenge, the most physical he is allowed to get with her is a shove. WWE have done plenty of flirting with intergender, and the women are free to land offensive manoeuvres on the men, but this seems like a long-shot for their first foray of recent years into men being allowed to return the offence.
Candice LeRae def Lacey Evans
Vanessa Borne had one of the reporters outside the performance centre interviews NXT seem to like at the moment. She asked the reporters if any of them could tell her why Kairi Sane dresses like a pirate, then answered her own questions with, ‘no, you can’t, because it’s stupid’. And what’s even worse, is people adore and admire her for it. She doesn’t get it, they should be admiring Borne instead because she’s a vision. So she’s going to take Kairi Sane into the ring and make sure she doesn’t walk out. Then the only person on the posters and selling all the merch will be her.
Candice LeRae vs Lacey Evans
There was a lot of talk in the preview, and by commentary, about LeRae being affected by the stresses of Johnny Gargano’s problems with Tommaso Ciampa. In fact, they went on about it so much that Nigel McGuinness ended up telling Mauro Ranallo to stop giving Candice LeRae an excuse to lose.
As for the match, it was good. Lacey Evans clearly underestimated LeRae to start with, then got vicious as soon as Le Rae took her down a couple of times. She smashed LeRae’s arm into the ringpost then spent most of the rest of the match working it over.
There’s no quit in Candice LeRae. She didn’t seem able to use her left arm after Evans spent such a long time on it, so she used her right and fought back one-armed. Once LeRae started her fightback the many years of experience she has over Evans became evident. Lacey Evans just didn’t have an answer for LeRae’s talent.
Candice LeRae drove Lacey Evans into the canvas face first, then pinned her from a springboard moonsault.
Complete bias here, I adore Candice LeRae. More of that please.
In a post-match interview backstage, LeRae was asked how hard it’s been, with everything she’s been through alongside her husband, to still focus on her career. She said it’s been distracting but she’s learned from the past when she made the mistake of letting everything that’s going on in his life distract her from her dream. She had to re-evaluate everything and, while she’s concerned for him mentally and physically, it’s time to focus on her and her goal. His passion for going after what he wants has inspired her and nothing is going to stop her going after the NXT Women’s Championship.
After the Alicia Fox sighting on RAW, I had hoped we might get a women’s division match on Main Event this week. It didn’t happen, but the women’s division took up a reasonable amount of the recap programming. They covered Alexa Bliss’ road back to the RAW women’s championship, and Ronda Rousey’s suspension, in quite a bit of detail before showing highlights of Alexa Bliss vs Natalya, including some of the chat before it. They also showed highlights of the six-woman tag from RAW, Bayley’s beatdown of Sasha Banks after it, and Kurt Angle’s threat to fire Bayley if she didn’t attend counselling. Interestingly, there was a Sasha Banks hype video on the show as well but separated from the rest of the coverage.
2018 UK Tournament/ NXT UK Championship
Toni Storm def Killer Kelly and Isla Dawn
Charlie Morgan def Killer Kelly
Shayna Basler def Toni Storm
I’m obviously not going to cover the whole tournament here, because there were only three women’s matches, one on night one, and two on night two. The first night match was a triple threat to determine who would challenge Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship on night two. Ok, they’re not normal WWE women’s division matches, but they happened in a WWE ring and have implications for NXT UK, NXT, and/or the Mae Young Classic, so they’re worth a few words each.
Isla Dawn vs Killer Kelly vs Toni Storm – Night one
This originally started as a four-way match with Jinny as the fourth competitor, but she was injured early on and the match was restarted so that could be edited off the show. Jinny is ok, she tweeted as much after the taping. It was a shame to lose her from the match, especially considering her long adversarial history with Toni Storm, but we’ll see her back in a WWE ring sooner rather than later because she’s going to be part of the NXT UK brand.
For those unfamiliar with Isla Dawn and Killer Kelly, I’ve linked their Cagematch profiles, I highly recommend checking them out. Pretty sure anyone reading this is familiar with Toni Storm, but I’ve linked hers too. You’ll learn more about them from that than this match, it was less than five minutes long.
It was a fun match, very fast-paced, and just long enough to make you wish it was longer. Toni Storm pinned Isla Dawn after Killer Kelly had done most of the damage to Dawn and Storm kicked Kelly off the apron.
There was the obligatory stare down between Shayna Baszler and Toni Storm after the match. Baszler looked amused by Storm if anything. Supreme over-confidence.
Killer Kelly vs Charlie Morgan – Night two
Charlie Morgan is another one it’s no surprise to find WWE have an interest in. Do go and check out some of her work if you aren’t familiar with her.
This was a less frenetically paced match than the triple threat and more a battle of skill. Killer Kelly has a viciousness about her and is the more powerful of the two. Charlie Morgan may have the edge on athletic ability.
Not a long match, but an intriguing one. It made me realise I haven’t seen enough of either of these women. Charlie Morgan won by pinfall after reversing Killer Kelly’s suplex attempt.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Toni Storm – NXT Women’s Championship match – Night two
It was extremely unlikely that Toni Storm was going to get a result here. Before the match Storm said she’s been a champion all over the world and she knows exactly what it takes. Shayna Baszler has been in the ring with her before, she knows exactly what she’s about. She was calm and confident as she said she was going to become champion. Still, the chances of someone who isn’t a regular member of the NXT roster winning the belt were remote at best.
That didn’t take anything away from the match, just made it feel like an exhibition match rather than a title fight. It took them a bit of time to get going. Baszler showed Storm a lot more respect than she’s shown some of her opponents, not directly of course, but with how wary she was to dive in.
It was a cat and mouse kind of match. They ended up on the outside after Toni Storm kicked Baszler out of the ring and followed her via a suicide dive. Baszler dodged a kick in front of the barricade and Storm got caught up on it. Shayna Baszler took her down then waited in the ring to see if she’d get the count out. She didn’t, but Baszler was in control when Storm got back into the ring. She took out Storm’s leg with a chop block then focusing in on it, adding to the damage with a stomp on her ankle.
It looked like the ref might have to halt the match because of the ankle injury, but Toni Storm insisted she could continue and began to fight back. It took her too long to climb the turnbuckle though and Baszler climbed up and suplexed her off it.
Toni Storm delivered an air raid crash but couldn’t capitalise and Baszler was straight back to the injured leg. Baszler went for the Kirifuda Clutch, Toni Storm countered. She got the Kirifuda Clutch locked on the second attempt, but Storm got to the rope and rolled out of the ring.
Shayna Baszler followed her out and synched in the Kirifuda Clutch again on the outside. Baszler got back into the ring, but Toni Storm was unable to beat the referee’s ten count. Shayna Baszler retained by count out.
Baszler left the ring but came back and put Toni Storm back in the Kirifuda Clutch just to make a point. Great match from both of them.
That’s it for another week. I’ll be back next week with all the twist and turns in the build-up to Extreme Rules, including Bayley’s counselling session and James Ellsworth versus Asuka. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.