Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. This week there will be ranting. Quite a lot of ranting. I’m sorry. I like to keep this column quite positive, a record and commentary on everything going on in the women’s divisions. A nice reminder that there is a women’s division in WWE worth talking about across all three brands. But this week WWE let some of its women down, and it needs to be discussed. It’s not all negativity though, I promise.
Sasha Banks won the gauntlet match to qualify for the Money in the Bank ladder match
Nia Jax had a squash match, or she was supposed to. Ronda Rousey’s theme cut over hers before she was halfway down the ramp, as Rousey joined commentary. Instead of the match, Jax decided to give Rousey a demonstration.
She told Rousey she was glad she was there because she gets to show her exactly what she’ll do to her at Money in the Bank. First she asked her opponent, Michelle Webb (indie wrestler, Madi Maxx – credit: Squared Circle Sirens for the identification) to do that thingy Rousey does, an armbar – as if she’d forgotten. When she did, Jax picked her up while still in the hold, and slammed her to the canvas. Jax said that, as we could see, the armbar didn’t mean much to her. She encouraged Webb to get up then demonstrated the Samoan drop.
That still wasn’t enough for Jax. She told Rousey she could get a pin from that but she wasn’t done, then demonstrated the leg drop. Jax still wasn’t done. She told Rousey the ref could count to twenty, thirty, forty even, Webb wasn’t getting up. Apparently, the leg drop could crush a woman’s chest. And so could the rolling senton she delivered for her final demonstration. Nia Jax finished up by asking Ronda Rousey to come and help Webb and refused to allow the ref to help her.
Throughout the demonstration Rousey had looked amused but not impressed. She didn’t back down from the challenge, but by the time she got to the ring, Webb was nowhere in sight.
Jax and Rousey stared each other down and Jax commented on Rousey giving her the intimidating look she’s heard so much about. She doesn’t find it intimidating, she finds it quite humorous. Then she laughed in Rousey’s face (bad fake laugh), called her cute, and turned her back on her as she walked away.
It’s a weird character switch. In the feud with Alexa Bliss, Jax was painted as the victim of prolonged and vicious bullying. She won the title as a confirmed babyface. Suddenly, she’s all heelish and there’s no obvious reason. It started last week with Jax admitting that she’s trying to make a name for herself off beating Ronda Rousey, but Rousey hasn’t actually done anything to provoke her. Jax challenged Rousey, Ronda Rousey even tried to protest that there were other people who deserved it more. Jax has got cocky and arrogant out of nowhere. I guess it is yet another thing where we have to see how it plays out and hope we get an explanation somewhere down the line.
Right, let’s talk about the gauntlet match. What a disappointment. Earlier in the year, the men had a gauntlet match. They were given over an hour and it was one of the most incredible things RAW has done for a long time. So when a gauntlet match was announced to decide the final Money in the Bank entrant, I was excited. Big mistake.
It was announced that the women would main event the show. That’s great in a normal match, but in a gauntlet match you want an uncertainty about how long it’s going to last. By the time Bayley’s music finally hit as the first entrant, there was half an hour left before the show went off the air. Even then there was a pre-match interview and her opponent’s entrance. When you factor in the celebrations at the end, they got just over 20 minutes bell to bell. Six matches, twenty minutes total. There were five entrances in that time as well as the in-ring action. Quite simply, it wasn’t good enough. The women did a great job with what they were given, but they were badly let down by WWE on this occasion.
Anyway, here’s how it all happened.
Money in the Bank qualifier – Gauntlet match
Bayley was the only one of the women in the match not to have cut a promo for it during the show (they were nothing special, no info worth reporting, they all think they’re going to win), so it was no surprise she was out first and given an in-ring interview. She was asked about the disadvantage of being first in and said the odds were against her but she’d never run away from a fight in her life and she’s not going to start now. She made a direct comment to each of her potential opponents, in the order they ended up coming out. Her first opponent was Liv Morgan.
Bayley vs Liv Morgan
The bell rang and Bayley hit the Bayley to belly. Match one done.
Bayley vs Sarah Logan
Second match, second Riott Squad member. This wasn’t quite a one move wonder, although Bayley did try. It was a fun two minutes. Logan looked pretty good, but Bayley got the pin.
After the match, Liv Morgan got back into the ring and she and Logan beat Bayley down and left her laying in the ring. No prizes for guessing who the next opponent was.
Bayley vs Ruby Riott
Bayley was clearly weakened by the Riott Squad attack and Ruby Riott took full advantage of that. She did her best for the full two minutes before Ruby Riott caught her with the Riott kick and pinned her.
Ruby Riott vs Dana Brooke
Another match that lasted a minute or so. Dana Brooke got a few moves in then ate a Riott kick and got pinned.
Ruby Riott vs Mickie James
Finally, a match that lasted longer than two and a half minutes. It got seven-ish, but there was an ad break in the middle.
Mickie James took control as the fresh competitor, but to be honest Riott had barely broken a sweat by this point. James is having a much-underrated run at the moment, she looks good every time she’s in the ring, and she makes her opponent look good in the process.
Ruby Riott only pinned her by using a handful of tights. It seems important that the victory wasn’t clean, we’ll see if anything comes of it.
Ruby Riott vs Sasha Banks
The final match of the night and they did save the best for last. It was about the same length as the previous one, but we did get to see all of it. Riott had a bit more justification for being tired by this time. Banks went for the early pin attempts, but Ruby Riott had enough left to keep kicking out. Riott managed to get to the ropes when Banks attempted the Bank Statement and countered with a pin attempt of her own.
Riott took control of the middle portion of the match. She had a couple of good chances, her best coming as a result of a DDT and a kick to the face. Fatigue meant she took too long though and Banks got back into it.
The way Banks got back into it was by pulling Ruby Riott’s head down against the turnbuckle, while she was standing on the middle rope, and kneeing her in the face before delivering a powerbomb. Riott kicked out but Banks got the Bank Statement in. She had to break the hold to deal with Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan’s attempt at interference, and nearly got rolled up, but she kicked out and went straight back to the Bank Statement.
Ruby Riott tapped out. Sasha Banks moves on to the Money in the Bank ladder match.
As I said in my ranting preamble, the women did a great job with what they were given. But what they were given was woefully inadequate.
Asuka def Mandy Rose
Paige had a backstage segment with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. They’ve turned into proper mean girls since Paige ditched them to become SmackDown GM. They fake-sympathised with her being under so much pressure and suggested that’s why she’s making so many mistakes recently, like giving opportunities to people who don’t deserve them – like Asuka. Paige pointed out Asuka had a two-and-a-half-year undefeated streak. They said all she’s done lately is lose her streak to Charlotte Flair and lose her first match on SmackDown. There are far more deserving women out there, like them. Paige ‘agreed’ they were deserving and gave Mandy Rose a match with Asuka later.
Naomi and Lana had a dance off. I might still be in a bad mood from the gauntlet match, but this doesn’t seem like the best way to build anyone up. Naomi was SmackDown Women’s Champion and she’s great. Since then she hasn’t done so much mainly tagging with Becky Lynch and acting as backup for Charlotte Flair, but it’s not like any of the SmackDown women’s roster have been swimming in storylines. She could use some matches though. Fans could always use a reminder of how good people are. Lana has barely wrestled. We could argue from here to the end of time about whether she should be in the Money in the Bank match – if you’re into that, you’ll find it on Twitter – but the fact is, she’s in. She desperately needs ring time, dancing is not the answer. No-one is making their case as a Money in the Bank winner in a dance-off.
Lana and Naomi were both in their ring gear. Lana was accompanied by Rusev and Aiden English. Naomi brought the Usos out with her. There was dancing, there was some trash-talking. Naomi was better by a country mile. Then they shook hands and danced together. Then Lana attacked Naomi and it descended into chaos. Lana slapped Jimmy Uso. The Usos superkicked Rusev and English out of the ring. Naomi hit Lana with the rear view and kicked her out of the ring. I’m still not sure they achieved anything much in the way of storyline or character development.
Next week there will be a mixed tag match. Naomi and Jimmy Uso versus Lana and Rusev.
Asuka vs Mandy Rose
Carmella joined commentary for the match. Her calling Corey Graves out for worshipping Mandy Rose more than her amused me, and it cut down Graves slightly skeevy comments. It did mean they talked to Carmella through most of the match though instead of commentating on the match.
Sonya Deville attacked Asuka from behind when she was halfway down the ramp. Asuka got in the ring anyway and took a lot of punishment from Mandy Rose before she got herself together.
Asuka made Mandy Rose look great in this short match. Rose had the majority of the offence in the first half and even had a couple of pin attempts. After yet another annoyingly placed ad break (yes, I understand why they do it. Yes, it’s still annoying) Asuka fought back into it and took over.
At the finish, they tussled on the mat for a while, with Rose desperately trying to avoid the Asuka lock. But Asuka got it synched in and Mandy Rose tapped out.
After the match, Carmella climbed slowly into the ring, stood toe to toe with Asuka and raised the belt over her head while looking her up and down. Nothing else happened. Asuka just looked at her until she walked away. But Carmella is definitely believing her own hype.
Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch were shown watching backstage. Flair said Asuka is going to become SmackDown Women’s Champion at Money in the Bank. She can see it now, Asuka wins the championship at Money in the Bank, she wins the contract, and the stage is set for a WrestleMania rematch.
Becky Lynch said she could just see a wall and got Flair to keep looking to her left until she was looking at her, then told her she was now looking at the actual winner of this year’s Money in the Bank contract. Last year she was fingertips away from grabbing the title, and this year nothing is going to stop her. Now even Flair.
Flair said that’s what makes it so hard. She knows how much Lynch wants to win. She wants Lynch to win. But as bad as Lynch wants to win Flair needs to win, she needs the contract and she needs to get her title back. And because she’s in this match, she’s going to win.
Lynch said, ‘not this time, with all due respect, this is my year’.
Paige had walked across the back of shot while they were arguing and wandered over to comment. She said this was getting good and she loves this competitive spirit. It’s what they need to bring the contract back to SmackDown Live. She reminded them about team PCB and said they were great memories. Then she said it had given her a great idea, it was teatime. She tried to make them do the gesture, then gave up and wandered of telling them to keep it up.
Charlotte Flair versus Becky Lynch was confirmed for next week. If there are no interruptions that will be superb.
Shayna Baszler def Dakota Kai
Early in the show, they showed a hype package for Dakota Kai versus Shayna Baszler. Beautifully put together as always. It showed how Baszler has bullied Kai, and how Kai is starting to stand up for herself.
Lacey Evans was interviewed about because she and Kairi Sane have another match next week. They currently hold one victory each, so this will be the decider. Evans said she expects it to end the same way as last week, with her victorious, because she does whatever it takes to win. She doesn’t care that Sane won the Mae Young Classic because she has a Woman’s Right with Sane’s name on it.
This week also featured the in-depth look at Bianca Belair. They are always good, and I heartily recommend seeking it out. Belair is going to be a huge star in WWE and it was interesting to learn more about her family background, athletic achievements, and work ethic.
Shayna Baszler (C) vs Dakota Kai – NXT Women’s Championship match
The women main evented this week, as a title match should. Dakota Kai tried to style out her nerves when she got to the ring. Unfortunately, as soon as Baszler got up close to her Kai backed off and let Baszler back her into a corner.
Baszler capitalised on Kai’s fear and bullied her with leg kicks and rubbing her forearm across Kai’s face. Kai tried one offensive move and Baszler took to stamping on her leg.
She worked Kai’s leg and taunted her about being the captain of team kick, immediately squashing any sign of resistance or fightback from Kai. Dakota Kai showed good resilience though, even getting to the ropes while in an ankle lock.
It was getting depressingly one-sided when Kai landed a kick to Baszler’s head which seemed to rock the champion. A beautiful flurry of offence from Kai got Baszler down but she was too slow from the beating she’d taken to really make it count.
Shayna Baszler caught her and dropped her awkwardly in the Kirifuda clutch and Kai had no choice but to tap out.
After a brief celebration, Baszler put the Kirifuda clutch back on Kai and Nikki Cross ran in to make the save.
She dragged Baszler off Kai by her hair and screamed at her while the crowd chanted ‘Nikki’. Baszler took her title belt and backed out of the ring.
When she’d turned her back and was halfway up the ramp, Cross ran after her and stole the belt. She laid it in the ring and told Baszler to come and get it. When Baszler stooped to pick it up, Cross snatched it back.
Nikki Cross screamed at Baszler to give her a title shot, tonight, and named Dakota Kai as referee. Kai played along looking perplexed. Cross handed her the championship and when Baszler tried to retrieve it from her Nikki Cross hit her with The Purge and Kai counted the pin.
Cross celebrated like she’d legitimately won the title and ran off to celebrate in the crowd with the belt. I desperately want to see it for real. The show closed out with Nikki Cross leaving with the belt, still celebrating as Baszler protested from the ring. Her expression turned serious for a moment and she mouthed something that looked like, ‘Your move’.
I had been wondering how they were going to set Baszler up at short notice with a TakeOver opponent. Dakota Kai is brilliant, but she hasn’t exactly been built as a serious contender. The match this week showed her getting over her terror at Baszler’s mere presence, but it didn’t give her enough time in the fight back to establish contender credibility (I’m not disputing that she has it, Dakota Kai is great, she just hasn’t been presented strongly enough to warrant it). And there is no reason for her to be given a rematch, Baszler beat her clean.
Nikki Cross is, and has always been, the obvious choice. Baszler’s style is so methodical I’m really not sure what kind of strategy she’ll come up with for Cross. I should probably wait for confirmation before I get overexcited about this match. I do adore Nikki Cross though.
No original women’s division action on Main Event this week, but they did show highlights of the gauntlet match, including the majority of Ruby Riott vs Sasha Banks.
I’ll be back next week with all the action as WWE continues to build to Money in the Bank, and hopefully a TakeOver match announcement. I have an interesting little extra planned as well, but we’ll see if that pans out. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.