Welcome to another week of WWE women’s division action, and what a lot of action there was. Royal Rumble was a fantastic start to PPV season proper. Having three women’s matches should be celebrated, even if two of them were on the kick-off show and there was no defence of the SmackDown women’s title. It’s frustrating that representation of the women’s divisions doesn’t seem to be quite fair yet, but WWE have come a long way, these things take time – apparently.
Naomi, Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella def Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya
Nia Jax def Sasha Banks
Charlotte Flair def Bayley to retain the RAW Women’s Championship
Three women’s matches on the first PPV of the year isn’t bad, even if two of them were on the kick-off show. Two of the matches were from the RAW brand and one from SmackDown, yet SmackDown still managed to use more of their roster and further the storylines.
Naomi, Becky Lynch and Nikki Bella vs Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya
The SmackDown women put on a good showcase. It was the first action of the kick-off show so there were some big gaps in the crowd, but the ones who had filtered in by then got a really entertaining match. Everyone got a bit of everyone else and there were the obligatory spots involving everyone. As it was the SmackDown roster, everyone got to come out looking good. There’s a great dynamic between the SmackDown women, and this match served to build on the existing tensions. Nikki Bella and Natalya still haven’t resolved anything, Becky Lynch took punishment from everyone, Mickie James got involved several times when she shouldn’t have. For a match with nothing at stake, they sold their storylines brilliantly.
In the end, Naomi pinned Alexa Bliss for the win.
It feels like it might be Naomi’s time. She’s had a lot of time away, first with injuries, then with undisclosed personal issues. Total Divas viewers will know she’s had some health issues in the past as well. Combined with the stigma of being associated with Cameron, and the fallout from the Funkadactyls, the timing has just never seemed to work out for her. But she’s back now and she’s looking fit and ready. The fact she pinned the SmackDown women’s champion surely must be an indication that she is going to get her long overdue run in the title picture.
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
I’ve heard this referred to as a squash match, and to be fair it wasn’t far off. Banks threw herself at Jax from every conceivable angle. Jax kept catching her and slamming her into the corner, or the ropes, or the mat… you get the idea. Sasha Banks did get Nia Jax down at one point, courtesy of double knees from the corner, but she appeared to hurt herself in the process. After only a few minutes, Nia Jax dropped Sasha Banks with a Samoan drop and pinned her.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Bayley – RAW Women’s Championship match
I love Bayley. She’s a good wholesome female role model, in a world which desperately needs more of those. The entire storyline has been based on Bayley trying to show that being ‘just Bayley’ is good enough, and by proxy that every little girl is good enough.
Charlotte Flair walked into the Royal Rumble having won 15 straight PPV matches. Her counter-argument is that her genetic superiority means Bayley can never be in her league. She believes herself to be the most gifted athlete, of either gender, in the WWE.
Unsurprisingly, they were up first. The crowd reaction Bayley gets makes her an ideal PPV opener, and they put on a match that definitely got the crowd engaged. I really enjoyed the match. Bayley seems a little more robust than Sasha Banks so, while the two women still pulled out all their biggest moves, I didn’t fear that someone might get legitimately hurt. At some point, Flair ended up bleeding from the mouth, and Corey Graves even referenced it.
Flair taunted Bayley throughout the match in true heel champ style. She’s clearly very comfortable in the role now, and the PPV setting brings out the best in her. Bayley switched it up for the big stage as well. There was much less of the fun and games we would normally associate with her style, and a lot more focus.
Bayley’s time will come, I’m sure of that, but it wasn’t going to be at her first PPV attempt. I’d be very surprised if this wasn’t the feud that carried over into WrestleMania.
After a hard-fought match, Charlotte Flair hit Natural Selection on the apron to retain the title.
I predicted Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch et al and Charlotte Flair, so I got two out of three. I’m quite pleased with that. I’m not sad about the one I got wrong. I’m hoping that this is the start of Sasha Banks reverting to a character more akin to her NXT persona. Good girl Sasha Banks just doesn’t work for me.
Bayley, Sheamus and Cesaro def Karl Anderson, Luke Gallows and Charlotte Flair
Nia Jax def Sasha Banks
In a backstage segment Bayley gave Cesaro and Sheamus a pep-talk to get them ready for their 6 person mixed tag match. Their group hug was interrupted by Charlotte Flair, with Gallows and Anderson. Flair labelled the match ‘Champs versus chumps’, a few insults were exchanged, and that was that.
I don’t really understand what mixed tag matches achieve, other than absolving RAW of the need to use their women’s roster properly. They can’t/won’t/shouldn’t do intergender matches, so it all seems a bit pointless. I did enjoy Cesaro wearing Bayley tassels, and the look on Sheamus’ face during their entrance.
As for the match itself, Charlotte Flair interfered on behalf of her team once. Then, right at the end, they came in for just about long enough for Bayley to pin Flair off the Bayley to Belly.
Sasha Banks was featured in a backstage segment, having her leg strapped up before her rematch with Nia Jax. Bayley came in and suggested Banks wait until she’s healed before trying to get her revenge on Jax. Banks responded that she has everything to prove because, unlike some people, she’s not ok with coming up short.
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Well, the rematch didn’t go much better for Sasha Banks than the first one. This time she got swung against the ringpost for a bit of variety on the throwing around.
The bell rang without it being called for while Jax had Banks in a submission hold. Jax refused to break the hold while the ref went to investigate and Banks appeared to pass out. She released the hold briefly, then reapplied it on a seemingly unconscious Banks. At that point Bayley ran down to the ring to force Jax to let Banks go.
After the match Bayley and a medical person were shown helping Sasha Banks to the treatment room.
A confusing segment, I’m sure there is more to come there, I’m just not sure what.
Carmella def Delilah Dawson
Naomi and Becky Lynch def Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
Carmella vs Delilah Dawson
Carmella got a local talent match this week. Her opponent, better known as Delilah Doom, has previously appeared on RAW under the name Rachael Levy as one of Nia Jax’ squash match opponents. Carmella was accompanied, and introduced, by James Ellsworth. I’m not sure what’s going on there but we won’t dwell on it. I could have done without JBL referring to Dawson as ‘a blue thing’, and also without Ellsworth interfering in the match. It doesn’t look great if you give one of your stars a ‘local talent’, then make it appear that she needs help to beat them. Carmella won with the Code of Silence, after Ellsworth’s interference.
It was all a bit odd, I think Dawson came out of it looking better than anyone else.
Becky Lynch and Naomi vs Alexa Bliss and Mickie James
As a follow up to the six women tag match at Royal Rumble, we got a four woman tag match on SmackDown. It does make sense in the context of the storyline. Becky Lynch is still upset about Mickie James costing her the title, and therefore has a problem with both women. Naomi pinned Bliss at the rumble and is making her own bid to be in the title picture.
In a backstage interview the match was framed as Becky Lynch’s chance for revenge and Naomi’s chance to prove for a second time to Bliss that she’s not a nobody.
I haven’t got a bad word to say about the match (yes, I know there was a botch or two, but so what). It was a decent length, high energy match with a huge amount going on. Both teams worked well together, and giving them a respectable amount of time meant that they got to develop the storyline within the match. There’s so much talent in the SmackDown women’s roster now, and Mickie James has added a little, much needed, depth.
Just as she did at the Royal Rumble, Naomi got the win for her team by pinning Alexa Bliss.
On Talking Smack Naomi talked about her passion for her work, and Daniel Bryan confirmed she would get a title shot at Elimination chamber
In an office based segment, Natalya and Nikki Bella were informed by Daniel Bryan that they would settle their feud at Elimination chamber. I’m glad they’re getting the match, but I have mixed feelings about the nature of the feud. They work beautifully together, and the addition of personal details has added a viciousness to the whole thing. At the same time, that blurring of storyline and personal attack has been a little uncomfortable to watch in places.
Ember Moon def Aliyah
I’ve often said that the babyface or heel debate doesn’t matter that much. Aliyah has started to make me rethink that position. I’m just not sure what she is from one match to the next and it bugs me.
Anyway, it was her turn to go against Ember Moon in a bid to sort out the pecking order in the NXT women’s division. The match opened the show, as seems to be the pattern recently, and they kept the energy high. Whatever her character inconsistencies, Aliyah is smooth and entertaining to watch in the ring. Ember Moon, however, is still undefeated, and it’s becoming clear that her long awaited challenge to Asuka is coming up. After a decent, if unexceptional, match the Eclipse finished Aliyah like it has finished everyone else.
In Asuka’s post TakeOver match interview she was told that Ember Moon had called her out. Asuka responded with ‘Ember who? Does she work here?’
Ember Moon was given the opportunity to respond in a backstage interview. She said she was glad Asuka won the four-way, because she wants to be the one to dethrone the empress, and when they’re done Asuka will know exactly who she is.
No women’s action on Main Event this week.
That’s everything for another week. If you made it all the way through, thank you. As ever, if there is anything you’d like to discuss, or anything you want me to cover, tweet me @manda_why.