Welcome to this week’s round up of WWE’s women’s divisions. We were a bit light on matches this week, but high on story development. This was especially true of SmackDown, who have their first brand specific PPV of the year tonight, complete with three women’s matches on the main card.
Nia Jax def Bayley
Bayley took on Nia Jax this week because… umm… it was a match, let’s just be grateful for it. Having beaten Jax twice in NXT Bayley is probably the closest thing Jax has to competition. Even so, the match largely consisted of Jax throwing Bayley around and slamming her into things, with Bayley making brief and spirited, but short lived, comebacks.
The match didn’t get a finish. Bayley managed to get Nia Jax down on the outside, and Jax was about to be counted out, when Charlotte Flair ran down to the ring. Bayley kicked Flair into, and then out of, the ring. Unfortunately for Bayley, it took just long enough for Jax to recover. Bayley turned around just in time to be picked up into a Samoan drop and pinned.
Later in the show Flair paid Sasha Banks a visit while Banks was undergoing physical therapy. She bragged about how much better her career is going compared to Sasha Banks’, and revealed that apparently Bayley was fighting for Banks honour. Flair promised to put Bayley on a couch next to Banks after their title match next week.
Finally, it has been promised, once again, that Emmalina will be on next week’s show. Another fake out would surely just make people angry, but we’ll wait and see.
There’s a lot going on in the SmackDown women’s division, and that’s wonderful to see. With this week being the fast build to the first brand specific PPV of the year there was a lot of storyline to cram in. There are three scheduled women’s matches for Elimination chamber on Sunday. Nikki Bella versus Natalya, Mickie James versus Becky Lynch, and Alexa Bliss versus Naomi for the SmackDown Women’s Championship. Unfortunately, there were no women’s matches this week, but we’ll forgive them in light of what we did get.
First up was a joint interview with Natalya and Nikki Bella. Due to the fact they can’t seem to leave each other alone, they were kept separate. They were asked if they could ever become friends again – a big no from Nikki Bella, and a ‘Nikki has no friends’ from Natalya. Natalya called Nikki Bella a lousy wrestler and accused her of turning her ‘ex-uncle’ Bret Hart against her. Nikki Bella called Natalya a crazy cat lady and accused her of coasting on her family’s coat-tails. As expected, it all got personal and unpleasant. The blurring of fiction and reality in this feud has crossed the line in places. It’s deeply uncomfortable (so, job well done to SmackDown I guess) and I really hope Elimination Chamber is the end of it.
Renee Young hosted a dual contract signing, briefly anyway. Mickie James took over fairly rapidly, and dismissed Young from the ring. Everyone got a turn to speak with James starting things off. She talked about her experience and her conviction that it was her passion which built the women’s revolution. She accused Becky Lynch of trying to erase her contribution and said she has seven years of rage to take out on her. Without Mickie James, there would be no Becky Lynch and the reinvention of Mickie James starts with the destruction of Becky Lynch (not the TakeOver match with Asuka then?).
Lynch responded by telling her she respected her, right up until she teamed up with Alexa Bliss and cost her the title. No-one is trying to erase her, but when it got too tough, James walked away (well, was released but…). She will take James’ seven years of rage, counter it with a lifetime of straight fire, and slap Mickie James back into the past.
Bliss took over from here. She got personal with Becky Lynch calling her low class, and referring to her toxic cheap hair dye. Then she turned her attention to Naomi saying she forgot about her but it’s ok, she’ll beat her on Sunday.
Naomi got the final word, and the first blow to break it down into the predicable chaos. She reminded Bliss that she’s already pinned her twice, and told her to keep underestimating her. She talked about the fact Wrestlemania is in Naomi’s home town this year, and it’s her dream to walk into it as SmackDown women’s champion. Then she signed the contract and kicked Alexa Bliss in the head from the other side of the table. Chaos ensued, and the faces dealt with the heels, who retreated as Naomi’s music played with her and Lynch stood side by side in the ring.
Every one of the three matches in Elimination Chamber has a solid and logical foundation, even though two of them have only have a short build. It’s great, but it does force the question of why only SmackDown seems able to achieve this.
The Nikki Bella and Natalya storyline continued on Talking Smack. While Renee Young and Daniel Bryan interviewed Bella about the interview segment Natalya arrived and started the trash talk. It broke down again and Nikki Bella’s face was smashed into the plexiglass front of the desk. At that point Daniel Bryan intervened and Natalya was removed so Nikki could be checked over.
After Nikki Bella was taken off to be seen by medics John Cena was interviewed. He appeared only mildly concerned about his girlfriend’s injury, and got a lot of criticism on social media because of it. I’m coming out in support of Cena. Having watched a fair bit of Total Divas and Total Bellas his reaction seems perfectly in character. This storyline is not the first time accusations of Nikki Bella being helped out by her boyfriend have surfaced, and they are careful to protect against it, careful to the point of being over cautious. Cena seems to be a guy who controls his emotions very strictly anyway, and his explanation made total sense to me. He wants her to look back and say she did it on her own, and be proud of that, so he has to take a step back.
Liv Morgan def Billie Kay
Not a bad match, short and nothing particularly special, but decent. The finish saw Liv Morgan use Billie Kay to knock Peyton Royce off the apron, then roll Kay up and pin her.
In a later segment, Royce and Kay interrupted William Regal in his office, and demanded a rematch against Morgan for next week. They were told they will have a tag match against her and a partner of her choice. They cackled that Liv Morgan doesn’t have any friends, and left.
I love NXT but I’m starting to get concerned for the women’s division. There is talent aplenty, and a load more waiting in the wings, but very few seem to be jumping out as star players. Obviously, Asuka sits at the top of the tree with Ember Moon and Nikki Cross her closest rivals. Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are best friends and mean girls, and Liv Morgan is the plucky underdog. There’s just no reason to invest in them. There isn’t much in the way of storyline, and interview segments are too short to add much depth to the characters. Asuka has had the title for so long now, and is so dominant, that the women aren’t really fighting for anything. The women’s matches are starting to feel like fillers designed to tick a box rather than an integral part of the set-up.
No women’s action on Main Event again this week
Elimination Chamber Preview and Predictions
Nikki Bella vs Natalya
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James
Alexa Bliss vs Naomi
According to the WWE website, it looks like all three women’s matches will make it onto the main card. That shouldn’t really be noteworthy, but it is and it’s great to see it. SmackDown are really leading the way for the women’s divisions of WWE.
Nikki Bella vs Natalya
This feud needs to be over. Not because it’s been bad, it’s been very well built, but because it’s gotten personal to the point of discomfort and beyond. They now appear to be unable to be in the same place without attacking each other. Natalya comes across as completely delusional and incredibly bitter. Nikki Bella has played the wounded friend card well, but is now stooping to ever more personal attacks as well. It’s time for it to be finished.
As it will hopefully be the feud resolving match, I would expect the moral high ground (such as it is)) to win out. But you just never know.
Prediction: Nikki Bella
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James
Not a long build to this one, but it makes perfect sense. Mickie James sees Becky Lynch as a symbol of the women’s revolution which has written out her contribution. Becky Lynch sees Mickie James as the reason she didn’t win the title back from Alexa Bliss. This is the women’s match I’m looking forward to most of the three. Both women are extremely skilled and experienced, so they should put on a great show. As for who wins, I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel like this feud will be over after the match is done so the result could go either way. At this point in time, I think maybe Mickie James needs the win more.
Prediction: Mickie James
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Naomi – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Naomi has a lot to prove. She’s been in WWE for a comparatively long time now, but it’s never been the right time for her. She’s had illness, injury and problems caused by those around her that have gotten in her way. Somehow it just hasn’t worked out for her. Alexa Bliss has been very dismissive of Naomi, which has just added fuel to her fire, and she’s pinned the champ twice already.
Bliss is champion for a reason though. She’s proved resourceful, and not above cheating if that’s what it takes. I think she’s done a great job as champion, and I don’t think her time is up just yet. It’s Naomi’s first shot at the SmackDown women’s title. I’d like to see her get a run with the belt, but I don’t think it starts at Elimination Chamber.
Prediction: Alexa Bliss to retain.
All done for another week. Enjoy Elimination Chamber, it looks like it should be a really good show, and enjoy everything else the week has to offer. I’ll be back next week to run through all the happenings, maybe we’ll even be discussing Emmalina’s appearance, finally. In the meantime, as ever, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you’d like to discuss, please tweet me @manda_why.