Welcome to another week of action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Like all good weeks, it started with a PPV. Elimination Chamber was SmackDown’s last brand specific offering before WrestleMania (how is it possible that WrestleMania is so close already?), and they made the most of it with three women’s matches on the main card. With a full week of action afterwards as well, we have a lot to get through. Grab a coffee and biscuit, it’s another long one.
Becky Lynch def Mickie James
Nikki Bella vs Natalya ended in a double count-out
Naomi def Alexa Bliss to become the new SmackDown Women’s Champion.
I predicted Nikki Bella, Mickie James and Alexa Bliss. I told you I’m not good with predictions. Now do you believe me? I’m not upset about being wrong, all the matches turned out well and that’s the only thing that matters. For the first time I can remember the women’s division felt like an integral part of the card, rather than a second thought, fill-in or box-ticking segment. All the matches got a decent enough time to tell their stories, and to get the crowd invested.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James
Becky Lynch and Mickie James kicked off the show. As with all the women’s matches at Elimination Chamber, this one had a story to tell, and they told it well. Mickie James is out to prove she is not only still relevant, but that she is better than the new era superstars who are getting the credit for a women’s revolution she feels she is actually responsible for. Becky Lynch wants payback for James costing her the title against Alexa Bliss in their cage match.
They seemed to enjoy challenging each other. Becky Lynch made a show of being happy to be able to show James what she can do. Mickie James looked like she might have underestimated her opponent. Commentary played up the fact James has been away from WWE for seven years (except for the match with Asuka, which never gets mentioned). It was pointed out that she’s been wrestling the independents, but that’s not a part of the narrative they are pushing. They’re going for a youth over experience kind of vibe, I think. It doesn’t really bear close examination, but it kind of works.
It was a solid back and forth match, clearly the first in a series kind of match. The finish came when Becky Lynch reversed Mickie James’ roll-up attempt and managed to hold her down for the three count.
Nikki Bella vs Natalya
I wanted this feud to be over, purely because the realness of the insults has been making me more than a little uncomfortable. That’s credit to the way the story has been built, and to the passion with which Nikki Bella and Natalya have played their parts.
Having been told by Natalya that she is a bad wrestler, Nikki Bella seemed to want to make it a technical kind of match, to start with at least. Natalya was more interested in trying to humiliate and belittle her opponent. The match mimicked the feud in a lot of ways, getting increasingly vicious and bitter. It fell into a brawl on the outside and the ref counted both women out.
Natalya beat on Nikki Bella some more after the bell, then left the ring to walk away. Bella chased her up the ramp and delivered a huge spear. Natalya ran backstage as Nikki Bella took the plaudits from the crowd.
It’s clearly not the end of this feud. In fact, it wasn’t even the end of the action for the night. A backstage segment later in the show saw Nikki Bella being interviewed by Renee Young. Natalya attacked her mid-sentence and they brawled until separated by officials
Alexa Bliss (C) vs Naomi – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
This took its rightful place on the card, the last match before the Elimination chamber match. Both women in this match had a lot to prove. Alexa Bliss may have been very vocal in asserting that she’s the best there is, but she’s still the new kid in town and that has to play on her mind. Naomi is the veteran ‘also ran’, perpetually overlooked and underappreciated, desperate to show she shouldn’t be overlooked any more.
It was the only one of the three women’s matches I thought could have been given a bit more time, but they used what they had well. The PPV overran by a few minutes so it is conceivable that their time was cut down a little. A lot of attention was drawn on social media to a couple of spots that looked to have gone awry. Considering the amount of content within the match, I think that’s more than a little unfair. Both women are tremendous athletes, and that is the kind of match they had, scrappy and brutal looking in places with plenty of the more athletic moves on display.
The finish came quite suddenly. Naomi hit a moonsault, Bliss kicked out and went for Twisted Bliss but Naomi got her knees up, went back up to the top and hit another moonsault for the win.
Renee Young did an in-ring interview with the new champion immediately after the match. Naomi was clearly emotional as the crowd chanted, ‘you deserve it’, but she told them that she’d envisioned this moment for years and she’s taking the title home to Orlando Florida, to WrestleMania.
I’m very happy for her, but there is still a long way to go before WrestleMania. I’m not sure she should be that confident that she’ll still have it then.
On the Talking Smack following Elimination Chamber, Mickie James and Alexa Bliss blamed their losses on the weather, not feeling great, not sleeping well… you get the picture.
Mickie James got on her soap box about this generation of women wrestlers being disrespectful and not giving her generation the respect they deserve, then promised that both her and Bliss would ‘fix’ their losses.
Naomi was a guest as well. She talked about her match being cut at WrestleMania 29, and the possibility of going into her hometown WrestleMania as SmackDown Women’s Champion. They talked about the support Naomi has received from the WWE universe, how grateful she is and how it motivates her. When Daniel Bryan asked about Alexa Bliss being entitled to a rematch before ‘Mania, Naomi said bring it on, she’ll do whatever it takes to make sure Bliss is in top condition so there can be no excuses this time.
Bayley def Charlotte Flair to become the new RAW Women’s Champion
Well, Emmalina arrived. She walked out as far as the stage, and said, ‘for 17 weeks you’ve waited for the makeover of Emma to Emmalina well, here I am. And now you’ll see the makeover from Emmalina to Emma.’ Then she left.
There are rumours aplenty about why the Emmalina gimmick appears to have been dropped. Some say she couldn’t carry it off convincingly, some say she just hated it, some say it was agreed that it just didn’t suit her. Whatever the truth is, I’m pleased
Bayley said, in a backstage interview, that she was nervous, but good nervous. She’s in the same position as Lita and Trish Stratus, she’s in the main event of Monday night RAW. She talked about everyone doubting her and telling her she doesn’t belong. But she believes in herself. She came close in the rumble but second time round she would achieve her dream.
Cesaro and Sheamus seem to have adopted Bayley, they were show giving her a pep talk in a backstage segment.
On her way to the ring Charlotte Flair was shown talking to Sasha Banks. Flair told her if she owned the company she would have her banned for destroying moral because she’s a constant reminder of how quickly people can fall from grace. Judging by the expression on Banks’ face, her turn is imminent now. Let’s face it, it’s long overdue.
Charlotte Flair (C) vs Bayley – RAW Women’s Championship match
Personally, I’m enjoying Flair versus Bayley more than Flair versus Banks, and I thought this was another great match. It may have main evented RAW, but it would have sat comfortably on any PPV card. Like any good storyline, there is an element of truth to the writing, or at least a plausibility. Charlotte Flair does have the lineage and genetic privilege, she was handed an opportunity which she had to grow into. Bayley has dragged herself into the position she’s in through hard work and keeping hold of her childhood dream.
That was the story of the majority of the match. Charlotte Flair trying to prove her all-round superiority, and Bayley trying to show she’s no pushover. Flair used a lot of physical domination moves, while Bayley employed clever reversals. There was a selection of big spots, like Flair’s moonsault off the barricade, and Bayley’s ‘Macho Man elbow’ from the top rope. And there were the expected array of near falls and close calls. Happily, even during the biggest spots I didn’t feel like someone’s life may be in danger.
It looked like it might end badly for Bayley when Dana Brooke interfered. That would have been a shame. Bayley dealt with the first interference, but after the second one Sasha Banks came down to the ring to take out Brooke with the crutch she has been using while her knee recovers. That’s fair enough, but she didn’t stop there. While Flair had Bayley in the figure eight, Banks hit Flair in the chest with the crutch. Bayley didn’t see it, and neither did the ref.
Moments later Bayley hit the Bayley to belly and pinned Charlotte Flair to become the new RAW women’s champion.
I’m happy to see Bayley with the belt, but I’m a little sad about how it happened. The storyline consequences make complete sense. Banks will be able to use the fact her interference was a deciding factor to claim a title shot. Flair will use it as evidence that Bayley couldn’t really beat her. Bayley’s reaction is unlikely to be one of gratitude, which will further fuel Banks eventual turn. Trouble is Flair lost the belt on RAW again. There was no massive PPV celebration for Bayley’s first championship win on the main roster, just a Monday night crowd. Flair’s PPV streak is still currently unbroken. I’m guessing the rematch will be booked in for Fastlane, the final PPV stop before WrestleMania, so we’ll see what occurs there.
Mickie James def Becky Lynch
Nikki Bella and Natalya had another circular insult match culminating in Natalya attacking her again. This time the location was Daniel Bryan’s office. In full dad mode Bryan shouted at them that they will be having a falls count anywhere match next week.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James
A rematch of Sunday’s Elimination Chamber match. I always feel that the following show is too soon for the rematch, it seems rushed, but maybe that’s just me. It was another good match, I don’t think these two will have a bad one, they have a nice dynamic already.
It was another match of equals who are desperate to prove superiority, back and forth with no-one staying on top for too long. This time the result went the other way, Mickie James faked an injury, then kicked a distracted Becky Lynch in the face while the ref was calling for a doctor. That’s one match each within the space of a few days.
The new SmackDown Women’s Champion was interviewed in the ring, by Renee Young. Naomi revealed she is carrying an injury. The injury occurred in the Elimination Chamber match against Alexa Bliss, but Naomi didn’t notice it until after the adrenaline subsided. The crowd chanted, ‘you deserve it’, but for some reason neither Naomi nor Renee Young acknowledged them. She said it had taken her eight years to get to where she is and she’s taking the title home.
Of course, she was interrupted by Alexa Bliss. Bliss accused her of making the injury up to avoid the rematch and told Naomi she just got lucky at Elimination Chamber. After another barrage of disparaging comments Bliss said Naomi had until next week to either give her a rematch, or give her the title. I’m not sure that’s how it works. In fact, I’m pretty sure an injured superstar needs to be medically cleared, and the opponent is not the one who makes the call on whether a champion is stripped. However, it seems that, while the injury was legitimate, Naomi will be fine to compete.
On Talking Smack Alexa Bliss reiterated her accusation that Naomi is faking the injury to avoid their rematch. She went on to say that Naomi shouldn’t be proud of getting to the top after eight years of trying, because it just meant she was celebrating eight years of losses.
Peyton Royce and Billie Kay vs Liv Morgan and Ember Moon
Peyton Royce and Billie Kay Demanded this match after Liv Morgan beat Kay last week. When it was set as a tag match by William Regal, Royce and Kay were confident that Morgan didn’t have any friends to ask. I think they were the only ones surprised that Ember Moon was Morgan’s partner of choice.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce are a well practised tag team, so they had a bit of an advantage. Ember Moon dominated both of them for a while though, then tagged in Liv Morgan. After the tag, Billie Kay took Ember Moon out of the match with a big boot that knocked Moon off the apron to the floor. With Moon unable to help, Kay and Royce double teamed Morgan and Kay pinned her.
In a later segment, William Regal said that Ember Moon, Peyton Royce and Liv Morgan will compete in a triple threat match next week. The winner will become the number one contender and face Asuka the following week. Should be a fun match, I fully expect Ember Moon to walk away with the victory. Asuka versus Ember Moon is already long overdue. My only question is, why Peyton Royce over Billie Kay?
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the NXT women’s division has been struggling for a while now, and it’s not really a surprise either. They lost Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss and Carmella, closely followed by Bayley. And only a couple of months before that Emma and Dana Brooke migrated to the main roster. That’s a lot of talent to lose in a short time.
The addition of Ember Moon and Nikki Cross is the start of the resurrection of the division. Liv Morgan, Billie Kay and the others are emerging slowly, but Cross and Moon are the dynamic personalities the division needs right now. The next TakeOver will be the day before WrestleMania, and I firmly believe that is the time to take the belt from Asuka and reintroduce competition into the roster.
No Women’s action on Main Event this week again.
And that’s everything. We have a week’s respite before the next PPV to preview, so next week should be a little calmer, but we’ll see. Whatever happens, I’ll be back next week to round up all the action from the week’s programming. In the meantime, if there is anything you want to discuss, or anything you’d like me to cover, tweet me @manda_why.