Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s division. With no PPVs to preview or review this week, I thought it was going to be a short and sweet column this week. SmackDown had other ideas. I’m not complaining, it’s great to have something to write about, and there was definitely plenty going on this week. So let’s get on with it.
Nia Jax def Sarah Pierce
Sasha Banks def Charlotte Flair
Bayley’s address to the WWE universe was advertised with Bayley reading out her school project, and then a run-down of last week’s match when she won the title. The interference was, obviously, heavily featured, and followed up with a shot of a tweet from Charlotte Flair demanding Bayley relinquish and give her back her championship.
Nia Jax vs Sarah Pierce
Another squash match for Nia Jax. It’s better than her not being used at all, and it gives someone who otherwise wouldn’t be on RAW to make an appearance. This week’s lamb to the slaughter was billed as Sarah Pierce. She is indie wrestler Heather Monroe. For the sake of the records, Nia Jax won the match with a Samoan drop.
In a post-match interview, Jax was asked for her thoughts on the controversial finish to the Bayley vs Flair match last week. She said the only controversy was that she hasn’t had a title shot yet. After spelling out what she would have done in that situation, she said she’s putting the champ on notice.
Bayley addressed the WWE universe with a cute, and emotional, speech about fulfilling her dreams and making her dad proud. She talked about growing up in California and only ever wanting to be a WWE champion, and how that dream came true last week. The first thing she did after her match was call her dad. She revealed he was in the audience and her voice broke as she said the words, dad I did it. As she talked about Charlotte making the interference her excuse for getting beaten again, Stephanie McMahon’s music hit.
Stephanie McMahon came to the ring to lay the guilt trip on Bayley. She tried to convince her that giving up the title was the right thing to do. She called Bayley’s victory ‘tainted’ because Sasha Banks cheap-shotted her opponent. The guilt was piled on by talking about how many people look up to Bayley, including the McMahon children, and how it was because she had uncompromising morals. She’s too good to hold a championship she didn’t really earn. She doesn’t want to win that way, she’s better than that.
Bayley removed the belt from her waist and held it by her side. Stephanie McMahon said handing the belt over would make Bayley the hero for kids to look up to. Bayley looked to be struggling to make a decision, then Sasha Banks joined the conversation.
Banks told Bayley she couldn’t let her give up everything she’d worked for, she’s like a sister to her. But if she didn’t want to listen to her she should listen to the crowd, who were quick to back her up. McMahon countered by saying that Sasha Banks only wanted Bayley to keep the title because she knows she can beat Bayley.
Bayley stopped her and said Stephanie had a point, she didn’t want it to look like anything was handed to her. For a moment it looked like Bayley might hand the belt over to Stephanie McMahon and forfeit the title. She didn’t. Instead she pointed out that, however it happened, she pinned Charlotte Flair in the centre of the ring, and it was the third time she’d done it. She won it for the WWE universe and she will defend it any time and any place, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.
Charlotte Flair came out to say she was happy Bayley had decided not to relinquish because she was going to beat her for the title at Fastlane. Sasha Banks interrupted and challenged Flair to a match, there and then. And that’s what we got.
Charlotte Flair vs Sasha Banks
Ok, so we were told we wouldn’t be seeing this match again for a while. But Banks did hit Flair in the chest with a crutch last week, and potentially cost her the title, so I think it’s reasonable.
Bayley joined commentary for the match, so most of it was spent talking to her about what had just happened with Stephanie McMahon, and what might happen at Fastlane. All the while, there was a match going on. It was exactly what you’d expect. Decent, good chemistry, occasional moments where you wondered if someone was going to get hurt. Absolutely nothing bad to say about it, it was a Sasha Banks versus Charlotte Flair match – simple as that.
Dana Brooke ran down to interfere when it looked like Flair was starting to struggle, but Bayley was too quick. She ran from commentary and floored Brooke before she could do any damage. While Flair was distracted by the goings on outside the ring, Sasha Banks hit the backstabber into the Bank Statement and Flair tapped out.
Alexa Bliss def Becky Lynch for the vacated SmackDown Women’s Championship
SmackDown started on a sad note this week. Naomi was called to the ring by Daniel Bryan. The camera focused heavily on her knee brace as she climbed into the ring, and at that point we all realised what was coming. Bryan talked about how hard she has worked, how she’s been overlooked, and how proud he is that she’s made it to the top. The crowd started a ‘No’ chant as he explained that medics had confirmed she would be unable to defend her championship within the required 30 days. Then he told her that he had to ask her to relinquish the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
An emotional Naomi talked about how good she felt winning the title, how devastating it is to have to give it up. She noted that as soon as she gives the title up her WrestleMania moment is probably going to go with it. Then she handed over the belt.
After a hug from Bryan, Naomi promised to make everyone ‘feel the glow’ when she comes back, and left the ring.
Alexa Bliss’ music hit while Naomi was half-way up the ramp and Bliss made her way to the ring. She made the predictably disparaging comments about Naomi’s speech, then got straight to business. Bliss told Daniel Bryan that all she’s wanted for the last two weeks is her rematch but Naomi hasn’t been able to give it to her. She pointed out they can’t be without a champion in the run up to ‘mania and suggested the solution was to give her back the belt.
At one point Alexa Bliss appeared to threaten the whole crowd for ‘what’ chanting her, which amused me greatly.
Daniel Bryan said that, as former champion, it made sense for him to give her back the belt. But he wasn’t going to do that. He was going to give her an opportunity instead. Then he set a title match, to start immediately, against Becky Lynch.
Alexa Bliss vs Becky Lynch – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
I guess this was the logical match to have for the title. After all, Becky Lynch was cheated out of the title on her last attempt by Mickie James (as La Luchadora). And it was a really good match, I just feel like I’ve seen it a lot recently. It’s a consequence of the brands having such small women’s rosters, there isn’t any way to mix it up outside the established feuds. SmackDown do a great job of using all their women, but the trade-off is that you see a lot of rematch and rematches of rematches.
The upside of this is that the women get to know each other really well, and the matches improve as a result. These two have a nice in-ring chemistry, and they showed of their knowledge of each other with a match full of countering each other’s attempts at offence. It was a battle of equals, with Becky Lynch just about having the best of it especially towards the end.
During an attempt to get away from Lynch, Bliss pulled part of the ring apron into the ring. While the ref was distracted by trying to move it Bliss raked Becky Lynch’s eyes, then rolled her up with a handful of tights for good measure.
After Bliss left the ring, she was congratulated at the top of the ramp by Mickie James. James then ran down to the ring and tried to ambush Becky Lynch. They exchanged a couple of blows, then Becky Lynch kicked her out of the ring.
The women’s roster got the entire first quarter of this week’s SmackDown, and that wasn’t the only action from the women’s division.
Natalya was interviewed backstage ahead of the falls count anywhere match against Nikki Bella. When asked how she felt about the amount of support Nikki Bella has received from the WWE universe, she responded with a tirade of accusations centred around Bella being fake in every way. She described her as having been manufactured in a lab for Instagram likes, and talked about her fake smile and silicone insincerity.
Just before the match, Nikki Bella was asked for her thoughts going into it. She said she had been feeling bad for Natalya but not anymore. That’s over, like their friendship. She added that there’s a reason they call her fearless, she was the longest reigning Diva’s champion for a reason. And if we it had got ugly between them before we should stay tuned, because after tonight Natalya would forever be known as the broken heart.
Nikki Bella vs Natalya – Falls count anywhere match
Was there anyone who thought this was going to be anything other than vicious? It took about a minute for the toys to come out, starting with a kendo stick. Nikki Bella gave Natalya a few whacks with it, then they were off into the crowd. Barricades featured heavily in the first part of the match, with bodies bouncing off them right left and centre.
Whatever your thoughts on this feud, they have certainly done a good job of making it look like they want to hurt each other.
Inevitably, the match headed backstage. They threw each other into everything available. Maryse got caught in the crossfire again. Last time she ended up covered in make-up, this time she was floored by Nikki Bella as a result of Natalya swinging her by the head. In return, Bella put Natalya’s head through a mirror.
They made their way back out to the arena. Nikki Bella delivered a spear on the stage area, and got a two count. Natalya tried for a sharpshooter near the bottom of the ramp, but Bella reversed into a fearless lock. Before Natalya could tap out, Maryse appeared and started laying into Nikki Bella with a pipe. She carried on until Miz came and dragged her away. The attack weakened Bella sufficiently for Natalya to get the pin.
I’m assuming this is the start of the long-rumoured build to Nikki Bella and John Cena vs Miz and Maryse. I hope I’m wrong, but the evidence seems to support the rumours (especially considering the interactions between Cena and Miz in the main event). I’m sure it will be fine, I’m just not a fan of WWE style mixed tag matches. It’s just my personal opinion, but I tend to find the switch between partners kills any momentum. You can’t wear your opponent down then tag in a fresh partner because the person you just spent all that time weakening is also replaced by a fresh partner. Inter-gender matches flow better, but I’m not sure how achievable that would be in a PG environment.
Becky Lynch came on and talked about Naomi, giving her some truly glowing praise. Daniel Bryan asked her about the ending of the title match, and if Lynch felt cheated. Lynch remarked on how Alexa Bliss always finds an underhand way to beat her, but blamed herself for not being prepared for it. They moved on to Mickie James and her vendetta against Lynch. Becky Lynch said she doesn’t understand why she’s been singled out, then asked for another match. Bryan wouldn’t be drawn on a definite yes or no, but I imagine it will happen.
Daniel Bryan talked about the women’s division on Talking Smack, addressing his comments to RAW general manager Mick Foley. He pointed out that, not only did the women get the entire first hour of the show, including a title match, they also had a falls count anywhere match. The total time amounted to more than half the show.
Peyton Royce def Liv Morgan and Ember Moon
Ember Moon has, so far, not delivered on the hype which accompanied her arrival. It’s not her fault, she hasn’t really been used much. Sadly, this match didn’t go her way either. It was a triple-threat, but Moon really wasn’t in it much. Peyton Royce took her out early on by throwing her into the steel steps, and she was repeatedly prevented from getting back into it. Smart strategy by the other two.
Peyton Royce and Liv Morgan had a decent match, with just enough involvement from Moon to stop it feeling like a repeat of the rest of their matches. Towards the end of the match Moon got into the ring just in time to do the ‘tower of doom’ spot. She hit the eclipse on Billie Kay who had entered the ring to interfere, then got thrown out of the ring by Liv Morgan. As Morgan turned back to Royce she was hit with a jumping knee followed by a bridging fisherman’s suplex and pinned.
Peyton Royce will now face Asuka next week.
In a backstage interview, Royce said she would already be champion if it wasn’t for Nikki Cross, she won because she got a fair shot and, as she’ll get a fair shot next week, she’ll win the title. We’ll see.
No women’s action on Main Event again this week.
Another week done. I think this week’s SmackDown might be the most the women have ever been used in a single episode of any WWE show. I could be wrong, but I can’t think of another example. I look forward to the day that the women getting equal time isn’t a noteworthy thing. I’m not sure it will ever come, but we can hope. Next week, in addition to the usual programming, we’ll preview Fastlane – including my very hit and miss predictions. In the meantime if there is anything you want me to cover, or anything you’d like to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.