Welcome to this week’s round up. WrestleMania season is here. This is the last column before NXT TakeOver, which of course means a preview and prediction. Next week’s column will be WrestleMania day, and will feature all the ‘go home’ shows to the big event. But before that, we still have the pre-mania twists and turns to look at, including a very different kind of build for a match from SmackDown. Shall we begin?
Charlotte Flair def Dana Brooke
Nia Jax def Bayley
Charlotte Flair vs Dana Brooke
This has been a long time coming. Dana Brooke became Charlotte Flair’s protégé way back in May last year, and the dissolution of their working relationship has been teased on and off ever since.
Brooke started the match releasing some of the resentment she’s clearly been bottling up again Flair. She looked good in this match, I was more impressed than I’ve been previously. Despite having the best of the offence throughout the short match, Brooke didn’t emerge victorious. A big boot from Charlotte Flair finished the match. It would be easy to see interference from Brooke playing a part in the ‘Mania match.
In a second backstage segment, Bayley was confronted by Stephanie McMahon. She turned down McMahon’s sarcastic offer of a hug and then told her that she used to admire her, until she watched McMahon use her power to hurt people since she’s come up to the main roster. In retaliation, Stephanie McMahon set a no disqualification match between Bayley and Nia Jax, for that night. A Nia Jax win would put her into the RAW Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania, making it a fatal four-way.
Bayley vs Nia Jax – no DQ
Both Charlotte Flair and Sasha Banks were shown watching the match on separate screens backstage.
Bayley took it to Nia Jax straight from the bell, but it didn’t take long for Jax to turn things round in her favour. She made an error of judgement when trying to run into Bayley against the steps, Bayley moved and Jax hit the steps herself. They chose that moment to go for an ad break so we’ll never know if it slowed her at all, but by the time we came back, it was all Nia Jax. Apart from a few minor resurgences from Bayley, that’s how it continued. Nia Jax won the match to get herself a place in the WrestleMania title match. Charlotte Flair looked particularly unhappy with the result, Sasha Banks looked oddly pleased.
Also on RAW, there was a lovely tribute video package for Mae Young as part of women’s history month.
Becky Lynch vs Carmella – no contest/no official decision
Miz and Maryse did a ‘lost episode’ of Total Bellas on SmackDown this week, to add ammunition for their WrestleMania match against Nikki Bella and John Cena. A lot of people liked it. If you’re a fan of Miz and Maryse, and you like cringe comedy, you’ll probably love it. It all centred around Bella being desperate for Cena to propose and them being a fake couple. I’m not a fan of cringe comedy, I hated it, let’s move on.
Another strange segment was the John Cena versus Fandango match (odd in itself to be honest). Tyler Breeze dressed up as Nikki Bella, she’s got to be getting a complex by now. Anyway, after Breezango issued Cena with tickets for various misdemeanours, Nikki Bella joined Cena at ringside. Less than a minute later Breeze tried to interfere in the match, cue Nikki Bella and the cutesy tandem finishers again. I liked this more than the Miz and Maryse stuff, but it wasn’t universally approved of. Some people found it distasteful or offensive.
Becky Lynch vs Carmella
This match came about after Carmella interrupted the celebrations at the end of Natalya versus Becky Lynch last week, and kicked them both in the head. Natalya joined commentary, which means that the first part of the match was largely ignored. Sadly, we only got a few seconds of match anyway, and that was with Ellsworth interfering the whole time.
Natalya invaded the ring and attacked Carmella. Mickie James ran in next, then Alexa Bliss. The predictable brawl ensued, and one by one they ended up flat out on the canvas with Alexa Bliss the only one left standing.
Nikki Bella appeared on Talking Smack with John Cena to address the goings on. Nikki Bella said she laughed at the Miz and Maryse segments and wasn’t offended. She talked about feeling sad for Maryse being jealous of another woman’s success, and being in a place where she’s only interested in empowering other women not breaking them down.
Asuka def Priscilla Zuniga
At the start of the match Asuka grabbed a mic and addressed Ember Moon. She either said this is your fate, or this is your head, commentary disagreed and I didn’t catch it despite listening a few times. Either way, she then turned round and kicked her opponent Priscilla Zuniga in the head.
Zuniga got one piece of offence in. She slapped Asuka, thoroughly earning the ‘you fucked up’ chants from the crowd. Asuka laid on the punishment far beyond what would have been needed for the pin. Eventually, she put Zuniga out of her misery with the Asuka lock, the left it locked on for just a bit longer than she needed to.
After the match, and after a torrent of Japanese, Asuka said ‘No Eclipse’, before walking away.
Nikki Cross got involved in SAnitY’s match against Tye Dillinger, No Way Jose and Roderick Strong. During the match itself she pulled No Way Jose off the apron. After the match descended into chaos she prevented Dillinger from hitting a Tye-Breaker on Eric Young, by jumping on Dillinger’s back.
At this point a mysterious woman appeared in the ring and took Cross out of the action. The woman was Ruby Riot (better known as Heidi Lovelace). Another established indie performer can only be a good addition to the NXT talent pool, and I think she’ll fit in great. It appears she’s aligned herself with Dillinger and friends as a starting point, so she’s coming straight in on a big storyline.
I’m still expecting a TakeOver match to come out of this (although I’m starting to give up hope). They could either do the four on four with SAnitY, or do Cross vs Riot, either would work.
No Women’s action on Main Event again this week.
NXT TakeOver Orlando preview
Asuka (C) vs Ember Moon – NXT Women’s Championship match
This match has been a long time coming, but has had only a little build up. It was clear from the moment Ember Moon’s pre-debut promos aired that she was going to be pitched as the woman to take down Asuka, then nothing happened. But never mind, it’s happening now, and it’s going to be good.
These are two of the most talented women under WWE contract, in my humble opinion. In some of both their matches I’ve felt like they were holding something back, pace or force maybe. I don’t think they’ll need to do that at TakeOver, which should make for an entertaining and strong looking match. I hope so anyway.
As far as results go, I’d be amazed if there wasn’t a title change. Asuka has had the title for a record breaking amount of time, and she’s already appeared on at least one main roster house show. There is literally nothing left for her in NXT and it’s time for her to move across to RAW or SmackDown (it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if she turned up in the SmackDown ‘all available women’ match at WrestleMania). At this point, Asuka has been built as so strong that her keeping the title any longer may actually be detrimental to the NXT women’s division, there’s no point in the women chasing a title that’s on someone they know they can’t beat. Ember Moon is still undefeated in singles competition as well, but she hasn’t been built as untouchable in the way Asuka has.
Prediction: Ember Moon
That’s it for another week. Next week we’ll have a look at the go home shows to TakeOver and WrestleMania, and the results from TakeOver as well. It’s likely to be a busy one. In the meantime, if there is anything you’d like me to cover, or anything you want to discuss, tweet me @manda_why.