Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. We start the week with WrestleMania Backlash, which turned out to be a much better PPV than anyone was expecting, despite the zombies, and one where the (zombie-free) women’s matches stole the show again.
Rhea Ripley def. Asuka and Charlotte Flair
Bianca Belair def. Bayley
Sonya Deville joined the Kickoff panel as she usually does, to discuss the women’s championship matches. The first time they discussed the SmackDown Women’s Championship match. Booker T had a lot of nice things to say about Bayley. JBL agreed but said he thinks Bianca Belair is one of those athletes who comes in and takes a sport to a whole different level. Deville said the common denominator was how consistent they both are. There was nothing but praise from any of them.
Things got a bit tense while Deville was back to discuss the RAW Women’s Championship match, specifically when she was questioned about Charlotte Flair. Kayla Braxton was quite direct and confrontational in her questioning, referring to it being Deville’s fault and asking if she was proud of herself. Deville was immediately on the defensive. She said she thinks she made a match worth watching and justified her decision. Questions were raised as to whether Deville was bullied or even bribed to make the match. Booker T asked about the women who don’t get the chances associated with being Charlotte Flair, but Deville shot that down. Braxton asked about the attack on the referee. Deville said everyone makes mistakes and she could name five Braxton had made that she’d let slide. Braxton muttered that having her on the Kickoff panel was one of them. Deville shot back, ‘That’s rude, I’m still your boss’. Kayla Braxton looked mightily unimpressed and there were some uncomfortable ‘Woah’ noises before Peter Rosenberg dragged focus back to the match.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Asuka vs Charlotte Flair – RAW Women’s Championship Triple-Threat
I’m mildly annoyed that Ripley’s first PPV defence comes in a triple-threat, because it does put the champion at a disadvantage, and I don’t want to see her lose the title yet. Still, this was the first match of the PPV and it set a high bar for the rest of the night.
Charlotte Flair ducked out of the ring early on, but Ripley and Asuka went out of opposite sides of the ring and herded her back in. After Ripley tried for an early pin and argued with Asuka, they kicked her back out.
It was mostly two in the ring at any one time. Asuka was next to take a break, after a suplex from Flair in front of the announce desk. Commentary compared the relative experience of the competitors when it comes to PPVs. Flair’s 52nd, Asuka’s 30th, and Ripley’s 6th. That’s an impressive experience gap, but it doesn’t tell a complete story.
Ripley was taken down on the apron by Flair sweeping her legs from under her. She collapsed on the floor at ringside, holding her leg, and there she stayed while Asuka and Flair battled it out. Sometimes triple-threats like this one feel like a series of mini-matches that occasionally overlap.
Rhea Ripley came back in, just in time to stop Asuka submitting Flair, and was immediately put down in the corner. She got up ready to show them exactly why she’s champion, taking out both Flair and Asuka with some beautifully fluid brutality. Only Asuka throwing herself onto them stopped her pinning Flair with a northern lights suplex.
Asuka kicked the hell out of both of them but failed to capitalise. She dropkicked Ripley out of the ring, then kneed her in the head. Asuka joined her at ringside courtesy of a Charlotte Flair punch, then Flair landed a moonsault to the outside on both her opponents.
Instead of the tower of doom Asuka tried for, we got Asuka and Ripley double superplexing Flair from the second rope, a move which levelled all three of them. A double suplex after a long exchange of blows saw Flair land on her feet and delivered double chop blocks and a double Natural Selection. It failed to get her a pin though. She might have had more success if she hadn’t tried to cover both.
Asuka countered a Riptide into an Asuka lock, but couldn’t lock it in. Charlotte Flair delivered a big boot to Asuka and knocked herself off the apron with the force of it. Asuka rolled straight into Rhea Ripley’s Riptide and got pinned before Flair could get back up.
Flair was beyond Furious after the match and Ripley had a lot of fun taunting her.
Bianca Belair (C) vs Bayley – SmackDown Women’s Championship
Bayley had ‘Bel Loser’ shaved into her head and highlighted in red.
Commentary talked about how unaffected Bianca Belair is by the pressures of being in the spotlight and it’s astounding how comfortable she looks considering how little of the spotlight she’s actually had. She belongs there and I still maintain she’s the natural face of the company for the women’s division in years to come.
It became obvious early on that Bayley seriously underestimated Belair, despite having fought her before, and it took her a while to recover from that realisation. It didn’t take long for Belair to have to issue the first warning to leave her hair alone. It developed into a methodical and considered match, with Belair having the better of the first half, but not by enough.
Belair resisted Bayley’s attempt to suplex her over the opt rope to the outside and countered it with a delayed vertical suplex into the ring. Bayley turned things in her favour by dropping Belair, ribs first onto the steps and following up with a suplex at ringside.
Belair’s kick out from one of Bayley’s pin attempts sent Bayley tumbling out of the ring. Bayley came back in pissed off and beat on Belair for a while then laughed at her. It was the horrible fake cackle that pissed Belair off and fired her up, but the run of momentum ended in a failed pin. A clothesline put Belair down and gave Bayley the chance for her elbow drop. It landed, but the champion kicked out.
On the outside, Bayley smashed Belair’s face into the post, but Belair sidestepped her suicide dive and gave her a double chicken wing facebuster into the apron. She rolled Bayley back into the ring but the pin failed.
Bayley’s desperation led to cheating. Twice she used the ropes in pin attempts, getting caught by the ref the second time. She put her body between Belair and the ref while she raked Belair’s eyes. She used Belair’s braid as a ripcord and delivered a Bayley to Belly, but Belair still kicked out.
Bayley tried to use the braid again immediately after, but Belair wrapped it around her leg as she folded her up and pinned her.
Michael Cole questioned whether Bayley kicked out, which makes that two out of two of Belair’s title matches in which he hasn’t cleanly called the win.
After the match, Bayley accused Belair of cheating by using her hair to assist the pin. The same hair Bayley tied to use to pin her seconds before. She demanded commentary replay the pin, which they didn’t.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Asuka def. Charlotte Flair
Alexa Bliss invited Natalya and Tamina to be her and Lilly’s guests in Alexa’s Playground. Natalya sat on the swing and gave a pleasant and professional stock spiel about how tough it was winning the titles and mentioning it being Tamina’s first title win. Tamina wanted to leave. Bliss got upset and said she hadn’t asked the tough questions yet. Lilly wanted to know their favourite colours, Natalya said pink. Tamina said black and blue which would look great on Bliss’ face if she tries anything weird.
Bliss said that wasn’t very nice and she was lucky Lilly likes her. Lilly really liked when she beat up Reginald, so Bliss asked if that was fun. Tamina said it was. She called him a pesky little fly and confirmed she’d have no problem swatting him again if he interfered in the match. Bliss want off on a detailed tangent about swatting flies and the gross things Lilly likes to collect. Natalya and Tamina left while she was rambling. After they’d gone, she wished them luck and said they’d be watching.
Eva Marie is still getting vignettes showing her as Coming Soon. They’re not making me overly optimistic about her return, but we’ll wait and see.
Adam Pearce and Sonya Deville had a meeting with Naomi, Lana, Mandy Rose, and Dana Brooke. Naomi asked why Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were getting an automatic title rematch. Lana pitched in that their title match got interrupted. Rose told her to get over it, they lost, unlike her and Brooke who beat Baszler and Jax last week as part of the six-woman tag. Brooke said they want the next shot at whoever wins.
Charlotte Flair arrived and said they’d all had a million chances and they’d blown them all. Brooke muttered, ‘Like you did last night,’ under her breath, but declined to repeat it. Sonya Deville said they’d decide how to deal with number one contenders after the title match, then asked them all to leave because Flair had a private matter to discuss with her and Adam.
When they’d gone, Flair pitched her case for a one on one match against Rhea Ripley. Pearce didn’t seem keen. Deville told her she got it, but it wasn’t solely her decision to make. If Flair beats Asuka later, she and Pearce will talk about it.
Flair didn’t think that was a problem, but Ripley turned up and said she thought it might be. She was there to tell Pearce and Deville she was ready for some new competition because as far as she’s concerned Flair is yesterday’s news. Charlotte Flair remained unphased. She told Ripley that if history repeats itself like it has thirteen times, then when they go one on one she’ll walk away the new RAW Women’s Champion.
Natalya & Tamina (C) vs Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax, with Reginald, – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were very keen to keep Tamina out of this match, which is an enormous credit to her. Jax and Baszler fear no one, except when one of Baszler’s moves put her almost in front of Tamina she scrambled back like she’d seen a ghost.
Ghosts wouldn’t have been the oddest part of this one. It was a good enough match, and Tamina’s power was definitely giving Baszler and Jax trouble, but the story was Alexa Bliss and Lilly’s appearance towards the end of the match.
Tamina and Baszler were in the ring. Tamina got Baszler up on her shoulders and Reginald got up on the steps. That’s when Bliss appeared. Baszler got free from Tamina and locked in the Kirifuda Clutch. Fire shot out of the ringpost and Reginald flew off the steps. Baszler let go of Tamina and put her hands on her head in shock. Nia Jax went to check on Reginald, and she was still there when Tamina tagged in Natalya to finish Baszler with a Hart Attack.
Lilly’s creepy laugh played over the celebrations and everyone looked freaked.
Asuka vs Charlotte Flair
The one thing you can guarantee is that Charlotte Flair and Asuka will put on a good match. Let’s face it, they’ve had plenty of practice fighting each other (this was their fourth match since April 19th, one day I’ll count the rest). It really was good though, and for once they were given a decent amount of time. Rhea Ripley came out mid-match and settled herself next to commentary to watch. She was obviously going to be the difference-maker.
She didn’t get involved until the end, and it wasn’t her choice to get involved. Flair bounced Asuka’s head off the announce desk then got in Ripley’s face, so Ripley called her a loser. Ripley had to block a backfist from Asuka aimed at Flair. Charlotte Flair rolled Asuka back into the ring and went back to Ripley and said something else (I think it was, that’s my title, I made it). When she got back in the ring to finish Asuka Ripley got up on the apron. Asuka kicked Flair away and Flair booted Ripley to the floor. In the rolling around after that, Flair was wrapped up and pinned.
There was a rare and much welcomed Nikki Cross sighting on this week’s RAW. Not in a match of her own, but as one of the lumberjacks for Damian Priest versus John Morrison. She was stood with The Viking Raiders and Titus O’Neil, the only one of the women’s division on lumberjack duty, and she singlehandedly returned Morrison to the ring when he tried to take a break. She avoided being in the catching group for Priest superplexing Morrison from the second rope to the outside.
Toni Storm def. Zoey Stark
Sarray vs Aliyah
Toni Storm vs Zoey Stark
Toni Storm called Zoey Stark ‘Flavour of the month’ in a recent interview, and Stark has definitely announced her arrival in NXT with a bang. Everything she touches turns to gold, despite mostly losing. The losses haven’t hurt her because she’s brand shiny new so there are no expectations. Storm, however, for all her accolades and big talk, really needed a win here. She was going for it by fair means or foul, and her early efforts included a hip attack against the steps.
I hope they revisit this rivalry at various points because they’ve got great chemistry in the ring. Stark was impressive, again, but she doesn’t quite have the toolkit Storm does. That only comes with experience and there are no shortcuts. She still gave Storm one hell of a battle, and very nearly came out on top numerous times. She kicked out of a perfectly delivered Storm Zero, adding herself to a very short list of people who have done that, but Toni Storm pulled out a brutal looking move that left commentary lost for words. A little Twitter detective work uncovered it as a DDT version of Dean Allmark’s Ruby Cutter. He trained her, she asked permission to use the move, he was the one who suggested the DDT modification, and he’s very proud of her.
Franky Monet’s entrance music interrupted Storm’s celebrations but she only came as far as the stage. Her in-ring debut is next week.
The Indi Hartwell and Dexter Lumis storyline is starting to work towards a conclusion. In the first visit to them, Lumis heard Hartwell say mean things about him while he was secretly giving her a head massage at the spa she was at with Candice LeRae. He walked away looking sad. In the second visit Hartwell found out it was LeRae who organised the flowers and gifts to be sent ‘from Lumis’ to Shotzi Blackwell and Ember Moon and ran off to find him screaming, ‘He still loves me’. Of course, she doesn’t know he heard the mean things she said.
Raquel Gonzalez approached Mercedes Martinez in the trainer’s room after their match last week to tell her, ‘Respect’. Dakota Kai stood in the background like she was waiting for a fight and stomped off in a huff when she didn’t get one. Kai and Gonzalez were asked about it in a backstage interview with McKenzie Mitchell. Kai said it wasn’t an issue they just have different ways of dealing with things and that’s ok, and accused Mitchell of trying to start something. She said they were going after the tag titles.
At that point, Ever-Rise showed up and said Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon were first in line and Gonzalez shouldn’t be greedy because she’s already a champion… Kai, not so much. They started talking about their show, Ever-Rise Live and got offended when Gonzalez said she’d never seen it. Matt Martel asked Gonzalez if she wanted to take a swing at him, so she slapped him to the floor before they left. His pride was hurt, but he was more worried about his mug, which was fine.
Sarray vs Aliyah, with Robert Stone and Jessi Kamea
This was short and a little pointless. We didn’t learn anything about either competitor and it didn’t push any storylines forward, it was just there. It was fun to watch because Sarray is fun to watch, and Aliyah remains underrated, but it would have been nice if it had served a purpose.
Aliyah kicked Sarray in the stomach in response to her offering a handshake, and Jessi Kamea did her part as a distraction technique. It was pretty much all Aliyah for the first minute or so. The next minute belonged to Sarray and included kicking Aliyah’s face off against the ropes, making Stone and Kamea wince. They got to check on Aliyah a few seconds later, after she’d taken a suplex and been pinned.
Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon want their rematch… at least I think that’s what they meant. They’re going to strip it back and TCB with Ember’s Law. William Regal confirmed they’re getting it next week.
William Regal also confirmed he is looking to see which of his women’s division, which he says is the best in the world and I happen to agree, will step up to face Raquel Gonzalez.
WWE released a number of superstars and officials midweek. Vanessa Bourne was one of those cut, as were Kavita Devi and Brandi Lauren. Jessamyn Duke was also released, but she’d been working behind the scenes and it was widely reported she wasn’t looking to get back in the ring.
Amale def. Xia Brookside
Aoife Valkyrie had another inspirational, or aspirational, vignette. Full of stuff like, failure isn’t failure if you learn from it, and, no one tells birds how high they can fly. All well and good, but talk is cheap.
Amale vs Xia Brookside
This was Brookside’s chance to get some payback on Amale for attacking her and costing her a spot in the gauntlet match. As such, it started with a very angry Brookside, fired up and in control. Amale flipped it around by dragging Brookside from the ring by her legs then slamming her spine into the edge of the ring and her head into the barricades. It took Brookside a while to fight her way back into it, but she did and came close to pinning Amale. Close was all she got. Amale slammed her into the canvas and bent her double to pin her.
Kay Lee Ray versus Meiko Satomura, round two, got a promo package. Meiko Satomura said Kay Lee Ray will not be forgiven for the kick in the chest after she won the gauntlet. Ray should remember that.
Bayley, Shayna Baszler, & Nia Jax def. Bianca Belair, Natalya, & Tamina
All of SmackDown’s champions except Roman Reigns were on the stage at the start of the show. It was an extra special show. Sonya Deville kicked it off by announcing the WWE will be leaving the ThunderDome in July to go back to touring in front of crowds. The champions were all there so Deville could give them props. Reigns got his own introduction from Deville, but she got Paul Heyman instead. Heyman informed us Reigns wasn’t interested in being the only champion in a parade of titleholders.
Bayley interrupted and complained about not being included, despite the fact she’s no longer a champion. She was mean about the Mysterios, saying Dominik was riding his daddy’s coattails and Rey had overstayed his welcome. She was mean about Natalya and Tamina, nice to Apollo and Captain Azeez. Then she turned her attention to Bianca Belair, called her a cheat and said Sonya Deville should strip her of the title and give it back to her where it belongs.
Belair stormed to the ring and told Bayley to come and take it. Bayley said she’d take it when she wanted to and started to leave the ring. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax attacked Belair from behind and Bayley piled in. Natalya and Tamina came to Belair’s aid and were also laid out.
I think we can all guess what happened after the break.
Bianca Belair, Natalya, & Tamina vs Bayley, Shayna Baszler, & Nia Jax
Reginald’s absence was explained early in the match as he’s still being treated after the ringpost shot fire about a foot away from him on Monday. Baszler and Jax’ presence was explained as part of the brand to brand invitational. It’s an “interesting” way to start a special show, with a random six-woman mash two feuds together match.
It was a perfectly decent match and it was given time to develop, which has to be noted because I’m the first to bitch about sub-three-minute matches. Bianca Belair hurt herself going into the next break. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler had pulled Bayley from the ring to save her from a flying Belair. Belair switched direction and took them all out from the top turnbuckle. As she rolled away, she was clutching her knee.
By the time we got back, she was taking some punishment from Bayley. If Bayley hadn’t distracted herself by pausing to knock Natalya off the apron, Belair might not have been able to get to her corner and tag Tamina. The tag champs might have got the pin on Bayley if she hadn’t been too close to the ropes. Natalya missed Baszler tagging in, put a sharpshooter on Bayley and got kicked in the face. It all broke down after that, with everyone trading kicks and finishers.
Tamina kicked Nia Jax in the head and sent her rolling out of the ring, then took a kick in the head from Baszler and rolled out of the other side. Bayley put Belair down with a Bayley to Belly at ringside then got kicked to the floor by Natalya. Finally back to one on one, Baszler locked in the Kirifuda Clutch and Natalya tapped out.
Fightful’s Sean Ross Sapp summed up the problems in WWE’s main roster booking in this tweet stating that Monday’s tag title rematch will be the fifth time Jax & Baszler have faced Tamina & Natalya two on two, and the eleventh match in their feud, which started in April. Meanwhile, Mia Yim is yet to debut on SmackDown. The Riott Squad are rarely seen. Carmella appears intermittently, and Sasha Banks has been gone since WrestleMania. The Nikki Cross lumberjack sighting on RAW was the first time we’ve seen her since February (she’s been on Main Event once, on May 10th, according to her Cagematch, but we don’t get Main Event in the UK anymore).
When I was going through this list trying to account for the whereabouts of the main roster women, I checked WWE.com to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anyone. I was shocked by how bare-bones the women’s division has become. SmackDown have eight women on the active roster and RAW have twelve plus two on maternity leave. That’s possibly inaccurate because Reckoning is still listed on the RAW roster, but Mia Yim is expected to be on SmackDown. As a comparison, NXT have sixteen listed (although Tegan Nox is still injured), neither Zayda Ramier nor Zoey Stark have been added, and there are probably more I’ve forgotten. Even NXT UK have seven women on their roster page, and there are six missing that I can think of (Amale, Dani Luna, Stevie Turner, Aleah James, Emilia McKenzie, and Meiko Satomura – irritating that WWE can’t keep their website up to date).
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Join me next week, and in the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why. Please stay safe.