Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. No fluff, no intro, there’s too much to talk about.
WrestleMania 37 – Night 2
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Natalya & Tamina
Rhea Ripley def. Asuka
The Kickoff panel spent a lot of time talking about Asuka and Rhea Ripley. Booker T made it his Shucky Ducky Quack Quack moment of the night and picked Rhea Ripley to take the title. That would make me very happy. I feel like it would show a commitment to getting the women’s division back on track. The shakeup is needed as much on RAW as it was on SmackDown.
Randy Orton vs The Fiend, with Alexa Bliss.
Alexa Bliss, in her most bizarre makeup yet, wound up a giant Fiend in a box to release The Fiend for his entrance. He actually popped out of the top of the box as well, slowly, not a jack in a box speeds. That would have been hilarious, but he made up for it by jumping off the box onto Randy Orton to start the match, after a touching tribute to Jon Huber (Brodie Lee/Luke Harper). The red light was back for the match, which makes them hard to watch. Bliss didn’t get involved until the end of the match. Fire shot out of the ringposts and she appeared sat on the top of the box with a pentagram behind her, dressed in black with that black goop running from a headdress all over her face. The Fiend was mesmerised and got RKO’d and pinned while looking at her. Orton left, she put the lights out and they vanished.
Bayley was still trying to insert herself into WrestleMania. She had a chat with Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan, and Titus O’Neil backstage, trying to make out she was one of the hosts. She was unimpressed with Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair as well, calling them the flavour of the month and saying they’re not the consistent role model she is. They all walked away from her.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C) vs Natalya & Tamina
No Reginald with Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler. According to his social media, he’s sick. With any luck, they’ll take this as an opportunity and give him his own stuff to do when he’s better. This combination of Natalya and Tamina with the new attitudes works for me. I know the cheesy earnestness is very Natalya, but I like her serious side. Tamina is different too, good different. They’ve even got some double-team work going on, like slamming Baszler onto Jax, and Natalya catapulting Baszler into Tamina’s superkick.
Tamina got taken out of the match for a while by a slam on the outside from Jax when Natalya could really have used her help because Baszler was bending her in all manner of problematic ways. Once Baszler did enough damage, by stamping on Natalya’s ankle, Jax to over to make it worse. Natalya was in there with no one to tag and at the mercy of very efficient champions.
Tamina made it back in at two and seven-eighths of Jax’ pin on Natalya and took over. She almost pinned Baszler with a Samoan drop after resisting the Kirifuda with sheer power. Natalya rescued Tamina from being Samoan dropped from the second rope. Nia Jax messed her knee up delivering a double crossbody that failed to get her the pin.
Predictably, Jax’ trash-talk fired Tamina up, but Jax kicked out of the slam (Tamina barely got her up). Jax rolled out of the way of the Superfly Splash and Tamina managed to get to Natalya. Natalya got Jax in a Sharpshooter, but Baszler was the legal competitor. She slapped on the Kirifuda while Natalya was tied up with Jax, and Natalya went to sleep. She passed out rather than tap.
Asuka (C) vs Rhea Ripley – RAW Women’s Championship match
Rhea Ripley got the played lived and fan-filled entrance she should have had last year and whatever happens in the match, I was incredibly happy for her for that. This time she’s the challenger instead of the champion and she’s exchanged Charlotte Flair for Asuka, but she deserved what she missed out on.
This was a physically punishing match. Both women like their kicks and big strikes. Asuka had the stronger start, Ripley actually took a moment to regroup on the outside, but her reluctance to return to the ring meant Asuka followed her out and kneed her in the face. A missed hip attack left Asuka hung up in the ropes and gave Ripley her first chance to build some momentum. Asuka eventually paused that with a submission Ripley had to power out of.
Ripley kicked Asuka off the turnbuckle to the floor and Asuka went down like a sack of potatoes. She was up in time to try to knee Ripley in the face from the apron, but Ripley got her on her shoulders and slammed her face into the apron instead.
Asuka DDT’d Ripley off the apron to the floor. Somehow they both beat the count. The match was beginning to wear on them but Asuka countered Ripley’s submission into one of her own and Ripley had to throw her into the corner to shake her loose.
Suplexing Asuka back into the ring, with a bit of extra leverage from the ropes, got Ripley a two count. Asuka got Ripley in an armbar then transitioned into the Asuka Lock, but Ripley flip-countered into a pin, so she had to let go. A few kicks from Asuka had Ripley asking for more, then Rhea Ripley delivered the Riptide and got the pin.
Rhea Ripley is the new RAW Women’s Champion. I’m over the moon. I’ve been talking about Ripley and Belair running their respective brands since we knew Ripley was moving on but before we knew where. I didn’t expect it to happen this quickly. I know it’s unlikely that they’ll both still be champions by Survivor Series, but I would love that match. I’m sure it’ll happen one day, there’s plenty of time.
That turned out to be the last match Samoa Joe called for WWE. His insightful and entertaining commentary will be sorely missed.
Bayley crashed Titus O’Neil and Hulk Hogan’s hosting segments. She managed to get herself some pyro and ranted at the confused looking Hogan and O’Neil until the Bella Twins came out and dealt with her. Bayley made a crack about John Cena and tried to hit Nikki Bella after Nikki slapped the mic out of her hand. Nikki punched her in the face, Brie smacked her head onto her knee, then they both threw her down the ramp.
Rhea Ripley vs Asuka – No Contest
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler def. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
The new RAW announce desk is Corey Graves, Byron Saxton, and Adnan Virk. Sad to see Samoa Joe go, I thought the RAW announce team they had was great. Virk is going to need a few weeks to settle in before anyone starts judging him.
Kevin Patrick asked Rhea Ripley how she prepares to defend her title just 24 hours after winning it. She said, for her, it’s about being confident in herself. It was that self-confidence that led her to challenge Asuka for a match at WrestleMania. And it was that confidence that allowed her to beat Asuka, one of the greatest champions ever, to become the RAW Women’s Champion. What the WWE Universe witnessed was the brutal new order of the women’s division. In her WrestleMania rematch, she’s going to prove again that she is ready for Asuka.
He asked Asuka how she was going to approach it too. She said last night Rhea Ripley brought the fight, but now it’s her turn. Losing to Rhea was a nightmare but she’s ready for her and she will once again be RAW Women’s Champion.
Before we could get to the match, there was a RAW after WrestleMania surprise. Charlotte Flair is back, and she is pissed off at missing WrestleMania. She said she wasn’t welcomed at WrestleMania and it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her fault that Asuka needed a tag team partner, or that her dad acted like a fool, or that Lacey Evans got pregnant before she could kick her ass. She even challenged Asuka in the middle of the ring and Asuka didn’t respond. But the opportunist, Rhea Ripley, challenged her and Asuka accepted. And at WrestleMania a new champion was crowned, a star was born, out with the old and in with the new.
But Ripley wasn’t the only one thinking of opportunities. Every woman in the locker room was jumping up and down when they realised she wasn’t going to be on WrestleMania. They all thought it but only Ripley, the biggest snake, took it. And Asuka manipulated herself into a rematch the night after WrestleMania. Karma is a bitch and Flair is that bitch.
She pulled a handful of roster names and said no one compares to her. She doesn’t steal opportunities, she is the opportunity. She’s not stealing opportunities from anyone’s favourite, she creates the opportunities. This is the new Charlotte Flair and she’s not apologising for being that damned good. Everyone is going to bow down to the 13-time women’s champion. No more humble Charlotte, she is that good (when was humble Charlotte, I must have missed it). So, she wants everyone to show some respect for what she’s brought to the industry. She’s dedicated years of her life to the industry, tears and blood and sweat. And what has anyone given her in return? She gave us a mic drop with, ‘Enjoy your title match that I should have been in’.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Asuka – RAW Women’s Championship match
Another good match, but I find it so hard to get into rematches that happen so quickly. But WWE like to have at least one rematch after a PPV, or so it seems, so here we are. Ripley showed her dominance early on. Asuka built up some momentum in the middle and got close to regaining her title, but she couldn’t put Ripley away.
Rhea Ripley pulled it back when Asuka misjudged a dropkick from the top, but her submission attempt ended in Asuka getting to the ropes and the follow-up pin was unsuccessful as well. A couple of things didn’t quite go right, commentary put it down to exhaustion and they’re probably right. Ripley ended up in the Asuka Lock but got out by running Asuka into the corner. Dropping Asuka on her face didn’t get her the pin either.
They fought on the apron, Ripley attempting a suplex and getting shoved into the ringpost, hip-attacked, and having her face slammed into the apron. Asuka had Ripley by the head at ringside when Flair appeared and shoved her. Ripley crashed into the ringpost. Flair threw Asuka into the barricades and beat on her a bit, punched Ripley to keep her down, then went back to Asuka. A final kick to Ripley with some trash-talk, and she was done, for now.
I generally dislike that kind of finish to good matches, but it was the only logical choice. It makes Flair’s point. It protects Asuka from taking a second loss or Ripley from a sub-24-hour title reign. And it saves the rematch for later.
Mandy Rose caught Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler watching the clip of her slipping on the WrestleMania ramp on repeat. Jax told Baszler to leave. Rose explained it was embarrassing but funny. She can laugh at herself. And it’s funny sometimes when you don’t see things coming. Then she slapped her and Dana Brooke appeared to help run her into a post.
Alexa Bliss appeared in Alexa’s Playground with a little story to explain why she did what she did. Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was lost, until one day she was rescued by the darkness. The darkness protected and nurtured her and taught her everything it knew. But then the darkness went away. She wonders if that’s when the little girl realised that she may have never needed the darkness after all. How do we think it made her feel when she realised she could do everything on her own? Was the darkness helping her, or did she decide it was just standing in her way? Why else would she use what she was taught to try to destroy the darkness? Is it true what they say, the female of the species is the deadliest? We may never know. But there’s one thing we do know for sure, along the way she unlocked something truly evil. She introduced us to her new friend, a creepy doll with skulls for teeth, named Lily, and assured us that their fun is just beginning.
It was very well done, illustrated with clips of the entire storyline. I’m curious to see where Alexa Bliss goes from here.
Kevin Patrick took Jax and Baszler through the incident with Rose and Brooke and Jax yelled at him for showing it again. She said that it was a cowardly attack designed to deflect from Rose’s WrestleMania blooper. Mission accomplished because after the beating she and Baszler give them, no one will be talking about Mandy Rose or Dana Brooke.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Nia Jax tripped getting into the ring and nearly bumped into Baszler. The match was fine. Not one of the best for either team. They’re up to something odd. Jax slipped off the edge of the ring following Rose back in and fell on the floor. Rose and Brooke laughed, then took one look at her face and backed up the ramp saying, ‘It’s not worth it’. They took the count out defeat instead of dealing with an angry Nia Jax.
I have no idea what the point of any of that was. I can’t figure out what they were trying to achieve.
Mercedes Martinez def. Jessi Kamea
Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Bronson Reed, and Dexter Lumis def. The Way
Robert Stone had the camera follow him and Aliyah on their way to get Aliyah and Jessi Kamea a tag title shot. They never got there because they were intercepted by Mercedes Martinez demanding the money Stone owes her. When he didn’t have it, she grabbed Aliyah by the throat. Jessi Kamea appeared and made her let go. Martinez asked if Kamea wanted to step up to her. Kamea said no, she wanted to step on her. The match followed shortly after.
Jessi Kamea, with Robert Stone and Aliyah, vs Mercedes Martinez
Jessi Kamea jumped Martinez a little before the bell and tried to build some early momentum. It worked and Kamea had a good showing. Mercedes Martinez dodged a splash from Kamea, kneed her in the face and finished her with an air raid crash.
After the match Mercedes Martinez chased Stone and Aliyah and caught Stone. He gave her all the money he had to make her let go. She stopped at the announce desk on her way out to yell a message to Raquel Gonzalez congratulating her and warning her she’s coming for her.
Dakota Kai played ring announcer to bring out Raquel Gonzalez as NXT Women’s Champion for the first time.
A year and a half ago she was supposed to have her big debut on the biggest night in NXT history, when NXT made its debut on USA, but she wasn’t ready. She went home that night and swore that would never happen again. She would be ready when her opportunity came. So, she busted her ass and a year and a half later she’s the champion. She thanked Kai as the one person who recognised her dedication. Without Kai she wouldn’t have debuted in Portland, they wouldn’t have become the first women’s tag champs, and she wouldn’t be the champion now.
Kai said that for fourteen months they dominated the best women’s division in the world. Gonzalez gave credit to Io Shira, calling her a great champion, but said the Raquel Gonzalez era has officially begun.
Franky Monet (Taya Valkyrie) and her cute fluffy dog made their debut at that point. She introduced herself and said the best division on the planet just got shinier and better and, as Gonzalez is at the top, she’ll be seeing a lot of her.
I’m not sure where Gonzalez threatened to shove the dog, but I can guess. I didn’t understand what Monet said after she told Gonzalez she’d see her every Tuesday either, but Raquel Gonzalez did.
After Monet left, RAW Women’s Champion Rhea Ripley turned up. She got nose to nose with Gonzalez, then they clinked titles and hugged. SmackDown Women’s Champion Bianca Belair came out and joined them and they hugged and posed with their titles in front of a picture of the three of them. Honestly one of my favourite moments in NXT ever. I got a bit emotional.
Sarray, The Warrior of the Sun, makes her debut next week. William Regal is very excited about her arrival. He’s not the only one.
Zoey Stark said that four months ago she was living in Las Vegas and struggling to make ends meet while training eight hours a day. Now she’s in NXT and she had the biggest match of her career at the biggest TakeOver NXT has ever had, against one of the best wrestlers, Toni Storm. Now she’s going for the title. Mercedes Martinez wandered over and asked McKenzie Mitchell why she was wasting her time on some rookie when she’s the next big thing. Looks like we’re getting Stark versus Martinez.
Johnny Gargano described the eight-person match as cuckoo bananas, but said it would be historic because it’s the first time all four members of The Way have competed together. Austin Theory and Candice were both out for revenge, Theory on Lumis, and LeRae on Blackheart and Moon. Indi Hartwell wanted to get her hands on Lumis, but she didn’t have revenge in mind.
Shotzi Blackheart, Ember Moon, Dexter Lumis, & Bronson Reed vs The Way
Johnny Gargano was right, this match was cuckoo bananas… but it was so much fun to watch. As usual, the big frustration was that it was mixed tag and not intergender. It makes no sense. Don’t give me Candice LeRae in a mixed tag, you cowards, let her do her thing in an intergender match. And are they seriously suggesting Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon couldn’t hang with Austin Theory and Johnny Gargano? The women spent half their time beating the men up anyway.
Gargano got smacked back and forth between Blackheart and Moon, and Bronson Reed, after interfering to stop LeRae taking a double team. Candice LeRae launched herself off the turnbuckle at Reed later in the match, which may have been an error because she didn’t even make him stagger. Moon landed a suicide dive on Gargano. LeRae turned a suicide dive into a DDT on the outside on Lumis. And Shotzi Blackheart got Reed to throw her over the top rope from over his head, to skittle everyone on both teams.
LeRae spent a lot of the match trying to keep Indi Hartwell from Dexter Lumis. She stopped her tagging in when Lumis was in the ring so she could spend a few seconds with him. She pulled her off the apron when Lumis approached her and they had a moment. But it was to no avail. Lumis got Gargano in the silence and rather than kick Lumis to break it up, she threw herself to the may next to him. It worked and he let go to check on her and started to lift her, then Austin Theory kicked him in the head. Hartwell threw Theory out of the ring then laid on the apron near Lumis. He picked her up and carried her to the back. She gave everyone a smile and thumbs up halfway up the ramp.
So the eight-person finished as a six-person. Moon’s Eclipse from Reed’s shoulders took down Theory, but LeRae tossed Moon from the ring and Gargano tried to prevent the tsunami splash. He went for a superplex and got thrown away. LeRae also went for a superplex… on Bronson Reed. I’m all for intergender but that was never going to work. Blackheart lifted her away and dropped her onto Theory. As soon as she was out of the way, Reed finished it with the tsunami splash.
News Item – Superstar Releases
On Thursday WWE released several superstars. Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Chelsea Green, and Mickie James were among the cuts. All four released statements on social media, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, Chelsea Green, and Mickie James. Possibly the biggest surprise on the list was Samoa Joe. That’s a huge loss for WWE and if they initiated it, they’re idiots.
After such a hopeful week and weekend, losing Royce and Kay especially is upsetting. Mickie James hadn’t been around much, and Chelsea Green’s appearances were too brief for her to have made the impact she should have, but Peyton Royce and Billie Kay were right there doing everything asked of them. I don’t understand. It’s not like either the RAW or SmackDown women’s rosters have the strength in depth to lose people. They should be increasing those rosters, not cutting them. There was an outpouring of sadness and confusion from other superstars after the announcements, and a feeling of tension because roster culls like this are rarely done in one go.
Isla Dawn def. Emilia McKenzie
Emilia McKenzie vs Isla Dawn
The reinvention of Isla Dawn is more of an attitude adjustment than a full revamp, but it’s a step in the right direction. The added aggression makes her less wishy-washy. It’s great to have Emilia McKenzie back. She adds a lot of value to the division. This was a good match. It was all McKenzie early on, before we got to see a little more of Dawn’s new aggressive streak. Dawn is resourceful as well, she caught McKenzie a couple of times with unexpected counters.
They’d both had a couple of credible pin attempts by the end, but it was McKenzie in the ascendency when it happened. She had Dawn in the corner, shoulder barging and punching her, but she kept her there a little too long and the ref backed her off. Isla Dawn got the pin with a bridging suplex after catching McKenzie with a kick while the ref had her attention.
Piper Niven’s protégé, Jack Starz, had his first match since she’s been coaching him, against Ashton Smith. He won. His first single’s win.
Natalya def. Shayna Baszler
Early on Friday, it was announced that Pat McAfee would be taking a spot on the SmackDown desk. Between getting rid of Samoa Joe from RAW and adding McAfee to SmackDown, I’m starting to think WWE are actively trying to discourage people from watching. In fairness, because I admit to my biases and always try to be fair, he did a really good job.
The Street Profits hosted a championship celebration for Bianca Belair. Montez Ford is so incredibly proud of his wife. They adore each other and it’s beautiful. Just one of the thirty or so ways Bianca Belair is an excellent role model.
She said feels like she’s been floating since Saturday night. Her mind is blown her heart is filled and she feels blessed. Despite the setback and struggles she never stopped believing it was possible. Her family have been making history for generations and they showed her that when you demand greatness from yourself, no matter how hard something might get, you can change the game. She did imagine this for herself, but it’s not cockiness, that’s just being unapologetically her. Everyone has some EST in them and when you find your EST when you know that you’re talented and you know you work hard, you should never apologise for looking someone in their face and telling them, ‘I am the BEST’. If you can dream it, you can do it.
She went to WrestleMania and she showed up and showed out. But it’s not just about her. She thanked Sasha Banks because there was no one else she would rather have shared the spotlight with. Banks pushed her harder than anyone else and they both made history. But she left Banks with something to remember her by. And it’s for all the little girls watching, especially the ones who saw themselves when they looked at her. WrestleMania was magic, but they are just started creating history.
They had a group hug, which was so sweet, and she told Ford and Dawkins to get back to the tag team titles because they one wear gold in their house. It was an emotional promo, but clear and motivating and genuine. Beautifully done.
Sasha Banks had a backstage interview and showed off the whip mark from Belair’s hair, the something Belair left to remember her by. I still say she deserved it for the amount of time she spent yanking on it during the match. She didn’t actually get to say anything other than ‘Bianca’, she just pulled faces, twisted her hands into her hair, and left.
Bayley had only negative things to say about Bianca Belair or Sasha Banks. She criticised Banks’ anger and Belair crying in the ring before the match. She feels Belair is not the right kind of champion and the only remedy she can think of is to challenge her and take the title away from her.
Natalya, with Tamina, vs Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax
Nia Jax totally undermined Baszler by pulling her free of a Sharpshooter attempt a few seconds in, but Baszler didn’t seem to mind. Tamina got annoyed, but Baszler backed her off before she got back in the ring and got on with bending Natalya. Tamina pulled Natalya out of the path of Baszler’s elbow stomp, so turnabout is fair play.
Natalya got Baszler with a rollup when Baszler halted her momentum to avoid crashing into her partner, who shouldn’t have been on the apron anyway. Jax grabbed Natalya after the match and Tamina kicked her in the face.
That was such a ‘token women’s match so we don’t get slated’. I think the women’s division got less than ten minutes in total on this week’s SmackDown. That’s just not good enough.
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.