Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Before we get into the action there is something which needs to be addressed, I will apologise now for the ranting. On Monday it emerged that WWE has been given ‘essential business’ status which allows them to keep producing shows. They made the decision to return to live shows as per their tv network contracts.
WWE have talked a lot about providing entertainment in these ‘difficult times’… and every other euphemism for the global pandemic they can think of. I get that, and watching wrestling has been a welcome distraction for me and millions of other fans across the globe, especially as the majority of us are in some form of lockdown, or are key workers risking their lives on a daily basis to keep our countries running. However, there has to be a better way to provide that entertainment than putting the lives of their talent and staff at risk by running live shows. Old PPVs would work, or old TakeOvers. Pre-taped segments are an option. Superstars commentating on their previous match would be awesome. Hell, show UpUpDownDown and Superstar Ink.
There are clearly safety precautions in place. The multitude of backstage segments are there to allow for sanitising the ring, and Stephanie McMahon has publicly spoken about some of the protective measures they have put in place. None of those are as safe as their staff and talent being at home. Jerry Lawler flew in for RAW – a 70-year-old man who had a heart attack and nearly died on air a few short years ago. And there were an inexplicably large number of superstars on RAW, nine matches in total and a ton of in-ring and backstage segments. It felt like a tour show there were so many. Hopefully, they will reverse their decision soon and put their people first.
Asuka def. Ruby Riott
Shayna Baszler def. Sarah Logan
Nia Jax def. Kairi Sane
This week was the RAW qualifying matches for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Asuka vs Ruby Riott – Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
The first qualifier was the first match of the show and got a reasonable amount of time. Ruby Riott needed a good showing here to put herself right back in the mix in RAW’s women’s division. She had exactly that. It was a really good match. Asuka has so much attitude and she’s wildly entertaining. Going into the ad break she had Ruby Riott laid out at ringside and she got up on the barricade and danced us into the ads.
It didn’t go all Asuka’s way after the break. Ruby Riott came back and had a few credible chances to win. She removed herself from an Asuka Lock after missing with a senton, and came close to submitting Asuka, but found herself back in the Asuka Lock and tapped.
Asuka is the first entrant into the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Charly Caruso tried to ask Asuka about this new aggression, but the only bits of her answer that wasn’t in Japanese was ‘Money in the Bank’ and ‘No one is ready for Asuka’.
Becky Lynch had an in-ring promo (which she could surely have done from home). It all centred around the mind games she has been playing with Shayna Baszler. She led Baszler to believe she was arrogant and complacent, and got sillier the quicker Baszler ran through the division, because the only person who can get close enough to the queen to destroy her is the joker who she sees as posing no threat. And that’s why she’s the champ. Someone who is born to bully everyone will never beat someone who is born to survive anything.
She finished the promo with a challenge to whoever wants the RAW Women’s Championship the most. She challenged them to climb the ladder, retrieve the briefcase, then use the contract to pick a time and a place. She’ll be waiting for them. She always has a plan. Whoever thinks they can beat her, she’ll shock the world one more time.
I have to admit, a lot of these promos work better without a crowd.
Shayna Baszler vs Sarah Logan – Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Before the match, Sarah Schreiber asked Baszler for a comment on the derogatory things Ronda Rousey has been saying about professional wrestling and its fans (she called it fake fighting and said the fans were awful). Baszler just gave her a death stare and went to the ring.
This can’t be called a match. Shayna Baszler got Logan on the mat and punched her until the ref made her back off, then came back and stamped on Logan’s arm. At that point, the ref stopped the match and called for the bell.
There was some confusion after the bell. As Shayna Baszler left the ring the announcer declared Sarah Logan the winner. That was clearly incorrect because the match was ended by referees stoppage, meaning Baszler won. It took until after a break for the error to be rectified, but it will be Baszler who takes a place in the ladder match.
Sarah Logan was released by WWE on Wednesday. More on that later. Her final appearance ended with her crying as she was helped from the ring by officials.
Before Kairi Sane’s qualifying match, she and Asuka had a backstage interview. Asuka’s contribution was ‘Ruby was not ready for Asuka’. When Sarah Schreiber asked Kairi Sane about her confidence levels heading into the match, they both repeated ‘confidence’ and left.
Kairi Sane vs Nia Jax – Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
Nia Jax is the biggest woman on the roster, Kairi Sane may just be the smallest, and any confidence she had going into the match was misplaced. She’s used to dealing with larger opponents, but she never even got Jax off her feet in this match. It lasted longer than Baszler versus Logan, but not by a lot. Sane’s offence was minimal and ineffective, she was thrown around a lot and made painful-looking contact with all the popular surfaces. Asuka was shown cheerleading from backstage, but Sane was pinned with an Annihilator.
Charlotte Flair also had an in-ring promo segment (again, did she need to be there live for that?). She called it ‘History Lessons with The Queen’, but it was recent history starting at Royal Rumble and running through to WrestleMania. She said Rhea Ripley was ballsy and kind of reminded her of someone “she knows”. Now she’s the two-time NXT Women’s Champion because she beat the next big thing. That makes her the biggest thing. Vince McMahon knew she was the biggest thing and that’s why he chose her to save the main event of WrestleMania. This year Rhea Ripley chose her because she secretly wants to be like her. But Ripley lacks humility. She’s going to remind NXT about humility, that there is always someone stronger, faster, and better. There are levels to this.
Next in line is Io Shirai, and Flair gave Shirai credit for a great victory in the ladder match. But she’s there to teach lessons and lesson one is, Everyone bows down to The Queen.
The Street Profits brought Bianca Belair into their backstage interview with Charly Caruso. They were being questioned about their thoughts on The Viking Raiders challenging them for the RAW Tag Team Championships and the answer they gave was an entertaining but irrelevant talk about Vikings. Belair tore into them, reminding them that The Viking Raiders have beaten them every time they’ve met. She told them if they want to keep their titles they need to stop with the games and ‘get that smoke’.
NEWS: On Wednesday WWE announced a huge number of releases. Talent were released from their contracts and a lot of office and behind the scenes staff were furloughed or fired. Sarah Logan, Deonna Purrazzo, and MJ Jenkins were the women who were ‘let go’ in the initial wave, but more are expected in the coming days. I’m gutted for all of them. I think a lot of Sarah Logan and Deonna Purrazzo, both of whom turned up for work in the middle of a pandemic, and MJ Jenkins never really got a chance. Maria Kanellis was also released, possibly while still technically on maternity leave, and Taynara Conti (I have to admit, I didn’t know she’d come back after leaving a few months ago). It’s an awful time to be released. There is no other wrestling running, so no other opportunities for work.
If there is any company that could afford to keep their staff employed during these most uncertain and unsettling times, it is WWE. They chose not to and supporting them, once again, feels uncomfortable.
And this is the eternal dilemma of the WWE fan. The company itself has done so many shady and immoral things over the years it is indefensible on any level. However, the wrestlers who work there are still worth supporting (with a few notable exceptions) and it for them we still watch. And where do you draw the line? This isn’t the first list of releases with some shock inclusions and it won’t be the last. How does this incident compare with all the other incidents which made you question your ability to keep watching? They are questions every fan has to answer for themselves… I’m still working on my answers.
Xia Li def. Aliyah
Tegan Nox def. Raquel Gonzalez
Charlotte Flair appeared in a pre-recorded segment. It was both complimentary to Rhea Ripley, and very self-congratulatory. She said that winning the title will solidify her legacy. It will ensure that she will be the first woman to dominate three different eras of sports entertainment, the past, the present, and the future. She ran through a list of her notable wins, and what a long and impressive list it is, starting with the first NXT Championship she won by beating Natalya, through Nikki Bella, Paige, Trish Stratus, Bayley, Becky Lynch, Asuka, and Ronda Rousey, to winning her second NXT Championship at WrestleMania.
She’d been hearing for a year that NXT had the best women’s division across all three brands, and they proved that at Survivor Series. So she’s there to run through the best division in the WWE. They all want a shot. Rhea Ripley will want a rematch, Io Shirai is the number one contender, and Candice LeRae is hungry. But it’s Mia Yim Flair has her eye on. Yim was Flair’s opponent in her very first NXT match, so she’s giving her the first lottery ticket. After that, William Regal can line them all up one by one and when she’s beaten them there can be no doubt that Charlotte Flair is the greatest of all time, past present and future.
Xia Li vs Aliyah
Aliyah confirmed, via tweet, that she was responsible for attacking Xia Li before their last match. It was retaliation for Li accidentally breaking her nose with a kick. So that meant they both had something they wanted a little revenge for, which made for a spiteful match.
It was Xia Li who got her retribution, finishing Aliyah by kicking her in the back and pinning her.
Tegan Nox vs Raquel Gonzalez
Tegan Nox was in trouble any time Gonzalez had her hands on her. Sadly for Nox, that was most of the time. Raquel Gonzalez had Dakota Kai with her and Kai, of course, had to get involved. She kicked Nox in the head while the ref was distracted, but the interference failed to give Gonzalez the win.
Shotzi Blackheart ran down and took Kai out with a kick in the face. Gonzalez grabbed hold of Blackheart and screamed at her that this was none of her business, but before she could chokeslam Blackheart on the apron Nox rolled her up and pinned her.
Tegan Nox has found a friend. Next week they team up to face Gonzalez and Kai in a tag match.
NXT UK have run out of taped shows and with the UK on lockdown, there’s no opportunity to record more. That means they’ve had to get creative. Last week was a ‘best of the story so far’ episode. This week they had wrestlers choosing their favourite matches. There was an incidental sighting of Kay Lee Ray and Piper Niven in the introduction to Kenny Williams’ segment, and Ligero picked Kay Lee Ray vs Tegan Nox after Nox returned from injury. There was a nice little run-through of Kay Lee Ray winning the title from Toni Storm before the match as well. It actually turned out to be an interesting show.
Tamina def. Sasha Banks
Dana Brooke def. Naomi
This week’s SmackDown was dedicated to Howard Finkel, who died this week. There was a lovely tribute package for him in the show as well.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross hosted A Moment of Bliss to open the show. Their guest was Braun Strowman. Bliss and Strowman teamed in Mixed Match Challenge and get on well, but they didn’t get much time for catch up chat. Bray Wyatt interrupted via a Firefly Fun House segment then Strowman found a parcel he assumed was a present from Bliss, despite her saying it wasn’t. When he opened it, he found his black sheep mask from his time in the Wyatt Family. Creepy Bray Wyatt laughter closed the segment.
Sasha Banks vs Tamina
This was the match Bayley set up last week, and the champ joined Corey Graves and Michael Cole of commentary for it. Sasha Banks tried to give Tamina one of her shirts at the start of the match, a goodwill gesture or something, but it backfired when the shirt was too small. Tamina knocked Banks on her ass and threw the shirt at Bayley.
Let’s be honest. Sasha Banks is a significantly better wrestler than Tamina. However, that becomes irrelevant when she’s being launched across the ring, or out of it as she was going into a break. When she managed to get the upper hand, she was comfortably in control, but commentary spent most of that bit of the match quizzing Bayley about the prospect of facing Banks for the title at some point. They started focusing again just before got slammed to the mat so hard she rolled outside for a break.
Bayley tried to distract Tamina when she followed Banks to the outside. It worked. Banks shoved Tamina into the ringpost, kicked her in the head and threw her into the steps. Bayley left commentary and took her shoe off, but before she could do anything, Lacey Evans ran down and knocked Bayley down.
With Bayley curled up on the floor at ringside and Lacey Evans keeping an eye on her, Tamina superkicked Banks on the outside then finished the match with another superkick to earn herself a title shot. Evans joined Tamina in the ring to celebrate.
Lacey Evans had a backstage interview. After everything Banks has done to her and her family, she’s going to be wherever Banks is to give her a taste of her own medicine. The ex-marine has made taking Banks out her next mission and she won’t rest until the mission is complete. As the interview ended she pulled her glove off to reveal Sasha Banks written on her right hand in a crossed-out circle.
Carmella let know Dana Brooke backstage that she wasn’t happy about Brooke facing Naomi this week. As far as Carmella is concerned, Brooke should be concentrating on preparing for their tag title match next week. Brooke said no way she was giving up the opportunity for a place in the Money in the Bank Ladder match and the chance to get a guaranteed title shot. She can do both. It didn’t pacify Carmella, which doesn’t bode well for their teamwork.
Naomi vs Dana Brooke – Money in the Bank Ladder Match Qualifier
They both went for the early finish, with no success, then Brooke pitched Naomi over the top rope to the floor and kicked her back down when she tried to get back in the ring. She did go and retrieve her before the ref could count her out, but she quickly lost control of the match.
Naomi consistently went for the pin at every opportunity, but Brooke kept kicking out. She avoided one Rear View and kicked out of another, and avoided Naomi’s moonsault, then got the win with a sunset flip.
Dana Brooke was so excited she went and hugged Michael Cole after the match.
Sonya Deville came to the ring and begged Mandy Rose to come out and let her explain. She’s been trying to contact her for two weeks. Rose waited until Deville was emotional and pleading before she joined her, and she didn’t look happy. The first thing she said was that she didn’t have anything to say after what Deville did to her and Otis.
Deville started her explanation sounding emotional and like she was trying to tell her how much she meant to her, then her tone changed and she said Rose was the most selfish human being she’s ever met in her life.
Mandy Rose protested while Deville explained that she realised when Rose became interested in Otis that she was ready to discard her at any given moment. Fire & Desire was never about both of them. Week after week they came out to Rose’s entrance music, promoting Rose’s magazine shoots. Deville’s face was blurred in the entrance so you couldn’t even see her. She’s sick of trying to share camera time with the golden goddess.
If Rose had gone along with her ‘little plan’ they wouldn’t even be there. All she had to do was keep her focus on Fire & Desire but she couldn’t do that. And the sad part is Dolph cares about her. SO she helped Ziggler strike up a relationship with her in exchange for him helping them as a team, but Rose couldn’t see that and she ruined it. She’s glad all the cards are on the table now because all she wants to do is see Mandy hurt.
Mandy Rose night be pretty but she’s nothing but ‘a dime a dozen bottle blonde who looks like she was created in some sort of lab’. Deville worked and worked for five long years to play second best to some eye candy with no talent. No one knows Rose like she does and she’s going to use everything she knows to ruin her life. Then everyone will know who the real champ of Fire & Desire always was, an actual fighter not some centrefold bitch.
They were about to get physical when Dolph Ziggler came down and begged Mandy Rose to come back to him. He wants a chance to make it up to her and told her to look him in the eye and tell him she doesn’t feel anything for him. She pushed him away when he reached for her, and Sonya Deville knocked her down. Otis came out to deal with Dolph. Deville jumped on his back and Rose pulled her down by the hair. Ziggler helped her escape and then attacked Otis before he could hug Rose. Otis gave him a caterpillar.
It wasn’t a bad segment except for the gross fat-shaming and comments on Otis’s appearance from Deville. I’ve chosen not to record them. She should know better and be better.
Anyway, look out for the mixed tag announcement…
Something odd is going on with Money in the Bank this year. The show will come from WWE headquarters and the ladder matches will start on the ground floor but will finish with the titles on the roof. It was mentioned by commentary and WWE also sent out a tweet. It sounds very odd indeed, but we’ll see what they come up with. Not all of the stuff they’re done with fan-less wrestling has worked, but some of it has.
Next week Sasha Banks faces Lacey Evans in a ladder match qualifier, and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross defend their tag titles against Carmella & Dana Brooke.
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Join me next week for whatever there is to round-up. Hopefully, I will be reporting that either WWE or the local government have put an end to the live shows for the duration of the global crisis. In the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why. Please stay safe.