Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s not been the strongest week for WWE when it comes to the treatment of their women’s division.
On Thursday, one week since her release, Mickie James posted pictures of the package she received her belongings back from WWE in. It was a bin bag in a box, with a sticker on the bag saying Mickie. It’s just not the right way to treat a legend of your business… or anyone else. At least have a little bit of respect. Triple H responded later in the day to say the person responsible had been fired as a result of their disrespectful actions. Stephanie McMahon also publicly apologised to Mickie James. James’ response was gracious, but not taking any BS. She said she understood it wasn’t a malicious act, but it felt very symbolic of the way she’s been presented for the last three years. It’s hard to argue with that. She’s been treated terribly.
Naomi & Lana def. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Asuka def. Charlotte Flair
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler vs Naomi & Lana
Naomi and Lana are looking good as a team now. They used fast tags to work together on Jax so efficiently that Jax had to tag out. Baszler did a better job of isolating Lana. She’d just given Lana the elbow stamp when Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke came to the stage.
They were there to show Jax the footage of them attacking her last week, and the footage of Jax slipping off the apron. Nia Jax stormed off up the ramp after Brooke and Rose. Baszler was distracted enough to get caught with a double facebuster from Lana and Naomi and pinned. Jax and Baszler have issues again, or still.
Backstage, later on, Sarah Schreiber asked Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke if they thought their behaviour was appropriate. They said they’re not the bullies, Nia and Shayna are. They didn’t get to finish because Nia Jax ran them off. Baszler was right behind Jax to tell her the loss was her fault. She’d been too distracted lately and she better start paying attention or else. Jax shouted, ‘Or else what?’ at Baszler as she walked away, then Angel Garza arrived to ask Jax what she saw in Reginald.
Alexa Bliss told us that she and Lilly have been best friends for a very long time. One time they were on a playground and another little girl wouldn’t let Bliss have a bite of her ice cream cone. She doesn’t really like strawberry anyway, but she shoved the girl off the swing so she broke her arm and Bliss got all her ice cream. And when the teachers asked why she did it, she told them the truth, Lilly made her do it. The teachers thought she was bonkers, but if Lilly doesn’t like something she has no problem letting you know. Lilly didn’t like ‘Him’ and Lilly doesn’t like any of the girls on the RAW roster.
Looks like we’re finally getting Bliss back in regular action.
Charlotte Flair had more to say this week. She started off all apologetic, claiming she came back last week simply demanding respect from the women’s locker room and the WWE Universe after everything she’s given the industry. She didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings, she was just expressing hers. That was as long as the apologetic tone lasted. She came back unapologetically her, the biggest star in the division. And if any of the rats (I can’t believe she picked that very specific word) in the locker room don’t want to believe that, who was everyone still talking about at WrestleMania, and she didn’t even have a match. The ladies say they don’t like her but they don’t like each other just as much. They’re so fake to each other.
She doesn’t know why they’re mad at her. They didn’t have a match taken away, she did. And so what if Rhea beat Asuka. She can beat Rhea and she can beat Asuka. She could beat them both in the same night, that’s why they call her the opportunity. She’s going to give Asuka that opportunity tonight and show Ripley why she’s the face of the division. And she respects Asuka, she thinks she’s one of the greatest competitors in the world, but it doesn’t mean she has to like her. Tonight she’s going to show her how much she doesn’t like her.
Asuka came out for Flair to say it to her face, but Rhea Ripley came to the stage before Asuka said anything. Flair asked if they were going to gang up on her, then invited Ripley to sit at ringside and watch her beat Asuka. Ripley said she’d take her up on that offer, but knowing Asuka, she was expecting Flair to get beaten.
Charlotte Flair turned to Asuka and was patronising as hell, speaking slowly and raising her voice (which feels racist, to be honest) and outright telling her to stop talking and telling her she couldn’t understand her. Eventually, Asuka cut in with, ‘Charlotte, tonight I will beat you, bitch’. Flair understood that and Rhea Ripley was highly amused.
Charlotte Flair vs Asuka
Rhea Ripley did sit at ringside for the match. She chose the bottom of the ramp rather than joining commentary. Going into a break, Asuka and Flair ended up on the floor in front of her after a neckbreaker on the apron, and she stood to look over them. After that, she prowled at ringside.
It was the main event of the evening, and it got a little under ten minutes. There’s a subtle change in Flair’s look, and she’s upped the aggression and spite levels. She landed a spear, but when Asuka kicked out she looked furious instead of frustrated.
Asuka got Flair in the Asuka Lock, but she got to the ropes and chop-blocked Asuka to soften her up for the Figure Eight. When she got the submission on, Ripley pulled Flair’s arms from under her. Flair grabbed Ripley by the head and Asuka kicked her arm away and pinned her with a crucifix.
Charlotte Flair took her frustrations out on the ref, grabbing him and throwing him across the ring then stamping and pounding on him. Other officials backed her off, but she came back for a second round and then a final huge kick in the abdomen.
As a result of the attack on the referee, Charlotte Flair was fined $100,000 and placed on indefinite suspension. She’s allegedly taking some time off for dental work.
Sarray def. Zoey Stark
Indi Hartwell is still after Dexter Lumis. She cost him his match by distracting him with her mere presence, so it’s not a one-sided infatuation. She was pulled off the apron by the rest of The Way after the match and carried off over Austin Theory’s shoulder.
She had some interview time later as well, but The Way shut that down too.
Even later, Hartwell was supposed to be accompanying Candice LeRae to confront Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart. On the way, LeRae was telling her to stop being distracted by boys, and shut down Hartwell’s suggestion to see William Regal instead of confronting Moon and Blackheart. LeRae didn’t notice Hartwell drift away, so she mouthed off at the tag champs with no backup and got dragged into the toilets and beaten up.
LeRae got back to The Way’s hidey-hole before Hartwell and looked very battered and pissed off. When Hartwell got back she was excited because she’d seen Lumis. She’d also seen William Regal and got them a tag title match.
Io Shirai had a sit-down interview with Beth Phoenix. They talked about Shirai winning the title at TakeOver In Your House, which Shirai described as the biggest night of her life because holding that title means you are the best wrestler in the world. Then they moved onto Stand and Deliver, where Phoenix pointed out a big boot and a powerbomb which she felt was a turning point in the match. Shirai confirmed it hurt and sapped her energy. She looked away from the footage of herself getting pinned and said that wrestling is about challenges. Raquel was her biggest and toughest challenge but when the time is right she will get her rematch.
Phoenix asked what’s next for Io Shirai before the rematch. She said ‘Rest’. She defended her title for over 300 days. Her body needs time so she can come back and overcome the challenge of Raquel Gonzalez.
Franky Monet arrived shortly after her dog and introduced herself. She told Beth Phoenix she’s been watching her since she was a kid (Monet is only three years younger than Phoenix). And she told Io Shirai that since she’s planning to take a bit of time off, she’d be happy to fill her shoes at the top of the division. Shirai responded with a flurry of Japanese finished with, ‘I like cats’.
When NXT announced Zoey Stark as Sarray’s first challenger, it seemed like a slightly strange choice. Stark has lost a lot since her arrival, but that’s because she came in against all the top stars, so it hasn’t made her look weaker. Since her win at TakeOver, I would have thought the plan would be to get some wins under her belt. Facing a much-hyped debut is an almost guaranteed loss. Anyway, it was explained in a segment before the match where Stark approached Sarray and William Regal as Regal was welcoming her, and asked to be Sarray’s first opponent. Regal said he’d like to see it, and Sarray had no objections, so the match was made. Stark thanked Sarray for taking the match.
Sarray vs Zoey Stark
I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen Sarray wrestle before this match, but I’ll be going back over The Warrior of the Sun’s back catalogue as soon as I get a chance. Positioning-wise, it might have been an odd choice, but match-wise, Stark was a great choice.
Sarray looks to be the total package. She’s quick, strong, extremely flexible, skilled, and likeable as well. We got to see her resilience as Zoet Stark took her to her limits, and her joy at getting the pin off a suplex. Good introduction and I’m excited to see where she fits into the division.
Toni Storm attacked Zoey Stark after she’d shred a show of respect with Sarray and left her the ring. Storm threw Stark into the barricades and stamped on her a bit. Sarray came to Stark’s aid to make sure she didn’t do any more damage.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez had a joint interview. Gonzalez said Io Shirai was a great champion, but she’s been busting her ass to kick everyone else’s and prove she’ll be a better one. Kai said ‘they’ beat Io so bad she has to take a little vacation. She also took the question about the other women in the locker room wanting the title and asked McKenzie Mitchell if she was fishing about Mercedes Martinez. Martinez wants a title shot and she wants to go and study at Hogwarts. We don’t always get what we want. It’s not happening. Gonzalez had a different take. She said to line up all the women who want to step up and she’ll take them down one by one until there’s no one left standing.
Mercedes Martinez had a promo slot. She said she’s waiting on Raquel Gonzalez after calling her out last week. She accused Gonzalez of being scared and of being Dakota Kai’s lapdog. She said she’ll do Gonzalez a favour and take Kai out next week, then there’ll be nothing standing in their way. The match was later confirmed.
Jinny def. Dani Luna
Aoife Valkyrie has a match with Meiko Satomura next week. She says it’s her time to step up to the challenge and show what a Valkyrie is truly capable of. This is her moment.
Emilia McKenzie got a reintroduction package this week. She talked about how good the British women’s scene is and how lucky she feels to have been able to train and learn from the best. She’s only 20 and she’s looking to make a name for herself in NXT UK. She’s so talented, I can’t wait to see how her career unfolds.
Jinny, with Joseph Connors, vs Dani Luna
I’m enjoying the new sense of purpose of the NXT UK women’s division, and I enjoyed this match. Dani Luna is very powerful. Jinny probably has the edge on skill, but all the skill in the world is no use to you when you’re being chucked around the ring.
Joseph Connors got up on the apron and distracted Luna just enough for Jinny to catch her with kicks to the leg and head and pin her.
Jinny gave Luna a post-match beatdown while Connors got down on the mat to talk trash. Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster ran down and chased them off.
Tamina def. Nia Jax
Tamina, with Natalya, vs Nia Jax, with Shayna Baszler and Reginald
Reginald is back and all recovered from his illness. Shayna Baszler still doesn’t look best pleased about his presence. He interfered in the match by getting up on the apron and Baszler pulled him down and yelled at him, which was a bit rich considering Baszler had already grabbed Jax’ legs to stop Tamina getting her up for a suplex.
Tamina threw Jax into the barricade when Jax rolled out for a break, and slammed her head into it a couple of times with Baszler yelling at her. That’s when Reginald got up on the apron. Tamina kicked Baszler in the back while she was yelling at Reginald. She got up and started yelling at him again. He backed off and tripped over the steps. Nia Jax ate a superkick from Tamina while she was looking at them and got pinned.
Jax and Baszler argued in the ring after the match. I know it’s nearly time for them to go their separate ways, but they’ve been great for the women’s tag division so far and I’m not sure it’s ready to lose them.
I’ll be honest, I’m getting to the point where I barely want to review these matches. That was another sub-three-minute wonder. I’m just dispirited. It feels like WWE are using the big moments they give the women’s division as a smokescreen – But they main evented WrestleMania. How can we be treating them badly? – But while big history-making moments are lovely, they’re not a substitute for a consistent and fair share of tv time, storylines, or character development. I’m sick of the women’s division getting token slots on SmackDown and RAW. NXT are better, they know they have a truly exceptional women’s division, but they could still improve.
When I first started doing this column, around five years ago, it was pre-brand-split and sometimes all there was to report was a promo on RAW and a two-three minute match on SmackDown. NXT made those early columns worth writing, but I could still get the whole thing out in under 1000 words for the week. It’s not that bleak now, but it’s not far enough away. I wonder how the locker room feels, if they’re worried.
Bianca Belair’s WrestleMania Backlash challenger will be Bayley. I saw it on Twitter before I heard any kind of announcement. No build other than some trash-talk from Bayley. Not even a perfunctory attack from the challenger to piss the champ off enough to give her the match. Just, here, we did this.
Bayley interrupted a tag team confrontation to take herself an interview slot so she could talk about Bianca Belair. She called her an ungrateful rookie and said she gave Belair the opportunity to work with her because she was scared when she first arrived. Belair went to main event WrestleMania and Bayley never got a thank you. Belair is rude, selfish, and spoiled, and Bayley’s taking back her title and her spot at the top at Backlash. She’ll make Belair regret treating her like that.
Montez Ford appeared next to Bayley, with his phone in his hand, telling Belair that Bayley had her name in her mouth. Belair said she’d be right there, Bayley said she’d wait.
One ad break later, Bianca Belair had arrived. She encouraged Bayley to say everything she’d said to her face. It came out very differently the second time. This time it was about congratulating her on making history and telling her what an honour it was going to be to be her first challenger. She talked about replaying the match in her mind, and mentioned the way Belair picked Banks up over her head.
While Belair was reeling from Bayley being nice, she came back and said, ‘One more thing,’ then started laughing obnoxiously and hysterically.
What a difference it would have made if they’d used that segment to create the match. There’s something that just feels disrespectful about making your brand new champion’s first PPV defence a match with no pre-announcement build whatsoever.
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.