Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. RAW and SmackDown have TLC coming up on Sunday, so everything this week was geared around that. NXT have a little more time, their next special event is New Year’s Evil on January 6th.
Lana def. Nia Jax
Dana Brooke def. Shayna Baszler (DQ)
Lana vs Nia Jax
Asuka gave Lana a lovely pep-talk before the match. Lana said she was confident for Sunday when they’d be together, but she was scared of facing Jax alone. Asuka told her that Nia Jax was scary, but Lana could be scared and still go out there and face her. That makes her the bravest person she knows and she’s proud to be her partner.
Lana was brave, but most of the match went exactly as she expected it to. She got destroyed. Then it all changed. She took Jax down with a head scissors and kicked her in the face, but she climbed the turnbuckle instead of staying on her and Jax headbutted her before she got to the top. Jax got on the second rope and put Lana on her shoulders, but Lana got down and kicked her legs from under her. Lana followed up with a double stomp to the chest to knock her to the mat and pinned her.
Asuka had been shown watching and cheering Lana on from backstage. Shayna Baszler attacked Asuka when it finished and Jax attacked Lana from behind. Baszler joined Jax in the ring and they took Lana apart. Jax lined Baszler up to Stamp on Lana’s elbow. Baszler twisted and stamped on one of Lana’s legs then took her boot off and did it some more. Finally, Nia Jax leg dropped Lana’s leg until Asuka recovered enough to come and save her. Jax and Baszler retreated, and Lana was left to cry in the ring while Asuka comforted her.
It was announced later in the show that Lana had been taken to a local medical facility with ‘devastating’ elbow and leg injuries and she was out of the title match at TLC. Speculation started immediately as to who Asuka’s partner would be. Mandy Rose, Dana Brooke, and Charlotte Flair are among the potential partners being discussed. I’d like to see Naomi as a surprise.
I’m more than a little frustrated on Lana’s behalf after all that. The poor woman has been put through the announce desk more times in the last few months more times than most people go through one in their careers. She’s been verbally abused and humiliated and became the Survivor Series sole survivor only by not being deemed good enough to take part in the match by her teammates. She’s obviously worked her ass off in the ring and to promote herself (ok, some of the promotion is cringeworthy but it’s all work). Finally, it looks like it’s paying off for her. She’s got Asuka alongside her and a title match as a payoff for everything she’s endured. Except she doesn’t. She gets written off tv for several weeks (according to various reports) and someone else gets the opportunity.
I hate it on a storyline level, and for Lana herself. On a storyline level, this was allegedly designed to provoke sympathy for Lana, and I think it probably worked in some ways. To have the payoff for all the humiliation and suffering ripped away feels unfair. In the muddy grey area of ‘sports entertainment’, a lot of the humiliating comments Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler threw at Lana echoed the things people have written in the comments section. With that in mind, it can’t be fun on a personal level knowing you’re going into work to play the part of bullying victim for weeks on end. There is nothing about the way this storyline is going that feels good.
Shayna Baszler vs Dana Brooke
Nia Jax accompanied Baszler to the ring. Dana Brooke came alone but looked confident. Dana Brooke is showing something else recently. She’s sick of waiting for it to be her time so she’s going to make it her time. It started badly for her, but she’d turned it around and had the momentum when she climbed the turnbuckle. Unfortunately, Nia Jax shoved her to the floor right in front of the ref and got Baszler disqualified, so that was the end of that.
It wasn’t the end of Dana Brooke’s problems though. Jax put her back in the ring and they started to beat on her. Mandy Rose ran to the ring with a kendo stick and used it to good effect to get them off Brooke. She lost it though and Baszler picked it up. Before she could use it, Asuka arrived and helped Rose clear the tag champs from the ring.
Shotzi Blackheart def. Indi Hartwell (DQ)
Toni Storm def. Rhea Ripley
Toni Storm said she knows Rhea Ripley better than anyone else. She’s the one who ran Ripley out of NXT UK. Ripley uses fear and intimidation and insecurity to get a leg up, but she knows those tactics don’t work on her. Last time they met one on one, Ripley won. But that Toni Storm respected her. This Toni Storm doesn’t care about anything other than her time. Toni Time.
In her pre-match interview, before they talked about Toni Storm, Rhea Ripley was asked about the confrontation between her and Raquel Gonzalez last week. She said Gonzalez backed down, simple as that. She’s known her longer than people realise and she’s a different animal when she’s on her own without the backup she had at WarGames. On the subject of Toni Storm, Ripley acknowledged they have a lot of history, but said Storm is not the only one who is a different person now. She doesn’t care if she’s stepping into the room with the new Toni Storm or the old Toni Storm because she’s still the same piece of trash Ripley knew back then. She’s going to finish it once and for all.
Ahead of her match against Indi Hartwell, Shotzi Blackheart is proud of her team and unimpressed by Candice LeRae and her trophy. She broke LeRae’s arm in the cage, and now she’s going to break her best friend.
Xia Li and Boa are still undergoing some kind of punishment torture. This week Li was being made to beat Boa bloody. I still have no idea what’s happening.
Indi Hartwell, with The Way, vs Shotzi Blackheart
Shotzi Blackheart’s tank is a definite upgrade, but she could have done with having some friends around to counteract the presence of Candice LeRae, Johnny Gargano, and Austin Theory at ringside. It was a decent enough match, but inevitably it ended in shenanigans.
Candice LeRae got up on the apron to distract the ref while Theory handed Hartwell the trophy. The ref turned around just in time to see Hartwell hit Blackheart in the stomach with it and she was immediately disqualified.
Once she’d lost anyway, she hit Blackheart with it again before LeRae took it off her and complained it was broken. Then LeRae joined in kicking Blackheart and Hartwell helped hold her in position for the Wicked Stepsister.
Karrion Kross is back from injury and Scarlett is with him. There’s still no mention of her wrestling, but it would be good to see.
Rhea Ripley vs Toni Storm
I was surprised this got the main event slot because Pete Dunne versus Kyle O’Reilly to decide Finn Balor’s New Year’s Evil opponent was on the same show and a match with stakes will usually take priority. They earned the main event slot though. The match was great.
There was a lot of frustration because they know each other well enough to have most things scouted. They laid each other out at one point by going for a headbutt at the same time. It could have gone on until one of them was exhausted enough to make a mistake if there hadn’t been an external deciding factor.
Raquel Gonzalez appeared and stopped Toni Storm falling off the apron after Ripley dumped her over the rope. Ripley kicked Storm down anyway and the kick sent Gonzalez over the barricade. Rhea Ripley knew she was there because she smirked at her when she went out to roll Storm back into the ring, but she should have been paying closer attention. Before Ripley could follow Storm back in, Gonzalez grabbed her off the apron onto her shoulder and ran her into the ringpost. The ref didn’t see it, he just saw Storm’s hip attack and Storm Zero before he counted the pin.
Once again, NXT ended with Raquel Gonzalez and Rhea Ripley staring daggers at each other.
Kay Lee Ray def. Isla Dawn
Kay Lee Ray vs Isla Dawn
This one opened the show. I’ve got to say, it’s nice to see Kay Lee Ray in a non-title match. Commentary talked about Kay Lee Ray’s long title reign, but not how few defences there have been, and mentioned Sasha Banks said she’d like to face her. I’d like to see that match.
This match was fine. Isla Dawn was working hard to try to prove the next match should be a title match, and she got a decent run through the middle of the match. She resisted tapping out in Ray’s Koji Clutch, but the Gory Bomb finished her off.
After the match, Kay Lee Ray said that as it stands, she is the longest-reigning women’s champion in WWE right now, and the women on the NXT UK roster are busy fighting among themselves. Like Piper Niven and Jinny. No one can stand up to her so we better get used to the sight of her with the belt because forever is a long time.
Jinny sent Piper Niven a chair in a box with what looked like a match contract attached to it. Niven went to Sid Scala and said if Jinny wants a fight, she’s got one. The match will take place in three weeks and is a number one contender’s match.
The Riott Squad def. Billie Kay & Tamina
Bayley def. Bianca Belair
Kayla Braxton interviewed Bianca Belair ahead of her match with Bayley. Belair picked her up on using the words role model and Bayley in the same sentence (even though Braxton did say self-proclaimed). A role model is someone you aspire to be, Bayley is just someone she intends to beat. Ever since Belair arrived in SmackDown (a few weeks ago) she’s wanted to face Bayley because of everything she’s accomplished. She is the measuring stick. But the thing about Bayley is, she’s always got something to say. Tonight Belair is going to do what she always does, the EST is going to S H I N E.
The Riott Squad vs Billie Kay & Tamina
Liv Morgan had a wishlist of partners for Billie Kay, but it included Wonder Woman and Sarah Jessica Parker so I think she might have been disappointed with Tamina as Kay’s choice.
Tamina took the first stint. Billie Kay tagged herself in as Tamina was readying herself to Samoan drop Ruby Riott. Tamina didn’t feel it and by the time Kay had shooed her out of the ring, Morgan was there to break up the pin. Morgan tagged in and they used the changeover time to double dropkick Tamina off the apron and deliver a double team finisher to Billie Kay for the win.
Carmella took over the ring for a champagne toast to Sasha Banks, set out for her by her sommelier. She was tasting a variety to decide which one she would drink to celebrate her victory on Sunday. There was lots of, she’s rich and beautiful and better than all of us and we’re scummy and dirty and stupid. Standard boring overused heel stuff. It wasn’t badly done, just very ‘A Gimmick’ with nothing to mark it out as the essence of Carmella. There was also a lot of stuff putting down and trying to psych out Sasha Banks. Camella thinks Banks is mentally weak. This is the longest she’s ever held onto a championship and she’s in so far over her head she’s drowning in the pressure of her own expectations. Banks getting herself disqualified last week to protect her title is why Carmella knows she’s got her beat. Banks entire existence is based around being the very best, and not even Banks knows who she is if she’s not The Boss anymore.
Sasha Banks turned up after the first tasting. The sommelier went to the ramp to wait for her, but Banks came in from the back of the ring. She threw a champagne glass at Carmella then tried to put her in the Bank Statement until the sommelier dragged her off. Carmella saved him from another backstabber by smashing another champagne bottle on Banks’ back.
Bayley said it was quite refreshing to hear someone say some nice things about her, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to take it easy on her because she’s not. Belair has all the potential in the world but she should be picking her brains instead of picking a fight with her and boasting about her achievements in other athletic pursuits. Bayley promised to Bianca Belair on the map tonight.
Bayley vs Bianca Belair
After criticising Belair for boasting about past achievements, Bayley boasted about her star power because she got pyro during her entrance.
I thoroughly enjoyed the match and it looked like they had fun. Commentary played hard on the ‘Belair is the future, but Bayley is the ring veteran’ angle. The way everything is being laid out, this sounds like it’s a rivalry that will rumble on for a while rather than a short-lived thing.
Bayley knocked Belair down from a handstand and smashed her arm into the apron, then threw her into the barricade, using the arm to propel her. Belair got herself from some breathing space by shoving Bayley into the steps. It was almost a count-out victory for Belair, but Bayley made it back in at eight and they immediately knocked each other down.
Bianca Belair got cocky after squatting with Bayley in a delayed vertical suplex and tried getting some payback to the damage to her arm. She got a near fall with a moonsault, and another after a backbreaker, but Bayley kicked out.
Bayley tried to pin Belair with her feet on the ropes and nearly got pinned herself. Belair had Bayley up to slam her into the mat, but Bayley raked her eyes and smashed her face into the mat for the win.
Looking forward to the next round of this one. I hope it gets them a PPV match.
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.