Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. The week started with the final PPV of 2020, TLC. As the show began, we still didn’t know who Asuka would enlist as her partner. We would have to wait until halfway through the show before we found out. I’ll let you decide for yourselves if the reveal was worth the secrecy.
Sasha Banks def. Carmella
Asuka & Charlotte Flair def. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Sasha Banks (C) vs Carmella – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
Carmella tried to make a statement about doing things on her own terms by getting out of the ring and spending a few moments checking her gear as soon as the bell rang. Her sommelier, now named Reginald Thomas, helped her out by catching her as Banks threw her out of the ring and putting her in position to take Banks down, but she’d already been thrown around a fair bit by then.
Sasha Banks started to build towards a finish with the Three Amigos and a frogsplash. It shook her when Carmella kicked out. Carmella spiked Banks’ head into the canvas and it looked like she was out for the count, but she still kicked out of three increasingly desperate pin attempts. Carmella started to get frustrated and she lost it completely when Banks slapped her. She had another pin attempt off a superkick, but she was too close to the ropes and Banks got hold of one.
The rest of the match was escalating pin and submission attempts with growing frustration at each failure. There were some exceedingly close calls. It would have finished on a Bank Statement, but Reginald pulled Carmella out of the ring. Banks delivered double knees from the apron to Reginald and got superkicked twice by Carmella, but Banks kicked out of the pin attempt. The next time Carmella found herself in the Bank Statement, she tapped out.
I’ll go out on a limb and say that was one of Carmella’s best matches. Very enjoyable watch.
Billie Kay pitched her services to Asuka as a tag team partner with her headshot and resume. She told Asuka she was proficient in Japanese but clearly didn’t understand a word. Asuka reverted to English to tell her the position had been filled and Kay was not ready for Asuka.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C) vs Asuka & Charlotte Flair – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Lana apparently has an elbow fracture and a ligament injury in her leg. That was discussed during Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler’s entrance. When Asuka arrived, all attention turned to who her tag team partner would be. When Charlotte Flair came out, Jax and Baszler looked less than thrilled but the fake crowd noise was loud and commentary were excited. There would have been a huge pop with a live crowd. Some things just can’t be replicated in the ThunderDome.
It was genuinely lovely to see Charlotte Flair back in the ring, and she was hungry for the fight. I’ve also enjoyed seeing Jax and Baszler growing as a team, though I suspect their association will end soon. They’ve enjoyed and encouraged each other’s sadism and both become even more vicious and destructive as a result. They used all of that when they got the chance in this one, and they had Asuka isolated for a while to do as they wished with.
When Ric Flair was shown watching backstage, just after Charlotte had tagged back in, there was a distinct feeling we were getting new tag champs. It took a little longer than that, and there were a few nervy moments along the way, like Jax pulling Flair out of the Figure Eight. Asuka dealt with her for that, and Flair finished off Nia Jax with Natural Selection.
That match was a lot of fun to watch. Asuka has two titles and Charlotte Flair is a champion in WWE again. It’s another ‘team of convenience’ but what a team it could be.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Charlotte Flair & Asuka def. Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce
Charlotte Flair opened the show this week. She said a few words about how grateful we must be to have her back, then brought Asuka out to join her. She said when a friend asks for help and there’s something in it for her, all they have to do is ask. Asuka said ‘The Empress of Tomorrow is the double champion today’. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler weren’t ready for Asuka, and they definitely weren’t ready for Charlotte Flair.
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler arrived just as Flair was asking something about the RAW Women’s Championship. Insults were exchanged with Flair. Then Jax and Baszler told a little story about how they have their own naughty list and they hand out season’s beatings.
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke completed the set before it could get physical, and dished out some insults of their own.
Charlotte Flair didn’t let it drag on. She said she wanted to see the match and Asuka agreed they’d stick around, then she called for a ref.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax vs Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Flair and Asuka joined commentary for the match, so we got to hear significantly more about Charlotte Flair than we did about anyone else. I like the chemistry Flair and Asuka have. It’s a partnership based on respect, and there’s something very sweet about them. Asuka was doing some great cheerleading for Brooke and Rose as well.
The match was decent. For a time, it looked like Brooke and Rose were firmly in control, but Nia Jax can turn things around in an instant. She did and Mandy Rose ended up a crumpled heap against the barricades going into the break.
Rose was still in trouble when we got back. She missed an opportunity to tag Brooke, and paid for it. She and Dana Brooke are looking like a proper team now, they’ve got to be heading towards a title shot. Brooke came so close to pinning Baszler after flipping her into the corner so she bashed her head, but it wasn’t to be. Shayna Baszler got the Kirifuda Clutch locked in and Brooke tapped.
In some small measure of revenge, Rose and Brooke kicked Baszler and Jax out of the ring while they were yelling at Flair and Asuka.
Alexa Bliss made an appearance on behalf of The Fiend, who was burned up at TLC. The arena was bathed in purple light and ‘Alexa’s Playground’ was set up in the ring. She told Randy Orton that The Fiend is home, but if ever leaves him it will be like nothing Orton has ever seen before.
Charlotte Flair & Asuka (C) vs Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce – RAW Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Things are not as harmonious as they could be between Peyton Royce and Lacey Evans, they’re fighting for dominance and there’s no cohesion. That became clear in the pre-match interview when Royce hung back after Evans had finished boasting about them not waiting for opportunities to make it clear she was the one who requested the match.
I still can’t believe they broke up The IIconics for this. Billie Kay is a running joke on SmackDown and Peyton Royce is losing matches because she’s too busy arguing with her new tag team partner. Evans and Royce had Asuka trapped in their corner and barely fighting back when they started tagging themselves in instead of letting the other get the finish. Peyton Royce had another decent pin attempt later on, but that was easily their best chance. Instead, it finished with Royce tapping in a Figure Eight.
Rhea Ripley def. Raquel Gonzalez
A Very Gargano Christmas was presented in three parts. The first started with Johnny Gargano pretending to play the piano. Austin Theory got his Christmas present, a tub of ‘Gargano Whey’ protein powder. It was all slightly surreal, Theory and Indi Hartwell appear to be Gargano and LeRae’s children in this setup.
Indi Hartwell got her gift in the second visit. It was the box for a PS5, Gargano kept the PS5 for himself and gave her the box for dramatic effect. Her real gift was a family nickname because she has proven herself loyal and worthy. She will henceforth be known as Indi Wrestling. She was happy and emotional about this gift.
The final visit saw Candice LeRae receive her gift. She got a wheel from Shotzi Blackheart’s destroyed tank. Austin Theory spoiled the family photo because he was eating the whey powder straight from the tub and obscured himself in a cloud of dust by trying to say Merry Christmas.
Rhea Ripley vs Dakota Kai
Raquel Gonzalez was banned from ringside after Ripley tweeted that she might as well have been put on the match graphic because everyone knows Kai can’t fight her own battles. Gonzalez replied that Kai was more than capable and offered to be banned. William Regal took her up on it.
A stamp against the edge of the apron from Kai to Ripley’s shoulder left Ripley fighting two-thirds of the match one-armed. It slowed her a little, and she had to make a lot of adjustments, but it didn’t stop her dishing out some of the most brutal offence of the mat. It gave Kai more opportunities than she would otherwise have had, but she got frustrated as she repeatedly failed to capitalise.
Raquel Gonzalez arrived when Dakota Kai was in the Prism Drop, and just stood on the stage. Ripley’s attention was divided from then, but she seemed to find Gonzalez’ presence motivating. Kai should have one it off a vicious looking backstabber, but Ripley kicked out. Rhea Ripley was staring down Raquel Gonzalez as she pinned Dakota Kai with her second attempt at a Riptide.
Once the match was over, Gonzalez came to the ring. They circled and stared and trash-talked, then went for each other. The ring filled with officials and producers to try to keep them apart, but they got free and flew at each other.
The feud between Ripley and Gonzalez isn’t going to go away. Beating each other and beating each other up hasn’t helped. They can’t help antagonising each other and they can’t be in the same place without violence erupting.
Toni Storm said Io Shirai is next for her. Shirai is scared every time she mentions the title because she knows Storm is the one woman on the roster she just can’t beat. Storm won the Mae Young Classic after beating Shirai, and next, she’ll take the NXT Women’s Championship.
Whatever torturous training Xia Li and Boa have been going through appears to be nearing its end. They weren’t crying or bleeding this time and the master guy called enough. The face-painted figure is still there, and still mysterious.
Mercedes Martinez attacked Io Shirai while Shirai was addressing Toni Storm’s comments. Shirai had stomped down to the ring and sat on a chair facing the stage. She called Storm out, but Martinez grabbed her from behind and rolled her out of the ring then tossed her into the barricades and ringpost. Shirai briefly tried to fight back, but Martinez slammed her back against the apron then flung her into the announce desk and left her lying in a crumpled heap.
This week’s NXT UK was a highlights show. With the way the UK restrictions are heading, there may be a few of those. Some of the NXT UK superstars delivered Christmas messages, including Xia Brookside, Amale, Aoife Valkyrie, and Dani Luna. No women’s matches made the first part of the highlights, but there’s another show next week.
Jinny delivered a ‘Queen’s Speech’. She told us to be proud of our accomplishments, no matter how irrelevant they and we are. The rest of the speech was about how great NXT UK is and how great she is. She is more ruthless and fabulous than ever. We’ll never be as successful or fabulous as her, but we can be mediocre, like Piper Niven. Next year will be her year. She’ll continue to put every woman on the roster in her place and she’ll become the champion. There was a merry Christmas in there as well. And a stay safe, because it is still 2020.
Charlotte Flair & Asuka def. Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks and Bayley & Carmella
Smackdown wasn’t live this week because it was on Christmas Day. They put on a special tour-style show with lots of superstars, including a lumberjack match for the men, and some PPV level matches.
To finish off their busy week, Asuka and Charlotte Flair went to SmackDown to defend the title in a triple-threat. They came to the ring to talk before the match, but Bayley barely let them get anything out. Sasha Banks joined them after Bayley talked about what a great year she’s had. Bianca Belair arrived after Banks and Bayley bitched at each other a bit. She did little more than introduce herself before Carmella completed the group. Carmella called them all bitches and said people only want to look at her anyway. It broke down a bit when Banks shoved Carmella, but they got it calmed down.
Asuka & Charlotte Flair vs Bayley & Carmella vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship Triple Threat Elimination match
The rules for this one were, two women in the ring at any one time. You can tag in anyone, not just your teammate. When one member of the team is eliminated, both members of the team are out. The Riott Squad were shown watching from backstage. They thought they should have been included in the match.
There was a lovely moment between Bianca Belair and Charlotte Flair, like Flair realising she’s dealing with her successor. Not that The Queen is giving up her crown anytime soon. Commentary’s narrative on Belair has moved from hailing her as the next big thing to hailing her the next big thing in a little while after some more experience.
Chaos was the order of the day, and a lot of underhand tactics. Happily, and very like a tour show, it got a long time, so everyone got plenty of opportunities to settle old scores and start some new ones.
Bayley and Carmella (the mean twins of the BayMella of old) were the first to be eliminated, and that was quite a way into the match. They went out courtesy of a Sasha Banks frogsplash on Bayley after Belair had put her down with a spinebuster. But they didn’t leave ringside so it was inevitable that one or both of them would be instrumental in the result.
Sasha Banks was too far from the ropes when she was put into a figure four, so Bianca Belair threw her ponytail to her and Belair used it to drag her close enough to tag. It worked and Belair landed a moonsault that nearly won them the titles. She took too long going to the top for a follow-up and hurt her leg when Flair brought her down. That would have been the end if Banks hadn’t caught Flair in the face with double knees before she could bridge the figure four into a figure eight.
Banks was knocked off the apron by Asuka and took Reginald down on her way to the floor, Bayley distracted Belair and nearly cost her the match. She kicked out of that and withstood the flurry of kicks from Asuka and sit out powerbombed her, but Asuka kicked out. Belair wanted out but there was no one to tag. Bayley taunted her from ringside and Belair’s next move sent Asuka close enough for Flair to tag in. Double knees to the face was Asuka’s parting gift to Belair and Charlotte Flair finished her off with Natural Selection.
I know it was another loss for Bianca Belair, which I guess is why the ‘with more experience’ caveat has appeared in commentary’s narrative, but it was another impressive performance against top calibre opponents. I think it did her positioning more good than harm.
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.