Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions, what there was of it. With the turn of the year coming midweek, RAW closed off the decade and SmackDown rang in the new one. NXT, which was technically the first show of the new year, was the awards show.
Charlotte Flair def. Natalya
There was still a celebratory air to RAW being as it was New Year’s Eve eve and the final WWE show of the year.
Charlotte Flair came to the ring to address the WWE Universe. The first thing she did was announce her entry into the Royal Rumble match, then talked about how obvious it was she was going to be in it and how great she is. The list of accolades is impressive. After she got that out of her system she said she was tired of talking about why she’s The Queen of WWE, she wanted to show everyone why she was The Queen of WWE.
When Charlotte Flair issues an Open Challenge on the final show of the decade, you would be forgiven for hoping her challenger would be a debut or a shock return, maybe even a legend… it was Natalya.
Charlotte Flair vs Natalya
There was nothing wrong with this match, it was just a bit of an anti-climax. Ok, I tried to write something other than, I was bored, but I can’t. Technically, it was a decent match and it got a good amount of time (as it should because it was, yet again, the only women’s division match). It is apparent every single time they’re in the ring together how well they know each other, and there is a weight of history behind them sharing a ring that is found in no other adversarial pairing at the moment. But I’ve seen it before and I’ve seen them do it better. It was a bit ponderous for the most part.
Things picked up briefly when R-Truth ran down to and around the ring pursued by the chasing pack. Eric Young tried to take a shortcut through the ring and took a big boot from Flair. Natalya was down on the outside at the time, but they managed to avoid stepping on her.
Natalya got her legs up for Charlotte Flair’s moonsault and nearly got a pin from countering the figure four, but she took a big boot in the face and tapped out to the Figure Eight.
Charlotte Flair and Andrade got engaged at New Year. Congratulations to them.
Becky Lynch confirmed that her match against Asuka will be at Royal Rumble. Charly Caruso asked how she managed to get it done and Lynch said her contract is up and she insisted on the match before she’d start negotiating a new one. She could sit back and sign one of the biggest contracts in WWE history if she’d shut her mouth, forget about Asuka beating her, and move on. But money and status can’t help her look in the mirror anymore. All the decision-makers are telling her to forget about it because she’s on top of the world now, but if this is on top of the world then she doesn’t want it.
History needed to know if a woman could be the face of the whole company and she did that. Now she needs to know if it was worth it. She’s found out that when you’re the golden goose you also get the golden handcuffs. She doesn’t know if she can beat Asuka but she’s going to wipe her record even if it kills her.
Right, now onto the difficult part of this week’s column. I’ve avoided covering any aspect of the Lana and Bobby Lashley storyline because it didn’t involve Lana wrestling. So far, it still doesn’t, but it can’t be ignored after this week.
The story so far – Lana left Rusev for Bobby Lashley, got restraining orders, got a WWE quick divorce and this week was the wedding. The service was WWE on full and high-level cringe alert. It was interrupted by Lana’s ‘first husband’ and by Bobby Lashley’s ‘first wife’. It was expected that Rusev would make the final interruption, and he did, but there was one more person who showed up to put a spanner in the works – Liv Morgan.
Liv Morgan’s third reintroduction vignette had aired earlier in the show and it sounded like she was close to a return. But I don’t think there were many bets placed on her turning up during that segment and declaring her love for Lana.
It took a while for Morgan to reveal it was Lana she was talking about. She just came out and said the love of her life was right there, and she wouldn’t have made it through the year without their love. She came to WWE a lost soul, a wild child ending her teen years hoping her dreams come true. And she never knew she could be herself until they fell in love.
Then she got angry and asked how they could do this to her. Bobby Lashley started protesting his innocence and that’s when Morgan made the reveal. She put the mic down and they talked and cried, then Lana slapped her and the brawl started.
The seconds before Lana flew at Morgan when she was crying were the first moments she’d been anything other than demanding and superficial in the entire segment. But the moment passed in a flurry of flailing fists and hair pulling as they rolled around on the floor destroying the décor. Morgan was eventually dragged away by security, kicking and screaming, for just long enough for Rusev to jump out of the obligatory giant fake cake. Once Rusev and Lashley were brawling and Lashley was getting his ass kicked, Liv Morgan returned to rub Lana’s face in the fake cake’s icing – it may not be the most WTF moment of the segment, but why was there anything resembling icing on a fake cake big enough for Rusev to jump out of?
The whole segment was messy, overdone, and horribly cringey. It wasn’t the hoped-for return for Liv Morgan, but it’s way too early to read anything into what it means for her character. It has worrying implications though.
Tweets between Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville, who pitched a lesbian romance storyline for themselves, suggested they’re unhappy with the decision. However, them pitching the idea was filmed on Total Divas, which is at least partially scripted, and it’s impossible to be sure how much of their reaction is a genuine reaction and how much is them doing as they’ve been directed to.
And that’s the first question. Why choose Liv Morgan for an LGBTQ storyline when Sonya Deville is right there? If it has to be done at all, why not do it with a member of the community being represented. Now, maybe Morgan is a member of the LGBTQ community, but if that’s the case then it’s a hell of a way to come out.
The bigger question is, can WWE in their current form be trusted with a storyline like this in the first place? Are they going to give a sensitive and balanced representation of the LGBT community with this storyline or are they trying to titillate the juvenile male ‘oooh, lesbians’ section of their demographic? It’s all very wait and see what happens, but it appears this is going to go on for a while.
The best wrestling news of the week for me came on New Year’s Eve when BT Sport announced they’d be showing NXT live, starting this week. No longer do I have to avoid spoilers or review the show 24 hours after it first airs. Of course, this week’s show was the Year End Awards, and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic announcements (which the women’s division isn’t part of), so there aren’t any matches to report on this week.
NXT UK were included in the NXT Year End Awards this year. They should have had their own because they didn’t win anything.
Shayna Baszler won Female Competitor of the Year, which is fair enough. She used her acceptance speech to warn everyone that she’ll still be just as dominant, despite no longer being champion.
Dakota Kai won Future Star of the Year. With the demeanour of a sulky teenager, she said she’d known that about herself the whole time and everyone was just late to the party.
And that was it for the women. The Women’s WarGames match came second in the Match of the Year vote but lost out to Adam Cole and Johnny Gargano. Shayna Baszler lost out to Adam Cole for Overall Competitor of the Year. And Rhea Ripley lost out on Breakout Star of the Year to Keith Lee. I like Keith Lee, he’s a great wrestler and he’s had a great year, but he hasn’t had the kind of career-making year that Rhea Ripley has had. I really feel like she deserved that award, but she’s NXT Women’s Champion so it’s not like she’s had no recognition.
NXT UK has also moved onto ‘proper telly’ in the UK, which is kind of cool. Hopefully, it starts to legitimise the brand a bit and gives it a sense of importance.
Toni Storm addressed the NXT UK crowd this week. She said that after she lost the NXT UK Women’s Championship she had to go away for a little while because she didn’t know herself anymore. Kay Lee Ray got in her head and it sent her to a really dark place, maybe made her a little crazy. Because of that, she owes someone she considers a friend, that she’s known a long time, an apology. She asked Piper Niven to come out.
Piper Niven looked angry even while Storm was apologising. After completing the apology Toni Storm said she needed a favour and asked Niven to step aside from the TakeOver Blackpool title match, promising her the first title shot after she beats Kay Lee Ray.
Niven told Storm she loves her, but Storm knows how hard she’s had to work to get the opportunity. She can’t give that chance up. As Niven turned to walk away Storm grabbed her so Piper Niven dropped her with a headbutt. They brawled and Kay Lee Ray appeared on the stage laughing at her title challengers destroying each other while officials tried to separate them.
And that was it for the NXT UK women’s division. No matches, not even a promo or vignette for anyone outside the title picture.
Lacey Evans & Dana Brooke def. Bayley & Sasha Banks and Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Sasha Banks and Bayley opened the show for the triple threat tag match. Bayley kicked things off by telling the crowd that none of them would stick to their resolutions because change is tough and none of them has what it takes. Then she moved on to talk about how amazing she and Banks are but got interrupted by Lacey Evans and Dana Brooke before she could get onto trashing their opponents.
Evans complained about them using her daughter to get to her (as she should), and talked about being the right kind of role model, not Banks and Bayley.
Alexa Bliss had to say her piece as well. She questioned whether she and Cross should be in the match considering the deeply personal enmity between Evans and Banks and Bayley. Cross said of course they should, especially if they want the tag titles back. Bliss agreed and we got an ad break before the match.
Bayley & Sasha Banks vs Lacey Evans & Dana Brooke vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross – Triple Threat Tag Team match
Standard triple threat tag rules, two teams in at any one time and you can tag anyone. It never stays that way of course, teamwork is key in these matches, legal or otherwise, and chaos broke out relatively regularly.
Lacey Evans tried to get a piece of Sasha Banks early on, but Banks wanted no part of it and tagged Nikki Cross in. All the women in the match have some kind of storyline motivation for being there. Bliss and Cross want the titles back. Dana Brooke is still running a proving herself storyline. Lacey Evans wants revenge on Banks and Bayley for scaring her child. And Bayley and Sasha Banks just want to prove they’re superior to everyone else.
It was Banks and Bayley who got the best of the offence in the mid part of the match, with Dana Brooke taking the worst of the punishment. That set things up for Evans to come in and take out some of her frustrations on Bayley and Banks.
They nearly turned it back on her but, finally, Lacey Evans got some solid retribution on Sasha Banks. She hit Banks with a Woman’s Right and Dana Brooke delivered a senton from the top turnbuckle for the win.
Just the one match for SmackDown’s women this week, but there were six women in it, so they still won the week in terms of personnel used. The year hasn’t exactly started with a bang, just two matches, the horrible wedding segment, and a couple of talky bits. It’s disappointing. It would have been nice to mark the start of the new decade with the women front and centre rather than looking like a bit of an afterthought. I know there is good stuff to come, but we shouldn’t still be seeing the women’s division getting so much less time than the men.
All the WWE programming has moved from Sky to BT Sport in the UK. Main Event seems to have vanished somewhere along the way. I heard there was a women’s match filmed, but I haven’t tracked it down.
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Join me next week for another instalment, and in the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why.