Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Once again, NXT won the week with a hellish Last Woman Standing match between Rhea Ripley and Raquel Gonzalez. SmackDown didn’t bother having a women’s division match, so I guess they win worst of the week. Royal Rumble is coming along though.
Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce def. Charlotte Flair & Asuka
Dana Brooke def. Shayna Baszler
It was Legends Night on RAW, which is invariably one of my least favourite shows of the year. Mickie James showed up and caused all kinds of speculation about her status in WWE. The general consensus seems to be she’s probably on the active roster, sort of. If she hasn’t retired, RAW could do with her back. Better still, get her to kick something off on SmackDown. Alicia Fox appeared, as did Tori Wilson, Molly Holly, and Melina. Mustafa Ali told a lovely story about Alicia Fox on Twitter. Tori Wilson got her own back on Angel Garza for interrupting her chat with Nikki Cross, by telling him Cardi B was in a room down the hall. The Boogeyman was there instead and Garza lost his 24/7 title back to R—Truth as he was running away. Truth left with Wilson and Cross as well.
Interestingly, on RAW Talk Mustafa Ali got into trouble for saying Legends Night takes spots away from the talent who are drawing crowds in the here and now not the dim and distant past (as reported on his Twitter account).
Sarah Schreiber asked Charlotte Flair to send a message to the women who have already declared for the Royal Rumble match. She said not to listen to the critics because she wasn’t a favourite last year and she won. That’s why she’s entering this year and she’s going to defy the odds again.
Charlotte Flair & Asuka vs Lacey Evans & Peyton Royce
Ric Flair accompanied Charlotte to the ring, the only one of the legends who got near the ring on legends night until Goldberg challenged Drew McIntyre in the final moments of the show. During Lacey Evans and Peyton Royce’s entrance, they showed a video of them calling Charlotte Flair and Asuka the Serena and Venus Williams of WWE, the standard of excellence in the women’s division. But this was more than just an opportunity to face the tag champs, it was Legends Night and their chance to show the legends what a future legend looks like. They just couldn’t agree who that was.
Commentary were talking about the chemistry, or lack thereof, between Royce and Evans. That’s improved slightly, although it still isn’t a great combination. What they should have been commenting on was the chemistry between Lacey Evans and Ric Flair. She flirted with him at every opportunity, and commentary mentioned rumours of her getting a ‘little too friendly’ with him backstage earlier. She even stopped mid-match to strut with him. That earned her a slap from Charlotte, which led to Evans jumping on her and them brawling into the break.
The match wasn’t bad at all, Royce and Kay looked outclassed even when they were in control, but there’s a reason for that. Ric Flair was instrumental in the result. Asuka was taken out by Evans snapping her neck backwards and throwing her off the apron. Evans (who wasn’t the legal competitor, was flirting with Ric again, pulling him towards her by his tie. Charlotte took her off the apron with a baseball slide, and for reasons best known to herself, rolled Evans back into the ring before returning to Royce. As Charlotte Flair rebounded off the ropes to hit Royce, Ric tripped her and she got pinned.
Lacey Evans gave Ric a thank you kiss on the cheek and smushed his face. Charlotte, with barely controlled anger, told him to stay out of her business, again, and made back away and leave on his own.
Shayna Baszler versus Mandy Rose was the scheduled match but that didn’t happen because Baszler attacked Rose before she even got to the ring and destroyed her on the ramp. Dana Brooke ran down when Baszler got in the ring and demanded she got the match instead.
Shayna Baszler vs Dana Brooke
This was not a long match. Dana Brooke’s anger carried her through it. She ended up in the Kirifuda Clutch but used it to get Baszler’s shoulders on the mat and got the pin. Baszler refused to let go of the hold until Mandy Rose’s knee in her face persuaded her. Brooke and Baszler picked Baszler up between them and dropped her face-first into the canvas.
NXT – New Year’s Evil
Xia Li def. Katrina Cortez
Raquel Gonzalez def. Rhea Ripley
Shotzi Blackheart & Kushida def. Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano
There were two announcements this week. The first is the next NXT TakeOver, which will be on February 14th. The other was made by William Regal. There will be a women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic this year.
That should be incredible, but I wonder how many brands they will have to use to make the numbers worked. The NXT women’s division is stacked, but I’m still not sure they’ve got the numbers on their own. Using NXT UK teams might be an option, but who is travelling right now? Regal said the decision was made after looking at the strength and depth of the roster, so maybe they will pull it off alone.
Xia Li vs Katrina Cortez
This was a showcase return squash match for Li, which is fine but didn’t fit with the rest of the show. It was a normal NXT episode match, not a New Year’s Evil special match. The veiled face-painted figure was on the ramp on an ornate chair, and Boa accompanied her to the ring dressed in black and wearing sunglasses inside.
Li has become more vicious and efficient. She’s in incredible shape as well. It won’t mean a thing until she’s gone through a few proper opponents.
Rhea Ripley vs Raquel Gonzalez – Last Woman Standing
The animosity between them is now so bad they took some time to just beat on each other before getting to the weapons. It was a long match though, so the pacing was necessary. Kendo sticks and chairs were the first to enter play. Raquel Gonzalez stepped it up by bringing out some handcuffs, but she was the one who ended up handcuffed to the chainlink. She took a few shots like that, then just ripped some of the fence away with the handcuffs and used the whole thing as a weapon.
Ripley tried to use the hammer for the ring bell, but Gonzalez used Ripley’s head to ring the bell instead. Rhea Ripley took a sickening bump onto the announce desk. Her lower back took the full force of the landing on the edge of the desk and she bounced a little before it collapsed. Gonzalez buried her under broken desk pieces and furniture, but she broke the count anyway.
After a break, Gonzalez was knocking Ripley up to the stage with a set of steps. When they got there, she knocked Ripley off with a big boot and they headed backstage. Ripley charged Gonzalez through a glass door and they both lay in the wreckage until the ref’s count got to eight.
The snack table always seems to take the hit in these segments. Ripley laid Gonzalez on it then climbed some lockers to put her through. That’s when they got company in the form of Dakota Kai with a kendo stick. Ripley took a few hits before she smashed Kai in the face with the door of a locker a few times, then stuffed her in it and putting a packing crate in front of it.
When Ripley followed Gonzalez back to the stage, she got hit with a chair. Moments later that chair was round Gonzalez’ neck while she was in a cloverleaf. As she powered out of the hold, Gonzalez sent Ripley flying into the set, banging her head and knocking herself silly. Possibly actually knocking herself sill for a moment because that would explain how her slamming Gonzalez into the backboard resulted in Raquel Gonzalez landing on her head.
Amazingly, they both made it to their feet before the count. Gonzalez pulled Ripley’s legs out from under her and she bashed her face on the abandoned steps. Finally, Gonzalez powerslammed Rhea Ripley right through the stage. She made it out and to her feet at nine. Ripley was still laid out, and surrounded by officials and medics, when we went for a break.
That was brutal, and great.
I know after Ripley’s last big loss she said she wasn’t going anywhere, but it might just be time for her to move one. Personally, I’d like to see her win the rumble match and challenge Asuka, but I suspect that’s not on the cards. You never know though.
A move to the main roster would work for her, and that’s not true of all NXT superstars. It’s not about talent, it’s about transferrable character. NXT is presented very differently to RAW and SmackDown. Ability is prized more highly than showmanship and the more intimate feel allows quieter, more nuanced characters to thrive. That doesn’t always transfer well to the other brands, as demonstrated by any number of transitions from NXT to catering. I worry for Io Shirai if she moves up. She’s the best, but I don’t know that the casual fans will take to her. Ripley, on the other hand, has a character bold enough to fit right in. There’s no doubt that either main roster brand could really use her help. SmackDown needs her more than RAW, but I wouldn’t wish SmackDown on any of the women with the way they’re currently being used.
The Way got a police escort to the arena for their Curse-breaking Celebration. Johnny Gargano was given a commemorative plaque by Candice LeRae, and a picture of The Way as superheroes from Austin Theory and Indi Hartwell.
Shotzi Blackheart turned up in her tank and shot Theory in the balls with a plastic missile when he got too close. Gargano ran to Theory’s side, Blackheart got in the ring and threw Hartwell out then kicked LeRae down to join her. Gargano got up on the apron to yell at Blackheart and was pulled down by Kushida. Kushida stood side by side with Blackheart, and Dexter Lumis rang a bell and declared a mixed tag match via cartoon.
Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano vs Shotzi Blackheart & Kushida
A fun surprise match that didn’t overstay its welcome. If they’d been brave and made it intergender, it could comfortably have been a lot longer. LeRae and Blackheart got things underway, but most of the match went to Kushida and Gargano. LeRae did square up to Kushida, but Blackheart came in to deal with her and there was some nice tandem offence from her and Kushida.
The suicide dive Shotzi Blackheart took LeRae and herself out with, looked brutal, but they both got up. Indo Hartwell took Blackheart out of the match completely by dragging her off the apron so she hit her head on the way down. The finish came via Austin Theory’s backfiring interference. Kushida caught him climbing the turnbuckle, dragged him into the ring and tripped Gargano so he headbutted Theory in the balls. While Gargano was apologising, Kushida pinned him.
Jinny def. Piper Niven
Jinny vs Piper Niven – Number One Contender’s match
This was the first match of the show and it got underway the second Piper Niven hit the ring. They do not like each other, and they made that increasingly obvious through the match.
Joseph Connors turned up part way through and watched from the ramp. Jinny slipped out of the ring in front of him after almost being pinned. Niven followed via a cannonball from the apron and Connors pushed Jinny out of the way and took the move himself. That gave Jinny the upper hand until they got back into the ring, at which point Niven lifted her off the ropes. Before she could position Jinny to do anything with her, Connors grabbed Niven’s legs and Jinny rolled her up for the pin.
Aoife Valkyrie had a proper video vignette this week. I keep waiting for them to start doing something with her because they talk her up like a champion in waiting. There must be room within NXT UK programming to have more than three developed women’s characters.
Kay Lee Ray said Jinny is someone who gets what she wants all the time because Mummy and Daddy just reach into their pockets are get her whatever she wants. But the NXT UK Women’s Championship isn’t something money can buy. It takes talent, and it belongs to Kay Lee Ray.
Sonya Deville is Adam Pearce’s new assistant. There is still clearly some unresolved animosity towards Mandy Rose, but she says she’s committed to learning and doing a good job. She may have to take over sooner rather than later thanks to Paul Heyman getting Pearce into a gauntlet match as a punishment for pissing of Roman Reigns. With a bit of luck, any (purely storyline) power she gets will be used to improve the standing of the women’s division. A division containing Bayley, Sasha Banks, Bianca Belair, The Riott Squad, and Carmella should not be feeling like an afterthought. It is unacceptable to have a two-hour show without a women’s division match.
Bayley interrupted Bianca Belair’s interview about her declaring her entry into the Royal Rumble match. Bayley also declared herself and said she’s going to win. She also said Belair can throw as many people as she likes out. But she’s probably not winning, and even if she did win she’d squander the opportunity. Belair said she would have loved the opportunity to pick Bayley as her champion to face, but she can’t because Bayley’s not champion anymore. She took her title reign and squandered it.
Sports Illustrated have named Sasha Banks number one in their Top Superstars of 2020.
Carmella doesn’t like that, but she does like having pinned her last week. She made a very condescending speech about how hard Sasha Banks works, because Banks has to work that hard at things which come naturally to her.
Billie Kay is still trying to align herself with The Riott Squad. She fake cried when they refused and said Natalya and Tamina didn’t want her now they don’t want her. 2021 was supposed to be a better year and it’s not. Liv Morgan tried to explain it’s not that they didn’t want her, but. Except she never got the ‘but’ out. Kay jumped in and said she knew they’d come around. She talked continuously while she handed them her resumé, and left before they could get a word in.
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.