Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It’s go-home week for Royal Rumble Weekend and everyone has something to build for. NXT and NXT UK will close off the week, going head to head in Worlds Collide. Everyone else is building to Royal Rumble itself, although I’m sure we’ll see some NXT and maybe even NXT UK faces in there as well.
Becky Lynch def. Kairi Sane
Lana & Bobby Lashley def. Liv Morgan & Rusev
Charly Caruso asked Charlotte Flair how confident she was going into the Royal Rumble match. Flair said she’s always confident, but she’s also prepared. She’s prepared to face anyone and anything. Becky Lynch popped into shot then and Flair looked at her, laughed, and said ‘yes’. When Lynch had gone Flair acknowledged it was Lynch who eliminated her last year despite the fact she wasn’t supposed to be in the match. This year she’s prepared to face twenty-nine other women and the question is, are they prepared to face The Queen.
Becky Lynch had a few words to say before her match against Kairi Sane. She said Asuka did her a favour because when she sprayed her with the green mist she helped her see clearer than ever. And maybe it’s Asuka who should be doubting herself. Maybe she is and that’s the cause of the sneak attacks and why she won’t face her head-on. Why Lynch is facing Sane tonight instead of Asuka (although I think that’s more to do with not giving away the PPV match on tv the week before). Asuka did beat her at last year’s Royal Rumble, but who won in the end. Lynch went on to main event WrestleMania and Asuka went to make soup on YouTube – Becky Lynch no selling the women’s tag titles there, but WWE ignored them for months so why not. So Asuka can break her bones and take her eyes but The Man is coming to collect one last debt and at the Royal Rumble she’ll teach Asuka what she knows now, ‘You can’t beat me anymore’.
Becky Lynch vs Kairi Sane
With Asuka at ringside with Sane, this was more of a handicap match than a one on one. It took less than a minute for Asuka’s presence to be felt, distracting Lynch on the outside so Kairi Sane could catch her with a chop block, then attacking her with a kendo stick while Sane distracted the ref.
After a break, Asuka watched the match from perched on top of the ringpost, which clearly distracted Lynch a couple of times. The match was really good, and for once it was a reasonable length, but Becky Lynch eventually got fed up with Asuka and punched her off the turnbuckle to the floor. That gave Lynch the space to lock Kairi Sane into a Dis-Arm-Her and tap her out.
Lynch’s music hadn’t even started when Asuka caught her in the head with a shining wizard. She followed that up by grabbing at Lynch’s hair, locking her in an Asuka Lock, then kicking her in the head before the ref convinced her to leave. Becky Lynch was left laid out in the ring.
Backstage, Asuka was asked if that’s the kind of champion she wants to be. Someone who attacks people from behind and uses toxins to gain an advantage. Most of her answer was in Japanese but she finished by saying, ‘At the Royal Rumble, Becky is not ready for Asuka’.
Lana & Bobby Lashley vs Liv Morgan & Rusev
For reasons best known to WWE, this mixed tag match main evented the show. It wasn’t good. Lana had a lot to say before the match started. It was mainly insulting the audience and talking about her and Lashley, nothing interesting or noteworthy. But the match wasn’t anything to write home about. Lana and Liv Morgan took the first stint, and Liv Morgan looked really good. Lana looked ok.
Inevitably, Lana got involved by punching Rusev. Liv Morgan broke up a pin attempt and delivered an enziguri to Lashley. And it was Lana who provided the decisive intervention. She grabbed Rusev’s leg and the distraction gave Lashley time to hit him with a spear for the win.
It was a weird main event for any show, even weirder for a PPV go-home show.
Sadly, it’s still not over. Ext week, Liv Morgan and Lana go one on one, with Lashley and Rusev banned.
Toni Storm def. Io Shirai (DQ)
Shayna Baszler def. Shotzi Blackheart
Io Shirai vs Toni Storm
I was puzzled about this match while I was reviewing NXT. With their current positioning, neither could afford to lose. Toni Storm was heading into a title match against Rhea Ripley at Worlds Collide, and Shirai needs to keep winning to cement her place as next in line after Bianca Belair’s shot at NXT TakeOver Portland.
The match was predictably good and very even. Io Shirai is invariably a joy to watch. And it got a decent amount of time. The result made perfect sense. Bianca Belair appeared from nowhere and smacked Toni Storm in the face. Belair took a moment away from pounding on Storm to knock Shirai off the apron, then planted Toni Storm’s face into the mat with a double chicken wing.
Rhea Ripley sauntered down to the ring and had a bit of a scrap with Belair before being dropkicked out of the ring by Shirai. Io Shirai threw Belair out to join Ripley, took them both out with a moonsault, then took a suicide dive from Toni Storm.
Storm closed the segment holding up the NXT Women’s Championship while Rhea Ripley scowled at her from ringside.
Shaya Baszler vs Shotzi Blackheart
Before the match, Shotzi Blackheart said she would take care of business with Shayna Baszler, which sounded optimistic at best. Shayna Baszler said that Shotzi thinks she made a statement by eliminating her from the battle royal but all she did was end her career before it’s begun. Rhea Ripley calls herself the nightmare, but nightmares always give way to reality and the reality is, Baszler isn’t going anywhere. And if she has to go through every single woman in the locker room to become Shayna three-time, she will. Starting tonight.
It’s a good sign for Blackheart in NXT that she’s been thrust into a match with Baszler so quickly. Even more so that it wasn’t a total walkover for Baszler. If anything, Baszler didn’t take her seriously enough, unhurriedly breaking her holds and condescendingly patting her on the head in the early going. She barely seemed to get out of first gear, even when Shotzi Blackheart was firmly in control of the match.
Even when Blackheart had Baszler laid out after a sliced bread on the apron, the result still felt somewhat inevitable. It came quickly after that as well. As Blackheart came off the turnbuckle, Baszler moved and caught her in the Kirifuda Clutch. Blackheart struggled but had to tap. Shayna Baszler kept the hold on way past the bell to ensure she’d made her point.
Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai had a hype package for their feud. When best friends go bad it’s always the nastiest kind of battle, so their match next week should be brutal.
Jazzy Gabert was billed to be wrestling on this week’s show, but she has now left WWE. That’s a real shame and a massive blow to the already thin women’s division. First they lost Rhea Ripley to NXT, now it looks increasingly likely that Toni Storm will also head over there full time. Outside Piper Niven, there aren’t any well-built challengers for Kay Lee Ray’s title. Jinny is the most logical choice, but having had Gabert with her for so long hasn’t exactly raised her stock. It was also a huge waste of Gabert who had the potential to be running that division by now. Xia Brookside has received some attention, but her storyline is that she’s a plucky up and comer and it would take some effort to make her look like a truly credible challenger. Isla Dawn is around, so is Nina Samuels, but they zero momentum.
As a result of Gabert leaving after the card was announced, there was no women’s division match. Kay Lee Ray had the briefest of interviews where she asserted that she’s going to beat Mia Yim at Worlds Collide and told Radzi she didn’t need his luck when he wished her luck for the match. And that was the sum total of the women’s division contribution to the show. Very disappointing.
Lacey Evans had an onstage interview with Michael Cole. She said she challenged Bayley and Sasha Banks because they’re bullies. She got emotional about her father’s struggles and her upbringing, and how that has inspired her to inspire others. And she said she joined the marines to give herself a better life, which led her to WWE. When she’s a leader she will continue to inspire people to work hard for their dreams.
Cole showed her footage of Sasha Banks getting in her daughter’s face and Evans said it makes her angry. She was proud of her daughter standing up to Banks. But she’s angry because it has made her daughter worry about her. Last week she put Sasha Banks on the shelf and on Sunday…
It was about then that Bayley attacked Lacey Evans from behind to end the interview.
Carmella and Dana Brooke appeared to talk about the women’s Royal Rumble match. Carmella thinks she’s the odds on favourite to win. She won the WrestleMania Battle Royal, she won Money in the Bank and successfully cashed it in. Dana Brooke said everyone had a chance at the rumble, it’s every woman for herself. She might be perceived as the underdog, but she knows what she’s worth and what she has to do.
They were interrupted by Lacey Evans beating Bayley through the backstage area and rushed to hold Evans back after she slammed Bayley into a packing crate.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs Fire & Desire didn’t happen because Bayley and Lacey Evans crashed the party within seconds of the start. It immediately turned into a six-woman free for all, then Bliss and Cross beating up Bayley while Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville beat up Evans.
No women’s division match at all is just not good enough (although recently it’s mostly been RAW who didn’t bother). I’m so sick of typing that. NXT can consistently manage to make the women’s division part of the show, why can’t the main roster.
Kay Lee Ray def, Mia Yim
Rhea Ripley def. Toni Storm
Mia Yim vs Kay Lee Ray
This got bunged on the half-hour Kickoff show, but it got the best part of ten minutes. At least most of the crowd looked to be in by the time it started. Mia Yim started hard but it settled into a fairly even contest. One person tried to start a ‘this is awesome’ chant towards the end. It was decent, good even, but that’s a low bar for awesome. There would be potential for a feud between these two, their styles would make for an interesting combination. However, there’s not much time to explore that kind of potential in a single match, and they’re on separate brands so it might be a while before the opportunity comes around again. On this occasion, Kay Lee Ray took the victory, but she had hold of the ropes when she got the pin.
Tegan Nox attacked Dakota Kai in the crowd and they had a proper pull-apart scrap at ringside. They have a match on Wednesday.
Mercedes Martinez was also shown in the crowd and her recent signing mentioned.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Toni Storm – NXT Championship match
The NXT Women’s Championship is now just the NXT Championship, same as the men’s title, which is a lot more open to confusion than if they’d added ‘men’s’ to the men’s title. But WWE will do things their way.
Anyway, onto the match. Honestly, it would have had to be really bad for me to not love it, and it was great, so I loved it. Ok, it never quite reached great. Both women have had better matches recently, but my only real criticism was it was much too short.
Ripley spent a lot of the match holding the back of her neck after Storm suplexed her into the turnbuckle and she had to take a break on the outside to regroup. Toni Storm concentrated her offence on it, but couldn’t make anything stick.
Ripley’s neck was still bothering her, even when she was trying to submit Storm she had to release the hold with one hand a couple of times. The end came almost unexpectedly. Toni Storm headbutted Ripley to the mat and climbed the turnbuckle for a frogsplash. Rhea Ripley moved and retained the NXT Championship with Riptide
Bianca Belair was shown applauding from the crowd and she and Ripley exchanged a few shouted words. She gets her chance at the title in two weeks at NXT TakeOver Portland.
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Enjoy Royal Rumble and join me next week for another round-up. In the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why.