Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. We start the week with the Royal Rumble. It’s generally one of the best PPVs of the year, and usually my favourites. Starting the week with a PPV including three women’s division matches, one of which is the Royal Rumble, makes for a long column. But I’m never going to complain about having too much to review. There are nine matches in this week’s column. It wasn’t that long ago three on a PPV week would have been cause to celebrate and a women’s Royal Rumble match was just a pipe dream.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Asuka & Charlotte Flair
Sasha Banks def. Carmella
Bianca Belair won the Royal Rumble match
Dear WWE, please take Jerry Lawler off all programming featuring women. His comments frequently range between a little off and downright gross and that outweighs any other perceived value he might have once had. It’s 2021, we don’t need a pensioner leering at women who could easily be his grandchildren with a live mic. It’s not cute. It’s nauseating.
Carmella told Reginald off for being nice to Sasha Banks on Friday, then convinced herself it was all part of his plan without letting him get a word in. She chastised him for not running it past her, he apologised, and she forgave him and drank champagne.
Sonya Deville joined the Kickoff Show panel for a few minutes. They talked about her outfits and about Sasha Banks versus Reginald, where Deville made herself look a bit silly by pretending it was something revolutionary when IT WASN’T AN INTERGENDER MATCH!! She made a few comments which could suggest she might get back in the ring or could mean she’ll be making her presence felt in other ways. She picked Carmella to win the SmackDown Women’s Championship match. Booker T picked Sasha Banks.
Natalya won the right to enter at number 30. She was, unsurprisingly, very emotional about it. She’s the ‘most winning’ woman in WWE and has lasted longer than any other woman in the Rumble match. She’s entering last and standing alone with her hand raised on her way to WrestleMania.
Bianca Belair promo segment. The Kickoff panel spent a lot of time talking about her. JBL was quite hard on her, agreeing she has a lot of talent but saying potential means it hasn’t paid the rent yet, and ‘second place is first loser’. His seat malfunctioned (possibly with a little help from Peter Rosenberg), which he deserved. Booker T was more positive, so was Peter Rosenberg. He said she was the bookies favourite.
Asuka & Charlotte Flair (C) vs Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships match – Kickoff Show
I could make a snarky comment about relegating the women’s tag titles to the Kickoff Show, but it’s been a while, and someone has to go there. There’s the women’s Rumble match and the SmackDown Women’s Championship match as well.
Charlotte Flair and Asuka had a quick pre-match interview. Flair said she’s never let her issues discourage her. No one wants to face her head-on because they know they’ll lose. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler have always relied on distraction for the winning advantage. Asuka just said Shayna and Nia weren’t ready for Charlotte Flair and Asuka.
As a combination, these teams work. Asuka and Flair are at the very top of their game, good enough to offset the power and brutality advantages of Jax and Baszler… most of the time. The additional skillset only comes into play while they can avoid getting caught. A clever pin and a superior toolkit to draw on means nothing if you get plucked out of mid-air and destroyed.
Baszler had to break up Asuka’s pin on Jax off a powerbomb. Flair, who had been knocked off the apron by Jax, was back in time to break up Jax’ pin on Asuka after repaying the powerbomb with one of her own. Asuka rolled out of the ring after she tagged out.
Shayna Baszler kicked out of Natural Selection, which doesn’t happen often, but it was a double Natural Selection so maybe it lacked the full impact. Flair ended up in trouble after a double team and Asuka was still down.
Asuka wiped out Jax on the outside with a hip attack off the step. Baszler threw Asuka over the announce desk. Charlotte Flair took Baszler and Jax down with a moonsault from the top turnbuckle to the floor.
When she rolled Baszler into the ring, Ric Flair came to the stage to his music. Shayna Baszler failed to pin Flair off that distraction and caught a big boot, but Lacey Evans was lurking on the other side of the ring to try again. Flair went for the Figure Eight on Baszler regardless, and Evans pulled her arms out from under her. Charlotte punched her to the floor and Ric passed Evans something when he checked on her. Moments later, she delivered a loaded Woman’s Right to Charlotte while she was trying to put another Figure Eight on Baszler. Nia Jax tagged in and immediately pinned her.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax are once again the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Sasha Banks vs Carmella, with Reginald – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
I was hoping to see this higher up the card, rather than second, but it needed to happen before the women’s Rumble match and the men’s Rumble was on last this year. Kayla Braxton asked Sasha Banks if the odds were against her. Banks laughed and made it clear she was ready for anything they had up their sleeves.
Carmella talks too much whenever she’s in control. It didn’t take long for Reginald to get involved. He got up on the apron. Banks pulled him down, but Carmella superkicked her off the apron as she got back in the ring and used Reginald as a step to launch herself at Banks and knock her into the announce desk.
Banks hurt her knee on a Meteora off the top turnbuckle. Carmella tied Sasha Banks to the ropes by her hair and stomped on her then yelled at her a lot.
Reginald caught Sasha Banks when Carmella threw her out of the ring. She took him down with a head scissors then slapped him. The ref sent him back to the dressing room. Carmella hit Banks with a suicide dive and took the worst landing I’ve seen in a while (it looks worse the more times you watch it). She appeared to land mostly on her face and Banks clearly checked on her to make sure she was ok. Truly scary moment but she got up and carried on.
Instead of staying on Banks while she had her down, Carmella argued with the ref about sending Reginald away. She got her knees up for Banks’ frogsplash and locked in the Code of Silence, but Banks got free.
Carmella got another near fall with a couple of superkicks and screamed in frustration when Banks kicked out. Maybe the frustration made her lose focus for a second, because moments later she was tapping out in a Bank Statement.
Sasha Banks is still SmackDown Women’s Champion.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
There’s only one way to keep track of the ins and outs of the Rumble Match and that’s with tables. Comments after.
Royal Rumble Entrants
|1 – Bayley||7 – Toni Storm||13 – Liv Morgan||19 – Mickey James||25 – Tamina|
|2 – Naomi||8 – Jillian Hall||14 – Rhea Ripley||20 – Nikki Cross||26 – Lana|
|3 – Bianca Belair||9 – Ruby Riott||15 – Charlotte Flair||21 – Alicia Fox||27 – Alexa Bliss|
|4 – Billie Kay||10 – Victoria||16 – Dana Brooke||22 – Mandy Rose||28 – Ember Moon|
|5 – Shotzi Blackheart||11- Peyton Royce||17 – Tori Wilson||23 – Dakota Kai||29 – Nia Jax|
|6 – Shayna Baszler||12 – Santana Garrett(SP)||18 – Lacey Evans||24 – Carmella||30 – Natalya|
Royal Rumble Exits
|1 – Shotzi Blackheart by Shayna Baszler||7 – Ruby Riott by Bayley||13 – Alicia Fox by Mandy Rose
|19 – Alexa Bliss by Rhea Ripley||25 – Nia Jax by Lana|
|2 – Jillian Hall by Billie Kay||8 – Liv Morgan by Peyton Royce||14 – Mickie James by Lacey Evans||20 – Lacey Evans by Shayna Baszler||26 – Lana by Natalya|
|3 – Billie Kay by The Riott Squad||9 – Dana Brooke by Rhea Ripley||15 – Dakota Kai by Rhea Ripley||21 – Ember Moon by Nia Jax||27 – Natalya by Bianca Belair|
|4 – Toni Storm by Rhea Ripley||10 – Peyton Royce by Charlotte Flair||16 – Mandy Rose by Rhea Ripley||22 – Naomi by Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax||28 – Charlotte Flair by Rhea Ripley and Bianca Belair|
|5 – Victoria by Shayna Baszler||11 – Tori Wilson by Shayna Baszler||17 – Nikki Cross by Carmella||23 – Tamina by Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax||29 – Rhea Ripley by Bianca Belair|
|6 – Santana Garrett by Rhea Ripley||12 – Bayley by Bianca Belair||18 – Carmella by Rhea Ripley||24 – Shayna Baszler by Nia Jax||BIANCA BELAIR WINS|
Bayley has shaved ‘Cole’ into the back of her head and told commentary that she would challenge Michael Cole at WrestleMania if she wins.
Bianca Belair in at number three leaves lots of eliminations records and time spent records open to her, and a hell of a winners tale if she does. She got into it with Naomi for a while after taking Bayley down hard, and that’s a match I’d love to see. They spent a lot of the match beating on each other and testing each other out. That’s something to look forward to if they end up on the same brand at some point.
Billie Kay arrived with a stack of 8x10s, joined commentary and chatted to them until after Shotzi Blackheart arrived, then she stood in front of the tank and offered a headshot. Blackheart shot the tank’s missile in her direction. Blackheart went to make an impression. Billie Kay went back to commentary. Shayna Baszler punched Kay’s offered headshot and shoved Kay into the barricade by her throat. Toni Storm ignored her. Jillian Hall indulged her and said she loved the idea of ‘Jilly and Billie’. That got Kay in the ring, and they did work together, for a little while.
Shotzi Blackheart had the dubious honour of being the first elimination, courtesy of Shayna Baszler between entrances seven and eight. The next elimination didn’t happen until between entrances thirteen and fourteen. There was a brief IIconics reunion in the meantime, a double team on Victoria, but it fell apart immediately when Kay’s loyalties were divided between Peyton Royce and Ruby Riott.
Santana Garrett was a bit of a surprise. She’s not been used much on NXT, but it’s nice to see her get a chance. It is possible she was a last-minute replacement for Mia Yim/Reckoning, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Otherwise, there would seem to be a lot of names ahead of her on the NXT roster.
Bianca Belair spent way too much time with her feet hovering a few inches off the floor.
Billie Kay and The Riott Squad are definitely over, but it’s Kay’s fault they threw her out. If you celebrate chucking someone out of a Rumble match with one leg hanging over the top rope, you can expect to get thrown out.
Ric Flair’s music and Ric Flair himself preceded Lacey Evans’ arrival. She was wearing an identical robe to Charlotte (according to commentary), and wore it into the ring. On Evans, it looks like a kid playing dress-up with grandma’s bathrobe. There were bits of robe all over the ring by the time Charlotte finished with her. Neither of them was eliminated though.
Bianca Belair enjoyed throwing Bayley out, rubbing extra salt in the wound after beating her last week.
Nikki Cross and Rhea Ripley got into it when Cross arrived. I want that match. Nikki Cross’ new music doesn’t fit her character though.
Alicia Fox was my favourite of the legends to be included. R-Truth came out after here thinking it was his time and the 24/7 chasing pack followed him. He took refuge in the ring and Alicia Fox pinned him for the 24/7 title. R-Truth pinned her to get it back as soon as she was eliminated, and she joined the chasing pack.
Reginald caught Carmella after Nikki Cross threw her out and after Naomi threw her out. Tamina arrived while he was still holding her. He put her down, eliminating her, before Tamina kicked him in the face. Tamina and Ripley went to war and that match could be fun too.
Naomi got thrown out but landed on back. She tried to use Belair’s ponytail to get back in. That ended with them both hanging on by their feet and punching each other. They held hands and helped each other get back in by bouncing, then went back to war.
Childlike Bliss entered the ring. She had a great thirty seconds and celebrated by jumping up and down and clapping. Everyone jumped on her and beat her down, and that’s when the ThunderDome started to go out. Rhea Ripley dumped her over the top rope before Bliss’ dark side could appear.
Ember Moon kicked Naomi in the face and it looked like she actually caught her. Tamina was checking on her moments later. She was down for a while.
Nia Jax’ loyalties were divided between Tamina and Baszler. She stood beside Tamina but it was a fake-out and they eliminated her together before laying into each other. Jax apologised and said she had to do it after chucking Baszler out.
In a lovely payoff on a really long storyline, Lana got her revenge on Nia Jax. But Jax and Baszler beat Natalya up before she even got to the ring then went back in and laid everyone out. Jax threw Natalya into the ring on their way out. That completely levelled the playing field with all entrants in the ring and no one on their feet.
Natalya and Lana hugged, then Natalya shoved her over and tossed her out. A couple of minutes later Belair threw her out.
The final three were Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, and Rhea Ripley. I am into this triple-threat.
Charlotte Flair laughed when they eventually eliminated her together. It was probably supposed to be an ‘ok, you got me’ thing, but she looked excited to see her biggest upcoming threats for the next few years staring down at her. Bianca Belair can’t Woo though.
It was nearly over immediately when Ripley tipped Belair into the apron, but Belair dragged her out to join her and they both dangled for a few seconds then carefully got back in.
For a few minutes, the future top names of the WWE women’s division proved that’s exactly who they are. It was a clothesline that finally sent Rhea Ripley over the top rope and secured Bianca Belair her first WrestleMania championship match. Undoubtedly the first of many.
I’m glad they piped in the countdowns. It’s not the same as having a crowd, but it would have been a little sad without it. Going into it, I wanted either Bianca Belair or Rhea Ripley. I would have happily accepted Naomi or Nikki Cross once they arrived. I’m so happy for Bianca Belair. She’s going to run the division for years.
Belair was in floods of tears during her post-match interview with Charly Caruso. The emotion ‘might’ have been contagious. She was still sobbing while she was pointing at the sign.
Rhea Ripley got the most eliminations this year with eight. Shayna Baszler got six.
Becky Lynch teased the fans by posting a picture of the curtains during the match. She later responded to a fan asking if it meant what they thought with a light-hearted, ‘Oh no, my bad, just thought it was a nice shot of some curtains’. She’ll be back if and when she’s ready, hopefully, she’s taking time to just enjoy being a mum. Seth Rollins made his return from paternity leave in the men’s Rumble match.
Naomi & Lana def. Charlotte Flair & Asuka and Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Alexa Bliss def. Nikki Cross
Flair told Sarah Schreiber that Lacey Evans may think she’s learning how to play dirty and use Ric Flair to elevate her career, but she knows what will happen if she gets in the ring with her. Flair just feels bad because her drama got in the way and she let Asuka down.
Asuka said she wasn’t happy they lost, but she was ready and if it wasn’t for the interference of ‘Charlotte’s father and the woman’ they would have won. Flair agreed and said getting the tag titles back was the only thing on her mind.
Naomi & Lana vs Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs Charlotte Flair & Asuka – Number One Contender’s Tag Team Triple-threat
Good to see Naomi was ok after that dodgy-looking kick in the head from Ember Moon in the Rumble match (I think Moon is incredible, but that kick looked grim). It looks like she and Lana are going to be a team for a while going forwards because they made a little video, shown during their entrance. Lana said Nia and Shayna took her out of the most important match of her life. They can mock her and injure her but they will never stop her. Now she’s back and going for the tag titles, but she’s not alone. Naomi said she knows what it feels like to be on the sidelines, but she’s here now and Lana can depend on her. And if they work together, they can make Nia and Shayna feel all the glow.
Lana has worked so hard, I want to give this team a chance. Naomi deserves the world. I’m not convinced Lana is the partner to help her get it, but I’m hoping to be.
The match was decent and entertaining. Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax were shown watching from backstage. Flair and Naomi enjoy wrestling each other and that makes any interactions they have fun to watch. Naomi looks great, hasn’t missed a step. Mandy Rose shoved Charlotte Flair off the apron when she and Brooke were double-teaming Asuka. Rose and Brooke are getting ruthless. Rose knocked Naomi off the apron as well.
At the height of the chaos these matches produce, when things looked pretty good for Flair and Asuka, Ric Flair’s music started up. He came to the stage and brought Lacey Evans with him. Charlotte Flair had just delivered Natural Selection to Dana Brooke, but instead of pinning her she walked over to Asuka, tagged out, and wandered down the stairs and after her Father and Evans looking utterly defeated. Asuka stared after her and tried to ask what she was doing, then turned into a Rear View from Naomi and got pinned.
Alexa Bliss vs Nikki Cross
It was the playful version of Bliss who arrived in the ring, and a really hurt and angry Nikki Cross. Before they got into it, Cross asked Bliss what she wants from her. She shouted that she was her best friend but she was done with her and wanted nothing to do with her. After they’d fought a bit Cross repeated it and asked if she couldn’t have just left her alone. Bliss smiled her creepy-child smile and shook her head.
Cross’ anger carried her through the opening stages. When Bliss took control, she celebrated by jumping up and down and cheering. Later, when Cross was down on the mat, Bliss had a quick game of hopscotch which ended with her kicking Cross in the ribs. Credit where credit is due, this childlike version of Bliss is truly unnerving, and Bliss is playing it flawlessly.
To mess with Nikki Cross’ the goddess version of Bliss arrived halfway through the match. When Cross refused to engage and carried on beating on her, happy-child Bliss returned. The switch back freaked Cross out and Bliss quickly got the win with a modified Sister Abigail.
RAW have been wasting Nikki Cross since her partnership with Bliss ended. She’s great and she deserves so much better than that.
Randy Orton came out as Bliss was leaving. He stopped and stared straight ahead when they crossed on the ramp. She stared at him all the way past and until she got to the stage.
Alexa Bliss reappeared at the end of Orton’s match. Creepy music box music played and she was sat on a turnbuckle. As Orton stared at her, black stuff ran from her mouth. Randy Orton turned around into a spear from Edge and lost the match.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
Toni Storm vs Jessi Kamea – No Contest
Rhea Ripley has left NXT after her Royal Rumble appearance. There’s no official word on which brand she’ll go to. I think her best opportunities are on RAW, and I’d rather she and Bianca Belair didn’t trip over each other’s chances for a while. I want to see them meet at a Survivor Series, Champion versus Champion.
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez – Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Semi-final match
Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are a great team. Their speed and agility give them an advantage on anyone who can’t just stop their momentum by plucking them out of the air. It meant Dakota Kai struggled with them far more than Raquel Gonzalez did. Catanzaro was caught mid-dive by Gonzalez, but it was Kai she got away from to tag out.
Kayden Carter was on fire when she got her chances, but an interference attempt from Kai, while she was on the apron, distracted her just long enough for Gonzalez to kick her right into the announce desk.
It was all around a pretty great match. Catanzaro was determined to show off her acrobatics again. She climbed one of the towers and took out Kai and Gonzalez by jumping from too high to be caught. She also did one of her stupendously twisty finishers but Gonzalez kicked out at the same time Kai jumped on them to break it up. Carter pulled Kai out of the ring and tried to throw her into the step, but Kai reversed it.
With Carter down and out, Raquel Gonzalez slammed Kacy Catanzaro into the mat and pinned her.
Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez will face either Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell or Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon at NXT TakeOver Vengeance Day on February 14th.
Toni Storm had an interview with Alyse Ashton who asked her for her thoughts on facing Io Shirai and Mercedes Martinez in a triple-threat match for the title at TakeOver. She said Io Shirai has been untouchable since her arrival in NXT, to anyone whose name isn’t Toni Storm. Her holding the title over her head with Shirai at her feet last week was a preview of TakeOver. Io Shirai isn’t going to stop her. Mercedes Martinez isn’t going to stop her. She is on top of her game, and that’s going to on full display in her match later.
There was a brief preview of next week’s semi-final match during Austin Theory versus Leon Ruff. Johnny Gargano got laid out so Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell rushed out to check on him. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart arrived and carried them off after a brief exchange.
The mystery face-painted and veiled figure who has been watching Xia Li and Boa from an ornate chair is Tian Sha. There is an origin story or mythology. It’s short, but it’s definitely easier to watch than explain.
Toni Storm vs Jessi Kamea, with Robert Stone and Aliyah
Sadly for Jessi Kamea, who is an official member of the Robert Stone Brand now, the match was just a vehicle for a confrontation between Storm and Mercedes Martinez. Until Martinez invaded the ring and dispatched her, Kamea had been doing pretty well and she had had to be physically restrained from getting back into the ring.
Io Shirai arrived while Storm and Martinez were fighting and waited patiently until they positioned themselves at ringside, perfectly placed for a moonsault.
Nina Samuels def. Xia Brookside
Xia Brookside vs Nina Samuels
This is probably the closest the non-title picture women of NXT UK have come to a storyline. Brookside and Samuels don’t like each other, largely because Samuels insists Brookside is only fit to carry her bags despite not yet having managed to beat her. So, Samuels is delusional, Brookside is sick of it, and here we are. Nina Samuels had someone bring a stack of bags out for her, just to reinforce the point.
It was a pretty decent match spoiled by the ending. After an exchange on the outside, Samuels put a big bag and a small handbag on the apron. She threw the big bag into the ring and when the ref went to get it, she hit Brookside with the smaller, obviously weighted, one. Xia Brookside was out for the count when Samuels pinned her.
It seems that Jinny’s association with Joseph Connors is a reciprocal relationship. She accompanied him to the ring this week.
Bayley def. Ruby Riott
Bianca Belair looked like she hadn’t stopped smiling since Royal Rumble during her interview with Kayla Braxton this week. We saw some video footage of her parents celebrating her win. She hasn’t made her decision as to who to face yet, but she’ll be ready to make it soon.
Bayley vs Ruby Riott, with Liv Morgan
Billie Kay joined commentary for the match, which is a shame because the match deserved more attention than it got. Bayley inflicted some damage on one of Ruby Riott’s surgically repaired shoulders by throwing her onto the turnbuckle/rope and worked it to the point Riott guarded it for the rest of the match.
Liv Morgan was shouting encouragement from ringside, but that wasn’t enough for Kay. She got up on the apron and tried to push the ropes towards Riott to help her got out of a submission. Morgan pulled her down and they were still arguing when Ruby Riott got pinned.
Bayley was less than impressed by Billie Kay trying to give her a headshot after the match. She’s still very obviously upset about being thrown out of the Royal Rumble by Bianca Belair.
Belair came to the ring and said her whole life changed overnight when she won the Rumble. She’s been doing press non-stop and getting calls from everyone. Choosing who her opponent for WrestleMania is the biggest decision of her career. Asuka isn’t just the Empress of tomorrow she’s the Empress of all day every day. Sasha Banks is grand slam champion and there’s a reason Belair has been so happy every time she’s had chance to team with her.
Reginald arrived and told Belair she should choose Asuka because she can’t beat Sasha Banks, she can’t even beat Carmella. Carmella appeared right on cue and said Reginald was wise. She’s beaten Banks and she’s certain she can do the same thing to Belair.
Sasha Banks came out to join the party. She told Carmella that she was going to stop looking in her rearview and start focusing on the road ahead. Belair has her attention, setting records in two Rumble matches and lasting nearly an hour on Sunday. She’s been watching her and she saw her pick up Otis so she knows she’s the strongest. And she saw her chase down and beat Bayley, so she knows she’s the fastest. But the best – cue big fake laugh – she doesn’t think so. So if Belair wants to choose her then choose her. Bianca Belair has it all but she doesn’t have the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Reginald butted in again when Belair was about to answer and told Belair she got lucky when she won the Royal Rumble, but if she chooses Sasha she’ll lose, like he told her. Carmella didn’t look pleased. Bianca Belair whipped him out of the ring with her hair. Carmella spent most of the segment looking like she could smell something bad. Sasha Banks looks like she wants the match with Belair, and I don’t blame her at all. I’m not sure what games Reginald is playing.
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.