Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. A huge week for WWE. RAW said goodbye to the ThunderDome and SmackDown said welcome back to the fans. It was go-home week for Money in the Bank. And we got a SmackDown Women’s Championship match… but I’m still not sure why changing Belair’s opponent meant moving the match off the PPV.
Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, Doudrop, & Eva Marie
Rhea Ripley def. Natalya
The final show of the ThunderDome Era (as far as we know for now) and it’s been an interesting solution to the no fans problem. It was a great improvement on the empty Performance Center shows, and the often cringe-worthy piped in fan noise actually helped quite a bit. It’s no replacement for actual fans though.
Alexa Bliss had Eva Marie and Doudrop as guests in Alexa’s Playground. At the start of the segment, Bliss said she was excited about facing some of her friends in a fatal four-way match and competing at Money in the Bank in front of the fans. And just think of all the fun she could get into with the briefcase.
Eva Marie interrupted her to ask if she was ever going to introduce them. Bliss complimented Doudrop’s name and asked her to explain her time on Monday Night RAW in one word. Eva Marie answered for her and said Eva-lutionary, all because of her. Just like the victory in the eight-woman tag last week.
Bliss said the question wasn’t for her, it was for Doudrop because she was the invited guest and Eva Marie was just the surprise bonus. That annoyed Eva Marie. She said it was unacceptable, she’s the star of Monday Night RAW, the headline superstar. Luckily it would be the last time she set foot in Bliss’ dingy, grubby, playground. Eva Marie flounced off and demanded Doudrop followed. Doudrop and Bliss exchanged sweet little waves goodbye, then Bliss mocked Eva Marie and laughed at how silly she is.
Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair’s WrestleMania match won the Espy for WWE Moment of the Year.
Nikki A.S.H. had a very confusing conversation with Riddle before her match, but that’s the only kind of conversation it’s possible to have with Riddle. She was sweet and patient with him because she is pure joy in human form.
Nikki A.S.H. vs Asuka vs Naomi vs Alexa Bliss
A fatal four-way before the Money in the Bank match makes a lot more sense than making them team up. It was a fun match as well… until the interruption. I want a Naomi and Alexa Bliss program. In fact, give Naomi everyone because she’s on fire and she’s been woefully overlooked.
There was an interesting interaction between Bliss and A.S.H. just after Naomi and Asuka took each other out. There were smiles for a moment, then Bliss tried to touch A.S.H. and the smiles were gone.
Around then, Eva Marie and Doudrop arrived, distracting Bliss and A.S.H. and letting Naomi and Asuka back in. Bliss left the ring and walked towards Doudrop and Eva Marie. Doudrop stepped forward and tried chatting to her. Bliss patted her on the shoulder and carried on towards Eva Marie. Doudrop did nothing until Eva Marie screamed, then she attacked Bliss from behind, put her over her shoulders and dumped her over the barricade.
When they peered over, Bliss was gone.
After a break, Doudrop and Eva Marie had gone and Alexa Bliss still wasn’t back. Asuka was kicking heads and the match was back in full swing as a triple-threat. Naomi had a go at a split cover on both opponents, but that was never going to work. The pin attempt on Asuka after a kick to the head was closer, but still unsuccessful. Asuka had to break up Nikki A.S.H.’s pin attempt and Naomi’s submission attempt. A.S.H. broke up Asuka’s submission attempt.
So many close calls and near falls, and Alexa Bliss never did come back. Nikki A.S.H. got the win, rolling up Asuka to carry the momentum into Money in the Bank.
Before her match against Rhea Ripley, Natalya said she wanted to be the first woman to hold the RAW Women’s Championship, Tag Team Championships, and SmackDown Women’s Championship. I’m guessing she meant to say she wanted to hold them all at the same time, because that has definitely been done before, more than once. After she beats Ripley she’s planning to win the Money in the Bank match and cash in.
Anyway, her interview was derailed when Tamina got annoyed hearing Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke in makeup, laughing. They were laughing at Natalya’s plan and they told her they didn’t fancy Natalya’s chances of doing any of what she said, but they do fancy their chances of taking the tag titles. Tamina shoved Dana Brooke and stormed off. Natalya followed.
NOTE: Events the following night meant that was almost certainly the end of that feud.
Sarah Schreiber asked Rhea Ripley why she accepted the match against Natalya. She said Natalya challenged her and asked if she looks like someone who backs down from a challenge. And as for Sunday, she’s already exposed Charlotte Flair for the drama queen she is. When she beats her, she’ll give her a real reason to use crutches.
Rhea Ripley vs Natalya
I love watching Rhea Ripley because she gives every indication that she loves what she does. I’m a sucker for wrestlers who just look like they love their job. Natalya’s technical, hold-based, style is a challenge Ripley seemed to enjoy. But it was a good old-fashioned headbutt that gave her a brief advantage.
It was brief because a dropkick into the barricades connected with Tamina instead of Natalya which left Natalya free to deliver a discus lariat as soon as Ripley got back on her feet. That left Ripley down for the break, but she was back up by the time we came back, and tussling on the turnbuckle. She came down from the with a missile dropkick after headbutting Natalya to the mat.
Natalya got close with a sit-out powerbomb after bouncing Ripley’s head off the top of the post, and Ripley spent much too long in a Sharpshooter. Catapulting Natalya into the corner got her free of the hold and spelt the beginning of the end for Natalya. As she approached Ripley again, she took a kick in the head and a Riptide and got pinned.
Charlotte Flair chop-blocked Ripley from behind while she was celebrating. She stamped on Ripley’s knee then put her in a figure four and hung off the edge of the ring, trash-talking just a tad before leaving the champion screaming and writhing on the apron.
Backstage, Sarah Schreiber asked Flair if that was a preview of Sunday. Flair said it’s not about the pieces in the game it’s about the player, and she learned from the dirtiest player in the game. On Sunday, fans are going to realise it’s game over for Rhea Ripley.
Dakota Kai def. Ember Moon
Sarray def. Gigi Dolan
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter def. Aliyah & Jessi Kamea (The Robert Stone Brand)
Ember Moon vs Dakota Kai, with Raquel Gonzalez
Ember Moon’s congratulatory tweet to Shotzi Blackheart was shown during her entrance. This match was interesting on a bunch of levels. Obviously, it was a great opening match for this week’s show. It was also interesting for positioning within the women’s division. Blackheart’s move to SmackDown means Moon’s singles position is 100% more important than it was a couple of weeks ago. She badly needs some momentum in singles competition. Kai, on the other hand, says she’s focused on the tag titles and is playing gatekeeper for her only friend. But there comes a point when she’s going to want that title for herself.
Moon’s been in great form, but Kai looks so in control at the moment. As soon as there is an opportunity, she’s on it and she’s got a plan. That didn’t help her going into the break when she took a suicide dive into the barricades. She shoved Moon into the apron in retaliation, but took a kick in the back and a kick in the chest that left her gasping on the floor. A kick to Moon’s face and dragging her arm so her shoulder hit the post, got Kai back into it during the break.
Dakota Kai thought she’d got it won after some of her signature kicks and a huge DDT, and the frustration when Moon kicked out was obvious. Kai and Gonzalez telling Moon she’s nothing without Shotzi got Kai hurricanrana’d off the top turnbuckle. Much to her disbelief, that only got Moon a two. That was Moon’s last chance of a really good match. Dakota Kai pulled off a GTK, dragging Moon over the ropes and onto her shoulders, and that sealed the win.
After the match, the lights went off. When they came back on, Xia Li made her way to the ring, walked straight past Kai, and challenged Gonzalez. There was fury on Kai’s face as Gonzalez accepted.
Sarray vs Gigi Dolan
During Dolan’s entrance, we got to see the footage of her challenging Sarray. She’s quirky. Quirky is good. As ever, Sarray was just sunshine personified. There was a nice respectful handshake offered by Sarray and accepted by Dolan, to start the match and set the tone for the contest.
Mandy Rose appeared on the stage partway through, which distracted both of them for a moment, but they got back into it. Rose stayed and watched Dolan get in a couple of opportunistic pin attempts before Sarray kicked her head half off and suplexed her for the pin. Once the action was done, Rose left.
Beth Phoenix spoke to Indi Hartwell about Dexter Lumis and advised her that sometimes you just have to go for it when Hartwell expressed her frustration that nothing has happened.
She took the advice, trying to do for Lumis what he did for her last week, after Legado del Fantasma left him lying on the apron. To her credit, she lifted him, but dropped him after a couple of paces. Candice LeRae ran to ringside when Hartwell was leant over him and stopped anything happening, again.
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Aliyah & Jessi Kamea (The Robert Stone Brand)
The match was decent enough, but it’s the finish and the afters where the interest lies. Robert Stone was responsible for his team’s loss. He nearly got her pinned via rollup while handing her a shoe. Jessi Kamea broke that up but was thrown out of the ring and put down at ringside. Aliyah didn’t get chance to recover, she took a double team finisher from Catanzaro and Carter and got pinned.
After the match, while Jessi Kamea watched from ringside, Aliyah gave Robert Stone a long overdue beatdown. She left, blowing kisses to the crowd.
Franky Money came to ringside and Jessi Kamea followed her out with Robert Stone trailing after them.
Backstage, Monet and Kamea, with Stone still behind them, ran into Mandy Rose. An unseen voice asked Monet asked if it was safe to say Aliyah was no longer part of the Robert Stone Brand. Monet said they wouldn’t have to worry about her anymore. Rose said it looked like the brand was under new management.
I haven’t seen official confirmation but reports are that Rose’s move back to NXT is permanent, which is very odd indeed, and Aliyah may be headed to the main roster. I hope the last bit is true. Aliyah was looking like an NXT lifer and she’s been a hard worker for years. She deserves the same chance that has been given to many others without the same skill level. Rose to NXT, I don’t understand. Split from a perfectly workable tag team with Sonya Deville for a big push that never materialised. Shoved into a random, oh they’re both blonde and attractive, tag team with Dana Brooke which they made work. And now ripped out of a high-profile feud with the women’s tag team champions and sent back to an NXT women’s division that really doesn’t need her.
Meiko Satomura def. Amale
Aoife Valkyrie isn’t worried about Jinny. She’s watched and learned all she needs to know. She said Jinny only ever picks a fight with someone when she thinks the odds are already in her favour, but she’s declared war on the wrong person this time.
Jinny and Joseph Connors will be Noam Dar’s guests next week.
Meiko Satomura (C) vs Amale – NXT UK Women’s Championship match
Amale isn’t afraid to use every bit of wiggle room in the rules. Twice, early on, she used four and three-quarters of a five-count warning to let go of Satomura’s hair. I little later she screamed at the ref not to touch her after he had to physically removed her from the corner.
In fairness, she needed all the help she could get and every bit of viciousness she could muster because she’s was outclassed by Satomura. Even outclassed she got a good chunk of the offence in the match and she didn’t waste it. She got several credible pin attempts to her credit and a couple of close-ish ones. The problem for her was Satomura wouldn’t stay down and everything she connected with put Amale on the canvas.
Eventually, Scorpio Rising connected and Amale stayed down.
Shotzi & Nox def. Natalya & Tamina
Bianca Belair def. Carmella
Vince McMahon opened this celebratory episode of SmackDown with the words, ‘Where the hell have you been?’ to the fans, from the stage. That was all he said.
The crowd was loud, and the wrestlers all looked genuinely emotional to be back in front of fans. I’m sure I’m not the only one with mixed feelings about the timing of the return, but it was a special episode. Disappointingly, there were no big returns from the women’s division, but there’s always Sunday.
Shotzi & Nox vs Natalya & Tamina – Championship Contenders’ match
A championship contenders’ match means that if Shotzi and Nox beat the champions this time they get a title match at some point. Zelina Vega and Liv Morgan joined commentary for the match and spent the entrances and most of the match arguing. Morgan talked about Vega taking ‘the longest vacation’ and coming back entitled (Vega was released by WWE months ago and brought back last week).
It would have been nice if there had been some more commentary on the three-minute match because it was decent. Eventually, Vega and Morgan started fighting on the outside. Tamina had just broken up Nox’ pin attempt from the Shiniest Wizard and knocked Shotzi senseless for good measure when the scrap broke out. Morgan briefly went through the ring and jumped off the steps to take Vega down. That distracted Natalya from her Sharpshooter and Nox rolled her up.
Tamina and Natalya beat up Morgan and Vega after the match, but Morgan fought back, sending Tamina into the steps and giving Natalya double-knees to the face before pointing at the briefcases in celebration.
Zelina Vegan and Liv Morgan carried on their fight well into Saturday, on Twitter.
Bianca Belair (C) vs Carmella – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
I’m still irked that Belair won’t be defending at Money in the Bank, but it’s nice for her to get the pop of the first live crowd since she became champion. Carmella’s crowd reaction was either dulled on the broadcast, underwhelming, or possibly both which is worrying. Belair had no such issues. The crowd gave her the ovation she deserves and an ‘EST’ chant as well.
Carmella did a great job of whipping up the boos from the crowd going into the break, by throwing Belair into the barricade a few times and celebrating. Belair was back into in when we came back, but Carmella took control with a hurricanrana from the top. Belair powered out of a guillotine and turned it into a delayed vertical suplex, but it wasn’t quite enough for the win.
Belair’s hair whip only made contact with the post. Carmella grabbed the braid and used it while kicking Belair in the head. That was her final mistake. The next hair whip caught her midriff and a K.O.D. finished the job.
One thing Michael Cole mentioned during the title match was that Bayley had successful knee surgery thing week. It was slipped in as part of Carmella asking Bayley’s advice, but that’s good news.
Toni Storm makes her SmackDown debut next week. So happy for her. She’s going to do great things on the main roster if they give her the chance.
Next week, SmackDown have some kind of split location deal. The show is in one venue but there will be matches from the Rolling Loud Festival as well.
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.