Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Hell in a Cell got the week’s action underway, with four women’s division matches on the card, three on the main show and one on the Kickoff. When was the last time there were four women’s division matches on a PPV card?
Hell in a Cell
Natalya def. Mandy Rose
Bianca Belair def. Bayley
Alexa Bliss def. Shayna Baszler
Charlotte Flair def. Rhea Ripley (DQ)
Sonya Deville joined Kayla Braxton, JBL, Jerry Lawler, and Peter Rosenberg on the Kickoff Show to talk about the women’s division matches. They discussed a tweet from Bayley suggesting that Belair is just trying WWE out for fun and the Hell in a Cell match will be where it gets real. Funny note, the original tweet says pro-wrestling, not WWE, but it said WWE on the screen. The general consensus seemed to be Bayley would win and that she’s one of the best ever in the ring, but also that Belair is a superstar, it just might be her overconfidence that’s her downfall.
Deville had some interesting ideas on why Baszler’s past in MMA might give her the edge over Alexa Bliss, but she prefaced it by saying she wasn’t sure how anyone can prepare for Bliss. The rest of the panel kind of agreed, but no one wanted to commit to an outcome, just that it was going to be a very strange match.
A lot of the discussion of Rhea Ripley vs Charlotte Flair centred around Flair saying she sees a lot of herself in Ripley. Deville said she sees the similarities, but Flair’s experience gives her the upper hand. She’s a 13-time champion. JBL just said it was going to be an incredible match. Peter Rosenberg and Jerry Lawler agreed with Deville that Flair would be too much for the champion.
Mandy Rose, with Dana Brooke, vs Natalya, with Tamina – Kickoff Show match
This was brought about by the segment where they insulted each other and brawled on RAW, but it was inevitable Rose and Brooke would be next for Natalya and Tamina. WWE have got rid of so many people there aren’t many other choices.
A reasonable Kickoff Show match. Natalya gave Mandy Rose some props early on, which is generous of the veteran. For much of the match, it seemed they were testing each other out. Mandy Rose dragged Natalya into the rope on a rope break and smashed her throat into the rope to give herself the upper hand. Natalya powered her way out of a guillotine and powerslammed Rose into the mat to take it back.
Tamina and Dana Brooke were very well-behaved on the outside. No interference at all, just lots of cheerleading for their partners. It finished with Rose tapping out to Natalya’s Sharpshooter after a very even contest.
Bianca Belair (C) vs Bayley – SmackDown Women’s Championship Hell in a Cell Match
Life has moved fast for Bianca Belair. She’s crammed more milestones into her short career than some of the veterans… but not the veteran she’s facing in this one.
Bayley brought a chair into play early on, so Belair started twirling her hair. Bayley took the chair in the face via a dropkick, so that first toy didn’t work out for her. Belair took some damage to her shoulder as a result of a couple of trips into the corner, and Bayley worked it hard.
After Bayley tried to tie Belair to the cell by her hair, Bianca Belair threw the steps over her head, out of the ring and into the side of the cage where Bayley’s head had been seconds before. Then she dropkicked Bayley into the side of the cage and, just as she promised, Belair scraped Bayley’s face against the cage. Bayley bit her. Two kendo sticks taped together were Bayley’s next weapon of choice. They were fairly effective but not as effective as the sunset flip into the cage.
That gave Bayley time to set up two sets of two taped in the middle kendo sticks, between the cage and the ring. It took her long enough that Belair recovered and it was Bayley who took a spinebuster through them.
In the next stage of her obsession with Belair’s braid, Bayley tied it to the bottom of a chair and taunted her. Belair punched her off the chair and used it as a shield from Bayley’s knee. This time, Belair used her hair, tying it to Bayley’s wrist so Bayley could get away then bouncing her around the cell. At that point, Bayley begged to be let out, but that’s not how it works. Instead, Belair bounced her face off the mesh a bunch of times.
Bayley pulled a ladder from under the ring and hit Belair in the stomach with it. They played tug of war with it, Belair got her face bounced off it and slammed in it. Bayley’s Rose Plant, while Belair was trapped in the ladder, backfired when Bayley hurt her knee again. Using the ropes for leverage (legal in HIAC) didn’t get Bayley the pin, and that was her last chance.
She took a double chicken wing facebuster into the corner and a senton on the ladder. A final K.O.D. onto the ladder ensured Bianca Belair is still SmackDown Women’s Champion.
I still maintain that Bianca Belair is everything WWE need to be the face of the company for years to come. Considering she’s already won at WrestleMania and Hell in a Cell, I suspect WWE agree.
Backstage Belair said the cell was brutal, but she had enough to keep her title. Bayley kicked her butt, and she’ll never forgive her for that.
Alexa Bliss said Lilly is still in time out because she was a little naughty, but not as naughty as her opponent for the night. Shayna brought all the negativity on herself, so we shouldn’t blame Bliss for what happens. There are lessons to be learned. Be careful what you wish for. And expect the unexpected because when you knock on her door you never know who or what is going to answer.
Shayna Baszler had Nia Jax and Reginald with her for her backstage interview with Sarah Schreiber. The first thing she did was tell Schreiber never to mention Lilly’s name in front of her. Bliss has fun playing with dolls, Baszler has fun hurting people. She’s planning to finish what Bliss started. Reginald tried to kiss her hand for luck. She slapped him and gave him a look that would wither the crops.
Alexa Bliss vs Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax and Reginald
She should have been nicer to him. He was responsible for the distraction that gave Baszler the early advantage on Bliss when she was uncharacteristically hesitant. I love that Bliss has evolved her wrestling style at the same time as her character, there’s nastiness in the aggression that we never saw in previous incarnations, even the mean girl one. This version of Bliss bares her teeth and snarls when she’s in holds and laughs when she gets hurt, then piles in like she really wants to cause her opponent damage.
Bliss had a pin attempt from a senton but got distracted by Reginald and took a load of punishment and some damage in the form of Baszler’s elbow stamp. She rolled around screaming for a while, then started laughing and tried to hypnotise Baszler when she attempted to aggravate the damage. It almost worked, or it made Baszler let go at least.
The dark look before Bliss turned and kicked Baszler in the face was some great acting. While Baszler was down she turned her attention to Nia Jax, hypnotising her into slapping Reginald and screaming. But she gave Baszler too much time to recover and was grabbed in a Kirifuda Clutch. Surprisingly, she got out of it easily and delivered the modified Sister Abigail. Twisted Bliss finished the match in Bliss’ favour while Jax was still wondering what she’d done.
Rhea Ripley (C) vs Charlotte Flair – RAW Women’s Championship match
No cell needed for this one to get nasty, they’ve been winding each other to boiling point for weeks. Charlotte Flair made sure by yanking the title belt out of the ref’s hand, shoved him out of the way, and threw it to Ripley then smacked her in the face.
The second the bell went, Flair went for a pin, more to unsettle Ripley than actually thinking it would work. She followed up with a big boot and Ripley went to regroup on the outside. Things got underway properly when she got back in.
Ripley went to the top and Flair kicked her leg out from under her and stamped on her when she’d fallen to an untidy heap on the mat. They’ve had a fair few matches all told, but I don’t think Flair has ever been this ruthless or aggressive.
Flair got out of Ripley’s submission by tipping her into the corner. Ripley was rocked but the Natural Selection follow up didn’t get the pin because Flair was caught with her foot on the ropes. Flair tried fair means and foul and anything she could think of to keep Ripley down. She caused damage to Ripley’s leg to the point Ripley wasn’t putting weight on it if she could avoid it, but even on one leg, Ripley wouldn’t stay down.
For her part, Ripley couldn’t keep Flair down either. She could come back from the offence. She had control of portions of the match. There were pin attempts galore, but nothing kept Flair down. A superplex didn’t do it. She even delivered the Riptide, but she was too close to the edge and Flair draped a leg over the ropes.
They took it to the outside and Flair did some more damage to Ripley’s leg with the steps, but she couldn’t get the figure four up into a Figure Eight and Ripley got to the ropes and dragged them both out of the ring. Screaming in pain Ripley catapulted Flair into the edge of the announce desk and the ref disqualified her. Apparently, the steps are fine but the announce desk that gets used almost as often is not.
They didn’t stop fighting after the disqualification, they just stopped playing by any kind of rules. Ripley finished it with the Riptide that should have won her the match. Flair was declared the winner, but Rhea Ripley is still RAW Women’s Champion.
This is a long way from over… and despite the fact we’ve seen it quite a lot, I’m ok with that. As she backed up the ramp, Flair said, ‘You’re learning, bitch’, and Ripley yelled back that she only did what Flair would have done. She’s right.
Naomi & Asuka def. Eva Marie & Doudrop
Nikki Cross and Alexa Bliss def. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
There was no respite from PPV builds. Money in the Bank is next, and the qualifying matches started on Monday. The men get individual qualifiers, but the women have been paired up for tag matches and both members of the team go through.
It is now confirmed that Piper Niven’s new name will be Doudrop. It’s awful and there’s absolutely no way to pretend it’s not awful, but from the way it was introduced, I suspect it’s going to be temporary. I’m desperately hoping it’s going to be temporary because every time I type it, I cringe. The official introduction of the name came from Eva Marie in a pre-match interview. Her excuse for not wrestling last week was, she caught a cold while getting a mani-pedi. She brought in Niven as her protégé so she didn’t disappoint the fans. Yes, Eva Marie referred to 12-year veteran, multi-time champion on two continents, Piper Niven as her protégé. I’m so cross, and to be fair, Niven didn’t look impressed either. She was mouthing, ‘Piper’ while Eva Marie delivered her new name and she looked rightfully disgusted.
Eva Marie & “Doudrop” vs Naomi & Asuka – Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
Eva Marie got into the ring with Asuka to start the match, but tagged out before Asuka touched her, earning her an eye roll from Doudrop Niven (I’m sorry, I can’t, it’s too bad). She didn’t even get back on the apron until she thought Naomi was done for, then she tagged herself in. Naomi kicked out and Niven shook her head and jumped down from the apron when Eva Marie tried to tag out again. Eva Marie leaned over the ropes to shout at her and Naomi rolled her up for the win.
Naomi and Asuka are in the Money in the Bank Ladder Match.
Sonya Deville and Adam Pearce called Rhea Ripley to the ring to tell her that getting herself disqualified was an abuse of the rules and wasn’t acceptable. Ripley said she’s seen Charlotte Flair break those rules time and time again, like they don’t apply to her, and she only did what Flair would have done.
Pearce said Flair isn’t the current champion, at which point Flair came out and said, ‘Yet.’ She’s not made at Ripley, she’s proud of her. Last night she was kicking Ripley’s ass and she finally proved she’s cleverer than she thought. She’s actually a strategic player, like her. But she’s still going to destroy her.
Deville said if that’s Flair’s way of asking for a rematch, she will grant her one. Rhea Ripley versus Charlotte Flair again at Money in the Bank.
After Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke got into a brawl with Natalya and Tamina last week and Natalya beat Rose at Hell in a Cell, this week, Rose and Brooke’s training interrupted Natalya and Tamina’s interview. There was another war of words but it didn’t get to a brawl because Rose and Brooke kicked Natalya and Tamina off the apron as soon as they got up there.
Kevin Patrick asked Shayna Baszler, Nia Jax, and Reginald if there was any fear that what happened with Alexa Bliss would happen again. Jax said Reginald knows it won’t happen again and she’d never hurt him. Baszler laughed at Reginald because he didn’t look convinced. She no one in the locker room scares her and nothing will stop them qualifying for Money in the Bank, but she and Jax agreed there was something different about Alexa.
We need to talk about some of the decision making in WWE at the moment. There was a big kerfuffle about a WWE writer who didn’t know anything about the product, but I’m honestly starting to wonder if anyone there pays attention to the product. If they had, then why would they choose to pair Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross as a tag team. There was some vague reference to them being former tag team partners, but that’s a slight understatement. They’re two-time former tag team champions, former best friends, went through a whole traumatic separation thing when Bliss fell under the spell of The Fiend and turned evil and Cross tried for weeks to bring her back… just a bit of history.
In fairness, Nikki Cross gave us a fairly substantial image change which may have overshadowed things. She’s a superhero in yellow and blue now, with a mask and a cape and everything, and it’s very pure and sweet. She said that recently she’s felt something spark inside her. She’s beaten Charlotte Flair and Rhea Ripley and now she can win her way into Money in the Bank. For the last few weeks, she’s been working on a visual representation of the spark and of the idea she won’t be alone. No matter how far down we fall in life we all share the same positivity, the same spark, the same spirit to win. She represents all of us, no matter our shortcomings. She represents our spark and our spirit.
On anyone else, this gimmick could be cheesy and cringeworthy and tacky. I have faith in Nikki Cross. If anyone can keep it sweet and sincere, it’s her.
WWE fired her husband on Friday. They’re really trying her positivity.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler, with Reginald – Money in the Bank Qualifying Match
Alexa Bliss has new theme music. It’s cute and it suits the character. Commentary speculated that Bliss and Cross both being quirky (not the words they used) might help them work together. They didn’t interact before the match, but they did what they needed to during it.
Nikki Cross took the first stint and Bliss stood politely holding the tag rope and cheering her on. Baszler and Jax were keen to keep Cross in the ring and Bliss out. Bliss moved from her post to stare at Reginald when he went to check on Jax after she took a ringpost to the shoulder. Baszler and Jax stopped her hypnotising him and all three were felled by a flying Nikki Cross.
When we got back from the ads, Cross tagged in Alexa Bliss. Jax distracted the ref so Baszler could damage Bliss eyes to take away the hypnosis that definitely bothers her. It put Bliss down for a while, then she just powered out of Baszler’s hold and put Baszler down with a sunset flip in the corner.
Cross came back in and caused an argument when she ducked a Baszler punch which nearly connected with Jax. Baszler took a suplex from Cross while they were arguing and Bliss hypnotised Reginald from the corner, into almost slapping Jax. He stopped himself and they hugged, and Nikki Cross dropkicked them to the floor. While they were down, she tangled Baszler up and pinned her.
Io Shirai & Zoey Stark def. The Robert Stone Brand (Aliyah/Jessi Kamea)
Franky Monet def. Elektra Lopez
Franky Monet is up to something. She chatted to Aliyah and Jessi Kamea, while holding Presley, and after they assured her their match was practically already in the bag, she planted the seed that people should be calling them The Winner’s Circle. Robert Stone appeared after she’d said that, and she again subtly altered what she’d been saying to appease his ego. She gave all three high-fives before she left. Presley snapped at Stone and Monet left saying she doesn’t think he likes him.
Zoey Stark said she owed Io Shirai a favour for giving her a break when she arrived. She was paying it back by saving her last week. But Shirai wanting to tag with her was a surprise because Shirai is notorious for not playing well with others.
Right on cue, Shirai turned up and told Stark, ‘I respect you but I don’t like you’, and wandered off again. Stark said mutual respect was all they needed to make the match work.
Io Shirai & Zoey Stark vs The Robert Stone Brand (Aliyah & Jessi Kamea)
Poor Aliyah and Jessi Kamea didn’t even get a proper entrance. Aliyah has been hard-working and adaptable through every failed characterisation, but with nothing sticking after all this time she must get nervous on release days. Teaming with Jessi Kamea might just be the thing that cements her place, especially if they pair them with Franky Monet.
She took a lot of punishment from Stark and Shirai in the early going before tagging out. Kamea was faring better against Stark when Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell arrived on the stage and gradually moved closer to the ring.
If they were there to watch Io Shirai, she put on a great display for them, as did Stark. It was Shirai and her trademark moonsault on Jessi Kamea that sealed the victory.
LeRae and Hartwell got up on the apron after the match, so Stark and Shirai readied themselves for a fight. Before that could happen, Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzalez appeared on the announce desk side of the ring. Kai and Gonzalez warned them the tag titles were theirs and Shiar and Stark couldn’t jump the line.
Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon completed the set. LeRae and Hartwell had moved to another side of the ring so there was space for them. Moon and Blackheart reminded everyone that they’re number one contenders and decided to remind them by kicking ass.
The ensuing brawl did not include Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell. They made a point of showing Samoa Joe they weren’t part of it. He sent officials to the ring to break it up and joined them to help. Dakota Kai threw at least one security guy out of the ring before she was removed and Joe may have been questioning his recent life choices… or at least questioning which members of the women’s division could handle a Coquina Clutch.
Later in the show, Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez vs Io Shirai & Zoey Stark was confirmed for next week. The winner faces Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell at The Great American Bash in two weeks.
Franky Monet vs Elektra Lopez
Standard and utterly pointless squash for Monet’s encore of her premiere. We all know the former Taya Valkyrie is great and anyone who doesn’t isn’t going to learn anything from these matches. Elektra Lopez looked decent enough, not that she got to do much except try to defend herself. Monet’s double chickenwing facebuster finished the match. We haven’t been told what she’s calling it in NXT. Beth Phoenix claims it as a tribute to her Glam Slam, thanks to Monet saying she’s been watching her since childhood (Monet is only three years younger than Phoenix), Monet used to call it Road to Valhalla.
McKenzie Mitchell informed Mercedes Martinez she has a mixed tag match against Xia Li and Boa. Martinez said she was ok with that but she doesn’t make friends very easily so she may have to go it alone. Xia Li attacked her from behind during the interview and Boa stood over her yelling at her. Jake Atlas appeared from nowhere and kicked him in the face. He helped Martinez up and declared he’d joined the fight. Got to love a bit of Pride month LGBT solidarity.
It would seem that Scarlett may be wrestling on the main roster. UK viewers can’t watch Main Event anymore without waiting four weeks for it to hit WWE Network, which is why it isn’t featured in this column despite regularly featuring women’s division matches. Scarlett has apparently featured in one of those matches. Karrion Kross also had to do his entrance without her, so it looks like they may be split if they move across to RAW or SmackDown. Scarlett’s opponent was Shotzi Blackheart, so she might also be called up. That means they’re potentially splitting Blackheart from Ember Moon, which would be a shame.
On Friday WWE released another batch of superstars, and this time it was NXT and 205 that took the hit. Breezango and Killian Dain went, which upset me, but the women’s division suffered only one loss, Marina Shafir.
Stevie Turner def. Laura Di Matteo
Isla Dawn messed with the lights when she crashed Emilia McKenzie’s interview about Meiko Satomura’s victory. She looked at McKenzie and McKenzie told Dawn they had unfinished business. When Dawn didn’t say anything, Emilia McKenzie called her a weirdo and left.
The lights went weird while Mila, a newbie, was being interviewed and Aoife Valkyrie started training in the ring. Jinny approached Mila and called her pathetic for watching someone train, especially Valkyrie. Mila said she’d like to face Valkyrie and she thinks she could beat her. Jinny told her off for looking at her and said she doesn’t care what she does then left.
Laura Di Matteo vs Stevie Turner
This was Laura Di Matteo’s NXT UK debut and she didn’t even get an entrance. She was one of my favourites on the indies a few years ago, but I haven’t seen her for ages so I was interested to see how she’d progressed. According to commentary, Stevie Turner dedicated any success she achieves in NXT UK to her late tag partner Hana Kimura.
Decent enough match, but nothing special and not long enough. Stevie Turner picked up the win with a rope-assisted flatliner which may have busted Di Matteo’s nose.
Blair Davenport is coming to NXT UK. Nope, I don’t know either, but it’s likely to be Bea Priestley according to rumours.
Meiko Satomura will be on next week’s show to address the NXT UK Universe.
Bayley & Seth Rollins def. Bianca Belair & Cesaro
Liv Morgan def. Carmella
Bianca Belair opened the show and said a few words about looking forward to leaving the ThunderDome and getting back in front of the fans before she talked about her victory over Bayley. She used Bayley and Bully interchangeably as she talked about shining her title so she could see her reflection in it so she can remind herself she did that. She got through all the pain and walked out with the title. To anyone struggling with their own Bayley, she wants the title to be a beautiful reminder that you are so much more powerful.
Seth Rollins came out and compared their victories briefly before he talked about himself a lot. He tried to get Belair to high-five him. When she reminded him he was teaming with Bayley he said yes and she’d be out in a minute to beat the holy hell out of her and they wouldn’t be able to high-five when she was laying on the mat.
Bayley did come out and say she was going to congratulate Belair on her victory but she heard her bragging and that’s not the kind of champion the people need or deserve. Belair invited her to the ring to see what kind of champion she was, and Rollins narrated how bad he thought it was going to be for her. Bayley told her she didn’t feel any different about her after her ‘fluke’ victory. She still sees the same old pathetic Bianca Bel-loser. Rollins laughed until Belair punched her in the face, then he held Belair back until Bayley was ready to attack her.
Cesaro arrived and took Rollins out of the ring. Bayley threw Belair out the other side and yelled at Cesaro that it was all his fault. Just for a second, it looked like Bayley might take the Cesaro swing, but sadly not. Belair reappeared and Casaro picked her up and used her to knock Bayley out of the ring. The match started after a break.
Bianca Belair & Cesaro vs Bayley & Seth Rollins
I hate mixed tag matches a little bit more every time I have to watch one. Make it intergender or leave them separate because nine times out of ten a mixed tag is the worst of both matches. As soon as momentum is built and you get into it, someone tags and the field is immediately levelled.
Rollins and Cesaro are not done with their feud while Belair and Bayley are dragging out the end of theirs (bearing in mind that there’s no obvious credible challenger for Belair after Bayley), so the men took the majority of the match. Bayley and Rollins make the smuggest of teams.
When Belair and Bayley came in Bayley was struggling and took a break at ringside. While there, she turned things in her favour by dropping Belair’s ribs onto the barricade and shoving her into the ringpost. They couldn’t break the deadlock on that stint though.
Bayley tried to interfere, throwing herself at Cesaro. He caught her and got punched in the face by Rollins. Belair broke up Rollins’ subsequent pin and laughed through his reprimands. He got uppercut out of the air when Belair shoved him off the apron, but got his own back when he bumped Belair out of a K.O.D while trying to escape Cesaro. A running knee from Bayley before Belair recovered, gave her the opportunity to deliver the Rose Plant for the pin on the champ, which I guess is the way they’ll extend their feud.
While the men got qualifying matches for the Money in the Bank Ladder Match, as did their RAW counterparts, Sonya Deville was set to announce SmackDown’s competitors. Carmella was the woman she announced. Carmella joined her to say she was, of course, the obvious choice. After all, she is the most beautiful woman in WWE. Liv Morgan came out and said she beat Carmella and she deserved it more. Carmella said something bitchy. Morgan slapped her. Deville told her to prove she deserves to be in the match, alongside Carmella rather than instead of by the sounds of it, and gave them a match.
Liv Morgan vs Carmella
This wasn’t given a lot of time and it started during a break which always feels diminishing. It was a decent enough match though. Carmella has gone through so many slightly different but not actually different versions of her character, it all feels a bit disjointed now. Giving her some screen time would probably help there.
Natalya and Tamina were shown watching from backstage and commentary speculated they may be under consideration to be added to the match. Of course, Morgan should be fighting them for the tag titles alongside Ruby Riott, but WWE sacked Riott in the last round of unfathomable releases.
Liv Morgan got the pin by folding Carmella up. Carmella made the ring announcer announce that she was still the most beautiful woman in WWE.
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.