Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. I took a few weeks off from my wrestling writing commitments to finish my MSc, but wow did I pick the wrong weeks. We’ve had titles created, defended, and changing hands. Sarray is on her way to NXT. Rhea Ripley has been Coming Soon to RAW and will arrive on Monday. NXT UK had their first mixed-tag match, which should definitely have been intergender. And it’s Fastlane to kick off the week with WrestleMania just around the corner and a two-night TakeOver to go with it.
The NXT women’s tag titles are long overdue. There are more opportunities for them to be defended on NXT than exist for both main roster brands combined. NXT is the place to make women’s tag team wrestling important in WWE. I look forward to its evolution.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair
Alexa Bliss def. Randy Orton
Kayla Braxton has taken over from Charly Caruso leading the Kickoff Show panel. There are apparently some issues between Caruso and WWE, which may prove irreconcilable. Braxton did fine. If it’s going to be a new role for her then she might need to be a bit more vocal to stop some of the more dominant personalities taking over. Sonya Deville joined the panel for most of the show this time.
Reckoning broke up RETRIBUTION, or at least started the breakup. Mustafa Ali had one tantrum too many after taking another loss to Riddle and she walked out on him. SlapJack followed, then MACE and T-BAR double-slammed him into the mat before they left as well. I have everything crossed that the end of RETRIBUTION might mean the beginning of Mia Yim back in the ring where she belongs.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax, with Reginald, (C) vs Sasha Banks & Bianca Belair – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Putting the only women’s division match on the card on first annoys me almost as much as there only being one women’s division match on the card (Alexa Bliss vs Randy Orton really doesn’t count, but I’ll give it a few lines). The match was good, apart from the ending, and it got a reasonable amount of time.
Considering they’re WrestleMania opponents and there have been some Reginald based tensions between them, Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair worked well together. And let’s just take a moment to talk about how Belair has slotted seamlessly into the upper echelons of the main roster women’s division. Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler, on the other hand, appeared even less in tune with each other than normal. They don’t usually allow their general contempt for each other and everything else to interfere with their teamwork, but Reginald apparently spreads dissent wherever he goes.
Belair took so much punishment in the middle section of the match. Jax and Baszler sorted themselves out and kept her isolated on their half of the ring so they could make nice frequent tags. Sasha Banks got to do the come in and clean house bit, but Belair was only out for a minute.
Of course, Reginald got involved. He stopped Belair getting the pin on Shayna Baszler off a 450 splash, by distracting the ref. Banks went out after him, but he ducked her and got back up on the apron, so Belair punched him in the face.
Baszler got the Kirifuda on while Belair was dealing with Reginald but Belair got out and tagged Banks. She got Baszler in the Bank Statement, Belair came in to intercept Jax, Jax pushed Belair onto Banks and broke the pin. Sasha Banks blamed Belair and called her ‘rookie’ again. Belair got out of the ring as Banks got rolled up and pinned by Baszler. Nia Jax grabbed Belair’s leg to stop her getting back into the ring.
After arguing about whose fault the loss was, Sasha Banks poked Bianca Belair in the forehead and slapped her. WrestleMania clearly can’t come quick enough for Belair now. She kept looking at the sign while Banks was holding her title up on the ramp.
Alexa Bliss vs Randy Orton
Randy Orton started coughing up the black goop while posing on the turnbuckle before the match. Alexa Bliss’ entrance was incredibly strange with the mash-up of her themes and the warping. Bliss herself looked pretty odd. The bell went to start the match and fire appeared between them as soon as Orton stepped forward. Funnily enough, that was the last time the ref was seen until the pin needed counting, and even then he didn’t get all the way into the ring.
She got Orton to stalk her around the ring, after he’d charged himself into the ringpost, then ‘made’ a light fixture fall from the ceiling and miss him by inches. It took a lot of coaxing for her to get him back in the ring and as soon as he approached her, she threw more fire. As they stood looking at each other, a burned hand emerged through the ring and grabbed Orton’s leg. A smouldering Fiend followed moments later. Bliss pushed Orton towards Melty Fiend. He delivered Sister Abigail and Alexa Bliss pinned Randy Orton by kneeling over him. She stayed there for the entire celebration, which might have been the reason for the unhappy tweet from Orton’s wife.
Melty Fiend is horrifying, but Bliss is happy to have him back. And I’m still loving everything she’s doing at the moment.
Asuka def. Peyton Royce
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Asuka vs Peyton Royce
This match was a reaction to Royce getting shouty on RAW Talk a couple of weeks ago. And with good reason. They broke up the IIconics then did nothing with either of them. She asked for an opportunity to show that she can go, and she asked for Asuka. It was a non-title match, but I think Royce did everything she set out to do except win and she only lost when she let her frustration get the better of her.
Royce had Asuka reeling and had a few more than credible opportunities to put the champion away. She definitely proved she deserves to be in the conversation. Eventually, of course, she tapped out to the Asuka Lock.
Rhea Ripley made her long-awaited RAW debut after the match. She said Asuka is one of the greatest champions in WWE history and she’s made her point. Last she saw, Charlotte Flair was out there challenging for the title, while Asuka was recovering from getting her teeth knocked out. Now Flair is at home recovering from COVID-19 (which Charlotte Flair confirmed earlier in the day via tweet). So, she’s gonna need an answer, on her first official night on RAW, she’s challenging her to a championship match at WrestleMania.
Asuka accepted but said Ripley was not ready for Asuka, and the match was quickly made official.
There will be fans at this year’s WrestleMania. Not as many as a normal Mania, but some. I hope this feels more like the WrestleMania moment Ripley should have had last year.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax, with Reginald, vs Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke
Naomi and Lana joined commentary for the match. Reginald is still pissing Shayna Baszler off, even more so since Jax missed a tag because she was watching him not the ring. He ended up in the ring, doing tricks for Jax, as a result of annoying Mandy Rose on the outside and seeking safety. And he got up on the apron to distract Dana Brooke. Rose was taken out at ringside by Baszler after she got into it with Reginald for causing the distraction, and Brooke was pinned with a Samoan drop from Jax.
The entire match was about Reginald and he continued to cause friction after the match when Jax celebrated with him instead of Baszler. He’s playing his own games, but I’m still not sure what his deal is.
It was advertised that Randy Orton was going to summon The Fiend. Alexa Bliss said she knows Randy Orton wanted her out of his life, but she’s still here and so is ‘He’. You can’t always get what you want, but tonight, she thinks he should be careful what he wishes for.
She came out again as part of the summoning and told Orton from the stage to be careful what he wished for. She wound the jack in the box until a Fiend puppet popped out, so I guess she summoned him. Melty Fiend is horrifying and Orton wanted to set him on fire again. Bliss got closer to the ring as Orton poured gasoline over The Fiend and RKO’d him instead of lighting the match. She got into the ring and had a staring contest with Orton for long enough for The Fiend to get up. Orton turned away from her into a mandible claw and Sister Abigail. As they stood over Orton’s prone body, she pointed at the WrestleMania sign and The Fiend joined her.
Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez def. Io Shirai & Zoey Stark
Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon def. Aliyah & Mercedes Martinez
Io Shirai & Zoey Stark vs Dakota Kai & Raquel Gonzalez
A really good episode opener and another great match for Zoey Stark. Her position in the division is pretty much solidified now, and there’s every indication she belongs there. She did the bulk of the first half of the match and more than held her own against Kai and Gonzalez. Shirai seemed to be really feeling it in this one, and it was lovely to see. I love it when wrestlers look like they’re having fun.
Stark managed to take Kai and Gonzalez out by shoving each of them into the ringpost. Shirai took Gonzalez down again with a moonsault from the top to the outside, but she knocked herself wobbly for a minute and Gonzalez was back in the ring with Stark long before she got up. When she did, Gonzalez paused, with Stark over her head, to kick her off the apron before slamming Stark into the mat and pinning her.
Raquel Gonzalez and Io Shirai stood face to face after the match. Shirai was quick enough to intercept Kai coming up behind her, but left herself open to the big boot from Gonzalez that sent her out of the ring. Gonzalez scooped her up and powerbombed her onto the announce desk, without clearing it. The desk didn’t collapse and The final visual was Shirai laid out on the desk with Gonzalez stood over her.
Shotzi Blackheart got a Moments to Smile About feature, sponsored by Cricket. It was a really sweet little video of her favourite highlights of the last year. She is most proud of doing it all and being herself. It’s her dream come true and she’s looking forward to making more historic moments for herself.
Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon (C) vs Aliyah & Mercedes Martinez – NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Mercedes Martinez replaced the injured Jessi Kamea, but only because Robert Stone paid her to, and she demanded double their original agreement. However she got there, it’s always a pleasure to see Martinez in an NXT ring.
Robert Stone got involved quite early on, getting up on the apron and throwing his shoe into the ring when it looked like Martinez was in trouble. It worked and Martinez took over the match and handed over to Aliyah.
It turned into a good match, albeit a short one. Aliyah deserves so much more credit than she gets, and she and Martinez worked well together. Just not as well as the champions. Martinez was already down on the outside when Ember Moon went to the top for the Eclipse on Aliyah, but Blackheart was out there just in case. There was no way Martinez was getting up and it was an easy pin.
Backstage, while Moon and Blackheart were being interviewed, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell showed up. Shotzi Blackheart laughed at their challenge. Ember Moon said they’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again. Candice LeRae told her next time they’ll do it their way on their stage.
Io Shirai versus Raquel Gonzalez will main event night one of NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver.
Isla Dawn def. Aleah James
Isla Dawn vs Aleah James
It seems like her losing effort against Meiko Satomura has had a focusing effect on Isla Dawn. She was more aggressive and methodical in her approach in this one than we’ve seen her in the past. It was her match pretty much from beginning to end, with just the briefest flurries of offence from James. Dawn got the pin with a bridging suplex.
Bianca Belair def. Natalya
Bianca Belair said she’s obviously bigger and stronger than Banks and she could have retaliated to the slap and whipped her into next month, but Banks wouldn’t have made it to WrestleMania. Belair’s mamma told her that sometimes you have to be the bigger person to focus on your business, so she was the bigger person on Sunday so she can be the better person at WrestleMania. And that’s her business. Banks is many things, but she’s not a liar. She calls herself the boss, the blueprint, the standard, but Belair is just a little bit better. Just enough to make history. Just enough to show Sasha Banks what it’s like for the rookie to end her title reign.
Now she’s got some unfinished business with. Natalya and she advised people to keep their little kids out of the room because no one should see what she’s about to do.
Bianca Belair vs Natalya, with Tamina
Sasha Banks came out, with full entrance music, partway through the match. It was part one of a distraction double, with Natalya feigning injury to keep the ref’s attention long enough for Tamina to kick Belair in the face. Banks was taunting her as we went into a break. She’d joined commentary and Belair was in a bit of trouble by the time we came back.
Sadly, the was the end of the focus on the match, which was a shame because it was pretty good. While Sasha Banks was proclaiming Belair a rookie and Michael Cole was questioning whether she was worried about losing her top spot, Belair was getting one of the better matches I’ve seen out of Natalya in a while.
Belair spiked herself while slamming Natalya’s face into the match, and rolled out of the ring a little dazed. Banks got up and taunted her, so Belair slapped her and got back in the ring to pin Natalya off a K.O.D.
Sasha Banks delivered a backstabber to Belair after the match.
WWE Superstars are taking part in a campaign encouraging people to get vaccinated. Go do that.
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.