Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It is well and truly WrestleMania Season. This week sees the go-home for the two-night NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver, which is next Wednesday and Thursday. The main roster brands still have one more show each, with next week’s SmackDown falling between TakeOver and WrestleMania. Next week we’re heading into a really busy week and a bit. Nine straight days of WWE programming.
Monday, April 05 – RAW
Tuesday, April 06 – Hall of Fame (inducting the class of 2020 and 2021)
Wednesday, April 07 – NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver – Night 1
Thursday, April 08 – NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver – Night 2
Friday, April 09 – SmackDown – WrestleMania Edition
Saturday, April 10 – WrestleMania – Night 1
Sunday, April 11 – WrestleMania – Night 2
Monday, April 12 – RAW After WrestleMania
Tuesday, April 13 – NXT starts in its new regular slot on Tuesday nights.
Naomi def. Shayna Baszler
Alexa Bliss told a story about jack in the boxes from Alexa’s Playground. She said they used to be called Devil in a box and were covered in spells and used to store a demonic presence after it had been weakened. That’s what happened at TLC. Randy Orton weakened The Fiend by burning him alive and he’s been trapped in her Fiend in a box, which she was holding. But you can’t trap evil forever. He just needed time. Now he’s salivating at getting into the ring with Orton at WrestleMania. Orton’s biggest mistake used to be playing with fire he truly didn’t understand. Now his biggest mistake is thinking he understands what comes next. He doesn’t, but she could give everyone a hint. At WrestleMania, the Legend Killer dies.
Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax and Reginald, vs Naomi, with Lana
Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke joined commentary for the match. Bell to bell, it was well under three minutes.
Naomi took Baszler’s elbow stamp and Baszler stayed on it, but Naomi carried on regardless. She’s looking great and she got the pin on Baszler with a lovely bridging pin. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by the action on the outside.
Lana went for Reginald when he got on the apron to distract Naomi. Nia Jax put Lana on her shoulders but Lana squirmed down and shoved Jax into Mandy Rose. Dana Brooke punched Lana in the face and put her on her shoulders, but Lana ended up on the apron and kicked Brooke in the face from there. Shayna Baszler kicked Lana off the apron and that’s when she got pinned.
Asuka and Rhea Ripley signed their WrestleMania contract this week. Asuka had a confusing encounter with Riddle on her way to the ring, but most encounters with Riddle are confusing. Adam Pearce oversaw proceedings.
He announced Asuka as the RAW Women’s Champion and Ripley said she thinks he meant to say current champion. Asuka said she is the champion and Ripley is overconfident.
Ripley said she’s right, she is. On her first night on RAW, she was confident enough to challenge her to a match at WrestleMania. Now she’s confident enough to tell her to her face she’s going to beat her at WrestleMania and take her title.
Signatures were added. Asuka yelled at Ripley in Japanese then said Ripley’s confidence is borrowed, not earned, not yet. She was in the middle of telling her that she’s not ready for Asuka when Ripley flipped the table over and hit her in the face with it. That was the moment Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler chose to come out, with Reginald of course.
Nia Jax said she doesn’t know who’s worse, Ripley for having the audacity to request a championship match at WrestleMania, or Asuka for accepting. Baszler said they’re both pretty bad, but Ripley is new. Asuka should be ashamed of herself. After everything she’s done to Asuka she should know better they have dominated the entire women’s division across the entire company for nearly a year. Where’s their WrestleMania match. She’s already proved she can kick the champ’s teeth out whenever she wants and she can’t wait to give Ripley a dose of that reality.
Ripley asked what was stopping her and Jax held Baszler back and suggested Ripley and Asuka team up to face them next week. Asuka was will on the mat. She hadn’t moved for the entire segment. She picked her head up, holding her mouth, and stared at Rhea Ripley in shock when Ripley accepted.
Lana posted a tweet about being scared yet relentless, learning and certain of her path. You can’t deny her work ethic or determination. From where she started to where she is now, is a world of difference. She’s not ready to hold a single’s title yet, and I think she knows that too. But it would be a fool who bet against her long term and I can definitely see her and Naomi with a tag title run.
It’s just not good enough that the entire women’s division was given ten minutes of a three-hour show. We got past this once, why has it regressed. I understand that the relative importance of the women’s division is a million miles from where it was, but it’s still not enough. NXT can manage to run multi-layered storylines across a sizable women’s division, so it’s clearly possible. Once again I find myself fearful instead of celebratory when one of my favourites gets shifted across to RAW or SmackDown. It shouldn’t be like that.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell def. Gigi Dolan & Zayda Ramier
Raquel Gonzalez def. Zoey Stark
Tian Sha def. Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter
I have to admit, I thought the NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship match for TakeOver had been decided last week, but I was wrong. I got the match right, but it was made official this week. In an interview with the rest of The Way, Candice LeRae said she hoped Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon would watch their match because they were going to show them what real champions are.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell vs Gigi Dolan & Zayda Ramier
Ok, this wasn’t the longest of matches, but it was decent. Candice LeRae still has a tendency to let Indi Hartwell do all the work. But she did let Hartwell take the pin on Zayda Ramier with an elbow drop after she’d given her a Wicked Stepsister. Commentary spent quite a bit of the match talking about the new arrivals, which is hopeful for them being properly integrated into the division at some point.
After the match, LeRae said there’s not a woman in the locker room who deserves to be a champion more than she does, which means she and Hartwell deserve to be tag team champions. She called out Shotzi Blackheart for a match on her time and her stage, NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver.
Blackheart and Moon came out in the tank to answer the challenge. They took exception to how entitled LeRae sounded, but they accepted the match. They also shot Indi Hartwell with the tank’s missile.
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Tian Sha
NXT announced a match between Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter and Tian Sha, but they didn’t explain exactly what that meant, so it was a bit of a wait and see moment. What it meant was Mei Ying in her chair with Boa stood next to her after he’d escorted Xia Li to the ring and helped her with her hat before her sword display. Li faced Catanzaro and Carter alone.
That didn’t sit right with Kayden Carter. While Li and Catanzaro we down on the mat after some vicious exchanges, she stormed up to Mei Ying and told her off. Mei Ying grabbed her by the throat and squeezed until Cater was out.
Carter was still unconscious on the floor by the time Xia Li had pinned Kacy Catanzaro off a knee to the face and a kick to the head.
I think it’s time to see what Xia Li can do in a longer match now.
Taya Valkyrie arrives on April 13th. All through this week’s NXT, the ad breaks were preceded by footage of a small fluffy dog heading into and through the Performance Center. It appears her name will be Franky.
The build to Io Shirai versus Raquel Gonzalez at NXT TakeOver Stand and Deliver was a thread of comments and interactions rather than a single segment. The thread started with interview footage of Io Shirai from last week, while she was icing her back after being attacked by Gonzalez, where she was asked if she thought she’d bitten off more than she could chew by challenging Gonzalez. Shirai said, ‘That’s why I picked her.’
Shirai approached Gonzalez while she was headed to the ring for her match against Zoey Stark, with Dakota Kai. Kai drifted away when Shirai approached but came back to drag her off Gonzalez after Shirai said Gonzalez couldn’t kill her and smacked her in the chest. Kai’s drag back was just enough to let Gonzalez bounce Shirai off a packing crate and leave her in a heap on the floor.
Raquel Gonzalez vs Zoey Stark
If they’re going to make Zoey Stark a star, which very much looks like the plan, then she needs to be allowed some personality. It’s no good having her come in and have great matches, which this one was, if no one knows enough about her to care.
Dakota Kai tried to interfere, just once. She punched Stark after Stark had wriggled off Gonzalez’ shoulder and shoved her into a post. In response, Stark clotheslined her over the barricade. Simple but effective.
Stark was giving Gonzalez a hell of a match and a few times it was questionable whether Gonzalez would be heading into TakeOver on a loss. In the end, Gonzalez caught Stark’s leg as she went for a kick and delivered the single-arm powerbomb. Zoey Stark did not get up. Most people don’t.
Io Shirai ran to the ring and attacked Raquel Gonzalez after the match. Once again, Gonzalez left her in a heap on the floor, this time by throwing her at the plexiglass barricade.
Shirai had another go while Gonzalez was being interviewed. Same result, except this time Gonzalez threw her through a boarded over window into an adjacent corridor and yelled at her to stay down. Officials also told Shirai to stay down, but it really didn’t look like she was planning to get up anyway.
The final instalment came at the very end of the show. Shirai came to the ring and yelled a lot. Gonzalez came out and they met on the ramp. The lower part of the locker room arrived and did a terrible job of keeping them apart. Shirai finished it by taking down Gonzalez and about half a dozen other people with a springboard dive off the top rope to the outside.
Aoife Valkyrie def. Stevie Turner
Aoife Valkyrie vs Stevie Turner
Stevie Turner was formerly Bobbi Tyler. She has four years of in-ring experience to Valkyrie’s six years, but has had significantly more matches in that time (166-104 according to Cagematch). If she’s treated right, she’s a great addition to the NXT UK roster. Sadly, that’s too big an if for comfort.
The match was good. There’s chemistry in the pairing and I hope they exploit it. Valkyrie won this round and spoiled Turner’s debut with an axe kick from the top.
Piper Niven and Jack Starz are training together. He wanted to do a full-on gym workout but Niven told him he’s already the best at exercising and there’s more to wrestling than working out. She took him to the ring and taught him to unleash his aggression on a bag. It went very well.
Kay Lee Ray paid NXT UK a visit. She said she asked for the best and NXT delivered with one of the best wrestlers in the world of any gender. And she beat her. She’s still the NXT UK Women’s Champion. Still the forever champion.
Millie McKenzie interrupted her, back for the first time in two years. She’s been travelling, training, and waiting for the perfect time to return. She’s back now because she wants to beat the best and their paths are going to cross very soon.
Kay Lee Ray said why not now, but Isla Dawn attacked McKenzie before she got to the ring. Dawn rolled McKenzie into the ring and was holding her still for a superkick from Ray, but Meiko Satomura arrived to make the save before Ray could do anything.
There was a brawl. Ray and Dawn were cleared from the ring. That tag match should be pretty great.
This is the most hopeful I’ve felt about the NXT UK women’s division in a long time. Please let this be the start of it being allowed to be interesting.
Natalya def. Shayna Baszler
Bianca Belair def. Carmella
Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler, and Reginald ran into Carmella in the corridor. Reginald whispered something to Jax as they got close and she said to Carmella, ‘You didn’t treat my guy very well did you’, and carried on walking.
Shayna Baszler, with Nia Jax, vs Natalya, with Tamina
Nia Jax joined commentary for the match, but it was barely worth her sitting down. They rolled each other up then rolled around until Baszler’s shoulders were on the mat for three. The whole thing took thirty-five seconds.
Jax attacked Natalya after the match. Tamina tried to intervene and got beaten down. Baszler and Jax cleared Natalya and Tamina from the ring and got attacked by The Riott Squad. When Baszler had Riott in a Kirifuda Clutch, Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke appeared, all the way from RAW. They put Baszler down with a double flapjack and got Jax down in the corner, then started fighting Riott and Morgan.
Naomi and Lana arrived as well, they kicked the Riott Squad in the head and threw them out of the ring, then landed splashes on the tag champs and put down Rose and Brooke as well. Natalya and Tamina came back in to put them down and bring it full circle.
Backstage, Carmella had been watching it all unfold. Billie Kay approached her and Carmella waved her away before she could speak, then put a hand on her arm and took the headshot/resumé.
Carmella vs Bianca Belair
Before the match, Belair had a backstage interview. She said she’d been waiting for the real Sasha Banks, the Legit Boss, to show up and she finally did after Belair slapped the soul out of her body last week. But that’s the Sasha Banks she wants to face so there will be no excuses when she beats her at WrestleMania. She’s not looking past Carmella, she’s just going through her on her way to make history. Carmella is a former champion, but she’s got a chip on her shoulder and she’s also the reason they all have to deal with Reginald now.
Carmella attacked Belair before the bell and threw her into the barricades and steps so we could take a break. It had started properly by the time we came back. Carmella tied Belair to the bottom rope by her ponytail and stamped on her, but just made her cross. Fun match, if a little on the short side again. Belair finished it with a K.O.D.
Sasha Banks tried for a surprise attack after the match. Belair backed her off and said, ‘WrestleMania, not today’.
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. And get some rest, there’s a lot of wrestling ahead.