Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It was go-home week for the strangest WrestleMania in the history of the event. Paul Heyman called it ‘The most unique WrestleMania of our lifetimes’, and he’s not wrong, but the show is happening, albeit pre-taped and in an empty Performance Center and with a few alterations. Before we get to WrestleMania itself (the first night will finish this column) there’s the build, such as it was.
Asuka def. Kayden Carter
Becky Lynch was shown arriving in her big truck emblazoned with her face, then came to the stage and introduced the WrestleMania 35 main event by talking about how high the stakes were for her after all the trash she talked and all the times she attacked Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey in the run-up to the match. Then we got to watch the match in its entirety.
When the match was over she said that was the first time she’d watched it back. Over the last year she has discovered that history tends to follow the one who made it. Turns out, she also gets followed by dopes who can’t seem to make their own. Since then a lot of people have tried to take the title from her. Shayna Baszler thinks she’s different, that she has an edge because she wiped out the rest of the division. Basler said last week that taking the title from her would destroy her, and she’s right, it would. But they all get into the business because they have demons to slay and things to prove. She has no problem admitting she doesn’t know who she is without the title anymore. But she knows about Baszler’s demons too. Baszler walks around all cool, but she can see she’s starting to get to her. Like all the rest, Baszler will come in fighting from a place of emotion hoping that if she beats her she’ll have done the one thing Ronda Rousey couldn’t. And that’s Baszler’s demon. She can see the relief and exhilaration Baszler will get when she beats her, if she beats her. For once she’ll steal Ronda’s spotlight instead of the other way around. At last, she’ll be seen as the supreme top-class athlete she is, or she’ll get beaten and put back in Ronda’s shadow.
Lynch posed the question, who does Baszler really mean when she talks about one of them losing at WrestleMania and being destroyed by it. Then Baszler popped up behind her and locked her in the Kirifuda Clutch. With the hold still on she dragged Lynch to the announce desk and smashed her face into it, then picked her up by the legs and swung her head into the side of it. With Becky Lynch laid on the floor in pain, Baszler threw the title belt onto her and left.
There will be a WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match at WrestleMania. The Kabuki Warriors will defend their titles against Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross. Instead of any real build for this, presumably because Bliss and Cross are SmackDown superstars, Asuka had a solo match against an NXT superstar.
Asuka vs Kayden Carter
There wasn’t much to this match really. Kayden Carter is good and she got to display a small amount of her talent for the RAW viewers, then she got kicked in the head and tapped out in an Asuka Lock.
After the match, Asuka briefly joined commentary to yell a lot of stuff in Japanese aimed at Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross.
The build for Rhea Ripley versus Charlotte Flair was brief considering it’s a historic title match. Rhea Ripley was arriving at the Performance Center and Charlotte Flair pushed her into a shutter and yelled at her. After she was backed off by officials Flair said, ‘Hey, rookie, I’ll see you at WrestleMania’. Ripley picked herself up, checking her lip for blood and said, ‘Yeah, yeah you will’. She was smiling, she’s been smiling the whole way through the build.
Shotzi Blackheart def. Deonna Purrazzo > Shotzi Blackheart def. Xia Li > Shotzi Blackheart def. Aliyah > Shotzi Blackheart def. Kayden Carter > Dakota Kai def. Shotzi Blackheart
With NXT TakeOver Tampa cancelled due to current global events, the ladder match to decide the number one contender for the NXT Women’s Championship will happen on next week’s NXT. Chelsea Green, Mia Yim, Tegan Nox, Candice LeRae, and Io Shirai have already qualified, so this week there was a Second Chance Gauntlet Match to decide the final competitor.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Deonna Purrazzo
The first match of the gauntlet, and one of the longest. I have high hopes for both these women progressing through the division, and a stand-out performance in a gauntlet match is a great way to raise your profile.
I enjoyed this, as I’ve enjoyed everything Shotzi Blackheart has done in NXT. I’m a fan of Deonna Purrazzo’s work as well, it’s good to see her being used more. It wasn’t Purrazzo’s night though, they wore each other out way more than was ideal for the first match of a gauntlet, but Blackheart got the win with a senton from the top.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Xia Li
Xia Li was the only woman in the match who didn’t lose their qualifier. She never made it to hers thanks to a backstage attack that left her unable to compete. Unfortunately for her, she didn’t get much chance to make that impact because most of her match took place during an ad break and we came back just in time for Shotzi Blackheart to tap her out.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Aliyah
Aliyah believed she should have been given a forfeit victory over Xia Li, and also that the ref in this match should have given her preferential treatment. When he counted two for a pin attempt on Blackheart Aliyah told him it should have been three because she is more deserving.
That didn’t wash with the ref, or with Shotzi Blackheart, and Aliyah was dispatched via submission.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Kayden Carter
This lasted a little longer than Kayden Carter’s RAW match against Asuka but it ended the same way. Unlike the match with Asuka, Carter had a couple of decent near falls on Blackheart before succumbing to a senton from the top.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Dakota Kai
Dakota Kai was, as always, accompanied to the ring by Raquel Gonzalez, which put Blackheart at an even bigger disadvantage than being on her fifth match. It didn’t take Gonzalez long to get involved on Kai’s behalf, dragging Blackheart’s throat down onto the rope while Kai had the ref distracted. Blackheart kicked out of Kai’s follow up pin attempt, and the match rolled on.
The next time Gonzalez got involved was after Blackheart had taken them both down with a suicide dive. She put Blackheart over her shoulder intending to run her into the post or steps. Shotzi Blackheart struggled free and shoved Gonzalez into the steps. Sadly, Dakota Kai was ready when Blackheart got back into the ring and kicked her in the head before finishing it with a Go To Kick.
Adding Dakota Kai to a ladder match already featuring Tegan Nox, Mia Yim, and Candice LeRae changes the entire tone and feel of the match. I expect to see a lot more weaponization of the ladders than we would otherwise have seen, and an altogether more vicious match. I think it also makes it less likely that any of these women will win the match as they’re likely to get sidetracked by their enmity. That would leave the match open for an Io Shirai win though, and I’m ok with that.
Kay Lee Ray & Jinny def. Dani Luna & Piper Niven
Xia Brookside def. Amale
Kay Lee Ray & Jinny vs Dani Luna & Piper Niven
This was the opening match of the show, and the first time we’ve seen Jinny for a while. Dani Luna wanted to start things off against Kay Lee Ray but Piper Niven insisted, the Ray tagged out and it ended up being Jinny and Luna who got things underway. It was a good match for Luna, a women’s match with some importance is unusual in NXT UK, and she showed she belongs in the upper tier of the women’s division. She also took the pin. After almost rolling up the champ, Luna took a punch in the face from Jinny and a Gory Bomb from Kay Lee Ray for the win.
Xia Brookside vs Amale
Two women’s division matches on one episode, we are blessed indeed. It’s great to see Xia Brookside. She was being featured regularly and getting mic time and then she wasn’t. Even if she’s been injured she could have been allowed some character building time, but she vanished. Amale has been on a few times but she’s settling into the losing competitor role.
This match was no different. Xia Brookside won the match with her Broken Wings finisher.
It looks like NXT UK have run out of pre-recorded shows after this week because they’re advertising a ‘story so far’ kind of show for next week.
Tamina def. Naomi and Lacey Evans
Naomi vs Lacey Evan vs Tamina
This was the build for the SmackDown Women’s Championship match at WrestleMania. Leaving Sasha Banks out of the match, as Bayley’s fourth challenger, was an interesting choice. I guess we won’t find out whether Banks will remain loyal to Bayley until the big match. Given their history, it seems unlikely.
Banks and Bayley joined Michael Cole for the match. Lacey Evans put her hat on Cole’s head during her entrance and threw her skirt at Bayley.
The lack of crowd really shows up matches for what they are, but most of the focus was on commentary anyway. Cole tried to ask Sasha Banks for her thoughts about being in the title match and Bayley and Banks suddenly became very enthusiastic about calling the action.
Banks got involved at ringside, leaving the commentary desk to throw Lacey Evans into the steps then getting kicked in the head by Naomi. Bayley did not go to help her, even after Cole prompted her to. While Evans was still down on the outside, Tamina pinned Naomi off a superkick.
After the match, Bayley got in the ring and congratulated Tamina. She welcomed her back and shook her hand, then Tamina superkicked her in the head. Sasha Banks immediately checked on Bayley, then tried to get into Tamina’s good books by reminding her of Team BAD. She took a Samoan Drop for her trouble.
WrestleMania 36 – Night One
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. The Kabuki Warriors
Becky Lynch def. Shayna Baszler
The Kabuki Warriors (C) vs Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
This match had the honour of opening night one of WrestleMania. JBL joined Michael Cole on commentary for the match. I wondered how WWE would give a closed set WrestleMania at the Performance Center a big show feel and, for this first match at least, that was definitely lacking. That’s not to say the match wasn’t good, but if there wasn’t WrestleMania branding on every possible surface, it could have been on SmackDown or RAW.
For the most part, it was a good match. Some of the editing choices were weird and distracting though. It also really highlights some of the bigger bumps when there is no crowd. Maybe it’s because the impact noise isn’t covered, or because there is no atmosphere to contextualise it, but there were several wince-inducing moments… mostly involving Kairi Sane.
The end came via Twisted Bliss after Nikki Cross delivered a swinging neckbreaker to Kairi Sane and tagged Bliss in. We have new WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions.
Becky Lynch (C) vs Shayna Baszler – RAW Women’s Championship match
I was really surprised by how early in the show this was. I was expecting it to be right near the top, not third on the card. Becky Lynch got her WrestleMania entrance stalking in from the parking lot after arriving in her big truck. They did Baszler’s entrance between her walking away from the truck and getting to the stage though, rather than following her all the way. Tom Phillips and Byron Saxton were the commentary team for this one.
There was no softly softly in this one. Becky Lynch took the early advantage, throwing Baszler into the steps in the first minute or so. It didn’t last, of course, and they settled into brutalising each other in and out of the ring.
Lynch was in trouble after being swung into the announce desk a couple of times, more so when she ended up in the Kirifuda Clutch after trying for a Dis-Arm-Her. She managed to flip over so, while Baszler still had hold of her head, Baszler’s shoulders were on the mat and the ref counted the pin.
It was an underwhelming finish to a match which was too short and too tame to deliver on the build it was given. Not a bad match, but not what it could have been.
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Join me next week for the second half of WrestleMania, and whatever else there is to round-up, and in the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why. Please stay safe.