Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Not a bad week for WWE’s women, on the surface. Two tag title matches, and two matches on each brand. But things are rarely that straightforward in WWE. Caution – yet more ranting ahead.
Charlotte Flair def. Dana Brooke
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax def. Naomi & Lana
In a brief backstage segment, Sonya Deville told Charlotte Flair she understood her concerns and would take them under advisement. From Deville’s exchange with Adam Pearce, after Flair left, it looks like Deville may soon be the backstage authority figure instead of an assistant backstage authority figure.
A couple of weeks ago WWE released three women capable of making a significant contribution to the women’s division. This week, they announced the return of Eva Marie.
I’m honestly not sure how to process that except with fear for the future direction of the division and the roster. She has apparently been training at the Performance Center, so I guess we give her a chance and wait and see. Maybe she’s not even going to wrestle. Maybe she’s going for a female Paul Heyman kind of role (which would honestly have been a better use of her last time). Or maybe she’s going to come in and reverse the progress of the women’s division by a decade. Time will tell.
Charlotte Flair vs Dana Brooke, with Mandy Rose
Charlotte Flair was very vocal at the beginning of the match, telling Brooke she’s still her protégé and still her bitch. It fired Brooke up, but maybe made her a little more emotionally led than is sensible when wrestling Flair and that cost her.
Luckily for Brooke’s motivation, Flair kept up the trash-talk whenever she was in control. Brooke had a couple of nearly moments, but Flair caught her with a chop block as she came out of a handspring (kind of) and finished it with the Figure Eight. Mandy Rose had to dropkick Flair to make her release the hold. She kneed her in the face and kicked her out of the ring, just to make sure.
Sonya Deville came to the ring as we went to a break. When we came back, Charlotte Flair had joined her. Deville referred to herself as a WWE official equal to Adam Pearce, and said she was allowing Flair to make a proposal.
Flair wanted to complain about Rhea Ripley and Asuka having another title match. She’s the one who beat Asuka’s streak, put Ripley on the map etc… you know the drill by now. Anyway, she wanted to be added to the title match and tried to sell Deville on making it a bigger match and a better PPV. She also put some kind of guilt trip on Deville, suggesting she had something to do with Deville getting the power she has, and said that love her or hate her the division needs her. Pulling out every last tactic, she even said ‘Be fair to Flair’.
It was a lot of pressure and Deville cracked. She said Flair made a compelling argument and, as the men have a triple-threat for their title match, she would add her to the match.
Rhea Ripley came out very unimpressed. She said there’s a reason Flair wasn’t in the match at WrestleMania. It’s the same reason no one wants to see her in the match. Nobody likes her. She knows she can beat Asuka because she’s already done it, but a triple-threat is unfair.
Asuka called it ‘Bullcrap’ when she arrived and called Charlotte a baby. It doesn’t matter though, she can beat Flair and Ripley because she’s ready to become RAW Women’s Champion again.
Flair said this is why no one compares to her. They get thrown one little curveball and they lose their minds. Ripley is walking into WrestleMania Backlash with the title, but she is leaving with it.
Rhea Ripley got in Deville’s face. Flair hit Ripley from behind and knocked her out of the ring. Asuka did the same to Flair and it was her music that played out the segment.
Backstage, a furious Adam Pearce confronted Deville. She said she’d tried to find him and had sent him texts. He pointed out they share an office. They left it on an uneasy truce where Deville agreed they should make decisions together.
Alexa Bliss’ doll, Lilly, appeared in the background of one of Sonya Deville’s segments and an Angel Garza and Drew Gulak argument. Bliss had an Alexa’s Playground segment with her where she revealed someone has caught Lilly’s eye, which sounds like a very bad thing for whoever that is. There was a little song at the end as well. I think it might have been the creepiest one yet.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C), with Reginald, vs Naomi & Lana – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships match
Naomi got dropped on her face from a great height within seconds of the start and struggled over to Lana for a tag. It felt a little like they started the match in the middle because it went 0-60 immediately. Lana came close-ish to pinning Baszler, as did Naomi. Naomi kicked Jax off the apron before Baszler took the double facebuster, but Jax was up in time to pull Naomi from the ring and throw her into the announce desk. Lana kicked her in the head, but Reginald slid half into the ring to distract the ref from Lana’s cover. Lana got distracted by her outrage and got stuck in the Kirifuda Clutch. She got free once, but Baszler locked it on again and Lana had to tap.
I just going to get this off my chest. There is no reason for a title match to go below three minutes on a three-hour show which is already (at a conservative estimate) 30% filler. I don’t care what the story is, to give a title match so little time disrespects the title, the champions, and the challengers. It sends the message, this is not an important thing. This is not worthy of time or development. Every single woman in that ring and the locker room deserves better.
Sarray def. Zayda Ramier
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell def. Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon
Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are done with Xia Li and Tian Sha. They’re moving on to chasing for the tag titles and will be watching the Street Fight closely because they want the winners. Franky Monet interrupted their interview. She told them they were her favourite tag team because they’re adorable with fighting spirit. It’s going to take them a lot longer than that to win the tag titles, but she and her little dog believe in them.
Sarray vs Zayda Ramier
The video package before the match and the discussion from commentary tried to compare Sarray and Ramier’s debuts. They did both have fun and impressive debuts and they both won, but the apparent attempts to compare Ramier’s 29 matches against Sarray’s 10 year, 600+ match career were faintly ludicrous (thanks to Cagematch.net for the stats).
The match was good though and Ramier is clearly another one that NXT see a big future for. Sarray is a pleasure to watch. She looks like she loves what she does. Ramier held her own and even got a few good chances but this was a masterclass for her and Sarray finished it with a suplex.
Backstage, after an ad break, Zoey Start intercepted Toni Storm on route to Ramier while Sarray was talking to her. They got in each other’s faces until officials made Storm leave. Stark joined Sarray and Ramier.
A little later, Storm said Zoey Stark was pissing her off. She’s the flavour of the month and she’s losing her taste pretty quick. Stark doesn’t deserve to be in the same ring or locker room as her or even breathing the same oxygen. Storm is a global superstar, a former and future women’s champion, while Stark is a future nobody that everyone is going to forget. Storm brought Stark into the business and when she’s ready, she’ll take her back out.
Beth Phoenix did a split-screen interview with Raquel Gonzalez and Mercedes Martinez ahead of their title match next week. Gonzalez said she’s going to use pure power to take out Martinez. The title means she’s the baddest woman in the division and she’s gone through a long list of women on her way to becoming champ She said she respects Martinez, then told her off for interrupting when Martinez said she should respect her. Martinez said everyone wants to talk about her experience, but she’s hungry and has something to prove. Gonzalez intimidates everyone in the locker room, but she doesn’t intimidate her. Raquel Gonzalez said ‘Yet’ and Martinez told her to look into her eyes because she’ll see no fear. Gonzalez said when she looks in her eyes all she sees is a woman about to get her ass kicked.
Martinez called Gonzalez cookie-cutter, molded on the blueprint she created, and said she paved the roads she’s travelling (I’m getting déjà vu from Sasha Banks and Bianca Beliar, but it’s both true and not in both cases). Gonzalez agreed she set the bar, but she let it down low and she picked it up with one arm and raised it so high no one could reach it. IN her one year of experience she has surpassed every one of Martinez accomplishments in her career. Martinez said she’d take the title next week, Gonzalez said she’s the first but not the last challenger.
After the farcically disrespectful RAW tag title match, NXT showed how it was done. A well-built and relatively well-spaced feud leading to a main event street fight.
I appreciated one extra touch, Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell were alone. A little earlier in the show, Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory jumped Karrion Kross from behind. Sensibly, they fled the building shortly after, to go and prepare Candice and Indi’s celebration party.
In an attempt to keep her focused, LeRae hid a caricature portrait obviously left by Dexter Lumis from Indi Hartwell in the locker room. She also had to pull the shade on the door to hide Lumis himself, who was stood there with flowers.
There was a bit of a moment just before the match. Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart found Franky Monet’s dog in Blackheart’s tank. Blackheart was thrilled to see him until Moon pointed out he’d pooed in it. Needless to say, they did not use the tank for their entrance.
Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon (C) vs The Way (Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell) – NXT Women’s Tag Team Championship Street Fight
I like attention to detail and I was pleased the Moon and Blackheart turned up looking Street Fight ready, Moon in trousers and Blackheart wearing a Nightmare on Elm Street reminiscent top and shorts. LeRae and Blackheart were just in slightly less revealing wrestling gear.
It all kicked off during the ring announcements, so they just rang the bell and let them get on with it. The toys came out almost immediately. Hartwell got double dropkicked with a trash can on her head. LeRae got bell-clapped with the lids.
Indi Hartwell going into it with the, Candice LeRae created, anger over Lumis made this a great match for her. She took some hits as well, although LeRae saved her from a nasty dive from Blackheart with a well-timed fire extinguisher blast.
LeRae took a Shotzi Blackheart senton while she was laid on a ladder stretched between ring and barricade. Moon Slammed Hartwell into a table that didn’t break properly. LeRae delivered a springboard moonsault to Blackheart on a ladder held between Indi Hartwell and the ropes. Ember Moon got slammed onto a ladder. Shotzi Blackheart got another big bump moment, climbing the rigging to launch herself and put Hartwell through the announce desk.
It was beautiful chaos. Hartwell put Moon through a table with a springboard elbow. Candice LeRae punched Blackheart with a knuckle duster on and delivered a Wicked Stepsister onto a chair for the win.
Candice LeRae & Indi Hartwell are the new NXT Women’s Tag Team Champions.
There were a lot of women featured on this week’s episode, but none of them were wrestling. Stevie Turner got a ‘getting to know you’ package. She’s the future of wrestling, apparently. Xia Brookside, Isla Dawn, Jinny, Emilia McKenzie, and Dani Luna all got little promo packages ahead of the gauntlet match next week. It’s disappointing that they couldn’t fit a women’s division match in there somewhere, but they’ll be forgiven if they give the gauntlet a reasonable amount of time.
Amale attacked Xia Brookside backstage, so Brookside’s participation in the gauntlet match is in question.
Carmella def. Ruby Riott
Tamina def. Reginald – DQ
SmackDown had a ‘Throwback’ episode this week. The set was a little different, the old SmackDown fist was represented virtually, the refs were in blue shirts, and commentary dressed up. Teddy Long was there, and we saw a few clips of classic SmackDown moments. Other than the refs’ shorts and the old school logo, you’d have had trouble picking it as any kind of special episode, but it was a decent show.
Carmella vs Ruby Riott, with Liv Morgan
It was great to see Carmella and The Riott Squad, and it was great to see Carmella looking like she means business. She’s not afraid to take shortcuts. Liv Morgan pointed out Carmella’s feet on the ropes during a pin attempt and took a kick in the face for snitching. Commentary talked about the whole roster wanting to stake their claim to challenge Belair for the title, but I’m not sure how they’re supposed to do it with these inconsequential three-minute matches. It’s better than no match, but it’s not enough. Riott nearly got Carmella with a rollup while she was distracted by kicking Morgan but Carmella kicked out. Carmella got the win, tapping Riott out with the Code of Silence.
Bayley had some ring time to celebrate the women’s champions of WWE. Alundra Blayze, Jacqueline, Lita, Trish Stratus, Ivory, Beth Phoenix, and Molly Holly were all given some credit, but Bayley compared most of them to herself. She tacked Bianca Belair onto the end of the list but didn’t have so many nice things to say. She said Belair was naïve and blind to the world around her and has no idea what’s in store for her. If Belair isn’t careful, she’ll end up like all the other women she mentioned, not on Bayley’s level. She sees insecurity in Belair’s eyes and she’s going to be her first and last challenger for the title.
Bianca Belair came out to respond. She said she’s living her best life and it’ll only get better at WrestleMania Backlash. As for being insecure, Bayley wishes she was insecure because it’s her confidence that bothers her. She’s on her way to becoming the new longest-reigning SmackDown Women’s Champion.
When Belair said she was going to be winning, Bayley did that horrible fake cackle laugh, then charged Belair and got beaten up in the corner then thrown to the centre of the ring. Belair took one of her earrings off but Bayley grabbed the other one and used it to drag Belair around, then stood on her hair. Bayley finished by slamming Bianca Belair’s face into the canvas and walked up the ramp doing her fake laugh.
Reginald requested a match against Tamina because of her disrespect of Nia Jax. Next week Jax and Shayna Baszler, who he calls the best tag team in the world, will break Natalya and Tamina’s bodies when they defend the tag titles. Tonight, he’ll break Tamina’s spirit.
Tamina, with Natalya, vs Reginald, with Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler
We got to see a clip of Tamina’s promo in the run-up to the match, a promo so passionate it made Paul Heyman hesitant to talk about it in case he pissed her off. She needed to bring that to the ring because she was the only one able to land any offence.
Reginald flipped around and evaded Tamina as much as he could. He was doing a little celebratory dance when Tamina superkicked him in the face. Nia Jax dragged him out of the ring before Tamina could deliver the Superfly Splash and Baszler caused the disqualification by shoving her off the turnbuckle.
The post-DQ beatdown was prolonged and brutal. Natalya was taken down by a kick to the head from Baszler while Jax held her up, but Tamina took the worst of it. It finished with Baszler’s elbow stomp and Jax giving her a Samoan drop into the barricade.
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.