Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. WrestleMania Backlash is on Sunday, so it was go-home week for RAW and SmackDown’s titleholders. Rhea Ripley faces Asuka and Charlotte Flair in a triple-threat match for the RAW title. Bianca Belair has her first SmackDown Women’s Championship defence against Bayley. NXT still have a while to go before NXT TakeOver: In Your House, but they gave us Raquel Gonzalez’ first title defence with Mercedes Martinez determined to make sure it was unsuccessful. And NXT UK had a five-woman gauntlet match to decide Kay Lee Ray’s next challenger. So it was a busy week all around.
Asuka, Mandy Rose, & Dana Brooke def. Charlotte Flair, Shayna Baszler, & Nia Jax
Rhea Ripley def. Asuka
Charlotte Flair, Shayna Baszler, & Nia Jax, with Reginald, vs Asuka, Mandy Rose, & Dana Brooke
Mandy Rose made an early error, swinging at Charlotte Flair when Nia Jax was legal and getting smashed into the opposition corner. It all broke down a few minutes into the match and all six competitors were arguing in the ring. Alexa Bliss’ music played and Bliss appeared in the Alexa’s Playground set, on the stage, sat on a swing with Lilly on the other. She apologised for interrupting, for herself only because Lilly wasn’t sorry. They were there to keep their eyes on… someone. She wouldn’t say who, just laughed into the break.
The match was back on when we came back, and Bliss and Lilly were still on the stage. It was all going fine until Shayna Baszler got up from delivering a backbreaker to drag Brooke into her corner. She appeared to get a cramp in her leg, then her legs wouldn’t hold her up and she fell to the mat. Brooke tagged Asuka who kneed Baszler in the face and pinned her.
Charlotte Flair attacked Asuka after the match. Alexa Bliss and Lilly laughed at the chaos and everyone looked suitably creeped out.
Without the Alexa Bliss element I would have ranted about lazy booking, just smashing feuds together as WWE like to do in the run-up to a PPV. With Bliss making an appearance, it makes sense to have so many in the ring. Shayna Baszler seems like a strange choice for Bliss to target, but I’m not completely convinced that’s who she’s trying to get to. I’m not sure Bliss would be as straightforward about revealing her intentions.
Charlotte Flair and Sonya Deville had a conversation we saw but didn’t hear, in Deville’s office. A little later, Deville called Asuka and Rhea Ripley to see her. She said they’d been at each other’s throats for weeks and she’d been given an idea which she liked, so she approved it. They’re going to sort their issues in the ring one on one. Ripley demanded to know whose idea it was and pointed out she saw Flair in there earlier, but Deville refused to say. Asuka said she’d already competed once, but she’d do it again because she’s ready for Rhea. Ripley said fine, she’d beat Asuka tonight like she beat her at WrestleMania and Charlotte can have all the good ideas that she wants but it’s not going to stop her coming for her on Sunday.
Rhea Ripley vs Asuka
It’s always struck me as an odd way to build to a title match, having the competitors sharing the ring, but WWE like it and Asuka and Ripley are still a fun combination for now.
Charlotte Flair turned up a couple of minutes in and joined commentary. Her appearance cost Ripley a spinning backfist because she was watching Flair instead of Asuka, and we went for a break while Flair got settled. She happily admitted the match was her idea and said it was simply because she can’t get enough of watching them fight. Of course, her presence meant no one paid much attention to what was going on in the ring.
So, Corey Graves did his toadying sycophant routine and Byron Saxton got shot down for asking the good questions. He did ask about her relationship with Deville and was told, ‘Sonya sees my greatness’. Asuka got distracted by Flair and took a headbutt from Ripley. Ripley got in Flair’s face and took a hip attack to the head off the announce desk. The follow-up missile dropkick when she got her back in the ring, failed to get the pin.
Rhea Ripley got the victory with the Riptide and stared down Charlotte Flair during her celebrations.
Eva Marie had another vignette this week, set in a photoshoot. I am still in the, we’ll give her a chance, camp. I’m not optimistic, but I will happily be proved wrong.
Raquel Gonzalez def. Mercedes Martinez
Raquel Gonzalez (C) vs Mercedes Martinez – NXT Women’s Championship match
Mercedes Martinez went straight into high gear when the bell went and tipped Gonzalez to the outside almost straight away, following her with a cannonball off the apron and throwing her into the barricade. Dakota Kai got too close, but as soon as Martinez turned towards her, she hopped the barricade. That was all we saw from Kai other than in a cheerleading capacity at ringside, which is great.
They chose to go for a break just as Martinez rolled Gonzalez back into the ring and by the time we returned Gonzalez was in control. Martinez is so experienced and it showed in her resourcefulness and resilience, as well as her skill, but she struggled to combat Gonzalez’ pure power at times. Especially such times as when that pure power drove her into the ringpost. She still kicked out, got up, and kept fighting though.
Gonzalez’ first attempt at a single-arm powerbomb saw Martinez wriggle free, knee her in the face, and deliver the fisherman buster suplex, but Gonzalez kicked out. More knees followed from Martinez, but Gonzalez got up and gave her a big boot in the face. The second attempt at the single-arm powerbomb was successful. Raquel Gonzalez is still NXT Women’s Champion.
Dakota Kai raised Gonzalez’ hand after the match. Clean finishing title matches with no interference make me very happy.
Zoey Stark had a chance to answer Toni Storm’s scathing promo on her last week. She said Storm is exactly what she says she is, a global superstar, and she was a big fan before she arrived in NXT. Her win over Storm isn’t the reason Storm hates her. It’s because she’s hungrier than her. She’s at home in the weights room and she lives in the gym and she’s not afraid to put the work in. Next week she has her rematch and it won’t be considered an upset when she beats her again.
The Way’s new vignette celebrating Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell’s title win featured them as superheroes complete with comic-book style drawings.
Isla Dawn def. Emilia McKenzie > Isla Dawn def. Dani Luna > Meiko Satomura def. Isla Dawn > Meiko Satomura def. Jinny
In commentary’s opening comments, they revealed that Xia Brookside would not compete in the gauntlet match. She was not medically cleared after being attacked last week. A replacement was being organised at the time of the announcement.
Amale demanded she be Xia Brookside’s replacement. Sid Scala said absolutely no way would she be the one to replace the competitor she injured. She threatened to take the opportunity if she wasn’t given one, so Scala gave her a match against Brookside as soon as she’s cleared.
Dani Luna has officially joined up with Mark Andrews and Flash Morgan Webster to form Subculture. She was with Webster at ringside supporting Andrews in his match against Levi Muir.
Number One Contender’s Gauntlet Match
Isla Dawn vs Emilia McKenzie was match one. McKenzie was my pick for the win before the match, but coming in on the first pairing would make that an uphill battle. The new vicious Isla Dawn is not playing, and this was a good matchup. In what can only be considered an upset, Dawn got the win with a half nelson suplex.
Isla Dawn vs Dani Luna started with no respite for Dawn. Luna ran to the ring (without her teammates) and piled straight in, giving her the early advantage. She couldn’t capitalise before Dawn collected herself. It was a brief match, finished by Isla Dawn again, this time with a rollup after dodging Luna’s charge into the corner.
Isla Dawn vs Meiko Satomura was next up and Dawn looked less than happy with Xia Brookside’s replacement. Unsurprising when you suddenly have to face the best in the world when you’re already two matches deep. We missed an ad break’s worth of this one. Satomura hurt her knee when Dawn rolled out of her way and Dawn was straight on the weakness. It looked like Dawn would take out Satomura too when she delivered a series of suplexes, but Satomura transitioned an armbar submission into a pin.
Meiko Satomura vs Jinny, with Joseph Connors, was the final match of the gauntlet, so the title match would be someone’s second chance at Kay Lee Ray. By far the most methodical matchup. Taking Satomura on in a mid-match strike-fest, might not have been Jinny’s wisest move and she barely made it to the ropes in an STF. Connors was less than happy about Satomura using most of the ref’s count to let go, but that is her right. Jinny bounced Satomura’s face off the ropes and slammed her into the canvas, but couldn’t finish it. Connors got up on the apron when Satomura had Jinny on her shoulders and took a Meiko Satomura kick in the gut for his efforts. It was enough of a distraction for Jinny to stand up, but Satomura was ready for her. Joseph Connors pulled himself up to peer over the apron just in time to see Jinny pinned with Scorpio Rising.
Kay Lee Ray came out to hold the title up to Satomura. She bowed to her and when Satomura returned the bow, she kicked her in the face and screamed at her that she’d never take her title.
I never thought I’d say this, but that was an outstanding performance from Isla Dawn. I’m into this reinvention. It’s working for her.
Tamina & Natalya def. Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax (C), with Reginald, vs Tamina & Natalya – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Bret Hart sent Natalya a good luck tweet. He was the only one they mentioned by name when talking about their famous families.
Reginald got up on the apron within seconds to distract Tamina, it worked, but only got Jax a brief advantage. He did it again to distract the ref from Natalya’s cover on Baszler and was ejected from ringside as a result. Tamina and Jax brawled on the ramp while Jax was protesting his removal and Tamina took a Samoan drop into the barricade. Meanwhile, Natalya barely avoided getting pinned by Baszler.
After a break, Natalya was alone and taking a beating, with Tamina only having progressed to sitting against the barricade. She made it back just in time to throw Baszler onto Jax to break her pin attempt and Natalya tagged her in.
Baszler came at Tamina on the apron, so Natalya pulled her down and gave her a German suplex at ringside. Natalya came to Tamina’s aid but took a Samoan drop. That put Jax in a perfect position for Tamina’s Superfly Splash to end the match and Jax and Baszler’s title reign.
That is Tamina’s first major title in WWE. Their post-match interview was tearful and full of emotion. I’m pleased for them. They both deserved their names on the record books for those titles, although I suspect it will be a short run.
Bianca Belair had an in-ring interview with Michael Cole. She asked where Bayley was to lead into the footage of their confrontation last week. Bayley appeared on the big screen when it was done and laughed about grabbing Belair’s earring, with the awful fake laugh. Belair invited her to come out so she could show off her braid. Bayley said she was coming to them by satellite because the next time they would share a ring was Sunday. Belair said Bayley talks a good game and she knows she’ll do whatever it takes to win, but Sunday is going to be the roughest, toughest, quickest victory yet, which Bayley found hilarious.
Bianca Belair said she didn’t want to stoop to Bayley’s level but she was going to hurt her little feelings. The reason Bayley is mad is that she spent WrestleMania getting thrown down the ramp by the Bellas while she was winning the title in the main event.
I kind of loved Bayley’s response. She said that when she sees Belair twirling her ponytail and wearing her sequins, craving attention, it feels like she’s looking into the mirror of her own past. And from personal experience, that little fairytale reign of hers doesn’t end well. This weekend she’s going to make sure it ends for good.
Give me that Bayley, not fake laugh and weirdly inauthentic feeling comedy. Give me that intensity. The Bayley who tried being nice and tried being loved and it didn’t get her where she wanted to be. The Bayley who sees her own disillusionment mocking her from the enthusiasm of the likes of Belair and hates her for it. That’s the heel Bayley I can get behind.
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.