Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. It looked like it was going to be a run of the mill week for WWE’s women with most of the attention on the Crown Jewel PPV taking place on Thursday, which has so far excluded the women’s division. However, it turned into quite the week of surprises.
Becky Lynch def. Kairi Sane
Charlotte Flair & Natalya def. The IIconics
Paige opened RAW this week, which was a happy surprise. She’s looking good following her recent surgery. She was there to bring out and talk about her prized tag team experiment, The Kabuki Warriors, but things didn’t quite go as expected.
She brought them out ok and they went to the ring. Paige talked about what a risk it was putting them together, and how proud she was of them, then Asuka grabbed the mic and shouted something in Japanese. Paige took the mic back and they exchanged a look, then Kairi Sane did the same thing. This time, when Paige tried to take the mic back it ended up on the floor. She picked it up and Asuka sprayed the green mist in her face.
Paige was helped from the ring screaming for water, but Asuka and Kairi Sane advanced on her on the outside. Becky Lynch ran down to assist before they got near her. She pitched Asuka over the barricade and had Kairi Sane on the run going into the break.
Becky Lynch vs Kairi Sane
The match got underway after the ads. The Kabuki Warriors have new co-ordinated gear in their own styles, but both black and gold. It looks great.
With Asuka on the outside, it was basically a handicap match. She stayed out of it early on but got involved when it became clear Kairi Sane was in trouble. She appeared on the apron to distract Lynch from diving outside into Sane, and in the meantime Sane tried for a sneak attack. That didn’t work, Lynch just clotheslined her out of the air, but Becky Lynch made the mistake of arguing with Asuka on the outside and Sane kicked her into the steps.
That gave Kairi Sane temporary control of the match, but she delivered one too many mocking slaps to Lynch and only succeeded in firing her up. Sane did get close a couple of times. She got Lynch in the Anchor submission, but Lynch managed to counter, and she got a two count after slamming Lynch’s face into the mat.
Asuka inevitably interfered again towards the end. She got too close to Lynch on the outside and Lynch paused to punch her from the apron. That gave Sane time to regroup and Lynch was put down by a backfist but Lynch kicked out. When she tried to drag Becky Lynch up by her hair, she found herself tapping out to the Dis-Arm-Her
I’m glad they closed that chapter with Paige and The Kabuki Warriors. It was an interesting idea to have her put them together, but they don’t need her, and now they’re heels she would be an unwelcome distraction from their schtick. It might have played out differently if Paige hadn’t needed surgery and had to leave them to their own devices, but the direction they seem to be headed in is great. Whether we see Paige in an on-camera role again is anyone’s guess. I hope so, she could be great managing the right superstar.
A recent NXT signee Catalina Garcia (credit to Squared Circle Sirens for the information) made an appearance on RAW this week. She was there as Sin Cara’s insurance policy against the interference of Zelina Vega in his rematch with Andrade. It was a good idea, but it backfired somewhat. She did deal with Vega when she got up on the apron, but Sin Cara was so busy watching what they were up to he got rolled up and pinned.
Charlotte Flair & Natalya vs The IIconics
According to commentary, this was the first time Charlotte Flair and Natalya have teamed together. That surprised me. The IIconics have either dropped the annoying insulting their opponents and the town while they’re on their way to the ring, or they didn’t have time.
It was an odd kind of match really. Not bad, just odd. Charlotte Flair showed off against Peyton Royce for a bit. Royce and Kay got the better of Natalya and kept her isolated and controlled for the entire mid-portion of the match, showing off their teamwork in the process. Then Billie Kay spent a bit too long screaming at Charlotte Flair for knocking Royce off the apron and wound up in a Sharpshooter. Flair prevented Peyton Royce from interfering, by spearing her, and Kay tapped out. Very short as well.
The IIconics have been over on SmackDown for a while, except for some Wild Card shenanigans (I’m glad that’s done with), so this was their reintroduction to RAW. It’s weird to have them lose that match against a non-team with no apparent storyline in place. I would hope that a storyline is coming and just a bit of patience is required, but I’m not confident.
» Lana also appeared on RAW this week. But the storyline sucks and isn’t going to lead to her being in the ring, so this is as much attention as I’m giving it. To be honest, it’s more than it deserves.
Io Shirai def. Candice LeRae
The Kabuki Warriors def. Dakota Kai & Tegan Nox
Io Shirai was played to the ring by Poppy, which was a pretty cool start to NXT.
Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae
This was a grudge match. The feud between LeRae and Shirai has the feel of long-lasting enmity. As with their last match, Candice LeRae still wants retribution, and Io Shirai still wants to burn everything to the ground. Shirai’s still got a lot of support.
LeRae got a bloody nose at some point and Shirai highlighted it by using her fingers to smear the blood. A little gross, and unusual enough to be worth noting.
All in all, another great match to start the show. LeRae got her feet up for the moonsault intended to finish her off and almost got Shirai with a small package. Shirai came close to tapping LeRae out.
When that failed, Io Shirai grabbed a chair. Ref Jess took it off her and LeRae almost got a rollup pin. Shirai kicked out but LeRae planted her on the mat and delivered her moonsault. Somehow Candice LeRae hadn’t noticed Shirai was laying on the chair and when she moved out of the way, LeRae headbutted it and Shirai pinned her.
Io Shirai attacked LeRae again post-match. When she raised the chair to hit LeRae, Rhea Ripley ran down and kicked the chair out of her hands. Io Shirai escaped the ring as Ripley picked up the chair and swung it at her.
» Mia Yim got a hype video. She is the rose that grew from concrete.
Dakota Kai and Tegan Nox had a pre-match interview backstage. They were nervous, but good nerves. They’ve worked hard to come back from their injuries and they’re taking the fight to The Kabuki Warriors, and they get to do it with their best friend.
The Kabuki Warriors (C) vs Dakota Kai & Tegan Nox
Asuka and Kairi Sane got a ‘Welcome Back’ chant when they came out. Asuka left NXT undefeated and she clearly wanted to keep it that way, both she and Sane dished out some punishment to Tegan Nox in the opening. But Nox and Kai have spent months sidelined dreaming about this kind of opportunity, and they had no intention of wasting it.
It turned into a really good match and a reasonably long one. Asuka and Sane targeted Kai’s uninjured/unbraced knee while they had her isolated on their side of the ring. Finally, after taking huge amounts of punishment, she made it back to Tegan Nox who felt the need to take on both Kabuki Warriors to start with. Asuka countered the Shiniest Wizard with a kneebar, but Nox struggled round into an armbar. Sane broke that up, Kai came in to deal with her, and they all ended up laid out on the mat.
In the end, it was the green mist that made the difference. Sane distracted the ref for Asuka to spray Dakota Kai, then tagged in and covered Kai’s face while she pinned her. The ref didn’t know Kai had been misted until the match was over.
The Kabuki Warriors left victorious, then things got really interesting. While Tegan Nox and the ref tried to clear Dakota Kai’s eyes, Shayna Baszler came out with Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. Tegan Nox made the first move and piled into Baszler, but was immediately overwhelmed. She was saved from Baszler’s elbow stamp by Rhea Ripley’s music.
Ripley didn’t get to the ring straight away because Shirai attacked her. Then Bianca Belair attacked her, then Candice LeRae came for Shirai. Eventually, Ripley and Baszler got face to face, but as soon as Ripley launched herself at Baszler, everyone else joined in.
William Regal appeared on the podium above the announce desk and said he had a simple solution for this… War Games.
Later in the show, Rhea Ripley and Shayna Baszler were declared team captains.
It’s a huge deal. The previous WarGames matches have been brutal, and the women’s division have a tendency to go all out in these firsts, to prove they were right to be given the opportunity. Considering the names involved in the match, it’s going to be one hell of a spectacle.
» Shayna Baszler has now been NXT Women’ Champion for over a year.
» It has also been announced that NXT will be part of Survivor Series this year, for the first time. The next few weeks are going to be extremely interesting.
Piper Niven & Rhea Ripley def. Jinny & Jazzy Gabert
Jinny & Jazzy Gabert vs Piper Niven & Rhea Ripley
This match opened NXT UK this week. It’s interesting watching Rhea Ripley using her bad attitude for good. It suits her. She hasn’t actually changed anything, but she’s a good guy, for now.
There was some debate on both teams as to who would start, but Jinny and Piper Niven got things going. Jinny may have regretted that decision as she was slammed into the mat by Niven before being handed over to Ripley, and quickly left the ring to regroup. That didn’t work for her either, Ripley just followed her and carried her up the stairs to toss her back in.
Gabert got involved from the outside to give Jinny chance to punch Ripley and tag out. She came back in quickly, while Ripley was still reeling, but they ended up both needing to tag out simultaneously. It got chaotic after that, as these things do, and Jinny and Gabert left the ring to regroup again.
After Rhea Ripley took both Jazzy Gabert and Jinny out with a dive over the top rope that saw her appear to bang her head, then just get up and carry on, she rolled Gabert back in and Niven finished her off with the Michinoku Driver.
After the match, Rhea Ripley left the ring to Piper Niven to take the applause. A nice moment considering Ripley’s immediate future lies in NXT.
Next week there will be an in-depth feature on Piper Niven.
Killer Kelly has been injured for four months but is now medically cleared. She said apparently on NXT UK you need to pick a fight to get a match, so she was going to pick a fight. She put her mouthguard in and followed Isla Dawn into the locker room.
Kay Lee Ray made an appearance to improve people’s days. According to her, the day is even better because Toni Storm isn’t there. She’s vanished (to NXT) and Kay Lee Ray has the one thing that mattered to her. And, as Storm doesn’t have any friends to reach out to, that should be the last of her. But now Xia Brookside seems to think Ray cost her the championship opportunity, and that she cheated. But in reality, she’s just smart and a realist. And she’s champion.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week.
Natalya def. Lacey Evans
I didn’t think I’d have to cover this show at all, but on Wednesday WWE announced that Natalya and Lacey Evans would have the first-ever women’s division match in Saudi Arabia. It’s an interesting first with uncomfortable ethical connotations, but a first nonetheless. Odd choice of match considering that feud is well and truly played out, but it is what it is.
Natalya vs Lacey Evans
Unsurprisingly, both women were in full cover bodysuits with t-shirts over the top so nothing was too form-fitting. Sadly, it appeared not everyone was happy, as a water bottle hit Natalya’s leg during her entrance.
A lot was said by commentary about how Natalya’s seniority in the locker room was the reason she was chosen for this first, and it is a nice accolade for her. The crowd were really into it too, they got several ‘this is awesome’ chants for some fairly pedestrian stuff.
The match wasn’t bad, but it was there for the historical significance, not the wrestling. It finished with the Sharpshooter that everyone in the crowd wanted to see. Lacey Evans almost got to the ropes, but Natalya pulled her back and she tapped out.
After the match, Natalya raised her opponent’s hand and they hugged and cried in the ring. Lacey Evans seemed particularly affected by the magnitude of the event. They spent some time at ringside with fans before they left.
Bayley def. Nikki Cross
Rhea Ripley & Tegan Nox def. Fire & Desire
SmackDown was a bit thrown together this week because most of the roster and half the WWE staff who went got stuck in Riyadh. Tom Phillips, Renee Young, Aiden English, and later Pat McAfee, and Tom Phillips manned the commentary desk and they did things like showing the entirety of Lesnar versus Velasquez from Crown Jewel.
Bayley (C) vs Nikki Cross – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
It would have been nice to get a bit more build to this match, but it feels like it was a last-minute decision to make sure the crowd got value for money when they weren’t going to be seeing as many superstars as they’d hoped. It got a good amount of time though, which also may have bee a product of the travel issues.
Nikki Cross was going to take every bit of the opportunity and had the best of the champion in the run-up to the first ad break.
Sasha Banks was ringside with Bayley and got involved during the break according to commentary, but we didn’t see that, and Cross was still holding her own when we returned. It took Bayley throwing Cross, spine first, into the steps to gain any kind of control, and even that didn’t last long.
Cross was on fire, looking confident and assured. Sasha Banks got up on the apron to stop Cross delivering the swinging neckbreaker, and when Cross punched her, Bayley took advantage and kneed her in the face. She couldn’t make the pin stick though.
Banks tried to interfere again when Cross had Bayley in the ring skirt but Cross punched her again. Nikki Cross rolled Bayley back into the ring and went to the top but Banks pushed her off. Bayley slammed Cross’ face into the mat and pinned her.
There was no time to celebrate because Shayna Baszler came out of the crowd shoved Sasha Banks into the ringpost, then attacked Bayley, paused to kick Cross out of the ring, then put the beatdown on Bayley properly. After Bayley had been sent into the ringpost and planted into the canvas she started to stir, so Baszler kicked her in the face. Not a word was said, she just put her jacket back on and left.
Carmella and Dana Brooke were supposed to face Fire & Desire, but Bianca Belair beat them up backstage. She didn’t replace them in the match though, Tegan Nox and Rhea Ripley did.
Fire & Desire vs Rhea Ripley & Tegan Nox
Ripley and Mandy Rose got into it in the ring, while Nox and Deville went at it on the outside. Sonya Deville ended up behind the commentary desk (she kicked Renee Young in the face on her way over and bloodied her nose, which isn’t in Young’s job description and she was clearly pissed off). It was a very short-lived affair. By the time Tegan Nox made it to her corner, after giving Mandy Rose the Shiniest Wizard on the way through, Mandy Rose was ready to tap out to Ripley.
Before the main event of the evening, Stephanie McMahon came out and started talking about the Women’s Evolution. She showed clips of the media reaction to Natalya and Lacey Evans’ Crown Jewel match, bits of the match, some snippets of fans saying how much it meant to them, and a couple of interview clips of Natalya and Lacey Evans’ thoughts on being involved.
Shayna Baszler, Bianca Belair, Rhea Ripley, and Tegan Nox weren’t the only NXT superstars to show up on SmackDown to fill the gaps. Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, Tommaso Ciampa, and Adam Cole also helped out the diminished roster. And at the end a huge group of NXT superstars flooded the ring while Triple H accepted the Survivor Series challenge. Honestly, it was the best SmackDown I can remember for a very long time.
That’s it for a somewhat bizarre week’s WWE women’s division action. Join me next week for another instalment, and in the meantime follow @ArnFuriousCom to make sure you never miss a review. You can also follow me @manda_why.