The Road to WrestleMania begins here. After a few weeks off we’re back with this week’s instalment of the ups and downs in WWE’s women’s divisions. WWE are running most of their PPVs Premium Live Events on a Saturday, we’re running Saturday to Friday instead of Sunday to Saturday from now on.
Ronda Rousey won the Royal Rumble match
Becky Lynch def Doudrop
Edge & Beth Phoenix def. The Miz & Maryse
Sonya Deville inserted herself into the Royal Rumble match on SmackDown after Naomi beat her. She joined the Kickoff panel and took some grief from Booker T and Peter Rosenberg about it. Kevin Patrick joined in after she blamed the ref for being crooked and costing her the match (He called it down the middle. She lost). She basically told Booker T he was out of touch when he asked her about a conflict of interest. They goaded her about why so few women get a chance, but of course, she’s not in any real position to answer those questions.
The women’s rumble was second on the card. Becky Lynch and Doudrop happened immediately after, which felt really off for some reason. I don’t think immediately after a rumble match is a great slot. The crowd are both fatigued and overstimulated and it’s hard to pull them in.
Royal Rumble Match
Royal Rumble Entries
|1. Sasha Banks
|4. Kelly Kelly
|6. Liv Morgan
|7. Queen Zelina
|8. Bianca Belair
|9. Dana Brooke
|10. Michelle McCool
|11. Sonya Deville
|16. Rhea Ripley
|17. Charlotte Flair
|19. Brie Bella
|20. Mickie James
|21. Alicia Fox
|22. Nikki A.S.H.
|23. Summer Rae
|24. Nikki Bella
|25. Sarah Logan
|27. Mighty Molly
|28. Ronda Rousey
|30. Shayna Baszler
Royal Rumble Exits
|1. Melina by Sasha Banks
|2. Kelly Kelly by Sasha Banks
|3. Sasha Banks by Queen Zelina
|4. Dana Brooke by Michelle McCool
|5. Tamina by Natalya
|6. Cameron by Sonya Deville
|7. Sonya Deville by Naomi
|8. Queen Zelina by Rhea Ripley
|9. Carmella by Rhea Ripley (joint 8th)
|10. Aliyah by Charlotte Flair
|11. Naomi by Charlotte Flair (assist by Sonya Deville)
|12. Ivory by Rhea Ripley
|13. Michelle McCool by Mickie James
|14. Summer Rae by Natalya
|15. Alicia Fox by Nikki Bella
|16. Sarah Logan by The Bella Twins
|17. Liv Morgan by Brie Bella
|18. Mickie James by Lita
|19. Mighty Molly by Nikki A.S.H.
|20. Nikki A.S.H. by Ronda Rousey
|21. Nikki Bella by Brie Bella
|22. Brie Bella by Ronda Rousey
|23. Shotzi by Ronda Rousey
|24. Natalya by Bianca Belair (and by Rousey when she got back in to interfere)
|25. Lita by Charlotte Flair
|26. Rhea Ripley by Charlotte Flair
|27. Shayna Baszler by Charlotte Flair
|28. Bianca Belair by Charlotte Flair
|29. Charlotte Flair by Ronda Rousey
|RONDA ROUSEY WINS
Melina lasted less than two minutes, so Banks got a break before Tamina. Banks wouldn’t let Tamina in the ring for almost a minute, but it didn’t help her at all. Kelly Kelly didn’t last long either.
Reggie caught Dana Brooke the first time she was thrown out, but her reprieve lasted seconds.
Sonya Deville kept her jacket on so no one could touch her, and joined commentary instead of the match. Cameron, Naomi’s former tag team partner, joined the match. Sonya Deville seemed unaware that she and Naomi used to be partners. When she was told, she joined the match to beat Cameron up and eliminate her. She lasted less than two minutes. Naomi was next out and checked on Cameron before leaping on Deville and eliminating her.
Carmella pissed around with her mask for so long, Rhea Ripley ended up throwing her into the ring when she arrived. Carmella and Queen Zelina teamed up to work her over and she eliminated both soon after.
Naomi didn’t get to do her Kofi Kingston-esque rumble acrobatics, because Sonya Deville pulled her down and made sure she was eliminated.
Ivory was eliminated still talking on her microphone. Brie Bella looks phenomenal. Mickie James wore the Impact Knockouts Championship to the ring and held it high above her head. Historic. I wish she’d lasted longer. Alicia Fox is in incredible shape.
Nikki A.S.H. entered the ring from the timekeeper’s area and tried to eliminate Ripley while she was waiting for her. She failed and scaped the ring until Flair occupied Ripley’s attention.
Summer Rae dived on Natalya like she’d been waiting every minute she’d been out of the ring for that moment. She got flattened by Charlotte Flair while showboating though, and Natalya picked her up and chucked her out.
Nikki Bella also looks amazing. She teamed up with her twin to go for Bianca Belair and eliminate Alicia Fox.
Sarah Logan was a massive surprise. There was almost an emotional reunion with Liv Morgan, but The Bella Twins spoiled that by attacking and eliminating them. I suspect it’s a one-off appearance, but I hope she’s back.
Nikki A.S.H. attacked Mighty Molly before she even got in the ring, then dragged her in and yelled there can only be one superhero before she eliminated her.
Ronda Rousey’s return was the worst kept secret in WWE, but she looks awesome. She clocked up four eliminations. Charlotte Flair got six.
The smile Baszler and Rousey exchange promised future carnage. I hope we get to see it.
The final four were Charlotte Flair, Bianca Belair, Shayna Baszler, and Ronda Rousey. Flair eliminated Baszler and Belair while Belair was trying to eliminate Baszler. The end came immediately after. Flair and Rousey looked at each other, Flair went in for a big boot and Rousey dumped her over the top.
Becky Lynch (C) vs Doudrop – RAW Women’s Championship Match
I hate commentary still talking about Doudrop as ‘A rookie here’. She’s a veteran and her actual story to this point in her career is far more interesting than the emerged from the forgotten wilderness (otherwise known as NXT UK) and we have no idea who she was before schtick. It does her no favours with the crowd building a rapport with her either.
As anticipated, the crowd were quiet for the first part of the match. Overstimulated by the rumble, and distracted by the WrestleMania sign catching fire off-camera (apparently from the pyro) with a section having to be evacuated. Becky Lynch took credit for it during the match, saying she set it on fire by being straight fire. They did their best, but that sort of thing is going to pull focus.
It was a good match, even if the crowd weren’t paying attention. It would have been a massive shock if they’d put the title on Doudrop at this stage though. She got close enough times that she started to get frustrated at Lynch’s insistence on kicking out.
Doudrop wasn’t the only one whose frustration was growing. At one point, Lynch lost it for a moment and just started pounding on her. Doudrop’s final attempt at pinning Lynch looked like it should have broken her in half, but Lynch was up before Doudrop climbed the turnbuckle and delivered a Manhandle Slam for the win.
Edge & Beth Phoenix vs The Miz & Maryse – Mixed-Tag Match
Maryse was interfering early, pulling Edge’s hair as he rebounded off the ropes and slapping him while Miz distracted the ref. Beth Phoenix chased her with a chair after that, but ref Jess was having none of it. While Phoenix was itching to get into the ring, Maryse wanted none of it, going as far as to grab Edge’s legs to stop him tagging out. It didn’t work and Phoenix kicked her ass. That would have been the end of it if Miz hadn’t arrived at the last second.
Miz seemed amused when Phoenix squared up to him, so she picked him up and ran him into the corner to pound on him a bit. Maryse saved her husband with the brick containing purse.
With Phoenix down courtesy of the brick, Maryse played out her fantasies of wrestling domination… until Phoenix stood up with Maryse on her shoulders. They tagged in Miz and Edge soon after.
Phoenix powerbombed Miz after knocking Maryse off the apron. Maryse pulled Phoenix off the apron and threw her into the steps then gave Edge a hurricanrana and followed up with a DDT to Phoenix when she got up.
Edge avoided a double Skull Crushing Finale, but Phoenix joined her husband in a double spear to Miz.
Tandem Glam Slams ended the match, with Edge making the legal pin on Miz.
I still maintain mixed tags are pointless and outdated in this day and age, but that was kind of fun.
Rhea Ripley def. Nikki A.S.H.
Bianca Belair def. Carmella
Rhea Ripley vs Nikki A.S.H.
Friends and tag partners to enemies is generally an easily rolled out feud. But it feels like WWE split Ripley and A.S.H. up, then lost interest. The way they did the breakup was great, with Nikki realising Ripley thinks she’s doing her a favour when actually Nikki’s got far more in-ring experience and considers herself the superior wrestler.
The match was an opportunity to see how A.S.H. is going to sit in the new version of her character. In short, a lot of her old aggression is back, along with some of the wildness of her NXT days. Decent enough match, not too short, but it really should have had a lot more hype.
Nikki A.S.H. posed too long when going for her swinging neckbreaker. Ripley countered into the Riptide and beat her clean in the centre of the ring. No post-match attack of interaction, to set up another round, so we’ll see what happens.
Alexa Bliss is on a therapy journey. This week she discussed how real Lilly’s support has been over the years and how much she’d like it if Lilly came back. The therapist showed her a replica Lilly doll, which Bliss immediately fell in love with.
In a second visit to the therapist’s room, he handed Bliss the doll so she could see it wasn’t the real Lilly. She hugged it and cried like she’d got her best friend back.
Bianca Belair vs Carmella
I wish Carmella would just put her gimp mask on before she gets in the ring. The women’s division gets little enough time without her wasting it. The thing about Carmella is, she was terrible when she started and worked hard to deserve the place she had. But now, the character is so vapid there’s a tendency to forget she ever got good.
Belair suffered from the tendency to underestimate her in this match and Carmella gave her a fight. If we could see more of Carmella wrestling her ass off and hear less of her screaming about how beautiful she is, the RAW women’s division would be a better place and my ears would hurt less.
Anyway, decent match which finished with Carmella taking a K.O.D. and getting pinned.
Ronda Rousey got the closing spot of the night over an excellent match between AJ Styles and Rey Mysterio. I know WWE are happy to have her back and bending over backwards to gain her favour, but there’s no way that should happen. It turned out better than expected though.
Standard start with Rousey saying she’s been wondering whose title she wants to take at WrestleMania. She has unfinished business with both Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch (who she insists on calling Rebecca), but her attention is a compliment that Lynch doesn’t deserve. The biggest fight for any woman at any time is with her and Lynch’s ‘stagnating title reign’ is not her problem. She could choose Charlotte, just to prove Lynch is still on her undercard.
Becky Lynch had some stuff to say about that. She missed Rousey being a ‘little weirdo’ and it’s nice to see she hasn’t changed. She pointed out that it’s incongruous to say she’s on the undercard when she’s the only one who’s beaten her. And she called Charlotte Flair the appetiser choice to her main course, and encouraged Rousey to make a decision.
Rousey put her in an armbar and said she’ll have her answer on Friday.
Becky Lynch picked herself up off the mat and told Rousey’s retreating back that was rude. Before she got much further, Lita came to join her.
Lita agreed Rousey was rude, and there was a lovely moment or two where Lita and Lynch had a mutual admiration society. When Lita said she respected that Lynch was a fighting champion who never backs down from a challenge, Becky Lynch got suspicious.
She was right to. Lita proposed a match at Elimination Chamber, but Lynch said no and try to weasel her way out of it. Lita told her to just say if she was scared, which was all the baiting it took for Lynch to accept the match.
Raquel Gonzalez def. Cora Jade
Sarray def. Kayla Inlay
Wendy Choo def. Amari Miller
Toxic Attraction took to the ring to let Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta know they get their title match at Vengeance Day in two weeks.
Kay Lee Ray, with her metal bat, came out to demand a title match against Mandy Rose. She dropped the bat in exchange for Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne leaving the ring and staked her claim based on her exceptional title reign on NXT UK. In return, Mandy Rose talked about magazine covers and photoshoots. It got a bit mean, with Ray pulling on some of the terrible crap Rose had to do on the main roster.
Rose is convinced being pretty is more important to the title than talent. Ray said she’s getting her title match by the end of the night. Rose said ‘doubtful’, so she slapped her. Jayne and Dolin re-entered the ring, but only until Kay Lee Ray retrieved her bat and chased all three of them off.
In the parking lot, Mandy Rose reiterated that Kay Lee Ray doesn’t deserve a title match and isn’t on her level. She ushered Jayne and Dolin into the car, but when she tried to get in it was locked. Kay Lee Ray rolled down the window and promised she’d be back, then drove away with the NXT 2.0 Women’s Tag Team Champions held hostage in the back.
During a later match, we were given an update that Kay Lee Ray was back and looking for Mandy Rose, but Dolin and Jayne were still missing. She found her later after Rose crashed a locker room and there was a pathetic erection joke from Malik Blade to Edris Enofe after she fell on him while trying to escape. Enofe wanted to follow them, but Blade ‘needed a minute’.
The combination of horny jokes in what is clearly a children’s television format is weird and creepy. Kids show or horny innuendo show, pick on.
Kay Lee Ray finally caught her in a kitchen area, with a few minutes of the show remaining. She tipped a bowl of tomatoey spaghetti over her and threw a large cake in her face.
They closed the show with Ray stalking Rose to the ring with the bat. To stop her caving her face in, Rose agreed to give Ray a title shot next week. As promised, Kay Lee Ray put the bat down, then superkicked Rose in the face and gave her a KLR Bomb.
Cora Jade vs Raquel Gonzalez
This match was for Cora Jade to prove to Gonzalez they should be tag team partners in the Dusty Cup. She told McKenzie Mitchell that she knew she might get her ass kicked in the process, but it would be worth it if it proves to Gonzalez she can compete with the best in NXT 2.0.
She did get her ass kicked. She got her ass kicked and slammed and thrown all over the ring. And she kept getting back up and coming back and trying again. She had a couple of good pin attempts that would probably have kept anyone else down, and a semi-credible shot at submitting Gonzalez. In the end, Cora Jade was pinned off a Chingona Bomb, but she gave it her all as promised.
That wasn’t lost on Gonzalez. After the match, she pulled Jade to her feet and said ‘Let’s go win this’. They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Dusty Cup.
Sarray vs Kayla Inlay
Sarray is now a Japanese schoolgirl with a magic necklace from her grandmother which apparently changes her clothes. She enters the magic smoke in school uniform, and emerges in her ring gear.
Kayla Inlay told us she’s a heel by slapping Sarray’s offered handshake away. She doesn’t have a Cagematch page, but according to this helpful account on Twitter, was trained by Shawn Spears and Tyler Breeze at Flatbacks Wrestling School. She’s probably worth keeping an eye on and she’s already displaying more character than some of the newbies.
Sarray won, of course, after her Sun Ray Dropkick and a suplex.
Dakota Kai interrupted Sarray’s victory interview with the weird and rambling set-up to what could be a legitimately good feud.
Wendy Choo vs Amari Miller
Tiffany Stratton suggested Choo doesn’t belong in NXT and offered to take Amari Miller shopping if she dealt with her in the ring. The onesie is weird and the bunny slippers don’t help at all, but the match was fun. She’s charismatic in the ring, and very capable. The time to build Amari Miller’s character and get her into storylines is now, otherwise, she’s in danger of being pigeonholed. I wouldn’t have picked Stratton to plunge her into a storyline with, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Stratton appeared mid-match and slid a credit card into the ring to Miller. Miller picked it up and had to kick out of a roll-up. That left her open to being smacked in the face and pinned. When she demanded her card back, they discovered Wendy Choo had it.
There was a backstage segment with Indi Hartwell and Persia Pirotta that was all about Pirotta’s love life. Nikkita Lyons got an origin story vignette. She’s the child of a bass player and his groupie and she grew up on the road. She raps and sings.
Isla Dawn def. Myla Grace
Meiko Satomura def. Blair Davenport via Referee’s Stoppage
Myla Grace vs Isla Dawn
Isla Dawn doesn’t appear to be in complete touch with reality. But, as commentary noted, whatever she’s doing is working for her because she’s on some kind of tentative streak. Myla Grace nearly ended that, forcing Dawn to kick out on two and seven-eighths. That turned out to be Grace’s best and last chance. Dawn had dominated most of the match and finished it soon after.
Nina Samuels is still trying to make the Nina Samuels Show a thing. She interrupted Amale’s interview to mostly talk about herself and call Amale a loser. They now have a match, which at least means Samuels will put the mic down.
Meiko Satomura (C) vs Blair Davenport – NXT UK Women’s Championship Japanese Street Fight
Davenport entered the match with a kendo stick. Satomura was empty-handed. She kicked the stick out of Davenport’s hand almost immediately, but Davenport just reached under the ring for more toys and threw a chair at her head. Satomura requested the match, but Street Fights are Blair Davenport’s speciality. Satomura’s weapon of choice, nunchucks, didn’t last long. Satomura also used a steel chain wrapped around her shin to kick Davenport in the chest.
I’m still not clear on the difference between a Japanese Street Fight and any other street fight, but it was truly brutal. All the usual toys, plus Satomura having her fingers trapped in a turnbuckle to destroy her grip.
In the end, it was gravity that beat Blair Davenport. The ref had to stop the match after she delivered a double stomp to Satomura on the apron. As she landed on the floor, her ankle twisted under her at a sickening angle. They left the cameras on her screaming and crying for much too long. She was stretchered from ringside by medics.
Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro def. Lash Legend & Fallon Henley
Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro vs Lash Legend & Fallon Henley
Fallon Henley hasn’t quite worked out what to do with her arms on her entrance. Lash Legend has exactly the look WWE are after. Carter and Catanzaro need to win the Dusty Cup then head on over to revive the main roster tag division. They’re a great team. Catanzaro, unsurprisingly, got thrown around by Lash Legend, and Carter took a bit of a beating from her and Henley.
Carter and Catanzaro made it a fun match and happily picked up the win with one of their double-team finishers.
Aliyah def. Natalya
Aliyah vs Natalya
After Aliyah beat Natalya in 3.17 seconds – which is the focus of her new merch by the looks of it – and beat her again via disqualification, Natalya looked to get one back this week. It’s concerning that Aliyah still has no character beyond happy to be here and got a couple of lucky wins.
She got another lucky win here, after a short match. Natalya was beating her up on the outside and as the ref counted eight, Aliyah chucked her into a barricade and just made it in before ten. Natalya was counted out and Aliyah is three for three.
Backstage, Natalya demanded yet another match against Aliyah next week. She claims none of Aliyah’s victories have been legitimate, so the next match will be pinfall or submission. ‘Dungeon Style’, whatever that is.
Natalya was going to tell Aliyah later in the show, but she encountered Xia Li at the entrance to the women’s locker room and changed her mind.
Sonya Deville was so anxious to avoid the rematch Naomi was demanding against her, that she promised her a title match against Charlotte Flair next week instead. Naomi was reluctant to believe her, so Adam Pearce gave her his word.
Sonya Deville brought Charlotte Flair out to inform her Becky Lynch had told her earlier in the day that Ronda Rousey has chosen to face her for the RAW title and expects a contract in her hand on Monday. She gave Flair the opportunity to choose her opponent live.
Flair said she wasn’t surprised because she’s amazing and Becky Lynch is the easier choice. She picked Sasha Banks, but as she’d been advertised all night and there were five minutes of the show left, it was obvious Ronda Rousey was coming out.
She told Deville and Flair she hadn’t officially chosen to face Becky Lynch. Flair is just one of many she owes an ass-beating to. She doesn’t think Flair’s special, she’s just first. She’ll see her at WrestleMania.
Flair held the title up and said it was her baby, and it was prettier than Rousey’s. Deville got between Flair and Rousey to tell Rousey she calls the shots and she tells her what to do. Rousey shoved her out of the way but Flair evaded. Deville jumped on Rousey’s back, so Flair slipped out of the ring and watched Rousey slam her to the mat and put her in an armbar.
All in all, a fairly busy week for WWE’s women’s division. NXT 2.0 are trying really hard to establish themselves and maybe win back some of the lost interest of many fans. Only time will tell if it happens, but the effort is nice. The main roster still feels like it’s treading water with nowhere near the required personnel, and a dead tag division, but Lynch vs Lita will be fun.
Join me next week for the next instalment.