Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. NXT won the week this week, and it wasn’t even close. There are some interesting things going on with the main roster brands as well, but Io Shirai and Shotzi Blackheart put on the match of the week across all three brands. NXT UK returned to action this week as well.
Asuka def. Mickie James
The Riott Squad def. Natalya & Lana
This was a special ‘In Your Face’ episode of RAW. I’m not entirely sure what made it special, but it was a fairly decent episode.
RETRIBUTION were back again. Their mission statement segment started with what looked like the same five who appeared last week, two of which are definitely women, but they were joined by a lot more. They attacked during the main event and there were a LOT of them, at least twelve, possibly more. They were moving around too much and the camerawork was too nausea-inducing to make any further guesses as to their identities. Everyone got flattened by Keith Lee and Drew McIntyre diving over the top rope though.
Mickie James had a backstage interview in the ring set up they’ve been using recently. She talked about how much she loves the business and how it drives her to be the best she can be. She loves the kind of high-stakes competition like a title match against Asuka. She’s given every bit of her heart and soul to the business and she knows she’s always had what it takes, but for this match, she’s driven by knowing it might be her last chance.
Asuka (C) vs Mickie James – RAW Women’s Championship match
I fully expected this match to be incredible, but somehow it wasn’t. It was good, it just wasn’t great. There were a couple of bits that didn’t look quite right, that just threw off the feel of an otherwise strategic and entertaining match.
The finish to the match was clearly wrong. The ref called for the bell while Mickie James was trying to get out of the Asuka Lock and James was declared unable to continue. She and Asuka both looked confused and upset, but the referee’s decision is final.
Zelina Vega came out after the match to talk to Asuka. She said she’d spent some of the best years of her career managing ingrates. Asuka is apparently an ingrate as well because she was handed the title and has been reckless with it. She informed Asuka she’s ready for the title and slapped her when Asuka grabbed the mic to respond. Sensibly, she got out of the ring and retreated up the ramp straight after.
The ref was talking to Mickie James on the floor at ringside throughout Vega’s speech, so something was definitely off.
Mickie James later confirmed in an exclusive interview with TalkSPORT’s Alex McCarthy that the ref had stopped the match because he thought she was legitimately injured.
The Riott Squad vs Natalya & Lana
Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax joined commentary for the match and made it clear they dislike everyone including, or maybe especially, each other. I guess it works for them though, it seems they are fuelled by a need to make sure they’re each better than the other.
The match they were ignoring was ok but super-short. The Riott Squad are looking like they’re back in synch and at the top of their game. They finished the match with a double team double knees from Liv Morgan and a Riott Kick from Ruby Riott.
Post-match Morgan and Riott got out of the ring before Baszler and Jax left commentary, so Baszler and Jax beat up Lana and Natalya instead. Natalya got off quite lightly compared to her teammate. Lana was Samoan dropped through the announce desk while Natalya was just launched shoulder first into the post.
Io Shirai def. Shotzi Blackheart
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter def. Xia Li & Jessi Kamea
Io Shirai vs Shotzi Blackheart
NXT usually open the show with a potentially great match and this one lived up to its potential. There’s no particular rivalry between Blackheart and Shirai, no grudge to settle. The entire premise is that Blackheart wants to raise her stock in the women’s division and earn a title shot, and Io Shirai wants to protect her territory and her title. It was all very sportsmanlike, although Shirai did slap away Blackheart’s offered handshake, but no less intense for it.
The match actually delivered what both performers wanted. No one can question whether Shotzi Blackheart belongs in the top tier of the NXT women’s division after this one. She had plenty of opportunities to showcase herself and she took it. Of course, it helps when your opponent is one of the very best in the world. It helps even more when the chemistry works.
I would have happily accepted this as a TakeOver match, and hopefully next time it will be. Blackheart more than held her own against Io Shirai. She had credible submission and pin attempts and had Shirai rocked and defensive at times. She started to get frustrated when Shirai kicked out of her super-hurricanrana and took much too long going to the top to try for the senton. After Shirai followed her up, they ended up on the apron where Blackheart took a brutal looking German suplex and fell to the floor. She kicked out of the pin immediately after she was helped back into the ring, but it was effectively over. One double knees in the corner and one moonsault later, Io Shirai was victorious.
They helped each other up after the match and shook hands, all very smiley and respectful.
Next week there will be a Battle Royal to determine Io Shirai’s next challenger. The competitors will be Kacy Catanzaro, Indi Hartwell, Aliyah, Dakota Kai, Candice LeRae, Rhea Ripley, Tegan Nox, Shotzi Blackheart, Raquel Gonzalez, Kayden Carter, and Xia Li.
It’s interesting that Mia Yim isn’t involved. There has been no mention of an injury, so that definitely adds weight to the theory she’s one of RETRIBUTION.
The Candice LeRae and Tegan Nox drama continued with LeRae and Johnny Gargano bitching on their sofa. LeRae is annoyed about Nox turning down the opportunity to do things the Gargano Way. Gargano is annoyed about the broken tv and is planning to invoice Nox for the most expensive on he can find, despite the fact LeRae broke it when she threw the remote. All Nox did was duck.
LeRae talked a bit about the Battle Royal next week. She intends to win it.
Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs Jessi Kamea & Xia Li
This one was short and sweet and showcased how great Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter are as a team, a point which was drilled home by commentary throughout. Expect the to get the next NXT shot at the tag title. Kamea and Li are a newly thrown together team, but they worked ok together and the tag division wouldn’t be a bad idea for them.
It wasn’t their night, Carter and Catanzaro have a complicated-looking double team which got them the win this time but could do with smoothing out. Xia Li refused the post-match fist bumps and walked out.
Aoife Valkyrie def. Isla Dawn
There were two NXT UK shows this week, a normal episode and a mini-special looking at the UK Performance Center and what the roster have been up to during the enforced break. Xia Brookside and Jinny got to say a few words and they both seemed thrilled to be training again. They showed a bit from the new BT Sport studio setup. Kay Lee Ray got to speak then, and Xia Brookside again, Isla Dawn, and Aoife Valkyrie. We got to see a snippet of Kay Lee Rae’s promo with Piper Niven, and Isla Dawn’s match against Aoife Valkyrie. The NXT producers are involved remotely, so Triple H, Shawn Michaels, Matt Bloom, and Stephanie McMahon all featured in the mini-doc. Honestly, it packed a lot into twenty minutes, and it was really interesting.
The show proper was an odd feeling affair. No crowds at all, just an empty studio set and occasional random crowd reaction noise. Kay Lee Ray had a promo segment to build the NXT UK Women’s Championship match next week. She’s not happy about having to fight Piper Niven again. Ray said everyone will get to find out why she’s just that little bit better than Niven.
Piper Niven came out, of course. She wanted Kay Lee Ray to tell everyone the truth about how many times she’s beaten her in Japan and the UK and that she’d got her number. Ray said she’s happy to let her believe that, but she’s going to show everyone next week that it’s not true. Niven hasn’t beaten this Kay Lee Ray. She’s the NXT UK Women’s Champion and Niven should know better than to trust her. Ray swung at her, but Niven did know better than to trust her and was ready to block. Rather than try again, Kay Lee Ray left.
Isla Dawn vs Aoife Valkyrie
This was the first women’s division back after the break and it was fine. Isla Dawn was looking to get one back after Valkyrie beat her last time but it wasn’t to be. Valkyrie picked up the win with a top rope leg drop. There was nothing wrong with the match, and Aoife Valkyrie is clearly marked for greatness within the NXT UK women’s division, it just lacked some kind of spark.
Nikki Cross def. Lacey Evans
Alexa Bliss had Nikki Cross as her guest on A Moment of Bliss instead of as cohost. They showed the footage of Bliss delivering Sister Abigail to Cross and walking off in a trance, as well as the footage of Cross winning. Bliss asked what Cross’ plan of attack is because it needs to be different as she’s lost all the recent matches to Bayley.
Cross said the difference is, there’s no more Sasha Banks watching Bayley’s back so she doesn’t need to have eyes in the back of her head this time, she can focus on the match. She talked about what Bayley did to Sasha Banks and sent a message to Bayley that she was taking the title at Clash of Champions. Then she asked Bliss what was going on with her, and specifically about the Sister Abigail trance.
Alexa Bliss said she can’t explain because she doesn’t understand it, there’s some kind of change and she can’t control it. She doesn’t know how to handle it sometimes.
Lacey Evans interrupted them to make bitchy comments and blame her loss in the fatal four-way on Bliss leaving causing a distraction. She told Cross she’d never beat Bayley because she doesn’t have the mean streak. She’s also too nice, too short, too weak, and doesn’t have a backbone.
Cross took Evans’ handkerchief off her, blew her nose on it then threw it at her and kicked her in the face and roughed her up a bit.
Nikki Cross vs Lacey Evans
Alexa Bliss joined commentary for the match. They congratulated Bliss on her new podcast, then they actually talked about Evans and Cross for a while before Cole questioned Bliss about her weird behaviour. They talked about Bliss for most of the match, but Bliss was cheering on and complimenting her friend throughout.
Lacey Evans squirted hand sanitiser in Nikki Cross’ eyes right in front of the ref, but he didn’t disqualify her. It didn’t have the desired effect on Cross either, it just fired her up and the match finisher by swinging neckbreaker shortly after.
After the match, Evans crawled to the commentary desk and pulled herself up. She mentioned The Fiend’s name again and Bliss tranced out, got up, gave Evans a Sister Abigail, and left still in the trance.
Sasha Banks, wearing a neck brace, had a sit-down interview from the Performance Center. In response to being asked the extent of her injuries, she said she’s still here. She heard every word Bayley said last week and being in the Performance Center, a place they built, was very emotional. They used to talk about all doing all the things they’ve been living out for the last few months. They did it all together. She got very emotional, then pulled herself together enough to send Bayley a message. Bayley is nothing without her and, now she’s useless to her, one day she’s going to take the thing she loves, the SmackDown Women’s Championship.
Bayley attacked her from behind with a chair at that point. She ripped the neck brace off and wrapped the chair over Banks’ throat. Luckily, people arrived before she could do anything more.
After a break, Sasha Banks was still sat on the floor being checked over.
There was another teaser clip for the glamourous mystery woman this week. I’m 99% convinced it’s Carmella and so is most of my twitter timeline.
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.