Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. We’re back with a newly renamed site, so it’s goodbye to Rear View Reviews and hello to Arnold Furious dot com.
The column is changing a bit too, shorter reviews with less match detail and more discussion. There’s a lot more content now than there was when I wrote the first Women of the WWE column, over three years ago, and the long reviews were getting unwieldy and boring. You can include all the match detail in the single sub-three-minute match of the week without droning on for hours. Not so when you have many matches across several shows. So we’re tightening it up.
We picked a good week to come back, with Clash of Champions kicking things off.
Clash of Champions
Bayley def. Charlotte Flair
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross def. Fire & Desire
Sasha Banks def. Becky Lynch (DQ – no title change)
We’ve been away for a while, so here are a few thoughts on the current state of the women’s division through the lens of these PPV matches. The last few months for the women’s division haven’t been great. Becky Lynch has been great. Nikki Cross’ journey has been cool. But overall, it’s not been a brilliant time. Every roster is stuffed full of talent, most of whom spend their time sat in catering. Putting the four horsewomen back on top makes sense right now. You need stars to make stars and they are the only women who have been made to look like stars. Let them remind everyone why then the next set of challenges will mean something.
Speaking of meaning something, Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross are reviving the women’s tag titles. It makes a huge difference when the titles are visible and being defended. The way the WWE Universe has taken to Nikki Cross makes me smile. She’s a fully-fledged main roster superstar and she deserves every single moment.
On with the show, a show where all three women’s matches made it onto the main card and AJ Styles was relegated to the Kickoff Show.
On the Kickoff Show, Bayley and Sasha Banks were sounding confident. They weren’t phased by the intensity of their upcoming matches and were convinced they were going home with all the gold.
Bayley (C) vs Charlotte Flair – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
This was the second match of the main card and it was very good, but very short. There is something immensely comfortable about watching matches between the four horsewomen, they are going to fall somewhere between good and incredible. Flair brutalised Bayley early on, taking her on a tour of the barricades but failing to pin her when she dragged her back into the ring. The reason it was short was Bayley cheated to win. Out of sight of the ref and camera, Bayley took off the turnbuckle pad, then she rammed Charlotte Flair’s head into it and pinned her.
The second the count was done Bayley grabbed her title and ran away up the ramp. Flair had a wry smile on her face when she picked herself up and this is far from over. Hell in a Cell is the next PPV, so it’s probably going there.
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross’ pre-match interview was interrupted by R-Truth who dropped a mic in front of Bliss’ face and apologised to her as ‘other Carmella’. She paid him back by grabbing the mic and announcing his presence, as 24/7 champion, to the locker room. He ran off, pursued by the chasing pack, and Bliss and Cross went to the ring.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs Fire & Desire – WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship match
Have I, by any chance, mentioned I’m a huge Nikki Cross fan? Just once or twice maybe. She was great in this. Actually, the whole match was decent, even the bit where Alexa Bliss almost won the 24/7 title when R-Truth invaded the ring mid-match. He kicked out and was chased off by the midcard, but it was an odd little diversion and counts as Truth defending the title. Cross and Bliss’ teamwork is really good now, but Rose and Deville are exceptional together. They would have had Bliss with a double team if Cross hadn’t made it back in with a fraction of a second to spare.
As it was, Nikki Cross got to finish it with an elevated neckbreaker on Mandy Rose.
Becky Lynch vs Sasha Banks – RAW Women’s Championship match
In her pre-match interview, Becky Lynch said Sasha Banks is the one with everything to prove. There is some truth in that. She needs to prove she’s still Sasha Banks and she’s got her fire back.
If that was the object of the match, she succeeded. Becky Lynch was the initial aggressor, but it didn’t take long for Banks to get into her stride. She took a ton of punishment building up to it though. It settled into a really good match, and one both women thought they should have won several times.
Sasha Banks got a chair and threw it into the ring. While the official was getting rid of it, she grabbed a second chair and hit Becky Lynch in the stomach with it. Lynch kicked out anyway. She brought the chair back in but the ref grabbed it when she had it over her head and threw it down. While Banks was arguing with the ref, Lynch swung the chair at her. Banks ducked, the chair hit the ref and Lynch went after Banks with the chair.
They discarded the chair and went off up the steps through the crowd, pausing for a Dis-Arm-Her through the railings, and brawled along the concourse before heading back down to the ring.
The ref was still down when they got back to the ring. Commentary confirmed Becky Lynch had been disqualified, but it wasn’t announced until after Lynch had worn a chair out on Banks back, smashed her face into it a few times, and applied a Dis-Arm-Her through it that it took three officials to persuade her to release.
Hell in a Cell here we come…
Becky Lynch was later fined $10k for ‘inadvertently hitting an official’.
Sasha Banks & Bayley def. Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross
Lacey Evans def. Dana Brooke
Alexa Bliss and Nikki Cross had a locker room promo where they discussed their unhappiness with Sasha Banks saying the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championships meant nothing to her. Somehow that translated into a match, Bliss and Cross against Banks and Bayley. Not sure how, or why, but I like it.
Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross vs Sasha Banks & Bayley
Are Banks and Bayley still The Boss ‘N’ Hug Connection? Since Bayley is more into steel chairs than hugs at the moment, I suspect not. They’ve lost nothing in teamwork though, and Bayley especially seemed thrilled to be back in the ring together.
The match was good. Bayley did some shady stuff to Bliss on the outside, while neither of them were legal. She threw Bliss into the steps then rammed her leg into them. Bliss had already tweaked that knee, so was being seen by medics heading into a break. She was taken to the back during it.
Nikki Cross did amazingly well considering who she was left facing. She trapped Sasha Banks in the ring skirt and set about breaking down Bayley. She even had a few good chances for a pin. If Banks hadn’t freed herself from the skirting, after longer than I’ve ever seen anyone spend in there, and broken things up then Cross would almost certainly have got the win with her elevated neckbreaker. As it was, Sasha Banks tagged herself back in and tapped out Nikki Cross with the Bank Statement.
After the match, Sasha Banks grabbed a chair, but Becky Lynch arrived before she could use it on Cross. Lynch also had a chair and she and Banks had a chair-off until Bayley arrived, also with chair in hand.
Nikki Cross had got the hell out of the ring by then, so Charlotte Flair ran/staggered out to help Lynch – I say staggered because running down a ramp in the heels she was wearing and having to stop mid-way, didn’t seem remotely easy. Bayley met Flair halfway and got the chair she was holding kicked into her face. Flair picked the chair up and hit her with it. Sasha Banks took a couple of blows from Becky Lynch then crawled out of the ring to Bayley, leaving the uneasy alliance of Flair and Lynch looking at each other.
Backstage Sasha Banks yelled about being the star of the women’s division and challenged Becky Lynch to a rematch at Hell in a Cell.
Becky Lynch got to answer the challenge later on and said she would give her the rematch, but it won’t just be AT Hell in a Cell, it will be IN Hell in a Cell.
Lacey Evans vs Dana Brooke
The match was ok. Dana Brooke got the majority of the offence and she’s looking really good. It was Lacey Evans night though. She clearly felt the need to send a message to Natalya, so instead of pinning Brooke after delivering the Woman’s Right, she put her in the Sharpshooter and tapped her out.
I honestly think it’s time Dana Brooke got a chance of something more interesting. She’s had a good run of matches on Main Event against Sarah Logan and she’s looking consistently decent. It’s not her fault she was called up when she was green as grass, but the stigma of not being up to the job seems to have unfairly followed her. It’s probably time to take another look.
There was some Maria Kanellis nonsense as well, but she’s not on the active roster at the moment so I feel no obligation to use words on that trash fire of a storyline.
Carmella is still acting as R-Truth’s companion/carer. Everything they’ve done together has been silly and funny and it works because they look like they’re having a lot of fun with it. I want to see Carmella in the ring as well, but I hope they carry on hanging out together for a long time.
The dates for the next draft have been announced. It will start on SmackDown Live on Friday October 11 which is after SmackDown moves to a Friday slot on a different US channel, and finish on RAW on Monday October 14. After the draft, the Wild Card Rule will be cancelled.
Charlotte Flair def. Sasha Banks (DQ)
Banks and Bayley had an interview backstage. Sasha Banks was asked how she felt about the Hell in a Cell match. She said she’s the star of the women’s division and she’s prepared for anything. She’s been in a Hell in a Cell match before, Becky Lynch hasn’t. She was also asked about facing Charlotte Flair tonight, but Bayley said Banks would answer all the questions in the ring.
Ric Flair was backstage with Charlotte before the match. She was announced by Offset.
Charlotte Flair vs Sasha Banks
Bayley accompanied Sasha Banks to the ring and the cheating continued. Flair caught Bayley trying to take the turnbuckle pad off again, because that was never going to work twice, and it didn’t even get Banks an advantage. Banks and Flair battled like they always have, like one or both of them is going to end up damaged. Flair took Banks and Bayley out with a moonsault to the outside after she’d booted Sasha Banks off the apron like a ragdoll. The match ended when Charlotte Flair had Banks in the figure four and Bayley invaded the ring to kick Flair in the head.
Banks and Bayley set about beating Flair up until Carmella ran down to make the save. Sasha Banks was knocked out of the ring with a Carmella superkick, Bayley by a big boot from Flair. Why Carmella? We don’t know. Maybe we’ll find out later, maybe we won’t. Good to see her in the ring though.
Candice LeRae def. Mia Yim, Io Shirai, and Bianca Belair
Xia Li def. Aliyah
This was the first of NXT’s new two-hour live format. For US viewers that mean the first hour on USA Network and the second hour on WWE Network. For the rest of us, it means watch the second hour before the first one or wait for them to put the whole thing on network. I chose to wait and deal with the spoilers, but it’s not ideal.
And that’s enough bitching because the show itself was great. The first wrestler to appear on the brand-new format NXT was Io Shirai.
Io Shirai vs Bianca Belair vs Mia Yim vs Candice LeRae
I have a lot of feelings about this match, all of them positive. NXT made a huge statement by opening with a four-way women’s division match, and those four women justified every bit of faith shown in them. They had one shot to engage the casual viewers and stop them turning off, and they produced a high energy showcase of their individual skills. Everyone took someone’s finisher, there were some spectacular high-flying bits, we even got the compulsory tower of doom spot.
By halfway through the match there was no way anyone could have argued with any of the four winning it, but it was Candice LeRae’s night and that made me very happy. It was Mia Yim who took the poison-rana and springboard moonsault that finished the match.
When Candice LeRae got to the stage on her way out, she was met by Shayna Baszler, Marina Shafir, and Jessamyn Duke. Baszler posed with the belt while Duke and Shafir crowded in behind LeRae. Candice got toe to toe with Baszler and stared her down, with only the briefest of nervous glances at her henchwomen.
Xia Li vs Aliyah, with Vanessa Borne
This was a much shorter and simpler match which took place during the second hour. Aliyah is still underrated, and Li is still green. Li had a slip there was no chance of her covering, but she slapped the mat in frustration and got on with it. Not bad considering she’s probably never been in a live broadcast situation before. She’s got incredibly fast feet, and it was her kicks that secured her the victory. It’s an important win for her, I hope it’s the start of some more character development.
Dakota Kai will be back next week. She got a reintroduction video on the show. Kai is likeable, entertaining, and good. And it seemed like NXT had big plans for her pre-injury. The NXT women’s division is incredibly stacked, but Kai should slot in somewhere in the upper third of it. It will be very interesting to see exactly where.
Rhea Ripley def Debbie Keitel
Toni Storm apparently did not turn up for NXT UK (storyline, not a no show).
Kay Lee Ray was asked about Tegan Nox saying she’d take her on any time. Ray said she’s the NXT UK Women’s Champion and she is one hundred percent, the same cannot be said for Nox. She’ll take her on any time.
Anytime is in two weeks.
Rhea Ripley vs Debbie Keitel
Ripley has been moonlighting in NXT recently, she was unsuccessful in a match against Shayna Baszler. That match lasted significantly longer than this one. This was a sub-two-minute display of Rhea Ripley’s dominance. It was finished with the Riptide.
After the match, Ripley said it was about time she got her title back because no one could compete with her mentally or physically. Jinny came out with Jazzy Gabert to disagree. Jinny thinks Ripley’s look is from the past and that’s where she belongs, and Jinny is the future NXT UK Women’s Champion. But in the present, Ripley will have to deal with Gabert.
Jazzy Gabert got up on the apron and Ripley kicked her back down. I’m looking forward to Ripley vs Gabert.
No women’s division action on Main Event this week, just a brief overview of the RAW shenanigans.
That’s it for this weeks 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.