Welcome to this week’s round-up of all the action from WWE’s women’s divisions. Clash of Champions kicked things off this week, but a couple of hours before showtime rumours started to circulate that several superstars had been removed from the show, affecting two out of three of the women’s division matches.
Clash of Champions – Gold Rush
Asuka def. Zelina Vega
Asuka def. Bayley (DQ)
Nia Jax, Shayna Baszler and Nikki Cross were confirmed as ‘not cleared to compete’ on the Kickoff Show. The tag title issue will be resolved on RAW, but we were told that Bayley was in the building. With rumours of a COVID-19 outbreak at WWE, and no obvious injury issues reported, speculation is only natural. WWE are unlikely to confirm if the virus is responsible.
There are no positives from two matches being scrapped on the night due to illness/injury, but it did mean that Asuka versus Zelina Vega got bumped up to the main card.
Asuka (C) vs Zelina Vega – RAW Women’s Championship match
For once, this match might have benefitted from the virtual-only crowd, because it followed an incredible high-energy high-risk ladder match and would have fallen on its ass in front of a live crowd. That’s not to say it was a bad match, it was decent, but it lacked the impact of three dudes breaking each other with ladders.
Zelina Vega did pretty well, she got some periods of control on the champion after she did some damage to Asuka’s arm and worked on it, she even had a couple of semi-credible attempts to finish things. It was a lot smoother than the match against Mickie James last Monday. She was in no way ready for Asuka though. After a short-ish match, she tapped out in the Asuka Lock
In response to being asked, post-match if Zelina Vega is a more formidable opponent than she expected, Asuka said, ‘Zelina is like a firecracker, small yet dangerous, but Zelina was not ready for Asuka’. She tried to shake Vega’s hand but Vega bowed to her instead. Asuka bowed in return and Vega kicked her in the stomach. Asuka grabbed a mic and shouted after her in Japanese.
The WWE Draft will take place across two nights, starting on Smackdown on October 9th and concluding on RAW on October 12th.
Bayley came to the ring with the chair and set the title down on it so she could talk. She was overjoyed that Nikki Cross had to forfeit and had a whole sarcastically disappointed rant about it. There was a suggestion she’d offer an opportunity to someone in the match, but after a few seconds she said the door was closed and demanded the ref came in and raised her hand. Before he got to her, Asuka came out and got in the ring.
Bayley (C) vs Asuka – SmackDown Women’s Championship match
I adore Nikki Cross and I’m disappointed she didn’t get this chance. Hopefully, she’ll get an opportunity when she’s better. Bayley vs Asuka is not bad for an on the spot replacement though.
It was fast and brutal and representative of the bitter feud they’ve literally just come out of. Bayley was caught off-guard and escaped to the outside to regroup after taking a flurry of offence. She tried to walk out on the match, but Asuka dragged her back into the ring.
Bayley pulled herself together and got her head in the match, but distracted herself yelling at Michael Cole and took double knees to the face. What was left of the match took place outside the ring, but there wasn’t much. Sadly, it ended in disqualification when Bayley hit Asuka in the stomach with a chair after taking a suplex on the floor.
Sasha Banks appeared while Bayley was yelling her celebrations at ringside and hit her over the back with a chair. Banks was still wearing the neck collar and holding her throat, but she beat on Bayley before she got kicked to the ground and thrown into the ring. Bayley had the opportunity to do damage, but she spent all her time setting up chairs, so Banks grabbed the kendo stick and went to town. As Bayley tried to escape the ring in shock, Sasha Banks threw a chair at her.
Commentary said Sasha Banks’ look was one of utter disdain, but she looked sad, hurt, and angry to me. Bayley looked horrified and scared. Their Hell in a Cell match, as that’s the next PPV and this feud is begging for it, will be awesome.
Asuka def. Zelina Vega
Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke def. Natalya & Lana
Right, help me out with this, Zelina Vega attacked Asuka after their title match while Asuka was trying to show her respect, so as a punishment for that Vega gets another title match. I get that it’s another opportunity for Asuka to kick her ass, but it still doesn’t make any sense at all.
Asuka (C) vs Zelina Vega – RAW Women’s Championship Match
Zelina Vega was given a backstage interview before her rematch. Asuka interrupted it and they cut to ads when they started yelling at each other.
Vega is looking smoother with each match, so I guess she just had a touch of ring rust. It’s hardly surprising considering how few her recent matches have been. Every interview with wrestlers who have been away from the ring for one reason or another says there is no training which makes up for not having matches regularly. Anyway, she started fast and leapt on the champion, who immediately reversed it and had Vega scrabbling for the ropes in an armbar.
In their Clash of Champions match, Vega did some damage to Asuka’s arm, which Bayley then added to, and that was her target for the match. It served her pretty well as a strategy, but could only take her so far. Asuka had an answer for everything she threw at her, even with limited use of one arm. Frustration kicked in when Asuka got her foot on the ropes after a backstabber and Vega went to the top for a moonsault. Asuka got her knees up and slapped on the Asuka Lock before Zelina Vega could recover. Vega tapped.
Shayna Baszler & Nia Jax versus The Riott Squad will take place as soon as Jax and Baszler (although Nia Jax has been making it clear on social media that it’s Baszler who’s out) have been medically cleared. There are no current plans to strip them of the titles.
Natalya and Lana came to the ring with some thoughts on that. Natalya threatened that they would stand out there all night or until Jax and Baszler were stripped of the titles and said the titles are rightfully theirs. Lana said the whole reason the tag titles exist is because of them (I’d like to see her working on that, but she didn’t offer any explanation). They are celebrities and social media influencers with millions and millions of followers so they want the tag titles now.
Adam Pearce came out and explained that they can’t just strip Jax and Baszler, it’s not going to happen. But in the spirit of competition and as a step towards earning a title shot, they could have a match against the newest members of the roster.
Mandy Rose & Dana Brooke vs Natalya & Lana
I have thoughts about putting Mandy Rose in another tag team after they split up her perfectly good tag team. Rose has been advertised alone, Dana Brooke was a bonus. Maybe it’s because Baszler’s out and it’s temporary, but in an interview after the match, Rose and Brooke said they were after the tag titles and would be watching the eventual match between Baszler, Jax, and The Riott Squad. If they’re going to be a long-term team, I think they’ve got the potential to be great, but we’ll see how that plays out.
Mandy Rose is in pink now instead of gold, but so far still has the same music so there’s no major reinvention. It wasn’t a long match. Dana Brooke got caught out by an unseen tag and took a lot of punishment in Lana and Natalya’s corner. Eventually, she got back to Mandy Rose who came in, spiked Lana face-first into the canvas, and finished Lana off with a knee to the face after Brooke took down Natalya.
Bianca Belair had another vignette. This time she was at a running track. She started with three opponents and beat them so badly one walked away. In the second race she gave her two remaining opponents a head start, but still beat them and another one walked off. For the final race, down to one on one, she did hurdles and let the guy just run. She still beat him more than comfortably. He refused to shake her hand afterwards.
The vignettes are fun and everything, but let her do her talking in the ring. The division needs her.
Shotzi Blackheart def. Dakota Kai
Kayden Carter def. Xia Li
Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano def. Io Shirai & Damian Priest
WWE confirmed on Wednesday that Tegan Nox has a torn ACL, attributed (for tv purposes) to the attack by Candice LeRae. Triple H said on Friday that she has already had surgery. I wish her a full and speedy recovery, and I hope to see her back to her best in the ring in a few months. But there comes a point where you have to question how much more her knees can take if she still wants to be walking when she’s 50.
Shotzi Blackheart vs Dakota Kai, with Raquel Gonzalez
Shotzi Blackheart really is on a roll right now. She’s flying up the ranks of the women’s division, and deservedly so. I honestly can’t say enough good things about her, and this was another convincing performance. She’s staking a claim for a title shot. I’m not a fan of Kai needing Raquel Gonzalez to assist. I understand it’s heelish and all that jazz, but it weakens Kai overall. She doesn’t need the backup, it’s just lazy.
Gonzalez was, of course, an issue in the match. She got up on the apron to stop Kai being crushed against the ropes, which was enough of a distraction for Kai to deliver a backbreaker and take control. She couldn’t turn it into a pin though, and she took the move Gonzalez saved her from a little later.
Towards the end of the match, there was an incident. Kai and Blackheart were fighting on the apron. Blackheart had Kai in a headlock and attempted to walk up and over the turnbuckle. Kai kind of sort of turned it into a suplex, or Blackheart didn’t quite get the momentum to go all the way over… either way, Shotzi Blackheart landed on her head on the apron and they both crashed to the floor.
The ref spent some time checking on them, while we got replays. When Blackheart dragged herself back into the ring and lined up for a suicide dive, Gonzalez tripped her. Rhea Ripley appeared and shoved Gonzalez into the apron/steps. While Gonzalez was watching officials remove Ripley, Kai tried a kick in the corner. Blackheart dodged so she got hung up, then pulled her out of the corner and pinned her.
Kayden Carter, with Kacy Catanzaro, vs Xia Li
Xia Li was disrespectful after her recent tag match against Carter and Catanzaro, refusing a handshake and walking away. It’s part of a much more aggressive and focused approach from Li, and it suits her style extremely well. Her big selling point has always been the speed of her strikes, but now they look purposeful and vicious as well as lightning-quick.
It made for a good match because Kayden Carter is super-athletic and speedy. Carter has more bounce, Li has more aggression, and together it works. While the match was good, the finish was nothing spectacular. A scrappy win. They were rolling around on the mat trying to force each other’s shoulders down and Carter succeeded.
After the match, Kayden Carter helped Xia Li to her feet. Li pushed her over and shoved Catanzaro away then stormed off.
Candice LeRae and Johnny Gargano commented on Tegan Nox’ injury in their pre-match interview. LeRae said it had to be done and Gargano said it was karma for his broken tv.
In Io Shirai and Damian Priest’s pre-match interview, Priest called them ‘the rock stars of NXT’. Shirai agreed and Priest said she was ‘Cool as hell’. She smiled and said, ‘He’s not bad’.
Io Shirai & Damian Priest vs Candice LeRae & Johnny Gargano – Champions vs Challengers
This was the main event of the evening. I hate champion vs challengers matches because there is no good result other than a screwy finish, and I hate mixed tag matches because tags kill all momentum. With this being the final match before TakeOver on Sunday, no one could afford to lose clean, so it was simply a question of who would cheat and how (with an outside chance of interference).
There was a brief pre-match brawl when Priest and Shirai rushed the ring, but the Garganos escaped to the outside to regroup before things got underway properly. For a mixed tag, there was quite a bit of interaction between partners. The men delivered no offence to the women, of course, but Johnny Gargano took a dropkick, a punch, and a moonsault from Shirai over the course of the match, and Io Shirai used Damian Priest’s shoulders as a launchpad for a dive over the top rope to take down Gargano and LeRae.
Damian Priest managed to kick Gargano in the head while stood slightly behind Io Shirai. I don’t know why that’s impressive, but it is. Priest has unbelievably long legs. For all my objections, it was a highly entertaining match. Priest makes me roll my eyes a lot when he talks, but he’s a lot of fun to watch and so is Io Shirai. And despite their annoying new attitudes, so are Gargano and LeRae.
The moonsault Gargano took was to save LeRae. Priest kicked him in the head to put him in position. Sadly, the rules wouldn’t allow the ref to count Shirai pinning him so she tagged Priest to finish the job. The expected screwy finish came with more a low blow from Candice LeRae while Priest was setting her husband up for the Reckoning and the ref was still shooing Shirai out of the ring. Io Shirai chased LeRae on the outside and was pounding on her at ringside when Johnny Gargano delivered One Final Beat to Damian Priest for the win.
Shirai got back in the ring and started telling Gargano off, but took a backstabber from LeRae. Gargano got the title belts, got down on one knee to present the women’s title to LeRae, and the celebrated with the belts to close the show.
Jinny def. Xia Brookside
Jinny vs Xia Brookside
Both women got promo videos before the match. Their attitudes couldn’t be more different. Jinny is all about proving her dominance. Xia Brookside fights for the dreamers and believers, with pride, passion, and a smile on her face.
I had high hopes for Jinny at the start of the brand, she was among my favourites on the indies, but somehow the mess NXT UK made of using Jazzy Gabert got her lost in the mix. The enforced break has levelled the playing field somewhat, outside of the top two (Kay Lee Ray and Piper Niven), so it’s everything to play for in terms of positioning in the hierarchy.
I enjoyed the match, although it would have benefitted from some kind of crowd noise. Brookside had some good chances and she had Jinny rocked a few times, but she got caught in a submission and was forced to tap.
After the match, Jinny said she’s been playing nice for far too long. We haven’t seen anywhere near the best of her yet. If we thought she was ruthless before, we’re about to experience a whole new side of Jinny. She instructed us to bow down and witness the queen of NXT UK make ‘herstory’.
Kay Lee Ray will give a championship ‘State of the Union’ address next week.
SmackDown didn’t have a women’s division match this week, but they did have two solid storyline moving segments.
Alexa Bliss was a guest on a special SmackDown edition of The Kevin Owens Show. Owens compared Bliss’ new dark side to Aleister Black. He said she’s changed. She said people change and asked him, doesn’t he want to change and be better. When he said he wanted to understand the darkness she said people fear what they don’t understand and asked if Owens has ever been around ‘him’. It’s terrifying and captivating all at the same time. Your spine gets so cold when you’re in his presence. When he touches you, you go numb, it feels like pins and needles. And when he looks into your eyes it’s like he’s looking right through you and you can’t look away. But Owens has no idea what that’s like.
Owens said she seemed brainwashed. Bliss agreed, her brain has been washed all the lies have been washed away and now she sees the truth. She’s been changed by him, cleansed by him. Owens said, ‘he’s here, isn’t he?’ Bliss smiled and said he’s everywhere and she could feel him now, then said ‘Let him in’ in a much harsher voice. Owens got up and that’s when the lights started to go out with The Fiends distinctive sound effects. When the red lights came up, The Fiend had Owens in a mandible claw.
Bliss stayed in her chair during the attack and gazed at The Fiend as he walked towards her and held out his hand. She stood and took it and smiled.
Surprise, surprise, the mystery woman is Carmella. She’s gone glam and entitled. It’s our fault she didn’t get what she wanted in her previous attempts and she’s not our ‘princess anymore’. Now she’s ‘Untouchable’, unless she doesn’t want to be.
If anyone can pull off the glam and entitled persona, it’s probably Carmella, but it’s a hard one to do without coming across as phoney and tacky, and ultimately forgettable. It’s a gimmick that’s been tried a lot, but it rarely sticks.
Sasha Banks came to the ring to speak and directed her comments to Bayley. Did Bayley think not being medically cleared was going to stop her beating her down at Clash of Champions? After years of working with her, Bayley should have learned something about having a backbone. Bayley is nothing more than a coward. A coward who needed her time and time again, who was using her for her accomplishments. She knows Bayley’s not in the building tonight, but next week they’re going one on one for the title. And Bayley knows when it comes down to just them and there’s no one there to save her, she doesn’t stand a chance. Banks took off the neck collar and threw in a ‘bitch’ to finish it off.
Next week is the first night of the WWE Draft. Sasha Banks versus Bayley has Hell in a Cell written all over it and I’d be surprised if they don’t do it again there, but is that a potential indication the Draft will split them up?
That’s it for another week of WWE women’s division action. Enjoy TakeOver, 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.