Apologies for the lack of writing last week, but we’ve got a lot to talk about here. It’s just a few days until the Royal Rumble, where Charlotte defends the Raw Women’s Championship against Bayley - who has some pinfall wins over her already. Both champion and challenger will be giving their thoughts on the upcoming title match. Nia Jax meanwhile continues to gloat about what she has done to Sasha Banks this week – and we’ll just have to see if she’s bitten off more than she can chew. On Smackdown, Alexa Bliss retained her title last week with the help of La Luchadora – who was revealed to be the returning Mickie James! It seems that Mickie will now have some personal beef with Becky Lynch that has to be settled on the blue brand. Speaking of returns, Naomi makes hers this week in a match with Natalya - but we’ll have to see what Nikki Bella is up to. Over on NXT we can also look forward to a friendly bout between Ember Moon and Liv Morgan. And with a big Fatal 4 Way on the way, we will be hearing from all four participants. Should be a good one!
Bayley gives her thoughts.
Charlotte gives her thoughts.
Nia Jax vs Ray Lynn
Winner: Nia Jax
Alicia Fox and Cedric Alexander’s drama with Noam Dar continues…
Raw saw fit to spare us of any repetitive Charlotte/Bayley promos this week and just have some sit-down interviews. I like it whenever WWE does that, since it does make the match feel particularly important. Charlotte’s mic work is also far more tolerable when she’s in an interview rather than cutting a live promo. As much as I enjoy the work both women do in the ring, I am struggling to find reasons to be too invested in the title match on Sunday. The result feels as if it’s going to predictably be Charlotte conniving a win to extend her PPV winning streak that little bit longer. And as we’ve already seen her vs Bayley happen rather a lot in the last few months, it’s not exactly a match I’m keen to see more of. I would love for WWE to swerve us and put the title on Bayley now. Why not? She’s over, and can go in the ring. And we haven’t seen her work with everyone on the Raw roster at the moment. The Bayley/Sasha program is a WrestleMania-worthy one – whereas dragging Bayley/Charlotte out to that show is a recipe for indifference. I’m fully sure that Bayley and Charlotte will put on a great match at the Rumble. But all I really want is for Charlotte to be dethroned as champion and finally take a step away from the limelight. She’s been at the top of the division since mid-2015. Bayley can breathe new life into Raw, which is really struggling at the moment because of how overexposed Charlotte is.
The subplots on Raw are a different story. I actually like what’s happening with Nia and Sasha. It’s new, it’s fun and it’s creative. Nia gets to speak in front of a crowd instead of just squashing random jobbers every week. I personally love what they’ve done with this feud against Sasha. While it doesn’t seem to have done much for Nia in terms of crowd reactions, I think it’s a good feud for her to get into. Her promos are rather interesting to me; rather than just being a generic monster heel, she’s far more taunting and bitchy than you’d expect. It does set her aside a little from the others, so I like it. And how badass did Sasha look using her crutch to attack Nia? This feud has helped Sasha bring back the parts of The Boss that everyone loved – and I have no doubt that she’ll continue to do so. There’s a match between them announced for the Royal Rumble kick-off show. It’s a match we haven’t seen before, and Nia has produced some nice outings with Bayley and Asuka, so I’m confident that she’ll do the same with Sasha too. Meanwhile the stuff with Alicia Fox is hilarious, and I want to see more. I’d rather she wrestled, but this is better than jobbing to everyone else on the roster.
Mickie James addresses the WWE Universe.
Natalya attacks Nikki Bella before Smackdown!
Naomi vs Natalya
I didn’t get to give my thoughts on La Luchadora being Mickie James last week, so I’ll do so here. I think it’s genius. Mickie has been a face for most of her WWE career. It’s understandable; in the post Lita and Trish era, she was one of the few women who could really get a reaction from the fans. She never got much of a chance to be booed – even in TNA her heel run didn’t last that long. But now of course there are plenty of up-and-coming female faces that can own the spotlight. So to have Mickie come back as a heel makes everything feel fresh. Putting her against Becky, who is very over, will help get her that heat she needs to establish herself as that villainous character. Her promo was pretty good, and I loved the points she made. The NXT women got a lot of hype around them for what they did for women’s wrestling – and some even went so far as to completely ignore the ‘Diva Era’ at all. So what Mickie is saying has some great material that’s rooted in reality. She, Melina, Michelle McCool, Beth Phoenix, Layla, Eve Torres, Jillian Hall and Kelly Kelly had to carry the division for years when management was actively trying to sabotage it with silly gimmicks, short match times and restrictions on certain spots. The Diva Era can often be written off by fans who didn’t pay attention to how much these women were fighting for scraps, and didn’t get the opportunities that the NXT women were lucky to have. More superficially, I enjoyed that Mickie didn’t play a cowardly heel. Her line “come down to this ring and I’ll give you something to cry about” was unbelievably badass. This program between her and Becky is off to a great start.
The Naomi/Alexa stuff however was my favourite part of the show. Naomi returns to Smackdown after being absent for so long – since Survivor Series I think. And going back to the topic of acknowledging the real life events, Naomi references how she’s been overlooked for most of her career and is going to take a stand now. Naomi’s mic skills have often been underrated and this was one of my favourite promos from her – “I will snatch that blonde hair bald!” – the crowd seemed to like it too. I’d love for Naomi to finally get a proper feud for the Women’s Championship – as a face, with a good storyline. Naomi and Alexa haven’t worked together much – save for their lacklustre showing at a PPV last year – but both have learned from their mistakes and I’m sure could provide a great match for us all to enjoy. We have a big 6-woman tag to look forward to at the Royal Rumble, so I do anticipate the various mini-matches we could enjoy.
Ember Moon vs Liv Morgan
Winner: Ember Moon
All participants of the Fatal 4 Way gather in the ring.
For a rather rushed build-up, this was pretty good. After months of NXT being stagnant and made up of interchangeable matches, a good dose of excitement is exactly what was needed. These characters may be underdeveloped, but they’re slowly and surely starting to fix that. Billie and Peyton cut a nice mocking promo in front of the crowd. I personally liked that they didn’t go down the obvious route of teasing tension between the teammates, and suggesting they would turn on each other in the match. While that could happen, I like that their attitude seems to be that it’s best that the NXT Women’s Championship ends up in their stable anyway – regardless of whose waist it’s around. Asuka and Nikki let their actions speak for them – and both looked equally badass coming out of this. And it was a refreshing change from the go-to strategy of having a contract signing to set up a title match. NXT definitely injected a lot of sudden excitement into the proceedings, and this could be a really fun match to watch. I especially want to see more of Peyton in action, considering how she’s been impressing in the ring as of late. I don’t see the title changing hands just yet, for one very simple reason.
I see Ember Moon as the one who is groomed to take the top face spot in the NXT Women’s Championship picture. Notice how all three challengers in the Fatal 4 Way are heels? They’re giving Asuka this win so she’ll look especially strong defending against Ember – who in turn will look even better by handing Asuka her first defeat. Ember herself was in action this week and I loved the match. As a face vs face bout, there were lots of fun trades and encounters that you only get when two fan favourites square off. While Ember was the one who was put over, Liv looked great. She impressed in the triple threat with how much action she brought, and she did so again here. Working with a tenured star like Ember helped bring out her strengths, and she delivered her best match yet. People have been quick to write off Liv due to that embarrassing ‘push’ against Asuka, and her gimmick being similar to Carmella’s, but she has been really bringing it in the ring. I’ve loved watching her wrestle, and I think she could definitely become a star in the future. Now if only Aliyah could get the same treatment…
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