The Royal Rumble and NXT Takeover events saw championships being retained – as Charlotte and Asuka went home with their respective Raw and NXT Women’s Championships. Charlotte will step into the ring with her former #1 contender Bayley on Raw as they team with Gallows & Anderson and Sheamus & Cesaro respectively in a six-person tag match. There’s also a Royal Rumble rematch as Sasha Banks once again takes on Nia Jax. Over on Smackdown, the 6-woman tag from the Rumble is knocked down to four – where Becky Lynch and Naomi team to face Alexa Bliss and Mickie James. NXT sees a friendly bout between rising star Ember Moon and the up-and-comer Aliyah.
Charlotte, Luke Gallows & Karl Anderson vs Bayley, Sheamus & Cesaro
Winners: Bayley, Sheamus & Cesaro
Sasha Banks vs Nia Jax
Winner: Nia Jax
Well Raw looked pretty dull on paper – two Rumble rematches stinks of lazy booking. But in execution it was a little better. Charlotte and Bayley’s involvement in the 6-person was minimal – so WWE are at least learning from their mistakes of giving that match away on free TV. Their intergender spots were fun to say the least, and so was Bayley’s little bit in the backstage segment. Fun little skits like that are partially why fans came to love Bayley in the first place. Too bad about Charlotte’s atrocious mic skills however. Nia vs Sasha again showed shades of a potentially longer and more hard-fought match – as this was more like an extended beatdown segment. There was that goof from the timekeeper, but what they were going for seemed like a good idea. They clearly meant to have Sasha pass out and the referee rule that she couldn’t continue. But the real story unfolded as Bayley came down to the ring. They moved forward with the planned program between Bayley and Sasha, clearly establishing the lines. A Sasha heel turn may be on the cards, and in fact I’d like for them to use this feud with Nia as a catalyst for it. Say Sasha faces Nia at the next PPV and wins by cheating in some way. We could have Bayley voice her disapproval for stooping that low, and tensions to be ratcheted up when there’s a #1 contenders’ match between them. It’s too bad that they couldn’t have a singles feud over the belt but it looks like Charlotte won’t be out of the title picture until WrestleMania at least. So after the bad booking at the Rumble, Raw did manage to redeem itself somewhat.
Carmella vs Delilah Dawson
Alexa Bliss & Mickie James vs Becky Lynch & Naomi
Winners: Naomi & Becky Lynch
It’s becoming old hat for me to praise Smackdown at this point but I do love what they give us every week. As a fan of Naomi since her NXT Season 3 days, I’m overjoyed to see her getting some kind of push. She’s had them before but they’ve had other circumstances ruining them – getting her eye injured by Aksana, or being turned heel and forced to adjust so soon. Here however it looks like everything has come together; she’s polished in the ring, she’s got a good gimmick and the fans are starting to take note. I would love for her to be the next Smackdown Women’s Champion. Word on the grapevine is that Nikki was originally going to win it, but may end up retiring due to her neck problems. Regardless of how true the rumours are, Naomi is definitely over enough to warrant a shot at the gold. Especially if Becky Lynch is tied up feuding with Mickie James. We saw them interact more in the ring this week, but again it was wisely kept to a minimum. I really enjoyed the teaser we got, and I look forward to seeing how their feud progresses. This match functioned as a way to swap Becky out of the #1 contender’s spot and into her feud with Mickie, while Naomi fills her void feuding with Alexa – so next week will presumably see them going their separate ways and into their separate feuds. Alexa’s feud with Becky was a lot of fun, so I hope they show the same creativity with Naomi too. There’s a lot of material to draw on, as there is with regards to Mickie and Becky. Natalya and Nikki’s feud was also furthered in a good way, and the match between them is official. I got such a kick out of the idea of Nattie walking around with private security. They could have a lot of fun with this in the weeks leading to the Elimination Chamber.
Ember Moon vs Aliyah
Winner: Ember Moon
Ember Moon gives her thoughts on Asuka.
Ah, two of my favourite NXT women in the ring together. The spoiler reports described the match as ‘sloppy’, but I enjoyed it. The only sloppy part I found to be the headscissors by Aliyah towards the end – and even Ember worked with that pretty well. Both Ember and Aliyah need to get some investment from the creative team in terms of their character, but the wrestling is spot on judging from this encounter. Aliyah showed lots more flair than she’s shown in a while. Even in little things like the bridge up from the jack-knife cover and the way she tried to block Ember’s submission – so she too is growing in the ring. Much like with the triple threat from Australia, the match didn’t accomplish much in terms of story, but it did provide a showcase for two women to just wrestle. And sometimes that’s all you need. We did get an interview with Ember Moon afterwards, and her promo was a good one. It looks like they’re pulling the trigger on a potential program between her and Asuka, and hopefully we’ll really see Ember’s character develop along the way.
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