Smackdown offered a stacked card for their final brand-exclusive PPV before the granddaddy of them all. The women were not left out either – and as per the course for Smackdown, have they ever been? Alexa Bliss defends the Smackdown Women’s Championship against everyone’s favourite rave dancer Naomi – who has vowed that the champ will feel the glow. After weeks of being harassed by Mickie James since her return to WWE, the Irish Lass Kicker Becky Lynch finally gets her hands on the veteran. And after more weeks of sneak attacks and personal taunts, Nikki Bella finally meets Natalya in the ring one on one.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James
Winner: Becky Lynch
Nikki Bella vs Natalya
Alexa Bliss* vs Naomi [Smackdown Women's Championship]
Winner and NEW Smackdown Women’s Champion: Naomi
Enjoyable evening full of enjoyable matches with regards to our girls. But some questionable booking I have to say.
Mickie vs Becky was a really fun encounter. It had a good pace to it, which was unorthodox for a grudge match. As opposed to a really aggressive, fiery brawl – this had a slower and more methodical pace. Presumably since there was also the Nikki/Natalya match later on – and their feud has been going on for longer – they wanted to distinguish themselves from it. But it worked! It reminded me very much of Mickie’s great match against Melina at the 2007 Backlash PPV. A slow, tactical pace – where you could really see the women take it to each other hold for hold. The intensity of their feud wasn’t left out either – and both women did a good job of conveying that animosity. This is also the first time in ages that the WWE crowd has really got to see Mickie being the heel in the ring. The last high profile match she had as a heel was her famous bout against Trish Stratus at WrestleMania 22 – and that was eleven years ago! Even in TNA, her heel run didn’t last that long before she left the company. So this was the match that established Mickie now as the villain. The bitter veteran who wants to show these new faces what wrestling is all about. And WWE did a very good job of promoting that. The ending though…did Becky really have to get the win? I know that Ms Lynch has almost gone memetic for her poor luck with allies over the past year, but I almost feel as if Mickie needed this win more. Mickie doesn’t have a lot of momentum in the feud – since Becky has the wins over her in tag team matches. The pace of this match suggested it was going to be a building block to a second, more intense one. But if Becky wins, what reason does Mickie have to continue the feud? The only possibility I see is that since Becky got it with a sneak pin, Mickie will zero in on that. It’s not a definite ending to the feud, since Becky didn’t make her tap out. We shall of course see more in the coming weeks.
The Nikki/Natalya match was a long time coming and it had the longest running feud behind it – since December in fact – and no previous matches to show for it. Despite essentially being a repeat of what Nikki and Carmella did, the feud has been fun enough and has helped Natalya break out of her status as ‘the boring one’ on the Smackdown roster. Truth be told, the match didn’t open in the most solid of ways. The pace was slow and, unlike Mickie and Becky, this wasn’t a good type of slow. But things picked up steam as they went on, and the crowd seemed mildly interested. Despite clearly being already exhausted from some of the other matches, they did boo Natalya and pop for Nikki. As far as ring action goes, this one was good. The main flaw came from the heel. I don’t mean to rag on Natalya as much as I have in the last few months, but character is a massive issue with her at the moment. She previously suffered from being the generic heel against more exaggerated characters like Carmella and Alexa. Now she looks like she’s overcompensating – spending too much time taunting and trying to get the crowd to pop. It reminds me of a lot of the times Charlotte would do the same in her early matches – almost like a step by step routine she’s following. I would rather see Nattie wrestling than taunting, because that is where she excels. The wrestling in the match was pretty flawless, and some of the best stuff Nikki has ever done. It was mainly the pacing that prevented it from being a great bout. That’s why I’m okay with the count-out finish – since it allows for hopefully more matches between these two. Although I have my suspicions that Nikki and her beau could team up to face Natalya and hers at WrestleMania.
Alexa vs Naomi of course was the darkhorse of the matches that evening. Nikki and Natalya was the long-running feud, while Mickie and Becky was a highly anticipated bout between two ring veterans. This feud is only a month or so old, and the participants had a match back in October that didn’t go down too well. This match thankfully did. Not a show-stopping bout, but then again Smackdown women’s matches usually aren’t. Smackdown’s main strength is the freshness of the division and all the characters on display. This was a match we hadn’t seen umpteen times already, and between two fully developed characters who are fun to watch. In terms of quality, it’s right in the middle. Better than Nikki/Nattie and just below Mickie/Becky. It was a very conventional match that progressed normally – and it picked up in a big way towards the end. Neither women went all out with the big spots; they just wrestled and relied on the strengths of their characters. The ending was a big surprise to me. I’m torn between my feelings with regards to the booking of it – namely we’re now on our third Smackdown Women’s Champion and the belt was only established back in September. What’s more is that Alexa only won the title in December, and I was looking forward to her at least getting a long reign. She’s thankfully still young enough that she can go on to have many more titles and feuds, but it still raises questions. On the other hand, Naomi winning the title has been a long time coming. Even if it’s taken away from her tomorrow, she still will have the record books saying she was a Smackdown Women’s Champion. And it also makes her the first African-American to hold the title. And weather-permitting, she’ll be going into her hometown of Orlando as champion. I would ask that this be the end of the fast title changes. Raw at least had the benefit of it being a long feud between Charlotte and Sasha – so trading the title back and forth did make some kind of sense. Let Naomi be the one who has a decent length reign. She most certainly deserves it.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James:
*TechnicalAbility:Damn near flawless. 18/20
*Chemistry:I liked what I saw, and I see shades of some really great technical matches in the future. 17/20
*Creativity:Fairly standard heel works a body part psychology, but done well. 13/20
*Personality:They conveyed the intensity somewhat. There was definitely more heat than in Mickie’s big NXT match with Asuka. 14/20
*Overall Entertainment:I really liked the match and can’t wait to see more between them. Hopefully there will be more. 17/20
Natalya vs Nikki Bella:
*Technical Ability:Both women pulled out some good stuff and moves, Nikki in particular. 16/20
*Chemistry:There were some parts of the match where theirs was off the charts – namely the submissions towards the end. Other than that, it was standard. 17/20
*Creativity:Same as above, some parts were great and creative. The rest, not quite there. 14/20
*Personality:Natalya did a lot and it felt like she was trying too hard. She spent far too long trying to taunt and get heat. 10/20
*Overall Entertainment:A good match with some good moments, but unfortunately not a great one. 14/20
Alexa Bliss* vs Naomi [Smackdown Women's Championship]
*Technical Ability:Sadly there were a few notable miscues and botches, but not enough to bring the match’s quality down. 14/20
*Chemistry:Far more than when they last faced each other. 16/20
*Creativity:Not a lot, but the match was fine as a paint-by-numbers wrassling affair. 13/20
*Personality:Some great subtle acting from Alexa throughout. She looked very confident out there, as did Naomi. 15/20
*Overall Entertainment:Not the best match but still really fun, and I liked it. 17/20
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