Raw’s last brand-exclusive PPV before WrestleMania approaches – and at Sunday’s Fast Lane Bayley will make her first defence as Raw Women’s Champion. Charlotte isn’thappy and won’t remain silent about the business between Bayley and Sasha Banks. And another lady who has a stake in is Nia Jax. Smackdown sees the rubber match between Mickie James and Becky Lynch - and this time they’ll clash in 2/3 Falls. Maryse has some choice words for John Cena after she interfered in Nikki Bella‘s match last week, and it seems that Natalya has some choice words for the Smackdown Women’s Champion Alexa Bliss. And on NXT we will see championship gold on the line - Asuka defends the NXT Women’s Championship against Peyton Royce!
Bayley & Sasha Banks vs Charlotte & Nia Jax
Winners: Charlotte & Nia Jax
It is announced that Beth Phoenix will be the newest female inductee into the Hall of Fame. She joins The Fabulous Moolah, Mae Young, Sherri Martel, Wendi Richter, Sunny, Trish Stratus, Lita, Madusa, Jacqueline and Mildred Burke. If you’d like to read our piece highlighting Beth’s WWE career, click here.
For some reason despite the repetitive nature of this segment – how many times have we seen Bayley, Sasha, Charlotte and occasionally Nia have a war of words? – I actually enjoyed it. Maybe because the mic work was very good for the most part. Maybe because I’m happy that Bayley is Women’s Champion. Or maybe because these familiar segments are in the service of a storyline that is different than both Bayley and Sasha’s pursuits of the title. But I was invested in hearing these women talk and seeing this story unfold. We’re seeing great subtle story telling being used here. We have seen Sasha repeatedly come to Bayley’s defence in the last few weeks – starting with the crutch assist in the title match. And she definitely came down to help Bayley defend herself against Charlotte here. They’re really selling that Sasha is overprotective of Bayley, which will no doubt lead to the Hugster trying to break away from Sasha and establish her independence. Sasha in turn will likewise grow to resent Bayley’s refusal to let her help. I don’t know if this will explode in time for WrestleMania or afterwards instead – but I like the way it’s heading. The tag match was fine. It didn’t contain anything too special or amazing, but it wasn’t boring. The parts of Sasha and Nia working together were probably the most interesting since theirs is the least seen combination out there. I expected the two of them to get a rubber match at Fast Lane – preferably on the main show this time. My early prediction could have Sasha cheating to get the victory, foreshadowing that she will eventually turn heel. Or perhaps Bayley will interfere on her behalf, and Sasha will get annoyed – claiming that she does not need extra help because she’s better than Bayley. There is of course the danger that Charlotte wins the belt back once again, and if that happens then it would be best to do it without Sasha at ringside – further establishing tension between the friends. Fast Lane is naturally going to be more about using its matches to continue bigger feuds and storylines, to set them up for Mania.
Becky Lynch vs Mickie James [2/3 Falls]
Winner: Becky Lynch
Nikki Bella interferes to stop Maryse.
Carmella and James Ellsworth confront John Cena and Nikki Bella.
Smackdown delivered the goods this week. After a truly fantastic Anywhere Falls match between Nikki and Natalya, the show would have a hard time topping that. But they managed to keep that momentum going in a big way. Did anyone else feel goosebumps when Nikki ran out to make the save? I remember feeling the same way back in late 2013 – when Brie appeared in a backstage segment with Daniel Bryan. At that point it was big news that they had finally acknowledged the relationship on screen. And now this is the first time that John Cena and Nikki Bella have appeared together in kayfabe. Nikki and John’s relationship has been acknowledged since her feud with Carmella – but we have never seen them on screen together. And the seeds have been sown for WrestleMania. It looks like Natalya is out and Maryse is in. I would much prefer a better opponent for Nikki to get into the ring with, but I suppose we have to reserve judgement until we actually see Maryse in action. Years ago when she first started wrestling, 2008 was her year. She had a brilliant character and ring presence, and she was showing lots of promise in the ring. Then her injury happened and she’d phone in every match since then. Even with a second Divas’ Championship, she was clearly a shell of her former self. So I sincerely hope that if Maryse is getting into the ring at WrestleMania, she’s actually going to make some effort. Nikki has worked her ass off to get where she is in the ring, so if this is to be her big retirement then Maryse should step it up too.
It looks like our women of the blue brand will be getting a second match at the big one. Mickie and Becky’s match was lots of fun, and there was also a finality to it. Effectively closing the door on the feud that was done between them. But that’s not to say they will be completely done. The fact that Alexa got involved suggests that we may have our WrestleMania championship match. I had imagined a Fatal 4 Way of some sort, and that looks like what we’re getting. Becky vs Alexa vs Mickie vs Natalya perhaps? I imagine that Naomi will be sent out there in some capacity – since WrestleMania is in her hometown of Orlando. Possibly as a guest ring announcer or timekeeper for the match. WrestleMania is looking quite big for the Smackdown ladies anyway.
Asuka* vs Peyton Royce [NXT Women's Championship]:
Peyton Royce got her NXT Women’s title match after winning the #1 contender’s bout. Unlike her rather dull performance in that, this was of a higher quality. Usually when Asuka steps into the ring with the other women, it really highlights their abilities. For the green girls like Cameron or Eva Marie, their flaws tend to be very obvious. They’re usually unable to keep up with Asuka, or match her style. But when it’s someone more experienced, you see just how good they are. And that’s what happened with Peyton. Her kicks, strikes and submissions all looked fantastic – and she herself came across as a tenured Joshi talent just like Asuka. I was impressed with just how well she matches Asuka’s technique in there. I’ve known for a while that Peyton is more of the wrestler in her team – whereas Billie is more the character and the performer. But this showing confirms it. The match as it was put together was fine; not amazing and not terrible. It was pleasant to watch and showed each woman’s abilities nicely. It didn’t have much excitement or eye-popping stuff, and it only really interested me with the reversals toward the end. But it gave Asuka a good strong title defence, and allowed her to do what she does best. It also shone the spotlight on Peyton in a nice way too. The real story unfolded as the match ended – and Ember Moon made the save. While she may not have had as much mic time as I’d like in the last few months, this segment did give her a character boost. They’re slowly establishing her as a bit of a wild card like Asuka herself – not necessarily a heel but not a squeaky-clean babyface either. And I like it. Asuka isn’t particularly strong on the mic, but her acting at the end was top notch. She exudes intensity whatever she does – so I think it’s more than possible to build a satisfying feud out of more segments like this. More please, NXT!
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