WrestleMania is nearly upon us! At Fast Lane Bayley retained her Raw Women’s Championship by defeating Charlotte Flair - with a little help from Sasha Banks at ringside. Now we see who will face the champion at WrestleMania. It’s a similar story on Smackdown – as Alexa Bliss has announced a special ‘Blissertation’ to decide who will be her opponent at the grandest stage of them all. Nikki Bella will also step into the ring to meet Carmella in a mixed tag match with their respective beaus – and you can bet The Miz and Maryse will be watching closely. And on NXT one half of the Iconic Duo Billie Kay takes on the rising star Ember Moon to prove she’s superior.
Mick Foley and Bayley address the WWE Universe.
Winner: Sasha Banks
So it looks like we’ve got our WrestleMania match. I had suspected it would go down the triple threat route, and I’m in two minds about it. The mind that is against it says that it feels like WWE is going back to their old standby of quantity over quality – especially where the women are concerned. At WrestleManias 23 and 24 it was a Lumberjill Match, at 25 a battle royal, at 26 a Ten-Diva tag and even a fourteen girl free for all at 30. The Smackdown women are also having a Fatal 4 Way – with possibly more women being added. So it feels a little too much like trying to get as many women on the card as possible. In my second mind however, it does feel justified. After all, as much as I want Charlotte to bow out of the spotlight, she has been the workhorse of the division for the last year or so. She really should get to compete at WrestleMania – as long as she doesn’t suddenly win the title back again. This triple threat feels properly earned as a legitimate conclusion to one storyline – and it’s not as if they’ve included riff-raff like Dana Brooke and Nia Jax who haven’t really been in the division. We had a triple threat at last year’s WrestleMania and I thought, while technically sound, the match was slightly lacking. The main drawback was the lack of story behind it, and I feel that this year’s has the potential to improve on that. Bayley and Sasha have had an established friendship on-screen for well over two years now. The fact that they’ll be facing each other for the title at WrestleMania – and Bayley is the one with the title – is already a nice amount of extra spice. Charlotte is mainly there as the stalling presence – there to tease us and prevent us from getting a full on bout between the two friends. And that is what could really top last year’s match. This is almost identical to WrestleManias X8 and XIX – which had triple threats for the Women’s title featuring Trish Stratus and Jazz. The first had Lita as the third girl, and was good as a series of fun moves but not much else to it. The second had Victoria in Lita’s place, and was one of the best women’s matches of the Ruthless Aggression Era – primarily for the great story of Trish trying to fight off two very strong heels. Perhaps this triple threat could go the same way we could get a great bit of storytelling in addition to fun ring work. Sasha and Bayley told a great little story in their match here on Raw, which I enjoyed. The segment did feel a little overbooked though and a little too TNA-esque. Hopefully they fix that in the build-up to WrestleMania.
Oh and Emma’s back to getting vignettes. It remains to be seen if this goes any better than the previous set.
Alexa Bliss has her ‘Blissertation’, leading to…
Alexa Bliss & Mickie James vs Becky Lynch & Natalya
Winners: Alexa Bliss & Mickie James
Carmella & James Ellsworth vs Nikki Bella & John Cena
Winners: Nikki Bella & John Cena
Smackdown also sets the stage for WrestleMania. In contrast to Raw, which had a fairly obvious sign of what direction the women would be heading in for the biggie, Smackdown didn’t have a defined goal. The title has been traded back and forth among the ladies fairly quickly, with Becky Lynch getting swapped out for Alexa Bliss – who was then swapped out for Naomi and then back in. Naomi’s injury also threw a wrench into their plans. But I had suspected a Fatal 4 Way match, given how Naomi/Alexa and Mickie/Becky were blended together in the past few weeks. Natalya’s random insertion is clearly as a replacement for Naomi, which I’m fine with. It’s good to see that Nattie is getting to WrestleMania after all, since she does have a lot of momentum from beating Nikki in the Anywhere Falls match. I did worry that after her little altercation last week with Alexa, she’d be turned face and have that momentum killed. But that order was restored with the tag team match here. I also hope that they don’t go and turn Mickie face either when she’s only just appearing as a heel in this new division. We can have heels going against other heels without one of them turning face. True that leaves Becky as the only actual face in the match, but that’s a relatively small concern. It’s quite rare in my memory to have the Fatal 4 Way announced and then develop the reasons for being in it – so I look forward to seeing the spotlight each woman gets along the way. It may not have the pre-existing history and established relationships that Raw’s match has, but I have full faith in the Smackdown booking team to hype us up for it. On a more superficial note, Becky made me fall in love with her even more in the promo – “Alexa, your face? Shut it!”
Chapter number three in the Maryse/Nikki story continued this week too. In contrast to the real mark out moment of Nikki coming to John’s rescue last week, this segment fell a little flat. The Miz is great on the microphone and Maryse is very charismatic – but I was looking for something more original than a simple promo. Maybe it’s just because Nikki has already gone through two feuds that have been based around other women attacking her for her relationship issues – but I’d like for this to take a different direction in the build-up. The feud got off to a great start with Maryse interfering in the Anywhere Falls match, so I hope they don’t let that momentum go to waste. There were glimmers of hope in the mixed tag match though – and I did mark out at seeing a double Five Knuckle Shuffle and STF (and noting that Carmella took longer to tap than Ellsworth). I’d love next week to have a segment where John gets restrained somehow while Nikki is double teamed by Maryse and The Miz. What we need in this feud is for Maryse to establish her physical side. Although on paper she’s a two-time Divas’ Champion, she has been a valet in most of the casual fans’ eyes. If she’s going to step into the ring, she should establish herself as a wrestler. Last year, Lana did so by attacking Brie and laying her out with her finisher, so Maryse should do something in the same vein.
Billie Kay vs Ember Moon
Winner: Ember Moon
Ember Moon is announced as the #1 contender for Asuka’s title.
NXT scared me a little with what everyone at the tapings assumed was a legitimate injury; Billie and Peyton both looked like they were breaking kayfabe, and Billie especially looked like she was hurt. But on the actual show, I’m leaning towards the angle being entirely worked. If you look at how Billie took the Eclipse, nothing looked botched or awkward at all. She sold it perfectly and there was no sign of anything being hurt until the match was over. If it was real, you’d expect to at least see something that looked a bit off. The fact that this happened on the first set of tapings just makes me think they intended to start a storyline leading into the title match. It’ll be interesting to see how they play this, especially with Asuka vs Ember finally being announced. Will they wait until Ember is champion before having Billie and Peyton try to handicap her? Speaking of Asuka, I get the feeling like everyone else that Ember will be the opponent who can dethrone her. So I hope that the bookers do their hardest to try and convince us otherwise for the sake of a good feud.
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