This week, Nikki Bella defends her Divas Championship against AJ Lee at TLC, Naomi continues to ride a wave of momentum, and Bayley looks to battle through the pain to get a measure of revenge over former friend Becky Lynch.
This set a very high bar for Nikki Bella and AJ Lee's Divas Championship match on Sunday Night, and unsurprisingly, they didn't measure up. Even though it was not a shock their match was worse, it was still disappointing in how much worse it was. Nikki Bella had shown a great deal of improvement in the ring over the last year and is very talented as a heel in her showmanship. AJ Lee is regarded as the most technically capable and exciting Diva on the roster.
Yet, what they produced simply wasn't in the same league as the NXT women produced. It wasn't terrible from a technical standpoint, Nikki controlling the flow of the match as the heel and doing an alright job. AJ however was the biggest disappointment, as she seemed to be performing at half capacity. Maybe the rumors were true that the main roster had become disillusioned by the greater creative direction in the developmental territory. Thus, this bout seemed to contain all the typical components of the bathroom-break match the Divas division has often been saddled with.
In the end, whilst all the components of a solid RAW match were there, the crowd simply weren't into the feud or what was taking place. So despite some good spots, including Nikki stretching AJ across the ring post like a pretzel, the silence of the audience consigns this match to another forgettable footnote of history. And that wasn't helped by another uninspired finish, as a brief distraction by Brie Bella at ringside (why is she heel by the way?) allowed Nikki to spray something in AJ's eyes before hitting the Rack Attack to retain her title.
With AJ Lee nowhere to be seen for the remainder of the week, the other Divas took turns on battling the nefarious Bella Twins. This began on RAW, as Nikki and Brie were in tag team action opposite Natalya and Alicia Fox, with the Canadian's husband Tyson Kidd at ringside. All four participants are part of the latest season of Total Divas, that 'reality show' that has consumed the booking decisions for the women's wrestlers for the past year-and-a-half.
As to be expected, this was neither a wrestling classic, nor went on for very long. In the end, it mainly consisted of a Bella assault on Alicia Fox for the majority, leading into a hot tag to Natalya. The crowd were actually more into this match than the title match at TLC, likely due to it being earlier on in the night, and gave a small pop when Natalya made her way into the ring. Her typically crisp offense eventually led to her throwing Brie shoulder first into Nikki on the apron, knocking the champion to the floor.
Nattie then blocked an attempted Bella Buster into the Sharpshooter, forcing Brie to hurriedly tap out. She and Fox celebrated their victory, but conspicuous by his absence was Kidd by her side. That's because Kidd was beside Nikki Bella, getting an eyeful of her 'condition' and making very good sure that she was okay. Eventually Natalya realized these activities, and berated her husband, who in turn paid little mind to her concerns.
Main Event proves to have a strong female presence throughout the show. In the opening segment of Miz TV, Naomi was the special guest. The former Funkydactyl has in recent weeks attracted the attention of the Miz, as the self-professed A-Lister looks to help her 'career'. The fact that she is married to his tag team championship rival Jimmy Uso seems to be behind his agenda, or a purely romantic pursuit.
At the conclusion, Miz claimed to have gotten Naomi a Divas Championship on the SmackDown live special. This appeared to warm Naomi up to him no end, as she had previously explained that winning the title was her goal above all else. This didn't stop Jimmy Uso and his brother Jey coming out to chase the Miz and Damien Mizdow away, confronting Naomi also. Miz left a parting shot by suggesting Jimmy didn't care about Naomi's career like he does. Nice to see Naomi more involved on television, as she has proven one of the most athletic women on the roster.
Following this was a match between Paige and Emma, two ladies that have always had a love-hate relationship. They were both extremely over down in NXT and contested a number of compelling matches, but since then things have only gone to plan for the British Total Diva. Still, this was one of the week's better women's matches, as Emma started out having some fun at Paige's expense including a slap on the rear, but from then became an Aussie punching bag.
Paige unleashed her aggressive offense on Emma, with vicious knees to the ribs and elbows. She even returned the favor for the spanking her opponent gave her earlier on. Her vicious screaming and taunting of the audience helped add some dimension and got the fans involved. Eventually Emma was able to get some attacks in, despite the commentary team forgetting what these moves were. After Paige escaped the Emma Lock, a swift kick to the face led to the PTO submission, forcing Emma to tap. Good match between a pair of competent professionals.
Immediately after Main Event came the live SmackDown special, which featured a Divas Championship match as one of the key attractions. True to his word, the Miz had wrangled Naomi a title shot, and she would look to secure her first reign at the expense of Nikki Bella. Naomi has often demonstrated her athletic prowess and her willingness to fly around the ring, so this match proved to be more compelling than the TLC championship match.
Nikki Bella was in control for the first half of the bout, employing her natural strength and methodical style to keep Naomi grounded. The tide turned when both divas were planted face first on the mat, and the Miz found his way to ringside to cheer Naomi on. Naomi flipped back into action with clotheslines and heel kicks, before reversing a crossbody attempt into a near-fall. Nikki then looked for some respite by throwing her opponent to ringside, where the Miz encouraged her to recover.
This brought out Jimmy Uso, who beat the Miz up the ramp for putting his nose in his wife's match. This unwelcome distraction for Naomi allowed her to get caught with a roll-up by Nikki so she retained the title. This left the beaten challenger staring up the ramp despairing at her husband, who was upset to have cost his wife her shot at the title. A solid match with decent chemistry, and whilst wouldn't set the world on fire was perfectly serviceable.
The yearly opportunity to give homage to the brave men and women overseas in the armed forces proved to be a night of fun and the good guys sending the crowd home happy. As for the ladies, they were placed in a traditional Santa's Little Helper battle royal. The 10-Diva affair was not for any prizes, but the chance to see some good-looking ladies in festive outfits would have been a welcome sight for plenty in the audience.
The opening moments were an all-out brawl, with Emma soon becoming the first eliminated after having her Santa hat stolen by Rosa Mendes. The Latina then proceeded to display her dancing skills in the ring, leading to a dance-off with another of Fandango's former partners, Summer Rae. Their desire to demonstrate who had the fanciest footwork was their downfall, as both were eliminated by the other competitors. Cameron was then outsmarted by Naomi, and Alicia Fox became victim of teamwork by the Bella Twins.
Predictably, the best moment of the match came from Paige, who looked to cunningly escape the Bellas. Hanging onto the outside of the ring post, she offered her hand to Nikki, which was rebuked, before turning her attention to Brie. Due to her recent actions with AJ Lee, Paige lifted some mistletoe for a kiss with Brie, but was left pushed out of the match. Natalya then dodged a baseball slide by Brie to have her eliminated, and then she and Nikki were tossed out by Naomi, who continued her fine vein of form with a dancing celebration for the troops.
Lucha Underground has quickly become one of the most fun parts of my week, as it is just some harmless, high-flying action with some of the finest Luchadores in the business. This week's edition featured two 10-person matches, with the winners competing later that evening in a special bout. The second of these contests was a battle royal, featuring Sexy Star against a number of male counterparts, including her nemesis Chavo Guerrero.
It was unsurprisingly a fun battle, with plenty of headscissors, flips and hurricanranas. Sexy Star held her own with the other men and made it to the final seven Lucha stars. In the end, she was caught in a crossbody by Guerrero, and lifted over the top onto the floor. A good attempt, and it is great to see her be treated as a real threat to the other men on the roster.
Finally, the best part of the week for wrestling fans of all sorts, NXT. After last week's fantastic NXT Takeover: R Evolution, if you were not convinced that the future is now in WWE, then now you should be. Especially exciting is the potential of the Divas division, with Charlotte and Sasha Banks' match arguably equaling any other on that card, which was no easy feat in itself. They are a beacon that women's wrestling can excite the crowd as much as the men's if the performers are talented and treated with care.
Another two exciting competitors were in action this week, as Bayley looked to get revenge on Becky Lynch. The Irishwoman turned her back on Bayley and the NXT audience by siding with the despicable Banks, and then would assault the bubbly diva at every opportunity. This left Bayley with a damaged left knee, but with a heart as big as her state of California she would not back down in the face of bullies. Before getting to the match, I have to say that I really like Lynch's new entrance theme, and have grown to enjoy all the NXT Women's music, especially Banks and Bayley.
This match was not the standout performance of last week, but still very good nonetheless. Bayley was fierce, unlike her normal cheery self, as she looked to punish Lynch for her treachery. The crowd was firmly behind her, and her popularity continues to soar. This has certainly affected me, as every time I see her I automatically smile. Lynch was on the back foot for the vast majority as she looked to withstand Bayley's constant fury.
However, eventually the injury to her leg begins to naturally slow her down, especially when Lynch makes grabs at it. At the climax, Bayley attempts to roll-up Lynch, but gets caught herself as the wounded leg is exposed. Lynch hooks it up and flips her opponent on her front, crushing the leg with her own and forcing Bayley to tap out. Lynch refuses to break the hold for a while before the referee finally convinces her, but continues to berate her fallen rival until the end of the segment. It is good to see the Irishwoman finally present some identity with her own finishing maneuver and pick up a clean victory, cementing herself as a member of this roster of extraordinarily talented women.
So there you have it, the breakdown for the week in women's wrestling. What were some of your favorite and least favorite moments from these women? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!