WWE Monday Night Raw
Bayley vs. Nia Jax
Starting the week off strong with, you know, actual wrestling matches, Bayley took a break from acting as Cesaro and Sheamus' marriage counselor to take on Nia Jax. During this segment, it was also announced that Bayley's pin on Charlotte had earned her a title opportunity next Monday Night on Raw (hopefully as the main event). It's nice to see consistency with that rule for once. Nia Jax, however, thought it was less than nice and wanted to ruin Bayley's night.
Bayley came out of the gate hot and even dodged one of Nia's early charges. Naturally, Nia comes back with a slam down to the mat and by kicking her around a bit. At this point I noticed how into the match the crowd was, chanting for Bayley and reacting strongly. It's a far cry from the bathroom break mentality that used to plague Divas matches. Bayley turns the tables by driving Nia's throat into the ropes, but after just a few offensive moves Nia regains control and throws her into the turnbuckle like it's nothing. She goes for a weak cover and Bayley kicks out with some new stamina.
She uses that stamina to attack relentlessly with elbows and charges at Nia, who catches her and Clotheslines her down to the outside. However, Bayley is quicker than Na and dodges her charge, causing Nia to run herself into the ring post. Sensing an opportunity, Bayley gets back in the ring, content with a count out victory. However, less content is the Raw Women's Champion Charlotte, who was counting on this match to stop Bayley's momentum. She runs down to the ring and is met with a Dropkick by Bayley, which she sells beautifully.
Off the distraction, Nia scoops up Bayley and hits the Samoan Drop for the three count. It was a fun match that furthered the story, and while I'm adamant that not every match can end with a wonky finish in order to protect both competitors, this one worked well. The encounter makes Charlotte look almost desperate, why else would she get involved here and jeopardize her own health for next week? It's as if she knows that Bayley might have her number.
Winner: Nia Jax
Dead to Me
Seeing as Natalya and Nikki Bella can't be in the same room together without punching each other in the face, WWE decided a satellite interview was the solution. Unlike when an interviewer sits down with each one by one and gives them a platform to say their piece, Tom Phillips didn't get a word in edgewise before the two started bickering. It started as a usual promo and was actually pretty good, notably, Nikki said that the Nattie who trained her and was her friend for all those years is dead to her, and Natalya responded that they were never friends. However, it quickly devolved to back and forth catty low-blows that seemed more fitting to a reunion episode of Total Divas than a build to a match at a pay-per-view. SmackDown often feels much better paced that Raw, but this just never ended. It went on possibly twice as long as it really needed to and was all sorts of awkward.
Two major missed opportunities here. First of all, we've seen the "I thought you were my friend" shtick a thousand times before and we've seen in a thousand times better. Sami and Kevin have set such a high bar with that story, that no one can come close. Wouldn't it have been more compelling if Nikki was also faking her friendship because she was trying to be nice? What if she was actually relieved that she could openly criticize how Natalya has ridden her family's coattails and teach her a lesson? Second, this set up helped no one. If they wanted to keep things civilized, why not set it up like Samoa Joe and Shinsuke Nakamura's interview, with the wall lined with security guards. After all, this is a wrestling show, who told WWE that we didn't want to see it end in a brawl?
Dual Contract Signing
For the first time ever, two contracts would be signed during the same segment. At first I rolled my eyes at it, the contract signing seems to be SmackDown's only idea at the moment. But I was proven wrong as it was a great way to highlight the dynamic between the four women at the top of the SmackDown Live Women's Division. Mickie James showed once again, she's still got it, but kept the crazy eyes on to remind us she could snap at any second. I'm very, very excited for when she decides she's ready to burn it all to the ground. She told Becky that she has more experience than all the women in that ring combined, which isn't necessarily true (she debuted 18 years ago in 1999, Becky debuted 12 years ago, Alexa 2, and Naomi 8, in case you were wondering). But that's semantics, it was a great heel move and gave Becky the chance to insist that no one is trying to erase her legacy and that she actually respected Mickie before she aligned herself with Alexa.
Unfortunately, the faces aren't able to match them in the promo game. Becky really should be focusing on the fact that she's no rookie. I know WWE doesn't like to admit there is life outside their promotion, but we already know that she was trained by Finn Balor at 15. Naomi, meanwhile, is fading into the background a little bit because her promo skills, while a huge improvement, just aren't quite as good. Alexa, in a brilliant heel move began to sign the contract and then looked up at Naomi saying, "Oh my god, Naomi, I'm so sorry. I completely forgot about you." Ouch. She and Mickie are just so much better on the mic than Becky and Naomi, they need to have the advantage in the ring. Naomi is the most athletic woman in the division, while shenanigans might keep her away from the title this week, she should win it against Alexa one-on-one at WrestleMania, even if she's just a transitional champion. She's earned it and certainly waited long enough.
When it all devolved into chaos, via a jaw-dropping high kick to Alexa's face delivered by Naomi, they brawled and left Naomi and Becky standing strong in the ring. Historically, that means they'll lose at the pay-per-view, and Mickie desperately needs a win. Maybe her craftiness can outwit Becky, prolonging the feud to WrestleMania as well.
TNA Impact Wrestling
Brandi Rhodes Isn't Afraid of Decay
Brandi Rhodes decided to come out to the ring and call out TNA Knockouts Champion Rosemary, who has been playing mind games with her. It's probably not the smartest move, as she shows up with the entirety of Decay, but it makes Brandi look tough and fearless, which is valuable considering she's an unknown still. The juxtaposition really works here as well, Brandi comes off clean cut. She married into one of the most renowned wrestling families and is still associated with the pretty, smiling announcer that she was in WWE. Anytime I look at her, I have the image of her standing next to the Rhodes brothers in NXT, presenting the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy in a Dusty Rhodes yellow dress. She feels bright to me, even if that's her past not her future. Rosemary, meanwhile, is a psychopath. I wasn't totally feeling that "red vs. blue" aspect of her feud with Jade, but this feels very light vs. dark and it helps this along.
Cackling, Rosemary tells Brandi she has potential and she may have even "enjoyed the taste of our sickness" and that Decay comes for everyone, by choice or by force. Brandi still needs to work on her reactions because they feel a little forced.
Decay gets in the ring with them and Brandi is more than happy to fight Rosemary, but the guys make it clear that this isn't a fair fight. Their distraction lets Rosemary kick her in the stomach and get her into a Guillotine Choke. Moose runs out to help her, taking down Decay in the process. They retreat and he helps Brandi as she gets to her feet.
Liv Morgan vs. Billie Kay
It's Groundhog Day in NXT, as Liv Morgan takes on Billie Kay again. Now don't get me wrong, this is just the nature of NXT, rosters are smaller so there's more repetition. But my issue here is the level of short-term memory loss, specifically with Billie and Peyton. Liv at least is learning. I really was impressed by the Australian Duo at the last TakeOver and while I'm here for them being intentionally insufferable heels, I also think they should've been changed by the championship opportunity. Spoiler: They weren't.
So we begin with some fundamentals, lock-ups and tosses. Liv gets Billie into that rolling move she's come to like, but Billie is able to regain ground and shove her into the middle rope. She hits a big boot to the side of Liv's face and beats her down in the corner. A big Clothesline grounds Liv, but she kicks out. She grabs Liv by her hair and slams her down to another kick out. Billie continues to control the pace of the match, not letting Liv get her face-paced style and I appreciate even the very basic storytelling. When Liv gains some momentum back, Peyton tries to help by grabbing Billie's arm, but Liv pulls her off and shoves Billie into her, knocking Peyton to the outside. From there she's able to get a bridged cover for the victory.
Later, Billie and Peyton storm into William Regal's office to cry foul. They complain that Liv cheated and they want a rematch against her next week. Regal agrees, with the condition that they will be facing Liv and a partner of her choice. They laugh that she doesn't have any friends, which previous experience would argue is decidedly untrue, and hop with excitement out of the office. I'm okay with them being ridiculous over the top annoying, I just wish they would be presented as smarter and actually able to learn. Of course, Liv has friends, this could be Ember Moon, Aliyah, Mandy Rose (to give her some reps), Daria Berenato, or even Asuka if she's thirsty for blood that night. This has always ended poorly for them, and it will end poorly for them again. However, on the whole, Liv is improving and has a great personality, and both Billie and Peyton have a lot going for them. This match was good for what it is, a mid-card level feud.
Winner : Liv Morgan
Rating : 2.5/5
This section includes recaps of matches from around the world in various lesser-known independent promotions throughout the week.
PROGRESS Natural Progression series held its first round matches this week. Results are the following:
Jinny defeated Pollyanna
Katey Harvey vs Nixon Newell defeated Katey Harvey
Toni Storm defeated Bea Priestley
Livvii Grace vs Alex Windsor defeated Livvii Grace
Laura Di Matteo defeated Chakara
MATCH OF THE WEEK:
Bayley vs Nia Jax
Bayley vs Nia Jax
In a week that was once again pretty light on the actual wrestling, the only real contender here is Bayley and Nia Jax. They've found a way to make this feel somewhat fresh even though we've seen it plenty before, and the storytelling was solid from both competitors. Especially if we're headed for a Fatal 4-Way at WrestleMania, this match and matches similar to it are good set-ups. Luckily, next week will have three women's matches from the Elimination Chamber pay-per-view, so there's bound to be a lot of competition.
WOMAN OF THE WEEK:
Mickie James was always so ahead of her time, and it is so satisfying to see her finally be in that position she should've always been in. She's queen heel on SmackDown, rivaling the less-experienced Alexa Bliss, who has held her own for months. Every time Mickie speaks, I stop and pay attention, and every time she gets into the ring we know we're getting a show. It'll take a lot for her to be knocked off of the top of the mountain in my book.
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!