WWE Monday Night Raw
Bayley & Sasha Banks vs. Charlotte Flair & Nia Jax
The women opened the go-home show before WrestleMania. Bayley came out to gush about her excitement for WrestleMania before being interrupted by Charlotte, who told her she was being manipulated by her best friend Sasha Banks. The Boss in question came out, followed soon after by a very condescending Nia Jax. Lo and behold, a tag match was set.
Familiar rivals Banks and Flair locked up to start, and Banks was promptly sent flying out of the ring and into the barricade. Banks regained control of the match until Jax tagged in, keeping Banks at bay until Bayley and Charlotte both entered the fray. Bayley fought with fire, slamming Flair into the turnbuckle, but Flair fought back with a series of stiff elbows. With Jax and Banks in next, Jax kept control once more, even as Banks hit her with a big boot. Charlotte tagged in, and Banks was subjected to a cruel backbreaker. She went for a tag, but was held back. Bayley was finally able to tag in and went wild on Flair, grounding and pounding the former champ. Jax went for interference, but Sasha kept her at bay long enough for Bayley to hit the Bayley-to-Belly for the victory. After the match, Jax laid all three women out and stood tall to end the segment.
Having Jax leaving the others reeling ups the intrigue for WrestleMania. The match was quick-paced and exciting, which is to be expected from a division which does not lack for in-ring prowess but still, desperately, needs more depth and better storylines.
Winner: Bayley & Sasha Banks
Becky Lynch & Mickie James vs. Carmella & Alexa Bliss
Lynch immediately went for an armbar on Carmella, who was joking around with Ellswroth, but the Staten Island princess evaded. Carmella caught Lynch on the ropes, but Lynch escaped, powering Carmella onto the mat and hitting an enziguri. On commentary, Alexa Bliss and Mickie James got physical, and James ended up planting Carmella, giving her a victory by disqualification. However, this was soon turned into a tag match.
James and Lynch went to town on Bliss, both having fresh memories of conflict with the small Superstar. Bliss finally tagged a reluctant Carmella in, but soon had to re-enter the fray when it became clear she was struggling. Bliss found her bearings this time around, controlling James handily as Natalya entered the arena. Lynch took control of the match, but distractions from Ellsworth and Natalya allowed the heels to pick up the victory.
After, chaos ensued, all coming to a head as Naomi made a triumphant return, planting Natalya with a wicked headscissors on the entrance ramp before declaring her entrance into the SmackDown Women's title match at WrestleMania.
Naomi's return fills the missing puzzle piece for what is sure to be a wonderful, chaotic spectacle. The SmackDown women are now (rightfully) on the main show, so all eyes will be on them as they seek to show why their division has been praised for its depth and creativity.
Winner: Carmella & Alexa Bliss
Not much to recap action-wise for the ongoing feud between The Miz, Maryse, John Cena and Nikki Bella. As to be expected, Cena and Miz cut scathing promos against each other, reminding everyone of their long, storied pasts. They teased a brawl, but the heels retreated, and Nikki and Cena kissed in the ring to close the segment.
Maryse's return to the ring will be interesting to see, especially int he wake of the rebranding of WWE's women's division. Nikki Bella has improved by miles over the course of the past two years. The only thing holding her back from showing out completely is a rumored neck injury which occurred this week. With luck, it will prove to be nothing but a minor snag and this match will be as zany, fun and character-driven as I hope it will be.
TNA Impact Wrestling
Rosemary entered and lauded her defeat of everyone Impact could throw in her path. She listed the likes of Gail Kim, Brandi Rhodes and Jade before being interrupted by none other than OBD, who told her she wouldn't be standing there without what OBD did for the division years ago. Rosemary brushed her off. The Knockouts division then entered, forcing Rosemary to truly answer: "Who's next?" Rosemary pushed Dinamante into Madison Rayne, and a brawl broke out.
Impact, or TNA, or whatever they are going by these days, needs to decide what kind of company it wants to be. It is stocked full of new, growing talent. Rosemary is pure magic. Allie is the most over woman on the roster. Madison Rayne is reliable and full of in-ring skill. But for some odd reason, they keep bring back older talent and not just using them to put over young stars. Rosemary is dynamite for Impact, and if they want to grow, they should continue investing in her.
A Contract Signing
Wow. Asuka's confidence has blossomed into full-blown egomania, and she plays it so perfectly I cannot even bring myself to mind it. The cool disregard with which she treated Ember Moon was equal parts infuriating and delightful. Ember Moon matched her arrogance with some of her own, and the intensity in both women as they made their TakeOver match official was palpable and alive.
NXT TakeOver: Orlando
Ruby Riot, Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong & Kassius Ohno vs. SAnitY
On the independent circuit, Heidi Lovelace always impressed me qith her quickness and athleticism in the ring, which, coupled with her unique and edgy look, made her impossible to look away from. WWE capitalized on that to provide her with a fun, memorable debut against the perfect foe: Nikki Cross, whose wild unpredictability only continues to grow.
The rules of an intergender tag match state that the women have to leave the match if a man is tagged in, and vice-versa, but Riot and Cross both made the most of their time int he ring. Riot made a statement with her quick strikes and Cross retaliated with equal fervor. At one point, both women took the action to their male rivals as well...at the same time. They were both standouts, which says something when considering who their wildly over teammates are.
Asuka vs. Ember Moon (NXT Women's Championship match)
This match has been looked forward to since the mysterious war goddess made her debut last summer. NXT has built Ember Moon slowly but surely, quietly racking up an undefeated streak for the former Shimmer star due to a protected, unique finisher and backed up by an intriguing gimmick. For many fans, Ember Moon is the only woman they can imagine ever defeating Asuka in NXT. Their clashed proved why their match was so hyped.
The women teased the waters a bit as the match started, but it soon got physical. The women went into a sequence of strikes and counters in which neither could take full advantage of the other. This was the story of the match, really. Asuka couldn't get into the swing of things as Ember Moon kept cutting her off, but Moon couldn't keep Asuka down long enough to do any real damage. Their combined frustration grew and manifested as the strikes got stiffer and the moves more desperate. Moon flew over the ropes and out of the ring to wipe out Asuka. Asuka went for her deadly Asuka Lock, all while keeping Moon from setting up the Eclipse. Finally, Moon got control of Asuka, and went for the Eclipse. In desperation, Asuka shoved the referee into the turnbuckle, knocking Moon down before hitting her with a kick to the face, grounding her for her first ever defeat.
This match was everything it needed to be. Both women looked rightfully dominant, and Asuka's streak is still alive. Al that remains to be seen is if she will carry the NXT Title to SmackDown or RAW like Paige and Kevin Owens did, or if she will stay in NXT for a while yet.
This section includes recaps of matches from around the world in various lesser-known independent promotions throughout the week.
Ring of Honor
Match: Kelly Klein vs. Deonna Purrazzo
Winner: Kelly Klein
Match: Mercedes Martinez vs. Candice LeRae (Shimmer title match)
Winner: Mercedes Martinez
Match: Kairi Hojo vs. Konami (Wonder of Stardom title match)
Winner: Kairi Hojo
Match: Lu Fisto vs. Toni Storm (SHINE title match)
Winner: Lu Fisto
Match: Brandi Rhodes vs. Joey Ryan (DDT Iron Man Heavy Metal title match)
Winner: Brandi Rhodes
MATCH OF THE WEEK:
Asuka vs. Ember Moon
Asuka vs. Ember Moon
Following any NXT Tag Team Championship match is a hard ask, but Asuka and Ember Moon put on a vicious battle brimming with intensity and heart. Their strikes were stiff and their storytelling was sublime. Though Ember Moon's undefeated streak is no more, she emerged looking like a true and brutal beast. And Asuka...
WOMAN OF THE WEEK:
Asuka is approaching Goldberg's undefeated streak, and her future continues to look bright. Her wild egomania and stiff strikes and kicks are just as engaging now as they were when she first arrived in NXT bathed in intrigue and mystery. She is the longest-reigning NXT champion of any kind for a reason: she is thrilling int he ring, and entertaining out of it. Her English continues to improve, and even then, her Japanese promos do not get her chants of "WHAT?" but stunned reverence at her intensity. She once again proved, this week, why she belongs at the top of any card she is on. And she is only beginning.
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!