Last week, "Raw" and "Smackdown Live" called up women from NXT to shake up the women's divisions, but did they need new blood to do it?
Last week, two teams of newcomers shook up up the Raw and Smackdown Live women’s divisions. Monday night on Raw, Paige returned and brought with her Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. The next night, Ruby Riot, Liv Morgan and Sarah Logan interrupted a Smackdown Live Women’s Championship rematch between Charlotte Flair and Natalya. The impact of Riot, Morgan and Logan’s move from NXT to the WWE main roster was muted by doing the same thing that Paige, Rose and Deville did the night before—shitkick the other women on the roster. As interesting as new blood is, both additions seem like the solution to a problem created not by the talent but the writers.
Evidently the idea to shake up the women’s divisions came from WWE owner Vince McMahon, who felt that they had become stale, but that has a lot to do with how inattentive the bookers have been to their storylines. Early in Alexa Bliss’ run as the Raw women’s champion, she tried to make friends with the more powerful Nia Jax to keep Jax from challenging her. For a while, Jax provided the muscle that helped Bliss keep her belt, and their relationship appeared to be building for the day when Jax would demand her title shot and Bliss would get her comeuppance. They went so far as to start to turn Jax into a face, but then Bliss and Jax abruptly faced each other on Raw, Bliss held on to the belt, and a few weeks later Jax was her muscle again. A program that would have built both with Bliss finding weaselly ways to keep her title and frustrating Jax was flushed in favor a feud between Bliss and the 38-year-old Mickie James that tried unconvincingly to portray James as old. And on a side note, shame on the WWE, which sent two men 10 years older than James out to be part of the men’s Survivor Series match without commenting on their age.
Bayley and Sasha Banks have been off-again/on-again friends-becoming-frienemies numerous times, but the angle was never pursued, and it, Bayley and Sasha have suffered for it.
Smackdown Live’s booking has been equally careless. While Natalya had its Women’s Championship, she was a good worker with no obvious character. One week, the other women on the roster mocked her as crazy and a cat lady, but there was no follow-up on that, even though she wears a cat-ear tiara to the ring. Carmella has had the Money in the Bank briefcase for so long now that it has lost its threat. She could have used it a few times to win the championship in a way that would have built heat for her including at the recent “Survivor Series” pay-per-view, but no. Becky Lynch is one of the best women workers in the WWE, and she has become a banal face who gets such shit jobs as wrestling James Ellsworth and being the first woman eliminated in the women’s Survivor Series match.
Back when the women in the WWE were “divas,” they got one match per show and barely sustained one storyline. Often, they were booked in jerryrigged tag matches or number one contender matches that involved three or four women as a way to give them all work without giving them stories. That has become the way the women are booked again, but unlike the Diva Era, the women can wrestle. They’re not models first, wrestlers second. They can cut promos and advance storylines if they had any to move forward.
On Raw, the newcomers will help. Paige and Alexa Bliss are on a collision course, but where does that leave Asuka? And an outside group that comes in as heels will help a roster that has almost to a woman fluctuated between face or heel solidify into one or the other. Still, no outside force had to come in to make that happen. Raw and Smackdown Live already had the talent to be successful; they just didn’t commit to using it.
In other notes
- Are Houston audiences into Roman Reigns, or is he turning a corner? It helped that he faced The Miz last week because The Miz’s heel heat is so reliable that even the oft-booed Reigns got solid love.
- Speaking of turns, how long until Jason Jordan turns heel? When Bray Wyatt chopblocked his knee a few weeks back and left Jordan writhing in pain in the ring, the audience chanted, “Thank you, Wyatt.” Nobody has bought him as Kurt Angle’s son, so crowds are dead to him if they’re not actively against him. Before, during and after “Survivor Series,” his mewling was so unbecoming that there’s no way he can be a convincing face now. A heel turn could set up a Jordan/Angle match at a pay-per-view that could potentially make Jordan’s name.