OK, so it wasn’t the “first” ever Women’s Wrestling PPV, but the winners have always been the ones who get to write history.
And regardless of hype, the WWE producing a “Women’s” PPV was a pretty special moment in wrestling history. Although the build-up, if we’re being honest, had been lacklustre, as if the WWE was hoping that the sheer fact it was the first WWE Womens’ PPV would be enough to sell it, there was a buzz around this show that you don’t get very often in a crowded WWE market-place. But could the show overcome its shortcomings AND live up to the buzz? Well it did and the time and it does on a repeat viewing.
It was smart to open the show with Trish Stratus and Lita, arguably the two biggest names from the WWE’s past that they could have presented to us here. It was disappointing that Alexa Bliss couldn’t wrestle but her pre-match comments certainly kept the heat up and if I’m being honest the prospect of a tag team match pitting them against Mickie James and Alicia Fox was better on paper that the original Trish/Alexa singles match (although that would have been quite the spectacle). Anything that gets Stratus and James in the ring together is a-ok in my book and although this followed very much a tag team formula it felt a bit more special than that. A perfect way to start the show.
You’d be tempted to think that a Battle Royale couldn’t follow that, but it was actually a good choice in the sense that it allowed the crowd to come down from that opener but had enough names and things going on in it to keep enthusiasm at a high. Everyone will have their own ideas on who of the returning names deserved their spots and who didn’t. People will also have their own ideas about the winner. But although it was undeniably sloppy in places, overall it told enough stories and gave us enough moments to make for a diverting affair.
Again the WWE showed they had their best booking heads on by following that with a six-woman tag pitting the Riott Squad against Natalya, Sasha Banks & Bayley. This was a fun match, although probably didn’t deserve to go longer than the MYC final (other than appeasing the three experienced wrestlers going up against the Riott Squad) and other than a few missed moments went down well. After their great match at Takeover, the pressure was on Kairi Sane and Shayna Baszler to live up to what they’d done before in their NXT Women’s Title match but it was a task they were almost up to matching. The action itself was very good, but brought down a notch by the interference of Baszler’s buddies Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir. Not so much the interference (a heel trio teaming up against the heroic babyface is as classic as it gets) but that it was so obvious. Still, Sane showed why she’s regarded as one of the best in-ring talents and for all the criticism Baszler gets she’s pretty darn good and a very effective heel.
The match with most intrigue to me was up next, with the Mae Young Classic final between Toni Storm and Io Shirai, two of my favourite wrestlers of any sex currently lacing up the boots. It will come as no surprise to most that this was the best thing on the show to so far, even if a run-time of around ten minutes seemed to sell them and the tournament a little short. Still it was chock full of high-impact moves that mostly hit the spot and (despite the WWE doing relatively little with either woman since) marked both winner and loser as future stars of the company.
The match of the night was next as the Smackdown Women’s Title was on the line as Champion Becky Lynch defended against Challenger Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match. For once on a WWE PPV this was a gimmick match that felt as if the feud had reached the point where the escalation of hostilities was logical and necessary. They weren’t just fighting in a gimmick match because it was October and that’s when we have gimmick matches. The two went hell for leather and it would be easy to believe that these two really hated/resented each other based on the first half of the match or so; of course this being WWE we had to regress to the formula, but even then the two took some wicked bumps and ended up assembling one of my favourite matches of the year.
Of course Ronda Rousey and Nikki Bella could not follow that; but, perhaps against many’s hope, they did give us a worthy main event match that was a lot better than many would have expected. With Brie at ringside Nikki had some form of equaliser and as such was afforded a lot more time on the attack than Alexa Bliss had ever been allowed in her feud with Ronda. Perhaps the best compliment I could pay the match is that you rarely questioned why a genuine MMA fighter was being pushed to the limit by a reality TV star; you could really get lost in the action. I could have done without the entire locker room celebrating on the stage at the end of the show mind you; yes, I know these are “historic moments” for the women’s division but making them all stand together (and even worse, encouraging them to cry) simply snaps you out of the moment. Save the self-congratulatory nonsense for PR videos and WWE.com.
All in all though this was a fantastic PPV that lived up to the billing and is well worth a second viewing.
Format reviewed: DVD
Photos courtesy of Fetch and WWE.
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