I’m still on a high, friends. If you are expecting this to be an overly critical, borderline cynical blog post as is the usual with Nylons, you may want to read elsewhere this week.
In this post we’re going to celebrate the triumph that was the WWE Evolution pay-per-view. Let’s get right into it because I want to gush.
First, I’ll address the elephant in the room and say that undoubtedly, this pay-per-view was thrown together at the last minute. WWE Creative procrastinated on the build for this show like a high schooler on a midterm exam that woke up the day of the test and remembered that they needed to study. The battle royal and six-woman tag match contained SO much talent that deserved more, and even a few that could have feasibly had storylines developed with what little they were doing every week — if WWE actually tried.
But alas, that did not happen, and we had the likes of Naomi, Ember Moon, Asuka, Sasha Banks, and Bayley — any combination of which could have easily tore the house down — stuck into throwaway matches. It was very disheartening to see as fans of each of these ladies.
And yet, despite the lack of build, despite people not being hyped for the show going into it, despite all of the odds stacked against these ladies — they still managed to put on one hell of a show for us. Evolution reminded me why I love women so much. Women throughout history have had to make the best of what they were given and find a way to survive and thrive. We are resourceful creatures that consistently overcome adversity with both grace and anger. And when we do, it is almost always for the betterment of society. If men had to put up with the curveballs and criticism that women do just to navigate the world today, well, frankly I don’t think many of them would be woman enough to handle it.
But I digress. On to the show!
I wanted to dedicate a small section of this to some of the small details that made the viewing experience for home audiences wonderful. First, whatever the reason may have been for the smaller stage setup and blacked-out audience, I actually dug it. It made the show feel more intimate, like I was watching a private wrestling event, as silly as that sounds. I felt closer to all of the women in the ring and focused on what they were doing, rather than the sea of faces in the arena.
The production was also excellent. One example of this that really stuck out was when Zelina Vega was in the ring celebrating her battle royal “victory,” the way the camera so closely focused on her. This made the inevitable pan over to Nia breathing over her shoulder all the more hilarious when she was finally revealed. The camera angles were on point for most of the night, following the often frantic pace of the competitors in the ring.
All in all, visually this pay-per-view stands apart from every other show, which will likely make it more memorable in the future.
The only negative thing I have to say about Evolution itself was the perpetual mention of all of the “men who have supported” the evolution of women’s wrestling in WWE. We were cautioned to not forget about the men who “helped” get us here. And to that I say: bullshit. Excuse my swearing. But on this night, of all nights, women didn’t need to be patronized.
Yes, we know the backstage politics of it all. We know that ultimately, men (namely Triple H) had to be the ones to pull the trigger on pushing the women’s division as a whole. But, it is really disingenuous of WWE to forcefully suggest that there were men supporting this “all along.” There’s no way that could be true, because if it was, it wouldn’t have taken this long to get to this point, when there are entire wrestling promotions across the world devoted to women’s wrestling.
Even if there were men who supported pushing the division, for too long, not enough of them did. Too few men in the course of WWE history were willing to speak up or put their necks out there for the women. Not enough men cared enough to say something.
So that was a minor low in what was otherwise a brilliant night of wrestling.
And now, on to the wrestling!
Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox (with Alexa Bliss)
Hearing Lillian Garcia’s voice to open the show and then the infamous giggle of Trish’s entrance music transported me back to my childhood. This was a perfect start to the show, getting an already hot crowd ready for what was to come. Much ado has been made online about Alicia Fox replacing Alexa Bliss due to injury. And I won’t lie, they’re valid, especially given Alicia’s glaring pinfall breakup botch.
But, as many fans know and the announcers mentioned, Alicia is the longest-tenured woman on the roster, and regardless of her in-ring ability (which is still on the whole leaps and bounds better than 5 years ago), that feat in itself demands respect. She deserved a spotlight on this pay-per-view. Everything happens for a reason, and perhaps Alexa’s injury came at the right time to give Alicia her shine. And it doesn’t hurt that it also put a woman of color in a marquee match, something that the show definitely lacked.
It was wonderful to see Trish and Lita in the ring again to hit all of their signature moves. It was fabulous to see Trish and Mickie stand eye-to-eye. Although Lita was less fluid than Trish in the ring, both ladies hit their spots and provided the crowd with a nice, feel-good start to the show.
The Battle Royal
I loved that each woman was given her entrance in this match! Battle royals have truly evolved from the days of the women just strolling down the ramp to generic pop or rock music. In doing this, every woman felt special and worthy of our attention. And the pop for each woman was insane. It was shocking and heartwarming all at once and just showed that people truly love each of these women as the individuals they are. I know I was at home singing along with every theme!
As I spoke in the beginning about how women have to make the best of often the worst situations, the battle royal was the biggest evidence of this resolve on the show. By now, the women have battle royals down to an exact science. Even if I wanted more for so many of them, they collectively found a way to make the match inventive and give us at least one memorable spot in each. That quadruple vertical suplex spot was incredible!
The women of the past gave way to the present Superstars and I felt that was fitting, considering the name of the pay-per-view. Ivory in particular was so fun to watch, especially during her “dance break” with Carmella.
I enjoyed that the final four women were women of color, because as I mentioned earlier, significant WOC representation was lacking on this show (consider that pretty much all the women of color on the main roster were crammed into this match or the six-woman tag). Like many fans online, I was pulling for Ember, because WWE has absolutely wasted her since calling her up from NXT. She needed this victory the most, perhaps even more than Asuka. But, in the end I am okay with the result if it means that a competitor I like more is spared from being fed to Ronda. In my opinion, I think Ember deserves a first feud better than just Ronda.
Surprisingly good match overall.
Mae Young Classic Finals: Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai
Full disclosure, I did not watch any of the MYC. But, from fanfare about these two wrestlers online, I was fully expecting a technical masterpiece. And it delivered. A lot of people were disappointed with the length of this match, but I honestly did not consider this in my critique in the match until I heard others discuss it online. To me, it isn’t so much the time you’re given as much as what you do with it. This match felt longer than 10 minutes in my mind because I was so gripped by the action.
The bumps and dives these women took deserve applause. I am amazed that they managed to fit in so much offense in 10 minutes. I have no bias toward either performer, but I do hope that Io gets the same opportunities as Toni in the future, even if she isn’t the young, smiley, blonde white woman that WWE historically gives the world to.
Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya vs. The Riott Squad
While it was the match that probably hurt me the most personally as a Sasha Banks fan, this match was still better than expected. I’d really like to give a shout to the Riott Squad in this match. If you need a match to convince you that the Riott Squad is a legitimate faction that can seamlessly communicate and methodically take down opponents, watch this display. Their teamwork is hardly matched across the product, and I enjoyed watching them work their opponents in their corner.
The faces as well were sharp, selling beautifully for the heels and providing exciting comeback sequences. Sasha looked very sharp, but Bayley and Natalya weren’t far behind. Natalya’s double sharpshooter?! Only a Hart would dream up such a thing!
Despite my ultimate approval of the result, at this point I wonder how much longer the Riott Squad can lose and be taken seriously. Even I feel sorry for them at this point. Just let them win something already!
NXT Women’s Championship: Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler
Yikes, guys. This match made me cringe. I’ve not seen a female heel like Shayna Baszler in a long time. A comparison that comes to mind is Jazz (“The bitch is back, and the bitch is black!”). She differs from someone like Becky Lynch in that while Becky is hotheaded and simply wants the spotlight to prove she’s the best, Shayna plays up more of a sadistic heel persona. She seems to simply enjoy punishing her opponents. No fame. No glory. Just…mean. And that is exactly what she was to Kairi in this match.
No credit should be taken from Kairi, though, as she was still brilliant and had some great spots, like that crossbody from the top turnbuckle to the outside. Even if her gimmick does not reflect it, Kairi is a serious competitor when pushed to her mental limits.
But for me, the actual star of this match was Shayna. The way she relentlessly wore down Kairi’s arm throughout the match was hard to watch at points. The image stuck in my mind is when Shayna dangled Kairi by one arm for seconds only to drop her effortlessly was just savage. I am okay with Shayna holding the NXT belt and solidifying her reign down in NXT, while I hope Kairi is called up to the main roster.
Smackdown Women’s Championship: Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair
Intense. Powerful. Spectacular. Never been done before. Just some of the words and phrases I can use to describe the excellence of this match. This is a Match of the Year candidate, without question. It had everything that makes for a classic wrestling bout: storytelling, emotion, build, climax, and an ending that made sense.
Outside of the minor hiccups throughout the match, such as a missed moonsault-through-a-table spot and the referee kicking Becky a chair, the magic of it was that fans truly had no idea who would win. Toward the end, I genuinely thought that they would let Charlotte walk away with this win, Flair princess as she is. But she didn’t win. She lost fair and square to Becky, because Becky outsmarted the Queen. She used Charlotte’s own desperation against her to turn a potential moonsault into a powerbomb through a table. And we all cheered Becky’s win, because finally someone was allowed to be better than Charlotte in the end. Finally, Becky was able to prove that she is that damn good.
Go and watch this match if you haven’t. I honestly believe that it will be remembered with the fondness of some WrestleMania matches from decades gone by. And certainly a landmark in the history of women’s wrestling in WWE.
RAW Women’s Championship: Ronda Rousey vs. Nikki Bella
To be honest, I don’t have a ton to say about this match. I understand the need to have the first all-women’s pay-per-view end with a face on top, but we all know what the true main event was.
My feelings about the Bellas and Ronda have been well-documented in Nylons, so I’ll spare you the dissertation and try to focus on the match. It was pretty by-the-numbers, with Ronda selling for much of the match to Nikki only to make a triumphant face comeback to win the match. I’ve seen complaints online about Ronda playing defense too much in this match, but I did not mind this. In fact, I welcomed it.
Ronda can’t run through her opponents in squash matches forever. That will get old, and fans will turn on her at some point. She has to show vulnerability, especially to a veteran like Nikki who, like it or not, carried much of this match. I thought Nikki looked great here and was a perfect opponent for Ronda at her current skill level (I don’t think she would have looked as good if she faced someone like Asuka, for example). I think fans should be equally concerned about Ronda making more experienced performers look weak as they are about killing whatever “magic” Ronda has with her UFC background by allowing her to sell.
I will say this though: Ronda needs to continue to train. WWE is not UFC. The moves are different. The intent of every strike is different. Ronda can’t continue to snap opponents over her shoulder with such carelessness, even if it looks cool. She needs to learn more than just a few power moves from UFC if she’s going to “earn the respect” of the fans like she claimed she wanted when she originally joined WWE. And most importantly, she needs to do it so she won’t seriously injure any of her opponents in the future.
To wrap things up, I think this match was as good as it could be, given the story and competitors involved. It served it’s purpose, and now we can move on to other feuds.
So where do we go now? Will Evolution continue to be an annual show that grows every year? Will WWE learn from their mistakes this year and start the build for the pay-per-view earlier next year?
After the sun set on Evolution, one thing has become clear: WWE have an incredibly talented roster of women on their hands. They deserve every ounce of energy the writers can give them every week. The stakes are higher than ever now. WWE needs to prove that the women matter 365 days a year, not just on a single night when they deem them worthy. As Alundra Blayze said, “Evolution is a moving word.” So let us keep moving.
Stay legit bossy,