Fall is finally here, friends! And with the withering of the leaves outside also comes the winding down of the wrestling calendar year of 2020. I can’t believe we’re entering the final quarter of this black hole of a year.
Are we heading toward going out with a bang, or a quiet sizzle for the ladies? If the last two weeks are any indicator, I think we are on our way to substantial storylines in the last few months ahead.
I’ll be reviewing the women’s bits from Clash of Champions, despite some last-minute changes that significantly brought down the quality of women’s action on the show. I’ll also be reviewing the bonus episode of AEW Dynamite that aired late on a Saturday night about a week and a half ago. In a twist, there are no Thorny bits to go over this week, but feel free to read the last edition for an ongoing controversy still grinding my gears.
Lastly, to correct something I mentioned in the last Nylons, Naomi is apparently out of action right now due to a surgery she had recently to remove a giant fibroid. A common health issue in Black women, I am glad to hear that Naomi was able to have hers removed before it worsened into anything more debilitating. We wish her a speedy recovery!
Now, on to the action.
AEW/NXT: I am pleased to report that Dynamite finally brought the fire in the women’s division these last two weeks, so much so that I actually preferred it to NXT for once!
We have to talk about the match between Ivelisse and Thunder Rosa that saw some shoot fighting in the beginning stages. I’d go back and watch the first 5 minutes of this match; some of those slaps were stiff. The two traded deep armdrags back and forth that slammed the other to the mat hard, and at one point Rosa yanked Ivelisse’s hair so hard I felt whiplash just watching it. There of course have been reports that the two don’t like each other outside the ring, and boy howdy did that show until they finally got it together in the second act of the match.
To be perhaps a little controversial, however….I liked it? I really liked it. At the risk of sounding superlative, this might be the best women’s match I’ve seen on AEW TV, and I don’t mean that patronizingly as J.R. did a couple of weeks ago. It awakened my senses to what has been missing from too many of the women’s matches in All Elite – passion. That burning fire in the pit of the belly, real or acted. These two weren’t just going through the motions, they were actively hard-hitting as if they had something to prove outside of storyline. Sure, some of this went too far in the match, with both women no-selling the other’s offense at points, but overlooking those instances the match just came across as good competitive wrestling. A couple of my favorite moments included Ivelisse cleverly reversed a Gory Special by Rosa into a backslide pin, and a Death Valley driver from Rosa toward the end of the match. I smiled when Rosa put the proverbial nail in coffin of Ivelisse by delivering a tombstone for the victory; as a woman hailing from “the graveyards of Tijuana,” her finisher should obviously be a tombstone piledriver.
The following week on Dynamite, we had Ivelisse and her tag partner Diamante face Rosa once again, this time with champion Hikaru Shida in tow. I am very impressed with the tag team prowess shown by Diamante and Ivelisse, delivering double-team moves like a duet fall-away slam to Hikaru throughout the match. But, Rosa and Hikaru showed some teamwork as well. There was a cool sequence toward the middle of the match where Hikaru drapes Diamante over the ring apron from the outside, looking to deliver her patented knee strike. As Hikaru charges, Ivelisse intercepts her, only to then eat a blow from Rosa waiting in the wings. It flowed well, and culminated in a double team by Rosa and Hikaru on the still-prone Diamante.
There were several other cool moments from this one, but to save you the blow by blow, this would be the match I recommend you check out if you haven’t seen it. It is brimming with promise for the women of AEW.
Lastly, Brandi Rhodes was in action on Late Night Dynamite against Anna Jay. To spoil the match upfront, I was satisfied with Brandi (as an executive in the company) putting over Anna in a decently competitive match. Brandi is very interesting to watch in the ring; her style is very clean-cut, rarely a hair out of place with her arsenal. She’s very poised, collected in her movements, which made for a great contrast to an increasingly unhinged Anna, who is part of the Dark Order. It felt as if the point of the match was to give Anna room to play and develop her own arsenal, and to that end I believe the match succeeded. We saw some nice elements from Anna, including a snap vertical suplex and her finisher, the Queenslayer, which is a standing rear-naked choke transitioned into a mat-based version of the move with a leg lock. Continuing to let Anna wrestle will help her to develop her signature style, so starting that journey by wrestling a neutral opponent like Brandi is a good start.
To be a little critical, however, I question the choice of submission finisher by Anna. Visually, her submission looks very similar to that of Shayna Baszler, Asuka, and Samoa Joe in WWE. While there are technical variances in each wrestler’s version of the move, they all more or less look the same visually. And if you’re going to choose such a popular finishing move at a point in time, you need to make it stand out somehow. The three aforementioned wrestlers do this with their own character flourishes and facial expressions. Additionally, nearly every time these three administer their submissions, they wrestle their opponent to the ground almost immediately. The lethalness of the move is reinforced by how suddenly it is applied, and for Asuka specifically, how it can be transitioned into from almost any position.
Anna’s version moved a little too slowly – in application and execution – for it to be believably harmful. She stood for a good bit before bringing Brandi down to the mat, and it simply looked unintimidating to me. But, I still look forward to seeing her experiment with the move and others in her burgeoning arsenal.
In NXT, we were treated to a great match between champion Io Shirai and Shotzi Blackheart. There were so many gorgeous moments in this one, mostly courtesy of Ms. Blackheart. The match began with an exciting chain of rollup combinations, setting the pace of the match as calculated but frenetic. Some of Shotzi’s best moments were a pitch perfect enziguri toward the beginning, a beautiful dragon Northern lights suplex, and a continuation of that move into a bridged submission! Io held her own with bigger spots, such as a rough-looking German suplex on the apron of the ring that saw Shotzi land on her neck.
Io retained, but this match was really a showcase for Shotzi, one that I feel she deserved.
To wrap up this section for NXT, I want to briefly discuss a tag match I watched between Team KC (Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter) and Xia Li and Jessi Kamea. This match was fairly unremarkable, save for some amazing footwork from Xia, and yet I’m including it in this section for the finish. Please find a GIF of this somewhere; I had to watch it back a few times to even wrap my head around it. The match ended as follows: Kayden tagged in Kacy; Kayden assumes a crucifix position around Xia’s arms; Kacy delivers a pump kick to Xia, causing her to fall backwards with Kayden still wrapped around her arms; Kayden pushes Xia with her momentum into a crucifix pin; Kacy jumps over them both to pull Xia’s legs, securing the pinfall victory as Kayden rolls out from under Xia. Whew!!! I am dizzy!
Commentary mentioned that Team KC has been training with the Dudley Boyz, and wow does it show! Such inventive tag team chain wrestling these two are coming up with; if they keep it up, they’ll be putting men’s tag teams to shame in no time.
RAW and Smackdown: While I do have some caveats about her appearances in the last month, I do have to commend Sasha Banks for that incredible sit-down interview she did on Smackdown responding to Bayley’s attack.
In an interview with Michael Cole, Sasha tearfully explained how Bayley’s attack made her feel in the grand scheme of their friendship. She reminisced about how they used to walk the halls of the Performance Center dreaming about their goals – separately, and together. “Together” seemed to be a painful word for Sasha throughout this interview, for every time she said it, she darn near croaked it out. What made this promo excellent was all of the nonverbal cues that Sasha conveyed: quivering hands, pained eyes, and clutching of her neck, as if it is the center of the hurt she felt physically and emotionally. She ended the promo by telling Bayley that she is nothing without her. Those words hung in the air for fans, and as they did I myself pondered the assertion. Wrestlers undoubtedly are their own people, but even the most iconic wrestlers had that one person who arguably made them into the star they became. Would Trish be the same Trish without Lita? Would the Hardyz be the same Hardyz without the Dudleyz or Edge and Christian? Could HBK have risen to infamy without Bret Hart? The New Day without the Usos? Gargano without Ciampa? I believe wrestling soulmates are definitely a thing, and although Bayley is legendary in her own right, it isn’t unfair by any stretch to say that Sasha was the foil that cemented Bayley’s stardom, and vice versa.
The interview ended with yet another attack by Bayley on Sasha, but this didn’t taint the promo at all. I am excited to see how this feud plays out, with this extensive history between both women in mind.
Also on Smackdown, we once again revisit Alexa Bliss’ antics. The newest developments with her character played out over two weeks. Two weeks ago, she hosted Moment of Bliss with guest Nikki Cross, her best friend for those keeping score at home. Alexa snidely pointed out that Nikki had yet to beat Bayley this year, and because of that, Nikki must be nervous about her chances at Clash of Champions. Nikki responded with an impassioned promo, one that reminded me how darn good Nikki is at giving a convincing argument for herself. Yet, she turned a question back on Alexa (or “Lexi” as she affectionately calls her), inquiring about her well-being over the last few weeks. She commented on the Sister Abigail that Alexa delivered to her as well. Alexa told Nikki that she doesn’t exactly know what happens when she has one of her “spells,” just that she feels out of control and can’t comprehend why. She’s ultimately interrupted by Lacey Evans, who came out to run down Nikki leading into their match that night.
Alexa was on commentary for this match, and while calling the action with Michael Cole and Corey Graves, she is dismissive of Cole’s line of questioning about her mental state. I’m unsure if this was an error in continuity, but this time around, Alexa denied any change in her mental state at all. Graves as well brought up Alexa’s own evil past, which she seemed indifferent to discussing. When Nikki won the match, Alexa could be seen clapping and cheering for her friend.
And yet, when Lacey came over to the commentary desk to talk trash to Alexa, she said “The Fiend.” This once again caused Alexa to go into a trance, prompting her to walk up to Lacey and give her a Sister Abigail.
The next week, Alexa faced off with Lacey in the ring. At a certain point, she began looking like her “old” self, gaining steam in the match, only to stop suddenly. Her head tilted and twitched a bit, almost as if she was short-circuiting. And then, the arena went red and The Fiend’s scream rings out. When the fluorescent lights went back up and the screaming stopped, Alexa went fully feral on Lacey! She didn’t respond to a five count, so the ref threw the match out. But Alexa continued her attack and delivered yet another Sister Abigail.
She walked up the ramp, meeting Roman Reigns coming out for the main event segment of the night. But as Roman passed her, Alexa could be seen staring a hole through Roman’s back.
With all of this plot unfolding, it is becoming more clear that Alexa will eventually be involved in some sort of feud between Roman and The Fiend. When is unclear, but I wonder how integrated into the Fiend’s universe she’ll actually become. Given her acting chops, she could certainly be as creepy as both of The Fiend’s personalities. I also feel strangely excited at the prospect of a woman being involved in a main event feud between two men that doesn’t involve the men fighting for her affections. She is being built up to have supernatural powers of her own, without shameful feminization by commentary (think of the way Victoria or Alicia Fox were characterized and spoken of in WWE). I hope the writers have some spooky stuff planned for the next month!
Before we move on, I did want to quickly acknowledge what I believe will be the start of hype packages for none other than Bianca Belair. I love this! This is the way she should have been introduced, as a hyper-strong and competitive woman that can whoop you at anything and smile while doing it. With reports that she’s next in line for a big push (along with Peyton Royce), my hope is that her first in-ring feud is with someone who can complement her sass and athleticism in the ring.
Clash of Champions: I don’t really have much to say about Clash, mostly due to the sharp reduction in the amount of women on the show. This is due to Nikki Cross, Nia Jax, and Shayna Baszler all not being cleared to wrestle, reportedly for their exposure to COVID and mandatory quarantine. As such, the women’s tag title match featuring the aforementioned champions against the Riott Squad was called off, and Bayley’s title match against Nikki Cross had to be changed last minute. It turned out Bayley’s replacement challenger would be Asuka.
The positive nugget I found in this is that choosing Asuka to face Bayley, rather than bringing in an entirely new woman, keeps all of the storylines going on in the division clean and separated when they are too often entangled. As I mentioned, there are a number of stories happening simultaneously on the “main” brands, and it really is a breath of fresh air. Having a different woman swoop in to fill Nikki’s void would have created a new potential challenger for Bayley at a time when she is mainly feuding with Sasha with Nikki as a placeholder. This move made sense in the continuity of Bayley’s story by facing an old foe. Additionally, with Bayley disqualifying herself not too far into the match, it also preserved Asuka physically when she’d wrestled only about an hour before. Everybody wins!
Speaking of Asuka’s earlier match, it was a standard affair, not particularly good or bad. It lands in this section mostly for it being a showcase for Zelina after years of being a valet/manager. Zelina’s specialty looks to be submissions; in this one, she workshopped various submission maneuvers, such as a bridging armbar of sorts and an octopus in the ring ropes that looked very similar to AJ Lee’s old finisher. The match finished with a fun chain of rollup attempts, culminating in Asuka catching Zelina in the Asuka Lock for the quick tapout.
Since Zelina is renewing herself as an in-ring performer, I think what we’ll be seeing from her in the coming months is a sharpening of the tools in her belt. Throughout this match, I thought consistently that Zelina’s fundamentals are there, she just needs to figure out who she wants to be between those ropes.
AEW/NXT: Once in a blue moon it happens, so get out your streamers! I have no complaints about All Elite this week!
The complaint I have about NXT over these two weeks is regarding the battle royal last week. To start, Rhea wasn’t booked to win?? After weeks of commentary alluding to her feuding with Io, she dominates with eliminations only to pretty much eliminate herself brawling with Raquel Gonzalez? I’m so confused….what was the point of all of that talk if that wasn’t the plan? Or did the plan change for some reason?
Next, Kacy Catanzaro. While I love seeing this girl wrestle with Kayden as of late, I have to say she was annoying in this match. She did the Royal Rumble fakeout elimination in this battle royal, which would have been fine if she did it once. But, if I’m not mistaken, she did the fakeout three times? Girl, that’s overkill! We as fans are already getting to the point of exhaustion with Rumble fakeouts every year, so doing it three times in a match that isn’t even the Rumble just to show off? Annoying. This may come off way more harsh in writing than I intend (I giggled as I wrote it), but feel free to sound off in the comments with your thoughts.
Last, I think I came up with a new rule for battle royals. The battle royal must last as long in minutes as the number of competitors in the match. That way, each wrestler gets at least one minute of screen time or action, and it doesn’t feel like a waste of rushed eliminations to the final four. I dislike battle royals greatly in the women’s division because they are usually lazy booking to determine a number one contender for a title without building a story to lead into said title feud. In one, we are seeing a whole lot of women at once and somehow none of them at all, really. Nothing significant has ever happened in a battle royal (note, not the Royal Rumble match) and you won’t convince me otherwise. They’re not entertaining to watch, and to save for more of my whining, I’ll just say that I expect more of NXT in this regard.
I don’t mind Candice winning, as I mentioned in the last Nylons that I wanted to see her ring work more. It seems like this win was the start of that!
RAW and SD: We have to talk about Retribution, pals.
It was my selfish hope that no women would be involved in this formerly-unknown faction, but to my disappointment, Mia Yim and Mercedes Martinez were both revealed to be members. Sigh.
In terms of picking these two women, I have to question the intent. It seems that this stable is intended to be a group of overlooked Superstars taking revenge on the (RAW) roster. However, these two women were not underutilized in NXT. Though Mia’s tenure was longer than Mercedes’, both women were involved in high profile matches while on the black and gold brand. We knew their names, their faces, and generally what they stood for. At least to me, neither woman felt forgotten or underused. For Mercedes though, I have to question why she was not given more time in NXT. Her stock was beginning to rise by facing Rhea Ripley in a steel cage, and she’d just joined the Robert Stone brand. She had much more to give on that brand, and bringing her up before she realized her full potential will likely do her more harm than good in the long run.
In terms of ideology, the faction is crap. Mia said in the aforementioned promo that all of the other Superstars were driven by money and fame and hoarded just as much, away from the “deserving,” whom she identified as being her “brothers and sisters” in the stable. Dominic Dijakovic (known as T-Bar in the group) said that the wrestlers under contract are “whores” for money. Thus, it appears that this group will be an anti-establishment, anti-capitalist organization….that admitted to signing contracts with WWE. For….money. Vince, what’s your address? I just want to talk…
This is the epitome of a tone-deaf writers room trying to be edgy by cutting and pasting activist lingo into a storyline. If you have a modicum of understanding of the ways in which capitalism works, you will be able to parse the nuances of existing under a capitalist system. You cannot criticize other wrestlers for working to earn a living when you have admitted to signing a contract to do the same. The exchange of money for labor — and the necessity of work in order to live — is only part of what makes capitalism crushing. The other part is how corporate executives and oligarchs representing a small fraction of the population then take the profit in near-incomprehensible amounts from businesses while paying their employees dust in comparison. (And also, not paying really any taxes!) WWE itself classifies performers as independent contractors so they are not legally obligated to provide certain protections or benefits to their workers, thus creating huge profit margins for the McMahon family. And although certain Superstars may legitimately be fame or money “whores” based off their salaries, the majority of the Superstars under contract do not make nearly as much.
To me, it is apparent WWE is simply trying to capitalize on the perceived anarchy happening in the country right now, what with Black Lives Matter protests and countless other social justice movements bleeding through all 50 states. The political right has been trying to fear-monger Americans into believing that “the left” is intent on aimlessly causing violence and destruction to cities. WWE wanted to make their own negative commentary on people raging against our current system by creating Retribution. The writers made their ideology contradictory and nonsensical to make viewers question the uprisings we see on the news every day. I sincerely hope that this propaganda is ineffective, and that fans can understand the hypocrisy of WWE to write something like this.
By the way, I feel extra gross that it seems Retribution are going to feud with a faction of Black men (the Hurt Business), given everything that I’ve said. I’ll let you all fill in the blanks with that idea.
Outside of that nonsense, I have been displeased with the amount of women’s matches that have been abruptly ended in the last two weeks, be it because of interference or otherwise. For instance, Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax versus Natalya and Lana on RAW was basically featured to merely get Nia and Shayna on TV before their match at Clash of Champions; Asuka versus Peyton Royce existed just so Zelina could attack Asuka ahead of their pay-per-view match; Lacey Evans versus Alexa Bliss only lasted long enough for Alexa’s breakdown. Even Bayley’s unexpected match against Asuka at Clash was cut short by Bayley disqualifying herself with a chair, only for Sasha to exact revenge on her.
Cutting matches short every once in a while is excusable. However, it happened so much in the span of 14 days – it just left a hollow feeling in hindsight. I am glad that multiple women’s storylines are being carried out right now; the next goal should be figuring out how to bring the wrestling matches up to par with the storytelling.
Clash of Champions: I am a little afraid that the feud between Sasha and Bayley is progressing too quickly.
Fans have known from the jump that the endgame of this feud would be Sasha triumphing over her old foe to win the Smackdown women’s title. It was just a matter of when this would happen. Many of us believed the feud would end at one of the Big Four pay-per-views. Given when Bayley’s turn occurred, the possible ends could come at Survivor Series, Royal Rumble, or even stretch all the way to next year’s WrestleMania. Surely, performers the caliber of Sasha and Bayley deserve a marquee at one of those events. But, because of Nikki Cross’ absence at Clash, Sasha had to come out and attack Bayley to fill time on the show.
The attack made sense, of course, but the point is that it came way too soon. Had Nikki been able to wrestle, I firmly believe Sasha wouldn’t have gotten involved, and instead the match would be stopped because of Alexa Bliss interfering to cost her friend. Or, the original match simply would have gone longer than the one we got without any outside interference.
I discussed last time how I felt having Sasha return two weeks post-beatdown was too soon. That interview segment ended with another attack from Bayley. Because of the last minute match change, Sasha appeared again after just two weeks to strike back at Bayley. The golden opportunity to maximize this feud would have come with the attacks from Bayley. Sasha could have been off TV for weeks, months even, to allow for new women to feud with Bayley in the meantime. Eventually, the original feud would be reignited in time for a big pay-per-view. Instead, it looks like now we may see the proper beginning of the in-ring feud between the two begin at Hell in a Cell. A pay-per-view that certainly holds meaning for Sasha and the Four Horsewomen, I suppose I can’t really complain about these two meeting in a Cell. I just know WWE and the fanbase, though, and there’s a possibility that starting the feud properly this soon could cause people to tire of it before it has the chance to make it to next year.
And yet, guessing can be a fool’s game sometimes. Time will tell where the former Golden Role Models end up.
With the newly announced Draft looming in WWE, the landscape of the women’s division is sure to change. Will it be for the better? I’ll be right back here in two weeks to decide with you all.
Stay legit bossy,