- What did we learn from Charlotte Flair-Becky Lynch and Ronda Rousey-Nikki Bella? Here is what you need to know about Sunday's historic night in women's wrestling.
WWE’s Evolution made history, marking the company’s first-ever all-women’s pay per view.
In addition to bringing back former stars in Trish Stratus and Lita, the night served as an opportunity to spotlight the present and future of women’s wrestling. Ronda Rousey, Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair all delivered their brilliance in the ring, but the show also served as a proving ground for Kairi Sane, Io Shirai and Toni Storm.
Here are the results:
• Trish Stratus and Lita defeated Mickie James and Alicia Fox
• Nia Jax eliminated Ember Moon to capture the Historic Women’s Battle Royal
• Toni Storm defeated Io Shirai to win the Mae Young Classic
• Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya Neidhart defeated the Riott Squad in six-man action
• Shayna Baszler defeated Kairi Sane to become the new NXT women’s champion
• Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair in a “Last Woman Standing” match to retain the SmackDown women’s championship
• Ronda Rousey defeated Nikki Bella in a successful defense of her Raw women’s title
Here are my takeaways from Sunday night’s pay per view:
1. WWE missed a major opportunity by not placing the Becky Lynch-Charlotte Flair match in the main event.
Lynch and Flair put their bodies on the line in an incredibly dangerous “Last Woman Standing” match.
The ingenuity of Lynch and Flair was on display, with Flair locking in a figure eight through a ladder and Lynch delivering a double leg drop from atop a ladder onto Flair on a table. The match set an impossible standard to surpass for Ronda Rousey and Nikki Bella, who closed out the show.
The finish also elevated Lynch while still protecting Flair.
Lynch powerbombed Flair off the ring apron and through a table outside the ring to set up the finish. Despite a valiant effort, Flair could not get back to her feet by the referee’s count of 10. Flair had made Lynch tap out earlier in the match, which was irrelevant under “Last Woman Standing” stipulations, but still helps continue the story between the two.
2. Watching Ronda Rousey struggle to put away Nikki Bella in the main event was a stretch even by the highest of pro wrestling standards.
I would have preferred the Bella twins continually attempted to cheat their way past every rule in an effort to give Nikki Bella a fighting chance, also providing Rousey an opportunity to destroy them both, which happened near the end of the match when Rousey had both Bellas atop her shoulders.
This match would have been better served coming before the Flair-Lynch encounter.
3. Losing Alexa Bliss to a concussion significantly detracted from the return of Trish Stratus and Lita, who dominated Mickie James and fill-in Alicia Fox in what amounted to a glorified squash match.
Although the outcome was never in doubt, the match highlighted the talent of the 39-year-old James. Wrestling is unique in the sense that a competitor needs her opponent to make the beating look legitimate, and James bumped, sold and did everything in her power right down to the finishing sequence to ensure that Lita, 43, and Stratus, 41, resembled the way they looked during their glory years.
4. The battle royal highlighted the women that helped pave a path for today’s WWE stars without hurting any of the current roster.
A key moment took place during the interaction between Ember Moon and Asuka. The two had a phenomenal feud in NXT that saw Moon unable to ever conquer the then-undefeated Asuka.
Obviously, Asuka is presented far differently on the main roster. Since her WrestleMania loss to Charlotte Flair, her position on the card has been, at best, middling. But her work with Moon harkened back memories of some of her best work in NXT. Moon eliminating Asuka is hopefully the seed of a future feud if the two are ever placed on the same brand.
The battle royal ended with a showdown between Nia Jax and Moon, which saw Moon win over the crowd but unsuccessfully attempt to toss Jax over the top rope. Jax has jumped back and forth between a heel and a face throughout her time with WWE, but she is at her best, as evidenced during this battle royal, when she is simply presented as an unstoppable force.
5. Io Shirai took advantage of the opportunity to be part of Evolution, showing WWE’s fan base why she is known as “The Genius of the Sky.”
Even in defeat, Shirai was one of the show-stealers from Evolution. Her moonsault to the outside was one of the most precise, and impressive, spots of the night. Her opponent, Toni Storm, also told a great story—despite Shirai’s brilliance, Storm was always one step ahead of her.
6. Should Triple H and Stephanie McMahon have presented Toni Storm with her Mae Young Classic championship trophy and flowers after the match?
Wrestling purists were no doubt uncomfortable as the leaders of the antagonistic Authority were notably out of character on a WWE pay per view hugging the tournament champion and consoling her defeated opponent.
It is only a small detail, but I did not like the look of McMahon towering over the two competitors.
Personally, I would have had Storm’s championship celebration in the ring but saved the interactions with Triple H and McMahon for backstage and showed them either on WWE.com or as a social media exclusive.
7. The six-women tag between Sasha Banks, Bayley, Natalya Neidhart and the Riott Squad illustrated how WWE’s female roster offers too much talent for only two titles.
The women’s roster continues to grow, which means that a secondary title needs to be added. WWE could also implement a tag team division, but a lot of those teams would feel manufactured. The creation of a new secondary title—and the subsequent chase for it—would offer a far more organic feel, as well as even more momentum for the women’s division.
8. Shayna Baszler’s victory over Kairi Sane accomplished multiple goals.
Baszler reclaimed the title by choking out Sane, showcasing her ability as a submission specialist. Sane showed that she may be the single best protagonist on the entire women’s roster, which is especially impressive considering pure babyfaces are increasingly hard to find in 2018. Sane is extremely talented, versatile, wrestles a lot bigger than her size, and is believable as an underdog.
The match also served as an introduction to a WWE pay per view of the MMA-version of the Four Horsewomen—which are Ronda Rousey, Baszler, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. Rousey is a worldwide name and Baszler is now a two-time NXT champ, but it was important to see Duke and Shafir help Baszler circumvent the rules en route to winning the match.
Could this lead to an eventual heel turn for Rousey? Or a Rousey-Baszler feud that splits the faction?
9. Evolution delivered a phenomenal show, complete with meaningful action, compelling storylines and WWE’s trademark elite presentation.
WWE should continue to hold all-women’s pay per views. The roster is clearly deep enough for its own standalone shows, and Evolution should stand for the beginning of a new movement in women’s wrestling.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.