WWE Evolution – Recap/Review

Against all the odds, WWE’s first all-women PPV wound up their best all-round PPV of 2018.

Note: this article originally ran on Set the Tape (link).

I started watching the WWE in early 2010 thanks to that whole “Sky Sports having a stranglehold over UK broadcast rights” thing, so my Voice of the WWE, the one who was there every week on one or both of the shows announcing people to the ring, was Lillian Garcia.  That booming, joyous voice and delivery that balanced showmanship with knowing how to properly pronounce a person’s name – love ya really, Chimel – was a constant throughout mine and my brother’s weekly consumption of WWE’s relentless content.  She worked SmackDown and RAW, lead announced most PPVs, main announced most of the SmackDown vs RAW and 2K games, and sometimes belted out the national anthem (oftentimes better than whomever the company got to recite it at that year’s WrestleMania).  But hers was not a presence I think I ever fully appreciated until she effectively retired (for the second time) in mid-2016.  That’s not to take away from the current announcers, JoJo in particular is coming into her own with a refreshing circus ringmaster style, but they’re just not doing it for me in the same way as Garcia did for all those many years.

This information is important because it explains why I reacted to her appearance at Evolution, calling the introductions for the first half of the card, in much the same manner a dog does when their owner returns home after a week or so on holiday.  Garcia is now 52 years old and her voice has dulled a bit with age, but god the force with which she delivers “ONE FALL” and “MICHELLE MCCOOL” and hearing her get to announce “ASUKA” just threw me right back with all the tingles.  I imagine that I am not alone in having not given Lilian her proper due when she was a full-time employee of the WWE, so her getting the chance to have one last moment in the spotlight by calling such a historically significant PPV for the company she gave herself so completely to warmed the cockles of my heart.

I chose to open this review/recap/flagrant violation of Set the Tape max article lengths by focussing on Lilian Garcia deliberately, albeit after much debate.  After all, in the lead up to Evolution, it’s been kind of an utter disaster: three separate concurrent PPV builds, injuries, the face of the company (hopefully) short-term retiring due to a Leukaemia recurrence the Monday before the PPV, the Crown Jewel PPV that’s become such a PR nightmare for the WWE (including getting pilloried by John Oliver’s HBO show) that they’ve ceased announcing where it will emanate from but have refused to cancel anyway because doing so would cost them money (leading to several bigger stars refusing outright to go), and the growing belief that Evolution was only happening in the first place in a pandering attempt to balance out the whole “women can’t wrestle in Saudi Arabia” thing, one reinforced by how little build went into the show and the announcement of an “EVERYBODY IN THE POOL” Battle Royal to make up the numbers that many of its own participants were outright mocking via their social medias.

But I chose not to begin this piece by listing all of that because I can’t help but feel like doing so places Evolution through too cynical of a lens.  That it makes the reader/viewer see everything through the lens of WWE coming through at the last possible moment in an attempt to win back some goodwill ahead of Royal Cock-Up coming to you live from the beautiful progressive nation state of [REDACTED].  And that is honestly grossly unfair to the women who took part in Evolution because, stripped of all the noise surrounding it and enough usages of the word “historic” to kill anybody that chose to incorporate the term into their drinking games, this was an excellent PPV.  Maybe even the best of the year for the company.  The wrestling was strong, the booking was logical and refrained from the kinds of nonsense finishes that have been dragging down higher-quality PPVs so far this year, the atmosphere was hot from start to finish, and we got at least one Match of the Year contender (maybe even two) out of it.  This banged, pure and simple.

You hopefully know the drill by now, so join me in running down the card and SALUTE SALUTE-ing that rarest of beasts: a 2018 main-roster WWE PPV that didn’t suck ass in some way!  Also, fuck Crown Jewel.


But before we get to the action…

There were (blissfully given the recent PPV bloat) only seven matches on the Evolution card, so I’m going to take the opportunity provided by that spare time to talk briefly about the production of the event and how I would actually love it all to become a regular thing.  As mentioned, I came to WWE at the turn of the decade, so my brother and I got to witness the twilight days of gaudy set designs, pyro, and general ballyhoo – my brother would even go scouring for leaks on PPV set designs and go on about them at me endlessly.  Alas, they eventually disappeared, sacrificed at the altar of budget cuts, and WWE programming in presentation largely became uniform across all shows on all formats.  It makes sense financially, of course, but it also furthers the sensation that WWE programming never builds to a proper climax, that every show just leads to the next show and the next show and the next show and so on and so forth, never blowing off.

So, colour me pleasantly shocked that Evolution decided to change the set design for the evening.  Yes, pedants, I know that it’s basically just a standard stripped-back house show set-up, but the variety at all already made the night feel special.  The floor-height stage, the various Trons arranged in more of a cluster than a centralised point, good old-fashioned ring aprons rather than the LEDs, individual metal barriers rather than the thick singular one, even the lights going down once a match starts like in NXT TakeOvers.  All combined, it lends Evolution the feel and atmosphere of a classic 80s wrestling show rather than a late-10s sports entertainment extravaganza which I feel injects something extra and legitimate into this evening of women’s wrestling.  Also helping: those simplified graphics packages that felt super old-school in their clean prize-fighter design.  Also also helping: that molten crowd who were hot and supportive for basically everything that night.  Even with the production crew occasionally fiddling with the mics in a vain attempt to control the narratives around certain wrestlers (#BooTheWoo), this was a crowd that always made their love heard, wholly unconcerned with getting themselves over and instead focussed on the action in the ring, determined to help make this night the best it could be.

Genuinely, credit to everybody involved for willing this night into historic status, the deserved historic status that comes from something being genuinely excellent and not just saying “historic” over and over again like a Ubisoft PR rep utilises the word “iconic.”  One part that deserves zero credit, however, is commentary, which reunited the dream team(?) of Michael Cole, Renee Young and Beth Phoenix from this year’s Mae Young Classic and…  Well, Beth’s gotten a lot better in the colour commentator role post-MYC, putting over moves and holds with gravitas whilst telling the story.  Renee’s still too stiff and overly-reliant on “I can’t believe…” statements that she’ll hopefully get over within the next year.  But Cole was just The Worst: missing counts during the Last Woman Standing match, calling a Rousey Judo throw “vintage” despite her having wrestled full-time for less than six goddamn months, completely blanking on the names of Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir when displayed ringside despite their being integral to the finish of the NXT Women’s Title match, and YET AGAIN describing the PIRATE PRINCESS Kairi Sane as a “boating enthusiast” despite her gimmick being A LITERAL PIRATE PRINCESS HOW HAVE YOU BEEN DOING THIS FOR 20 FUCKING YEARS?!  Oh, plus slipping up and saying “both men” at one point during a match of this all-women’s PPV GENUINELY HOW ARE YOU STILL EMPLOYED!?

But, yeah, other than commentary and plugging Crown Jewel repeatedly to the extreme consternation of the attending audience – once again: fuck Crown Jewel – great work on making the evening feel like it meant something even without the in-ring action being largely great!


The exception that proves the rule.

Ah, right, I forgot we have to get through the opener first.  Real talk: I’m going to shit on it a bit, but Trish Stratus & Lita vs. Mickie James & Alicia Fox was still good fun and an enjoyable opener.  Mickie James is a national treasure who needs one last run with a title before she eventually hangs it up for good and gets that deserved Hall of Fame induction – her character work and selling are incredible as ever, she still makes the Chick Kick look like a million bucks – or at the very least one last singles battle with Trish.  She’s a general in this thing, working her ass off to make everyone look good and cover for the obvious ring rust of the Attitude Era veterans and Alicia Fox’s continued inability to remember her cues.  It’s also a match that fits the progression of the rest of the PPV: kicking off with a nostalgia tour that lets us see the hits played out one last time by a few legends that never fully got their due in their day, then alternating between the midcard players of this Women’s Revolution and glimpses of the future, before closing out with the current top stars of all three brands burning the house down.  The evolution of WWE women’s wrestling, if you will.

So, yeah, the opener was fun for what it was, which was an especially star-studded house show match.  That said, it was also quite the mess.  Admittedly, this was to be somewhat expected.  The intended build was forcibly stalled-out due to Alexa Bliss’ injury and the bet-hedging over whether she would be ready in time, so any potential story got nipped in the bud and led to this hastily re-arranged tag match of no stakes and little storytelling to salvage things.  I, and seemingly the entirety of the Nassau Coliseum based on the roar that greeted their first interaction, would have preferred a solo Mickie v. Trish fight, but Trish also hasn’t wrestled a full-length singles match in 12 years so needed the accompanying ring rust hiding.  Ditto Lita with 11 years of ring rust to shake, although she was easily the worse of the two, practically dragging herself around the ring at points.  Alicia Fox missed the pin break-up at the match’s end which required the ref halt the count despite James not kicking out because that wasn’t the scheduled finish – credit to Lita at least for pulling it back super-quick for the moonsault (that she didn’t nearly kill herself pulling off this time thank God), and the crowd for not getting hung up on it.  Plus many other minor issues and botches – woof on that first attempted top-rope ‘rana, WOOF INDEED – that brought down the quality of the match somewhat.

Still, it wasn’t unenjoyable and it got the crowd all hot for the better wrestling that was soon to come, so it worked serviceably enough as an opener.  I just can’t stay mad at a match that lets Mickie James share ring space with Trish Stratus again.  Either give them one last match or let them marry each other, already!  Pay off that long-term booking definitively in a way that sends everyone home happy!


HOLY SHIT, AN ACTUALLY GOOD BATTLE ROYAL!

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Look, Battle Royals can actually be brilliant, we wouldn’t gleefully await the Royal Rumble each year if the inherent concept of them were worthless.  But the reason many of us approached this particular one with such shade and scepticism is because they on paper look like a relic of the much-maligned Diva era we’re supposed to have evolved past.  That dark period of time where management didn’t give a single toss about women’s wrestling, so they’d just randomly toss a whole bunch of women into a meaningless tag match or battle royal to give them all paycheques and us fans an obvious bathroom break from the real action.  (Fun Fact: between the re-activation of the Women’s Championship in November 1997 and the main roster debuts of Sasha Banks, Charlotte Flair, and Becky Lynch in July 2015, 9 out of 17 WrestleManias featured a Women’s Title match of some description and none of them went over 9 minutes.)  Combine that with the inept build to this PPV and the lack of any discernible stakes to this specific match – until, at the last minute, a #1 contender stipulation was added – and you’ve got a recipe for judgemental eyerolls aplenty.

But hold your horses, Predisposition Pete, because everybody pulled it out of the bag by, get this, putting some actual thought into the booking of a 20 Woman Battle Royal!  See, the beauty of a Battle Royal, for the benefit of those who don’t follow wrestling religiously, is that they can act as a flashpoint for all the otherwise unconnected stories currently happening in a division at that moment in time, and that’s something this particular Battle Royal made good usage of.  We saw the implosion of the remnants of Absolution when Mandy Rose booted her best friend Sonya Deville off the ring apron after they’d been running roughshod over everyone else.  We started off with some IIconics mic time (which justifies the entire PPV by itself) where they ran down Long Island, New York accents, and the nostalgia-baiting legends before getting turfed instantly by their targets, immediately followed by the active roster participants ganging up on the legends – I may have to go back and check, but I don’t think any of the cameoing legends got any eliminations, which I really appreciate if that’s the case.  We got the next brief chapter in the Asuka/Ember Moon blood feud where Moon proves once again that she’s the only woman who truly has Asuka’s number by paying back her underhanded elimination during the Rumble earlier this year with a clean dump.

(Side note: PLEASE REGAL, BLOW THIS OFF ALREADY!  Bust them both back down to NXT for one night/month only and give them the 30-minute TakeOver barnstormer they deserve!  Nassau was practically ready to combust when they met face to face, even when Asuka got got, so you can’t tell me that this wouldn’t be money!  Make it happen, dammit!)

All of those were just the most notable stories told or furthered during this Battle Royal, but there were so many enjoyable spots in this 16-minute match that it felt notable and considered, rather than a slapdash way for the WWE to inflate their total number of women on the card closer to the advertised 50.  Nia Jax may seem like an underwhelming choice for the overall victor, but I’m down with it.  In kayfabe terms, she and Ronda Rousey have unfinished business from back at Money in the Bank, when Alexa Bliss interrupted their title match to cash in her Money in the Bank contract, so there’s a readymade story to go there once we get out the other-side of the Brand Warfare Survivor Series build that effectively makes the entire month of November non-canon in terms of story (we’ll likely talk about that at the appropriate time).  Whilst in smarky terms, there is no way in hell that Rousey is losing that belt before, at the very least, the Royal Rumble so Nia makes a good transitional opponent for her – someone who on paper can give her enough of a challenge that her victory doesn’t seem wholly assured and time-wasting for everyone involved.  Ember will get her time to shine and her performance in this should not be discredited just because she didn’t win, although I didn’t get to see her and Molly Holly trade finishers.  MINUS FIVE STARS, WORST PPV EVER.


I wanna be forever (Mae) Young.

This should’ve gotten longer than 10 minutes.  Toni Storm vs. Io Shirai in the Mae Young Classic Final inarguably was hampered from its full potential by being half the length it needed to be.  I’m reminded of those AJ Styles/Shinsuke Nakamura matches from earlier in the year where they’d wrestle the first 20 minutes of a New Japan Pro Wrestling five-star classic and then, after those 20, immediately jump straight to the ending because it’s WWE and this organisation is not built for 40 minute matches; like slow-cooking a delicious stew for half of its designated cooking time before setting it on fire for 90 seconds then serving it as a fully-cooked meal.  The same sort of thing ended up afflicting Storm/Shirai, a deliberately-paced technical showcase that had to ramp up with little warning in the last minute or so because it was time to go home.  I don’t think it killed the match, but it should have gotten longer.

Still, I get why.  It’s not like the Mae Young Classic was getting TV time and not everybody is willing to put themselves through ALL OF THE WRESTLING FOREVER so sacrifices must have been made and most of the crowd there likely had no idea who these women were before the first bell rang.  Plus, even with the handicap of an abridged timeslot, this was still TONI STORM VS. IO SHIRAI so of course it kicked arse in spite of everything!  What was your favourite bit?  Shirai’s submission game being so smooth and painful looking?  The moonsault to the outside, helped immeasurably thanks to the camerawork and editing or, more specifically, the lack of both (you can tell Kevin Dunn was allowed nowhere near this event from how crisp and seizure-free the presentation was)?  Storm pulling off one of her signature sick German Suplexes on the goddamn ring apron, a move I am 100% certain would have killed a non-Joshi wrestler?  Shirai’s springboard sunset flip on Storm?  The finish, where Storm counters the Asai Moonsault with her feet into the Storm Zero for the win?

I am just a greedy bastard who wanted more of a great thing and that fact should not take away from the match we got.  Storm and Shirai got the chance to go out there, unburdened by complex stories to tell or garbage booking to deal with, and show off their respective talents to a red-hot crowd of 10,000 strong and several hundred thousand more on the WWE Network.  It may not have been the brilliant brilliant match we all wanted, but it was still a brilliant match and that counts for everything.  I am super excited to see what Io Shirai brings to NXT and to try finding an additional hour in my cramped-ass schedule each week (because who seriously has the time) to check out Toni Storm on NXT UK.


Riott Grrrls

Even more so than the nostalgia tour opener, the six-woman tag match of Sasha Banks, Bayley & Natalya vs. The Riott Squad was easily the most meaningless match on the entire card heading in, since by this point all six women have been battling each other in various forms for roughly 2/3 the length of your average Dolph Ziggler feud.  The actual match… didn’t suddenly change that fact in any meaningful way, although Bayley sacrificing herself for Sasha at least gives me and other LGBT grap-fans additional fuel for our fanfics.  It was a high-quality house show tag match, and you know what?  That’s fine.  Call it benefitting from lowered expectations if you want, but I do remember the days of WrestleMania XXVI when multi-woman tag matches lasted less than the combined lengths of the entrances and were merely everyone taking turns to hit their signatures in quick succession before the pin occurred.

This was not that, thankfully, instead going for 13 minutes and featuring some quality tag team wrestling!  The Riott Squad looked great, controlling the action with frequent tags and tightly-coordinated double and triple-teams.  Bayley, with her Portia Perez-homaging tights, was better than she’s been in a goddamned age, returning to where her character was at the end of her time in NXT by mixing her positivity with an aggressiveness (that dive at the match’s end was mad) that sells her as a genuine threat and which the main roster had otherwise reset upon her debut – hence how one of the hottest and most naturally-over babyfaces of the decade depressingly lost all of her lustre with the audience within a year.  Sasha got her feel-good moment, the finish of the babyfaces paying tribute to their heroes popped, and Natalya…  OK, Natalya still wasn’t any good, but five out of six ain’t bad!  Again, no classic, but an enjoyable showcase for all of the women and a perfect transition into the triple main event title matches.  After all, any later in the card and this match would have been stigmatised as a bathroom break between the important stuff akin to days of yore, so smart structuring, too.

Oh, and since I now have a platform and excuse to mention it, someone please wring Cole’s neck sos I never have to hear “it’s BOSS TIME” ever again.


“And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder.  One of the four beasts saying, ‘Come and see.’”

Hey, whaddaya know?  Kairi Sane vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s Championship was a stonking great match!  Who could have possibly foreseen that happening except literally everyone?  I love how, fundamentally, this feud has now evolved into something rather similar to the Asuka/Ember feud from 2017 but with the alignments changed and a whole load of different character specific nuances that makes it feel like an entirely different beast.  Baszler, as previously discussed, is a bully who just enjoys the feeling she gets from exerting her power over and striking fear into those she deems lesser than her, read: everyone who’s not one of her fellow Four Horsewomen of MMA.  She’s cocky and vicious but she’s also capable of committing a murder on basically anyone’s ass with minimal trouble, which makes her terrifyingly detestable.  But not only is Sane not intimidated by Baszler’s schtick, she’s also one of the very few women capable of putting Baszler in her place through pure skill and doing her homework, which gets under Baszler’s skin and forces her to take shortcuts she normally wouldn’t touch in order to triumph over Sane.

The differences between Sane/Baszler and Asuka/Ember, of course, lie in the details: Asuka was never as sadistic as Baszler, Sane is a delightful bundle of babyface sunshine compared to Moon’s dark babyface nature, and Asuka never had to call on her MMA buddies to cheat on her behalf for the victory LIKE A DICK.  God, these two are so good together!  I love how the match flow communicated just how even Baszler and Sane are now, both competitors growing and learning from each of their prior encounters that they have to find new ways to set up old spots because the other person won’t be fooled twice – there’s the Kirafuda Clutch rollup, of course, but I started noticing it as early as the counter-for-counter sequence around the steel steps.  Baszler going for power moves in an attempt to finally break Sane both physically and mentally, wrenching Sane’s arm like it’s a slot machine that’s stolen her money; Sane’s spirit being so strong that she will get into a slugfest with the ex-MMA star just to show that she’s not intimidated.

And, yeah, then there’s that ending.  I loved it.  Again, Baszler can’t break Sane which means she can’t beat Sane anymore without assistance and, per the ironclad laws of wrestling logic, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir obviously would feel obliged to retaliate after accidentally being used as Baszler’s crash pad.  Sane can beat Baszler, but she can’t beat her whilst also having to keep her head on a swivel for two other women out for her blood, which lets Baszler take advantage – because, again, Sane and Baszler are effectively even in terms of skill, so you can’t take your eyes off the latter for a second – and lock Sane in the Clutch again to become the first ever two-time NXT Women’s Champion.  It even keeps Sane looking strong by her refusal to tap out like she did back in their second encounter, instead fighting with all her strength and willingly passing out rather than give Baszler the satisfaction.  It’s a schmozzy unsatisfying finish but with purpose and intent, unlike (just to pick a random example) 90% of AJ Styles title matches.

Sane will get another run at the belt someday, Baszler now heads up a faction that will with any luck go on an Undisputed Era-style run of dominance, and I am all hyped as hell for whatever the next encounter between these two may be… particularly if Sane decides to bring in, let’s say, some bestie backup from her days back in Stardom and rounded out by another all-powerful Japanese wrestler who could be seen as Baszler’s equal, leading them all into some kind of War, perhaps organised like a series of Games of some description?


Lass Woman Standing

Or, “I looked this woman in her optic stems and I said, ‘Biiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!’”

Becky Lynch vs. Charlotte Flair, Last Woman Standing, for the SmackDown Women’s Championship burned the house to the ground.  Of course, it did.  This feud is the hottest thing in WWE right now by several countries that aren’t dismembering journalists in the middle of their embassies, in spite of a booking and narrative that are desperately trying to kneecap this thing as much as possible.  I’d recommend watching this match on mute, but both Becky and Charlotte were doing such vital character work with their in-ring dialogue that muting proceedings outright would drag the match down.  Fact is, by sheer accident, WWE Creative have stumbled onto a main roster equivalent of Johnny Gargano vs. Tomasso Ciampa and, no matter how hard they try, they can’t sour such a thing because both of the stars booked in this feud are at the top of their respective games and giving it their all.  Both Becky and Charlotte are right now, yes, straight fire as the company’s most over star gets her long overdue moment in the spotlight and her shoot-best friend works overtime to ensure that fact.  You thought that they were going to let a Last Woman Standing stipulation and garbage commentary – if the fandom for Becky Lynch is a “cult,” Cole, then it’s probably large enough to register for its own zip code – prevent them from sending this feud off for the time being with a bang?  Motherfucker, you must not have been paying attention!

This was just brutal from end-to-end, expediting the typical baseline feeling out process in order to get straight to the good stuff.  Kendo sticks, tables, ladders, brawling in the crowd, chairs, ECW chair callbacks cos why the heck not, announce tables… all delivered with the vicious intensity of two former best friends who now just despise one another and don’t care about their own bodies so long as the other woman is incapable of leaving the arena in a non-stretcher related capacity.  Or, actually, maybe they do still care for each other?  You can see it in those little character moments as the match drags on – almost half an hour this lasted, nearly double the length of any other match on the card, and it never felt like it – that adds an extra dimension of hurt to the fight which makes blow-off matches like these so memorable.  Becky’s mocking ultra-confidence at the match’s start giving way to a seething anger at Charlotte’s refusal to stay down and eventually a borderline regret at what she’s having to do to finish Flair off; Charlotte getting downright nasty, such as with that Figure 8 on the ladder, and defiantly screaming “IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!” after the second table spot, goading Becky into striking her down like she’s Obi-Wan Kenobi.

God, I loved this.  I was late to the PPV for various reasons (hence the lateness of this recap) so I’ve already seen misery-guts spark up a backlash to this match for various reasons that I’ll admittedly cop to.  Parts were somewhat messy and a little botchy – surprise of surprises, Charlotte’s moonsault is still hilariously garbage, whilst the chair being out of place for the ladder Figure 8 was rather awkward.  Becky attempting a walkout roughly two-thirds of the way through is exemplary of WWE booking’s weird refusal to just let badass heels remain badass heels and their continuing inability to comprehend why fans have gone so gaga for the new and improved Becky Lynch, although this was thankfully amended pretty quickly by the match’s last third and Becky’s character work during it.  And, most blatantly, Mike Chioda’s refereeing with his massive inconsistency in what counts as “Standing” or not, although I could Regal it away as him making judgement calls on whether the other person was able to still go rather than literally standing on their feet.

But, quite honestly, who cares?  Who honestly cared about Becky attempting to run off when she was leg-dropping through the announce table?  Who honestly cared about the botches when Charlotte was paying back those early kendo shots with her own at match’s end, plus an actually powerful looking spear for once?  Who honestly cared about the inconsistent refereeing when it gave us Charlotte rising from the rubble to the absolute fear of Becky in a perfect reaction shot?  Who honestly cared about any of that when the crowd exploded on the 10 count in joyous celebration?  I can tell you for a fact that I certainly didn’t.  Best Women’s Match of the Year So Far, maybe even Best Main Roster Match of the Year So Far.  You heard me.


Bad Reputation

Closing out the show with the unenviable task of following a legit Match of the Year candidate was Ronda Rousey murdering Nikki Bella for the RAW Women’s Championship.  It was better than expected!  Rousey has a natural God-given gift for this but she is still rather green, a fact being well-hidden by the choice of opponents she’s had so far, and the Bella Twins weren’t any good when they were full-time wrestlers so add the part-timer ring rust onto them and you get Brie’s recent mission to concuss every living thing in sight.  Still, a combination of clever booking, the Bellas at least having an understanding for how to structure a match, and Rousey’s aforementioned knack for pro wrestling saw it through – as did the passionate crowd who were willing to seriously engage with the match on its own merits rather than shitting all over it for daring to main event over Lynch/Flair and Rousey having been rocketed to the top.

Since the match ran for 15 minutes instead of being “bell, Judo throw, Judo throw, armbar, bell,” pretty much anybody for whom this wasn’t their first wrestling match (and maybe even some for whom this was) could plot this out to the second.  Rousey is obviously a million times better than either Bella so super-cockily refuses to just submit Nikki at the first chance she gets instead looking for an honest-to-goodness fight, a ref distraction allows Brie to get in a few cheap shots that rock Ronda enough to allow Nikki an opening to work her over a bit, Ronda eventually shakes it off, gives Brie a receipt, then armbar tap and we all go home happy.  It’s simple, predictable, but it works.  Both Bellas work the crowd for heat which covers up their lacking offense (save for Nikki’s top-rope enziguri-type kick which was dope) and spot-calling, Ronda sells their offense like her life depends on it which is objectively rather silly but at least demonstrates she’s a team player, and Ronda’s own offense still looks friggin’ great.  The top-rope flip into the armbar set-up was a great way to finish – although it would have been better if she went straight into the armbar, but I also don’t want either Bella to actually be murdered so the delay was probably for the best – and all-in-all this was the best possible version of what this specific match could have been.

The real test for Rousey will come in a few weeks when we hit Survivor Series and she squares off against Becky Lynch.  Deliver the goods there against a legit opponent and we can officially squash any doubts about her skill at this whole pro wrestling malarkey.  Here’s hoping!


Callum Petch wanna be be your man, do you wanna be his girl?

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