The Smackdown Women’s Championship is on the line this Sunday at WWE‘s Smackdown Live PPV event, TLC, as reigning champion and Irish lass-kicker Becky Lynch puts her title on the line against the “Wicked Witch of the WWE”, Alexa Bliss.
While many have continuous proclaimed that Raw has the stronger women’s division – featuring four top level talents in Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley and Paige – Smackdown Live can boast that their division has been booked infinitely better. While Charlotte and Banks have stolen the headlines for the past eight months with their epic feud, the rest of Raw seems to be in a bit of a holding pattern, with Bayley and Nia Jax circling the waters and Alicia Fox the odd woman out (while Paige continues to nurse an injury that’s keeping her out of action). But Smackdown has taken a seemingly weaker roster (although I would argue a deeper one than Raw past the big name stars) and made the weaker stars into Superstars. It’s evident with Nikki Bella using her starpower to elevate Carmella in the other TLC women’s match, and again in the division’s main event, where Becky Lynch is in a program with relative newcomer Alexa Bliss.
Becky Lynch has had a long road to the top of the WWE ladder and she’s become a fan favourite with her tenacity and never say die attitude. A member of the infamous NXT Four Horsewomen (alongside Charlotte, Banks and Bayley), she failed to topple Charlotte for the title before the brands were split earlier this year. But she showed a resilience and determination that won over the WWE Universe and proved she belonged in the same breath as the other three. The only one not on Raw, Becky has continued to have a rougher go, as she was put in a talent pool of women she was less familiar wise in the ring (although she spent time with Bliss and Carmella in NXT and faced off against Naomi during the jumbled gang warfare when the NXT women initially debuted last year).
This Sunday’s match-up at TLC will be a Woman’s Tables Match, the first time that women have had a tables match in the WWE since 2010, when the Divas of Doom (Beth Phoenix and Natalya) defeated LayCool (Layla and Michelle McCool) at that year’s edition of TLC.
Alexa Bliss has come a long way since her main roster debut on July 26, 2016. In NXT she had her ups and downs – her initial singles run was inconsistent, but once she became the manager for NXT Tag Team Champions Blake & Murphy, her personality really got a chance to shine. The boost in confidence was all the difference in the world, and on future singles matches, especially after she parted ways with the tag team shortly before her call-up, she showed a world of improvement. But not everyone was sold on her initial drafting to Smackdown Live at the July 19th Draft – especially when she was drafted over Bayley and Asuka. But Bliss has continued her character development, and scored an early win over future Smackdown Women’s champion Becky Lynch in her first main roster match, when she substituted for Eva Marie in a match. Though she failed to be crowned the new Smackdown Women’s Champion at the 6-pack challenge for the inaugural title at September’s Backlash PPV, she would go on to another huge win, pinning Nikki Bella to become the #1 contender to Lynch’s new belt, and earning a title match at the following No Mercy PPV.
It was really no question who would take the mantle as Smackdown‘s top woman, as Lynch was one of the WWE’s most popular Superstars heading into Wrestlemania this year. By emerging from Charlotte and Sasha’s shadows on her own on Smackdown, the title was hers to lose. She won it handedly and was immediately put into a program with Alexa Bliss. And much like Nikki vs Carmella, Lynch’s star power has helped elevate one of the bottom card additions into a main event heel. When Lynch was forced to miss her title defence at No Mercy due to health reasons, Bliss got her opportunity for the belt at Smackdown Live‘s show in Glasgow, Scotland on November 8. But the referee failed to see Bliss’ foot under the ropes during Lynch’s application of the Dis-Arm-Her, and Lynch was awarded the victory. Bliss’ complaints to the Smackdown Live management team of Shane McMahon and Daniel Bryan resulted in a rematch at this Sunday’s TLC in order to clear up any controversy from the last title match’s outcome.
This past Tuesday night, the two combatants had their contract signing and shockingly (!) it all went to hell in a hand basket. Tables were broken and bodies were left in the ring, signalling that Bliss was not going to be taking this Sunday’s very physical contest lightly.
Lynch still has some things to prove. Despite her popularity, there are still detractors that feel she was the weakest link in the Four Horsewoman. And Bliss still hears the echoes, much like Carmella, that her push has been too quick and she’s not ready for a main event feud. But much like Carmella’s feud, this rivalry has strengthened Smackdown‘s women’s division, by making the two seemingly inexperienced members into full fledged threats – when you add veterans like Natalya and Naomi to the list, you realize that Smackdown has a much deeper – and ultimately stronger – roster than Raw does.
Both women will be going to war this Sunday and that means ultimately that they will be shooting for a couple big spots – after all, they have to compete with an incredible week of women’s wrestling, that saw not only Raw deliver a huge match in which Sasha Banks won her third Raw Women’s title, but saw the Black Lotus Triad put on a clinic versus Pentagon Dark on Lucha Undergound this past Wednesday, as well as a pretty jaw dropping cage match on Impact on Thursday that saw Rosemary defeat Jade to become the new TNA Knockouts champion.
Expect Becky Lynch to pull out the win, but not without a huge effort from Alexa Bliss. Lynch needs to solidify her claim to the top of Smackdown Live and, unlike her Raw counterparts, doesn’t have a natural enemy yet to have a lengthy rivalry like Banks and Charlotte have had. Bliss has been elevated nicely and, if earlier foreshadowing when Becky was hurt was any indication, could move nicely into a feud with Naomi following this rivalry, while Lynch could then turn her sights on either Natalya or a returning Eva Marie. Love her or hate her, no one in this business outside maybe the Miz has more heel heat than Eva Marie, and that is the kind of factor that can make feuds memorable.
Although I must confess, I think Lynch’s best rivalry option isn’t even on the main roster yet. While Charlotte has her Sasha on Raw now, Lynch hasn’t really got her nemesis yet. Like Andre and Hogan, Bret and Shawn, or Austin and The Rock, legendary performers need legendary rivals. If Asuka continues to run rampant through NXT for the next few months – continuing her slow heel turn to that of a vicious beatdown master with no remorse – then she could arrive on Smackdown after Wrestlemania and become the ultimate foil to Becky Lynch. Two warriors of different paths, engaged in a battle of passion and warfare.
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