Over The Top Rope On The Way To Wrestlemania
When Asuka (formerly the infamous joshi wrestler Kana) finally prevailed, tossing 10-year veteran Nikki Bella over the top rope, it felt like a symbolic victory for the female fighters of the future. A fitting role for the Empress of Tomorrow. And while the Rumble worked hard to honor the women who had long suffered in the testosterone-heavy WWE, like Molly Holly, Beth Phoenix, and Michelle McCool; its main role was to help predict what the women will be up to in the next two and a half months. But any predictions were immediately thrown into chaos by the arrival of former UFC fighter “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
Don’t Give A Damn About Her Bad Reputation
While rumored for months following her expressed interest in WWE after her devastating loss to Amanda Nunes, Ronda Rousey made a huge statement when she came out at the end of the PPV. Clad in a shirt that evoked her idol, Roddy Piper, and even wearing an oversized jacket once owned by the late wrestler, Ronda immediately drew all eyes to her. Facing down current champions Charlotte and Alexa Bliss, as well as the victorious Asuka, the newly signed Rousey silently put the whole women’s division on notice.
Rousey’s future in the WWE is an open book, and the three women with which she shared the ring all have a chance to face Ronda in the future. And even if they don’t face the former UFC Bantamweight champion, the women of the WWE have multiple possible storylines before them. With the brand split still going strong, but with Ronda unsigned to either brand, these are some possible feuds we might see going into WrestleMania. The following are pure speculation, with any possibility subject to WWE’s infamously chaotic booking.
Punk Princess vs Steampunk Fighter
Still a very popular babyface despite some distance from the main event, the first ever Smackdown! Women’s Champion has been gunning for Ruby Riott and her Riott Squad since they injured her in November. The animosity the two feel for each other was no doubt compounded on Sunday when Riott eliminated the Irish Lass Kicker from the Rumble. A singles bout between the two would be excellent, as both are immensely talented and experienced wrestlers. The feud can easily be drawn out thanks to Riott’s teammates/lackeys Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan, who can interrupt, take pins, and keep Ruby safe until the big blowoff. If the writers will allow the Smackdown! women two matches, this would be a solid match for the women’s undercard.
Riott Squad vs. Royal Glow Fire
The Smackdown! women have a bit of a “face” problem. Ever since Charlotte became champion, Becky Lynch and Naomi have been forced to deal with the threats of the aforementioned heel stable Riott Squad, on top of Lana and Tamina, Natalya, and the perennial annoyance of ‘Ms. Money In The Bank’ Carmella. But they have history teaming up with current champion Charlotte, who they fought with to defeat the “Welcoming Committee.” The three work well together thanks to the showmanship of Flair, the fire of Lynch, and the power of Naomi’s hot tag. If the bubbling feud between Riott and Lynch should erupt into the multi-women matches the Smackdown writers love, and Charlotte isn’t busy come ‘Mania, there’s a strong chance that The Royal Glow Fire and The Riott Squad will be Smackdown!’s feature at the event.
The Queen vs. The Rowdy One
Blonde. Athletic beyond belief. Leaders of badass women. Submission experts. Charlotte Flair and Ronda Rousey have a lot in common. But it’s their drive to dominate their respective sports that may finally bring them into conflict. Ever since the two faced off at the Mae Young Classic, backed by their respective Horsewomen, the face-off between these two women has been hotly anticipated. While a proper 4HW vs. 4HW feud may not be in the cards, Rousey vs. Flair would be a marquee match for WrestleMania. While Charlotte isn’t necessarily well known for her ability to carry an opponent, and Rousey will need all the help she can get as she learns on her feet, the star power behind these women (and the potential of Ric Flair getting to tear into “Rowdy Ronda”) can easily sustain the feud.
Monday Night Raw
The Boss n’ Hug Connection Explode
Despite featuring in perhaps the best, and definitely the most ruthless, women’s feud in NXT, Sasha Banks and Bayley have more or less been the best of friends since Bayley got called up in 2016. Despite some tension when Sasha aided Bayley in her championship win at Fastlane 2017 pay per view, the two have been in sync as they contended with Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, and the ascendant power of Absolution. But with Bayley rapidly marginalized and Sasha seemingly farther from the women’s belt than ever before, the frustration may get to them. While the sneaky, Jericho-esque tactics Banks employed during the Rumble aren’t necessarily grounds for a proper heel turn, her elimination of Bayley near the end of the match certainly could be. Hopefully, the return of NXT’s Boss, in all her “ratchet” glory, could lead to an excellent match at ‘Mania, one that wouldn’t need a belt to keep us interested.
Goddess vs. Empress
Alexa Bliss has held the Raw Women’s Championship for a long time. She’s been able to hold off ex-champs Bayley and Sasha Banks, as well as veterans like Paige and Mickie James. Unlike on Smackdown!, where Bliss had to use tricks and tables to get the better of Becky Lynch, the “Goddess of WWE” has been on much more even footing with her opponents of Raw. But, as the saying goes, nobody is ready for Asuka. The “Empress of Tomorrow” has built a reputation as an unbeatable monster. Tough, fast, and strong as hell, Asuka doesn’t need any tricks to win her matches. For Alexa to keep up, she may need to draw on her sneaker side. A long-teased alliance between Bliss and Nia Jax could easily come in to play, with the physically intimidating Jax running interference for the more diminutive Bliss. A battle at ‘Mania would be a game of cat-and-mouse as Asuka tries to get her hands on “Little Miss Bliss.” A throwback to many classic fights between Ric Flair and myriad faces. The two women have the talent to put on an entertaining match together.
The Toughest Women In The World
Asuka lock vs. Armbar. A match that could end in blood. A match that would make headlines. A match that could main event WrestleMania. Asuka and Ronda will be presented in the next few months as the most dangerous women in the world. With built up histories of dominance in their respective fields (a few UFC missteps on Rousey’s part notwithstanding), a fight between the two would no doubt be one of the hardest hitting fights in the history of not just women’s wrestling, but WWE as a whole. Rousey would need no kid gloves against Asuka, who cut her teeth in the notoriously stiff world of Japan’s joshi wrestling. And although Asuka is still a relative newcomer to the roster, her streak in NXT and her undeniable charisma have already gotten her well over with crowds at Raw, while Rousey remains perhaps the highest profile female athlete in America. If Asuka has her working boots on, and Rousey’s love for wrestling gets her prepared enough by Mania, the two will put on a match for the ages. Plus, with Alexa Bliss putting her title on the line at Elimination Chamber, there’s a small chance the fight could happen over a championship.
Raw’s next big outing will be on Feb. 25, 2018 at Elimination Chamber in Las Vegas, where for the first time women will enter the unforgiving steel of the eponymous structure. The Smackdown! women will have to wait until March for their next PPV, when they travel to Columbus, Ohio for Fastlane.
WrestleMania will air live from New Orleans on April 8, 2018.