Monday, September 27, 2021

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Extreme Rules in Review: A Flawless Return for Layla

Last week’s episode of Monday Night Raw shocked us all when one half of The Bella Twins, Nikki Bella, pinned “The Glamazon” Beth Phoenix to become the new WWE Divas Champion. Nikki had earned the title shot two weeks prior on an episode of SmackDown, when she defeated Phoenix thanks to interference from Kelly Kelly.

However, during the match on Raw (which had been given a Lumberjill stipulation to prevent The Bellas from cheating), Phoenix suffered an injury to her ankle. She was still willing to compete, and challenged Nikki for the chance to regain her title at Extreme Rules.

Fast forward to the pay-per-view in Chicago, where we were treated to a night of surprises: Beth being unable to compete due to not being medically cleared, Eve finding a replacement opponent for Nikki, a certain Diva’s return to the ring, and a new champion being crowned.

Before we can get things going, we are treated to the Executive Administrator for John Laurinaitis, Eve Torres, overhearing a conversation between The Bella Twins (who are both looking pretty on-point tonight, by the way) and former champ Beth Phoenix. Beth claims that she will wrestle even if she has to hobble out there. To Beth’s surprise, Eve points out that she is actually not medically cleared to wrestle.

Brie is all ready to jet out of there, but before the Bellas can kick back and relax, Eve informs them that Nikki will still be competing as promised and that her opponent will be a surprise. Naturally, both of them start freaking out because this time last year, they earned themselves a very prominent spot on Kharma’s hit list. Eve reassures them that the mystery woman is, in fact, not Kharma (which became pretty obvious to me the moment Kharma herself Tweeted about it). Golly, who could it be? Nikki cracks a joke at Mae Young’s expense, which I admit, I did giggle at – and so does Brie. The twins walk off breathing a sigh of relief, while Eve stands there looking pretty satisfied with herself.

No less than twenty seconds later, “You Can Look But You Can’t Touch” hits and Divas Champion Nikki Bella makes her way to the ring, accompanied by Brie, and both sporting some cute black headpieces they’ve mysteriously acquired very quickly. The moments leading up to Nikki’s title win on RAW are re-played and that is indeed a pretty awkward looking fall. Poor Beth.

The Bellas take to the microphone and talk themselves up, saying the title is back where it belongs. Nikki tells the audience they better get used to the sight of her because she will become the longest running Divas Champion in history. A little bit of friction is teased here – “come out, come out whoever you are mystery woman, and face us” / “Uh, me!”

Some familiar sounding music is played and Nikki’s mystery opponent is none other than LAYLA, the last ever recognized WWE Women’s Champion. Layla, who has been out for almost a year with a serious knee injury, runs out looking happy and healthy. Nikki does not look impressed. Layla seems ready to go.

The referee calls for the bell, and it is time to get this Divas Championship match underway!

The girls lock up, and Layla immediately takes Nikki down with an arm drag. Another lock up, followed by another arm drag by Layla (as a “We Want Kharma” chant starts), who then sends Nikki flying into the ropes. Nikki retaliates by sending Layla into the ropes herself, but Layla counters with a nifty roll-up. Layla proceeds to kick Nikki in the shoulder, then goes for another kick to the abdomen, but Nikki smartly grabs her by the leg and throws her into the corner. Nikki charges at Layla but Layla kicks her and heads to the top-rope as the referee is distracted by the Divas Champion.

Meanwhile, that dastardly Brie pushes Layla off the top rope right onto her injured – and bedazzled – knee. Nikki immediately goes on the attack, viciously assaulting Layla’s surgically repaired knee. A quick cover, but Layla kicks out at 1. Nikki continues working over Layla’s knee, and looks like she’s about to lock on a submission, when Layla pulls her in with another surprise roll-up. Nikki kicks out.

The two trade blows until Layla nails a clothesline, then springboards off the bottom rope onto the second into a flying crossbody to take the champ down! Brie jumps up onto the apron, screaming, so Layla takes her down too with a sliding dropkick underneath the bottom rope! She pays for it a second later though, when Nikki pulls her down to the canvas by the hair. Nikki goes back on the attack, but Layla shows some fire and the two trade pins. Layla hits a spinning back kick on Nikki, who rolls out of the ring to recover. The referee is distracted by Layla for some reason, while the two sisters perform a bit of “Twin Magic” and Brie enters the fray.

Brie goes for the Bella Buster, but Layla counters and hits a brutal looking neckbreaker (The Lay-Out) on Brie! Layla covers her, and three counts later, we’ve got a new WWE Divas Champion! Nikki looks on in disbelief that her sister just cost her the match and the title as Layla excitedly runs around the ring in celebration.

Match Rating: 2.5/5

Thoughts: An okay match. Slotted into the typical Divas match spot on pay-per-view (right before the main event), the girls worked with what they were given. They get points for psychology – Nikki expertly worked over Layla’s injured knee. If her knee hadn’t been targeted during the match, that would have been very silly. Layla, who has clearly been working on her craft during her time away from the ring, showed little to no ring rust and impressed with some unique pinning combinations. She seemed very happy to be back in action and genuinely excited by her victory (the crowd was, too – always positive to hear).

However, I do feel as though Layla really needs new entrance music if she’s going to be marketed as one of the top Diva babyfaces. The “Not Enough For Me” song worked well for her as part of the snobbish LayCool team, but won’t get her over as much as a nice girl.

The fact that Brie accidentally cost Nikki her title also gives them a reason to be involved in an angle together tomorrow. And, were it to be The Bellas’ last night in the WWE (as has been rumoured), going out in a match against your twin sister would be an ideal way to leave.

And what of Kharma? Another rumour going around was that she was originally scheduled to be mystery woman involved in this match. Judging by her Tweets, she still seems as keen as ever to punish Nikki and Brie for their cruel comments just under a year ago.

As for the other Divas, Cameron, Naomi and Vickie made their usual appearances at the sides of Brodus Clay and Dolph Ziggler, respectively.

We also saw AJ very briefly – lurking in the shadows watching Daniel Bryan after he cut a promo about his match with Sheamus. She wasn’t seen or heard from after that, but it’s very interesting to think about where it could lead.

What did you think of Extreme Rules? What’s next for the Divas involved? Tell us in the comments.

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