Saturday, September 18, 2021

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Raw Redux (February 22nd, 2016): Divide and Conquer


Welcome to your post-Fastlane Raw Redux! I’m filling in for Jack this week as we take a look at a surprisingly Diva-light episode of Raw. Hot on the heels of Charlotte‘s successful Divas Title defense against Brie Bella and Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks‘s victory over Naomi and Tamina, we’re officially on the road to WrestleMania 32. That means it’s time for the Divas Title match to take shape. How will Charlotte fill these next few weeks?

Before we could answer that question, we had to join Stephanie McMahon on quite the emotional rollercoaster. We kicked off the show with Steph as she was presented by her father Vince McMahon with the Legacy of Excellence Award. Congrats?

Before she could deliver the acceptance remarks she had prepared (just in case!), she’s interrupted by the shocking return of her brother, Shane McMahon! She and Vince are not pleased, to say the least. The segment ends with Shane being booked in a Hell in a Cell match against The Undertaker with control of the WWE on the line. Can’t raise the stakes much higher than that, huh?

We follow up on this much later in the night, when Stephanie discussed these shocking turn of events backstage with Triple H:

Triple H tells Stephanie to “let it go,” but she can’t. She says this was supposed to be one of the biggest nights of their lives, and Shane ruined it. He promises her that though the night started poorly, it will end well for them. She leaves to deliver some “good” news to Roman Reigns, telling him that he’s going to face Sheamus tonight and making a thinly-veiled threat that the League of Nations will injure him and take him out of the equation for WrestleMania.

Later still, it was finally time for Divas action! Sasha Banks looked to follow up on her tag victory at Fastlane with a singles victory over Naomi:

They tie up, Sasha taking control with a side headlock. Naomi grabs a handful of hair to free herself, sending Sasha into the ropes. On the return, Sasha manages to halt her own momentum and capture Naomi in an abdominal stretch. Naomi again pulls her hair to get free, but Sasha maintains control, rolling Naomi into a pin attempt. Naomi kicks out.

Sasha and Naomi charge at each other, Sasha sweeping Naomi’s legs out from under her and flipping over her for another pin attempt. Naomi bridges out of the pin and swings Sasha overhead, kicking her swiftly in the midsection to take her down. Naomi grabs Sasha by the hair and lifts her, dropping her onto the ropes and kicking her in the head. Tamina finishes the job, yanking Sasha off the ropes and causing her to crash to the floor outside. With that, we head to a commercial break.

When we return, Naomi and Sasha are in the midst of a battle for control, exchanging right hands and kicks. Sasha wins the exchange when both run the ropes and Sasha grabs hold of Naomi mid-air, dropping her to the mat. Sasha sends Naomi into the ropes and catches her follow-up kick, delivering a kick of her own instead. She hits the ropes and takes Naomi down with a elevated double knee drop, hooking her legs for the pin. Naomi kicks out.

Naomi retreats to a corner, and when Sasha follows, she’s launched over the ropes and onto the apron. Sasha fends Naomi off, though, and climbs to the top rope. Tamina then provides a timely distraction, allowing Naomi to yank Sasha off the turnbuckle by her arm. Just then, Becky appears, taking out Tamina! This distraction costs Naomi, as when she returns her attention to the match, Sasha is able to quickly hit the backstabber and lock in the Bank Statement to earn a tap out victory!

Becky and Sasha shake hands afterwards, showing that their solidarity hasn’t quite run its course yet. Of course, that prompts the entrance of Divas Champion Charlotte, who probably has a plan up her sleeve to bust up the budding friendship…

Charlotte, donning gear that is unmistakably a Nikki Bella knockoff, enters with a microphone. She’s shedding fake tears, telling Becky and Sasha how moved she’s been by seeing them bond. She compares them to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but with cheaper hair dye.

The champ breaks the news that The Authority has booked a match to determine who will face her for the Divas Championship at WrestleMania 32: Becky vs. Sasha. She fakes out Becky, pretending that Sasha’s prepping a sneak attack. She says the next few weeks will be fun…for her.

Near the end of the show, Stephanie is seen backstage with Vince, still mulling over his decision to book Shane in a match that could give him control of the WWE:

Stephanie wonders was Shane has over Vince, sharing that she dreads the idea of having to report to Shane instead of him, as it would send the company “to hell in a hand basket.” Vince assures her that Shane stands no chance of winning and he’s got it under control. It’s all part of the plan…

Thoughts: I have to admit that it was disappointing to see all the Divas action shoved into one segment, especially immediately following a Pay-Per-View that featured a rare double helping of Divas and a Raw that boasted three big Diva segments. This got the job done, for sure, but sticking it all in one 10 minute block late in the show made it feel like a low priority, which is certainly not fitting for a segment setting up the Divas’ WrestleMania program.

The quick Sasha/Naomi match was great. Naomi felt more vicious than ever, what with the hair-pulling and increasingly blatant dirty tactics. It just made me wish those two could feud, but that’s obviously not in the cards. Maybe after Mania…

Speaking of Mania, I’m glad to see that we have some sort of plan in place that could easily lead to a Triple Threat. Becky and Sasha’s match could end in a double DQ, double tapout, whatever. It’s been done before, and the fans certainly won’t mind, as I’m sure most want to see both women get the title shot.

Charlotte’s Nikki Bella-like gear is clever, but it probably would’ve made more sense for her to wear it last week when she was still feuding with Brie. Maybe it was finished too late? I mean, I doubt Becky or Sasha give a shit about any Bella taunting. It would be kind of cool to see Charlotte adopt that as some sort of trademark, defeating her foes and taking part of their “identity” as a trophy. I doubt that’s what she’s doing here, but it’s an idea..

I like the idea of Charlotte adopting a “divide and conquer” strategy, but it might have worked a bit better if Becky and Sasha had already posed some combined threat to Charlotte, say in some sort of match or backstage fight or whatever. It would’ve been perfectly heelish for Charlotte to then run to The Authority and get them to book this Becky vs. Sasha match that would, in her mind, neutralize the threat. If Becky and Sasha both end up booked in the title match, the plan would have blown up in her face spectacularly, giving her even more license to play the dirty heel and try to bend the odds in her favor, somehow, someway. There’s still plenty of time for her to play that card, though. Like she said, the next few weeks are gonna be fun…

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