Thursday, October 28, 2021

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RAW Redux (June 26th, 2017): Through the Gauntlet & to the Fire!


The last few weeks have seen a bit of a messy division, with all the women on the RAW brand trying to fight their way up the food chain. Last week, a lot of us were left extremely underwhelmed with the women being given only 6 minutes across the 3 hour show. So, how would the WWE try to pick things up – particularly when the women on SmackDown are stealing the show? Let’s find out in the RAW Redux!

Before the broadcast, it is announced online by Mike Rome that the number 1 contendership for the RAW Women’s Championship will be decided by a gauntlet match! Now, they keep referring to it as the first women’s gauntlet match, but I have a very soft spot for the New Year’s Revolution bra and panties gauntlet match of 2005 – so no WWE! No trying to erase the past to boost yet another ‘history making’ women’s match!

Dana Brooke, Mickie James, Nia Jax, Bayley, Emma and Sasha Banks will all compete in a traditional gauntlet match, with the winner being awarded a title shot against the Champion, Alexa Bliss, at the Great Balls of Fire event in 2 weeks!

Throughout the show, the women are shown drawing their match entrant number from a tombola.

Before the match, Alexa Bliss tries to catch her ally Nia Jax. She mentions how they both share similar experiences of looking different and being judged. Alexa continues to praise Nia, saying that ‘not a single woman in that match can drag [her] down’ and she wishes her luck. Although, Ms. Jax isn’t so receptive… she says that she doesn’t need her luck and she will be seeing Alexa and her Championship at Great Balls of Fire.

Onto our maaaiinnnnn event and our first entrant is our super underdog, Bayley! It’s a tough draw and it’s made even tougher when the second entrant is the most powerful woman on the roster, Nia Jax.

Bayley is straight on the offence to start the match, but it immediately halted when Nia drops her onto the top turnbuckle. The commentators mention Nia’s improved confidence in the ring making her that much more dangerous. After working over Bayley’s midsection, things almost take a turn, when Bayley hits a kick onto Nia who is drapsed along the ropes. She follows it up with an elbow drop to the back of Nia’s head, but can only secure a 2 count. Bayley keeps trying to keep Nia grounded and tries to buy enough time to hit another signature elbow drop, but it’s not enough time as Nia knocks her off the top rope. She picks up Bayley and finishes her off with a Samoan Drop for the first pinfall. Our recent former Champ loses another chance to win back her title as she heads to the back.

Meanwhile, the music of our veteran, Mickie James hits the sound system as she’s the third entrant in the gauntlet and the show heads to a commercial break.

Upon return from the break, as expected, Nia is making easy work over Mickie James. She traps her in a bear hug, which seems to suck most of the life out of her usually plucky competitor. Mickie tries several times to break out, but she still can’t ground the much bigger opponent… until she manages to hit her Mickie Thesz Press from the top rope! It’s only a 2 count, but she goes for her classic Mick Kick… but Nia still doesn’t go down! Mickie tries to go for one more move, her Mickie-T, but Nia throws her off and mows her down like a truck on a highway to eliminate her second opponent.

Out next is probably the real underdog in this entire match, Dana Brooke!

Despite seeing two more experienced competitors go out, Dana still enters the ring confidently. She tries to go toe to toe immediately with Nia, but gets thrown into the corner. She dodges an attack from Nia and tries to go for a springboard elbow, but get swatted out the sky by Nia in beautiful fashion and ends up flat on her face! Nia makes quick work of Dana, by hitting a huge running leg drop that finally ignites the crowd’s interest and gives Nia her third pinfall victory!

Our 5th entrant is our recently returning Emma!

She makes a slightly slower and more show-boaty entrance to the ring. Nia doesn’t even give her time to enter the ring, but Emma is able to trap her off the ropes. Emma hits two running dropkicks and scores a 2 count. She heads up to the top rope to seemingly finish off Nia, but she gets caught and is flipped into a deadly Samoan Drop to have her crash out the match. Nia now has one more woman left to go to get her shot at the RAW Women’s Championship.

Sasha Banks makes her way down to the ring and is the last obstacle in Nia’s way!

In a similar style to Bayley, Sasha goes right for Nia. They’ve wrestled each other several times over the year and you can see Sasha trying to take advantage of her more tired opponent. Sasha tries to hit a suicide dive to the outside, but gets caught by Nia! Nia tries to position Sasha into another Samoan Drop, but she wriggles her way out and shoves Nia into the turnbuckle! She hits a running double knees to the floor Nia as we head to another break.

When we come back, once again the tables are turned in Nia’s favour. We see a quick ident which shows that ploughing down Sasha against the ropes is what caused that turn. Now, the story towards the end of the match is interesting as Nia’s tactic is to keep dumping Sasha out the ring to score a count out victory. Each time Sasha tries to gain some steam, Nia runs into her like a brick wall and dumps her out the ring. It’s a unique tactic, which gives Nia time to recuperate on the outside and we see Nia inflicting punishment throughout.

Each time Sasha manages to get back into the ring, Nia gets more and more infuriated. After the 3rd or 4th attempt, Nia starts to change the plan and try finish off Nia in the ring. Nia tries to go for a leg drop, which allows Sasha time to roll out and hit a sick running knee. While they both try to get up, Sasha tries to go for a standing Banks Statement! It’s not all the way lock in and Nia is able to hit Sasha with another Samoan Drop!

Sasha is able to roll to the apron to avoid being completely put away! Nia tries to hoist Sasha one more time, but Sasha counters it onto a Banks Statement! Nia gets Sasha in an electric chair position, but Sasha is able to weasel her way back into a final Banks Statement that locks Nia’s arms away! The exhausted monster of the division falls to her knees and is eventually forced to tap out!

Sasha Banks is headed to Great Balls of Fire as the Number 1 contender for the RAW Women’s Championship! RAW General Manager Kurt Angle comes out to raise her hand in victory! However, out comes the RAW Women’s Champion, Alexa Bliss! She makes her way to the ring and raises her Championship belt in Sasha’s face, only to get dropkicked out the ring! Sasha raises the title above her head as Kurt tries to separate them – could this be a sign of the future! The dust has settled and The Boss is set to take on The Goddess!

Thoughts: So the WWE tried to give us something different, they tried to give us something ground-breaking, they gave the women the main event slot… and it just didn’t really do much for anyone involved. Overall, it further proved the divide within the division that has been the problem since the draft.

Emma, Dana and Mickie all looked like chumps there, sure you can say it helped to put Nia over… but it made all three of them – who are all plucky fresh faces that needed a good showing – look like a complete joke. Carmella is arguably the weakest wrestler on the roster and yet even she has never looked as weak as those three did on SmackDown. I mean sure, I completely understand that in gauntlet matches, there are always quick eliminations and it set out a really nice psychology for Nia’s journey through the match…

However, as noticed from the crowd reaction – Nia’s work in the ring is boring. The only time the crowd really got on their feet was for the big spots. To be fair, this isn’t a problem when Nia was in that match for 30 minutes! I definitely can’t fault her there, but seeing the same rinse and repeat combinations of running avalanches, hair biels and Samoan Drops was a crowd killer. It was only made worse when the match was slowed all the way down towards the end. Sure, most fans can appreciate the slow storytelling… but after seeing Nia use her ‘running into people’ move over 10 times in this match alone, showed that this wasn’t going to get us on the edge of our seats.

Finally, I guess I need to address the outcome. This match had so much potential… but they’ve given it to the woman who probably needs it the least. Mickie, Dana and Emma are dying for direction, Bayley’s character could have used the victory, Nia would have looked like an absolute monster… but nope, they’ve gone for the completely safe option with Sasha. As I say each week, I do love Sasha, but this was hardly the best way to put someone over and entire division of woman who need work. The RAW booking continues leaving me with a lot left to be desired, here’s to SmackDown and hopefully an another amazing Money In The Bank match – now that’s what you call groundbreaking.

Do you think Sasha should have won? Did you enjoy the gauntlet match? What did you think of the quick eliminations? Comment below and please keep it sensible you guys!

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