Monday, October 2, 2023

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Battleground in Review: Last Minute Magic

Heading into Battleground, we had no Divas match on the card. Strangely, I wasn’t too disappointed. After all, a “Divas Revolution” had just been ushered in on Raw, so it was understandable that we weren’t rushing into a Pay-Per-View match days later.

However, with the sudden scrapping of an Intercontinental Title match, we had an opening, and within hours, we had a Divas match in the works. A few months ago, that might have led to some of the most half-assed of all the half-assed Diva booking in recent memory. Tonight, though, it was an opportunity to get a Revolution rolling a bit early, and the WWE ran with it.

It all started with Stephanie McMahon, who joined JoJo backstage for an interview:

She says, as far as commotion in the Divas division goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” She’s asked each of the Diva teams to pick a representative to compete in a Triple Threat match.

Stephanie says she hopes they pick wisely, because she’ll accept nothing less than the Divas Revolution tearing the house down.

Shortly after, we join Paige, Becky Lynch and Charlotte backstage:

Paige tells Becky and Charlotte how psyched she was when they were brought up to the main roster last week. She says tonight is the start of the Revolution. Becky proposes that they tear the roster down and rebuild it brick by brick. She says they’re even putting the Superstars on notice – they’re going to show the entire WWE Universe what they’re capable of.

Charlotte, having already been chosen by her team, says they’re gonna do it all with Flair. They seal it with a pinky promise. Oh, it’s on now!!

Lastly, we had Naomi, Sasha Banks and Tamina Snuka of B.A.D., who have changed their acronym from Best At Dominating to Beautiful And Dangerous. Downgrade, IMO. It was nice to see a Diva team moniker that didn’t reference their looks. Anyways, they chose Sasha to represent them:

Naomi accuses JoJo of trying to start trouble, saying that there is no trouble in this trio. Sasha takes the mic and explains why she’s The Boss: it’s because when she’s in the ring, everyone knows what’s true. If you don’t believe her, watch her tonight.

With that, we’re headed to ringside for the match!

The trios make their entrances, B.A.D. entering to Naomi’s music, Team NoNameYet entering to Paige’s music and Alicia Fox, Brie and Nikki Bella entering to Nikki’s.

At first, it looks like Nikki’s filling Team Bella’s spot in the match, and Charlotte and Sasha definitely looks game. However, she soon slips out of the ring and whispers something in Brie’s ear. Brie smiles and takes the spot. And we’re off!

The three Divas circle each other. After exchanging a quick look, Brie and Sasha decide to build a temporary alliance and attack Charlotte together. Temporary’s probably too generous a description for that, though, because after Brie sends Charlotte out onto the ring apron, Sasha rolls her up for a surprise pin attempt. Brie manages to roll through and shoves Sasha into Charlotte, who comes diving through the ropes and rolls Sasha up for a pin of her own. Brie breaks it up.

With that, we’re back to a standoff. Sasha tries to repair her fractured alliance with Brie before saying “To hell with it,” and trying to kick her. Brie catches her boot, tosses her away and is immediately met with a waistlock by Charlotte, which she reverses. Charlotte desperately tries to get free, and after two more reversals, she dumps Brie through the ropes and out of the ring.

Sasha then reenters the fray, kneeing Charlotte in the stomach. She shows off a bit of cockiness before whipping Charlotte into the corner. Charlotte catches herself, though, flipping and landing on her feet on the ring apron. She fights Sasha off, only to be besieged by Brie, who yanks her off the apron. Brie storms back into the ring and ducks an attack from Sasha, turning and flattening her with a Lou Thesz press.

Sasha dodges Brie’s attack in the corner, but her follow-up attacks are blocked. She manages to catch Brie’s boots, though, and sets her up across the ropes for the double knee drop. Just as she goes for it, Charlotte appears and finds herself added to the equation, Sasha propping her up under Brie and dropping knees onto both Divas. She goes for pins on both, but gets nothing.

Brie exits the ring, leaving Sasha to send Charlotte into the corner and jab a few boots into the side of her head with a sarcastic “WOOOO!” as a cherry on top. She stomps Charlotte a bit before dragging her back towards the middle of the ring and covering her for the pin. Charlotte kicks out.

Sasha notices Brie stirring at the edge of the ring and kicks her before returning her attention to Charlotte. She sits her up and runs the ropes, stopping to do a little Flair strut before trying to slap the taste out of her mouth. Charlotte ducks the slap and rolls Sasha into a pin, which the champ kicks out of.

When both Divas get to their feet, Charlotte hoists Sasha up for a slam, but Sasha slips free, hitting the ropes and spinning around Charlotte before slamming her to the mat by her hair. Another pin attempt, another kick out. Sasha decks Brie to keep her at bay and then sends Charlotte into the corner, charging at her and driving double knees into her chest. Charlotte drops to the mat, giving Sasha the opportunity to repeat the move, this time to her face. She covers Charlotte for the pin, but Brie comes flying in with a double axe handle to break it up.

With Charlotte indisposed, Brie and Sasha face off, trading some evil glares and rough blows. Charlotte ends up winning the exchange, popping up to take them both out with double clotheslines. She then starts to take them out one by one, hitting a neckbreaker on Brie and a suplex-turned-neckbreaker on Sasha. She kips up impressively, but when she charges at Sasha in the corner, she’s met with a boot to the face. No matter, though; she immediately returns the favor with a big boot straight to Sasha’s head. She goes for the pin, but Brie again breaks it up.

Brie takes control of the match, hitting a stream of offense on Charlotte before hitting both NXT Divas with a double bulldog. She borrows a tactic from Sasha, attempting consecutive, unsuccessful pins. Seeing both Divas prone, Brie decides to target them both at once, hitting a series of kicks to each of their heads, one after another. After sustaining a few kicks, Charlotte tries to put a stop to it, catching Brie’s boot. She’s halted with a slap to the face, though, leaving Brie to deal with Sasha. Sasha ducks Brie’s neck kick and delivers a forearm to the face, backing Brie into the ropes.

Sasha finds herself smack dab in the middle of her opponents and narrowly avoids a spear, dodging Charlotte and sending her into Brie instead. Brie rolls out of the ring, and Charlotte and Sasha are left standing. They come charging at each other, Sasha rolling Charlotte into a pin. Charlotte kicks out and they charge again, this time battling for control of a backslide pin attempt. They struggle a bit before Charlotte takes control, flipping Sasha over her head. Sasha lands on her feet, though, and claims the momentum, slamming Charlotte to the mat. She goes for the pin, Charlotte kicking out at two.

Sasha pulls Charlotte to her feet and doesn’t see Brie prepping her own attack. Soon, both are taken down with a missile dropkick. When they prop themselves up against the bottom ropes on either side of the ring, Brie sees an excellent opportunity for some running knee srtikes. She runs back and forth, hitting Charlotte, then Sasha, then Charlotte again. When she goes in for seconds on Sasha, though, she grabs her and tosses her through the ropes to the outside.

Team Bella soon finds themselves surrounded, Paige, Becky, Naomi and Tamina staring them down. When Brie tries to reenter the ring, Sasha denies her entry, sending her flying off the apron and to the floor for a harsh landing, the rest of Team Bella going with her. Seeing Becky and Paige in the line of fire, Sasha runs the ropes and goes flying, taking them and Brie out with a suicide dive.

Charlotte then comes to, noticing Naomi and Tamina helping Sasha to her feet. She propels herself over the top rope, dropping to the outside and taking the three of them out. Everybody’s down!

Charlotte grabs hold of Brie and brings her back into the ring, lifting her up to sit on the top turnbuckle. Before she can join her up there, though, Sasha attacks, hitting Charlotte with the Bank Statement and locking in the submission! Brie pounces before Charlotte can tap, disposing of Sasha and trying to claim victory for herself. She pulls Charlotte up and goes for the Bella Buster, but she’s dropped to the mat, Charlotte grabbing her boots and locking in the figure four! She bridges it to make it the figure eight, and Brie soon can’t stand it – she taps out! Charlotte is your winner.

The victorious Charlotte celebrates with her teammates Becky and Paige as Michael Cole marvels that Team Bella is mortal.

Post-match, in a exclusive, Charlotte, Becky and Paige celebrate the victory with WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair:

Thoughts: Wow. I’m not sure we could’ve asked for better booking for what was essentially a last minute addition to the card. I mean, hell, the Divas saw more screen time (both in and out of the ring) tonight than they do on average at most PPVs, and this wasn’t even on the books a few days ago!

I love the concept of building three trios and allowing heels to be heels, Sasha and Brie having no real inclination to see eye-to-eye. It shows a greater interest in defining the Divas as characters rather than a bunch of women scrambling for the spotlight. It’s almost as if the WWE finally realized that, in real life, women get along with other women outside of the Mean Girl-type clique bullshit. They find a circle of friends and work together to achieve their goals. Sometimes, their sole purpose isn’t to keep everyone else under their shoe, but rather combine their efforts meet competition head-on. I know, it’s a novel concept! Some may read that as an insult to The Dollhouse, but it’s not: The Dollhouse have the cliquey thing going, sure, but they do it with a demented slant, which as far as I’m concerned sets them apart enough that they’re not just a retread.

I saw a comment remarking that Becky, Charlotte and Paige didn’t much chemistry in their entrance compared to those of the others. I agree, but I suppose that’s what you get when you have three distinctly different Divas paired together. Team Bella gels, and Team B.A.D. are obviously made for one another. I’m betting that, as we go along, they’ll find a way to “make sense” as a team. And enough with the bitching about entrance themes: the most recognizable themes for each trio were played. The crowd at Battleground isn’t going to jump to their feet at the start of Sasha’s theme because many of them are too cheap to buy the WWE Network and don’t know it yet.

I really think Brie, Charlotte and Sasha was the right combo for this match, since Charlotte and Sasha have a lot of buzz surrounding them following their main event match on NXT and you can’t do champ vs. champ yet. It’d be really cool to the other combinations get their own matches too. Maybe Nikki/Becky/Tamina and Alicia/Paige/Naomi?

Given the “short notice” nature of this match, it was smart to give Charlotte and Sasha a lot of time together, since they’ve more than proven themselves able to make magic. Their offense feels fresh when brought to the main roster. No rest holds in sight! It elevated the match a good deal and definitely got the crowd into it. Speaking of the crowd: it sounded a lot better on my second watch. I was actually getting worried the first time around. Maybe I’m just too used to the small, amped up NXT crowd and am sensitive to any sort of silence directed towards Charlotte and Sasha. Sasha got a few good chants, which is more than we usually ask for in a Divas PPV match.

To be honest, it’s going to take some getting used to to adjust expectations: not raising them too high, but also not being bowled over by every advancement, lest I seem patronizing or something.

The spots to the outside could have – and have in the past – felt a lot more spotty, so I’m grateful for that. Sasha’s a master at the suicide dive. I’m still so glad to see her remain a heel – I was worried there for a second after recent NXT goings-on. She added some excellent character touches here, trying to convince Brie to remain on her side despite demonstrating her untrustworthiness. Charlotte was great as always, looking really sure of herself and being as athletic as ever. Having her get the win signals big things for her main roster future: will she be the one to unseat Nikki?

Brie was no slouch, either, though she’s an easy target being paired with two well-loved NXT Divas. I loved the spot with the kicks to Charlotte and Sasha. Her performance here reminds me of the Brie from two years ago, who made a ton of progress in singles competition while Nikki was sidelined with her shin injury.

All in all, this was a really fun match. Sure, it wasn’t as good as the NXT live specials, but it sure beat the pants off of the Triple Threat at Beast in the East. It demonstrated a lot more ingenuity and psychology than your usual main roster matches, which gives me a lot of hope for the future as far as match booking goes. If they can manage to lift the main roster to NXT’s level, I will be one happy Diva fan.

So, for a match that wasn’t even supposed to happen, this was a win all around. I wonder what the Diva involvement would have looked like if the IC Title match wasn’t scrapped. Maybe an in-ring promo or something? It doesn’t really matter, because this was some impressive work. It’s also proof that the WWE is full of shit when they give the Divas half-assed booking – if they can do this with little time to spare, they can do a hell of a lot more than what they’ve been doing.

I suppose that’s the point of this storyline, though: to usher in a new era for the Divas. It’s definitely too early to say that that’s what’s happening, but between Raw and Battleground, the WWE suddenly seems a lot more interested in making the Divas an important part of the show. Honestly, I don’t care what the motivation behind it is – the US women’s soccer team, fear of bad PR with a second wave of #GiveDivasAChance or Vince McMahon finally letting up on the reins a bit – I just want the momentum to continue. According to reports, Stephanie and Triple H are pushing this one hard, so maybe the change will take. All I can say is this: it’s about damn time.

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