Saturday, April 20, 2024

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Royal Rumble in Review: The Odd Couple vs. The Sister Act

The Royal Rumble has typically been a “hit or miss” type of event as far as the Divas are concerned. Either the Divas are featured in cool matches and moments (like surprise Rumble entrants) or they’re not featured at all. This year, though, we were met with a “middle of the road” scenario. A match was booked, but it was an underwhelming one: a simple tag match. No Divas Title on the line, no big story being resolved.

That match, of course, was Brie and Nikki Bella vs. Natalya and Paige. Nattie and Paige, who have dubbed themselves “The Blackharts”, are certainly an Odd Couple type of pairing, but could it be an entertaining one? Let’s watch:

The Bellas are out first, both sporting green ring gear. Are we at St. Patrick’s Day already? Wow. February flew by. Out next are Natalya and Paige. Is that new attire on Natalya? And newly pink hair? Maybe not. I’m not the most observant person when it comes to what the Divas are wearing.

Paige and Nikki start things off, Nikki taking control with a knee to the stomach and two uppercuts. Paige returns the favor with a knee of her own, but when she runs the ropes, she’s taken down by Nikki.

Nikki takes her time getting Paige to her feet, taunting Natalya. Paige turns the tables, though, and tries to whip her into the Blackharts’ corner. Nikki uses her strength here, staying put, but when she tries to reverse the whip, Paige kicks her in the stomach. Paige drives Nikki into the corner and tags in Natalya.

Paige and Natalya hit a tandem attack, flipping Nikki onto her tailbone. Natalya goes for the early pin, Nikki kicking out at two. Natalya wrenches back Nikki’s arm, but gets an elbow to the face and an arm drag, Nikki taking control and tagging in Brie.

Brie takes to the second rope as Nikki holds Natalya’s left arm prone. Brie batters it with a kick by both boots. She continues the focus on the arm, punishing it a bit before Natalya suddenly reclaims control, hoisting Brie up and carrying her all the way to her team’s corner to tag in Paige.

The two hit a delayed double suplex on Brie, dangling her upside down for several seconds. Paige crawls over to Brie to make a highly suggestive pin attempt. (Coming up next season, on Total Divas…..) Brie, not seduced, kicks out. Paige maintains control, nailing Brie with several headbutts. Hm.. not as sexy.

Brie heads to the ropes, Paige following and taking to the ring apron, where she hits Brie with her barrage of knees to the chest. She needs to come up with a name for that move. All I can think of is the Implant Buster, but I hear that one’s taken.

Paige tags in Natalya, who doesn’t need to enter the ring to dole out some punishment. She hits a crafty dropkick on the apron to Brie’s head, which is still hanging out through the ropes. Natalya keeps the action moving quickly, tagging Paige back in. But, for some reason, they ignore it, and Natalya stays in the ring. Okay…

She holds Brie in a front face lock, but the Bella soon battles out with some blows to the midsection, punctuating it with a low dropkick. When Brie goes for the pin, the referee suddenly remembers that Natalya tagged Paige, and orders her out of the ring. Paige gets in the ring. Okay………

Once in the ring, Paige ducks Brie’s attack and lays her out with a kick. Her subsequent pin attempt is unsuccessful, and she tags in Natalya. Natalya goes for a body slam, but Brie slips out of it, dropping Nattie on the back of her head. Brie goes for the pin, but Natalya kicks out.

Brie tags in Nikki, snapmaring Natalya to set her up for an attack from Nikki. Nikki snaps Natalya forward, giving her a whiplash effect that slams the back of her head to the mat. Nikki goes for the pin, but Natalya again kicks out. She tries to battle back, but Nikki sends her to her knees, mockingly holding her arm out for a tag to Paige. She locks in a sleeper hold on Natalya, but Paige wills her partner on, and soon Natalya is on her feet.

Natalya sends Nikki flying over her shoulder, freeing herself. The moment doesn’t last though, as a back elbow from Nikki sends Natalya back to the mat. After another unsuccessful pin attempt, Nikki brings Natalya back to her corner, allowing Brie to tag herself in. Nikki whips Natalya straight into Brie, who levels her with a double axe handle.

Brie goes for the pin, Natalya kicking out at two. She then locks in a chin lock, positioning Natalya for maximum Paige taunting. Natalya tries her best, but she finds herself prone against the bottom rope when Brie thwarts her attempts at getting to Paige. Brie hits her running knee strike and again goes for the pin, prompting yet another kick out by Natalya.

Brie tags in Nikki and the two hit an interesting double team move, each taking a leg and flipping Natalya over to slam the back of her head to the mat. After another unsuccessful pin attempt, Nikki locks in a figure four headlock, surely drawing the ire of one Charlotte. She then works Natalya over to her knees, busting out some impromptu push-ups before resuming the original position.

Natalya battles back impressively, getting to her feet and standing up with Nikki still attached. She eventually drops backwards, hitting Nikki with an electric chair! Both Divas are down, but before Natalya can make it to Paige, Nikki is on her feet. She tries to roll Natalya into a unique pinning combination, but Natalya takes control, getting into perfect positioning for the Sharpshooter! She isn’t able to lock it in, though, Nikki kicking her into the corner. She nails Natalya with a few shoulder attacks before being scolded by the referee.

With the ref distracted, Brie goes for a sneak attack, but Natalya telegraphs it, socking Brie and sending her flying to the outside. Nikki then comes flying back, hitting her with a clothesline into the corner. She whips Natalya into the opposite corner and tries to hit the same move, but Natalya dives out of the way. She crawls toward Paige, but Nikki has hold of her boot, holding her back.

When it finally seems like Natalya might be able to edge close enough to Paige, Brie pops up, yanking her off the ring apron and knocking her out of the equation. This distracts Natalya, who turns around right into a sick forearm by Nikki. That’s enough to lay out Natalya, and Nikki pins her for the win.

Thoughts: I’ll admit that my opinion on the match improved a lot upon a second viewing. Still, it came across as incredibly flat to me. As I expected when it was announced, the match turned out to be little more than an extended Raw affair, drawn out simply because it was on a PPV.

Countless pin attempts and rest holds sucked what little life this match had right out of it. I actually can’t recall feeling more bored when recapping a match. There’s a difference between a long match that feels like a battle and one that feels like they’re killing time. Compare Nikki and Paige’s great Main Event match to this, and you’ll see: there’s just no tension. No story. The action is so slow and labored that it feels like they’re not breaking a sweat, which is obviously not the case.

It probably didn’t help that the crowd wasn’t into the match at all. To be honest, I don’t trust the average WWE audience to give the Divas their due, but the reaction here proves that if there are zero stakes put into a Divas match, the crowd will not give a shit. Divas are already fighting an uphill battle against their “piss break” reputation, so giving their match next to no story is practically a death sentence.

Keeping Paige on the ring apron for so long was probably done to keep her looking strong, since she’ll probably be challenging Nikki for the title next. But Jesus, the match suffered as a result. I imagine a hot tag to her could have woken up the crowd a bit. There had to be a better way to book this that could keep Paige strong. A sneaky win by the Bellas? They are heels, after all.

Another thing I feel this match fell short on was the tension between Nattie and Paige. They’ve taken great pains to show that these two aren’t exactly “besties”, but they didn’t exploit that angle at all here. They didn’t even touch on Tyson Kidd‘s apparent infatuation with the Bellas. Both felt like wasted opportunities and only served to make this match even more forgettable.

Speaking of finishes, that forearm finish seemed odd. It does sell Nikki’s strength, and Natalya was battered at that point, but it still felt anticlimactic. Though, I guess it fits for this match, which gets a resounding “eh” all around from me.

One last note: I’m bummed that Naomi and Alicia Fox had absolutely nothing to do with the Tag Team Title match. The least they could have done was put Naomi out there. She goes from being at the forefront of the title feud to being entirely absent. Easy come, easy go I guess. And really, the same could be said for the Divas division as a whole.

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