Welcome to another SmackDown Redux! This week, we’re officially moving on from the WrestleMania “Freaks and Geeks vs. Bellas” feud to shine the spotlight on the ever-deserving Naomi. She’s looking follow up her impressive showing on Raw with a win over Natalya. As is typically the case these days, Brie and Nikki Bella will be parked at the commentary table to observe. Let’s watch with them:
As Naomi heads to the ring, she cuts a promo via pop-up video about her win in the Six-Diva Tag Team match on Raw. She says that her pinning Nikki wasn’t a fluke – she can beat the Divas Champion. She’s going to prove herself, starting with Natalya tonight.
The bell rings, and Naomi gets right to work, tying up with Natalya. Nattie takes control, though, wrenching Naomi’s left arm. Naomi reverses the hold, prompting Natalya to bust out some acrobatics to turn the tide and take control again. Naomi fights her way out creatively and then runs the ropes, Natalya ducking her attack before Naomi does the same on the return. The tete-a-tete culminates in a tandem dropkick, with both Divas hitting the mat hard.
They’re quick to their feet, though, kipping up at exactly the same moment. Next up, a mirror trick! Okay, maybe not. Instead, they tie up, Natalya capturing Naomi in a side headlock. She backs Naomi into a corner, but is forced to back off by the referee. She blocks Naomi’s double kick and ducks her follow-up enziguri, springboarding Naomi off the top rope and dropping her on the mat, directly on her tailbone.
Naomi steps over Naomi’s back, running the ropes and hitting her in the chest with a low dropkick. She goes for the first pin of the match, but Naomi kicks out at two. Natalya pummels Naomi in the head a bit before pulling her to her feet and latching on an abdominal stretch. While this is going on, Nikki voices her concern that Naomi is stuck in her husband Jimmy Uso‘s shadow. “Who is Naomi?” she asks.
With a few elbows, Naomi is able to fight out and reverse the hold, capturing Natalya in the same submission. She can’t hold on to it for more than a few seconds, as Natalya quickly snapmares Naomi and frees herself. Natalya sends Naomi into the corner and finds herself captured in Naomi’s headscissors. However, before she can receive the butt-in-the-face move (Naomi really needs to come up with a name for that one – that description was clunky as hell), Natalya tosses her out on the ring apron. Naomi fights back with a kick over the top rope and leaps into the ring, taking Natalya down with a sunset flip.
Natalya rolls out of the pin attempt and immediately goes for the Sharpshooter, but Naomi manages to pull her into a small package pin attempt instead. Nattie kicks out at two, but she’s not long for this match: Naomi captures her in a headscissors, slamming her head straight onto the mat. That’s enough for a three-count: Naomi pins Natalya and claims the win.
Post-match, we see your standard grudgingly-impressed-champion’s staredown with the plucky challenger. Naomi’s on the path to a Divas Title shot, for sure.
On SmackDown Fallout, Renee Young caught up with the victorious Naomi:
Naomi says she’s on a roll “for real” this time and won’t stop. She credits the Usos for inspiring some of her new wrestling strategy and tells her opponents to bring their A game.
But that’s not all! Lana looks to be back for good, as she appeared alongside Rusev in his verbal showdown with John Cena:
The less-than-a-month-long nightmare is over!
Thoughts: I thought Naomi’s segment-opening statement was definitely one of her better promos. Sure, Nikki mocked her saying, “I can beat the Divas Champion” twice, but she felt a lot more believable than she did in, say, the recent restaurant segment with Natalya. She, like any Diva, needs an opportunity to grow on the mic, and little bits like the one on SmackDown provides that. I’m sure she’ll only get better.
As for the match, it served its purpose: to put Naomi over even more. I feel like I should be annoyed by the cookie cutter-ness of the entire segment – a very quick singles win, the Bellas on commentary (AGAIN) and a tension-less staredown afterwards. However, this is the very beginning of the feud, and the need to establish Naomi as a threat calls for these types of situations. Now, if we’re still doing this in two weeks, you’ll see me complaining.
I enjoyed seeing Naomi and Natalya face off again. I really like the one-upsmanship they’re constantly demonstrating. I wish they could have feuded a bit more directly, but I’m not going to protest Naomi’s promotion to the Divas Title feud. It’s a fresh combination to put her against Nikki, and I’m definitely looking forward to it. I just hope they don’t burn through Naomi’s push between now and Extreme Rules, like they did last summer for Money in the Bank. I’m going to steal Jake’s idea from this week’s Diva Dirt Weekly and suggest that they hold off on the Divas Title match at Extreme Rules and let Naomi’s push develop a bit more beyond that. In that match’s place, they could play on the tension between AJ Lee and Paige by booking them in a stipulation match… an “extreme” stipulation, perhaps? I mean, that would constitute “major changes to the Divas division,” right?
AJ/Paige feud or not, the Bellas have clearly moved on from those two. For now, it’s Naomi’s time to shine. I just hope, for her sake, that the moment isn’t fleeting.