Welcome, Redux readers! We’re (yet again) at a SmackDown that’s knocking on the door of a Pay-Per-View. This time, it’s Elimination Chamber, where Divas Champion Nikki Bella (remember her?) defends the belt against both Naomi and Paige in a Triple Threat match.
Here, we’re laying the foundation for more Paige/Naomi tension, which has a ton of potential (if your name’s not Nikki). The Divas go one-on-one……now:
As she makes her entrance, Paige pops up in the corner to deliver a mini promo. She says Naomi’s been talking all about what she “deserves”, but she’ll talk about what she “knows”: her Divas Title shot was stolen from her in London. However, the anger it’s given her has supplied the fuel she needs to get back what’s her’s, starting tonight.
As Naomi makes her entrance, she too appears in promo mode, laughing with Tamina Snuka about Paige’s emotional reaction to all of this. She says she’s looking forward to seeing Paige have an emotional breakdown this Sunday, allowing her to finally become the Divas Champion.
The bell sounds, and the Divas circle each other, tying up to start things off. Naomi immediately shoves Paige away, not interested in doing this by the book. She seems intent on making Paige snap, shoving her and kicking her in a manner that’s more annoying than anything.
When Paige finally goes after her, Naomi tries to escape, but she’s caught in the ropes. Luckily for her, the referee’s there to force Paige to back off. She does, and the Divas eventually tie up again in the middle of the ring. Paige takes control this time, backing Naomi into the corner. She lands a few punches that send Naomi to the mat, then stomps on her chest relentlessly.
The referee breaks this up, allowing Naomi to slip out of the ring and grab a quick breather. When she gets back on the ring apron, though, Paige grabs hold of her and drives a barrage of knees to her chest. When that’s done, Naomi again escapes, but when Paige tries to reach for her again, Naomi turns the tables, grabbing her arm, slamming it against the ring post.
When Paige incapacitated, Naomi re-enters the ring and begins work on the arm, tossing Paige into the corner shoulder-first. Paige, now seated in the corner, gets a few stomps to the chest before Naomi uses her foot to do more damage to the arm.
Naomi drags Paige to the center of the ring, stomps on her arm and drives a few knees onto it before wrapping it around her throat in a submission hold. It’s not long, though, before Paige powers out, getting to her feet and tossing Naomi off of her. She then goes on an offensive streak, hitting Naomi with short-arm clotheslines, a dropkick and a kick to the face. She sets Naomi up for the PTO, but Naomi battles out, shoving her into the ropes.
Paige then runs the ropes and sends herself right into Tamina’s territory, taking that moment to eliminate her form the equation with a kick to the head. Paige then turns her attentions back to Naomi, catching her when she attempts a crossbody and impressively switching her position into a cradle, planting her with the RamPaige. She covers Naomi for the pin and gets the win!
Tamina chases Paige off, and as she makes her exit, Nikki and Brie make an appearance at the top of the ramp, applauding her (and reminding us of their existence). Nikki poses with the title as her challengers look on.
Elsewhere, Natalya made her usual appearance at ringside as Tyson Kidd and Cesaro took on The Lucha Dragons in a Tag Team Lumberjack match:
Lana was also present, speaking to Renee Young about her split with Rusev and their explosive encounter on Raw:
Lana says she almost lost the upper hand in their conflict Monday night, as she let her emotions get the better of her. She said she truly thought he could change, but she was wrong, and she won’t make that mistake again. She says she’s no man’s property – no prize toy.
When asked about her relationship with Dolph Ziggler, Lana says there is nothing between them. However, she can assure everyone that Rusev’s jealousy-driven attack on Ziggler will not stop him from competing in the Elimination Chamber this Sunday.
Rusev takes that moment to appear, sending Renee to stage left. He stares down Lana, who doesn’t appear to be all that intimidated. She asks him if he’s here to throw another temper tantrum. He says “Why bother?” because Ziggler’s not here. He mocks Ziggler and… the video freezes. I’m going to assume he just continues to try to intimidate Lana before leaving. Whatever he says, it’s not nice, judging by Lana’s reaction on Twitter:
Out of his own mouth @RusevBUL told me "to go rot in my own grave." And I have "wretched kisses" ….. wow @SyfyTV #SmackDown @WWE
— LANA (@LanaWWE) May 29, 2015
I like the turn this feud took – it’s no longer about Lana trying to get Rusev’s attention via jealousy. Neither is it about Lana finding a new man to manage. It’s about her taking a stand against Rusev and doing what she can to bring him down. Obviously, she’s no match for him physically, so she has to play mind games. That means blinding him with jealousy. So far, it only seems to be making him more powerful, but maybe she’s betting that all of that rage will backfire on him inside the Elimination Chamber.
Thoughts: This match had a lot more psychology to it than your average main roster Divas match. I’m sure Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks‘s fantastic TakeOver match had something to do with that. I can’t see how their performance wouldn’t light a fire under the main roster Divas. I hope some of that fire comes into play this Sunday and helps wake up the dinosaurs who are booking them. This match – albeit short – was proof that there can be depth to Divas matches if some psychology is applied and a story drives it. Hell, there weren’t any pin attempts! No rest holds! The added care and attention might be too little, too late for this Sunday, but if this feud is extending beyond Elimination Chamber (which I hope it is), Paige and Naomi can definitely benefit from this.
I enjoyed the pre-match promos: they sold each Diva’s motivation in a concise manner and were nice little character moments that didn’t have to resort to the over-the-top bitchiness we saw last week. Paige’s attitude still gets on my nerves, though. It’s like they’re trying to resurrect The Rock‘s babyface character circa 2001 with all the smartass, childish quips. The Rock was able to pull it off 14 years ago, but I’m not sure it’ll play now. At least, it’s not working with me. I just find myself getting annoyed.
It’s weird to me that they’re trying to sell Paige’s emotional instability all of a sudden. She seemed just fine last week – in fact, Naomi seemed like the emotional one. Don’t get me wrong: I’m happy they’re finding a story to tell that’s more than “I hate you/I hate you too”, but it would make more sense if there was actual foundation for it.
What’s struck me the most about these past few weeks is how much of a non-factor Nikki’s become. She’s the Divas Champion, but is all but absent in this feud. That tells me that she’s likely dropping the title this Sunday to one of the women who are actually participating in the feud.
I was inclined to think that Paige will take the title, since most of the focus has been on her, but there’s plenty to be gained from her chasing the belt. Since they now seem to care about her anger levels, maybe she’s being set up for more disappointment. Naomi could win the belt and add to her heelish cockiness, inciting more fire from Paige. I’d like to see that, as I don’t think there’s much to be gained from Naomi being denied her moment in the sun again. Paige will get a third Divas Title reign soon enough, but now I’m not so sure this Sunday will deliver it to her.