Saturday, January 28, 2023

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WWE Beast in the East in Review: A Triple Threat in Tokyo

WWE’s Beast in the East event – the first of its kind of be broadcast live on the WWE Network – wasn’t meant to rewrite history when it comes to the Divas. I’m sure no one expected Nikki Bella to drop the belt in her title defense. I didn’t at least. I was more interested in seeing the Divas take part in such a historic event and put on an entertaining match. By my account, they succeeded.

Yes, the aforementioned Nikki Bella put her title on the line against Paige and Tamina Snuka who were both aiming to pull a Finn Balor (er…before Finn could do it himself) and nab a shocking title win. How far would they go to accomplish that steep goal? 

Each Diva makes their entrance, the champion arriving last. The bell rings, and the three Divas circle each other. Nikki and Paige seem interested in a test of strength, but Tamina prefers to just take them out, and she clobbers both. Nikki comes charging at Tamina and rolls her up for an early pin attempt, which Tamina kicks out of.

Paige then decides to roll Nikki up, but she barely gets a one count out of it. Both she and Nikki stand up, only to be greeted with clotheslines from Tamina. Nikki is tossed out of the ring by Tamina, who is surprised with a kick to the midsection from Paige. Paige takes her to the ropes, draping her over them for her trademark knee barrage. As soon as she finishes, though, Tamina sweeps her legs out from under her, causing her to smack the back of her head on the ring apron.

Tamina pulls Paige back into the ring and covers her for the pin, Paige kicking out just as Nikki arrives to break it up. Paige exits the equation as Nikki and Tamina square off, Tamina headbutting the champ. Nikki manages to fight Tamina off and spring off the second rope with an enziguri. She covers Tamina, but only earns a two count.

Nikki pulls Tamina to her feet, but is greeted with a headbutt that lays her out. Tamina goes for the pin, but Paige is there to put a stop to it. She delivers some headbutts of her own, giving Nikki time to get to her feet. When she does, Paige aligns with her momentarily to hit a tandem suplex on Tamina. The two then dropkick her, sending her out of the ring. Nikki immediately turns her attentions to Paige, dropping her, hitting some forearms and attempting a pin. Paige kicks out.

Nikki tries to send Paige head-first into the corner, but Paige turns the tables just in time, and it’s Nikki who takes the blow. She fights off Paige’s ensuing attack, but her own swing misses, and Paige rolls her up. Nikki kicks out and immediately slams Paige to the mat, setting up another pin attempt. Paige kicks out. Nikki pulls her up and sets up an Alabama Slam, but Paige slips free, rolling through and driving a knee right into Nikki’s face. She covers the champ, but it’s not enough to pin her.

Paige props Nikki up in the corner and knees her in the head repeatedly. Tamina takes that moment to reappear on the ring apron, but Paige gets rid of her easily. This distraction allows Nikki to take control, and she hoists up Paige, carrying her back to the corner. She drives her shoulder into Paige’s midsection repeatedly before lifting her up to sit on the top rope. The two do battle as the situation gets more and more precarious, and just before Nikki can hit Paige with a superplex, Tamina appears and takes them both out with the Tower of Doom.

Tamina covers Nikki for the pin, but the referee doesn’t see it, and she charges over to Paige, covering her instead. Paige kicks out, prompting Tamina to try to cover Nikki again. Nikki kicks out as well. Frustrated, Tamina sends both Divas into the corner and charges, but they move out of the way, leaving her to eat turnbuckle. Nikki slams her knee into Tamina’s face, and Paige follows that up with a sharp kick, sending Tamina rolling to the outside.

Nikki hits Paige with the Alabama Slam, covering her and earning a two count for her troubles. Nikki pulls Paige to her feet, but is taken down with a roll-up. The champ kicks out. Paige kicks her in the stomach and hits the RamPaige, but the ensuing pin only gets her a near fall. It’s then that Paige pulls out the big guns, locking Nikki in the PTO. She seems to have victory within her grasp when Tamina appears out of nowhere, nearly taking her head off with a superkick.

Now along with Nikki, Tamina flattens her with a Samoan drop and heads to the top rope, aiming to finish her off a Superfly Splash. Nikki rolls out of the way, leaving Tamina to land hard on the mat. When she gets to her feet, she’s greeted with a hard forearm from Nikki, which lays her out. Nikki covers her, earning the three count and retaining the Divas Title.

Thoughts: While this wasn’t a Match of the Year candidate for me, I did appreciate the fresh feel it had. Yes, Nikki and Paige have been facing off for most of this year, but adding Tamina to the mix, forcing them to work together, made it feel new. Being in front of a Japanese crowd helped add to that feel, of course. I do wonder what the match would have looked like had Naomi not been forced to pull out of the tour. We’ve just seen that match, yes, but she’s since come into her own as a heel, and it would’ve been nice to see her pull out some of her new moves on a big stage. It would have helped further this lackluster Divas Title storyline too.

Can we ban the Tower of Doom from all Divas matches? Granted, the crowd’s reaction kind of made it worth it, but it’s become a complete cliche at this point. Whoever’s booking these matches shouldn’t be using that at their spot crutch. Find something new to wow the audience with!

I liked the fast-paced nature of this, though, nearly every move being reversed or countered. The timing was off at times, the pin break-ups almost always looking unnecessary, but I think that came with the territory when they decided to book a face-paced bout. The spot-calling was extra obvious at points, which I admit was a little cringe-worthy.

I loved the spot with the PTO, since it works as a shout out to Bull Nakano. I don’t think the crappy camera angle did Tamina’s superkick justice, though – it could’ve look a hell of a lot cooler. The finish was also lackluster, no thanks to Michael Cole‘s less-than-stellar calling of it. I don’t think he expected the forearm to finish it. Maybe they should have found a different finish if Nikki’s shoulder was preventing her from doing the Rack Attack – perhaps something Japanese-inspired to honor the historic significance of the event.

Wow, with all of those gripes, you’d think I didn’t like the match. Really, though, all in all, it was an enjoyable match, if not one that tore the house down. I guess part of me is just glad the Divas were included in this event at all, since the WWE practically treats them like an afterthought at this point. It sort of brought be back to the old Rebellion days, when we’d have these international title matches where you knew there wouldn’t be a title change, so you just went along for the ride. Taking that approach, this was a nice little Fourth of July treat. A bonus, if you will. When the Divas get back stateside, though, they better start gearing up for Battleground, because they have a lot of work to do.

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