Saturday, July 13, 2024

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WWE Roadblock in Review: Natalya Disrupts Charlotte’s WrestleMania Journey

WWE Roadblock wasn’t supposed to threaten a Divas Title change, but the power of Natalya and a home country crowd made Charlotte‘s title reign flash before her eyes on Saturday night, if only for a moment.

Sure, it shouldn’t be shocking that an impromptu title match between the the Divas that brought us one of the greatest matches of 2014 was thrilling, but it is. It was a pleasant surprise and a shot of adrenaline heading into Charlotte’s Triple Threat title defense at WrestleMania, making for the best Divas match to grace a WWE live special so far, easily beating out those at Beast in the East and Live from MSG.

Before we can get to that match, though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Carmella‘s main roster TV debut. The NXT Diva accompanied Enzo and Cass to ringside for their NXT Tag Team Title shot against The Revival:

A bit later, we caught up with Natalya in an interview conducted earlier in the day:

Natalya says it feels great to be back home in Canada and dedicates the match to her uncle, Bret Hart. She says a win here would put her that much closer to a Divas Title shot.

Charlotte appears then, laughing at Natalya’s optimism. She says Natalya doesn’t “get it”: she’s not on her level anymore. Natalya counters by challenging Charlotte to put the title on the line – if she’s no threat, Charlotte shouldn’t be worried about doing so. Charlotte refuses, reminding Natalya that she’s three weeks away from defending the belt at WrestleMania.

Natalya muses that what Bret said about the Flairs is true: they’re cowards. This enrages Ric Flair, who has to be held back by Charlotte. Charlotte grants Natalya’s wish, but warns her that like the Toronto Maple Leafs, she will never win another championship.

After that, we immediately cut to ringside, where the Divas make their entrances. Off the bell, they tie up, Natalya taking Charlotte down with a side headlock. Charlotte gets free and Natalya goes for an early pin, but Charlotte kicks out. Natalya locks in a hammerlock, which Charlotte reverses into a waistlock. Natalya takes Charlotte down to the mat, but Charlotte catches her in a bodyscissors.

Charlotte locks in a front facelock for good measure, but Natalya fights out of it and begins to power out of the bodyscissors as well. She frees herself one leg at a time and then locks Charlotte in a knee bar. Charlotte quickly flips out of it and locks in a half crab. Natalya rolls through and goes for the Sharpshooter, but Charlotte grabs hold of the ropes, halting her attempt.

Both Divas get to their feet and Charlotte swiftly slaps Natalya across the face. Natalya answers with a chop to the chest, which sends Charlotte to her knees. Charlotte blocks Natalya’s kick, catching her boot, but Natalya manages to take Charlotte down to the mat by her legs. She locks in a surfboard submission, sending Charlotte up high. Natalya releases the hold by dropping Charlotte all the way to the mat and follows that up with step-over run and a dropkick to the chest.

Natalya attempts to lock in the Sharpshooter once more, but again Charlotte escapes. Natalya follows, taking her out with a baseball slide and tossing her back into the ring. Charlotte immediately tries to leave the ring again, but Natalya catches her. Charlotte grabs hold of Natalya too and wins the exchange, pulling her out of the ring and causing her to land hard on the outside. She tosses Natalya back into the ring and starts slamming Natalya’s head to the mat while delivering right hands.

Charlotte follows Natalya to the corner, where she stomps her. Charlotte then goes for the pin, but Natalya kicks out. She delivers elbows to Natalya’s shoulder before locking a headscissors and driving her face to the mat repeatedly. She shifts to a submission hold, choking Natalya with her legs. Charlotte then shifts again, flipping Natalya repeatedly. She goes for another pin, but Natalya kicks out again.

Charlotte gets to her feet and doesn’t detect Natalya’s sudden roll-up pin, but she kicks out of it. Charlotte springs up and takes Natalya down with a clothesline in response. Natalya backs into a corner and fends of Charlotte’s attack, but her discus clothesline is blocked, and Charlotte takes her down with a neckbreaker. Charlotte kips up and does a Flair strut before covering Natalya for the pin. Natalya kicks out.

Charlotte takes Natalya’s legs and starts to wear them down, driving her knees into the tender spots. When she tries to lock in the Figure Four, though, Natalya rolls her into another pin attempt. Charlotte kicks out, but Natalya’s in control now. She sweeps Charlotte’s feet out from under her, causing her to crash face-first into the mat. Charlotte backs into a corner, drawing Natalya to her. Charlotte dodges Natalya’s attack and sends her into the turnbuckle instead. She chop blocks Natalya and takes her to the mat.

More knees are driven into the back of Natalya’s leg before Charlotte takes her to the corner, where she slams her left leg into the ring post. When she goes to do it a second time, though, Natalya fights back, pulling Charlotte into the post instead. Both Divas regroup for a moment, but Charlotte makes it back into the ring before the referee’s count reaches 10. She grabs Natalya by the hair and plants her with a chop. This kicks off an exchange of chops and forearms that ends with Natalya taking Charlotte down with a side Russian leg sweep.

Natalya hits a discus clothesline and goes for the Sharpshooter, but before she can lock it in, Charlotte stops her with a slap to the face. Charlotte rolls up Natalya for the pin, but Natalya kicks out. Both Divas get to their feet quickly, but Charlotte plants Natalya with a big boot, allowing her to lock in the Figure Four. When she tries to bridge it into the Figure Eight, though, Natalya starts to fight back, applying some pressure of her own. They exchange slap, battling for control, and Natalya successfully rolls them over for a moment, reversing the pressure. Charlotte quickly rolls them back and slaps Natalya, ordering her to tap. Natalya refuses, rolling them again. Charlotte uses the momentum to roll them back to a seated position and drops out of the ring, maintaining the hold to put even more pressure on Natalya’s legs. The referee quickly forces her to break the hold.

Charlotte quickly reenters the ring and hits a distracted Natalya with the Natural Selection! She goes for the pin, but Natalya kicks out. Frustrated, she goes for two more pins, but gets the same result both times. She takes Natalya down with a suplex and then climbs to the top rope, where she preps for a moonsault. Natalya stops her, though, taking hold of her and carrying her to the center of the ring for a sitout powerbomb! Natalya pins Charlotte, but the champ kicks out.

Natalya is the first to get to her feet and attempts once more to lock in the Sharpshooter, but Charlotte pulls her into a small package pin attempt. Natalya kicks out. Charlotte takes Natalya off her feet and tries for the Figure Four, but Natalya fights back, taking Charlotte to the mat and again attempting the Sharpshooter. She locks it in this time, and the crowd goes nuts!

Charlotte scrambles for the ropes, reaching for Ric’s hands. Natalya notices this and breaks the hold. She takes a swing at Ric, but he dodges it. Charlotte then sneaks up behind Natalya and rolls her up for the pin, using the ropes for leverage and getting the three count! Charlotte is still your Divas Champion!

Thoughts: What a match! I don’t think it’s a surprise that these two can tear the house down – TakeOver was proof of that – but it is a surprise that Natalya would put up such a fight against Charlotte when she’s so far outside the title picture. I suppose these live specials are exceptions to the rule, though, since unprompted title matches happen on house shows all the time. Still, I went into this thinking it was silly for the title to be on the line, so I was really happy to see them work backwards and book a reason for Charlotte to grant Natalya a title shot. It makes sense that she would be goaded into it with an easy jab to the ego, since Ric has fallen prey to that trick often, like when he granted Becky Lynch her title shot for the Royal Rumble. All I needed was a realistic reason for the belt to be on the line, and it was given. Problem solved!

This match took what should have been an obvious win for Charlotte to the next level by having Natalya push her to her limit and come close to snagging the title several times. I don’t think anyone really expected Natalya to win the belt, but the home country feel was intoxicating enough for the crowd to believe it was possible. This is one of those “lightning in a bottle” matches, where the competitors and crowd create a really special moment, Natalya’s Canadian roots kind of creating a story where there wasn’t one. The crowd was behind her all the way and were enthusiastic throughout the match, making it feel like it was the culmination of a months-long feud. That’s magic.

Needless to say, Natalya and Charlotte worked their asses off here. Their chemistry is insane, and their movesets are incredibly compatible, allowing for scenarios like the dueling Figure Four. The match was even booked like a WrestleMania match, the action and intensity putting it head and shoulders above most of the recent Diva WrestleMania offerings. It really sold Natalya as a tough Diva, which should be the narrative anyways, given how they market her as the sole female alumnus of the Hart Dungeon. This is why it was such a crime to leave her out of the Diva Revolution storyline: she can pull a Match of the Year candidate out of her back pocket. She’s such an asset.

Hopefully, this match will elevate the Triple Threat to even greater heights, hype-wise: if this was Charlotte’s “warm up” match, there’s no telling the kind of show she, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks will put on. This did a better job of building to the match than Charlotte’s post-match attack on Raw, in my opinion, because it built up Charlotte’s strengths: she can match a veteran Diva move for more, and even if that’s not enough, she’s sneaky enough to steal a win. That makes her a huge threat, and poses a lot of problems for Becky and Sasha to overcome at Mania. I suggest they ask Natalya for a few tips.

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