WWE’s Evolution, the company’s first ever all women’s wrestling network event (pay per view for the old schoolers out there) was really, really good. In fact, it was the best WWE branded show I have seen on the network in some time (I don’t include NXT events under that umbrella). It was a clean, well booked, well performed wrestling show. Matches had faces and heels, clear lines of conflict between characters, and the crowd was super hot, which always makes for a better show.
Going into Evolution, I wasn’t sure I would watch the entire event. I generally prefer big shows and watch them on a lag so I can skip through promo packages and filler matches and while there were plenty of the former, this show had none of the latter. Each match served a purpose, told a story, and highlighted the strength of the WWE women’s division.
With the company still wrapped up tight in the controversy surrounding the Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, Evolution felt like both a breath of fresh air and a statement of understanding between WWE and its female superstars. They know these ladies can hang. They know that the Saudi deal only looks good in the bank account. In between these two truths, the WWE crafted Evolution as not only an incredible showcase for the talents but also a reminder that the company has worked very hard at making their women’s division a viable and important part of their programming.
Yes, the Saudi deal is evil, and maybe they should have gone to bat for the ladies and either brought them along or not gone at all, but they didn’t. They made the very McMahon choice of going big with an all-women’s event. Which, having seen it, I bet every single women on that roster enjoyed a hell of a lot because for one night, the spotlight was all theirs.
To the point of the women’s happiness with the show: wrestling pundits will argue about the placement of matches, the stacking of a Battle Royal, a Bella Twin in the main event, and the use of Bayley and Sasha in a six person tag. But to those observers I would say: they all got on the card. They all got a payday. Heck, every single women in the Battle Royal even got their own entrance, and they got a group curtain call. Ever see the entire men’s roster come out to celebrate after a show? Nope. Me, neither.
This was a celebration of wrestling featuring women.
The show kicked off exactly the way it should, with Trish Stratus and Lita coming out to monster pops for their match with Mickie James and Alicia Foxx. I watched these two ladies wrestle everything from bra and panties to gravy bowl matches, but I also watched them get put through tables by the Dudleys and eat Stunners from Steve Austin – levels of male on female violence that would never be accepted today. These ladies deserved a night where they got to wrestle a modern-style match with their tops on and they got it. Their legacy is so much more than those matches and the response from the crowd showed how much equity they still have with the WWE universe. Wrestling fans remember what the stars of the past have done for us, so when love is due, we don’t hold back.
I am all in for a Lita nostalgia run by the way. Just want to throw that out there.
The Battle Royal was exactly what it needed to be as well; a chance to parade out different generations of performers while giving the final four spotlight to the right talents: Asuka, Ember Moon, Tamina and the victorious Nia Jax. Lots of fun spots and moments to shine for the likes of Michelle (Mrs. Taker) McCool, Alundra Blaze, Ivory and many more. A fantastic heel promo from The Iconics and even a Carmella dance break. The match also featured hair extensions… so many hair extensions.
NXT UK star Toni Storm won the Mae Young Classic in a hard-fought match with Io Shirai that featured a German suplex to the ring apron and a top rope to the outside moonsault. And Shana Baszler regained the NXT women’s championship from “Pirate Princess” Kairi Sane, who entered the match carrying her title belt in a treasure chest. Both of these matches were worked in the fast paced, hard hitting NXT style and got a rousing chant of the brands name going through the crowd. Baszler, one of the scariest people I’ve ever seen enter a ring, is now flanked by two-thirds of her Four Horsewomen of MMA, making her even more dangerous as a heel with a squad. These matches were a fantastic bridge between NXT and the main roster and gave all four women time to showcase their talents.
The three on three match between The Riott Squad and Sasha, Bayley, and Natalya was what it was designed to be. Everybody got their stuff in, the baby faces went over and everyone had awesome looking gear. Sasha and Bayley could, of course, do more, but it wasn’t their night. They played their spot on the card and made the most of it, like pros.
Then there was Becky and Charlotte… “holy shit” doesn’t cover it.
The crowd was thunderous and the match was everything a Last Woman Standing match could or should be. Becky and Charlotte took a personal feud, added a championship, and put on a show that could go up against any match anywhere in the world for quality and competitiveness. I don’t have enough words to do the match justice, but I will say that I am really glad to live in a world where I can show my daughter Charlotte Flair and say, “That is what a strong woman can look like.” Charlotte is poise and physique given form, a once in a lifetime performer and clearly as tough as a two-dollar steak. Becky Lynch, on the other hand, has “it”. To use the proper lingo, Becky is over. She has the crowd behind her and creates a perfect foil for Charlotte, whichever side of the heel/face coin she is booked on.
This match was the real deal.
Expectations for the main event match between Nikki Bella and Ronda Rousey for the RAW women’s title were understandably a little low. The Bellas represent the end of the “lingerie model” era of the WWE women’s division. They star on a reality show and have never really been known for their in-ring skills. So what would happen in a match with the still wrestling-green Ronda Rousey?
The match would be great. That’s what.
Ronda Rousey is the Kurt Angle of women’s wrestling. She is a legitimate bad-ass that gets better every time she is anywhere near a ring. Did she get the rocket strapped to her to soon? Maybe, but its hard to argue with the fan response and the viciousness of those arm whips. Jeebus, those look like they hurt. Rousey has the swagger of a real fighter, so winning a match with the poster girl for the Divas era was a fitting way to cap off the night.
She also stacked both Bellas on her shoulders and gave them her Samoan Driver finish. It was pretty damn impressive.
So, short story long, I really liked Evolution. I don’t look at it as a bone to throw the ladies while the men go make a payday at Crown Jewel and I truly don’t believe anyone involved in putting it together did either.
Sure, the commentary was lacking as both Renee Young and Beth Phoenix sounded really similar and neither played the heel commentator role. Yes, they did mention what a special occasion it was way too often. And, yes, it was a week before Crown Jewel and WWE has to wear that event like hair shirt until it is well in the rearview.
But, Evolution was also a really, really good wrestling show, which is the thing we are all fans of, right?
From nostalgia pops to high spots, the broken tables of Evolution represented the breaking of a glass ceiling in the WWE. Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair are big time wrestling stars that happen to be women, not women that happen to be wrestlers. Rousey may very well be the attraction that brings women to the main event of Wrestlemania. In fact, I’d bet on it.
For right now, let’s give the WWE and everyone involved in it some credit for doing the right thing right. There will be time tomorrow to dissect Crown Jewel. Today is for the ladies, and the crown belongs to them.