Tonight, the Smackdown Women’s Championship will be on the line as the reigning champion Alexa Bliss takes on her longtime adversary Naomi. And while many may be confused by calling Naomi Alexa’s “longtime adversary”, it’s a story that’s been months in the making, almost since the Brand Draft last year.
On July 19, 2016, the WWE held it’s first Brand Draft since 2011, when Raw and Smackdown once again became exclusive brands within the WWE Universe. WWE Superstar Naomi was drafted to Smackdown Live with the 39th pick overall (and Smackdown‘s 16th), while NXT Superstar Alexa Bliss was a surprise draft pick by the Blue Brand with the 47th pick (and Smackdown‘s 20th). At the time of the draft, Naomi was still out with an injured ankle, but she returned to the company’s live events in August just in time for the build to SummerSlam ’16.
Naomi returned repackaged as a fan favourite, and the Feel The Glow campaign seemed to put Naomi on course for her most popular run since she debuted with the WWE years previous. She began teaming with Becky Lynch and just narrowly lost out on the crowning of the first Smackdown Women’s Championship at September’s Backlash ’16 6-Pack Challenge. But during that match, she eliminated Alexa Bliss.
Over the next few weeks, Naomi would emerge on the victorious side many times against Alexa Bliss, either in tag team action, where Naomi often paired with Becky or Nikki Bella, or in singles action. When Becky Lynch was unable to defend her title due to injury against Bliss at No Mercy ’16 in October, Naomi stepped in as Alexa’s PPV opponent and got the win over the #1 contender. A week later on Smackdown Live, the two would face again, with Bliss evening the score. The two would briefly team up as part of the Smackdown Live women’s team for Survivor Series ’16, but continued their feud immediately after. Naomi’s last match before re-injuring her ankle was a loss on November 22 to Alexa Bliss on an episode of Main Event. Naomi would spend the next two months recovering from the injuries.
Naomi made her return to the WWE just before Royal Rumble ’17, where she confronted Bliss – who had since won the Women’s title from Becky Lynch – on Smackdown Live and challenged her to a match to continue their past battles. But Bliss, now fuelled by the arrogance of a young champion, seemed to forget who Naomi was, downplaying her as a non-entity in her title reign. But at the Royal Rumble, in a 6-woman tag team match, it was Naomi who scored the pinfall for her team, and against Alexa Bliss herself. Days later, Naomi pinned the champ again, this time in a regular tag match with Becky Lynch against Bliss and her new mentor, Mickie James. Alexa Bliss could not ignore Naomi anymore.
As the two prepare for their first one-on-one confrontation tonight since Naomi’s return from the IR, Bliss will have to prepare herself mentally against an opponent who has had her number on the big events as well as the past two confrontations. And for Naomi, this represents another opportunity to do something she hasn’t done since her days in FCW (WWE’s developmental prior to NXT) – and that’s win championship gold.
With WrestleMania 33 being held in Naomi’s hometown of Orlando, Florida, the dream of walking in as Women’s Champion is a very real one for Naomi. But tonight may not be her night. Bliss will no doubt use dirty tactics to secure her win against a very worthy challenger. But at WrestleMania, Bliss may finally Feel The Glow of defeat.
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