Its been a cruel summer for the women’s division at World Wrestling Entertainment. Budget cuts sent Mickie James, Chelsea Green, Ruby Riott, Peyton Royce, Billie Kay, and Lana off, wishing them well in their ‘future endeavors’. This left a skeleton crew of female WWE superstars heading into the build-up for the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match. With few participants to hold qualifying matches with, half of the seven woman ladder match’s entrants have been announcements made via social media, or by onscreen authority figure Sonya Deville. However, some fresh blood and charismatic talent are keeping the women’s evolution moving forward, and the SmackDown women rocked the house at Houston’s Toyota Center on July 16’s broadcast.
— WWE (@WWE) July 17, 2021
No Tank Shines Brighter
Tegan Nox and Shotzi made their second appearance on SmackDown and their first in front of a live crowd since joining the blue brand. Although it is early days yet, Shotzi’s gimmick appears to be remaining intact-the TCB tank, her wolfish howls, and her punishing, risk-taking in-ring style. Yet again, she and Nox overwhelmed the WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions Natalya and Tamina. These four athletes’ styles are so complementary because they are all so distinct: Tamina’s gusto, Nox’s excellent timing and synchronicity with her partner, Natalya’s submission style, and Shotzi’s human wrecking ball approach to pro wrestling create a visual buffet of clashing approaches among the SmackDown women.
However, theirs wasn’t the only clash to watch during the match. Liv Morgan and Zelina Vega on guest commentary sewed the seeds of a feud between them with several petty swipes that turned into a brawl between the commentary desk and the apron. Their fisticuffs distracted Natalya as she attempted to lock in the sharpshooter on Nox. “The Girl With the Shiniest Wizard” turned the tables on Natalya with a roll-up pin, capturing her and Shotzi’s second win.
The enraged Natalya and Tamina attacked Morgan and Vega in retaliation for their antics, but Morgan fed Natalya the canvas, incapacitating the Women’s Tag Team Champion and pointing triumphantly at the Money in the Bank briefcase. The dust-up sets the stage for how the SmackDown women will interact in Sunday’s ladder match.
— WWE (@WWE) July 17, 2021
The SmackDown Women’s Championship Match
Carmella was slated to be in the ladder match, too, until being tapped to fill in for the injured Bayley to challenge for Bianca Belair’s SmackDown Women’s Championship. Expectations were high for Belair’s first appearance before a live crowd since winning her title from Sasha Banks at WrestleMania 37 in April. The match, WWE’s first WrestleMania bout to feature two African-American headliners, recently won an ESPY for Best WWE Moment.
Although Belair, and the crowd, missed out on seeing the fruition of her entertaining summer feud with Bayley, Carmella was a formidable challenger. She is a genuinely capable submission wrestler with a bag of well-executed tricks but also employed vicious heel tricks like tossing Belair into the barricade and knocking her face-first into turnbuckles. If the crowd wasn’t in love with the exuberant and engaging “EST” before, they were solidly on her side whenever she seemed overcome by Carmella. However, Belair’s prodigious strength was on her side as she reversed Carmella’s guillotine into a vertical suplex that commentator Pat McAfee compared to that of Davey Boy Smith, The British Bulldog. Bianca whipped “Mella” around with her braid and hit her powerbomb finisher, the Kiss of Death, and covered for the pinfall win.
For the first time since winning the belt, Belair got to raise it high before the crowd. It wasn’t the match originally planned, but the champion still made it her moment.
The SmackDown Women Rock the House – In Closing
SmackDowns’ women’s division is adjusting to recent losses and additions, but it has a healthy mix of veteran talent and exciting new transplants from NXT, plus the star power of Belair. The crowd at the Toyota Center got quite a show from these stellar performers.
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