Neither Liv Morgan’s recent singles push, the ruthless aggression she showed on July 16’s Friday Night SmackDown, nor her impassioned Money in the Bank pre-show interview proved to be either a spoiler or a prediction. The narrative looked set for Morgan to be the winner of the eight-woman ladder match: she had proved herself as a singles performer following Riott Squad tag partner Ruby Riott’s release, she had been slighted by WWE authority Sonya Deville and then convinced Deville to include her in the match; now it seemed time for her coronation as the gutsy babyface du jour. However, that was not the outcome. Whilst her opponents battered away at each other on ladders on either side of her, it was the pluckily rebranded “Almost Super Hero” Nikki A.S.H. who scrambled up the ladder and snatched the Money in the Bank briefcase. Her win illustrates the state of WWE’s women division, which finds itself with a compelling mix of performers from different stages of its growth.
The Start of the Women’s Evolution
After the outcry of the #GiveDivasAChance movement in 2015 and ’16, the main roster’s Divas division was rebranded as the women’s division. NXT-groomed talent like Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch, and Charlotte Flair, plus former UFC bantamweight Ronda Rousey, alongside Divas veterans like Natalya, Naomi, Tamina, Alicia Fox, and Mickie James were given matches of greater consequence and athleticism. It is now commonplace for women’s matches to be headlining bouts on major pay-per-views, and for WWE’s female athletes to be lauded by sports outlets like Sports Illustrated and ESPN’s ESPYS.
As the Women’s Evolution continued, performers like Nikki A.S.H., tag partner Alexa Bliss, Morgan, and Asuka were cutting their teeth on NXT and hitting the pipeline to the main roster from late 2016 to 2019. While Lynch, Rousey, Banks, Bayley, and Flair were front and center making history and headlines, these women were just a few paces behind, battling it out on their proving ground with an eye towards following in the trail being blazed ahead of them.
You're doing us proud, @NikkiCrossWWE 🙌
The first British Superstar to hold the Money in the Bank briefcase 🏴🇬🇧
— WWE on BT Sport (@btsportwwe) July 19, 2021
The Possibilities for Nikki A.S.H.
One champion the underdog Nikki A.S.H. could challenge is Raw Women’s Champion Flair; the other is phenom Bianca Belair. The SmackDown Women’s Champion has briskly ascended from NXT to first Raw and then SmackDown, in the space of about two years.
The women’s division is now a compelling tapestry of veteran performers from the Divas days like Natalya and Naomi, the vanguard of the Women’s Evolution like Flair, Bayley, Banks, and the inevitably returning Lynch, the performers who came shortly after them and have proven themselves in tag teams and on the midcard like A.S.H. and Morgan, and a third wave of NXT new arrivals like Tegan Nox, Shotzi, Rhea Ripley, and Toni Storm, who arrives on SmackDown on July 23.
A Look Back on History
The women’s division’s diversity of performers of different and distinct eras is much like WWE/F’s New Generation era. In the early 90s, perennial champion Bret Hart could, with equal aplomb, find himself paired off against a Golden Era name like Randy Savage, a venerable lion from the World Wide Wrestling Federation days like Bob Backlund, a peer who had shared his journey up the ranks like Shawn Michaels, or an upstart from the nascent indies like the 1-2-3 Kid. While the official narrative was that the younger players were storming the Bastille from their elders, in truth all of these performers of different eras shared space, just as in the main roster’s women’s division today.
While the generation gap is not quite as extreme, the ascent of performers like A.S.H. and Asuka in the last year, the staying power of experienced players like Natalya, and the arrival of Ripley, Nox, Shotzi, and Storm does signal that the women’s division has now been around long enough to produce different eras of talent, and throw them all together in a compelling hodgepodge.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) July 19, 2021
Nikki A.S.H., Ms. Money in the Bank – In Closing
If Nikki A.S.H. challenges Belair, it will be a battle between women who have had an almost identical journey, almost exactly parallel to each other. If she challenges Charlotte, she will be taking on an experienced champion who has literally made WWE history in firsts like the inaugural women’s Hell in a Cell match versus Sasha Banks in 2016.
Either is possible and with such a compellingly varied roster, more growth seems to be on the way for the women of WWE.
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