2021 has been a fraught year for World Wrestling Entertainment. Several of its performers were released across WWE’s three television brands, winnowing its talent pool considerably. The bare-bones roster made for a starkly different television experience than WWE’s competitor, All Elite Wrestling, which boasts a cavalcade of wrestling talent from across the spectrum of the art form, and delights in signing high profile former WWE players like Bryan Danielson and CM Punk. Comparisons to the 1990s tv wars between WWE and WCW are certainly apt, and in the eyes of many fans and critics AEW is winning. WWE’s viewing experience was marred in 2021 by poor storytelling, booking that diminished talented men and women, and the dents left by various releases.
However, as each new year dawns it offers a chance to do better. 2021 wasn’t a total loss, with high points like Friday Night SmackDown’s Bloodline saga featuring Roman Reigns and The Usos, Bianca Belair’s SmackDown Women’s Championship run, and Edge and Seth Rollins’s electrifying program which culminated in an overall victory for Edge at October’s Crown Jewel. Whatever 2022 holds for the WWE universe, some developments it would be intriguing to see revolve around WWE’s women.
WWE’s Women – A 2021 Wish List
Alexa Bliss: Back to Basics
Alexa Bliss has accomplished much in WWE. She is a 3x Raw Women’s Championship, and a 2x SmackDown women’s champion, as well as the winner of the first women’s Elimination Chamber match. With her pink-tipped blonde tresses and effervescent high-flying move set, she was a consistently popular performer under her “Goddess” gimmick. Throughout 2020 and 2021, however, Bliss found herself in a controversial angle that saw her possessed by Bray Wyatt’s “Fiend” doppelganger and taking on his demonic traits.
What could have been a compelling gimmick of diabolic master and handmaiden had to take a detour out of necessity when Wyatt took a long hiatus from TV following April 2021’s Wrestlemania 37. Bliss thereupon asserted her autonomy over Wyatt’s Firefly Fun House, which was renamed Alexa’s playground. Her demonic doll character had little time in the ring, and her feuds with Eva Marie and Charlotte Flair never reached the palpable menace of Wyatt’s characters and the eerie terror they evoked upon their adversaries. After losing a bid against Flair for the Raw women’s title at Extreme Rules, Bliss has been absent from television. However, recent social media hints thrown by Bliss herself seem to indicate her imminent return.
When that transpires, fans will no doubt welcome back a more down-to-earth version of Bliss. If she has outgrown the pink-haired “Goddess”, that is fine: evolution is always welcome in pro wrestling. Just as welcome would be a version of Bliss that deploys her considerable talents in great bouts in the ring, rather than isolated in Funhouse segments, and whose storylines center around the pursuit of the Raw or SmackDown women’s titles rather than twice-baked preternatural machinations left over from the remnants of Wyatt’s singular vision.
The Empress’s Return: Asuka
Like Bliss, Asuka has been absent from television for several months. She hasn’t been seen since the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match on July 18, 2021, and during WWE’s draft was declared a free agent. Reports are split on why she has been out of action. Suggestions that she is recovering from an injury, but also that her absence is simply due to a lack of creative plans for the “Empress of Tomorrow” have both had traffic in autumn and winter 2021. Whatever the case, she enjoyed a dominant singles run in 2020. When Kairi Sane’s departure ended the Kabuki Warriors, Asuka was then given a face turn and a singles push as she won the women’s event at 2020’s Money in the Bank.
Instead of the customary contract for a championship opportunity, Asuka was crowned Raw Women’s Champion as Becky Lynch vacated the belt due to her pregnancy. The joshi veteran was a key player during the ThunderDome days at Amway Center and portrayed as a fighter of almost invincible endurance, wiliness, technical gifts, and psychological warfare in the form of her eccentric caprices. Gradually, her presence on television diminished. Asuka’s colorful presence as one of WWE’s top women is missed, and her free agent status keeps the hope alive that there’s equal chance that she will turn up in 2022 on either Monday Night Raw or Friday Night SmackDown.
Revamped Rhea Ripley
The woman who defeated Asuka and claimed the Raw Women’s Championship from her at Wrestlemania 37, Rhea Ripley, arrived on Monday Night Raw after paving NXT with accomplishments. She is, as of yet, the only woman to have held both the NXT and NXT UK women’s titles, as well as the inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion. Ripley was poised for a main roster push in 2020, but plans were shelved due to the ensuing COVID 19 pandemic. By the time she made it to the “Red Brand,” its production was housed in WWE’s ThunderDome at Amway Center.
Ripley’s feud with Charlotte Flair was hampered by gimmicky matches and poor dialogue while confined to the ThunderDome, but their match at 2021’s Money in the Bank memorably won over a crowd that had begun the encounter hurling “We Want Becky” chants at them. Despite forming a tag team with Nikki A.S.H. and a reign alongside her as WWE Women’s Tag Team Champions, Ripley’s main roster run has been short on memorable moments. It’s not too late to tap into all the potential this twenty-five-year-old phenom has to offer. A run against NXT nemesis Shayna Bazler would be rejuvenating for both of them.
A Push for Shotzi
Shotzi, formerly known as Shotzi Blackheart, broke out as a popular performer during her time at NXT, with her daredevil in-ring style and distinctive gimmick: flowing lime green hair, numerous tattoos, punctuating her antics in ring with howling wolf calls, and of course her signature entrance, in a toy tank. With her punky aesthetic and wild child appeal, it was no surprise that Shotzi made her way to the main roster. Her midsummer call-up was a surprise, but so far it has been one of fits and starts.
Shotzi debuted as part of a tag team alongside Tegan Nox, but with Nox’s release, that partnership quietly ended. Shotzi also lost her tank and underwent a subtle transformation. Her kinetic, feral tone was honed into a growling intensity reminiscent of Luna Vachon, and her ire seems to be directed at Sasha Banks. The two could make magic in the ring with a proper program, but the feud is just one of many pots boiling as a feud between Banks and Flair builds for the SmackDown Women’s Championship, but Flair also fends off challenges from Toni Storm. Among WWE’s women, Shotzi has a unique and intense charisma; in 2022, it deserves a proper chance to blossom.