Despite a rocky start, things have started progressing quite nicely for SmackDown Live’s women’s division. This week, fans witnessed the introduction of the division’s very own women’s championship title, which will be awarded to the winner of a six-pack challenge at Backlash on Sept. 11. That match will feature all of the active members of the roster (sorry, Eva Marie).
Not only that, but the division got a significant boost at SummerSlam when it was revealed that the longest-reigning WWE Divas Champion in history, Nikki Bella, would be joining the ranks of the SmackDown locker room and bringing her Total Divas star power to Tuesday nights. That said, adding a new top babyface to the roster meant that things would definitely need to be shaken up.
Becky Lynch still sits firmly as the most well-rounded babyface in terms of both wrestling ability and popularity, and with Naomi’s new gimmick, WWE fans have had no choice but to “feel the glow” and be enthralled by her energy. With a stacked deck on the hero side of things, and as the last remaining babyface, Carmella really only had one option: Turn heel and refuse to be overshadowed.
Fans familiar with Carmella prior to her debut will know that she’s been quite the fireball since her days alongside Enzo Amore and Big Cass on NXT. When the realest guys in the room went up to live television, Carmella relished the opportunity to stay in Full Sail and make a name for herself as less of a valet and more of an independent competitor on the booming NXT women’s division.
You’d know she’d spent a lot of time with Enzo and Cass, because her infectious enthusiasm and swagger had translated well enough to the SmackDown roster, and she backed it up well with her in-ring ability, even going so far as to tap out the veteran Natalya. But Bella’s return to action placed Carmella firmly at the back of the pecking order. There was only one way to remedy this, and the booking of Carmella’s heel turn was absolutely perfect.
After being away for so long, you’d expect that Bella’s first appearance on SmackDown would be utilized to get her back over as one of the brand’s top babyfaces, which in this case would have come at the expense of a young hopeful in “the hottest chick in the ring.”
But instead of being a stepping stone for Bella, Carmella decided to take her destiny into her own hands and cement herself as a force to be reckoned with in the best way possible, by putting a beating on one of the most well-known names on the WWE’s female roster.
And she didn’t just turn heel either, it’s fair to say that her actions on Tuesday night were far more vindictive than anything Natalya or Alexa Bliss have done since the brand extension got underway, focusing the brunt of her attack on the surgically repaired neck of the returning star.
To add insult to injury, Carmella even planted her would-be opponent in the center of the ring with the Bella Buster, one of Nikki’s own signature moves. Carmella would continue the assault when the show went off the air and Talking Smack was broadcasted live on the WWE Network, ambushing Bella backstage and proving that whatever this is, it’s far from over between the two of them.
Out of all the ways Carmella could have made the switch, this is by far the most impactful, and it immediately silenced any talk of Carmella being the only one in the six-pack challenge at Backlash without a real chance of capturing the championship. Thinking about the division of a whole, this is the first time fans have seen a real sense of animosity between any two women on the show.
Natalya and Lynch came into the brand hating one another, but the fire that sparked their rivalry at Money in the Bank had long since burnt out. You need more than a championship to sustain a division’s entertainment factor, and this feud between Bella and Carmella could turn into something that the fans actually look forward to every week.
There are definitely going to be some people out there that want to see what Carmella does next — if she’ll turn her attention to any of the other existing babyfaces in the division, or if she’ll focus all her energy on solidifying her own destiny at the expense of Bella. Hopefully it’s the latter, because the one thing SmackDown’s female roster sorely needs is a compelling storyline to complement the build toward Backlash’s championship match.
It’s about time that Carmella proved that being the final overall draft pick isn’t a reflection of her abilities in the ring, and this week’s attack did a great job in setting the wheels in motion to make her one of the most interesting women on the entire WWE roster.