In the early days of the brand extension, it was said that SmackDown had gotten the short end of the stick with regards to its female draft picks. While Raw put together a credible division of some of the most talented female performers in all of WWE, including Sasha Banks, Charlotte, Paige, Nia Jax, and now even Bayley has joined the fray, SmackDown was given a lot less to work with.
It wasn’t that the talent on the blue brand was far inferior to that of Raw, but the division had nothing to fight for considering Charlotte carried the WWE Women’s Championship over to the red team, plus Becky Lynch was the only real acquisition to the roster with much draw to her name.
Things quickly changed following SummerSlam, however, when Daniel Bryan and Shane McMahon ushered in a brand new SmackDown Women’s Championship to add some tension to the female locker room and give the ladies of Team Blue something worth fighting over.
This did a tremendous job of magnifying the spotlight on the division, and with the return of Nikki Bella to raise spirits and add some star power, things started looking up ahead of Backlash.
But while the biggest question surrounding the division at Backlash was just who would represent SmackDown Live as its inaugural titleholder, another big question mark was whether or not the division had enough steam to maintain its buzz going forward. After the fallout from the show, it’s safe to say we can answer that question with a resounding “yes.”
With Becky Lynch now sporting the blue, white and gold of the SmackDown Women’s Championship, the WWE found itself in the predicament of who to give the first title shot to, and it made the perfect choice in having Alexa Bliss pick up that opportunity in a Fatal 5-Way, made even sweeter by pinning Nikki Bella in the middle of the ring.
Despite being the first woman eliminated at Backlash, Bliss put on a tremendous display that didn’t go unnoticed. She did well to solidify herself, not only as the attitudinal heel with a lot to prove, but as a small, fierce athlete who stands as a very serious threat to the championship. The booking following her loss at Backlash was pivotal in preserving the delicacy of her character, because if she’d gone overlooked it could have sent her down a dangerous path towards becoming obsolete.
They swiftly rectified any harm done as a result of her Backlash elimination, and the subsequent feud with Becky Lynch is bound to be an intriguing affair. After all, Bliss holds a pinfall victory over the champion, one that she’ll attempt to recreate at No Mercy with the title on the line.
This rivalry comes as somewhat of a mix of different wrestling breeds. Becky Lynch, the favorite and ever-popular “Irish Lasskicker” heads in with 14 years of wrestling experience, while Bliss is actually the most inexperienced wrestler in the division, having only made her debut while starting with NXT in 2013, working in a number of different realms of the sporting world prior to that.
That contrast of backgrounds alone makes this match interesting, because there’s already an implicit story to it, with Lynch definitely heading into the build-up as the alpha, and Bliss attempting to thwart her experience and use her own immense athleticism to come out the victor.
While we may have that build-up and inevitable clash to look forward to, one thing that SmackDown has to its advantage over Raw is its ability to support two fully fledged rivalries at once, as opposed to having one woman dominate local competitors or lesser-utilized talents as a side to the main attraction with Banks, Charlotte, Bayley and Brooke all staking their claim at the championship.
The second story to the blue brand’s advantage going forward is that of Nikki Bella and Carmella, a feud that has seen “The Princess of Staten Island” adopt a far more aggressive attitude following the return of the longest-reigning WWE Divas Champion in history, transforming her from a minor babyface to arguably the biggest heel in the women’s locker room on Tuesday nights.
Targeting the surgically repaired neck of Nikki Bella has given Carmella an unforeseen edge to her persona, and the continued, yet concise encounters between her and Nikki prior to Backlash were a scintillating way of leading up to what is sure to be their culminating encounter at No Mercy.
The fact alone that the final overall draft pick was able to submit someone with as much star power as Nikki Bella on a recent episode of SmackDown shows the level of faith the WWE has in Carmella, and since the rivalry still entails enough personality, emotion and physicality coming out of Backlash, it should be a while before the story of Carmella and Nikki Bella loses its spark.
Again, Monday Night Raw may have nabbed a handful of the biggest names in the WWE women’s division at the draft, but it’s the booking that truly matters, and SmackDown’s women’s division has been booked in a far more compelling way since SummerSlam, and continues to do so as we delve even deeper into the heart of the brand extension going forward from Backlash.