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Lana has a championship match, and SmackDown has an opportunity

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Wednesday’s Rude Awakening looks at the new number one contender for the SmackDown Women’s title, the latest “Fashion Files,” and the first-ever women’s MITB briefcase.

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Lana debuted on SmackDown this week, and immediately requested she be either put in the women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, or given a championship opportunity against SmackDown’s Women’s champ, Naomi. She literally got laughed out of the ring, but got a measure of revenge later by attacking Naomi and costing her the six-woman tag match that followed Lana’s public embarrassment.

This was meant to goad Naomi, and to Lana’s credit, it worked: while Shane McMahon still didn’t agree that Lana deserves a title shot, Naomi has her pride, and she’s also got a boot that needs to greet Lana’s head. So, now we’ve got ourselves a title match.

You could see this as Lana just being handed an opportunity she doesn’t deserve, but that’s oversimplifying. Lana’s request was rejected by Shane, and the rest of the women in the ring — heels, too — laughed at her request. No one disputes that she’s done absolutely nothing to earn this chance, but she played the heel’s game and forced Naomi’s hand. Now, Naomi could let it slide, but that’s not going to get Lana to stop sneaking up behind her and making life miserable for her. Nah, Naomi knows the score here: giving Lana a chance and making her regret ever asking for it is the only thing that’ll work.

So, maybe Naomi crushes Lana at Money in the Bank, and Lana has to figure out a new, more cunning plan to get another opportunity at the title and recognition she craves. Naomi gets to move on to her next opponent, while also keeping an eye out for whoever wins the Money in the Bank briefcase. Or, maybe Lana is already plenty cunning, and she’s coming up with a plan for cheating Naomi out of that belt as we speak: then, the story becomes Lana as the heel who stole the championship, and Naomi’s story turns to how she let things get here by putting pride before common sense.

There’s a lot to work with here, and SmackDown already succeeded once before by putting the strap on the relatively untested Alexa Bliss, which in turn took it off of the clear top performer in the division, Becky Lynch. And hell, we all enjoyed Eva Marie threatening Bayley’s reign at NXT, didn’t we? This feels like a combination of the two, and seeing how it all plays out — and what the aftermath will be — should continue to make SmackDown feel so much different than what goes on with RAW’s own women’s division.