The state of the Smackdown women’s division for the month of November is bad, very bad. Between releases, Survivor Series, and typically dreadful booking decisions the women of Smackdown find themselves mired in quicksand with no immediate signs of escape.
This is more of an overarching discussion than one specifically centered on Smackdown. Over the course of two sets of releases a total of nine women were released: B-Fab, Franky Monet, Eva Marie, Nia Jax, Scarlett Bordeaux, Mia Yim, Jessi Kamea, Ember Moon, and Tegan Nox. Though B-Fab was the only talent featured on Smackdown, the overall purging is indicative of WWE’s changing philosophy with regard to the women’s division. It’s being de-emphasized or at least the importance of good wrestling ability is being de-emphasized. Nobody’s accusing B-Fab of being a world-class wrestler but she was an important part of Hit Row, an act called up to the main roster in October and released in November. Tegan Nox was on Smackdown throughout the summer and into September as part of a team with Shotzi Blackheart. Despite beating the then-women’s tag team champions three times they never received a title match and were split up in the draft, a decision the partners only learned about via social media. While Shotzi has been featured on Smackdown (more on that in a bit), Tegan was drafted to Raw and never seen. It’s just another example of WWE dropping the ball on talent.
November brings with it WWE’s annual fall classic Survivor Series. Since the return of the brand split in 2016, Survivor Series has meant traditional five-on-five elimination matches for the men and women in the battle for brand supremacy. The one positive was the brand supremacy nonsense was dialed down this year. Otherwise it proved to be as disruptive a concept as it always is. The storylines (I use that term loosely) that WWE had created were co-mingled with the build to Survivor Series in what made for not-very-good television. First, they announced the initial configuration of the women’s (and men’s) teams on Twitter over the course of a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon. The first draft of the Smackdown women’s team was Sasha Banks, Shotzi, Natalya, Shayna Baszler, and Aliyah. Given the fact that she wasn’t exactly a star in NXT and had been drafted to Smackdown in October (something of a surprise in and of itself), Aliyah’s inclusion on the team seemed odd, at best. On the November 12th Smackdown, Aliyah teamed with Naomi and Sasha against Shotzi, Shayna, and Nattie with Aliyah pinning Nattie. Aliyah’s nerves appeared to get to her however as after the match she threw up. Sonya Deville used this as well as Aliyah helping Naomi win, as a pretense for removing her from the Survivor Series team. It’s likely she was going to be removed from the team anyway, but WWE opted to turn her unfortunate incident into part of an angle. Her replacement? None other than Toni Storm (more on her inauspicious return to TV momentarily). In the end Storm was the first person eliminated from Team Smackdown at the PPV. Eventually Bianca Belair from Team Raw was left by herself with the four remaining members of Team Smackdown who she proceeded to run through like a hot knife through butter. Sasha was counted out thanks to the three heel members of the team preventing her beating the ref’s ten count (a cheap cop-out to avoid the Bianca/Sasha rematch we haven’t gotten since Summerslam fell through) while the other three concluding with Shotzi were pinned.
Now on to the individual roster members and storylines
The Title Picture
Charlotte Flair had to split her time through most of November focusing on her champion vs champion match with Becky Lynch at Survivor Series and a budding feud with Toni Storm. For the Becky portion of her month, Charlotte cut a promo focusing on the worked-shoot aspect of their program. It wasn’t bad but Charlotte’s delivery is always one step away from falling into a robotic tone. Charlotte and Becky went into the PPV with their match being the only match of real interest and to the surprise of nobody who’s ever seen these women wrestle, they had the best match on the show by a country mile. Becky won by using Charlotte’s own dirty tactics against her. Coming out the PPV, she turned her full attention to Toni Storm. The "wild child of the 80’s" confronted The Queen on the November 12 edition of Smackdown making clear her championship ambitions. They had a backstage promo the following week. On the final Smackdown of the month, Charlotte was interviewed mid-ring by Michael Cole. She delivered some platitudes about still being the bigger star despite losing to Becky at the PPV before being interrupted by Storm. The two had verbal exchange that ended with Storm taking not one but two pies to the face from Flair. That’s right, the babyface challenger was just flat-out humiliated by the champion in the most juvenile way possible. Rather than build her up as a credible contender they instead chose to tear her down. No date has been set for the match yet but the next PPV event is on January 1 so we could be in for another month of Charlotte belittling and humiliating Toni Storm ahead of a match in which we’re theoretically supposed to take Storm seriously as a challenger.
Sasha was turned babyface at the end of October for one reason and one reason only: to be the real challenger to Charlotte Flair’s title. Instead of building up the likes of Toni Storm or Naomi or Shotzi, Vince does what he always does and relies on the same women in the same slots. Because of that, Sasha had to turn babyface by getting attacked by a heel. It’s a weak face turn at best but Sasha’s been rolling with it. As mentioned, she was on the Survivor Series team and on the road there picked up a clean win over Shotzi (more on that in a minute). On last Friday’s Smackdown she inserted herself into Naomi’s storyline with Sonya Deville, teaming with Naomi in a Team B.A.D reunion of sorts to defeat Nattie and Shayna. I don’t know what’s next for The Boss while she waits until Charlotte is finished with Toni Storm unless she continues to help Naomi. We all know that Charlotte vs Sasha is inevitable though.
Shotzi was victimized by WWE over the course of November. She was turned heel and stripped of everything that made her unique except her green hair all to help facilitate Sasha’s face turn. On the November 19th episode of Smackdown Shotzi lost clean to Sasha, tapping out to a modified Bank Statement. At Survivor Series she was the final member of Team Smackdown that Bianca Belair pinned clean in her one-woman near rout. This past Friday’s episode of Smackdown, Shotzi wasn’t even there. I fear for Shotzi at this point. It feels like they used her to play foil for Sasha and take pin at the PPV and now they’re done with her. There’s no reason she shouldn’t have teamed with Shayna against Naomi and Sasha instead of Natalya. WWE turned a perfectly good babyface, something Smackdown desperately needs, heel out of pure shortsightedness and now it seems like they have nothing for her to do.
Once upon a time Naomi’s feud with Sonya Deville was the best thing in either women’s division. Now it’s a chore. In the hands of a competent booker this would’ve been a six-to-eight-week feud culminating in Sonya returning to the ring and the babyface getting a big win. In the hands of Vince McMahon and Bruce Prichard it’s a repetitive mess entering its fourth month with seemingly no end in sight. Sonya has used her position of power to make Naomi’s life hell for months now. That hell usually takes the shape of some kind of match opposite Shayna Baszler. They tried to make things "interesting" this month by involving other people. First there was Aliyah who, in addition to being punished by Sonya for throwing up was implicitly punished for helping Naomi win that six-woman tag match. The following week Naomi and Aliyah lost a tag match thanks to a ref’s fast count. That ref then approached Sonya looking for approval for doing her bidding. Of course this past week it was Sasha confronting Sonya on Naomi’s behalf which led to the tag match that Naomi and Sasha won. What’s the endgame here though? At some point Naomi has to get her match with Sonya, but will anybody care? This feud has lost so much steam at this point. This could’ve been a big win for Naomi but instead of jubilance people will just feel relief when this program is finally over.
Poor Shayna. She went from dominant NXT women’s champion to carrying Nia Jax in a tag team for over a year and now she’s Sonya Deville’s henchwoman. This henchwoman thing might’ve worked better if Shayna had just been called up and if the Sonya/Naomi feud was booked by people who knew what the hell they were doing. As it stands, Shayna’s just been involved in a lot matches, singles, tags, six-women, with Naomi, winning some and losing others. Shayna’s not at the beginning of her career either. She deserves better than spending the tail end of her prime toiling away and not really being booked like the badass she can be.
Aliyah began November doing backstage segments and ended November doing backstage segments. I’ve already discussed her brief time on Team Smackdown and the just as brief follow-up. Suffice to say, she’s picking up right where she left off in NXT, just existing. Meanwhile Dakota Kai, a woman she had main roster dark matches with, is stuck in NXT 2.0 playing the hell out of the schizophrenic heel role she’s been given but being forced to associate with Toxic Attraction. Oh, and Franky Monet, Aliyah’s former Robert Stone Brand stablemate, is unemployed. Remind me again how drafting Aliyah was the smart idea.
Nattie is a role player at this point in her career and she’s perfectly fine at that.
Overall Grade: D+ (This was tough. Shotzi was needlessly turned heel, used, and seemingly forgotten. Toni Storm was humiliated. Naomi continues to be stuck on the hamster wheel. Our time and Aliyah’s were wasted by her being put on the Survivor Series team just to be removed. The mere fact that they introduced some new blood even if their booking was a travesty is the only thing keeping this from being a failing grade.