This quote from Triple H about the decision to use Charlotte Flair’s Royal Rumble win to set up a match for the NXT championship against Rhea Ripley at WrestleMania 36 is chock full of discussion points.
From the media conference call after TakeOver: Portland last night (Feb. 16), courtesy of Fightful:
“Actually, USA Network had no involvement in it at all. To be honest, it was shocking to me when it was first mentioned to me. I believe that this was just a decision from Vince’s part on understanding the other stories for the women.
To me, you have opportunities where you look in a moment in time and ask is Charlotte going after Bayley and Sasha Banks [on SmackDown], does she come after Becky Lynch [on Raw]. You’ve seen that before and we’re looking into something fresh and you see that with Shayna Baszler going after Becky Lynch and you see that in different ways on SmackDown with where they’re going.
So this was a way for Charlotte Flair needing to be in that big, epic role. I think it really had nothing more to do with that. It’s good storytelling and that’s what the goal is here, good storytelling across the board.”
Maybe USA Network had nothing to do with it - that’s believable. But the inference that this wasn’t largely designed to get more eyes on NXT is laughable.
It’s also not terribly surprising it was Vince McMahon’s call. If it’s going to happen at WrestleMania, you know the Chairman’s the one pulling trigger. That would seem to run counter to the idea that NXT is 100% Haitch’s baby, and probably scare some fans into thinking more directives about booking for the black-and-gold brand could be coming from VKM.
While it’s true that we’ve seen just about all the iterations of Charlotte vs. Becky vs. Bayley vs. Sasha we can handle, the notion that Flair needed “that big, epic role” will anger the portion of the audience who already think The Queen’s had too much handed to her. There’s also the question of if a Rumble win was necessary to set-up Ripley vs. Flair. Couldn’t Rhea or Bianca Belair have cost Charlotte that match to give her a reason to come to NXT for payback?
That also gets to the “good storytelling” bit. The build to WrestleMania’s NXT Women’s title match hasn’t been bad, but it’s been pretty standard stuff. It could also certainly be argued that it hurt the story of Ripley vs. Belair, where The EST has had to work overtime to not look like an afterthought.
Let us know what jumped out to you from Hunter’s explanation for the match, and the match itself, in the comments below.