Social media has been abuzz the last several weeks. WWE is getting rave reviews over its new creative direction, especially when it comes the utilization and revitalization of certain Superstars. Among them, is Shayna Baszler, who will challenge Liv Morgan for the Smackdown Women’s Championship this Saturday at Clash at the Castle.
Of the vast WWE related tweets I see come across my timeline, the one I’ve most often seen on Friday nights says some variation of the same message — “Shayna Baszler is back!”
The former NXT Women’s Champion has been showing flashes of that ruthless badass we all used to despise during her black-and-gold days. But when I spoke with Shayna Baszler on the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, she says her recent actions are about her moving forward as opposed to looking back.
“The little bit you’ve seen, this is a totally different evolution of Shayna Basler. It took me a second to get my footing on Raw. And I think, that’s not a big secret. Millions can see that. You can log into Peacock and watch all of that. But I think, you know, being in the tag division, I know it’s not my thing. My bread and butter’s the single stuff, but I think it helped me kind of find my footing.”
Baszler enjoyed two runs as with the WWE Women’s Tag Team Championship alongside Nia Jax, but now she’s focused on her singles career. Keeping it simple, The Queen of Spades says it’s go time.
“Keep watching,” Baszler said. “I’m more comfortable being where I’m at than I was before. But I think, rather than looking at it like Shayna’s back, it’s what is Shayna becoming?”
Keep watching seems to be a simple ask of WWE fans these days. Monday Night Raw saw over 2.1 million viewers this week and averaged over 2 million viewers three times this month for the first time since before the pandemic.
The recent change in creative direction has galvanized the fanbase in a way they haven’t been in quite some time. And it’s not just the fans. Shayna Baszler says when Triple H took over following Vince McMahon’s retirement, he brought a renewed energy to the company.
“If you eat the same meal. Even if you love it and it’s your favorite meal. If you eat the same meal for a year in a row, it’s gonna get stale. And regardless of how you think the product was, just changing the meal up is like, oh, I can’t wait to try this. Maybe you’ll hate it. Who knows? But there is a moment in time where it’s exciting and new. So we’re in that kind of in between where it’s like, oh, this is gonna be good. And I love what’s going on, where you never know what’s gonna happen now.”
One change that Baszler really enjoys is the renewed focus on the small details. Blink and you might miss something important, like I did on Monday when Dexter Lumis appeared on Raw disguised as a security guard, only to disappear a few seconds later.
This was very well done. I totally missed Lumis the first time around. https://t.co/cWsoljeb6F— Rick Ucchino (@RickUcchino) August 30, 2022
Whether it’s something small like that or someone like Johnny Gargano just returning to the company out of nowhere, there really is this sense that anything can happen at anytime. WWE is becoming appointment viewing for many once again and while we’re definitely still in the honeymoon phase of the Triple H era, Shayna Baszler believes the future is bright.
“There’s an overall renewed energy with not just talent and the universe watching, but like production and camera crew people and ring crew people. It’s just a new energy because, it is new. When you look at NXT Black and Gold and you look at recent weeks, the company’s clearly in good hands. With Stephanie [McMahon] and Triple H and Nick Khan, there was no moment of transition. It was like, all right, bang. And we’re off to the races. It’s been wild.”
Keeping with the theme of anything can happen at anytime, who’s to say Shayna Baszler won’t do exactly what she says she’s going to do this Saturday at Clash at the Castle? She very well could maim Liv Morgan and take that SmackDown Women’s Championship.
If she does, it’ll be her first World Title win on the main roster in just her second attempt. Which, when you stop to think about it, is kind of hard to believe. Shayna Baszler not winning the Raw or SmackDown Women’s Championship within the past three years is one thing, but for her to just now be getting her second shot at the gold is borderline criminal.
To her credit, Becky Lynch did pitch to lose to Baszler at WrestleMania 36, but the company decided to go another direction. Not long after, The Man would leave to go become The Mom and it’s natural to assume any plans to run it back with Shayna went by the wayside. Between that and the pandemic, everything got thrown for a creative loop and Baszler never found her way back to the title picture. Until now.
“Obviously the dream for anybody that gets into this business is like win the title on a big show and have your moment. It just so happens, you know, I don’t even think it’s as far back as 2020, but real recently there’s been this kind of like, I don’t know... what am I doing right now? You know? And then that gauntlet match came about and it was like, okay, let’s go. And it was like the perfect time of like, this change is about, right? Change is in the air. This whole thing happens and there’s a gauntlet match. And the women open SummerSlam and all this crazy stuff happened. I think that very next Raw, the women were all over the show. They had like threes matches and it was like, okay, now’s the time to really get your poop in a group and get some stuff done. So, yeah, I don’t know. Regardless of how long it took, it’s happening now and I’m not gonna waste it.”
Shayna Baszler is one of several Superstars, whether they’ve recently been re-signed or if they’ve been on the roster for years, who have been given a new lease on life under the Triple H creative regime.
Baszler was one of the most dominant NXT Women’s Champions in the black-and-gold brand’s history under Triple H’s watch. She spent a combined 548 days on top of the NXT Women’s Division, a record she still holds to this day.
Her last opportunity to become Women’s Champion on the main roster was an astonishing 889 days ago and counting. The very first SmackDown after SummerSlam was over, The Game made sure that streak would come to an end at Clash at the Castle.
“I know Triple H. I worked under Triple H for a few years and very much, like, I just kind of know the way things go. He’s always putting new people into the stuff and I think some new faces needed to be shown. I knew it was the right opportunity. So, luckily I’ve just stayed ready. So, when the time came, it worked out.”
Baszler gets her shot against Liv Morgan this Saturday. Her first reign as SmackDown Women’s Champion is still in its infancy, but she’s already started to get some pushback from some WWE fans.
Morgan capturing the gold at Money in the Bank was such a feel good moment for both herself and all the people who have stuck by her throughout the years. This is an opportunity that Morgan has earned ten times over, but some questionable booking decisions have threatened to derail her run before it really even gets going.
WWE had an opportunity to put any doubts about whether Morgan is a credible champion to rest at SummerSlam, and did the exact opposite. Instead of getting a decisive win over Ronda Rousey, Morgan was dominated for much of their 4+ minutes in the ring together and only picked up the victory by leveraging Rousey’s armbar into a pinning combination.
From my view, WWE wanted to tell a story of triumph for Morgan. A Champion who fought through adversity. A Champion who didn’t quit and found a way to pull out a big victory despite being outmatched. Except, upon further review, it turned out Morgan did quit. She tapped out as the ref was counting to three. Ronda Rousey should be the SmackDown Women’s Champion and the only reason she’s not is because the referee didn’t see Morgan give up.
WWE may have gone that route as a way to protect Rousey, who still does not have a truly clean loss in her entire wrestling career, but regardless of the rationale the fans rejected it. And poor Morgan heard that rejection loud and clear the next week on SmackDown.
With Ronda Rousey serving out her storyline suspension for her constant attacks on WWE Officials and security personnel, Shayna Baszler stepped into her good friend’s role in this story with Liv Morgan. And Baszler is promising a much different outcome.
“The story going in is like, everyone can relate to. Like, can she hack it? I don’t know. She knows what she’s getting into and she’s deciding to still get into it. So, is that wise or not? Regardless of who comes out of this the champion, you’re gonna know can Liv hack it. You will know one way or the other, whether she wins or loses, you know what I mean? There’s not gonna be any question marks.”
The WWE Universe seems to be split on this match-up. While there are those who want to see Morgan get that first decisive win and get her title run on track. There are also those who want to see Shayna Baszler finally capture singles gold on the main roster. Which definitely creates an interesting dynamic for Saturday’s match. Win, lose or draw, some fans are going home happy, and others not so much. At least they’re invested.
Clash at the Castle takes place at Principality Stadium in Cardiff. With the show in the UK that does mean we have a special start time here in the U.S. of 1pm ET\10am PT on Peacock.
Check out my full conversation with Shayna Baszler in the video above as we dive into a number of other topics, including her friendship with Ronda Rousey and whether teaming up together could be in their future. You can also listen to the Bleav in Pro Wrestling Podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts.