Matches That Defined 2017: Smackdown Women’s Championship, Wrestlemania 33
Alexa Bliss c vs Naomi vs Mickie James vs Becky Lynch vs Carmella vs Natalya
Six-Pack Challenge for the Smackdown Women’s Championship
Wrestlemania 33, 2nd April 2017
It’s rare for a champion to enter first, but everyone knows what’s going to happen in this match. Bliss gets the first entrance and Naomi the last – they’re the only ones who get their full entrances, actually – because this is the night when the woman from Orlando comes back from injury to reclaim her title, and the Fed lets her win in her hometown. For once.
The full match is about 7 minutes long, which isn’t much for 6 women to get their shit in. They don’t waste a second because, unlike in so many previous years when multi-woman matches were shoved in the cooldown pre-main event spot, these women are talented, trained wrestlers who have actual shit to get in. There are big kicks, nasty DDTs, and delightful Becky Lynch leg-drops, but it’s not without its botchy moments: putting two women in the Sharpshooter at once is always awesome, but it doesn’t look great if Natalya falls over part-way through.
It’s obvious the crowd really wants to like this match. They seem to react in the right places, and the pop when Naomi taps Bliss out is loud and genuine. But ultimately, this is the match before The Undertaker vs Roman Reigns, and four hours into Wrestlemania, we’re all already a bit knackered.
How it defined 2017:
WWE has not booked a one-on-one women’s match at Wrestlemania in over a decade. For years, women’s matches have also been positioned in less favourable spots on the card, whether that be the pre-show or the spot between a featured match and the main event (the “cooldown” or the “piss break” spot).
But that was meant to be changing, right? The ‘Divas Revolution’ became the ‘Womens Evolution’, and WWE wanted us to believe that they were taking their female performers seriously. When Daniel Bryan announced that Alexa’s arrogance had earned her a match against “every available woman on the Smackdown roster”, we were absolutely not supposed to think this was the same throwaway attitude that had held back the women’s division for years. And then when the Fed put the match on the pre-show, that was supposed to be fine.
Of course, the fan backlash was so severe that WWE had to change their plans. So what did they do? They put this match in the piss-break spot with seven minutes for six talented wrestlers.
Welcome to the Women’s Evolution.
I was pretty angry when Neville vs Austin Aries was announced as a pre-show match for Mania – what did that say about the regard WWE had for the cruiserweight division? So it’s safe to say that hearing WWE couldn’t really cope with having more than one women’s match on the main card of the show, despite having two women’s divisions, was a bit more than I could cope with.
The match is good for what it is, but the quality is almost incidental. Despite the built-in storyline of Naomi’s redemption arc, which had been a major story for the Fed in the media throughout spring of this year, WWE spectacularly mismanaged its female performers yet again. It was fan reaction that got this match ‘promoted’ to the main show, just as it was fan reaction that kick-started the ‘Divas Revolution’. We’ll need to keep shouting until Vince McMahon gets it right.