Over the last five years, we’ve seen women’s wrestling undergo a metamorphosis in the way these competitors are being utilized and featured across all companies and in every level of the business. From the independents to iPPVs to TV and streaming networks, there have been stellar women’s wrestling matches, promos, and segments consistently this year.
This blog on Shooting the Sports-Ish will be a monthly reflection on some of the must-watch moments in women’s wrestling across multiple promotions: WWE/NXT, AEW, Impact Wrestling, NWA, and more.
This month, we’re looking back at some of the top women’s matches of October, the biggest headline of the month, as well as some independent prospects to keep an eye out for as 2020 comes to an end.
Two of the most consistent stars of the AEW Women’s Division finally did battle for their top prize as Big Swole challenged Hikaru Shida for the AEW Women’s World Title on the 1st Anniversary episode of Dynamite.
This contest was a hard-hitting affair from the opening bell, and was evident with the champion trying to get some momentum early on. The early portion of the match was back and forth, though it looked like Shida did take a moment to get her footing, notably with what was to be a double kip-up after a shoulder block.
Nonetheless, Shida is able to take the action to the outside, though Swole takes advantage of Shida playing to the camera by knocking her into it before a commercial break (Can we stop having picture and picture during the pivotal moments of women’s matches, please AEW?).
Shida does regain control when she sends Swole atop the guard rail at ringside, delivering her step up knee strike with a steel chair, following with an outside in suplex off the guard rail to the floor.
The match does go back into the ring with Swole trying to come back. She makes some good attempts at offense, most notably two different springboard cutters: one to the entrance aisle and one back in the ring for a near fall. Swole would also hit the champion with Dirty Dancing and guards the far arm of Shida to prevent her reaching out to the ropes.
However, Swole leans heavy into the cover, rotating Shida and allowing her to reach her inside arm to break the pin on the ropes. Excellent ring psychology by both women. Shida would get the win with the Tamashii and a solid defense for the champion.
Overall one of the better Dynamite matches we’ve seen for the Women’s Division. I wish that there wasn’t that cut to picture and picture so we couldn’t see Shida get all of her heat before Swole’s comeback.
Once they found their pacing, the match really took off. Props to both competitors for a physical, back and forth encounter.
UWN Prime Time Live 10/27/2020: Serena Deeb vs Thunder Rosa (NWA World Women’s Championship Match)
This is the first instance of someone absolutely showing that WWE completely wasted their potential before they were released this year of the article. Serena Deeb. How she was solely used in a training role after her performance in the inaugural Mae Young Classic in 2017 is a travesty in itself, but she’s certainly capitalized on being back in an active competitor role since returning over the last few months.
Not only did her and Thunder Rosa have the best women’s match in AEW Dynamite history last month, it landed Deeb a contract with AEW as a full-time competitor.
We didn’t expect to see these two go at it again so soon, but I am so glad they did, especially for Thunder Rosa’s NWA World Women’s Title. This rematch was given extra time compared to their first encounter (shocking, I know) and it was even better than before. Both competitors have the experience and chemistry to deliver in a major championship match on PPV and for this match alone, it was worth the purchase.
This match started out with some of the best chain wrestling I’ve seen in a televised match in quite some time. Both women were looking to counter and one-up the other, keeping their opponent from building any momentum early on. I’d argue this is the best I’ve seen Serena Deeb look in matches since her days in OVW and her appearance on Impact’s Knockouts Knockdown in 2013.
The move that really sold me on the level of competition this match would display was relatively early on when Deeb hits a vicious Hangman’s Neckbreaker on the apron through the top and middle ropes. I haven’t seen such a strong neckbreaker since the last time I saw Victoria do a Widow’s Peak.
The action in this match was back and forth for so much of the match and it was great. Both women were laying in the heavy lumber for the sake of being champion. Deeb focused on Rosa’s neck much of the early part of the match, whereas Rosa was trying to take out the arm of Deeb. Deeb pulled out so many different types of neckbreakers during the match really trying to wear the champion down.
Towards the end of the match, Deeb would work on the left leg of Thunder Rosa and also hit an incredible double overhook facebuster. The finish of the match saw Rosa try to counter a submission by Deeb, but Deeb rolls the champion up for the surprise win and we have a NEW NWA World Women’s Champion! I can’t wait for the rubber match between the two. The action and the finish lead me to believe neither one pulled out everything they had in the arsenal.
After the match, Deeb cuts a promo talking about the legacy and history associated with the championship. She mentions her being old-school and the perfect fit to defend this title and carry the legacy of “The Burke” on her back.
Impact Bound for Glory 10/24/2020: Deonna Purrazzo vs Su Yung (Knockouts Championship Match) & A Golden Announcement
Ok, to briefly address the elephant in the room: Kylie Rae has not officially addressed her absence from the show Saturday and neither will I. Yes, other sites have reports about why she missed BFG, but I will not be mentioning or attempting to get more info than the fact that she was not on the show.
That being said, the promo at the start of the match by Deonna Purrazzo was smart. Her mentioning to Kimber Lee knowing something like this would happen with Kylie not being able to handle the pressure. Being the fighting champion she is, Purrazzo makes an open challenge to any man or woman alive in the Impact locker room for her title.
Alive is the key word because what is undead can’t be killed. Su Yung is back! We saw Purrazzo break the arm of Susie on Impact on AXS a few weeks back, making Su’s return a perfect hot swap given the circumstances. Deonna looks petrified and Madison Rayne on commentary even mentions the inability to ever prepare for a match with Su Yung from first hand experience.
Su looks great throughout this entire match, as does the champion. We do see Su’s striking game on full display and her momentum shifting offense. Perhaps one of the biggest spots of the match comes when Su delivers a spinning sidewalk slam on the apron to Deonna Purrazzo.
Purrazzo does eventually turn things back around going to her technical roots, working on the arm of Su Yung. She also sets up a nice Koji Clutch she flows into after a reverse STO/flatliner. She also utilizes a triple German Suplex a la Kurt Angle for a near fall as well.
Su gets back into the match and gets Purrazzo back outside to a steel chair she has set up, leading to a cannonball senton off the apron by the challenger. There were also a couple close calls by both competitors getting thrown into the referee, though a Purrazzo bicycle kick does take him down eventually. Ever the wiser, Kimber Lee comes in with a steel chair to Su and tries to help set up Purrazzo to break the arm again, but gets misted for her troubles.
Su Yung is able to get the Mandible Claw locked in, though Purrazzo counters into an armbar of her own. She goes, for the Venus de Milo but Su locks in the claw again! Purrazzo does narrowly escape but falls prey to the Panic Switch and crowning Su Yung the NEW and 2-time Knockouts Champion in a match that had no business being as good as it was, especially not being the original billed match either. I’m looking forward to the rematch this coming week on Impact and am curious how Kylie Rae will fit back into the title picture whenever she is back in the ring.
However, this match wasn’t the only headline made at Bound for Glory.
THE KNOCKOUTS TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP IS RETURNING IN JANUARY!
Anyone that has been following me on Twitter knows that I have been tweeting ad nauseum that the titles need to come back as this is the hottest Knockouts Division we’ve seen in the last decade. The level of competition is at an all time high, the roster is diverse, and there have been MULTIPLE Match of the Year candidates this year from just the ladies of Impact alone, let alone the gradual inclusion of their women competing with the men across divisions (Taya Valkyrie being in the World Title picture early this year and Jordynne Grace challenging for the X-Division Championship also at BFG).
As it stands right now, we have 3 concrete tag teams established in the division out of the 8 that will be competing in a tournament for the newly reincarnated titles, with the finals occurring on PPV at Hard to Kill in January 2021. Currently, my favorites to win are Tasha Steelz and Kiera Hogan, though I would be lying if I weren’t holding out hope to see the original champions Sarita and Taylor Wilde return and vie for the very championships they established back in 2009.
NXT Halloween Havoc 10/28/2020: Rhea Ripley vs Raquel Gonzalez
Originally I didn’t plan to cover this match for the article due to length, but that would be a disservice to what both ladies brought to the Capitol Wrestling Center on NXT. Two of the most athletic and powerful women to ever grace NXT went toe to toe and it was a fantastic contest.
Raquel Gonzalez is going to be a mainstay in WWE in future years. Mark my words. She looked like an absolute star against Ripley and is going to have more excellent matches as time progresses. Her poise and strength actually remind me of WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix. The powerbomb she did into the barricade on Ripley after catching her cannonball off the apron was perfection.
Gonzalez brings it back inside and tries to neutralize Ripley in the center of the ring with a painful Gory Special, wrenching at the back and neck of Ripley. Ripley would use her agility to roll up Gonzalez for a near fall and start to fight back into the match.
Ripley also looked strong throughout this match. Her striking was hard and she displayed her power with the inverted cloverleaf she had on Gonzalez. Ripley’s counter wrestling was also great throughout as well, though Gonzalez had a great response to Ripley blocking her original superplex attempt by running up the turnbuckle to deliver a back body drop.
Ripley would roll through a single-arm powerbomb attempt by Gonzalez with a headscissors into the turnbuckle, and finally get the win with a Riptide. A great showing by the NXT women’s division before the main event!
NXT Halloween Havoc 10/28/2020: Io Shirai vs Candice LeRae (Tables, Ladders, and Scares Match for the NXT Women’s Championship)
Originally I had their TakeOver 31 match ready to go, but Candice and Io managed to one-up themselves a couple weeks later. I’d argue this match is next to their first encounter from TakeOver: Toronto II as far as their best. The added stipulation of a TLC (yes that’s what it really is), made this match even more physical.
Io Shirai is NXT’s winningest Ladder Match participant and used her experience all throughout the match. She was able to use Candice’s momentum against her in quite a few instances, though LeRae fought back hard. Some of the biggest spots included Shirai missing a HUGE moonsault onto a stack of steel chairs. LeRae would hit Shirai with a swinging neckbreaker off the apron through 2 tables. Shirai hits a big suplex on a steel chair to LeRae and follows it up with a chair locked dragon screw to LeRae trapped on the ropes.
The finish of this match saw a mystery person perch LeRae atop a ladder, but would be taken out by Halloween Havoc host Shotzi Blackheart with an electric chair onto the same chairs Shirai fell onto. Shirai sets a ladder beside LeRae to grab the title. LeRae knocks her off, but would get tipped out of the ring through another ladder at ringside, allowing the champion to retain.
BOTH THESE WOMEN! Amazing match to close out a great episode of NXT. Shirai looks great as champion and this reign has had multiple great title defenses for her, as well as that champion vs champion encounter with Sasha Banks at the Great American Bash. LeRae looks like she is finally out of the title picture, leading into what could come next with Dakota Kai and Ember Moon. Not to mention, Toni Storm has her eyes on Shirai as well. With the Yellow Brand sidelined from Survivor Series this year, who’s going to step up and be Shirai’s next challenger?
WWE Hell in a Cell 10/25/2020: Sasha Banks vs Bayley (Hell in a Cell Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship)
They did it in 2015 in Brooklyn and it’s safe to say they did it again in 2020 in the ThunderDome. Sasha Banks and Bayley just gave us another classic and arguably the 2020 Match of the Year. The long (and I do mean LONG) build up of these two turning on each other has finally paid off. While it may have taken them the better part of three years to do so, this match was one of the best Hell in a Cell matches I’ve ever seen. From before the opening bell to when the cell was raised and the match was over, it was must-watch wrestling.
It was obvious Sasha Banks was not getting paid by the hour in this one, dropkicking Bayley’s beloved steel chair out of the ringside area before the cell was fully lowered. Bell rings, Bayley tries grabbing another chair from the ring and Banks goes Bank Statement from the jump.
Bayley gets out of the ring and tries to use kendo sticks to her advantage. Banks sends the first one through the cell wall, almost lawn darting Michael Cole, and catches the second one before kneeing Bayley at ringside. Banks then sets up a table as some sort of meteora into the wall, catches Bayley back in the ring with another off the top for a near fall.
Not too long after, Bayley has a couple kendo sticks wedged between the steps and cell and is able to throw Banks through them and onto the bottom steps in what was one of the hardest spots to watch in the match.
More highlights from the match include Bayley’s sunset flip into a wedged chair in the turnbuckles, Banks’ apron powerbomb into the cell wall (love that this is becoming a staple in big matches for her), Bayley flapjacking Banks onto a ladder across two chairs.
The finish of this match was tremendous. Bayley kicked out of Banks’ Bayley to Belly, Banks kicked out of hers, Bayley’s custom chair made its way back into the ring and Banks would eventually capitalize on it by not only locking in the Bank Statement INSIDE the steel chair, but stomping on the chair legs while the hold was locked in as a callback to both Bayley taking Banks out a few weeks back, and Banks stomping on the injured hand of Bayley back in Brooklyn five years prior.
Bayley taps, crowning the NEW SmackDown Women’s Champion, a new Grand Slam Champion, and the first woman to hold every championship on WWE’s main roster in the same calendar year, Sasha Banks. This has been one hell of a redemption for Sasha Banks since returning last summer. Here’s hoping we finally get that decent length title run for her with a successful defense on the Blue Brand, though competition is going to be steep with the likes of Ruby Riott, Liv Morgan, and Bianca Belair waiting to make a name for themselves on Friday nights.
Ones to Watch For October 2020:
Rok-C: current Reality of Wrestling Diamonds Division Champion, only 18 years old and becoming a big star in the Texas scene. Expect big things from her in 2020.
Hyan: current Interim Heart of Shimmer Champion, has been unstoppable since moving to the midwest this year, defended her title against Thunderkitty at The Collective. A great mix of agility and power.
Elayna Black: a rising star from the midwest, had great showings at GCW and recently debuted on AEW Dark. From deathlocks to deathmatches, she’s willing to leave it all in the ring.
Lady Frost: her poise and athleticism make her a valuable asset on the independents for years to come. Perhaps one of the best moonsaults in the business, her agility was recently on full display on IWTV’s The Masked Wrestler.
An action packed October has come to a close. What other women’s wrestling moments did we miss? Anyone to keep an eye out for in November? Let us know! And stay tuned to Shooting the Sports-Ish for the latest in sports coverage by fans, for fans!