The first ever all-women’s WWE pay-per-view, called Evolution, took place last night at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, New York. The event featured seven matches in front of a vocal crowd that was ready to support WWE’s roster of women during a history-making night. I went into the show having expectations of it being a pretty good show, but I can honestly that it exceeded expectations so much that it was likely the best WWE main roster PPV of the year.
While I enjoyed the show a lot, I’m also happy that WWE can stop saying the phrase “making history” for a little while as it relates to the women. They repeat phrases so much that it reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons where they repeatedly say the phrase “repetitiveness is my job”. During this show, if you did a shot every time WWE said “making history,” you would have been passed out within the first thirty minutes of the show. I love women’s wrestling and the fact that they had their own PPV, but please WWE, cut back on repeating the same phrase.
Here are the results of the seven matches that took place during the 3 hour, 22 minute WWE Network broadcast:
- Trish Stratus and Lita defeated Mickie James and Alicia Fox
- Nia Jax won a 20-woman battle royal to earn a Championship Match
- Toni Storm defeated Io Shirai to win the Mae Young Classic Tournament
- Sasha Banks, Bayley, and Natalya defeated The Riott Squad
- Shayna Baszler defeated Kairi Sane to win the NXT Women’s Championship
- Becky Lynch defeated Charlotte Flair to retain the Smackdown Women’s Championship in a Last Woman Standing Match
- Ronda Rousey defeated Nikki Bella to retain the Raw Women’s Championship
Here are my ten takeaways from Evolution, going in order of when the matches took place.
10. The event felt more like a NXT Takeover show rather than a WWE main roster pay-per-view
The look of Evolution reminded me of a NXT Takeover event rather than a typical WWE pay-per-view. There was no ramp on the stage that we see on every PPV, Raw, and Smackdown. Instead, they had three big screens by the entrance. That was really it. I believe the reason for that was because Evolution was in New York and Raw is in Charlotte, NC tonight, so it’s not like they would have been able to move the set to Raw in one night, which tells me that WWE just figured they should go with a simplistic set for this show.
The lighting for the show was also like what WWE does at NXT Takeover and live events, where they leave the spotlight on the ring while darkening the crowd. There was also a traditional steel guard rail instead of the guard rail with the rubber on it that WWE has used for years. That was probably done to keep this show looking a little bit different.
I also liked the song and guitar performance from women’s musicians like Lzzy Hale (that’s how she spells it) and Nita Strauss. It gave the show that “girl power” vibe right from the start. Yes, there were some men involved, such as the lead announcer and some of the referees, but otherwise, it was an event dominated by the women – as it should have been.
The fans were great all night long too. That also made it like a NXT Takeover because fans are more vocal on shows like that. A hot crowd always helps the show.
9. The broadcast team did a good job, but a heel voice would have been welcome too
The announcers for Evolution were Michael Cole, Renee Young, and Beth Phoenix. It’s the first time that trio has called a live WWE pay-per-view event. They worked together all summer on the Mae Young Classic tournament that was taped for WWE Network, so they did have good chemistry.
I think that for the most part, the announcing was fine. The only issue that really stood out to me is when you have all three announcers talking about how great everybody is, how wonderful everything about the show is and so on, it gets repetitive. I’m a traditional type of wrestling fan that loves having the heel announcer there to support the bad guys/girls when they cheat. On this show, there wasn’t any of that. I completely understand it because this show had a different vibe to it, but I still think that was something that was missing.
Another aspect that was missing from commentary was humor. I know Renee is a funny woman and Beth likely has some jokes in her too, but I felt like they wanted to play it close to the vest by simply focusing on the action. Wrestling fans want to laugh when we watch these shows, so that’s something WWE needs to remind their announcers about. Being funny is what made guys like Bobby Heenan and Jerry Lawler the legends that they are when they called matches.
8. The fans booing when WWE mentioned Crown Jewel was very telling
This coming Friday on WWE Network is the Crown Jewel event from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In the weeks leading up to the show, there were rumors that WWE would cancel the show due to the murder of a Washington Post journalist at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. The heat was on WWE so much that on WWE TV in the last two weeks, they didn’t even mention where Crown Jewel was when they talked about the event.
Last night at Takeover in between matches, the broadcast team plugged Crown Jewel taking place this Sunday. How did the crowd react? By booing. It was loud, but the announcers got through it as best they could.
I’ve been watching WWE programming for over 30 years. I don’t remember the last time that graphics for an upcoming WWE PPV got booed for any reason, yet here we are today with Crown Jewel getting booed. Sometimes, WWE fans might boo match graphics when they do that, but this time the fans booed the show itself taking place. Those boos could continue on Raw and Smackdown this week as well.
7. Trish Stratus and Lita looked sharp in their victory over Mickie James and Alicia Fox, despite the mixup at the finish
This was a good choice for an opening match because the fans were on fire for Trish and Lita. They cheered them as the legends that they are. I think the match was hurt by Alexa Bliss not being a part of it due to a recent concussion she suffered. While Alicia Fox is a solid veteran worker (most of the time), she just doesn’t have the star power that Bliss has.
The work in the match was very good, with Mickie James carrying things for some of the match. She really on her game, which is no surprise to me since she’s my favorite women’s wrestler in WWE history. There weren’t any moments where Trish or Lita looked out of place. I’m sure they practiced the match in the days leading up to it too, so that likely helped.
Unfortunately, there was an obvious mistake at the end of the match. When Stratus hit James with her Stratusfaction finisher, the ref counted to two and then he just stopped. James also yelled “Foxy” at Fox to break up the pin, but for whatever reason, Fox forgot to do it. I think it was done that way because they didn’t want James to kick out Stratusfaction, but if Fox broke up the pin, the match would have continued. Lita ended up hitting a moonsault onto James and Fox at the same time leading to Stratus hitting a Chick Kick for the win. They went 11 minutes, which felt just right.
In my predictions column, I got this one wrong because I felt like there would be a lot of wins for the good girls on the show, so they needed some cheap wins. Nope. It didn’t happen.
6. Nia Jax dominated the battle royal to earn a title shot
There was a 20-woman battle royal featuring current Raw and Smackdown superstars as well as some women from the past including Hall of Famers like Alundra Blayze and Ivory. I’m going to do some quick point form notes for this match.
- The Iiconics got eliminated by the legends after insulting them in their promo and I thought it was a clever way to get rid of them early, even though I like Peyton Royce and Billie Kay.
- It was nice to see Blayze back in a WWE ring after 23 years (her last match was in WCW in 2000, so 18 years ago), but you could tell she wasn’t able to do that much. Ivory lasted longer and did a bit more including a funny “dance break” bit with Carmella that was a lot of fun.
- I thought the battle royal went too long at around 16 minutes. It’s one of the longest battle royals I can ever remember in WWE and they gave it to this match. It just seemed like too much, but it was likely done to give them a chance to be on the show with everybody hitting some key spots before getting eliminated.
- Some of the eliminations felt repetitive. The most common elimination was when a woman would get launched over the top rope onto the apron leading to somebody hitting a punch or kick to knock her out. It’s a safer way to do an elimination because some of the women are smaller, so bumping over the top to the floor is difficult. I know this match was planned out for a couple of days before it to make sure everybody got their spots right. It just felt like they kept on repeating the same spot, so that hurt the match a bit.
- Asuka was booked poorly. I picked her as the winner, but instead she was just another woman out there. Hopefully she is back in the Smackdown Women’s Title picture soon, because if not, her run on Smackdown has been a huge disappointment. Asuka getting eliminated by Moon was a nice nod to their NXT history where Asuka won every match they had.
- It felt like the crowd wanted Ember Moon to win. When it came down to the final three with Jax, Moon, and Zelina Vega (who spent most of the match on the floor), you could tell the people were supporting Moon the most. When she lost, it sounded like the fans were angry about it. I’m hopeful that Moon gets into the title picture soon because she’s an awesome talent.
- Nia Jax doesn’t really “need” to win a battle royal to earn a title shot. I think WWE went that route because it showed that a bigger wrestler is a threat to win a match like that, so they might as well put her over. I would have preferred Asuka or Moon as the winner.
5. Toni Storm was the right choice to win the Mae Young Classic tournament
The finals of the Mae Young Classic saw the 23-year-old Australian Toni Storm defeat Japanese sensation Io Shirai in a very entertaining match that went about ten minutes. I think going ten minutes prevented them from having a truly great match because they can do a lot more and having a better match. It just wasn’t the right show for them to have that match. Hopefully they can do a rematch in NXT some day soon (both are already under WWE NXT deals) because it will be a great match.
Storm got the win with her Storm Zero sitout Powerbomb. It was the second time she hit that move because Shirai kicked out of it the first time. I liked the way the finish was done because it made Shirai look tough by kicking out of the Storm Zero. After the match was over, Storm was given a trophy from Triple H while both women were given flowers as well.
I think Storm is the one woman that wrestled on this show who I can point to and say that in five years, this woman might be the best performer out of everybody on a show like this. Her potential is through the roof as far as I’m concerned. She’s got the look and the in-ring ability that will only improve as she gets more experience. I think personality wise is where she’ll need to improve, so hopefully, WWE’s coaches at NXT can help her get to that next level.
4. Sasha Banks got the win for her team in a six-woman tag match against the Riott Squad
— WWE Universe (@WWEUniverse) October 29, 2018
This felt like any random six-woman tag match that we get to see every other week on Raw. The difference is it got a bit more time because they went about 13 minutes with the Riott Squad dominating most of the match. It was done in a way where fans were led to think that the team of Bayley, Natalya, and Sasha Banks may not have been able to come back to win, but we have all seen enough tag matches in our lives to where we know that’s how it was going to end.
The finish was one of the best endings of the show with Natalya hitting a Powerbomb on Liv Morgan, Bayley dropping a Macho Man elbow on Morgan off the top rope, and then Sasha Banks finishing off Morgan with an Eddie Guerrero-like Frog Splash to win the match for the team.
I fully expect WWE to do the tag team match again on Raw this week or next with the Riott Squad getting the win to even things up. That’s just how WWE books these kinds of things.
3. Shayna Baszler became NXT Women’s Champion for the second time thanks to some help from her friends
— WWE (@WWE) October 29, 2018
I was surprised by the result of this match with Kairi Sane dropping the NXT Women’s Championship back to Shayna Baszler just two months after Sane won it. Why do the title change in the first place if they were just going to put it back on Baszler? I don’t like doing the unnecessary title change to Sane if it’s going to lead to her losing the title back to Shayna.
The cool thing about this match is that both women certainly know their roles with Sane working her ass off as a face that was selling everything that Baszler was doing. Baszler working over the arm was a sound strategy, but it looked like Sane was going to make the comeback to win. That’s when Sane hit a back body drop that sent Baszler over the barricade onto Shayna’s buddies Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir. (The foursome of Ronda Rousey, Baszler, Duke, and Shafir were known as the Four Horsewomen from their MMA days. All of them work for WWE now.) That led to Duke hitting a cheap kick on Sane that the ref never saw, so Baszler locked in her Kirifuda Clutch submission leading to Sane passing out from the pain to give Baszler the win.
My pick in the match was Sane, but looking back on it now, I’m fine with the title change because there needed to be at least one title change on this “historic” show. A rematch between these two women should be great too.
2. Becky Lynch held onto her Smackdown Women’s Title after an excellent Last Woman Standing match against Charlotte Flair
LAST. CHAMP. STANDING.
— WWE (@WWE) October 29, 2018
It was no surprise that the longest and best match of the show was Becky Lynch successfully retaining the Smackdown Women’s Title against rival Charlotte Flair in a Last Woman Standing match. They went just under 30 minutes in a match that I thought was as good as any women’s match on the WWE main roster as I’ve ever seen. The only WWE match that I might put ahead of it is Bayley vs. Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn from 2015. There was a lot of hype going into this match and they lived up to it.
The crowd was strongly behind Becky, even though the video package had boos edited into it because, for whatever reason, the WWE creative team still wants fans to boo Lynch. Fans cheered Lynch as much as anybody on this show, including Ronda Rousey. If you watched WWE for the first time to see this match, you would have thought Lynch was the most popular wrestler on the show. I don’t think the fans hate Flair either, but they just love Lynch right now for good reason.
I credit both women for taking some big bumps throughout the match. Of the two women, I think Charlotte put her body on the line more by taking so many chair shots, kendo stick shots, and table bumps (including the big finish), but she kept on coming back for more. It’s not easy to have a wrestling match for 30 minutes without grabbing a chinlock to rest for a couple of minutes, but these two women did that.
The big spots in the match were really well done, especially when Flair went for a moonsault off the top rope to put Lynch through a table. The table didn’t break, so Flair went up top and hit a Swanton Bomb onto Lynch through the table as if it was nothing. There was also the big table spot outside the ring where Flair was put on an announce table, Lynch climbed a ladder, and hit a leg drop that put Flair through the table. That was a gutsy move from Lynch and she nearly won with it. A few minutes later, they had another table by the ring apron, Flair went up top teasing a moonsault again and instead, Lynch gave Flair a Powerbomb off the middle ropes through the table that was on the floor. It was a nasty landing for Flair. The ref counted Flair down, she stumbled back to her knees, but she couldn’t stand and that meant Lynch won.
I think Becky and Charlotte deserve all our respect and admiration for putting on an epic performance at a big show where their match was clearly the one with the best build up. It’s not always easy to deliver the good when the pressure is on, but that’s what these two women did. They are awesome wrestlers.
1. Ronda Rousey retained her Raw Women’s Title in the most predictable match of the night
I don’t think there was anybody watching this show that truly believed Ronda Rousey would lose the Raw Women’s Championship after winning it just two months ago. Knowing that, I think it hurt the match a bit because even though Nikki Bella looked like a credible thanks to some help from twin sister Brie, it was obvious that Rousey was going to come back to get the win.
They deserve some credit for putting the match together in an intelligent way with Nikki getting plenty of offense during the 14 minutes they were in the ring together. The question is, should Rousey really NEED 14 minutes to beat Nikki Bella? No offense to Nikki, but if WWE wants to book Rousey as this unbeatable, undefeated killer when the bell rings, then she should be able to beat Nikki Bella in less than ten minutes. By going as long as it did, it makes Rousey look like just another woman on the show instead of a special, transcendent talent that is on another level compared to the other women. All I’m saying is that it would be beneficial to Rousey to be booked stronger than she was here.
The last few minutes were really good with Rousey eliminating Brie by tossing her over the announce table, then Nikki managed to hit her Rack Attack 2.0 finisher for a two count. Some fans bought it as a nearfall, but I didn’t believe it was going to win it for Nikki. When Nikki went to the top rope, Rousey brought her down with an aggressive armbar takedown leading to the armbar submission win.
The night ended with Rousey celebrating with the fans at ringside, then she walked up the ramp and was greeted by her fellow WWE women’s wrestlers by the entrance. The night ended when Becky Lynch showed up and they held up their titles together as they stood in front of the other women in the group. It was a cool visual to end the show.
It was an awesome show that featured a lot of exciting in-ring action with some good matches and finishes. I think running just seven matches over nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes was a smart thing because it allowed the wrestlers time to have matches that meant something. There wasn’t anything that felt rushed on here, except maybe the Mae Young Classic final won by Toni Storm, but even that was given just over ten minutes. Give your talent time to shine, WWE. That’s what you have to do. On this night, they gave the WWE women’s division a show of their own and they delivered a memorable night that we won’t soon forget. Great job, women of WWE. We are proud of you all.
The next WWE pay-per-view event available on WWE Network is WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia on Friday, November 2, which will feature only male wrestlers. It has a start time of 12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. ET on WWE Network due to the time difference in Saudi Arabia. Later in November, Survivor Series is one of the bigger PPVs of the year and that takes place on Sunday, November 18 in Los Angeles.