NXT women debut on WWE Raw, shake up divas division

For The Baltimore Sun
.@TheAOster runs down a surprising night on WWE Raw.

The WWE divas division has been stagnant for a while now. However, all that changed on Monday as three of the women from NXT debuted in one of the more memorable segments in quite a while on Raw.

Team Bella came out during Raw to boast, correctly, about how Nikki has run over the competition. This brought out Stephanie McMahon. Stephanie wasn't there to challenge Nikki directly, but instead talk about how empowering women were, referencing the U.S. Women's soccer team, among others. She said that there needed to be a change in the divas division.

McMahon brought out Paige first, then brought out two of her big surprises: Becky Lynch and Charlotte from NXT. I think everyone had expected Charlotte, though Becky Lynch was surprising. As the two groups stared each other down, Naomi and Tamina came out, upset about the NXT insurgents potentially jumping them in line.

Stephanie praised them for the initiative of coming out and fighting for their spot, and then brought out her final surprise: NXT champion Sasha Banks, who stood with them. The Bellas, particularly Nikki, looked shocked by all this, and then tried to leave the ring, but were surrounded by the two groups.

As it all broke down, all nine women fought, and at the end, each member of Team Bella found themselves on the wrong end of a submission hold from the NXT women. Paige, Charlotte and Becky ended up staring down Naomi, Tamina and Sasha as the segment ended.

Was the segment perfect? No. It didn't really make sense that it was Stephanie introducing these divas, especially since they had built the storyline of Paige searching for backup against the Bellas. Why go through that storyline if it was going to be Stephanie introducing the three? All three girls came up with the NXT titantron that we've seen Kevin Owens use.

This is a pet peeve of mine personally, but it also begs the question: why are all of them using that tron if Sasha is aligning herself with Naomi and Tamina? Also, why on Earth would you play the Total Divas theme at the end of the segment? All little things, but questionable. However, all of those could be ignored, for now, after the great shot of all three women locking in their submissions.

Where do we go from here? We'll see. Sasha Banks is in the same awkward position Kevin Owens was in, needing to be full-time on both shows. Unlike Owens though, there's no diva that seems obvious to quickly take the mantle from her in NXT. Bayley would be the obvious choice, but she's injured right now, and Dana Brooke, Carmella and Alexa Bliss don't quite seem ready yet. Maybe Emma will get a run with the title.

And it's hard to say where they're going on the main roster. They've segmented off into their trios, which doesn't really put any of them closer to the divas title. Who gets the next shot? Do you give the NXT women a shot right away, or are they there in support at the moment, and will get their shot later.

With all the questions, there's no denying that there's excitement about the divas division now. We just hope that the horrendous writing that has plagued the divas division doesn't destroy the endless possibilities.

The Rest of Raw:

-The U.S. Open Challenge once again was a highlight of the night. Once again, multiple people came out to challenge John Cena, though in addition to Cesaro and Owens, Rusev came out to make his challenge as well. They were put in a triple-threat to face Cena (which was a little odd, but more on that in a second). The triple-threat was fantastic, and was a great way for Rusev to gain back some credibility that he lost over the past few months. The three went 23 minutes, and put on a great show, even with Kevin Owens leaving midway through, as he should have with the title match on Sunday.

The match between Cena and Rusev was a little bit clunky, though that was to be expected after Rusev had just done 23 minutes of heavy lifting. It also told an odd story, as Cena was basically picking up the scraps after the triple-threat match. It wasn't a great look for the Cena, Fighting Champion, character he's developed. However, it did a good job of showing off Rusev, and if they want to add Rusev to the mix while Dolph Ziggler is out for a few weeks, I'd have no issues with that.

-Seth Rollins and Brock Lesnar had their contract signing. And of course, the signing didn't go all that well. After signing the contract, Brock Lesnar flipped the table over, and then pulled out an axe handle that was taped under the table.

I'm not sure if the implication was that Lesnar had placed it there, or Rollins had placed it there and Lesnar was finding it. It was slightly confusing. Either way, the typical brawl commenced, and both got in their fair share of blows. However, the brawl came to an end when Lesnar F5'd Kane on the floor, and smashed his leg with the steel stairs. It seemed like the segment would end there, with Lesnar holding up the belt as Rollins scampered into the crowd, however, the segment continued as Rollins returned after Lesnar left.

Rollins grabbed the mic and ran down Lesnar, saying that he would still beat him on Sunday. He then turned his attention to Kane, running him down for being incompetent. He called him disappointing, and then attacked his injured ankle. It was an odd end to the show, and almost felt like a dark segment. However, if the purpose is to set up Rollins for Summerslam, it made sense.

It just felt odd that Rollins again alienates people just weeks after he reunited everyone. He's in the exact same spot he was in three weeks ago before he begged for everyone's forgiveness. So it feels odd, but I guess the direction will be made obvious at Battleground.

-Cody Rhodes, or should I say Stardust, made his return this week. He did return as his Stardust persona, and with the exception of a brief mention by Cole, there was no mention of Dusty's passing. He gave a typical promo for him, though this was about heroes and villains. The coolest part of the segment was before his match with Neville, when they intro'd the match with a comic book illustration and animation. They need to do new stuff like that more often, and it worked perfectly with the heroes/villains theme.

Anyways, the match was fine, with Stardust winning with a tight-grabbed rollup. The most interesting thing came after the match, on Twitter, when Stardust tweeted out a list of targets. Neville was crossed off, and the Green Arrow was next. Stephen Amell continues to reference WWE, so it seems that feud is still on. While I would have liked to see Cody return, I have no issues with a potential Stardust/Amell feud.

-The Prime Time Players and Mark Henry beat The New Day when Mark Henry picked up the pin for his team. It was interesting that Mark Henry earned the pin when the feud is between the two teams. However, that was probably intentionally done, so the Prime Time Players don't pick up the pin yet again over The New Day before their match at Battleground.

-Bray Wyatt was supposed to face Dean Ambrose, but was attacked before the match by Roman Reigns. This makes perfect sense, as why would Reigns wait if Wyatt had gotten in his head? The only problem with this is that we didn't get a promo from Bray Wyatt, so we still don't understand his motivation. I get that he's supposed to be mysterious, but we're now having a match where we have no idea as to why they're feuding.

-R-Truth beat King Barrett. After the match, it was announced that the two would have one more match, where Barrett's crown was on the line. So at least this is going somewhere, and will presumably come to an end on Sunday.

-Ryback and Randy Orton beat Sheamus and Big Show after Show chased Miz (who was on commentary) and the faces took advantage of Sheamus.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave them in the comment section, email me or find me on Twitter: @TheAOster. You can also find my podcast, Jobbing Out.

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