SmackDown Women’s Championship
Charlotte Flair (C) defeats Asuka
The Hope: A match that honors the two best women’s performers the company has ever had to this point, and does so in a way that sets up an even bigger match between the two (and depending on her development, Ronda) at next year’s WrestleMania.
For the second time in three years, Charlotte Flair put on the best “real” match of the night (I’ll clear up the distinction during Rousey/Angle-HHH/Steph). That she suited up against the Asuka probably helped, but at some point we all need to bow down to the queen. Asuka did, in a match that — as I hoped for before the show — honored Charlotte’s firmly established legacy as the division’s greatest champion as much as it did Asuka’s reputation as its best competitor.
From the brilliant entrances to the figure-eight finish the match kept a pace with which the WWE Universe is largely unfamiliar, seemingly informed by its placement on the card, which helped prevent the kind of fatigue we’d see later in the show from a crowd that had to sit through 7 hours of wrestling in a row with no real intermission. So, while next year hopefully will see a women’s title match at or near the end of the show, the relative early running of this may have been an intentional move to give this kind of match the best crowd possible.
Which it was, living and dying with nearly every move between the two, worried just as much about Asuka’s streak as Charlotte’s status on what feels like a genuinely revolutionary night for women performers who arguably told the best three stories/had the best three matches on the card. This, to me, was the crown jewel of that lot, feeding off the energy generated by the incredible match up and channelling it into the kind of emotional ride that the men’s division’s detritus prevents them from executing nearly as easy.
We had no concept of who would win this match, but believed in Charlotte’s victory just as much as we would in a story where we’d known from the beginning they were the chosen one. And that is to be, most likely, the first women to main event a WrestleMania. For Asuka, this loss is exceedingly freeing and no longer requires her to A) be a monster face with the attendant short shelf life or B) go after feuds that may involve her challenging herself in ways she wouldn’t otherwise with streak expectations weighing her and the narrative down.
For me, this was the match of the night and one of my favorite WrestleMania matches ever, a true seachange and meaningful moment planned, presented and executed to near perfection. I might not go so far as to say “this is why I watch wrestling” but its about as unadultered example of why as the WWE has made (for me) in a long time.
HOWEVER, I do have one complaint about this which prevents it from being my Match of the Night or even a perfect +1, which is that it was criminally short at a shade over 13 minutes. At some point, women performers need to be given equal time — not just to the IC belt, which saw its match run two minutes longer than the Women’s World Title — and not just a lot of matches on the card. Outside of that, however, this was easily the best singles match in Women’s division history on the WrestleMania card, at least far as this fella (FELLA!) is concerned.
Match Rating: +.9
Show Total: +1.4