There are very few wrestling events that I get childishly excited about these days, but the Royal Rumble is definitely one of them. It’s been said the world over by now, but it really is true that even a bad Rumble is still a lot of fun while you’re watching it. Having two Rumbles on the same show can be a bit exhausting these days, but also screw it, it’s a lot of fun, and I always have a blast, so I don’t care.
Enough rambling, more rumbling, let’s make predictions.
Asuka & Charlotte Flair(c) vs Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (Women’s Tag Team Championships)
You wouldn’t know it based on how they’ve been booked on TV this past month, but Asuka & Charlotte are actually the women’s tag champs. For some reason, WWE has decided to keep them miles apart from each other this month. Each woman has completely separate stories from each other, and only tangentially got involved with their challengers for this match.
When they won the titles, I think we all knew it was just so they could break up and feud for Wrestlemania, but apparently, until they’re ready to pull the trigger on that, WWE is just going to pretend they’re not even aware of one another. I’d like to be optimistic about this match and say that it has all the right competitors to be a good one, but this match will definitely get cut short. Since the pandemic era, WWE has tried to keep their PPVs to about 3 – 3 & 1/2 hours, we’ve got two Rumbles, which are both an hour-long, then four other title matches to deal with. That means that every title match (except for maybe one) will go short, so I’m not expecting much from this one.
In terms of a winner, I would prefer it if Jax & Baszler took the titles back, but I don’t see it happening until WWE are ready to start building the Charlotte/Asuka feud, which I doubt they are just yet. So I’m going to put Asuka & Charlotte Flair to retain, even if it is a stupid idea.
Sasha Banks(c) vs Carmella (Smackdown Women’s Championship)
This was a very odd build. For the first couple of weeks after TLC, it seemed like Banks was done with Carmella, but apparently, WWE realised last-minute that Sasha needed something to do this month, so just kept the feud going while everyone else in the division builds to the Rumble. The stuff with Reginald was pretty good if you ask me, but it didn’t do much to actually hype me up for this match, it was more of just an entertaining, but self-contained oddity.
As with their TLC match, I think this one will be good, but not very long. Banks already dispatched of Carmella with little difficulty last month, and I can’t see Carmella looking much better in this one. All I’m hoping for here is an enjoyable match that lasts about 12 minutes. In an ideal world, I’d like it to go longer, but as I’ve said, the two Rumbles mean that the other matches have got to go short.
As I’ve probably made apparent already, I think Sasha Banks is going to retain. There’s no value in Banks dropping that belt before Wrestlemania, especially not to someone that she’s already beat once before.
Drew McIntyre(c) vs Goldberg (WWE Championship)
Here we are again…
When this match was first announced, along with being disappointed, I also had the cockiness and was thinking there’s NO WAY they’d have Drew drop the title to Goldberg after building him up all year. Then I remembered that was precisely the same thing I thought last year when Goldberg beat The Fiend for the title.
It’s one of those rare cases where, whether or not I think this match is a good idea depends ENTIRELY on the result. If Drew wins, then it will be a great way to lend him some real credibility and bolster his stock even further going into Wrestlemania. However, if Goldberg wins, then it will be a terrible idea that proves that WWE doesn’t listen to its audience and only cares about selling nostalgia rather than creating new stars from the wrestlers we actually like.
I’m picking Drew McIntyre because I have to because I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror if I picked Goldberg. The worst part is, if Goldberg does in, I know that I’m not even going to have the energy to be pissed off about it, I’m just going to be disappointed.
Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens (Universal Championship) (Last Man Standing)
By far the best built non-Rumble match on this show, I am really quite excited to see this one.
Smackdown as a whole has been bloody great this past month, and this feud at the top of everything has been a massive part of why. The original build with Nakamura going long in the gauntlet match, only for Pearce to be forcefully slotted in the match was a great way to kick things off. In all honesty, I was kind of excited to see Roman vs Pearce, but the way they turned the story around was really well-done. Pearce pulled a fast one on Roman, which brought Owens back into the picture with a hell of a lot of fire.
From there, things have built perfectly. Reigns’ heat only seems to build week on week as he wanders around the place, getting to be cocky, snobbish and hilariously sarcastic to everyone he meets. What’s more, is when the face gets one over on him, it feels like a huge moment, like Reigns is getting put in his place, if only just momentarily. Owens’ promos about his tattoos and what this means to him have been so impassioned and genuine that you just have to cheer for him. I’ve said before about how Owens can talk so genuinely, and Reigns has turned out to be the perfect opponent for him.
This build has been so good that I briefly considered the possibility that Owens could win the title. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense for Roman to drop the title now, but the story with Owens has been so good, that it’s made me somewhat forget all of that logic. I’ve not gone all of the way off the deep end though, and I’m still picking Roman Reigns to win, I’m saying, if Owens won, I’d be pleased with it.
Women’s Royal Rumble Match
Now we get to what we’re all here for, the Royal Rumble matches, and genuinely, I’m really struggling to predict a winner for both of these. It seems counter-intuitive given that there are 30 participants in the match, but we usually go into a Rumble match with one or two legit contenders for the win, however this year…there’s so many! As usual with these, I’m going to run down the handful of participants that I think are in with a shout, and explain a bit about why, before making my final pick.
Rhea Ripley- This is the one I’d probably be the most surprised about if it actually happened, but it’s pretty clear that Ripley is done in NXT. Her debut on the main roster seems to be imminent, and what better way to make a splash than winning the Rumble? She could feud with either Sasha or Asuka, and it would be a match I’d be very excited to see, but ultimately, this is the one I’d put the lowest odds on happening.
Bayley – While the match at Hell in a Cell was terrific, I think we were all a bit surprised when the Sasha/Bayley feud ended after just one match. Immediately there was speculation that they might save the rematch for Wrestlemania. While I think it’s a definite possibility, as the months have gone on, I think it’s become less and less likely. I don’t know what else Bayley could do at Wrestlemania, to be fair, but I think WWE will want something fresh for Banks at that show.
Charlotte Flair – This is probably the most straightforward pick out of what we’ve got, but I don’t think it’s the most likely. With Asuka & Charlotte as tag champs, if Charlotte won the Rumble, that would instantly cause the break-up and the feud. The only problem is it would be quite underwhelming. This isn’t a knock on Charlotte, but she won the Rumble last year, I don’t really want to see her win it again, especially when there are far more exciting options on the table.
Alexa Bliss – This has been incredibly weird, and not all that good, but at the same time, I kind of like the direction it’s going in. It’s hard to tell what the end-game is with the Fiend/Bliss relationship. For the most part, she’s just been a pawn in the feud between The Fiend and Orton, but over past few weeks, she’s been challenging Asuka for the title, breaking out on her own. I think it would be a colossal waste if she didn’t at least get to sniff a major title feud here.
Bianca Belair – For a while, Belair was the top contender for this match in my mind, and she might still be, I’m honestly not sure. After a bit of a slow start on Raw, she moved over to Smackdown, and it instantly became clear that she was a star in the making. While the finish to the Survivor Series tag match was crap, Belair was clearly the MVP of the whole match, and since she’s been feuding with Bayley, she’s been looking good week in, and week out, they even made that WWE Chronicle on her past, which is something they don’t do for just anyone.
This is a really tough choice. In my head, it’s between Bliss & Belair, and since they’re both on different brands, either one of them could theoretically win, then the other just gets their title match via the Elimination Chamber. I’ve genuinely gone back and forth several times while writing this section, but in the end, I’ve got to go with…Bianca Belair. I’m already second-guessing that decision, but I’ve got to make the pick at some point.
Men’s Royal Rumble
Truth be told, I’m actually thrilled that these Rumbles are so hard to predict because it means I’m going to be all the more invested in the match. Not having any idea what’s going to happen just gets me hyped up all the more, and that goes for the men’s Rumble as much as it does the women’s. Let’s run down the contenders.
Shinsuke Nakamura – Technically possible, because they’ve been pushing him quite hard this past month, but I doubt it’ll actually happen. It feels more to me like this is Smackdown’s way of building up more red-herrings in terms of people who could win the Rumble. They’ve been doing this with Cesaro & Dolph Ziggler too. I’m glad they’re doing it, it’s something that should be done every year, but I don’t think any of them are actually going to win.
Seth Rollins – This does depend on whether he’s ready to return after becoming a father (which is the reason I didn’t consider Becky for the women’s Rumble), but if he does come back, I’d say he has a shot at winning. While we have seen Roman vs Seth before, it was a long time ago, and the situation was quite different. Sure, they’re both heels, but you can change that a bit, since Seth will be coming off of a return, it wouldn’t be that weird to do a character shift.
Edge – I had a feeling Edge was going to be in the Rumble, but I thought they would’ve saved it as a surprise entrant. Either way, I think this is more likely a platform to sow the seeds for his Wrestlemania feud. No idea whether they want to do the third match with Orton, or maybe a marquee feud with someone like Styles, but either way, I don’t think he’ll be the winner of the thing. If he were to win, then I think Roman vs Edge would be the way to go, I just don’t see it happening.
John Cena – While reports from the dirt sheets say that there are no Wrestlemania plans locked in just yet, they are also saying that Cena is almost sure to have a match. So why not have him enter the Rumble and win it? Roman vs Cena would be a money match, even if we’ve already seen it, but I think Drew vs Cena could be one hell of a match too. The story can build around Cena trying to break Ric Flair’s imaginary world title record or something like that.
Big E – Since about Summerslam, Big E has been one of the top contenders to win the Rumble, but in recent months he’s gone down quite significantly in my odds. Now he’s got the Intercontinental Championship under his belt, I’d prefer it if he had a decent length reign with that, fighting a variety of opponents, rather than hot-shotting straight up to the world title. Not to say I’d be upset if he did win the Rumble, far from it, I just think that it’d be better for him to build for a while longer and maybe wait until Summerslam to challenge for the title.
Goldberg – So this was a possibility that I hadn’t considered until I saw it floating around online, and quite frankly, it terrifies me. If you’ve not seen it, people have been speculating that maybe Goldberg could lose to Drew earlier in the night, only to enter and win the Rumble. This would be a disaster, but I can 100% see WWE going through with it, especially with the report a few days ago that WWE is considering a ‘really scary’ finish to the Rumble that might piss off fans.
Daniel Bryan – As much as I can’t make all that solid of case for it, it just feels right. Admittedly, it’d pretty ironic that after being majorly snubbed from two Rumble wins in 2014 & 2015, that the Rumble he finally wins could be one in front of no crowd, but that’s life I suppose. Bryan’s expressed his desire to stop being a full-time wrestler over the next year – a position I think he’s more than deserving of – so I think giving Bryan one last big Mania match would be the best way to go, and a Rumble win is the perfect way to get there. Roman vs Bryan is a match that WWE has planned, but never actually executed over the past couple of years (cave for Fastlane 2015, but those were VERY different times), and they already sowed the seeds of it through November and December, it would seem weird not to commit to it now.
As I said, the case is still a bit shaky, and I’m by no means certain, but Daniel Bryan winning the Rumble just feels right to me, so I’m sticking to my guns and making it my official prediction.
So there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think will happen at the Royal Rumble, either in the comments below or on Twitter @SStyleSmark. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Monday, where I’ll be writing up my review!
That’s a wrap on WWE Pay-Per-Views for 2020, and you know what? I think it’d been a bloody good year for the project on the whole. Sure, it’s far from the best year WWE has ever had, and weekly TV has rarely been anything to shout about, but their PPV output has been consistently great. I don’t usually do a PPV ranking, but I think it’d be fun to look back on WWE in 2020 come January.
That said, I can definitely see how this show may not have been to everyone’s taste, as much as I enjoyed it. However, the one thing you can’t deny is there’s no way we’re going to forget about it anytime soon, which is more than can be said for a lot of WWE PPVs, even the good ones.
Still, even on a good show like this, not everything was excellent, so let’s get ranking.
7 – Daniel Bryan, Big E, Otis & Chad Gable def. Baron Corbin, Sami Zayn, Cesaro & Shinsuke Nakamura
I mean, it’s an 8-man tag match that was announced two hours before the show and went less than 10 minutes, what do you want me to say?
Quite simply, it’s 8 men who could easily main event any show, any place, any time if they were invested in properly…and Otis. However, given how little time they had and how it was just a match for the sake of a match (something Vince apparently hates, but whatever).
It was ok, but I don’t care.
6 – Randy Orton def. The Fiend Bray Wyatt (Firefly Inferno)
This match was either great or terrible, depending on what aspects you want to focus on.
As a wrestling match, it was trash. Most of the spots were quite contrived, and there was basically no actual wrestling action to speak of. This is fine for the story they were trying to tell, but the booking was so weird that I’m not sure it really makes up for it. As much as I wanted The Fiend to win, I can see past the fact that he didn’t, but to have the show end on such a shocking, yet somehow downbeat note was odd. Orton lit The Fiend on fire, presumably killing him…Orton posed for some reason and…that’s it, fade to black. It felt like there should’ve been some form of final exclamation point on the whole thing. After all, every horror movie ends with the revelation that the killer is still alive.
All of that said, as a visual spectacle, it was incredible. From the moment The Fiend summoned the fire, it was quite the rollercoaster ride. Yes, the spots were contrived, but when they looked as cool as some of them did, who the hell cares? The trail of fire leading to Orton sitting in the rocking chair was brilliant, and the final spot of The Fiend attacking Orton despite still being on fire was great.
As for where Bray goes from here, I honestly have no idea. I hope this means we don’t see The Fiend for a while now, maybe Bray could believe he’s ‘free’ of The Fiend for a while before slowly falling back into his grasp. That’s just one idea though, and Bray’s an extremely creative man, so I’m sure he’ll be able to spin something interesting from it.
Like I said in the intro, maybe not the best match ever, but it was certainly memorable.
5 – Asuka & Charlotte Flair def. Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) (Women’s Tag Team Championships)
I guess now we have to sit around and wait for a sudden but inevitable betrayal, yet again.
As much as an NXT call-up would’ve been more exciting, bringing Charlotte back now is the right move. While I’ve been the first to blame WWE’s booking for the horrible state the Raw women’s division is currently in, it’s hard to deny that they’ve been lacking a certain quantity of star power (that wouldn’t be a problem if they actually invested in some of the mid-card women for more than three weeks at a time, but whatever). Hopefully, having Charlotte back will give the division more focus on TV week-to-week, and we can get back to how great Asuka was over the summer.
This match was a lot of fun. This is one of those cases where this is only ranked low because other matches were better, not because this one was in any way bad. As weird as it is for Asuka & Charlotte to suddenly be hugging and friendly, I’m willing to let it slide to see where the story goes, which has surely got to be a Mania match between the two. As much as I wish Jax & Baszler would be able to continue their reign, I highly doubt this is the end of their run. Asuka & Charlotte have got to break-up at some point, and I would expect they’ll regain the titles in the wake of that.
Either way, these teams had great chemistry, and Charlotte was able to slide right back into a spot where it felt like she belonged. Thumbs up from me.
See? I told you Carmella was a good wrestler if you gave her a chance.
This match wasn’t perfect. In fact, I thought it started a bit dull, however, once they hit about the midpoint, business really picked up. From there, this was an entertaining back-and-forth match that played to the strength of both women. Carmella made Banks look vulnerable at several points without necessarily out-wrestling her, while Banks played the opportunist, taking advantage of every opening Carmella gave her. Carmella was able to translate her new persona into a match very well, and the one spot of outside interference came at just the right moment to help the match.
My only real issue is where Carmella goes from here. It wouldn’t surprise me if they went for another match between these two, but given that the Royal Rumble is on the horizon, it wouldn’t surprise me if the title isn’t even defended on that show. There have just been so many cases where WWE immediately get bored of a rejuvenized character, and within a couple months they become just another face in the crowd. Truthfully, I don’t want that to happen to anyone, but Carmella has so much promise right now that I hope they find something good to do with her away from the title.
Sasha, meanwhile, is on a roll and will continue to be on that roll until at least Wrestlemania. If she’s going to keep putting on matches like this one, then I’m definitely ok with that.
3 – The Hurt Business def. The New Day(c) (Raw Tag Team Championships)
A brilliant match that needed more time than it got.
This is one of those instances, like New Day & Usos, where these guys just clicked in the ring. They played with the standard tag team match tropes, but never lingered on anything for too long, and once the action got going, it never stopped. Unsurprisingly, Cedric Alexander was a huge boon to the action, and his sequences against Kofi were undoubtedly my favourite of the whole the match. The others still pulled their weight though, with Benjamin pulling out arguably his best performance since his WWE return.
The only real downside here was the fact that the match only got 10 minutes. I really enjoyed what I saw, but when it ended, I felt like it wasn’t enough. I’m confident that this feud is far from over and that’s a good thing because I absolutely want more from these two teams. If WWE let those guys go out there and wrestle for 15-20 minutes, I think we could easily be looking at a match of the year contender that sky-rockets the stock of everyone in The Hurt Business.
Speaking of, as much as I predicted The New Day, I’m glad The Hurt Business won, and I think it was the right call. New Day aren’t going to suffer from any loss they take and right now. The Hurt Business are the hot property at the moment. I look forward to seeing what they can do with the gold and how it helps all of them out long-term.
2 – Drew McIntyre(c) def. AJ Styles & The Miz (WWE Championship) (Tables, Ladders & Chairs)
In my predictions, I was cautiously optimistic about this match. I worried slightly that the stipulation would hold the match back, but I trusted the two performers involved to pull out a great one, and I was not disappointed.
It took a little while to grab my attention, but once I’d settled into the match, I had a very good time. To the surprise of no-one, Drew & AJ had great chemistry in the ring, and they made good use of the stipulation. WWE seems to finally be able to strike a balance between weapons being an essential factor in the match, without completely throwing everything else out of the window. The match built nicely to its climax, even though that climax ended up being quite the curveball.
There are ups and downs to The Miz cashing in. On the downside, it’s yet another year that the Money in the Bank contract has been utterly wasted. Out of the past four years, only one of the men’s Money in the Bank holders has won the title, and even then, it wasn’t great. 2016 was the last great cash-in that actually meant something, and by now the contract feels hugely devalued. However, in a bubble, it was great and made this match way more exciting. It’s always been hard to make convincing false finishes in matches like this, but they pulled it off here. With the constant up and down of people on ladders, there were points when I genuinely believed all three men were about to win.
Ultimately, Drew retaining was the right move. After the reports from Raw, I was worried they were going to hot-shot the title to boost the ratings, but thankfully that wasn’t the case, and we still have the strong champion we all love.
1 – Roman Reigns(c) def. Kevin Owens (Universal Championship) (Tables, Ladders & Chairs)
Maybe the best one-on-one TLC match ever.
This match was structured so well. Most matches that I love gradually speed up as they go on. The slower starts lead to frantic and nail-biting conclusions, but this match did the opposite. This match started at a breakneck pace, with Owens bringing all kinds of fury to the fight, it got me pumped and invested immediately so that I didn’t lose interest when the match gradually slowed down. It’s such a simple technique, and yet the gradual deceleration of the pace gave the whole thing a fierce feeling to it and told the story of these two guys trying to destroy each other excellently.
The action was great too. Once again, weapons were used to enhance the match, rather than completely focusing on them. With Drew/AJ, as much as I liked it, I still felt it would’ve been better as a regular singles match, however, with this match, I felt that the hardcore stipulation was an integral part of the story being this good. Uso’s involvement felt a bit bullshit at some point, but it aided in telling the story and softened the impact of Owens losing. Even though Reigns retained (which I maintain was the right call) Owens looked like a such a hero from his performance here thanks to how he kept getting back up after going through table after table and only falling short thank to his opponent’s underhanded tactics.
I have no idea if there are any long-term plans for Owens here (I’m not optimistic), but he is now in so much of a better position than he was going into December, it would be a shame not to capitalize on it in some way.
And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this review. Please, let me know what you thought of the show, either in the comment below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time on Saturday, where I’ll be running down my favourite WWE matches from 2020!
I always find myself far less excited for TLC than I do most other Pay-Per-Views, and this time I don’t think it’s WWE’s fault. I honestly like the look of the card, especially the two world title matches, I think it’s just a time of year where I care a lot less about a WWE PPV. Not only is it almost Christmas, but the Royal Rumble is only about a month away, and I’m far more excited thinking about that than I am about a bunch of predictable title retentions. It’s times like this where I really begin to think that a PPV every month isn’t always the best idea, at least, from a storytelling standpoint.
Either way, there are matches, I have opinions, so let’s get predicting.
The New Day(c) vs The Hurt Business (Raw Tag Team Championships)
Wait a minute, this isn’t Street Profits vs Andrade & Garza…I didn’t even know such a thing was possible.
Speaking more seriously, I’ve actually been vaguely enjoying this feud. The New Day are The New Day, even without Big E, and even when they’re given fairly crap promos, they still sell it well. Meanwhile, The Hurt Business are actually quite fun to watch when they’re not squashing Retribution for no apparent reason. They have a kind of serious aura surrounding them, and MVP can sell them fantastically. Not to mention, this is the first PPV title match in ages for both Benjamin & Alexander.
As long as WWE resist the temptation to overbook this, I think we might be in for a treat with this one. The New Day’s wrestling ability has never been in any doubt, and as much as it’s been easy to forget, Alexander is an outstanding technical wrestler. Admittedly, I’ve not been wowed by Benjamin since his return, but the guy is no slouch so who knows? Maybe this will be the performance that reminds us all how great he can be.
It’s weird, I joked in the intro about the title matches all being quite predictable, but this is the one exception. I could honestly see this going either way. The Hurt Business have been on a roll since Lashley won the US title and there’s definitely some good that could come from them holding a bunch of championships like this. That said, it’s hard to bet against The New Day. As I’ve said before they are the ‘default’ setting for the tag division, and there’s certainly nothing to be lost from having them continue to hold the titles.
Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler(c) vs Asuka & ??? (Women’s Tag Team Championships)
So…we’re not getting a payoff to the Lana thing? I really don’t get WWE’s attitude towards her. We keep hearing reports that people backstage really like her and see her as a potential top star, but they never actually let her wrestle, or even finish a story. Either way, it gives us a good old ‘mystery partner’ situation, and those are always fun.
I really don’t like Asuka’s booking of late. Ever since Summerslam, she’s felt like such a non-factor in the Raw women’s division, and that doesn’t seem right for the woman who was one of the main highlights of WWE during the spring & summer. I get that WWE doesn’t have the deepest women’s division out there right now, but was there seriously no-one they could build up as a contender for Asuka’s title? They sleep on people like Peyton Royce & Dana Brooke then feel the need to do weird storylines like this because ‘there are no credible stars’. It just seems like a problem they made for themselves.
Still, the mystery partner, who is it? The way I see it, there are two main possibilities. Firstly, there’s the woman who has been weirdly absent from TV for a considerable chunk of this year for seemingly no reason at all, which is Charlotte Flair. For someone who fans apparently say they ‘shove down our throats’, they’ve had absolutely nothing for her since she lost the NXT title. Reintroducing her here just before we head into Wrestlemania season would undoubtedly be a good call. I’d be down for Asuka vs Charlotte 2. Other than that…I guess it could be Rhea Ripley? She’s felt like she’s had one foot out of the door of NXT for half the year, and it’s not like the NXT women’s division need her anymore with all the talent they’re holding. Raw would definitely benefit from her presence.
Either way, I think Nia Jax & Shayna Baszlerare going to retain, which is why I’m leaning towards Charlotte Flair as the mystery partner. If it’s Ripley, then you risk her looking bad if she immediately loses, unless she does some massive swerve. However, if it’s Charlotte then you can easily create a story of her not getting on with Asuka and losing because of that, not to mention, this kind of loss wouldn’t hurt her in the slightest.
The Fiend Bray Wyatt vs Randy Orton (Firefly Inferno)
My excitement for this match depends on a couple of things.
Firstly, if this is going to be a pre-recorded match, then I’m all-in on it. WWE has knocked it out of the park with those kinds of matches this year, and I’d be thrilled to see another one come our way on Sunday. However, if this is just a regular inferno match with a fancy name, then count me out. I didn’t think this was going to be much of a classic in terms of the action, but if it’s an inferno match, then all of that goes even deeper into the bin. It remains to be seen, but those are my thoughts on the stipulation.
As for the story, I think it’s got a decent amount of legs. The Fiend seems to wildly switch his focus between winning titles and writing Bray Wyatt’s wrongs, but I definitely think that these kinds of stories are better. The match between Orton and Wyatt at Mania 33 may have been a stinker, but the story building up to it was some mental fun, and this has been no different. It’s been interesting to see such a brutal character like Orton be put on the back foot like this. All year he’s been the one dominating his opponents in the build, so a shift in dynamic was the right choice.
I’m a little torn on this one because I think this might not be the only match in this feud. I know the Royal Rumble is next month, and Orton will probably be in that, but I just can’t shake the feeling that this is a multi-month feud. Either way, I’m going with The Fiend Bray Wyatt to win. The Fiend always wins these gimmick matches of his, and I don’t see what could be gained from Orton winning. Orton has reached the status where he can believably square off with anyone regardless of his recent history, as where The Fiend is WAY more fragile, and definitely shouldn’t be losing these kinds of matches.
Sasha Banks(c) vs Carmella (Smackdown Women’s Championship)
So a lot is going on here, and I’m not sure how much of it I enjoy.
Firstly, I’m glad Carmella’s back, and I’m glad they’re treating her like a credible threat again. As much as her face persona was a lot of fun, it seemed to be artificially limiting her, but now the image of her riding R-Truth’s back as he’s chased by half the locker room is far from my mind when I see her. The problem, though, is I’m not sure how far this can go, at least not in the immediate future. While I don’t like to be blunt, there’s no way Carmella is winning this, and what does she do once Sasha is done with her? I assume we’re going to get at least one more month of this feud, but WWE has never been great at booking their women’s mid-card.
Those concerns aside, I think this could be a really good match. I know Carmella is never really in the conversation for the best women’s wrestlers right now, but I think she’s better than many believe. With this fresh injection of a new persona too, we could be in for quite the treat of the match. As I said though, Sasha Banks is definitely walking away with the title. It’s possible Carmella could get a cheap DQ win or something, but there’s no way anyone is taking that title from Banks before Mania.
Roman Reigns(c) vs Kevin Owens (Universal Championship) (Tables, Ladders & Chairs)
I love matches like this. They’re the kind of feuds that I never would’ve thought of if you’d ask me what I wanted to see, but now it’s been presented to me, I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
Roman has been perfect since his return, and this feud is no exception. The attitude with which he carries himself makes him the most hatable person in the world and having Paul Heyman at his side only boosts his aura of indestructibility. As such, it makes him the perfect opponent for Owens’ current character. He’s a little removed now from his anti-authority persona, but he still carries that rebellious edge that you just can’t help but love, he’s the kind of person who always speaks so genuinely, and it really resonates with me.
I’m also very excited about the match. As with any WWE gimmick match, there is a possibility that it leans too heavily on the gimmicks and ruin it, but all of the gimmick matches over the past few months have struck a good balance, so I have faith. On top of that, I think a weapon focus might be beneficial to this one. Reigns’ current style is ferocious, and Owens’ build makes him the perfect tough-guy to put in a barbaric match like TLC. Not to mention, Owens has been more than happy to take some crazy bumps in the past, so I think that there’s a high probability that this will be the match we’re all raving about come Monday.
As much as I’d like this one to be a bit more of a toss-up, Roman Reigns is going to win, because it’s Roman Reigns. That’s not the insult it perhaps was a few years ago though, Roman is the perfect guy to sit at the top of the ladder on Smackdown right now, and I would be thrilled to see his title reign go on well into 2021. It’s a shame because I really like Owens, but Roman’s just the right guy to go with at the moment.
Drew McIntyre(c) vs AJ Styles (WWE Championship) (Tables, Ladders & Chairs)
Ever since Drew first won that title, this was the feud I’ve been waiting to see. It’s no secret these days that Styles can have a good match with just about anyone, and there’s something about these two guys that just clicks in my head.
Despite being one of the biggest ‘indie’ darlings in history, Styles has always seemed to fare far better as a heel in WWE than a face, at least from a character perspective. When he talks as a face, I don’t always get behind him (his title reign through 2018 was a great example of this) but when he talks as a heel, I always listen, and I always find him annoying and despicable in precisely the right way. Meanwhile, Drew has recovered excellently from his Survivor Series loss to the point where you’d barely even remember it happened. After the feud with Randy Orton for so long, it feels like a breath of fresh air to see him free to do something new, with someone exciting.
As before, there’s a risk that they lean too heavily on the gimmick here, but I’m optimistic. Styles is one hell of an innovative competitor, and Drew can definitely keep pace with him if they want to go for a faster match. The in-ring styles of these two can be quite different at times, but I think the quality of this match will come from how both men adapt to the other, especially with weapons involved.
However, I find myself once again faced with a straightforward decision when it comes to picking the winner. While I don’t think it’s entirely impossible that Styles could win the title as a surprise, I definitely think Drew McIntyre to retain is the far safer bet. He only won the title back recently and is coming off of a significant loss to Roman, not to mention that all of the current dirt sheets are reporting that all talks for Wrestlemania have Drew going in as champion. Not to mention, I really like Drew, and I want him to hold that title for as long as possible.
While it certainly happened a lot later than we all would’ve liked it to, over the past 5 years, WWE has finally allowed women’s wrestling to take its place as the featured attraction we’ve always wanted it to be. While things still aren’t perfect, women’s wrestling is largely treated as being on par with – and sometimes greater than – whatever the men are doing.
While the depth of the women’s division is a huge factor in this becoming the case, a good indicator for how the women’s division has been treated in recent years is to look at the championships. Since the horribly named, horribly designed, and horribly horrible Diva’s Championship was abolished in 2016, there have been 11 different women to hold either the Raw or Smackdown Women’s Championship at least once. Today, I’m going to rank these women based on what they did during their time as champion.
There are a number of things that play into it. First of all, the pure numbers. How many times have they won a championship, and how many days did they hold it? However, you also have to consider other factors like the calibre of opponents they faced with the belt, or the more subjective factors, like were their storylines and matches any good? Then, lastly, I’ll throw in a little personal bias and we’ve got ourselves a list.
Let’s get ranking.
11 – Natalya
Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 1 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 86
I honestly forgot Natalya had even won a women’s title, which isn’t a great sign.
Truth be told, I really can’t stand Natalya as a wrestler. I think her promo style is lifeless and boring, and I think her style in the ring is lacking any kind of special shine. Sure, she was one of the best wrestlers during the ‘Diva’s’ era, when there were very few legitimate wrestlers on the roster, but I think that time has passed her by and she can’t compete with the incredibly talented women of WWE today.
Unfortunately, Natalya’s time as champion was equally boring. She won the title from Naomi at Summerslam 2017 in a 10-minute match that was ok. She retained the title on Smackdown a few weeks later in a 7-minute match that was also just ok. Then Charlotte Flair stepped into the picture and the writing was on the walls. They had a match at Hell in a Cell where Natalya deliberately got herself disqualified, which will always be a super lame finish. Then, with Survivor Series on the horizon and a champion vs champion match against Alexa Bliss on the card, she lost the title to Charlotte clean as a whistle in 12 minutes.
Natalya had her rematch against Charlotte at Clash of Champions, lost, and that was that. Natalya would never sniff the title scene again. It did nothing to elevate Natalya, or even Charlotte, as she was already the biggest thing in the women’s division by that point. It didn’t even serve as a nice “thank you” present for Natalya’s decade of serivce to WWE because she was made to look weak and ineffective at almost every turn. None of her storylines were interesting and all of her matches were average in quality, not what you want from your top woman.
10 – Naomi
Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 2 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 148
I feel bad putting Naomi this low because I remember really rooting for her at the time, but when you look at her time with the title, there really isn’t a lot to shout about.
In the build to her title win, Naomi was a good foil for Alexa Bliss. She’s very easy to love, and her personality clashed with Alexa’s in such a way that I enjoyed the build. Their match at Elimination Chamber should’ve been better than it was, but unfortunately, it was only given 8 minutes, which is not enough time to have the amazing match they were able to. However, it was ok, because Wrestlemania was on the horizon, and it was happening in Naomi’s hometown, so that’s where the real money match could happen, right?
No, of course it didn’t.
Sadly, Naomi suffered an injury and would have to relinquish her title after just 9 days, making it unlikely she would be able to compete at Wrestlemania 33 that year. As it happened, Naomi’s injury wasn’t too severe and she was healed in time for Wrestlemania, but it was so late that she has to be awkwardly crowbarred into the plans WWE had already made. This meant that instead of a big one-on-one match with Alexa, Naomi won the title for the second time in a Six-Pack Challenge. What’s worse is the match was only given 5 minutes and was slotted in between the two main events of the evening, so the exhausted crowd couldn’t have cared less.
Naomi’s second title reign was much longer, at 137 days, but it was no more interesting. She had a rematch with Alexa Bliss that was ok, and a 9-minute match with Charlotte that ended in a no contest. Then, things fell off a cliff and WWE decided they were going to push Lana as a title contender. Lana would have three matches with Naomi. One was a 7-minute snooze fest that consisted of Naomi desperately trying to get something out of Lana, and failing. The second was a 1-minute squash match, and the third was a 10 SECOND squash match. To put it plainly, it was shit.
Then she had a fairly boring feud with Natalya, lost the title and that was that.
As much as I love Naomi, she pretty much only avoids the bottom spot because she held her title for more days than Natalya. What sucks is that I don’t think many of the issues with her reign were her fault. Her matches were constantly being put in bad spots and being given nowhere near enough time on shows. Then, she got thrown in there with Lana, a competitor who even the best of the best would struggle to get a decent match out of.
Here’s hoping she gets a proper chance to shine in the years to come.
9 – Carmella
Number of Reigns: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 1 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 0; Smackdown – 130
Carmella is another woman that I hope gets another chance to run with the title someday because her first go-around wasn’t as good as I believe it could’ve been.
Things started about as well as they possibly can start. Cashing in her first-ever women’s Money in the Bank contract, Carmella rode a wave of momentum into the start of her title reign. She’d cashed-in and taken the title away from Charlotte just two days after Charlotte had ended Asuka’s undefeated streak and pissed everyone off. The problems started to rear their heads right away, however, as her character started to lose the unique charm she had before winning the title. Almost immediately she fell into the template of any heel champion who won thanks to the green & gold briefcase, which didn’t make for exciting TV.
She beat Charlotte cleanly in the title rematch, which sounds like a good thing, but it actually felt pretty underwhelming, especially considering Charlotte left for a while almost immediately afterwards. Next, she entered a feud with Asuka, which seemed specifically crafted to make the unstoppable Asuka look like as much of a chump as is humanly possible. In every instance, Carmella only retained thanks to interference from James Ellsworth, a man who WWE presented as the single most pathetic human being to ever live. It was a nice twist the first time it happened, but quickly became played out and horrendously boring.
Before we knew it, the time had arrived for Carmella to lose the title. This is the most historically significant part of Carmella’s reign, but not because of anything Carmella did. When Charlotte beat Carmella & Becky Lynch to win the Smackdown Women’s Championship at Summerslam, it set in motion the chain of events that would lead to the insane rise of Becky Lynch. I’d love to Carmella’s role in the story some credit for this, but she really didn’t make a difference. It could’ve been any heel champion in that role and it would’ve worked out just the same. Charlotte still would’ve been unnecessarily crowbarred into the match, and Becky Lynch still would’ve ‘turned heel’ only for the fans to cheer her as they’ve never cheered anyone since Daniel Bryan in 2013/14. Carmella was just the spare part.
She rises a few places from the bottom purely through the virtue of having a couple of memorable moments under her belt, but there was sadly very little to enjoy during her one and only title reign.
8 – Nia Jax
Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 0 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 70; Smackdown – 0
While the numbers aren’t in Nia’s favour, what she did during her run as champion was a lot better than I think many remember.
The story going into Wrestlemania 34 between Nia & Alexa was an odd one. They pressed pretty hard on the anti-bullying stuff, but it always felt pretty disingenuous. The writing wasn’t very nuanced and it felt like they were just trying really hard to make Nia into this amazing role model for little girls. Of course, having role models for little girls isn’t a bad thing, but when you try to force it with a woman like Nia, who is SO much better as a villain, it tends to fall flat. It wasn’t all bad though, the fact remained that Alexa Bliss was an incredible heel, so her work was good enough to make the sympathy roll Nia’s way.
The problem comes in with her matches. The Wrestlemania match was mostly just Nia beating Alexa down with her huge size advantage, which didn’t exactly make her seem like a sympathetic bullying victim. Still, the moment where she won the title was a good one, and the emotion on Nia’s face made the whole thing feel extremely heartfelt. The feud didn’t need to continue from there, but it did, and it was boring. Thankfully, once it was out of the way, we got to the highlight of Nia’s title reign, her match with Ronda Rousey.
Nia has never been the most incredible wrestler, in fact, I find very little to enjoy in the majority of her matches. Her match with Ronda Rousey, however, was an exception. It was, interesting, impactful and an all-round joy to watch. I finally felt like I was seeing Nia’s true potential, and it was an amazing showcase for Rousey too. Things ended in excitement as well, as Alexa Bliss would show up with the Money in the Bank contract she had won mere hours ago, and challenge for the title. A Money in the Bank cash-in is one of those events in wrestling that is always exciting, even when something you don’t like is happening because of it. Bliss won the title back from Nia and that was the end of it.
Her reign wasn’t all that long and didn’t make a lasting impact on the women’s division as a whole (hence why it’s low), but it did begin and end in rather spectacular fashion, which counts for something.
7 – Sasha Banks
Number of Reigns: Raw – 5; Smackdown – 1 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 106; Smackdown – 20+
By far the weakest ranking of any of the four horsewomen, Sasha has always got the raw end of the deal when it comes to title success. Sure, five title reigns is an impressive number, but when you consider that the longest of these reigns was a pathetic 34 days, you’ve got to realise something is wrong.
Her first three title reigns all came and went within the space of 5 months, as it was during her extended feud with Charlotte. These two would hot-potato the title like no-one ever had, with things averaging two title changes every month. The pattern that played out on our screens for half a year was that Sasha would win the title on an episode of Raw at some point during the month, then when the Pay-Per-View rolled around, Charlotte would win it back. I was an extremely odd decision that didn’t do a great deal to raise the stock of either woman, however, it did create a lot of good-great matches.
That’s the thing with Sasha’s title reigns. They were often short and somewhat pointless, but they were almost always surrounded by either good matches or good stories, which I personally value more than the pure numbers.
After Bayley debuted on Raw, Sasha would play a supporting role for the next 6-8 months, backing up Bayley in whatever her endeavours were. One such endeavour was a feud with Alexa Bliss, in which fortune would favour Sasha. The original plan for the match at Summerslam was to be Bayley vs Alexa Bliss, however, Bayley suffered an injury during the month, so Banks was substituted in as a replacement. As WWE always like to pull for shock value Sasha was given the title for no reason. I can prove that it was for no reason too, as Banks would lose the title back to Alexa just 8 days later on Raw.
Banks wouldn’t sniff the title scene again for almost three years, however, her alliance and subsequent heel turn with Bayley turned her fortunes around. Banks & Bayley had already banded together to claim tag team gold, and after the two had spent most of the year ruling the roost over on Smackdown, they set their sites on Raw Women’s Champion, Asuka. The storyline surrounding this was great. Although the duo has recently broken up as of the time of writing, their run as ‘schoolyard bully’ style heels has been one of the biggest highlights to come out of the WWE product this year.
The title win wasn’t perfect though, as it happened in a weird finish where Bayley put on a referee shirt and counted the pin, then a week later, Stephanie McMahon rescheduled the match, and Sasha won the title anyway. Next up was Summerslam, and there, Sasha continued her pattern of not being able to successfully defend a title and lost it back to Asuka. However, Bayley betrayed Sasha at the start of the autumn and this led to what has to be her strongest title win yet. As the reign is still less than a month old, I can’t really judge it very much, but given that she’s already successfully defended the title on Smackdown, it seems she may have finally shaken her curse and is in for a fantastic reign.
Ultimately, Sasha Banks did a lot of great things surrounding her time as champion, however, she held the belt so briefly in almost every title reign, that they don’t feel very meaningful or prestigious.
6 – Asuka
Number of Reigns: Raw – 2; Smackdown – 1 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 154+; Smackdown – 99
For many years, it felt like Asuka was yet another NXT star that got totally destroyed by creative on Raw & Smackdown, but eventually, it seemed like WWE came to appreciate what they have with her, and are finally running with it.
Asuka’s first title reign began in extremely grand fashion. Coming at the tail end of Becky Lynch’s feud with Charlotte Flair, Asuka found her way into a TLC match for the Smackdown Women’s championship. To put it simply, this match was excellent, and most certainly one of the best WWE produced that year. The finish came when Becky & Charlotte were atop a ladder, ready to grab the gold, when Ronda Rousey came down to the ring, pushing the ladder over and allowing Asuka to win her first title. Many would say this cheapened Asuka’s win, as she didn’t do it all herself, but given that the Becky/Ronda/Charlotte story was the hottest thing in the company during that time, I’d say it just amplified the spotlight.
Asuka had several strong defences against, Mandy Rose & Naomi, but her biggest was against Becky Lynch at the Royal Rumble. This was the night that Becky would eventually win the rumble and stake her claim for Ronda Rousey’s title, so for Asuka to get a 100% clean win over Lynch that night was HUGE. Sadly, things would end in disappointment, as Charlotte would beat Asuka for the title in March, as WWE wanted to promote the Becky/Ronda/Charlotte triple threat match at Wrestlemania as being for both belts.
Fast forward a year and a bit to 2020, and things in the world are going a bit mental, and WWE followed suit. Asuka won the Money in the Bank briefcase in a match that I’m still not entirely sure wasn’t some weird fever dream I had, and things seemed to be exciting going forward for Asuka. However, the next night, things took a shocking turn. The champion Becky Lynch appeared on Raw with Asuka’s Money in the Bank briefcase in tow, during a promo, she revealed that she was relinquishing the Raw Women’s Championship, and handing it over to Asuka voluntarily. After some moments of confusion, Becky Lynch would reveal she was pregnant in an extraordinarily heartwarming moment.
Asuka’s title reign following this wasn’t the strongest, but she did get clean wins at almost every turn. Sadly, her first title defence Nia Jax wasn’t one of these, as it ended in a double countout, but Asuka would later defeat both Nia Jax & Charlotte Flair clean as a whistle. In the summer, she entered a feud with the duo of Bayley and Sasha Banks which produced some great matches, even if there was a small case of overbooking here and there. Sadly, moving into the autumn, Asuka has almost vanished completely from WWE TV. She had a short match at Clash of Champions against Zelina Vega, defended the title on Raw in 2-minutes against Lana and then missed Hell in a Cell completely. Her reign is still going strong, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot going on for her right now.
5 – Alexa Bliss
Number of Reigns: Raw – 3; Smackdown – 2 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 396; Smackdown – 109
When the ‘women’s revolution’ kicked into gear around 2015, there were certain women that were virtually guaranteed for stardom. The four horsewomen come to mind for this, and others like Asuka & Nia Jax held qualities that WWE would very clearly value in a main event talent. Alexa Bliss wasn’t one of these women, but she went ahead and did it anyway.
Alexa Bliss wasn’t a huge star in NXT. Her biggest accomplishment on the yellow brand was being the most entertaining member of the Blake & Murphy tag team. This meant that when she was drafted to Smackdown in the 2016 brand-split, I don’t think I was alone in thinking she wasn’t going to go super far. However, Smackdown branded itself as the land of opportunity, and it proved time and time again in 2016 that it was true. Case-in-point: Alexa Bliss.
Bliss wasn’t treated as much of a threat to Becky Lynch’s title reign in 2016, but the somewhat lucky (but ultimately, clean) circumstances surrounding a tables match gave Bliss the title. Bliss then proceeded to show everyone that she could hang with the best. She cut promos like few other women could at the time and created a truly despicable heel persona. Her two reigns with the Smackdown Women’s Title aren’t very significant in the grand scheme of things, but they served as a platform for her to establish herself as a real player in the division by the time she moved to Raw.
After switching the Raw in 2017’s Superstar Shakeup, Bliss wasted no time establishing dominance, beating Bayley for the title at Payback almost immediately. This feud was critically panned for some horrible segments like “Bayley: This is Your Life” and a match at Extreme Rules where Bayley lost because she was scared of a stick, however, you can’t deny that Bliss looked dominant during all of this. Bliss moved onto a feud with Sasha Banks, losing via Count-out at Great Balls of Fire, before losing the title the next month at Summerslam.
It wasn’t over for Bliss though, as she won the title back just 8 days later. Her 2nd run with the Raw title would be her longest, and she beat a great variety of opponents during this time. Defending the title in all sorts of different matches, including five-ways and even the very first Women’s Elimination Chamber match. Bliss felt virtually untouchable during this period, but it’s worth mentioning that for various reasons – including Survivor Series & Royal Rumble getting in the way – Bliss didn’t defend the title at all during November, December or January during this reign, which is a large contributor to her dropping a few places on this list.
She would eventually lose the title to Nia Jax at Wrestlemania 34. She did win it back later that year, but it’s barely worth talking about, as she only won it so Ronda Rousey had a heel to destroy at Summerslam.
At the end of the day, Bliss is the biggest example of someone breaking free of their low expectations and turning themselves into a star. Although it’s been a good few years since Bliss won a singles title, she’s always a feature-player of WWE’s women’s division and will go down as one of the greats.
4 – Charlotte Flair
Number of Reigns: Raw – 4; Smackdown – 5 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 242; Smackdown – 189
I can understand how some may see this as an odd placement. It’s always felt like Charlotte has been CONSTANTLY sniffing around the title scene since her main roster debut. It’s true that she has the most title reigns out of everyone on this list, and her contributions to the women’s revolution in WWE can never be denied. However, when you actually look at the content of her title reigns, it’s not as impressive as you might think.
For one thing, despite having almost double the number of title reigns as Alexa Bliss, she’s spent less total days as champion by quite the margin. Arguably her best title reign was her first one, especially if you include her time as Diva’s Champion before the new women’s title was introduced. Winning the title in what was inarguably the best match of Wrestlemania 32, Charlotte was a ready-made star from that moment onwards. She continued to retain the title with the help of her father, putting away Natalya on several occasions (including a rehash of the Montreal Screwjob, because Bret Hart was in the building).
Come mid-2016, it was time for the brand split to begin anew, and Charlotte’s epic feud with Sasha Banks began. As I’ve already discussed, these two traded the title A LOT, bringing Charlotte’s total number of reigns with the championship to 4. After many excellent matches, Charlotte came away as the winner, cementing her place at the top of the food chain, only for Bayley to come sniffing at her heels. She successfully repelled Bayley at the Royal Rumble, but wasn’t so lucky in their rematch, losing the title for what – as of the time of release – would be the final time.
In 2017’s Superstar Shakeup, Charlotte was traded to Smackdown. It took her a good chunk of the year, but she would eventually win the Smackdown Women’s Championship in November, and here she would have an excellent run with it. She spent a large chunk of the reign feuding with Natalya again, which could’ve been better, but it ended on a high. Then, after tearing through Ruby Riott at Fastlane, she would face down with the then-undefeated Asuka at Wrestlemania 34, and she came out victorious. I and many others view this as a horrible booking decision, but for the purposes of this list, it works in Charlotte’s favour, as the match was amazing & the queen of WWE gained a huge amount of prestige from the win.
Then two nights later, Carmella cashed-in the Money in the Bank briefcase and she lost the title. This is where Charlotte drops some places, as despite winning the title four more times past this point, they were reigns with absolutely no substance.
She won the title back from Carmella at Summerslam, but lost it to Becky Lynch a month later, won the title from Asuka next March, but lost it just two WEEKS later at Wrestlemania 35 (in a match where her presence arguably took away from the quality). Following Wrestlemania, Charlotte beat Becky to get the title back (after Becky had already fought a match against Lacey Evans) and this time, she would lose the title in less than five minutes thanks to Bayley cashing-in her newly won Money in the Bank contract. October rolled around and it was time for Charlotte to win the title back – this time at Hell in a Cell – where she managed to hold onto it for a whopping 5 days before losing it back to Bayley.
During only one of those title reigns did she ever eke out a successful defence of the title, and even that felt more like a formality than a proper feud.
Charlotte seems to exist purely to lose titles to people to get them over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can get quite tiresome after it’s been going on for so long, and really puts a downer on Charlotte’s status as one of the best.
3 – Ronda Rousey
Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 0 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 231; Smackdown – 0
I’m sure the internet will want to crucify me for making this placement, and it looks like the numbers don’t support it. However, the cold, hard fact of the matter is that Ronda Rousey’s title reign did more for Becky Lynch, the women’s division, and even WWE as a whole than anyone outside of the company is ever willing to admit. The main event of Wrestlemania 35 would not have been a women’s match for the first time ever without Ronda Rousey’s involvement. There, I said it.
After putting on the best match of Wrestlemania 34, and a match at Money in the Bank that was far better than anyone expected, it was time for Ronda to be crowned champion like everyone knew was going to happen. Her dismantling of Alexa Bliss was expected and did the necessary job of establishing her as a very dominant champion. Plus, after Bliss had been a very despicable heel for the past couple of years, it was good to see someone properly pick her apart for a change.
Rousey dispatched of Bliss again at Hell in a Cell, and then the Evolution Pay-Per-View rolled around. The first (and to date, only) WWE PPV to run only women’s matches. You don’t need me to tell you how big a deal this was, and while it probably would’ve gone ahead anyway, Rousey’s huge star power was a big factor in bringing it to life. There, Rousey faced Nikki Bella, the woman who, to many, was the distillation of everything that was wrong with the ‘Diva’s era’ which held women’s wrestling back in WWE for over a decade. The match wasn’t incredible, but it was still good, and better than people like me thought it was going to be, and it established Rousey as a huge face of WWE’s women’s division.
Rousey was set to compete against Becky Lynch at Survivor Series, but unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately, if you look at the larger picture) Nia Jax broke Lynch’s nose and Charlotte Flair was swapped in instead. This lead to what I believe to be Rousey’s best one-on-one match she ever had in WWE. It told a brilliant story with some brilliant wrestling, and the DQ finish only built the desire to see the match happen again later down the line.
From November through until March Rousey tore through the Raw women’s division. She put away Mickie James, Natalya, Nia Jax, Ruby Riott & Dana Brooke in matches that weren’t a huge deal, but were a lot of fun. She also had some featured matches with both Sasha Banks & Bayley, both of which told extremely compelling stories and were a joy to watch.
Finally, there was the climax to her story, Wrestlemania 35. The build was flawed, but none of that was Rousey’s fault, and even though there were flaws, I still thought it was really cool, and a lot of fun. She took the loss and passed her title onto Becky Lynch in a Wrestlemania moment that will live on in time immemorial. The first women’s match to ever main event a Wrestlemania is a huge deal, and Ronda Rousey was a huge part of what made that possible. Not just through her name value, but through the work, she put in over her 8 months as champion to build up an aura of an untouchable badass, butting heads with a cool character like Becky Lynch to create lightning in a bottle.
2 – Bayley
Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 2 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 75; Smackdown – 520
For the longest time, Bayley seemed like a hopeless case on the main roster. After being easily the biggest star the NXT women’s division had ever produced up until that point, Bayley absolutely floundered for her first couple of years on Raw.
Her first title win came and went in a flash. It held some good moments but is sadly only remembered for the bad. Beating Charlotte Flair on an episode of Raw in early February, Bayley defended the title on two occasions. The first was a rematch against Charlotte which is barely worth talking about, while the second was at Wrestlemania 33 in 4 way match against Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Nia Jax. The Wrestlemania match was fine, but it was far from the best thing on the show, so it’s sadly been forgotten by history. Then, before we knew it, Bayley had lost the title to Alexa Bliss. Then, in the rematch, Bayley lost again because she was scared of a stick. I’m never letting that go…unlike how Bayley let go of the stick.
For the rest of 2017 and all of 2018, nothing interesting happened with Bayley. The only thing I even vaguely remember from that time was Bayley screaming “You ain’t shit!” in Sasha Banks’ face, and then going to couples therapy with her. 2019 is when things started to turn around. Her & Banks became the first-ever WWE Women’s Tag Team titles…and then lost them a couple of months later. This wasn’t a good thing, but it turned into a great moment for Bayley just one month later at Money in the Bank, where she won the titular briefcase.
Bayley cashed-in that briefcase mere hours later, taking advantage of a worn-out Charlotte and crowned herself Smackdown Women’s Champion, and getting wildly cheered by the audience for the first time in ages. Bayley took that momentum and ran with it. Her face persona suddenly felt renewed and she capitalized on it by reigniting her old feud with Alexa Bliss, this time coming out on top. She defended the title again against Ember Moon at Summerslam, then again against Charlotte at Clash of Champions. Then, things looked like they were going to get a lot worse. In yet another rematch with Charlotte at Hell in a Cell, Bayley lost and was without a title once again…
…for 5 days.
To the shock & relief of many, Bayley regained the championship from Charlotte on Smackdown. However, that wasn’t all. She also turned heel for the first time in her WWE career. Helped by old friend Sasha Banks, the two of them thoroughly beat the shit out of Charlotte and began the most incredible run of Bayley’s career. Alongside Sasha Banks, Bayley created a heel persona that has been wildly entertaining to watch for almost a year now. Dubbing herself a role model and acting like an annoying school-yard bully (in the best way possible), Bayley has beaten everyone there is to beat.
Not only did she tear through ever women on the Smackdown women’s roster over a year, but she even went over to Raw and beat their champion while she was at it. She added to her collection by regaining the Women’s Tag Team Championships and helped Sasha Banks win (and then lose) the Raw Women’s Championship. Her sudden but inevitable betrayal of Sasha Banks came at the start of the Autumn, which led to her losing her title at Hell in a Cell, in one of the best matches on the show.
To put it simply, Bayley has been second only to Becky Lynch over the past year on WWE TV, and after Lynch left in the spring, she stepped up and proved that she could carry the entire company on her own if she needed to. For so long it seemed as if all hope was lost with Bayley, but the past year of her career has undone all of the damage and then some. She tore down every barrier in her way and created really entertaining television along the way, what more could you ask for?
1 – Becky Lynch
Number of Reigns: Raw – 1; Smackdown – 3 Total Days as Champion: Raw – 398; Smackdown – 216
A lot of times with these lists, I try to avoid the ‘obvious’ number 1 pick. I try to give a new perspective and offer a view you might not have considered. However, there’s absolutely no way I could argue anyone being ranked higher on this list than Lynch. When you look at the pure facts, there’s a pretty clear parallel to be drawn between Lynch & Bayley’s career paths. Starting out with a lot of lows, but eventually reaching incredible highs. What separates them is the fact that Lynch’s highs were so, SO much higher.
Becky’s first run at the gold wasn’t anything worth talking about. While she always can lay claim to being the first-ever Smackdown Women’s Champion, she only successfully defended the title once in that reign, and it wasn’t even on Pay-Per-View. Lynch lost the title to Alexa Bliss in 2016, and for almost two years, there was nothing worth talking about in regards to Becky Lynch.
2018 rolled around and it seemed like things weren’t going to turn around for her anytime soon. Then, on Smackdown she started winning on a fairly regular basis. She wasn’t involved in any major storylines, but she was having good-great matches and winning week in and week out, and the fans took notice. In the build to Summerslam 2018, Lynch was announced as Carmella’s opponents and people were very excited to see Lynch inevitably be crowned champion. Then Charlotte returned suddenly and was thrust into the match. People were not happy about this, but it would surely be ok as long as Becky still won, right?
Charlotte won…oh dear.
After the match is when history was made, as Becky Lynch attacked Charlotte in what was supposed to be a heel turn (no matter what Road Dogg claims). However, it was met by mammoth cheers from the crowds, who were sick of Charlotte ‘being shoved down their throats’ (even though, as we’ve already covered, she wasn’t, but that’s not the point). Becky completely transformed her look & persona into that of an absolute badass and people loved it, no matter how much she tried to insult them.
Lynch eventually won the title back from Charlotte. She would then successfully defend the title against Charlotte…three times in a row. It got a bit tedious after a while, but the matches were almost always great, especially their Last Woman Standing match at Evolution, which was a far better match than I gave it credit for at the time. During this reign, Lynch would continue to build her persona and get more and more over with the audience, but she was yet to reach her peak.
In the build to Survivor Series that year, Lynch was gearing up to fight Ronda Rousey in a champion vs champion match that everyone was very excited for. Here is where Lynch reached the white-hot level that she would maintain for the next 6-months or so. Lynch tore into Rousey at every available opportunity and could banter with the best of them. Lynch would school Rousey on the daily over on Twitter, and the pops just kept getting bigger and bigger. In a cruel twist of fate, however, we never got to see that match. A stray punch from Nia Jax broke Becky’s nose and caused her to have to pull out of the event, however, it would turn into a blessing in disguise, as the image of Becky standing up in the rafters, standing tall with a bloody face has lasted in the memory for a long time since.
Lynch was back in action very soon after Survivor Series and lost the Smackdown Women’s Championship to Asuka at TLC. However, there was no stopping Becky’s momentum by this point, especially with Wrestlemania 35 on the horizon. Lynch wasn’t just the most popular female wrestler in the company by this point, she was the single most popular wrestler, gender was irrelevant. She won the Royal Rumble that January in yet another epic moment for her career and the match was set between her & Ronda Rousey at Wrestlemania 35.
Then Charlotte showed up again.
The storyline in the build to this match wasn’t anywhere near as good as it could’ve been, but it was still great. Charlotte’s presence was unnecessary, but I don’t think it detracted too heavily from what was going on. In the end, that match would become the main event of Wrestlemania 35, and while I put a huge chunk of the credit for that on Rousey’s involvement, Becky Lynch was the wrestler who put that epic story on the table. So it was done, and Lynch walked out of Wrestlemania that year with BOTH the Raw & Smackdown Women’s Championships over her shoulders.
The next year belonged to Becky Lynch. She lost the Smackdown Women’s Championship fairly quickly, but she held onto the Raw Women’s Championship for very nearly 400 days and did loads of great things in that time. She had a feud with Lacey Evans that put Evans on the map, had a feud with Sasha Banks that re-established Sasha as one of the best, and had an extended feud with Asuka that made for rivetting TV. Even though she had to vacate the title, how she did it was still extremely memorable, announcing her pregnancy before passing the title on to Asuka.
Lynch has become a truly iconic wrestler over the past couple of years, giving us some incredible memories along the way. Whenever she returns (if she decides to do so) I’m sure her star will only rise even further with more amazing moments & matches.
And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this list. Please, let me know what you think of these women’s title reigns, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure to come back here this time next Saturday, where I’ll be covering WWE Survivor Series!
The Money in the Bank briefcase is often seen in WWE as something that could potentially make someone’s career, giving them their long-awaited big break. As we discussed last time, that isn’t always the case, but these people are the ones who succeeded to at least some small degree. These are the people who ultimately benefited from having used the briefcase to their advantage, rather than becoming little more than a footnote with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it title reign.
9 – CM Punk – 2009
(World Heavyweight Championship)
Cashed In At: Extreme Rules 2009 Won Title From: Jeff Hardy Days As Champion: 42 Lost Title At: Night of Champions 2009 Lost Title To: Jeff Hardy World Titles Since: 4
After the indisputable failure that was his first world title reign, WWE gave themselves a do-over a year later when Punk won the briefcase for the second time. This reign went better in just about every conceivable way.
Punk started out strong, coming out victorious in a triple threat match on Raw a week later, retaining the title over both former champions, Edge & Jeff Hardy. His next title defence was at The Bash against Jeff Hardy, and that one didn’t go as well. Although Punk did retain, it was via disqualification when he attacked the referee. As is always the case when these things happen in WWE, a rematch was booked for the next Pay-Per-View, where Hardy would regain the championship from Punk in a really good match.
By this point in the list, you may have noticed a pretty consistent pattern with the bottom-half entries, which is that the new champion only gets a month or two with the title before dropping it back to the exact same person they’d won the title from in the first place. This is because WWE often likes to use the Money in the Bank cash-in as nothing but an extra hurdle for a babyface to overcome once they finally think they’re in the clear. Or even worse, sometimes it will simply be used as something for the current champion to do for the next few months while they wait for the next major Pay-Per-View to roll around.
That said, this title reign did actually have a pretty big upside for Punk. For one thing, he would quickly win the championship back from Hardy, but more importantly, he struck upon his “straight-edge saviour” persona. This was a persona that allowed Punk to showcase his incredible promo ability on a week to week basis and can be widely credited for a lot of the great success he’d see later on in his career.
As much as the statistics aren’t anything overly impressive in this instance, looking towards the long-game is where this title reign really earns some positive points.
8 – Dean Ambrose – 2016
Cashed In At: Money in the Bank 2016 Won Title From: Seth Rollins Days As Champion: 84 Lost Title At: Backlash 2016 Lost Title To: AJ Styles World Titles Since: 0
The case for Ambrose’s spot on this list is actually the exact opposite to what I discussed in the previous entry. As it’s what happened during the title reign itself that elevated this entry’s position.
Winning the briefcase at Money in the Bank 2016, Ambrose would cash-in that very same night on long-term rival Seth Rollins after he had just won the championship from Roman Reigns. This created the wonderfully poetic moment of all three former members of The Shield holding the WWE Championship on the same night. Immediately following Ambrose’s title win, the focus on WWE shifted towards the newly established brand split. Ambrose’s first title defence took place a week before the draft, and it ended in a draw when both men’s shoulders were down for a three count, the rematch took place the next week and, after being drafted to Smackdown, Ambrose put Rollins way with a clean victory.
A few weeks later at Battleground, Ambrose once again defended his title in the fabled “Shield Triple Threat” match as all three former members of The Shield faced off for the first and only time ever. It was a great match (even if it didn’t quite live up to some people’s expectations) and Ambrose came away with the win, taking the championship over onto the newly established Smackdown roster.
His first feud on the blue brand was against Dolph Ziggler in a forgotten feud for a forgotten Summerslam. Ambrose came away with a clean victory, but the match wasn’t good, and the memory of it quickly faded. Backlash was up next for the champion and this time it would be AJ Styles stepping up to the plate after having just gotten a clean victory over John Cena to end their feud. Against all odds, AJ Styles, a man who had only joined WWE earlier that year and was known across the wrestling world as “Mr TNA” would succeed in claiming the WWE Championship for his own after kicking Ambrose square in the balls.
Ambrose spent the rest of 2016 chasing after Styles to get the title back, but was unsuccessful and eventually found himself winning the Intercontinental Championship to close out the year instead. While on-paper, Ambrose was treated relatively well as champion, on a week to week basis he was treated more as a comedy character than anything else. WWE had always leaned a bit too hard to the “unhinged” aspects of Ambrose’s character and not in a good way. As it stands, he still rises up to the top half of this list purely by virtue of being treated like a credible wrestler who can win matches. However, he would never see world title success again in his WWE career, eventually leaving for the greener pastures of AEW, where he currently reigns as a much more successful world champion.
7 – Edge – 2007
(World Heavyweight Championship)
Cashed In At: Smackdown 11th May 2007 Won Title From: The Undertaker Days As Champion: 70 Vacated title At: Smackdown 17th July 2007 World Titles Since: 8
Much like CM Punk, it turned out that the second time around was the winning one.
Once again staying true to his “ultimate opportunist” moniker, Edge cashed-in his briefcase on The Undertaker after he had just won a Steel Cage match with Batista and was attacked by Mark Henry, winning the title with ease. Edge would immediately enter a feud with Batista that would last for several months; however, Edge would come out victorious at every turn. The methods of which included a roll-up at Judgement Day; just beating Batista to the ground in a Steel Cage match at One Night Stand and finally, getting Batista counted out at Night of Champions.
Next up for Edge was Kane, who was announced as the number 1 contender and had a match scheduled for The Great American Bash. Sadly, that match would never take place as Edge legitimately tore his left pectoral muscle on an episode of Smackdown and was forced to take several months off to have surgery.
Although he had to relinquish the title after only a short time with the title, the reign held a series of victories for Edge that consistently made him look like a guy deserving of being on top as a heel and it left a lasting impression on his career after that. By the end of 2007, Edge would be back in the ring and would claim the World Heavyweight Championship once again, which led him to him getting a main-event match against The Undertaker at Wrestlemania 24.
As much as the title reign itself could be argued to be a bit naff, it can’t be denied that Edge was always in a main-event position for the remainder of his career following it. While this cash-in and title run was just one factor in a laundry list of reasons as to why Edge was put into that “top guy” position, I think it’s clear that this was a landmark turning point for the future legend.
Cashed In At: Smackdown 10th April 2018 Won Title From: Charlotte Flair Days As Champion: 131 Lost Title At: Summerslam 2018 Lost Title To: Charlotte Flair World Titles Since: 0
When Carmella won the first-ever Women’s Money in the Bank ladder match, everyone was a little bit confused. Carmella was a decent wrestler at the time, but she didn’t feel like someone who would hang with the top of the women’s division. However, that is what Money in the Bank is supposed to be about: elevating someone who hasn’t had their chance in the main event yet. So we waited…and waited…and waited. It took almost a full year, but Carmella did eventually cash-in her briefcase on Charlotte Flair, just after she had been attacked by The IIconics.
The reign itself is a bit of a hard one to judge. This is because, while the match quality was often lacking, it wasn’t always Carmella’s fault. A lot of the things fans had a problem with, such as James Ellsworth constantly interfering, is down to the booking. Booking that, it must be said, did a pretty decent job of getting heat onto Carmella. It wasn’t all good heel heat, of course, there was an amount of “go away” heat in there as well but, I think a lot of the character work she did during this time was excellent and let her show her skills more than she’d been able to up until then (including her run in NXT).
Looking to the nuts and bolts of it, Carmella got herself a relatively clean win over former champions Charlotte Flair at Backlash, winning via a roll-up. She then entered a feud with Asuka that was…terrible. As I said, Carmella’s character work was enjoyable, however, the matches were awful and were a clear statement following Asuka’s Wrestlemania 34 loss that she wasn’t someone the company had any interest in investing in. This feud went on for several months.
Once it was over, we were on the road to Summerslam, and Becky Lynch had been gaining a ridiculous amount of popularity over the past 6 months. A title match was set for Summerslam between the two; however, Charlotte Flair would eventually muscle her way in and make it a triple threat. During this match, Charlotte would take advantage of Lynch and pin her to win the title, meaning Carmella didn’t get pinned but lost the title anyway. This is what would eventually spark Becky Lynch to become the single hottest property in the entire industry for the next year or so, but that, unfortunately, meant that there was never any room for Carmella to reclaim her spot.
Instead, Carmella entered the mixed-match challenge and partnered with R-Truth to eventually win the tournament. Unfortunately, this saw no title success for her, as she spent the next year or so being Truth’s back up as he ran around the country, playing out whacky antics with the 24/7 Championship. In recent months, Carmella has been teased to challenge for the Smackdown Women’s Championship once or twice but is yet to actually get her shot.
While it clearly hasn’t done many favours for Carmella in the long-run, the title reign itself saw her being treated as a credible heel, who wasn’t afraid to resort to underhanded tactics. While it might not have felt like all that great of a reign at the time, looking back with the power of hindsight, I think it was a rather entertaining role for Carmella to fill. I just hope she has a chance to fill it again sometime soon.
5 – The Miz – 2010
Cashed In At: Raw 22nd November 2010 Won Title From: Randy Orton Days As Champion: 160 Lost Title At: Extreme Rules 2011 Lost Title To: John Cena World Titles Since: 0
While today, The Miz is a widely respected member of the WWE roster, that wasn’t exactly the case when he won the WWE Championship at the tail end of 2010. The look of utter fury on that little girl’s face was a surprisingly accurate analogy for the wrestling fanbase’s reaction to the title change at the time. However, sitting here almost a decade later with all the power of hindsight in the world, I think it was ok.
Just one week after winning the title, The Miz was forced to defend the belt in a TLC match against Jerry Lawler of all people. He won, which was good, but he very nearly didn’t. Jerry Lawler was genuinely just an arm’s reach away from becoming WWE Champion until Michael Cole interfered in the match and prevented Lawler from winning. Not the best of looks for the new champion.
As it so happened, immediately following this was the TLC Pay-Per-View in which Randy Orton got his rematch for the title in a Tables Match. While he was on the back-foot for the majority of the match, the finish got to make him look like a cunning and intelligent heel. While the referee was knocked down, he took a broken table (initially broken when Alex Riley was sent through it) and placed Orton on top of it to convince the referee he had put him through the table. This was brilliant as it was frustrating for the audience in just the right way and didn’t quite feel like WWE just throwing away yet another Pay-Per-View match…but that isn’t actually where things ended. Instead, WWE decided to make The Miz seem like the world’s biggest moron when the referee discovered Miz’s deception after he watched the replay that played on the arena’s ‘tron.
These kinds of flukey retentions were the running theme throughout Miz’s championship reign, as almost every win came thanks to some form of interference. He beat Orton again at the Royal Rumble…after CM Punk interfered and he battled Jerry Lawler for a second time at the Elimination Chamber Pay-Per-View. It looked like he had lost again, only for the decision to be reversed after it was revealed Miz got his foot on the rope during the pinfall.
His greatest humiliation was yet to come, however, as his Wrestlemania main event against none other than John Cena was on the horizon. The match itself was fine, but no-one actually remembers the bulk of the match. Instead, what we all remember was the absolute clusterfuck of a finish. Initially, the match – which, let me remind you, was the main event of Wrestlemania – ended in a draw when Cena clotheslined Miz over the barrier and neither man could make it back to the ring before the 10-count (this move legitimately gave The Miz a concussion as well). It wasn’t over though. The Rock, who was hosting the show, came out and demanded that the match be restarted, so it was. Unfortunately, Miz’s aforementioned concussion meant that very little of substance was possible. However, it was all undermined anyway, when The Rock came down to the ring, hit the Rock Bottom on John Cena and gave Miz the pin to retain the title.
After becoming the least important person in his Wrestlemania main-event victory, the writing was on the wall for Miz’s reign, and sure enough, just one month later, John Cena would take the title from The Miz clean as a whistle.
Despite not looking like all that dominant of a champion, there are plenty of things that rule in The Miz’s favour. For one thing, the pure number of days he held the title is more than most on this list, and he did get actual wins over his opponent; even if they were thanks to outside interference.
The most significant point in his favour, though is what has happened to him since. Although he’s never won another world title, he has taken the wealth of knowledge and experience he’s gained over the years to become a legitimate star in WWE and beyond. He’s seen reasonable success on the silver screen with several high-profile film roles, became one of the best talkers in the company today and is arguably the single most consistent and reliable wrestler WWE currently has under their belt.
4 – Daniel Bryan – 2011
(World Heavyweight Championship)
Cashed In At: TLC 2011 Won Title From: Big Show Days As Champion: 105 Lost Title At: Wrestlemania 28 Lost Title To: Sheamus World Titles Since: 4
In 2011, Daniel Bryan was far from what we would know him as just two years later, but that doesn’t mean he was any less amazing of a performer. He had captured the hearts of the audience right out of the gate, appearing in NXT and sticking it to his “mentor” The Miz. This popularity continued well into 2011, and he was rewarded with Smackdown’s Money in the Bank briefcase. Bryan had promised his friend and then World Heavyweight Champion Big Show that he wouldn’t sneakily cash-in on him while he was vulnerable, but if you need me to tell you what happened next, you must be new to wrestling.
Sure as the sun rising each day, Daniel Bryan took advantage of a weakened Big Show following a successful title defence with Mark Henry and became the World Heavyweight Champion, cue a massive celebration from both the fans and Bryan himself, who milked the moment for everything it was worth. Although Big Show attempted to remain true to their friendship, Bryan’s arrogance got the better of him, and he quickly found himself facing challengers on all sides; all of whom were significantly larger than him.
This is where the critical difference between Bryan’s and Miz’s reigns come in. Many of Bryan’s title retentions indeed came through interference or other forms of misdeeds, but in these cases, the story was written in the right way so that these non-finishes were compelling, rather than cheap. Situations arose where Bryan would spot the perfect way out and do everything in his power to make it happen. For example, during his first title defence against Big Show, Bryan did everything he could to provoke Mark Henry into attacking him, thus retaining the title via disqualification.
Bryan developed this aura around his character of being the weaseliest little weasel you could possibly imagine. He looked beatable all the time but still managed to come away looking relatively favourable after he finds yet another ingenious way to worm his way out of losing the belt. I daresay that with most other wrestlers this wouldn’t have worked (in fact, I can point to numerous examples over history of exactly that). Still, there was just something about Bryan’s portrayal of his characters that meant everything just…worked. Even losing the title in 18 seconds at Wrestlemania 28, while absolutely infuriating, somehow made perfect sense for his character. Oh, plus he also got a title defence in the Elimination Chamber where he actually came out of it looking pretty strong and competent as a champion; novel concept, I know.
Daniel Bryan’s career following this reign speaks for itself. While 2012 was pretty rocky for him, 2013 was where he became an undeniable megastar in WWE. He became the single most popular wrestler on the planet. SO popular that WWE was forced to have him win the world title in the main event of Wrestlemania 30 to ensure that the entire building wouldn’t boo the show into oblivion (a lesson they unlearned a couple of years later, but hey-ho).
I’ve praised Daniel Bryan almost too much on this blog in the past. However, it’s title reigns like this one that prove that he is one of the most versatile wrestlers on the planet and can slip seamlessly into almost any role he needs to fulfil, while still being able to whip great matches out of the bag whenever he wants.
3 – Kane – 2010
(World Heavyweight Championship)
Cashed In At: Money in the Bank 2010 Won Title From: Rey Mysterio Days As Champion: 154 Lost Title At: TLC 2010 Lost Title To: Edge World Titles Since: 0
Despite most people coming to love the big red machine in the years following his 1997 debut, Kane actually saw very little success in regards to world titles during this period. Despite being involved continuously in high-profile feuds throughout his entire career in the late 90s and early 00s, Kane’s world championship achievements amount to little more than 24 hours at WWF Champion in the summer of 1998. It seemed the further his career progressed, the less likely it was that he’d ever have the world title run that many fans believed he deserved.
Then came Money in the Bank 2010. There was already a lot of intrigue surrounding Kane going into this match. It was revealed that he had found his kayfabe brother, The Undertaker, in a “vegetative state” just a month earlier (in reality, Undertaker had to take a few months off to deal with an injury). Kane was on the hunt for whoever was responsible. Luckily for him though, he had the spare time on a Sunday to take a break from this hunt and win a briefcase. It seemed like there could be some interesting things on the horizon for Kane. It all came to a head sooner than anyone expected. Less than an hour after he had won the briefcase, Kane appeared following Mysterio’s successful title defence over Jack Swagger and dispatched of him in short order to become champion.
Kane’s run went surprisingly well pretty much the entire run. Things kicked off with Kane retaining cleanly over Rey Mysterio at Summerslam until, surprise! Turns out it was actually Kane that attacked The Undertaker and now he’s seeking revenge. This took the form of a No Holds Barred match at Night of Champions, which to everyone’s surprise, Kane won clean as a whistle, reversing a Tombstone Piledriver from The Undertaker into one of his own and getting the pin.
After wallowing in self-pity for a little bit, The Undertaker decided it was time to return to 1997, as he brought back Paul Bearer to assist him in conquering his brother. The match came at Hell in a Cell, and Paul Bearer decided it really was 1997, as he turned on The Undertaker to hand the win to Kane. This lead to the natural climax of their feud, a Buried Alive match at Bragging Rights where, to everyone’s surprise, Kane retained once again over his brother. Although it is worth mentioning that this win was a less impressive look for Kane, as it only happened thanks to The Nexus attacking The Undertaker at the climax of the match.
After all that was over, the time came for Kane’s title reign to draw to a close in a pretty weird feud with Edge. In a twist not many expected, Kane turned face after Edge kidnapped Paul Bearer and taunted Kane about it every single week. Edge would then win the title from Kane in a TLC match at TLC, and that would be it.
On its own, you could argue that this title reign may be worthy of the top spot on this list, but the problems for Kane come with what happened after he lost the title. Looking back now, this title reign really was the ‘last hurrah’ for Kane as a singles competitor. He lost a rematch to Edge in January and spent Wrestlemania 28 squashing in The Corre in under two minutes in a match that not one person in the area cared about. Including the wrestlers.
Kane then regained his mask in yet another storyline no-one had much interest in, and he just floundered around the lower midcard until teaming up with Daniel Bryan. Even though their pairing was compelling and led them to them winning the tag titles, it wasn’t much more than a midcard novelty in the long-run. Then Kane joined in with The Authority and slowly faded into obscurity from there.
Last hurrah or not, Kane’s run with the World Heavyweight Championship was still a great one that saw him take on the role of a dominant and robust heel, putting away high calibre opponents month in and month out.
Cashed In At: Money in the Bank 2019 Won Title From: Charlotte Flair Days As Champion: 140 Lost Title At: Hell in a Cell 2019 Lost Title To: Charlotte Flair World Titles Since: 1
Another same-night cash-in here and one of the most recent on this list, 2019 is when Bayley really grasped her full potential on the main roster, and she has Money in the Bank to thank for that.
Winning it in rather frantic fashion, following Charlotte reclaiming the Smackdown Women’s Championship from Becky Lynch, Bayley immediately got to work doing what she does best with the title, which is wrestling and winning. Bayley’s first test with the title was Alexa Bliss & Nikki Cross, where she would face the pair of them in a handicap match at Stomping Grounds (where we kick ass and take names, didn’t you know?) and put on a solid – if not as good as expected – match against Ember Moon at Summerslam.
Then, following these strong wins, Bayley teamed up with a freshly returned Sasha Banks to turn heel and attack both Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair every week. Suddenly, the somewhat stagnant Bayley face character had new life breathed into it as Bayley went all-in on the persona. She tore down everything she used to represent and built up a brand new character that has been so much more entertaining than anything she’s done since her days in NXT.
Here’s where things may get a bit controversial because following this heel turn. Bayley lost the title back to Charlotte Flair. Which seems like it should land her down in the lower half of this list, losing her title suddenly and unexpectedly to the same person she won it from, BUT, I’d argue the circumstances with Bayley are different because of what happened following this reign.
For one thing, Bayley would get the title back just 8 nights later, which is always lovely and since then, she’s been on an absolute tear. Her heel persona has only grown in both scope and complexity, with the reignition of her legendary feud with Sasha Banks seemingly just around the corner. She’s had solid wins against the likes of Charlotte, Naomi & Lacey Evans and I think her title reign still has a long way to go
Of course, this begs the question, why didn’t I give Randy Orton the same credit given that he did something very similar? To which the answer is that I think the circumstances are quite different. Orton was already set-in-stone when it came to his WWE career, the extra months he had after winning the title back did little to bolster his career or revolutionise his character. Now, look back to Bayley and you realise just how much the Money in the Bank cash-in has done for her. I still liked Bayley’s face character, but it was undeniably stale, and audiences had totally tired of it. What she’s done since turning heel has totally turned that around, I’m incredibly interested in what she’s doing on a week-to-week basis because of what this title reign did for her. So that’s why I’m letting that bolster Bayely’s position here and not Orton’s in the previous list.
1 – Seth Rollins – 2014
(WWE World Heavyweight Championship)
Cashed In At: Wrestlemania 31 Won Title From: Brock Lesnar Days As Champion: 220 Vacated Title On:4th November 2015 World Titles Since: 3
When The Shield broke up in May of 2014, everyone knew that within a year, at least one of these guys would be a world champion. Ambrose could talk with the best of them, Roman had everything WWE wanted from a ‘face of the company’, and Rollins had all the natural in-ring talent in the world. Being the man who betrayed his brothers, Seth Rollins was the focal point of WWE TV in a big way throughout most of the year following the break-up of The Shield. Being groomed by The Authority as ‘The Future of WWE’, that nickname was cemented when Rollins retrieved the Money in the Bank briefcase a month later.
As Wrestlemania 31 rolled around and Roman Reigns looked to be closing in on his first world championship, it seemed pretty clear that Rollins would cash-in sometime in the spring after WWE have tested the waters with Roman as champion. Then, it happened. The single greatest Money in the Bank cash-in to ever take place (and my personal favourite moment in WWE history) took place as Rollins interrupted the main event of Wrestlemania, cashed-in his briefcase and ran away with the title.
What we saw over the remainder of 2015 was the making of a career-long top star in WWE. The booking of Rollins could be a little lacking at times, but for the majority of his title run, I believe WWE struck a stable balance of Rollins getting solid wins over credible stars, while still feeling like a beatable champion that would only ever just squeak away with his title in tow.
Things started out with The Authority in-fighting, and at Extreme Rules, Rollins retained over Randy Orton when Kane got in the ring and attacked just about everybody in sight; distracting Orton long enough for Rollins to hit an RKO and escape the cage to retain. Moving into Payback, we saw more of what we were hoping to see with The Shield members as singles competitors, where Rollins defended his title in a Fatal 4 Way against Orton, Reigns and Ambrose. Once again, Rollins retained thanks to well-timed interferences by other members of The Authority and pinned Orton once more.
Next up with Elimination Chamber and Rollins’ re-ignited feud with Dean Ambrose, which is where Rollins was made to look a bit weaker than I would’ve liked. In the absolute height of Dusty finishes, Ambrose actually pinned Rollins, and it seemed like he had won the WWE Championship. However, earlier in the match Rollins had pulled the referee in the way of an Elbow Drop from Ambrose, causing them to collide, so the decision was reversed, so Rollins actually won by disqualification, thus retaining the title. Then, during their ladder-based rematch at Money in the Bank, Rollins retained the title by accident as he and Ambrose both unhooked the title at the same time only for them both to fall to the ground and Ambrose to lose his grip on it, making Seth the winner.
Battleground was next, which brought with it Rollins’ lowest moment as champion when the previously suspended Brock Lesnar was reinstated and got his rematch for Rollins’ title. Rollins spent 90% of the match being tossed around like a piece of meat by Lesnar, and he didn’t even get to finish the match as things ended when The Undertaker appeared to attack Lesnar, making Rollins vanish in the process.
Luckily for Rollins, he would go from his lowest low to his highest high over the late summer when he entered a feud with John Cena. For a start, nearly every match the pair had was a great one, the first of which took place at Summerslam where Cena would put his United States Championship on the line against Rollins’ title. Although the fact that former host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, cost Cena the title isn’t the greatest of looks for Rollins, he came away from it as a double champion, and it did wonders for his heelish swagger.
Rollins would then have to defend both his titles on the same night at Night of Champions. He lost his US title back to John Cena before defeating Sting in a match that will forever be marred by Sting’s genuinely terrifying injury. However, a clean win is a clean win. Rollins’ last title defence came at Hell in a Cell, where former Authority member Kane (now in demon form) challenged Rollins for the title. The match was boring, but Rollins did at least win the match clean as a whistle.
Rollins was then set to defend the title against Roman Reigns at Survivor Series where, if the dirt sheets are to be believed, Rollins was going to lose the championship. Unfortunately, we never got to find out as at the start of November where at a house show in Dublin, Ireland, Rollins landed awkwardly off of a Sunset Flip and his leg basically imploded, tearing his MCL, ACL and Meniscus. Rollins would be forced to vacate the title and wouldn’t be back on WWE TV until May 2016.
On its own, this title reign was a genuinely great one, but when you consider the ridiculous levels of success Rollins has had since then, there’s no way this could be anything other than the number 1 entry. When Rollins returned to TV, he immediately beat Roman Reigns to regain the WWE Championship (even if it was just for a few minutes thanks to Ambrose’s cash-in, which we talked about earlier). He won his feud with Triple H at Wrestlemania 33, floundered for a bit throughout 2017, but came back strong in 2018, spending the majority of the year having fantastic matches at every Pay-Per-View, defending his Intercontinental Championship.
This culminated in 2019, where Rollins became world champion once again, beating Brock Lesnar to become Universal Champion, not once, but twice before losing it to The Fiend. Rollins has since become a heel again and has taken his character in a new direction that is just as good as, if not better than, his original heel run.
One thing that is for sure though is that Rollins will be a main eventer in WWE for the rest of his career, and he had Money in the Bank to thank for that.
And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this post. Please, let me know what you thought of these title reigns, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back here this time on Wednesday, for the next part in my 100 Favourite Games series!