COLUMBUS, USA – Now that Fastlane is in the books, the other half of WrestleMania is pretty much secure: we know who’s fighting for the top singles titles over on SmackDown.
First, the WWE Championship scene. The 6-pack challenge for the title at Fastlane reestablishes the dream match everyone's wanted all along—AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura. Of course, people would accept nothing less the moment Nakamura won the Royal Rumble. Not much else needs be said about this development.
Even better are the storylines that have emerged from this match; John Cena is likely on his way to challenge the Undertaker after losing his last shot at the title, while Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens will be dealing with Shane McMahon after a heinous attack on this week’s SmackDown.
Really interesting way to go about her decision considering she spent over a month on RAW thinking about it, but after everything's said and done, Asuka vs Charlotte Flair is still a bigger matchup on paper than Asuka vs. Alexa Bliss. At least, it allows Bliss to tell stories with other women on RAW, specifically her real-life best friend Nia Jax, who's also being built up on the road to WrestleMania.
Over on SmackDown's tag team division, the Bludgeon Brothers are getting a comeup after inserting themselves in the picture, in the middle of a competitive title match between the Usos and the New Day. This led to Jimmy Uso and Big E tagging together on this week's episode of SmackDown in a rather affecting teamup. I'm enjoying the added wrinkles it's giving to both teams, and while I wish the other teams in the division got some more exposure, at least they're doing something different with the two dominant units on the show. I'm foreseeing a triple threat tag match for the SmackDown Tag Team Championships at WrestleMania.
Interestingly, although I'm still waiting on a few last-minute announcements, SmackDown's already locked down their half of the card. RAW has had more time to work with since Elimination Chamber, but it feels like they don’t have as much already booked.
One interesting development they've had is the fact that Braun Strowman won a number one contendership to the RAW Tag Team Championship all by himself, but it's still unsure as to whether he'll really be challenging the Bar in a handicap match or he'll take on a partner before WrestleMania. I'm also not sure how I should feel about this—on one hand, it’s totally cool and fits Strowman's character, but on the other, it comes at the expense of a lot of talented tag teams in the RAW division. They're getting really shortchanged there.
The Failure of Fabulous Moolah
And now, this week's WWE controversy: after announcing a WrestleMania battle royal among the women named after legendary woman wrestler the Fabulous Moolah, the company was forced to take it back after a lot of complaints and sponsor action. Why? Because Moolah wasn't as legendary as the company tried to make her seem.
Wrestling fans may remember Moolah in the latter part of her career, appearing in the late '90s and early 2000s with fellow legend Mae Young. I wouldn't blame them if they considered her a harmless old lady, but the truth is she wasn’t harmless at all—in her younger years, she promoted women wrestlers, and pretty much abused them financially and sexually. According to the stories, she would pay her talents very little and prostitute them out to male promoters, causing many of her talents to try and leave her management.
This all blew up in the WWE's face immediately after they announced the Fabulous Moolah Battle Royal, and honestly, they should've known better. It's clear that by doing this move, someone in the back – likely Vince McMahon – obviously underestimated the power of the WWE's audience this time. In the age of Google, social media, and social justice, it's nowhere near hard at all for people to dig up the dirt on Moolah and spread it. The controversy reached WWE's biggest sponsor Snickers, who forced them to change the name a couple of days after the announcement.
This is a situation they could've easily avoided had they just been more self-aware about the issue. It's one thing for the WWE to leave out people from the Hall of Fame that they deemed politically disadvantageous to them, but I honestly couldn’t believe how brazen they were in thinking they were going to get away with this. The fact that they had to resort to calling the match something as generic as "WrestleMania Women’s Battle Royal" when there were so many other legendary female wrestlers deserving of the name is also quite egregious, but not as big a mistake as honoring Moolah. But if they really want this to be the female Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, they better pick a less problematic female.
Anyway, there’s no hint on what stakes are up in the women's battle royal, but if it's anything like the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, then it's just going to be for a symbolic trophy.
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