WWE SmackDown: Natalya vs. Layla Shows Potential for Stagnant Divas Division

Derek McKinleyCorrespondent IMay 5, 2012

Photo courtesy of WWE.com
Photo courtesy of WWE.com

On the latest edition of WWE SmackDown, a Divas match was contested between newly-crowned WWE Divas Champion Layla, and Natalya. You might have had to take a bathroom break, so maybe you missed it.

Too bad, because for the first time in as long as I can remember, the match was actually good.

Don't get me wrong, it was still only a smidge over two minutes long—and I know there's a joke in there somewhere—but what I saw left me impressed and, stunningly, wanting more.

It's not really a secret that Natalya, the third-generation of wrestling royalty as a member of the Hart family, is one of the most talented and under-appreciated Divas on the WWE roster.

With her sometimes-partner Beth Phoenix holding the title for the better part of the last year, Nattie never got a chance to compete for her second Divas title, which I think most people would argue she deserves.

Then, of course, her recent gimmick... well, let's just say it stunk. Thankfully though, it appears that she's moving on from that and being featured strictly in the ring.

And then there's Layla, fresh off a serious knee injury, but carrying the Divas championship for the time being. She may end up being a transitional champion by the time everything shakes out with Beth Phoenix and/or Kharma's return. But for now she's the champion, and that opens up several possibilities for the Divas division.

Layla doesn't have the invincible aura that Phoenix and Kharma seem to have. She appears beatable, and creates the possibility for actual competitive matches, rather than, as Beth Phoenix so succinctly states, "Ding, Glam Slam, Ding."

This match with Natalya had so much potential, even in the brief window they were given. It featured great chain wrestling and athletic counters. Layla was serviceable, but Natalya put on an absolute clinic.

The only thing I would have asked for besides more time? A little less conversation, a little more action. Every time they locked up, it seemed like Natalya had something to say, which took away from what they were doing. Let the moves tell the story. Keep the in-ring chit chat to a minimum.

Also, I know we're now in the "People Power" era, but the Divas could afford a little ruthless aggression.

We've seen hints of it with AJ, who, in a match with Natalya a couple of weeks ago, absolutely lost it and rained down blows on Natalya's head. The only problem was that most of the strikes were open slaps, rather than the kind of vicious punches that would have really sold AJ's unhinged, primal behavior.

Similarly, this recent Divas match on SmackDown saw plenty of punches and clotheslines from Natalya, but no attention was paid to the obvious bulls eye, Layla's surgically repaired knee.

It would have been great to see Natalya mercilessly target that knee to soften Layla up for the Sharpshooter, rather than showboat for the crowd.

After locking Layla in an abdominal stretch, I was waiting for Nattie to take a few hammer fists to that weakened knee. It didn't happen. Another missed opportunity to add credibility to an otherwise decent Diva match.

Most importantly, the match featured no botches—or at least no noticeable ones. In a division filled with glorified swimsuit models with only the most basic grasp on wrestling, it's important that anytime two Divas step in the ring, they execute every maneuver.

This contest had all the ingredients for a great wrestling match. Unfortunately, it lacked the time to put those ingredients to good use.

Still, any sign of life from the otherwise stagnant division is encouraging. If WWE is smart, they'll get Natalya back on TV with a decent gimmick ASAP. Right now she's carrying the entire division by herself.