How to Fix WWE Raw Women's Division Until Becky Lynch ReturnsAugust 2, 2021
How to Fix WWE Raw Women's Division Until Becky Lynch Returns
WWE has always had a tendency to focus more on a few big names, rather than the roster as a whole.
In the 1980s, if Hulk Hogan was on the card in any fashion, that's all that mattered. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin then fit that role, followed by John Cena in subsequent years.
As far as the women's division goes, the biggest star the company has seen in years has been Becky Lynch after her popularity surged in the latter part of 2018.
She has been a fantastic presence for the company, but it has been unable to properly move on while she's been away on maternity leave and seems to be simply waiting for her return to play savior.
The Man will be back in the ring at some point, but the Raw women's division has many problems that should be corrected in the meantime.
Let's take a look at some of the flaws and offer some ideas on how to make this the best possible roster to work with until Lynch returns.
Alexa Bliss Must Evolve Beyond Bray Wyatt
No matter how many spin-offs she gets to show her as more than just The Joker's sidekick, Harley Quinn will always be tied to the Batman villain.
WWE's analog to that is Alexa Bliss, who became an understudy and sidekick to The Fiend before taking over from him after WrestleMania 37 in April. Now that Bray Wyatt has been released from WWE, the successor is the only one left to carry the mantle.
It was already a problem that Bliss was just essentially the female Fiend. Now that Wyatt's gone, there is even more pressure on her to become more than just an imitation.
She must evolve beyond just an interpretation of Wyatt's character and become something new and different enough that fans can distinguish the difference between them, just as Kane eventually became more than The Undertaker's brother in red.
Asuka and Rhea Ripley Need to Level Up Again
How did Asuka go from being an unbeatable machine in NXT to someone who was Raw women's champion for most of last year but rarely had any attention on her title?
WWE messed up her mystique when she fell to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania 34 and put over The Queen as being the first person who was "ready for Asuka."
Two years later, the company proved it hadn't learned anything from that mistake and made the same error with Rhea Ripley, who also tapped out to Flair at WrestleMania 36 after months of being an unstoppable force on the black-and-gold brand.
At this point, neither The Empress of Tomorrow nor The Nightmare would come off anywhere near as big of threats to the championship as they used to be, especially since Flair keeps proving she's better than them.
When Lynch returns, they're likely to be fed to her, too.
It's practically a guarantee WWE will act as though none of this damage to their careers matters.
Asuka and Ripley have to be reinstated as two of the fiercest women the company has ever seen or it won't be a big deal when they line up against Lynch.
It Shouldn't Always Just Be About Charlotte Flair
Flair is arguably the greatest women's professional wrestler of all time. She's earned her spot at the top and should always be a featured act and somewhere in the title hunt.
But that doesn't mean it's all about The Queen all the time.
For years, fans have watched Flair get titles at times when it's served no purpose other than to add another number to her list of accomplishments. Hot-potato title reigns like when she beat Bayley only to lose it days later haven't proved to be viable booking options.
When she was in NXT, she didn't move the needle for ratings enough for it to be worth it, either.
WWE likely can't wait to run another Flair-Lynch program because the company loves repetition.
While they will be the two biggest stars for the marquee, it's not something we haven't seen a thousand times already. Getting one big match out of it again can happen, but the game plan shouldn't be to spend the next run leading up to SummerSlam entirely focused on Flair.
If The Queen is injured, what is the backup plan? Who will step up instead? More figures than solely Flair need the proper love and attention for their characters.
Fill in the Gaps
Lacey Evans has also been absent from competition through her own pregnancy, but she and Lynch aren't the only voids needing to be filled.
Naomi was recently traded to SmackDown; Lana and others have been released over the past year; Natalya is injured, meaning she can't help pick up the slack; and Dana Brooke has been absent from television for weeks while her tag team partner, Mandy Rose, is now on NXT.
SmackDown has seen an influx of talent traded over to that brand, and the same needs to happen for Raw.
Aliyah seems primed for a main roster call-up after splitting from The Robert Stone Brand. Adding her to the red brand would freshen things up and compensate for at least one of those absences.
At this point, Io Shirai and Candice LeRae should also go to Raw. They aren't likely to have much more upward mobility in NXT and are more than capable of holding their own on the flagship program.
Eventually, the WWE draft will allow these Superstars to find a more permanent home on the three brands, but if the company waits too long, the same few matches will happen over and over again.
What Is the Plan with Doudrop and Eva Marie?
While there may appear to be impatience among the WWE Universe for long-term storytelling, anyone who has followed the company long enough can see a lack of foresight and refusal to plan ahead for most angles.
The storyline between Doudrop and Eva Marie is starting to look as though it will be another one of those situations where nothing happens for a few months and it eventually ceases to exist with no explanation other than "plans changed."
Were there ever any plans for Eva Marie to do any actual wrestling, or is she being used solely to look bad to build Doudrop back up to the level she was at as Piper Niven and the top contender for the NXT UK Women's Championship?
There won't be too many more weeks when fans will be willing to watch Eva Marie stumble in the ring while Doudrop does all the work. It's not engaging enough for a slow burn, especially if the payoff is just for the two to split in the most generic of all fashions.
WWE has to think about how useful this is and where it's going. If there's no solid idea in mind, it might be best to scrap it entirely and stop wasting everyone's time.
Pick a Direction for Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler and Stick with It
Nia Jax and Shayna Baszler have been teaming with each other for the past year, having been thrown together for no reason other than to try something out.
From the start, they've teased feuding with each other. The cycle repeated itself recently with The Queen of Spades growing increasingly frustrated with Reginald. That drove a wedge between them and it appeared they were bound to split, only for The Irresistible Force to choose Baszler over her boyfriend.
Eventually, teasing a breakup becomes less interesting unless there are new wrinkles in the fold. It won't be worth investing in playing up that dynamic any more.
Now's the time to pick a direction and stick with it. Are they a dominant duo who will help anchor the women's tag team division or will they feud with each other and strengthen the ranks of the singles side?
If it's the former, they have to be a united front; if it's the latter, Baszler has to recapture her credibility while Jax needs to find a new footing.
Almost a Superhero Can't Have Peaked Already?
It's worrying to think Nikki A.S.H. may have rushed through months of storytelling to go straight from a new gimmick to the peak of how it can all play out.
There isn't anything bigger than the Raw Women's Championship for female wrestlers on the red brand, and she's already won Money in the Bank and cashed it in to become the new titleholder.
Frustratingly, she already seems to be on the decline. Her first act as champion was to lose to her predecessor and to say she's OK with that.
Nikki is coming across like a transitional champion who doesn't deserve to hold the belt and may only retain at SummerSlam by a fluke. That isn't the strongest head of any division, and it's doubtful it will resonate with fans. People enjoy underdog stories for the chase element.
If this is the best for Nikki A.S.H. and she's just going to flounder until dropping the belt at SummerSlam, WWE will have deprived everyone of a natural babyface ascension and rushed straight to the point where nobody cares about her journey within a month.
Then, she'll just be a side attraction in a superhero outfit who loses matches every other week rather than a viable contender.
Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.