The Best WWE Women’s Matches Of 2018


It’s that time again, and like last year I’m here with my picks for the very best WWE Women’s Matches of 2018. This was the year that brought us WWE’s first all women’s PPV, the second Mae Young Classic, and the arrival of a legit sports celebrity into the WWE women’s division. So Saudi Arabia aside, I’d call it a pretty good year. Before we get going, some notes:

  • I’m leaving out NXT, mostly because the best women’s feud they had is already covered, in Brandon Stroud’s Ten Best NXT Matches list. If I was including NXT, for the record, Nikki Cross versus Shayna Baszler at NXT TakeOver Chicago II would absolutely make the list, and probably something involving Bianca Belair.
  • I’m also disqualifying mixed tag matches. This list is meant to highlight the women, so it seems fair to exclude matches involving men. Also, the Mixed Match Challenge was a lot of fun, but I don’t want to get bogged down in trying to compare all those fun comedy matches with the more serious storytelling discussed below. Apples and oranges, as far as I’m concerned. But yes, this also disqualifies Ronda Rousey’s debut match at WrestleMania.
  • Many women wrestlers who I like a lot spent most of 2018 in tag team matches. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy some of those matches, but none of them had any stakes to speak of. It sounds like that’s going to change with the introduction of women’s Tag Belts in 2019, so hopefully next year we’ll see more of the IIconics, Riott Squad, Fire and Desire, and yes, Sasha Banks and Bayley on lists like this.

10. Ronda Rousey vs Charlotte Flair – Survivor Series 2018

Everyone knows I don’t care for Ronda Rousey as a person or a talker, but I can’t deny she’s rapidly gotten better in the ring since debuting in the WWE. Unfortunately, she hasn’t had that many matches against really great wrestlers in the prime of their careers. Charlotte, of course, is one of the top three best women wrestlers in WWE, so naturally their match was going to be a standout. Even if it had been a standard match without the twist ending, it would have been great. Charlotte came at Ronda with everything she had, but Ronda’s not a typical wrestler and found new ways to counter Charlotte’s moveset. The two came off as very evenly matched, but not at all similar. If it hadn’t been for the Survivor Series storytelling that made it obvious Raw was sweeping, it would have seemed like the match could go either way.

Fortunately, it went a third way, which nobody saw coming. When Charlotte couldn’t quite put Ronda away, she snapped. She took the DQ for hitting Ronda with a kendo stick, but she didn’t stop there. Charlotte beat the hell out of Ronda with anything she could get her hands on, and it was great. I’m not just saying that because I don’t like Ronda — although I did find the beating as satisfying as most of the live crowd seemed to. It was great because it was something that hadn’t really happened to Ronda yet, and she took that beating like a real pro wrestler. The heel turn was the right move for Charlotte in that moment as well. You won’t usually find a lot of matches that end in DQs on top ten lists, but this one had perfect storytelling, and the finish was a key part of that.

9. Women’s Royal Rumble Match – Royal Rumble 2018

The best thing about this match is that it felt exactly like the best men’s Royal Rumbles. It wasn’t somehow different because it was women, despite all of commentary’s “so historic” rhetoric. It had a ton of returning legends, including quite a few genuine surprises. It had comedy spots, like Vicki Guerrero coming in with a mic. It had callbacks to old feuds, like Asuka versus Ember Moon and Trish Stratus versus Mickie James. It had betrayals of enduring partnerships, like Natalya eliminating Beth Pheonix. It even had callbacks to old betrayals of enduring partnerships, like Nikki Bella eliminating Brie.

The ending of the match, which came down to Asuka and the Bella Twins, and then just Asuka and Nikki, felt like the WWE women’s division’s past versus its future, which added stakes to the drama of those final moments. Everyone could easily imagine that despite Asuka’s winning streak, and despite Nikki Bella’s lingering neck issues and recent absence from the ring, Nikki might well be the winner WWE wants for their first Women’s Royal Rumble. So when Asuka finally managed to eliminate Nikki, you really felt like the Empress had won on behalf of Tomorrow. Sure, you could look at the rest of the year that followed and question how much that meant, but even rewatching the Rumble now, it still feels meaningful, and that’s what really matters in pro wrestling.

8. Asuka vs. Naomi – SmackDown (December 18, 2018)

Naomi was one of the women who spent most of 2018 in tag team matches, and in fact she mostly tagged with Asuka, who didn’t have much to do of consequence between the end of her streak at WrestleMania (we’ll get to that) and winning the Smackdown Women’s Championship at TLC (we’ll get to that too). But here, during the week when the McMahon family promised an unlikely-sounding fresh start, the newly crowned Asuka really did seem to be starting fresh. It’s not that she stopped being friends with Naomi, it’s just that her killer instinct returned. Sometimes you dance and have fun with your best friend, and sometimes you kick them in the head over and over again because you’re keeping your damn championship. She also pauses on the ropes to yell at Charlotte and Becky in Japanese, and literally everything is better when Asuka is yelling in Japanese.

7. Toni Storm vs Io Shirai – WWE Evolution 2018

This is a rare PPV match in which both competitors were newcomers to the company, and there had to be a lot of people in the crowd and at home who didn’t really know them. Sure, much of the target audience for Evolution probably watched the Mae Young Classic (and for anyone who didn’t, you should), but even then you’d only have seen a small handful of matches from each of them. But whether you knew Toni or Io going in, this was a great introduction to them both. Io Shirai is one of the best wrestlers in the world, with the best moonsault there’s ever been, and Toni Storm is a really exciting up-and-comer who’s already so good you won’t believe who young she is (and once you know how young she is, you really won’t believe how long she’s been wrestling). Since Evolution, Shirai and Storm have gone on to make an impression on NXT and NXT UK, respectively, and frankly it was this match that made me want to catch up with both of those brands so I could see these women do more.

6. Asuka vs. Sasha Banks – Raw (January 29, 2018)

Okay yes, this match had one of those many spots where it looked like Sasha might have killed herself, but as Brandon has pointed out before, it’s when Sasha’s matches get dangerous that she often does her best work (which to be clear, is not great and probably a habit she should try and break). The point is that this match was super-intense, and got 15 minutes on the Raw after the Royal Rumble, where it made Asuka look amazing on the road to WrestleMania. It made Sasha look great too, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that she wasn’t particularly on the road to anywhere. Rewatching a match like this, though, will get you excited about the kind of work both of these women can do, as we contemplate our hopes for them both in 2019.

5. Meiko Satomura vs Mercedes Martinez – Mae Young Classic (October 3, 2018)

It almost feels like cheating to include this match on this list. Both of these women are multi-decade wrestling veterans, and neither of them has ever had a WWE contract. They were just stopping by to show the kids how things are done. Every match either of them had in the Mae Young Classic (or just about anywhere else) is absolutely worth watching, but when they got in the ring together it was on a whole other level. Meiko’s a legendary babyface, but you could see her frustration increase as Mercedes kept kicking out, until eventually she was literally roaring with anger as she drove Mercedes’ head into that mat again and again and again. The storytelling wasn’t subtle (not that wrestling should be), but it was perfect. The only thing that keeps this amazing match from going even higher on the list is how disconnected it is from the rest of WWE, whereas the rest of this list has at least some context within ongoing storylines.

4. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair – Hell in a Cell 2018

This is the match that proved it was all going to work. WWE was still trying to make Becky Lynch a full heel and Charlotte Flair a sympathetic babyface, even though fans were having none of it. But watching these two tell their story in the ring made it clear that their feud worked, and would continue to work, whether their bosses understood what worked about it or not. The finish wasn’t the greatest—Becky won clean, but it still kind of felt like we were supposed to think her victory was “stolen” because it’s fast and opportunistic. Nevertheless, after this match it all came together. Becky became The Man, and WWE accepted that this was a story about her, not Charlotte Flair. That led to Charlotte’s aforementioned heel turn, and the Smackdown Women’s Division continuing to dominate the entire company.

3. Asuka vs Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch, TLC Triple Threat – TLC 2018

A 23-minute main event that absolutely earned that status and justified that length, this match cemented Becky Lynch as The Man whether she’s the champion or not, coalesced Charlotte Flair’s character into the best heel she’s ever been, and reestablished Asuka as a force to be reckoned with. The spots here were as brutal as any TLC match has ever been. Asuka flipped Becky onto a ladder and then laughed at her pain, but that’s nothing compared to Becky jumping off a ladder and landing directly on Charlotte’s ribs. At the moment we all thought we might see Charlotte get carried out on a stretcher, but somehow she got up and kept wrestling, because she’s a Flair. Even the ending, where Ronda Rousey ran in and tipped Becky and Charlotte’s ladder to enable Asuka’s win, worked because it kept the larger storylines going, and Asuka had already done so much great work in the match that she didn’t feel undeserving.

2. Charlotte Flair vs Asuka – WrestleMania 34

In case you forgot during her summer of dancing with Naomi and losing to Carmella, Asuka came into this match riding high on a 914-day winning streak that began with her first match in NXT and went unbroken until this match. A lot of fans didn’t even want that match to end here, but looking back on it now, 914 days is a long time, and there was nobody better to end that streak than Charlotte Flair.

The match opened with Charlotte as a sun goddess, being accompanied to the ring by Roman Centurions, set against the original “Also Sprach Zarathustra” before her usual hard rock remix of it began. This match was wrestling as epic myth in the most literal sense, and it’s no surprise it stole the show at WrestleMania. Asuka and Charlotte had never had a one-on-one match before (they’d only been in the ring together in the Mixed Match Challenge), and they were perfectly matched here. When Charlotte won, it felt like Asuka was actually relieved — at last she’d found someone worth of defeating her, and didn’t have to carry the burden of that streak any farther. At last, someone was ready for Asuka.

1. Becky Lynch vs Charlotte Flair, Last Woman Standing – WWE Evolution 2018

One of my favorite things about pro wrestling is that whenever you’re watching two former friends try their damnest to kill each other, there’s another level on which you’re watching two current friends working together to put on an amazing show. That’s what this match was all about — these two former/current best friends were trying to legit murder each other, and you can only make that entertaining in pro wrestling by really caring about each other. There was no locking up here, no feeling each other out. They both knew what they’d come for, and that was murder. Murder and the Smackdown Women’s Championship. Sure, the ref had a hard time deciding what counts as getting to your feet, but Becky and Charlotte gave it so much that it barely mattered. The Man retained, as we all knew she had to, but she had to bury the Queen under rubble and debris to make it happen. WWE Evolution was a fantastic show, and this was the match of the night for a reason. Becky Lynch became The Man at TLC, but she showed us what that meant at Evolution.