When WWE Evolution was announced, I was excited. A lot of people were. This really did feel like the culmination of something that started with Emma and Paige and the Four Horsewomen in NXT. Sure, Stephanie McMahon was in the ring making herself the center of attention, but how else were they going to announce a women-only PPV?
The thing is, I’ve been frustrated for a while (at least since the signings that came with the first Mae Young Classic) that WWE is building this giant pool of female talent, but giving them nowhere to go. Sure, they’ve progressed to sometimes having two or even three women’s segments on Raw and SmackDown, but that’s not a lot when you have such a full division. There’s the top of the women’s card (Nikki B, Ronda, Becky, Charlotte, Alexa), then there are the midcarders who could easily be at the top and have been before (Asuka, Naomi, Bayley, Sasha), plus the sort of permanent undercard (Mickie, Foxy, Dana, etc), and then the promising newer women who are still waiting their turn (Ember, Riott Squad, IIconics, etc). Underneath that are the women at the top of NXT (Shayna, Kairi, Nikki C) who are waiting to get called up, and then all the other NXT women who are still working toward getting to the top of that division. That’s a vast amount of talented women that you’re trying to eventually channel onto Raw or Smackdown, but you’re not making any room for them there.
So when I found out about the women’s PPV, I was excited not just for the show itself, but for the build-up. Knowing how WWE works, I figured they’d have to establish multiple feuds and storylines across the brands to make meaningful matches for Evolution. That’s literally how wrestling has worked for decades. You have a PPV coming up, so you tell a bunch of stories about why the people on that PPV want to fight each other, and then you enjoy it when they do.
So imagine my surprise when WWE just decided not to do any of that. Sure, they built the Raw Women’s Championship feud, featuring the still-pretty-new Ronda Rousey and the newly returned Bella Twins, and then they kept the existing feuds going for the Smackdown and NXT women’s titles. After that we’ve got two meaningless tag matches, one of which features returning legends, and the other seems to mostly exist to avoid the heat of putting Nattie Niedhart or any of the NXT Horsewomen into the Battle Royale. Because yes, after the MYC Finals, the only other match is a Battle Royal, featuring multiple former champions and other women who could have carried matches of their own.
The truth is that I will probably enjoy all of these matches, including the Battle Royal. I know the wrestlers are going to give it their all, and I know that they know that if anyone’s going to be impressed by this PPV, and if there’s going to be a chance of another (perhaps better) Evolution in 2019, it’s on them to make a mark. I fully expect them to rise to this occasion. However, that doesn’t mean the PPV couldn’t be better if it were booked well, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’m letting WWE off the hook for booking it badly.
I don’t want to make this about fantasy booking, but it’s easy to point out some missed opportunities. They could have opened the show with Bayley and Sasha versus the Riott Squad back to back with Asuka and Naomi versus the Iconics, and then have the two winning teams fight later on the card for the WWE Women’s Tag Team Belts. They could have had Nia Jax versus Ember Moon for Number One Contendership on Raw, and Carmella versus Sonya Deville for the same thing on Smackdown. They could do all of this and more, and still have a Battle Royale with more space in it for legends and upcoming NXT stars.
Unfortunately, building those matches would have taken TV time away from the Sad Dad returns of DX and the Brothers of Destruction, and the build to a totally meaningless “World Cup” tournament that exists purely for the pleasure of a murderous autocratic Saudi Arabian regime. It’s bad enough that WWE can’t be bothered to properly build their women’s PPV, but it’s even more insulting that they’re using that time instead to build to a PPV that shouldn’t even be happening, at which women aren’t even allowed to perform.