Clash of Champions 2017 Spotlight: Lumberjack Match for the SmackDown Women’s Championship

I’m back! Paige reference aside, it’s been a little while but with SmackDown presenting Clash of Champions tonight, it’s time for another Spotlight! And actually quoting Paige is fairly appropriate, because with all the turnover of personnel in the Women’s division since Survivor Series, I’m focusing on the SmackDown Women’s Championship Lumberjack match between Charlotte Flair and Natalya.

First things first – it’s a Lumberjack match. At the very least that means there is a depth in numbers that is unprecedented in either show’s roster since the brand split. For me that s both a good thing and a bad thing. It establishes more women on the main roster, which opens up possibilities. Bear in mind that tonight we have eight women on a SmackDown PPV, and Becky Lynch is away filming a movie. Suddenly we have a really strong women’s roster.

Becky Lynch
Becky Lynch is set to return soon after filming a movie

But too often we’ve found it’s not a lack of talent or potential that holds the division as a whole back, it’s the creative team’s inability to write secondary stories (which to be fair doesn’t just affect the women’s division). So having more cards to play will also likely mean more cards will be left on the sidelines for extended periods of time. Again, that’s not just a criticism of the writing of the Women’s division, that’s indicative of an overcrowded roster in general.

One possibility that has been strongly rumoured since the arrivals of Absolution and the Riott Squad to the main roster is that we will finally see an all-women’s Royal Rumble match next month. I’ve already written that I would do exactly that. Excluding champions, we now have 10 women on Raw and 9 active women on SmackDown. So even if you were to have title matches, a 20-women Royal Rumble is very achievable. Taking out champions and contenders, you could have 17 women, throw in the returns of the Bella Twins and a one-off legend’s appearance and you have your 20 easily.

But back to the present day SmackDown division. I think they’re in need of a show stealer. One thing the women’s division in 2017 has lacked is that killer match, but with the Raw side having Alexa Bliss, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Nia Jax, Asuka and now Paige they’re not in any danger. SmackDown doesn’t have as big personalities, and frankly as a unit they don’t have as much star power. So to go back to the old perception: if Raw has the star power, the storylines, the characters – SmackDown needs to be about the wrestling.

Not many superstars – male or female – can compete with the inherent charisma of Asuka

Charlotte gets the biggest reaction of anyone on the blue brand, but since turning face has she had that highlight reel match? Natalya’s best match I think is generally agreed to be against Charlotte, but that was 3 and a half years ago in NXT. Becky Lynch is solidly popular, but she was also knocked off her perch as the face of the division by Alexa Bliss last year and has never recovered. Ruby Riott is very capable, but is as yet unproven in the eyes of the majority of main roster fans.

To really compete they need to be flat out better in the ring than Raw. That’s not going to be easy, but the way the shows are booked differently that is their best shot. But – and it’s not often I’m this negative in a Spotlight – I really can’t see that happening any time soon.

The best possible match up SmackDown can put together is Charlotte Flair vs Becky Lynch. But I think a Becky Lynch heel turn as it is would be a bit too jarring to really deliver, and I can’t see Charlotte turning heel any time soon, nor should she. The next best bet would probably be Charlotte vs Natalya, but tonight should be the end of their current feud and a lumberjack match is never conducive to match quality.

Riott Squad.jpg
Expect interference, and expect these three to be at the forefront of it

It’s understandable. The premise of the match means that there’s a natural story, which logically should be used. I’m not complaining about that, but straight one-on-ones tend to be better from a match quality standpoint. Part of that comes down to the screwy finishes that often accompany interference as the match breaks down, which can leave fans underwhelmed.

But tonight I think there’s a different element that can come into play with the dusty finish. There’s one thing that could put a twist in the SmackDown Women’s Championship story coming in to Wrestlemania season. That’s because at ringside, as one of the lumberjacks, will stand the first ever Ms. Money In The Bank.

Carmella mitb
Could a cash-in be coming tonight?

Aside from Carmella physically holding the briefcase, there haven’t really been any hints that a cash in is coming, but the turn of the year has traditionally been a popular time for the contract to be cashed in. And with the potential for chaos in the ring, with the Riott Squad acting as a forceful unit, the end of the match could see the champion incapacitated, and an opportunity arising for Carmella.

It almost makes too much sense not to do. Plus, as I alluded to before, we’re coming into Wrestlemania season. The babyface title-chase culminating at Wrestlemania historically is the best story WWE can tell, and there is a ready-made opportunity to pull that trigger this year. They should have done it last year with Bayley against Charlotte, but ironically Charlotte is now in a position to capitalise on that arc.

Carmella isn’t the answer for the match quality aspect of things I talked about before, but Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Natalya, Naomi and Ruby Riott jostling for position to dethrone the Princess of Staten Island at Wrestlemania can be. A cash in could be an opportunity not just for Carmella to make her mark, but WWE to show off the talent at their disposal. Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see.

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