LOP on Facebook LOP on Twitter LOP on Google Plus LOP on Youtube LOP's RSS Feed

Home | Headlines | News | Results | Columns | Radio | Forums | Contact

Posted in: Doctor's Orders
Doctor's Notes - Women's Division Power Rankings & The Bankable Match Pitting Charlotte Flair Against Alexa Bliss (Prev: HHH, War Games, Survivor Series)
By The Doc
Nov 17, 2017 - 12:37:28 PM

”The Doc” Chad Matthews has been a featured writer for LOP since 2004. Initially offering detailed recaps and reviews for WWE's top programs, he transitioned to writing columns in 2010. In addition to his discussion-provoking current event pieces, he has written many acclaimed series about WrestleMania, as well as a popular short story chronicle. The Doc has also penned a book, The WrestleMania Era: The Book of Sports Entertainment, published in 2013. It has been called “the best wrestling book I have ever read” and holds a worldwide 5-star rating on Amazon, where it peaked at #3 on the wrestling charts.

War Games, Plus Survivor Series Trends

Best Thing About Monday Night Raw

Women's Division Power Rankings

Women's Division Power Rankings & The Bankable Match Pitting Charlotte Flair Against Alexa Bliss

QUESTION OF THE DAY: What is your overall assessment of women's wrestling in 2017 to date, particularly as compared to how it fared in 2016?

Several weeks ago, when the champion vs. champion addition to the Raw vs. Smackdown theme at Survivor Series was announced, there was only one such match that intrigued whatsoever, but key changes across the line-up over the past eleven days have now made all but one particularly engaging. Flying under the radar among the revised set of champ-champ bouts is Raw Women's Champion Alexa Bliss vs. the new Smackdown Women's Champion Charlotte Flair, which pits against each other the two top females in 2017 according to yours truly's 2017 power rankings of all the main roster females (see below).

Extracting Asuka from the equation, Alexa vs. Charlotte is the most intriguing marquee match-up possible right now and, as the weekend has drawn ever nearer, I find myself quite curious to see how their respective personas and in-ring styles will mesh on Sunday. Bliss has not, as of yet, ever faced anyone in a high profile situation that is so much bigger than her, one-on-one. Her craftiness has been a staple of her performances and she has gotten her routine down to a science in the past twelve months, but how she will adapt her game to match Flair's athletic superiority and considerably larger stature piques my interest, as does the possibility of discovering Alexa’s ability to rise to the occasion to produce a next-level effort opposite the other half of the greatest women’s matches in WWE lore. The Goddess is reminiscent of Miz prior to The Awesome One’s 2016 surge to a higher plane of in-ring expectation, more than capable of a lower-tier three-star match that adds to the quality of a card, but not someone who has yet shown that she can steal the show with a four-star caliber performance.

Of course, Charlotte’s finest work is firmly in the distant past at this point, so her career could certainly use a boost from four-star accolades (three-and-a-half might suffice) at Survivor Series in her own right. She was a victim of Smackdown Live’s fascination with trends that caused there to be a Women’s Revolution in the first place, such as throwing 5/8ths or more of the female roster into the same match each month and eliminating that ever so important thing I have been harping on throughout the year called roster positioning. This could be the best chance Flair has had to showcase the full range of her squared circle skills since her February Raw main-event with Bayley.

The Women's Division Power Rankings

The following Top 5 is based on the combined average position of each female across two categories: in-ring performance (not pure ability) and strength (and definition) of character

(Tie) #5 – Becky Lynch – The Lass Kicker has had a down year in between the ropes, mostly through no fault of her own. She is still more than capable when the bell rings, but Smackdown's strange half-year stretch when roster positioning was cast aside for Naomi to rise from bit player to champion and for every woman on the blue brand to be stuck in a seemingly endless run of giant cluster matches stripped away virtually any chance Lynch could have had to be a featured PPV player (ranked 7th in performance). Nevertheless, she remains the best-rounded, most over pure babyface (4th) on either roster, with naturally likeable charisma fueling her “Straight Fire.”

(Tie) #5 – Natalya – I find her to be the most genuinely dislikable character on either roster, male or female. She reminds me of this really annoying girl that I knew in high school that I tried my best not to be as bothered by as everyone else, but who truly earned my irritation. Nevertheless, she still has no screen presence and can’t cut an engaging promo, so she ranks 7th in the personality department. She has been in the right role as a heel, though, and her match quality has benefited from it (4th).

#4 – Sasha Banks – The Legit Boss remains the top worker in either women’s division, combining with the widest variety of stylistically unique talents to produce really good matches than any of her female peers. Throughout the year, she delivered a top notch effort whenever she was approaching the fringe of becoming less relevant (she is on that precipice again). Unfortunately, she is an awful, erratic protagonist near the bottom of the Top 10 in the character rankings. If my daughter grows up acting like that – in other words, if Banks as a persona is a model for ideal behavior – then God help me.

#3 – Nia Jax – Nobody has improved more throughout the year than Rock’s cousin. She has followed a comparable but lesser growth pattern as Braun Strowman, finding her comfort zone as a dominant force in the ring without it becoming overbearing (5th). Nia remains at her best in multi-women matches, but over the summer she showed against Banks that she could have a great singles match all by herself. I’m excited to see what more she can offer both on the 20’x20’ canvas and in the character department, where she has gained confidence and well-defined herself (5th).

#2 – Charlotte Flair – It has been a tale of two halves of the year for the former face of women’s wrestling in WWE, the first marked by the final stages of the most successful run any female has ever had in the WrestleMania Era and the second marred by the weird decision to turn her babyface, a role that does not particularly suit her personality. I still place her 3rd in the character rankings, though, because I feel like I have a firm grasp on who she is and who she is supposed to be; she reminds me of her father as a protagonist because, when she gets emotional like she did this week on Smackdown, I find her to be very endearing (her hug with Naitch gave me goosebumps). In the ring, the bar has been lowered from last year’s peak, but Charlotte has remained one of the most consistent performers in the women’s game.

#1 – Alexa Bliss – One of the major topics of conversation about the step back taken by women’s wrestling in 2017, at least in some circles, has been centered on Alexa’s ascent to the alpha position in the company. Fans who want the best possible wrestling think she is a major part of the problem, claiming her ceiling to be the three-star match (still good for 3rd given her consistency) that she seems to have every month. The thing is, if she can take the next step and prove that her ceiling has not already been reached in the ring, then nobody will be able to touch her (at least not until Banks turns heel / gets the chance to really run hard as a heel); Bliss is far and away the best character and best promo that we have seen in the women’s division since Trish Stratus in 2004.

Monday Night Raw, Triple H Elevate Intrigue For Survivor Series

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Did Raw amplify or hinder your desire to watch Survivor Series this Sunday?

In yesterday’s Survivor Series and War Games-themed discussion, I stated that the continued restoration project of the traditional Elimination Match’s stature had laid part of the solid foundation for this weekend’s special event double-header. That was not intended to imply that the build to the spotlight men’s 5-on-5 this year had worked for me, however. In fact, all of the versions in Fall Classic titular gimmick lore mentioned (’01, ’03 to ’05, ’14, and ’16) had much stronger builds, in my opinion, than the one we will see possibly headline Sunday’s card. This year, I have had a really hard time buying into the brand supremacy stuff if for no other reason (among several) than because nobody who got drafted to one show and moved to another in the Shake-Up would logically have had time to establish brand identity; and what does John Cena care given his recent free agent status? Creative inconsistency doomed this concept from the start in 2017, but bad creative does not always overshadow good intentions.

The strength of the overall build to Survivor Series this year has been two-fold: first, its expansion of the Raw vs. Smackdown concept to pit all comparable champions against each other (plus New Day vs. Shield) and, second, its purposeful booking strategy of keeping the various participants in each match up in the air. That last point might stir up some comments to the contrary, but each bout that received an alteration since the build to Survivor Series began, post-TLC, underwent its change in course as a result of a story already being told (AJ replacing Jinder, The Bar replacing the fractionated Shield, and possibly Charlotte replacing Natalya – all rivalries that began several weeks in advance of the alteration); and frankly that last point is the most important one. WWE reminded us during The Authority’s peak that it was at its creative best when it developed a singular arc that incorporated a wide variety of personalities throughout the hierarchy and, though I have not been at all enamored with the basic concept of brand supremacy via the storyline bridging the participants in the men’s (or women’s) 5-on-5, I do appreciate the basic concept of involving so many talents in one over-arching narrative.

I would encourage anyone who shares my disinterest in the brand supremacy angle to instead go into Sunday’s traditional Elimination Match focused on the more viable tensions among both teammates and opposition built reasonably well over the last month and particularly well last night on Monday Night Raw. The go-home show from the flagship left some interesting questions unanswered, with it being fairly clear that the McMahons have little faith in Kurt Angle to lead Team Raw to victory and the implications that a loss could have on his status as (a palate-cleansing, mostly background) GM, with Triple H replacing Jason Jordan as the team’s 5th member and what that could mean in the present and near future (WrestleMania Season is fast approaching), with Jordan’s highly emotional plea to remain on the team being shunned and how he might respond come Sunday, and with Braun Strowman and The Big Red Monster-Machine ending the show having been driven through the ring and what further actions Citizen Kane might take during the 5-on-5. That does not even account for the Balor-Joe arc or any of the beefs that will drive the inter-brand warfare aspect of the match. 2016’s semi-main-event gloriously succeeded by telling a layered story; there is enough meat there for 2017 to pull off something of similar quality.

To me, the main course at Survivor Series will be the borderline dream matches featuring Styles vs. Lesnar and New Day vs. Shield, with a little bit of mid-card champion vs. champion action offering a nice dessert; the Elimination bouts are a side dish comparable to green bean casserole, which if made well could absolutely be a fine addition to the meal, but which could just as easily flop from overcooking or the wrong balance of beans and sauce. The men’s 5-on-5 will have to be “cooked” exceptionally well because, admittedly, though I am trying to stay in the moment and appreciate my yearly dose of “green bean casserole,” the fact that this match features four part-timers when KO and Sami are sitting the bench and the idea that some combination of Shane, Angle, and Trips is on deck for WM34 are the equivalents of eating a casserole that you know is likely to upset your stomach afterwards.

The Return of War Games, Continuation of Positive Survivor Series Trend Lay Foundation For Big Weekend

This weekend marks the return of War Games, a gimmick that was aesthetically always cool even if its quality was not always excellent, as well as the continuation of the trend to renew the stature of the traditional Survivor Series Match. Triple H has revived WCW’s most memorable stipulation-innovation and has attached it to the main-event of NXT Takeover in Houston; Vince McMahon has ensured that the Elimination Tag will not just be a fun little afterthought. For me, those two decisions have laid the foundation for this year’s Fall Classic weekend.

I found it annoying over the past decade or so when WWE would put little to no thought into the titular match that made Survivor Series famous. At the turn of the century, it seemed that McMahon and Co. had figured out the high-end value of their annual November PPV’s original signature, as the 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005 versions were all critically acclaimed and lucrative at the box office. The WWF’s rivalry with the WCW/ECW Alliance was ready-made for an Elimination Tag conclusion from a creative standpoint, and there was additionally the opportunity to tell a deeply layered story in order to maximize fan investment in the fiction, as well, that the participants took full advantage of. Eric Bischoff’s power struggle with Steve Austin on Raw was a perfect fit for the gimmick too, and the standard that all involved set in 2003 is still talked about today among the greatest matches ever. Neither Team Orton vs. Team Triple in ’04 nor the original Raw vs. Smackdown bout in ’05 were quite able to achieve the upper limits of overall success that did their prior year counterparts, but they were each four-star efforts that elevated the Survivor Series to annual host of some of the greatest team-oriented matches in WWE lore.

Survivor Series never performed more consistently, in terms of pay-per-view buys, than it did during that stretch, a period during which the Elimination Match became the focal point of each show. Inexplicably, the next decade largely abandoned that formula, including the strong team builds and the considerable stakes. Survivor Series, as an event, suffered the critical and financial consequences, only rarely coming close to the buyrates achieved at its ’01-’05 peak and floundering to the point that Vince reportedly wanted to do away with his second longest running PPV after the ’09 edition.

Fortunately, 2017 marks the third event in four years to return the Elimination Match to its previous stature. WWE has taken care creatively to bring conflicts to a head, beginning with the peak of the second chapter in The Authority’s history in 2014 and continuing more recently with the battles for brand supremacy, that fans are invested in seeing climax in the traditional Survivor Series match. The results have been stellar. I would argue 2014 overtook 2003 as the new standard-bearer, as its combination of pre-match hype and night-of story (not to mention the intangible quality of Sting making his long-awaited WWE debut) are untouchable in the gimmick’s 30 year library; and last year’s moved comfortably into third place in my all-time Elimination Tag Match rankings (behind ’03 and ’14 and ahead of ’01). Truthfully, I am not as engaged with this year’s version, but my minimum expectation is an ’05 rehash (and that’s not a bad thing).

As for War Games, I for one have long been interested in seeing how WWE would handle it. Nobody produces a pro wrestling show like WWE, so mixing the visual appeal of the War Games Match with WWE’s production value has me teeming with excitement. Do yourself a favor and do not let your expectations get out of control if you are not overly familiar with the gimmick because its quality was known for being hit or miss, and because there are some major questions to be answered about WWE’s use of it. War Games was traditionally a very bloody affair and, since the absence of blood will remove some of the gimmick’s trademark violence, one of the biggest question marks surrounds what innovative techniques Triple H and Co. have up their sleeves to make up for no crimson masks. 1992’s Sting’s Squadron vs. The Dangerous Alliance is the blueprint to follow, as it was the best version in stipulation lore not because of violence but because of supremely confident booking and a mastery of small details; in fact, give War Games ’92 the production boost from WWE (camera work especially) and it would probably be regarded as a Top 25 all-time match (and maybe it still should be – to this day, it’s that good). Then again, ’92 and only about two to three other versions remain rewatchable.

Cautious optimism is smart. In fact, that is probably a good theme for the entirety of this upcoming weekend’s NXT/WWE slate.

  • Doctor’s Orders: Should The Ultimate Deletion Open Doors or Did It Prove Why Certain Doors Should Remain Closed?

  • Doctor's Orders: The Top 50 Cruiserweight Matches in WCW and WWE History (#21-#30)

  • Doctor's Orders: The Top 50 Cruiserweight Matches in WCW and WWE History (#31-#40) - The Neville Section

  • Doctor’s Orders: The Match That Defines YOUR WrestleMania Experience (w/ Raw Thoughts)

  • Doctor's Orders: The Top 50 Cruiserweight Matches in WCW and WWE History (#41-#50)

  • Doctor’s Orders: RAW…IS…Promo Class - How Monday Night Changed the Tone of WrestleMania Season

  • Doctor’s Orders: If Only Vince McMahon Liked Ice Cream

  • Doctor’s Orders: Monday Night Rollins – The Architect Offers Raw’s Most Memorable Performance In Ages

  • Doctor’s Orders: The Great Irony of My Wrestling Fandom

  • Doctor's Orders: Polarizing Strowman Comedy, The 3-Hour Advantage, & Other Monday Night Raw Thoughts