Natalya earns shot at Ronda Rousey’s title
Rousey came out to explain what led to her actions costing Lynch and Charlotte Flair in their title match at TLC. “I didn’t come here to justify my actions last night,” Rousey said, “I came here to define what a real champion is.” She offered a new tradition that champions who defend their titles one night after a pay-per-view and issued an open challenge. After a large group of contenders formed in Gorilla position and began arguing about who would come out, Stephanie came out to say she could no longer play favorites. She booked an eight-woman gauntlet match to determine Rousey’s title challenger next week on the Christmas Eve edition of Raw.
Raw Women’s Championship No. 1 Contendership — Natalya def. Sasha Banks via submission to end a Gauntlet Match: The third straight victory for Natalya within the match saw her fight off a series of submission reversals to finally force the tap out via sharpshooter against the fresh Banks. After the victory, Rousey entered the ring to hug and raise the arm of her friend and training partner. Following a tense look between both and a delayed handshake which brought boos from the crowd, they hugged once more to end the show. Order of elimination: Alicia Fox (Bayley), Dana Brooke (Bayley), Bayley (Mickie James), James (Ember Moon), Moon (Natalya), Ruby Riott (Natalya), Banks (Natalya).
WWE not only made the right decision in allowing the women’s triple threat match to main event TLC on Sunday, using the final hour of Raw to showcase its same division turned out to be an effective one as well. All of the matches were short, fast-paced and held a good deal of meaning considering a title shot was at stake. It was also a smart use of Rousey without overexposing her in an otherwise meaningless match. In the end, next week’s holiday episode seems the perfect setting for this match, even if it felt a bit anticlimactic that Natalya chose not to turn on Rousey to close the show. Grade: B