SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair def. Ruby Riott; Charlotte to battle Asuka at WrestleMania


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Like many a queen before her, SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair weathered the riot(t) and retained her throne at WWE Fastlane, turning away a strong challenge from Ruby Riott to send herself to WrestleMania … where an unexpected challenger awaits.

Riott, a relatively untested Superstar who was mounting her first title challenge in WWE, had hoped to do nothing less than bring down the “myth” of Charlotte Flair. She didn’t quite do that, though she did make The Queen look mortal, thanks to a perfectly-scouted game plan that will surely do wonders for Riott’s own fledgling reputation in WWE.

SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair fights tooth-and-nail against Ruby Riott to defend her title: Courtesy of the award-winning WWE Network.

Key to Riott’s efforts was the presence of The Riott Squad, who appeared out of nowhere after they apparently declined to accompany to their ringleader to the bout. The lingering threat of Sarah Logan and Liv Morgan forced Naomi and Becky Lynch to even the odds at ringside, but Riott began to dismantle the champion anyway with an array of moves that ranged from what commentator Corey Graves dubbed a “stage-dive senton” to a modified straitjacket with her knees burrowed into the small of Flair’s back. Each time Charlotte tried to mount a comeback, Ruby answered, making it seem for a good long while that a new champion was imminent.

Unfortunately, The Riott Squad got a little too cute for the ref’s taste; the official ended up ejecting all four ringside enforcers to bring the match back to a one-on-one affair. By that point, Charlotte had begun to rally, and she used her environment to her advantage as well, sending Riott face-first into the turnbuckle with what appeared to be a reverse Alabama Slam and putting her away with the one-two punch of a spear and Figure-Eight Leglock.

It was then, however, that Charlotte’s destiny became clear: Asuka, the Women’s Royal Rumble Match winner who had been presumed to be challenging Raw Women’s Champion Alexa Blissat WrestleMania, instead surfaced in a SmackDown ring with no warning given. The undefeated Empress of Tomorrow went face-to-face with The Queen and gestured to the WrestleMania sign, indicating that she had chosen to challenge Flair at The Showcase of the Immortals.

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