Last week, a tide turned in the women’s division. Paige returned to the dismay of both Mickie James and Sasha Banks, in a moment that many wrestling fans had long been waiting for. However, she wasn’t alone; she returned alongside two NXT debutants, Sonya Deville and Mandy Rose.
So, who exactly are the latest additions to the Raw women's division?
The story so far
Sonya Deville is a fierce 24-year-old from New Jersey with a legitimate background in MMA, having trained in one form of fighting or another since the age of 16. She holds a 2-1 MMA record, with both wins coming in the Californian Fight League. She initially joined the WWE for Tough Enough in 2015, but was signed to a developmental contract despite her elimination.
She made her NXT debut at a house show on December 20th, 2015 against Nia Jax under her real name, Daria Berenato. She would compete under this name until May of this year, when she re-debuted under her current name. It’s quite a surprising call up seeing as she has taken part in just 158 professional wrestling matches (according to cagematch.net), only 10 of which made it to TV.
Mandy is a 26-year-old from New York and is another one of WWE’s Tough Enough success stories, after she finished second in the 2015 edition of the show. She, like Deville, was signed to a developmental deal but also featured on WWE’s reality show, Total Divas. Unlike Deville, she has no previous fighting background or independent experience.
She made her NXT debut at a house show on January 30th, 2016 in Florida and later made her TV debut in August 2017, featuring in a six-woman tag match alongside Deville. She has a reputation for her physical fitness, featuring in multiple fitness publications, such as Fitness Gurls and FitFemme.
As expected, Deville's in-ring style relies heavily on her MMA past. Donning the traditional fight gear and gloves, she fires a warning to anyone daring to cross her. Her strikes are by far her best quality in the ring, which is unsurprising given her background, as well as being solid on the mat. You can expect to see many submission finishers in her future, putting personal twists on the armbar and possibly the Kimura, if WWE allows her to use one of Brock Lesnar’s favorite holds.
The main problem with Sonya is that, apart from being an ex-MMA hard-as-nails superstar, she doesn’t really have much else going for her. Her showmanship isn’t great, and we’re yet to see any real work on the microphone from her, which isn’t unusual from a newer star. Perhaps this is why she’s immediately been put with Paige, giving her a mentor and protecting her until she develops her character and mic work.
Mandy is fitness fanatic, and it’s clear that her background is in working in the gym, not the wrestling ring. This isn’t necessarily a criticism, but it is part of her character and they make a point of her fitness. Her moveset has become visibly smoother since she debuted, and she is clearly building upon her athletic background.
She provides a greater sense of stagecraft within the ring, which is important for her character being more important to her overall persona than Deville's. Deville can get away with being a straight up brute, but Mandy needs something to fall back on. Hopefully this week we will see an example of her mic skills and see her character develop more.
Sonya is more suited to a fast route to the title, due to her MMA style. It suites WWE’s bully-esque no-nonsense heel role. Simply developing herself into a brutal striker can definitely push her towards the title, especially considering the title merry-go-round that has fallen upon the women’s division in the last 18 months. In many respects, that no-nonsense, smashmouth role is already aptly filled by Nia Jax, who is unquestionably higher up the ladder when it comes to the title picture. Nonetheless, if she can develop her mic work, Deville's background would maker her a believable candidate to ascend to the belt in a short time frame.
Unfortunately, I don’t really see Rose ever holding the gold in Raw or Smackdown’s current state. She hasn’t got a unique enough character and if she isn’t carful, she could fall foul to the Dana Brooke dilemma of being a sidekick for so long that she flounders as a singles performer.
Saying that, I could definitely see her one day having a push towards the title in a Money In The Bank situation. She ticks a lot of the aesthetic boxes that sadly still hold sway over how the women's division is perceived, and she has a lot of the traits needed to play the role of "the opportunist" that the briefcase has done wonders for in the past.
Do you think the two newcomers will be a success on Raw? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!