We reported here earlier today that Eva Marie has been suspended for 30 days following some form of Wellness Policy violation—the details of which are still uncertain. Maybe she drank from the same cup Paige and Alberto Del Rio used or red dye #5 has been added to the list of banned substances…who knows? One way or another, this means she will definitely be sitting out this Sunday’s SummerSlam pay-per-view, where she was scheduled to compete in a six-woman tag team match.
Ironically enough, this is a case where real life has imitated art. Since Eva Marie’s gimmick as of late has been that she doesn’t actually wrestle, it’s funny to think that there’s a legitimate excuse this time for why she would be announced for a match and then not show up ready to go. But while the other times were planned to be part of the show, this situation leaves WWE in a predicament: what now?
Option 1) Nothing Changes
Following the initial report of her suspension, Richard Staple posted an update courtesy of WWE which specified a change to the match. Currently, it is listed as a 2-on-3 handicap match with Eva Marie simply being taken out of the picture. What if that was the basic outline of the match that had been planned from the start, though? Judging by her track record, it would have been expected for Eva Marie to not actually compete in the match at all for some reason and for that to be the downfall of her team, since they would be at a disadvantage.
Conversely, there’s a chance this was going to set up a spot where Eva Marie did nothing and somehow found her way getting the pin for her team and hogging all the glory. If that were the case, this match needs to change entirely, but if the former scenario was the plan all along, the only difference is that we won’t see a fake excuse happen on the spot.
I can’t imagine this was going to be her coming out party (so to speak) where she would actually get her hands dirty and wrestle, since it isn’t a singles match where the focal point is on the payoff of this flake angle. Also, this match has more of a chance than anything to be relegated to the pre-show, which means it would be even less likely to feature something so prominent.
My guess is we would have had Eva stand on the ring apron while Alexa Bliss and Natalya did all the work, and by the time she would be tagged in, she’d be distracted or called away for some reason, never even stepping in the ring. We won’t be seeing her in the ring now for sure, so it all ends up in the same spot in that regard and nothing needs to be changed about how to book this match.
Option 2) Maryse
Let’s just say for argument’s sake that WWE wanted something more than for her Eva Marie to sit this out, and now, the pressure is on to deliver a real six-woman tag team match. The biggest problem with that situation is that there are only six women on the SmackDown roster, so mathematically, that doesn’t work.
That is, of course, unless you count Maryse, who technically is part of the roster, but hasn’t been classified as an in-ring competitor at all since her return to the company several months back. She’s given some slaps and been involved in some ringside antics here and there, but since helping The Miz win the Intercontinental Championship, Maryse has not wrestled a single match.
WWE’s adjustment to the match teased that Natalya and Alexa would possibly recruit a new member to their team, and the only other woman on that roster just so happens to be a fellow blonde, a heel, and to counteract the Eva Marie factor, someone who isn’t wrestling but makes her presence known simply by how insanely attractive she is. That’s as perfect of a fit as you can ask for, right?
Option 3) Nikki Bella
The news was flowing today as we also received word that Nikki Bella may be cleared to compete by WWE doctors, allowing her to return to in-ring action soon. Just how soon is that? If Sunday is on the table, perhaps Nikki can be the replacement to offset Eva Marie’s absence.
What hurts the plausibility of this greatly is that there’s clearly a divide between heels and babyfaces, and I can’t imagine Nikki coming back as a heel, but stranger things have happened. In fact, that could even be an element to the match, where Nikki joins Natalya and Alexa only to fail to get along with them, arguing and costing them the match.
What helps the chances that this could happen, though, is not just the timing of this announcement, but the brand association. Nikki is still dating John Cena, who is on the SmackDown side of things with Daniel Bryan, who is of course married to Brie Bella, Nikki’s sister. If she’s returning in any capacity, one would have to assume she’s going to SmackDown and not Raw, opening her up to being thrown into the mix with these six (now five) women.
This could be the reintroduction of Nikki as a welcome back that has more eyes on it than it would have had she just made a random appearance on SmackDown in a few weeks. It is the biggest party of the summer, after all.
Option 4) Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
The only other option I can see being available is for WWE to grab one of the women from Raw or NXT who aren’t otherwise preoccupied. This is a bit of a stretch, as the whole point of this match essentially revolves around the growing tension of the SmackDown roster, so it would be weird to see an outsider show up and then disappear after this event, but it’s still a cross-branded pay-per-view, which allows for some flexibility.
Obviously, Paige wouldn’t be that woman, as she’ll be serving her suspension as well. Sasha Banks and Charlotte have their title match, so they’re out of the running. Lana will be busy with Rusev, so she’s a no-go. Alicia Fox, Dana Brooke, Summer Rae and Nia Jax, however, are all free, as Fox and Rae have been doing nothing lately, Jax has destroyed jobbers and Brooke is banned from ringside for Charlotte’s match.
Most of the women from NXT don’t fit the bill, as they’re predominantly babyfaces and if they were ready to be called up to the main roster, they would have done so during the draft. Certainly, Bayley’s official ascension isn’t going to be to team with two heels here, nor will someone like Aliyah go from being a relatively fresh jobber in developmental to a featured player and big fish in the small pond of SmackDown.