Women in pro wrestling have come a long way. We've witnessed the divas division become the women's division, the first ever women's iron man match, Royal Rumble, Hell in a Cell match and the list goes on. However, Evolution, the first all-women's WWE pay-per-view, has to be considered the crowning achievement in women's wrestling.
The event featured pioneers such as Trish Stratus and Lita, new era standouts such as Charlotte Flair and Becky Lynch, up and comers such as Shayna Baszler and Toni Storm, as well as one of the pillars of women's sports, Ronda Rousey.
Tim Fiorvanti, Matt Wilansky and Sean Coyle will recap the action as the night unfolds.
Raw women's championship: Ronda Rousey (c) def. Nikki Bella
You could argue Ronda Rousey-Nikki Bella was a feud born out of desperation to get the champ an eye-catching match on a historic day.
You could argue Bella didn't deserve to be showcased in this event with so many other deserving women who have been working the arduous WWE calendar for years.
But you couldn't argue Bella was exactly the kind of opponent Rousey needed to take her championship reign to a new level. Since winning the title at SummerSlam, Rousey has not been engaged in any meaningful rivalry. Hence the act of betrayal from the Bella twins earlier this month.
While it was an almost impossible act to follow Becky-Charlotte, Rousey and Bella brought the heat with the challenger putting up good resistance throughout. Sure, it helped Nikki had sister Brie in her corner, and her antics helped Nikki stay afloat -- until Rousey caught both, lifted them on her shoulders and dumped them to the mat.
Still, Nikki more than held her own, including an Alabama Slam that gave her a two-count. But the momentum was short-lived.
A few minutes later, Rousey had regained her equilibrium and wits and locked in an armbar. That was it.
The crowd yelled with delight, just as they had the entire night. The women in the WWE brought it from Trish Status to Nia Jax and Toni Storm to Rousey.
As the show came to a close, the entire women's locker room came out to the ramp with Rousey, Becky and Stephanie McMahon front and center to thank the crowd.
But really, we should be thanking them for an unforgettable show.
Last woman standing SmackDown women's championship match: Becky Lynch (c) def. Charlotte Flair
What better way to encapsulate this monumental day, this monumental match, than from the mouth of Ric Flair?
"It's the most exciting sporting event I've ever been to or watched," he told espnW.com in a red-carpet event before the start of Evolution.
Imagine that. A 16-time world champ, a living legend who still carries an enormous amount of cachet, giving so much praise to an event he had little part in -- except for his daughter, Charlotte Flair, who was hoping to stop the momentum of SmackDown women's champion Becky Lynch in a Last Women's Standing match. No submissions, no disqualifications. Only incapacitation.
Good thing Ric was there, because there was perhaps no one else in the Nassau Coliseum cheering for his daughter. The crowd roared for their champ, and it grew only louder and louder.
The is a rivalry built on unadulterated contempt and jealousy. Not surprisingly, the match started off as a street fight. Fists, kicks and, yes, a Kendo Stick by Becky. Then chairs -- lots of chairs -- from both women were thrown into the ring. "ECW," the crowd sang.
At this point, both Becky and Charlotte were out of the ring, with the champ pounding the challenger with chair shot after chair shot. Back in the ring, Charlotte finally had a moment of redemption with a suplex on Becky that sent the champ into the pool of chairs. Becky then choke-slammed her foe into those same pile of chairs.
Then came the tables. Just like that, Charlotte found herself on the top rope but narrowly missed putting Becky through the table with a moonsault. Moments later, Charlotte climbed back up and, this time with a forward flip, stuck the champ through the table.
Kendo Sticks, chairs and tables weren't enough, though. It was ladder time. Somehow Charlotte was able to wrap Becky's legs inside the ladder and locked in a Figure 8. Becky squirmed and screamed, as did most of the fans in the stands until she was able to muster her way out of it by slamming a chair into Charlotte.
But really, who needs just ladders, when you have ... ladders and an announcer's table?
Becky climbed up and dropped an enormous leg drop on Charlotte, then pounded her with a flurry of fists. She then buried Charlotte in chairs and tables that that surely had to incapacitate Flair. Except it didn't. She somehow escaped on a nine count.
But Charlotte's escape act wouldn't last long. A few minutes later, Becky power-bombed Charlotte from the ringposts through a table for the 10-count. An amazing, brutal affair that left the crowd in a frenzy.
Ric Flair might not be happy with the result, but he surely won't dispute this was still the most exciting sporting event he has ever seen.
NXT women's championship: Shayna Baszler def. Kairi Sane (c)
The Kairi Sane-Shayna Baszler rivalry dates back to the tournament final of the inaugural Mae Young Classic in which Sane won the tournament. Baszler evened the score when the two met on NXT TV, but Sane's NXT Championship victory over Baszler at TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 has given her the advantage in the feud. Baszler looked to even the score on the grand stage of Evolution.
As "NXT" chants filled the arena, the heated rivals began trading advantages highlighted by a sliding forearm by Sane, but the champ's early successes were brought to an abrupt halt when Baszler tossed her shoulder-first into the steel steps on the outside of the ring. With that, Baszler had her target in Sane's left arm.
Baszler continued to torment Sane's arm throughout the match, but the fiery champion fought back at virtually every turn. Back fists, forearms and a spear out of nowhere, Sane brought the crowd to their feet with her comeback efforts.
The move of the match saw Sane dive off the top rope to the outside onto Baszler, however, as Sane tossed Sane back into the ring, one of the MMA four horsewomen, Jessamyn Duke, who was sitting in the front row, attempted to get involved. Sane caught her with a spinning back fist, then hastily climbed to the top rope in search of her insane elbow finisher, but another horsewomen, Marina Shafir emerged to slow her down, but was also caught with a Sane strike.
The numbers game quickly caught up to Sane as Duke finally caught Sane with a forearm behind the referee's back. That was enough to hurt Sane long enough for Baszler to lock in the kirifuda clutch for the victory.
With the win, Baszler becomes the first superstar in history to become a multiple-time NXT women's champion. The win likely means that Baszler will stick around NXT for a little while longer, but it could signify a main roster call-up for Sane.
Natalya, Bayley & Sasha Banks def. The Riott Squad
After a relentless bout of enthusiasm from the crowd -- and the performers -- in the first 90 minutes of Evolution, this three-on-three tag-team match came across more as a cooling off period -- at least in the first half of the match.
Neither Sasha nor Bayley has been immersed in a relevant storyline since ending the feud between them, and the Riott Squad has had only a handful of moments that have made us believe they can be a bona fide force on WWE television.
More than anyone, Bayley was able to keep the hysteria going for parts of the match, though she was slowed by the methodical, powerful Logan, who had the babyface corned and hurt.
With Banks pleading to come in, Bayley, mercifully, was able to make the tag. Not surprisingly, Banks cleaned house, taking out most of her frustration on Morgan until a 360 over the ropes went wrong and the triumvirate of villains caught her and slammed her into the barricade. That's when things really started to heat up.
Morgan caught Banks with a tremendous top-rope clothesline, but the momentum was short-lived as Natalya made her way into the ring and put a sharpshooter on both Ruby and Morgan.
Finally, after much mayhem, Bayley landed a Randy Savage-like elbow on Morgan, and Banks, perhaps in a tribute to Eddie Guerrero, connected with a frog splash to win it.
A great ending after a slow beginning. Given the response to Bayley in particular, here's hoping she finds some path to relevancy again.
Mae Young Classic Finals: Toni Storm def. Io Shirai
The 2018 version of the Mae Young Classic has undeniably been successful from an in-ring perspective. Show stealing matches like Mercedes Martinez versus Meiko Satomura and Toni Storm versus Satomura weren't just some of the best matches in the tournament, they were some of the best matches of the year overall.
On paper, Storm vs. Io Shirai offered the same type of appeal as two future pillars of the WWE women's division.
Technically sound opening sequences transitioned into some high octane athleticism and stiff strikes by both Storm and Shirai. The first highlight-worthy spot saw Shirai nail a springboard dropkick to Storm sending her from the top rope to the outside of the ring. She followed that up with a picture-perfect moonsault off the top rope.
The first near fall saw Storm hit her Storm zero tiger driver finisher, but Shirai kicked out to the roar of the crowd.
The intensity and premier storytelling continued as both superstars had the crowd in the palms of their hands. The bout concluded when Shirai attempted to land a second moonsault from the top rope, but Storm caught her with knees to the stomach. One more Storm-zero tiger driver later and Storm had won the 2018 Mae Young Classic tournament.
Storm and Shirai did everything in their power to deliver excitement in a condensed amount of time and they did just that. Remember what you saw here tonight; these two are going to be mega stars.
After the match, Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and NXT trainer Sara Amato entered the ring with flowers for both Storm and Shirai as well as the trophy for Storm.
Nia Jax wins 20-woman Battle Royal and earns a future title opportunity
Battle Royals are fun when you consider potential surprise entrants, but it becomes even more exciting when something is on the line. That was the case tonight as the winner of the battle royal would earn a future title opportunity. This bout seemed like the perfect opportunity to elevate a superstar into the upper echelon of their respective divisions.
Unlike the annual Royal Rumble event, the Battle Royal began with all participants in the ring at once. The participants included superstars from multiple eras ranging from WWE Hall of Famers Alundra Blayze and Ivory, to the first-ever Divas champion, Michelle McCool, to current stars such as Ember Moon, Asuka, Naomi.
The match began with the field eliminating Peyton Royce and Billie Kay after the IIconics insulted their opponents during their entrance. The current superstars then surrounded the legends and chaos ensued. Some highlight moments included Mandy Rose eliminating her tag team partner Sonya Deville, a combination suplex that saw four superstars suplex four others at once and a showdown between Nia Jax and Tamina.
As the field dwindled down, it appeared that the final four featured Moon, Asuka, Jax and Tamina. However, after Moon eliminated Asuka and Tamina, Zelina Vega, who had not been eliminated, reemerged and attempted to toss out Moon and Jax. She was unsuccessful, however, as Jax press slammed her over the top rope and onto Tamina. Jax followed that up by tossing out Moon and winning the match.
Depending on the outcome of the RAW women's championship match later tonight, it appears that we'll either see a renewal of Jax's rivalry with Ronda Rousey or a first-time encounter between her and Nikki Bella.
Trish Stratus and Lita def. Mickie James and Alicia Fox
What better way to get a pop from an already insanely amped-up crowd than to hear the sound of Trish Status' music hit? Stratus and Lita came out to a thunderous roar, but the match couldn't begin until the duo took a couple of verbal jabs from Alexa Bliss, who was removed from the match earlier this week due to injury.
"We know it's past your bed time, so we really need you to focus," she quipped right on the ramp before introducing what she called "the true pioneers" of the women's evolution -- Alicia Fox and Mickie James.
Past their bed time or not, Lita and Status -- the latter a record seven-time women's champ -- beat down Fox to an even louder reaction from the fans.
"Let's go, Lita!" and "You still got it!" chants rang throughout the match, but that was nothing compared to the reaction when James finally stepped into the ring against Stratus, conjuring memories of one of the greatest women's rivalries in WWE history.
The heels looked sharp as the match wore on. They corned Lita who was helpless for a few moments before Status made her way back into the ring and changed the dynamic -- this time for good. A moonsault from Lita and a Chick Kick from Status on James ended the match in relatively short, but sweet, fashion.
It was the perfect way to start this monumental event. Status won her first tag-team match since 2011 and Lita her first since 2012. The likelihood of seeing either in a consistent in-ring capacity is pretty low. This was about two luminaries, two all-time greats, ensuring the crowd's enthusiasm matched the monumental occasion of this show.
And it did.
And then some.