Though Liv Morgan has officially been the SmackDown Women’s Champion since June 2nd, 2022, she’s only defended the belt once, at SummerSlam, in a Money in the Bank rematch against Ronda Rousey. Granted, Morgan hasn’t exactly pulled a Roman Reigns and left WWE entirely, as she’s been a fixture of SmackDown, house shows, and even the occasional episode of RAW, all of Morgan’s matches have either been of the tag team variety or in a non-title match like her bout with Shotzi.
Fortunately, Morgan will soon see her mettle tested on an international stage, as Shayna Baszler has the champion in her sights and wants nothing more than to end her run at Clash at the Castle. After wrestling 28 times over their shared tenure in WWE/NXT, including a pair of matches for the WWE Tag Team Championship and spots in the infamous NXT Halloween Costume Battle Royal that saw such memorable debuts as “Darth Bazler” and “Where’s Ruby?” grace the ring.
While the duo haven’t shared the ring for a televised match since Wrestlemania 38, when the team of Naomi and Sasha Banks secured the WWE Tag Team Championship belts over the teams of Carmella and Queen Zelina, Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley, and Natalya and Shayna Baszler, the “Queen Of Spades” has taken particular joy in giving her Clash at the Castle foe a hard time since she secured the number one contendership via a Gauntlet match on August 5th. Baszler has attacked Morgan’s arm on multiple occasions, including a particularly brutal arm stomp at their contract signing that took things up a notch.
Needless to say, if Morgan is going to leave the United Kingdom with her belt in her carry-on, she’s going to need to be ready for a physical war more akin to an MMA fight than a traditional wrestling match. She’d need more than just the Oblivian to take care of Baszler, and more importantly, she’ll need to know how to break up more than a few submission maneuvers to even have a chance at hitting an Oblivian.
Fortunately, Morgan enlisted the help of another MMA fighter-turned-wrestler, Riddle, to show her the ropes and hopefully give her the upper hand against an opponent who is very much not the type of performer she’s used to wrestling.
Riddle is the perfect man to help Liv ahead of her WWE Championship match.
Riddle is one of the most experienced performers in the professional grappling world. He’s fought in the UFC, for Bellator, and for Titan FC, before turning his attention to the professional wrestling world, which he began training for at the Monster Factory in Paulsboro under the eye of Q.T. Marshall in 2014. He wrestled for Evolve, MLW, PWG, and Rev Pro, and even had his own spin-off show through GCW called Matt Riddle’s Bloodsport, which has since been spun off under the name of Josh Barnett. He wrestled the likes of Zack Sabre Jr., Will Ospreay, Katsuyori Shibata, and the Lucha Brothers and was considered a massive get for WWE when he signed with the company in 2018.
So naturally, if there’s anyone on the WWE roster who could teach Liv how to break an armbar and get out of a clutch, it’s Riddle, who is sort of an expert on all things submissions.
“I’ve been in training in combat sports for probably as long as I can remember. I basically did every sort of combat sports from jujitsu, pankration, Muay Thai, boxing, kickboxing, you name it, I’ve done it.
I’ve known Baszler for a long time, we’ve crossed paths throughout the mixed martial arts world. Shayna has definitely got a lot of submissions up her sleeve. She picks apart body parts, and that’s kind of my specialty (too). I know how to take people down and control them on the ground and protect myself, so I think I can help Lib out a lot and give Shayna a hard time probably.”
You have to give it to Morgan, despite Riddle’s nonchalant attitude, she certainly identified and pursued the right teacher for the job, as his extensive, expansive experience in all things MMA is in an elite class among performers currently under contract with WWE.
Will a day of training with Riddle magically turn Morgan into a submission specialist? No, probably not. But could Riddle’s armbar defensive strategy actually come in handy at Clash at the Castle? Yes, considering Baszler has made a point of attacking Morgan’s arm every time they’ve been in the ring together, countering that maneuver could be just enough to throw the “Submission Magician” off her game and keep the title where it belongs.