SmackDown Women’s Champion Bayley def. Lacey Evans

HOUSTON — Lacey Evans’ dream of becoming the SmackDown Women’s Champion stalled at Royal Rumble, but it wasn’t because defending champion Bayley had stronger offense, superior work ethic or more grit.

Instead, the result can be chalked up to Bayley’s veteran wiles.

Bayley resorted to underhanded tactics almost immediately after the opening bell. First, she loosened the pad on a turnbuckle, only to be stopped by the referee. Moments later, Bayley feigned a leg injury, creating a pause in the action before sucker-punching the U.S. Marine-turned-WWE Superstar.

The SmackDown Women’s Champion alternated between fisticuffs and a grinding submission game to weaken The Lady of WWE. When the action spread to the floor, Bayley slammed Evans into the barricade that separated champion and challenger from Evans’ husband and daughter Summer, who sat front row.

Showing incredible determination, Lacey fought off a subsequent Bayley-to-Belly attempt and flattened the titleholder with a standing moonsault. She then took to the air with another moonsault, this one from the top rope, but Bayley blocked it with a pair of boots and quickly rolled up Evans, using a handful of tights for added leverage to score a pin that was as illegal as it was decisive.