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Welcome to this week’s NXT review! This week’s episode doesn’t feature any women’s matches but it begins to pave the road to TakeOver: Chicago by focusing the spotlight on Nikki Cross and Ruby Riot as they both vie for the title.

First up is a recap of last week’s Battle Royal and follow up with Ember Moon as she reveals she won’t be competing at TakeOver. Let’s watch:

After being thrown from the ring last week, Ember suffered a grade one shoulder sprain. She will be out of action for four to  five weeks. Ember has no words as she says she’s out of the match at Chicago. She promises to be back and better than ever once she’s healed.

Next we’re taken to a segment introducing Ruby and why she’s looking to capture the NXT Women’s Championship. Let’s watch:

We join Ruby in a tattoo shop as she explains her upbringing as a small town kid who everyone underestimated. She explains that everyone likes to judge her by her tattoos and they’re right. Her tattoos tell a story and the next one she’s about to write is becoming the NXT Women’s Champion. She goes on to say that she’s made a lot of sacrifices to be in this business. By traveling and getting here, she’s missed her friends and families’ milestones.

She says winning the championship would be validation for every sacrifice she’s ever made. She says no one has seen anyone like her and no one will see anyone like her in the ring. Fighting makes her feel alive and reminds her she has to fight to be alive. She says she’s here to break the mold of the NXT Women’s Division.

After Ruby’s interview, we’re taken backstage to an attempt at an interview with Nikki.

Nikki hops into her seat as a production assistant approaches her. He tells her he has to attach a mic onto her but she slaps his hand out of the way. She proceeds to attack him as she laughs and grabs the mic from him.

She stares into the camera and calls out Ruby’s name, then Asuka’s before she counts down. She continues to act bizarre while an interviewer attempts to ask her about TakeOver. She starts screaming and asking for Asuka. She says, “Where is Asuka? Where is my championship?” several times. She issues a warning to Ruby and then says she’ll take everything from Asuka.

Thoughts: Let’s break these video packages down, shall we. First up is Ember. I don’t feel anything whatsoever from her and that continues to be a problem. Creative has completely dropped the ball on showing us what she is and can be. I’m still not entirely sure if this is a work either. I believe she is truly injured. However, this setback can only benefit her in the long run and force her character to grow. WWE has truly lost the art of creating a genuine baby face. Ember was never going to be a big, big, baby face like Bayley, Ember is more akin to a tough face like Becky Lynch but there’s been no indication of any motivation on television, no backstory, and no deep feud for Ember to hang her hat on and evolve from. She is in trouble and quite frankly, I don’t think she deserves the title because she still needs work.

I believe Nikki should walk out of Chicago with the championship. Nikki continues to do the most with her character. Her backstage interview was haunting and I laughed at her antics. I’m fully behind her and it unfortunately says a lot about how creative treats the women as of late that by keeping Nikki away from the crumbling division, she’s gained the most in her ability to tell a story and get across how masochistic her character is. I still believe she’s the wildcard and there are big plans for her. Several months ago Sanity issued a warning that they’re looking for some gold and it starts with the Women’s Division. I’ll be completely honest here and say I would not mind at all if they took all the championships. Sanity could be the purge that NXT needs in order to get its act together.

Ruby is another character who completely owns everything she was, is, and could be for NXT. I can see why she’s being pushed like a firecracker into the title picture. I really enjoyed her backstage segment, it made me feel connected to her and hit all the beats a good promo should. She outlined why she’s here, what NXT means to her and what she hopes to do. That’s everything Ember has failed to get across.

I’m rooting for Ruby and Nikki to completely blow us away next week. What has to happen now though is in the hands of the bookers and creative. Will they pull the trigger to finally end Asuka’s reign? I honestly don’t know what to think if she retains. There’s no where to go anymore with Asuka at the top. It’s time to start telling a different story before the damage to the women’s division is completely irreversible.

What did you think of this week’s NXT? Who are you rooting for? Sound off in the comments below.