As far as transitionary periods go, this is far from boring.
NXT’s Divas division’s new era is still coming together, but you wouldn’t know it by watching this week’s show: Bayley‘s first post-Sasha Banks title challenger is far from a lightweight, Nia Jax is breaking the mold of the “monster” and the Dana Brooke/Emma vs. Asuka feud is pushing some interesting buttons. None of it feels really lasting, merely functioning to get us to the next plateau, but the journey is certainly interesting. And really, when this period manages to be captivating, you know you’ve got a division that will be dynamite when it’s running on all cylinders. I can’t wait.
We kicked off this week’s show with Emma and Dana Brooke, who head to the ring to await the arrival of Australia’s own Shazza McKenzie (not to be confused with Australia’s own Emma, of course):
It’s mentioned that Shazza was Emma’s final opponent prior to her joining the WWE. Interesting!
The bell rings, and Shazza prances around the ring a bit, ready to go. Emma’s not so enthusiastic, looking dismissive of her opponent. They eventually tie up, Emma catching Shazza in a side headlock. She’s shoved off into the ropes, but knocks Shazza down on the return. Emma lets her get to her feet on her own, pleased with herself.
When Shazza’s ready again, they tie up, Emma again taking control with a side headlock and Shazza shoving her off. This time, thought, Shazza ducks Emma’s attack, flattening out. However, Emma sees this and turns around, clocking Shazza with a low dropkick. Emma then finally lets loose, stomping a mudhole in Shazza. When Shazza gets to her feet, Emma decks her with a right hand, sending her back to the mat.
Emma snapmares Shazza to the mat by her hair, kicking her square in the back. She then steps on Shazza’s hair, pulling her up by her hands and yanking her hair out by the roots. Emma continues to be cocky, stepping on Shazza and symbolically kicking dirt up on her. Distracted by this, she doesn’t notice Shazza sitting up, and she’s rolled into a surprise pin attempt! Emma kicks out.
Emma spring to her feet and clotheslines Shazza, following her to the ropes and punching her in the face several times. She brings Shazza back to the center of the ring, snapmaring her again and twisting her head painfully for a neck submission. Soon, Shazza’s fighting out, getting to her feet and running the ropes. She goes for an attack, but Emma catches her, slamming her roughly to the mat by the head.
Pissed, Emma tosses Shazza across the ring by her hair and then into the corner, face-first. Shazza regroups and fends off Emma’s attack, sending her into the corner instead. Shazza comes charging, but Emma dodges her, sending her face right into the second turnbuckle. Shazza crumples to the mat, allowing Emma to hit her with the Emmamite sandwich.
Emma drags Shazza towards the middle of the ring and leisurely locking in the Emma Lock, performing a curb stomp before bridging into the submission hold.
In a WWE.com exclusive follow up, Emma is reminded about Asuka, and she’s not too happy about it:
Tom Phillips asks Emma if she’s on a collision course with Asuka, and all the post-victory cheeriness is sucked right out of her. She immediately leaves the interview, telling us that Asuka probably haunts Emma’s dreams. I wonder what will happen when she’s finally trapped in a ring with her…
Next, we have NXT Women’s Champion Bayley, who joins Devin Taylor for an interview:
Devin asks Bayley about Alexa Bliss‘s recent remarks. Bayley thinks Alexa resents the fact that she’s a role model. Even though Alexa’s changed, she herself has stayed the same, and she’s going to stay NXT Women’s Champion.
This was Devin’s final NXT episode, right? She will be missed!
Immediately following that, we’re greeted with one final virtual postcard from Eva Marie‘s month-long vacation in Paris:
She says her trip is winding down, and she promises to see the NXT fans soon. Damn, that’s been one long vacation, huh?
Next on the docket is Nia Jax’s second NXT match. She’ll face SHIMMER 71 ChickFight Tournament winner, Kay Lee Ray.
A little birdie (named “Spoilers”) told me this year’s Super 8 ChickFight Tournament is appearing in a future episode as well. Clearly, winning ChickFight tournaments gets you places!
Nia enters next, wearing different attire that looks distinctly like armor. She’s still got a wide smile on her face, though.
They tie up off of the opening bell, Nia immediately backing Kay Lee into the corner. Seeing that this was too easy, Nia lets Kay Lee go, inviting her to try again. They go for another tie up, and Kay Lee slips behind Nia, catching her in a waist lock. Nia breaks it easily, though, and flattens her with a headbutt.
She hits Kay Lee in the corner and goes to do it a second time, but it’s dodged. Kay Lee comes charging back, attacking Nia in the corner ferociously. Nia shoves her away, and when she comes flying back, she catapults her over the top rope and onto the ring apron. Kay Lee lands on her feet, though, and slaps Nia across the face. Kay Lee springs to the top rope and leaps into the ring, but Nia merely swats her away, and she lands hard on the mat.
Nia, pissed off by the slap, hits Kay Lee with two consecutive elbow drops and drags her to her feet by her hair, returning the favor with a slap of her own. She then hoists her up for a Canadian Backbreaker rack, torturing her for a bit before she manages to slip free, hooking their arms together. Nia takes back control, though, whipping Kay Lee around and sending her in the corner.
Kay Lee fends off Nia with a kick and goes for a schoolboy pin, but Nia kicks out easily. Kay Lee hits a few dropkicks, but they don’t faze Nia, who simply rises to her feet. Kay Lee makes a last ditch attempt at offense, springboarding off the ropes at Nia, but she’s caught like a rag doll! Nia adjust her a bit and then slams her to the mat for her spinebuster finisher. She hits a follow up legdrop, and then it’s all over! Nia gets the pin and the win.
Next up is a short appearance by Carmella, as she accompanies Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to the ring for a
match ambush with Dash and Dawson that injures Cass:
Tough luck, guys!
In our last Diva segment of the evening, Alexa Bliss joins Tom Phillips for an interview, Blake and Murphy by her side.
Tom says Alexa requested this air time, and she explains why: she’s challenging Bayley to a Six Person Mixed Tag match for next week. Alexa will team with Blake and Murphy, while Bayley will have to find two “losers” to team up with her. Alexa thinks that will be a quite a challenge for Bayley. We shall see!
Thoughts: So, we had another week of “enhancement talent” matches, but NXT’s found a way to make them so interesting, I actually look forward to them. It’s not just about putting the established talent over, because NXT has a knack for choosing great indy talent for these spots and showcasing them in matches that could hardly be labeled “squashes”. Even Kay Lee Ray managed to not be squashed by Nia Jax, so that should tell you that NXT’s committed to being a platform for up and coming talent, even if they’re not under contract. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.
There was some very interesting storytelling in Emma/Shazza. It felt personal, like Emma had a score to settle, which makes sense given Shazza’s place in Emma’s history. Emma, being so bitter about how her time on the main roster turned out, wants to pummel Shazza and the Emma she represents: the one wide-eyed and optimistic about her WWE future.
Granted, this likely won’t evolve into anything, since this is a one-off appearance for Shazza, but I absolutely love that even one-off appearances get backstory and depth. Of course, a lot of this is spun as Emma trying to show Asuka that she’s tough, but I can dream, right? It’s kind of strange that the focus has gone from Dana vs. Asuka to Emma vs. Asuka, but far be it from me to complain about Emma getting a push. I’m really looking forward to seeing those two square off. It’ll be the battle of the ______ Locks!
I really enjoyed Nia/Kay Lee as well, for different reasons, of course. It had every reason to be a squash match, but wasn’t. They managed to keep Nia looking unbeatable while letting Kay Lee show what she can do. She didn’t land most of her attacks, true, but I’m sure Full Sail was plenty impressed by how she flew around the ring.
I preferred Nia’s new look, even though I get what they were going with before, with the colorful attire. They were trying to break out of the “badass wears leather” cliche, but sometimes a cliche’s a cliche because it fits, right? Maybe they can find a middle ground, making the armor-like attire a bit flashier, perhaps like a certain Stormtrooper?
Kay Lee and Nia worked really well together, creating a match more entertaining than your usual “small guy vs. big guy” match. Kay Lee tried to use her speed and agility, but she was basically a gnat up against Nia. I loved the failed dropkicks – it’s a cool spin on the usual “hitting a brick wall” spot. I can only hope that they continue to find entertaining ways to display Nia’s dominance, since that’ll make it that much more spectacular when someone finally beats her. It’ll be Bayley, right?
Speaking of Bayley, I’m enjoying the booking of her feud with Alexa. It’s find of old school Lita vs. Trish, isn’t it, with the Mixed Tag match. Here, though, we know that Alexa can wrestle, unlike Trish, who actually made her in-ring debut in one of those T&A and Trish vs. Team Xtreme matches. Still, she can draw inspiration from evil heel Trish by letting Blake and Murphy do the heavy lifting. Damn, if there was ever a time to lift the “no intergender wrestling” ban, this is it. Can you imagine how over Bayley would be fighting back against one of those guys? One day.. one day.