Vanessa Borne won her first match on NXT TV last year by defeating Jayme Hachey to qualify for the inaugural Mae Young Classic. She was eliminated in the first round by Serena Deeb, and hasn’t won a match since. She’s faced Nikki Cross, Kairi Sane and Dakota Kai, and come up short every time.
Just over two weeks ago, NXT General Manager William Regal announced a fatal four-way match to determine the number one contender to Shayna Baszler‘s NXT Women’s Championship. Mia Yim qualified for that match last week, joining previously announced competitors Bianca Belair and Lacey Evans. Fans have spent the past week speculating about the final contestant, with many anticipating the likes of Nikki Cross, Candice LeRae or Kairi Sane. But absent from these discussions is the person most deserving of the opportunity: Vanessa Borne.
Borne is certainly an unconventional choice, I admit. She cuts a striking figure and a mean promo, but she’s hardly the best in-ring performer in the women’s division. That may well be true – it’s definitely true, in fact – but it’s not the only factor in the decision, and I think Borne has proven herself ready to enter the title conversation.
First things first – Vanessa Borne has improved a lot as an in-ring performer over the past several months. She’s developed a more aggressive style and honed her twisting suplex finisher into a thing of beauty. Though she’s yet to score a second win on NXT TV, she’s had a run of singles victories at NXT live events, including over Mia Yim, showing WWE’s growing confidence in her as a performer. She’s not at the level where she could credibly win the fatal four-way, but she’s more than capable of holding her own in a big match environment.
The narrative reasons for her conclusion are even stronger. Borne, if included, would actually be the only competitor with a personal stake in taking Baszler down. Borne lost a match to Dakota Kai during Kai’s feud with Baszler earlier this year, after which Baszler ran in and put Borne in the kirifuda clutch to taunt Kai. Baszler tortured Borne just to intimidate someone else and humiliated her by making her a prop in someone else’s story. Borne deserves a chance at revenge, possibly even more than Kai or Sane.
For months now, Borne has been left to stagnate in a thankless jobber role, and that in itself is reason enough to put her in the conversation. The NXT women’s division doesn’t need jobbers on the roster – there are plenty of Performance Center recruits who can fulfil that role, and eager indy performers besides. What the division needs is more storytelling for the women who are already on the roster. Live shows already provide the opportunity to develop in-ring ability. The value of NXT TV is the space to do character work.
Even if Borne didn’t win – and, to be clear, the victory should obviously go to Bianca Belair regardless of who gets the fourth spot – the attempt alone would give her an opportunity to enrich her character. She’d have a chance to dig into her motivations, develop a sense of interiority, and establish new dynamics with other characters that could prove fertile ground for future storylines.
I appreciate it’s controversial, maybe even contrarian, but it’s also damn true. The NXT women’s division is full of talent right now. But it could do with some more vision.