NXT Redux (December 9th, 2015): Lessons in Intimidation

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We’re one week away from NXT TakeOver: London, and our two Diva feuds are making their final approach to the big night. Bayley gets ready to defend her NXT Women’s Title against Nia Jax, while Emma and Asuka prepare to square off for the first time.

Next week, both feuds will finally put their intimidation games to bed. Only one, though, has played that game effectively. I’m sure you know the one I’m speaking of, but in case you don’t, this week’s goings-on will demonstrate my point perfectly.

In this week’s final stretch, Bayley will wrestle a repackaged Peyton Royce, while Asuka faces rising indy star Deonna Purrazzo. How will these Divas’ TakeOver opponents make their presence felt?

Our first Diva sighting of the night comes from Carmella, who accompanies Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to the ring for their match against Corey Hollis and John Skyler:

Cass and Enzo win the match and then address a few words towards their TakeOver opponents, Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder.

Next, we join Emma and Dana Brooke backstage for an interview with Tom Phillips:

Dana says she’s calmed down since last week and is good. Asuka, however, will not be good come TakeOver.

When asked if she’s ready to face Asuka, Emma says the real question is why NXT rolled out the red carpet for Asuka and not her or Dana. The Diva Revolution couldn’t have existed without the Emmalution. The Emmalution, she says, will be the solution that finally puts Asuka in her place.

Dana says they’ll be taking a close look at Asuka’s match tonight, because they’re the ones who are in control. She then gets Tom to crouch down so she can perform her trademark pat on the head.

Asuka’s match is next, pitting her against indy wrestler Deonna Purrazzo:

The bell rings, and the women circle each other. Asuka darts toward Deonna and grasps her way to a successful tie-up, which she uses to toss Deonna across the ring. They circle again and tie up, Asuka grabbing hold of Deonna’s left arm. Deonna reverses the hold, but Asuka quickly regains control, locking in a hammerlock.

Asuka gets Deonna on the mat, but they’re soon back on their feet, Asuka switching to a side headlock. She takes Deonna to the mat again, but Deonna takes control with a headscissors. Asuka kips up out of the hold and springs into another tie-up. She turns it into a waistlock and rolls Deonna to the mat, locking in a front facelock.

Asuka pins Deonna’s shoulders to the mat, but a kickout prompts her to lock in a sudden armbar. Deonna struggles to the ropes and breaks the hold. Asuka kicks her as she gets to her feet. After enduring several kicks, Deonna catches Asuka’s boot and moves to whip her into the ropes. Asuka reverses the whip and takes Deonna down with a butt bump on the return.

Just then, Emma’s music hits, and she and Dana make their way out to the stage. They distract Asuka, but when Deonna goes to capitalize on it, Asuka responds with a spinning heel kick that flattens Deonna and knocks her out. After assessing the damage done to Deonna, the referee rules Asuka the winner via KO.

Emma and Dana look stunned by this, while Asuka looks triumphant. Clearly, Emma’s confidence is evaporating quickly.

Next up in Diva appearances is Alexa Bliss, who heads to ringside for Blake and Murphy‘s match against Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley.

Before that, she cuts a pretty vicious promo, which she uses to vent about her loss to Bayley a few weeks ago:

Alexa blames Blake and Murphy for her loss, accusing them of failing to do their jobs. They promise to earn her faith again by taking out the Hype Bros.

Come match time, the Hype Bros win, repeating their feat from a few weeks ago, this time sans Bayley. Better luck next time, Alexa!

A bit later on, it’s time for Bayley to make her final pre-TakeOver appearance! She wrestles Peyton Royce:

Peyton looks to have a new Poison Ivy-esque character, which she has taken to calling “The Venus Flay Trap of the WWE”. Interchangeable with Billie Kay no more!

The Divas tie up, Peyton taking control with a side headlock. Bayley shoves her off into the ropes and the two take turns dodging each other until Peyton takes down Bayley with an armdrag.

Bayley seems a bit thrown by this new side of Peyton, slowly getting to her feet and dodging a second tie-up. She locks in a wasitlock, but Peyton quickly elbows her way free. She sends Bayley into the corner, but it backfires when Bayley leaps up onto the turnbuckle and then flies off of it, taking Peyton down with a big armdrag.

Peyton backs into the opposite corner and Bayley hits her with a splash. She lifts Peyton up, but the newer Diva slips free, doubling Bayley over, running the ropes and nailing her with a knee to the head. Peyton goes for the pin, but Bayley kicks out.

Peyton sends Bayley face first into the corner, stomping her in the midsection and choking her with her boot. Peyton goes for another pin, but Bayley again kicks out. Peyton maintains control, locking in a headlock. Bayley fights to her feet and tosses Peyton off of her, taking her down with a drop toehold and pummeling her in the head.

Bayley sends Peyton into the ropes, but misses her attack. Peyton strikes with a spinning heel kick and goes for another pin, again only earning a near fall. Bayley and Peyton trade blows. Bayley gets shoved into the corner, but fights off Peyton, hoisting herself up onto the second rope and flying off of it with a spinning elbow. She nails Peyton with it and runs the ropes, planting her with a bulldog. She goes for the cover, but Peyton kicks out.

Bayley hits a suplex and springs to her feet. When she tries to pull Peyton to her feet, though, she’s jaw-jacked, and Peyton rolls her up for a pin. Bayley kicks out and is quick to her feet, latching onto Peyton and hitting a Bayley-to-Belly out of nowhere! She covers Peyton, earning the pin and the win.

As she celebrates her win, Nia Jax comes out onto the entrance ramp with Eva Marie beside her. Eva has a microphone, and uses it to remind Bayley of her narrow title retainment a few weeks ago. Nia then takes the mic, telling Eva that she doesn’t need her to do the talking. She tells Bayley that she’s lucky she didn’t get to NXT sooner, because she would have prevented her Women’s Title win. She says Bayley’s looking at the next champion and tells her she’ll see her in London.

Thoughts: The two big Diva segments paralleled each other a lot. I’m hoping that was intentional, because if not, it’s a sign of lazy writing. Two could’ve-been-squashes-but-not-squashes ending with face-offs between TakeOver opponents, one standing in the ring, the other on the ramp with her associate by her side.

It’s repetitive, sure, but I’ll just use it to contrast the two feuds. You have Asuka, who overcame distraction with a vicious win, doling out more intimidation for the apprehensive Emma. Then you have Bayley, who gamely won a hard-fought match and then received some pretty paint-by-the-numbers threats from Nia.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m much more intrigued by the Asuka/Emma match. It plays with the old “cowardly heel” trope in a new way by showing Emma desperately trying to overcome her instinct to run and hide, which is usually something an underdog babyface does. Asuka won her match in devastating fashion, but completely unintentionally, knocking out Peyton and not even realizing that she did it. That’s something I haven’t seen a Diva do – usually, when a Diva goes for the KO, she’s seeing red and 100% intends to lay her opponent out. Here, it’s almost as if Asuka doesn’t know her own strength, which is intriguing and fresh. It’s also another worry to add to Emma’s ever-growing list of Asuka-related anxieties. I’m totally pumped to see how that match goes down, as well as how Dana will play into things. They haven’t really sold this as a “Asuka is outnumbered” storyline – what they kind of did at the last TakeOver – but I’ve still got my fingers crossed for an Athena debut. I’d love to see her and Asuka standing side by side.

Asuka and Deonna’s match was surprisingly long. When I saw in the spoilers that Asuka won by KO, I expected to see a Ronda Rousey-style decimation. I was pleasantly surprised, then to see Deonna actually put up a fight. I really appreciate that NXT opts to show off Asuka’s skills not by having her squash her opponent quickly, but by giving her a chance to actually show what she can do. She didn’t look weak by not disposing of Deonna in seconds – she actually looked stronger by maintaining steady control over the course of a few minutes and then knocking her lights out. NXT is handling Asuka so well. I’m actually more interested in seeing how she suffers her first loss than I am in seeing Nia Jax get taken down.

That’s not really meant to disparage Nia, though. I’m just not totally captivated by her build-up, since, unlike Asuka, she been on a pretty by-the-books squash fest. I am in no way convinced that she’s capable of beating Bayley one-on-one, which makes the prospect of her suffering her first loss kind of underwhelming. I’ve been pretty positive about her in my Reduxes so far, but with her first title shot one week away, I can’t help but notice how little work has been done to make her a challenger worthy of that coveted TakeOver slot. It doesn’t help that her alliance with Eva Marie came out of nowhere and hasn’t really had a chance to develop. I’m not even sure what Eva’s doing with Nia after she lost her title shot. What does she want from Nia? What does Nia want from her? Nia doesn’t want Eva to speak for her, so what is Eva there for? It’s all a lot muddier than it should be.

I can kind of see what they’re doing here, though: Nia could use a manager, and who better to use for that than a heat magnet like Eva? Obviously, Nia wouldn’t be eliciting those kind of boos on her own. However, to be an effective manager, Eva has to offer Nia something she needs. She’s obviously not going to be Nia’s muscle, so that leaves her the mouthpiece role. If that’s the case, Nia needs to stop stealing the microphone from Eva. I don’t think Nia needs to become some silent monster, but she’s a lot more intimidating in action than in words, especially given how underwhelming the writing was for her promo. I’m not sure it could’ve been any more generic. For a Diva that’s desperately trying to break the mold, she sure looked pre-packaged here.

The Bayley/Peyton match was intriguing, like the Asuka/Deonna match, in the way it managed to showcase the stronger Diva’s opponent in a way that didn’t hurt hype for her TakeOver match. I’m not sure how I feel about Peyton having such a showy character, especially in this “reality era”. Maybe if she adopts a move set that plays on the Poison Ivy persona, with moves that mimic choking vines or fast-acting poison, it will have some sort of utility. Otherwise, it’ll look like a relic of the gimmick-heavy eras of old and only serve to make her look a bit silly in the midst of a rather grounded Divas division.

Despite my lack of hype for Bayley and Nia’s match, I’m still looking forward to what’s sure to be a fantastic TakeOver. Diva TakeOver matches have a magical way of surpassing their hype, so I’m kind of intrigued to see how Bayley and Nia deliver with a rather lukewarm buildup. It can only get better, right? If not, maybe Asuka and Emma will steal the show. Now that would be unprecedented: the lower card Divas match surpassing the title match. At the very least, it would be a sign of major division growth. Well that, and the power of Asuka.