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NXT Redux (January 27th, 2016): Stirring the Pot

We’re two weeks away from Bayley‘s next NXT Women’s Title defense, but you wouldn’t know it, judging by this week’s show. That’s not a bad thing, though: while the champ was completely absent from the program, the set-up was still there. NXT, as it’s known to do, has found a creative way to build hype for the “friend vs. friend” match that pits Bayley against Carmella, using two expert shit-stirrers to fire up the challenger without so much as denting her friendship with the champion.

Meanwhile, Nia Jax returns to the ring for the first time since sustaining her first-ever loss to Bayley at NXT TakeOver: London. It’s time to rebuild the legend of Nia Jax, one Diva sacrifice at a time.

Before any of that can happen, though, we check in with Alexa Bliss, who accompanied Blake and Murphy to the ring for the night’s opening match. Her boys took on Chad Gable and Jason Jordan:

Immediately following this, Alex Reyes spoke to Emma and Dana Brooke about Emma’s just-announced match against Carmella, which is set for next week:

Dana dismisses the threat Carmella poses by claiming that last week’s tag match was all about Bayley. Carmella, she says, didn’t and won’t do anything to Emma.

Emma says Carmella doesn’t have the skills to beat Bayley, let alone her. She recalls Carmella’s loss to Blue Pants, who doesn’t even go here! She says Carmella’s recent lucky streak will run out next week, making her the “unluckiest chick in the ring.”

After a brief break, we’re treated to a very cool video package dedicated to the one and only Asuka:

The Divas action rolls on immediately after, as it’s time for Nia Jax to return to the ring against Liv Morgan:

Nia heads to the ring, accompanied by Eva Marie. Liv, the poor thing, is already in the ring. The bell sounds, and the Diva tie up, Nia easily backing Liv into the corner. She backs off and smiles, allowing Liv to regroup and duck her follow-up attack. Liv hits the ropes and comes flying at Nia, leaping onto her in a crucifix position and attempting to take her down for a roll-up pin.

Nia stays steady, though, simply reaching down, grabbing Liv by the head and pulling her to her feet. She then tosses her across the ring by her hair. After a few moments, Nia pulls Liv back to a standing position and locks in a sleeper hold.

Liv eventually starts to fight out of the hold, grabbing at Nia’s hair and dropping to the mat, jaw-jacking her with her shoulder. After two unsuccessful dropkicks, Liv leaps onto Nia for a chokehold, but Nia simply tosses her away.

Undeterred, Liv hits the ropes and tries again. This time, Nia catches her, adjusting her before dropping her to the mat with a sidewalk slam. Nia punctuates this with a legdrop and then covers Liv, earning the pin and the win.

The “all Divas everything” block concludes with a few choice words from Carmella:

Carmella says she’s heard everything Emma and “little Miss Piggy” Dana said about her. She promises to beat Emma all by herself. She’s going to prove all of her doubters wrong. The Emmalution, she says, is a joke.

Thoughts: While Nia and Liv’s match wasn’t revolutionary – it followed the usual Nia pattern of her dominating, absorbing some offense and then getting the win – I enjoyed it. Liv is still kind of an enigma to me, so I liked seeing a bit more of her here. She still needs to work to set herself apart (and a short Nia match won’t give her the opportunity to do that), but she’s very interesting to watch. She’s scrappy. Maybe she can carve out a niche for herself with a “dirty player” persona, making up for her small stature by creating any advantage she can. She could pull that off even as a babyface, as long as she makes it entertaining for the fans and does it at the expense of established heels.

I really like Eva in this role alongside Nia. It gives her the opportunity to enhance her character through the managerial role (something a lot of Diva fans recommended for her before her NXT reinvention) by making her more than the cocky, uber-hated redhead. She looks calculating, having somehow, someway, made it into NXT’s most powerful Diva’s good graces. I hope they explore that dynamic more, though, because while it’s obvious what Eva gets out of the partnership, it’s not really clear why Nia needs Eva. Unless I’ve forgotten a backstage segment along the way (which is entirely possible), it’s not really been addressed, has it? It’s not like Nia needs interference to win her matches, after all. Maybe they can play up their The Rock connection: Eva and Rock share an agent, while Nia’s one of Rock’s cousins. It’s a tenuous “family” connection, but it’s definitely something they could build off of.

It was good to see Nia back in the ring for the first time since her TakeOver loss, but I almost expected her to be angrier. After all, she had just suffered her first loss – in a title match, no less. I know Nia’s not feeding into the “angry monster” stereotype, but it would at least have added a bit more continuity to the story. She was put on the shelf temporarily due to the damage Bayley did to her neck/throat, so she should be fighting mad, right? Her ego was bruised, and she couldn’t immediately rectify that with a few squash wins, so she should have been laser focused on rebuilding her brand as the unstoppable Diva by tearing Liv apart. Liv got away easy!

It’s cool to see NXT find ways to create tension in what otherwise would be a tension-less feud between Bayley and Carmella, as the two remain steadfast besties leading up to their Women’s Title match. Using Emma and Dana for that is a great touch, giving them something to do and keeping Emma kinda-sorta in the Women’s Title conversation. I’d love to see Carmella feud with either of them once this Bayley story is done. The trash talk alone would be epic.

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