Saturday, September 18, 2021

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WWE Main Event Redux (January 6th, 2015): Nikki and Paige Light Up Tuesday Night

Welcome, welcome, to the Main Event Redux. I’m pinch hitting for Eleri this week, and what a week to do so! We got a fantastic Divas match out of nowhere. It was kind of like a little surprise party for Diva fans, delightfully catching us unawares.

The match in question saw Divas Champion Nikki Bella attempt to get revenge on Paige for the boot imprint she left on her face on Raw. The two go head-to-head in a non-title match. With Brie and Natalya at ringside, there’s no telling which side has the advantage. Let’s dive in!

Thye start with a tie-up, Nikki shoving Paige into the ropes and to the mat. Paige gets to her feet and they tie-up once more, Nikki’s strength again getting the better of Paige as she takes her down with a monkey flip. Nikki keeps ahold of Paige, flipping over into a pin attempt. Paige kicks out.

Nikki pounds the back of Paige’s head to the mat and pulls her to her feet. Paige finally takes control, kicking Nikki in the midsection and hitting three consecutive headbutts. This leaves Nikki’s head spinning, and she collapses into the corner. Paige follows her to the corner, but is met with an elbow to the face and a springboard enziguri, which lays her out. Nikki goes for another pin, but Paige kicks out at two.

Nikki gets Paige to her feet and tries to whip her into the ropes, but Paige pulls her into a schoolboy pin instead, which Nikki kicks out of easily. She’s not home free, though, because as soon as she pops up, she’s met with Paige’s boot to her face. She settles into a corner, allowing Paige to stomp a mudhole into her. That’s enough to make her seek refuge on the outside, crawling over to Brie. Brie gives her some words of encouragement and she quickly re-enters the ring as we head off to a commercial.

When we come back, Nikki’s still in a bad way, now hunched over the ropes and receiving a barrage of knees from Paige. Paige gives a celebratory scream before following Nikki back into the ring, but when she tries to pull the Divas Champ to her feet, she gets a slap to the face. Again, Nikki slips out of the ring. Paige follows and grabs a handful of hair, stepping out on the ring apron. Nikki then grabs her by the arms, flipping her over for a crash landing on the floor outside.

Nikki head back into the ring and celebrates a bit, doing some cocky pushups while she waits for Paige to regroup. As soon as she’s back in, Nikki grabs ahold of her, stepping out onto the ring apron and hotshotting her left arm against the middle rope. Nikki is quick to get back into the ring, going for the pin. Paige kicks out.

Nikki then props Paige up, working on that left arm with a modified arm bar. Though obviously in great pain, Paige eventually get to her feet, fighting Nikki with some forearms. Nikki doesn’t let go, though, hoisting Paige up and dropping her bad arm onto the top rope. When Paige gets up, she’s driven shoulder-first into the corner not once, but twice. Nikki then takes the arm through the rope, slamming it against the steel pipe in the corner. Nikki then goes for the pin again, but Paige is resilient, still kicking out.

Nikki then captures Paige in another submission hold, this time forcing her bad arm under her leg and locking in a modified chinlock. Paige doesn’t tap, though, so Nikki slams her to the mat and goes for another pin, which Paige kicks out of. Nikki sticks to the arm strategy, slamming her knees onto the shoulder a total of three times. Paige is in agony but manages to fight back one-armed, punching Nikki in the stomach with her good arm.

She’s shoved away, though, and is flattened with a clothesline from Nikki. Nikki goes for a cocky pin attempt, sitting on Paige’s chest. Paige kicks out with authority, sending Nikki flying off of her. Nikki fires back quickly, though, hitting a low dropkick that keeps Paige on the mat.

Paige seeks refuge in the ropes, but that turns out to be a bad idea, as Nikki takes her bad arm around the bottom rope and pulls, aggravating the shoulder even more. Nikki lets go, but Paige doesn’t get far, and she soon performs that same punishment again a few feet away, this time in the adjacent corner. Nikki then drags Paige to the middle of the ring, slamming her face-first onto the mat and grabbing hold of her bad arm, dropping it with her onto the mat with authority. Another pin attempt, another kick out by Paige.

Nikki locks in another armbar, Paige flat on the mat. Nikki leans into it, increasing Paige’s pain. She climbs to her feet, maintaining the hold until Paige’s forearms force her to let go. Paige runs the ropes, taking Nikki down with a Lou Thesz press and pounding her in the head a few times with her good arm. Nikki springs up, though, and flattens Paige with a clothesline, putting an abrupt end to her short offensive run.

Again, Nikki goes for a pin, but Paige refuses to stay down, kicking out. Nikki straddles Paige’s bad arm, brining her weight down on it. As Paige seethes in pain, Nikki taunts Natalya, feeling that the end is near. Nikki again brings her weight down on Paige’s arm, following it up with another pin attempt. Paige kicks out.

Nikki flips Paige into a a traditional armbar submission, but Paige won’t let her lock it in, clasping her hands together and holding on for dear life. Nikki tries her hardest to separate Paige’s hands, but her strength advantage isn’t doing much to help her here. In fact, Paige’s strength soon comes into play, as she hoists herself up to her knees and rolls Nikki into a pin attempt. Nikki manages to kick out.

Paige tries to take the momentum, but Nikki sweeps her feet out from under her, locking in a different kind of armbar. She holds it for a bit before Paige fights back, latching an arm around Nikki’s throat. Paige officially frees herself with an arm drag, punctuating it with three short-armed clotheslines. Paige hits a dropkick and tries to whip Nikki into the corner, but it’s reversed. Nikki salutes the crowd, and the delay ends up costing her, as Paige blocks her ensuing attack with a back elbow.

Paige climbs to the second rope, but it distracted by Brie, who waves a shiny object (the Divas Title) in front of her. Perhaps distracted by its Barbie-style hideousness, she doesn’t notice Nikki until it’s too late, and the Divas Champ sends her flying off the second rope, dragging her by her bad arm. Natalya avenges Paige, though, attacking Brie with a clothesline on the outside. Nikki gets her own revenge, kicking Natalya through the ropes and laying her out as well.

This leaves Paige to roll up Nikki for a surprise pin. Nikki kicks out, and rolls it into one of her own. Paige kicks out as well. Nikki ducks a kick from Paige and forearms her, sending her into the ropes. Paige bounces off the ropes quickly, biting back with a kick to Nikki’s face. Paige is clearly in pain, taking some time to finally hoist Nikki up into the Rampaige. She hits it, and it’s enough to lay Nikki out for the count. Paige has pinned the Divas Champion!

Thoughts: Wow.. What a match! This could have easily been a PPV match, and a standout one at that. It’s not like they’re giving away this match for free, though, since it is on the Network. I’ve long felt that Main Event and Superstars are ready-made showcases for the Divas, and this proves my point. Sure, it’s not being viewed by as many people as a match on Raw would, but there’s no way the jam-packed nature of Raw would allow for such a long match, especially one as slow-paced as this one. That’s why Main Event and Superstars, with their three or so matches in a hour, are perfect for this.

A match like this, naturally having little competition for attention on the “C” show, garners buzz, and people will head to the Network to watch it. It’s a win-win for the Divas and the WWE itself. It shows what the Divas can do, given the right opportunities, and gives the Network’s programming a special feel. I can only hope that the positive response to this match leads to further opportunities for the Divas, but fans have been saying that for years, so maybe that’s a false hope. But hey – at least we got a good match out of it, right?

This reminds me of AJ Lee and Natalya’s standout match on a 2013 episode of Main Event. It came out of nowhere, almost seeming like the Divas lucked into being given a 15 minute slot. Was Vince out sick? Could they not be arsed to book longer matches for the men? Naturally, as a Divas fan, your mind jumps to any explanation but the WWE’s belief in the Divas and a desire to see them showcased. It’s a cynical way of thinking, but we’ve been conditioned to it, suffering through years of shitty, afterthought WrestleMania matches and half-assed storylines.

Regardless of what this match may or may not indicate for a division as a whole, I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t action packed, due to Paige’s bad shoulder, but that itself is what allowed the match to be as long as it was. If Nikki wasn’t leisurely working on the arm all match, there’s no way they could have stretched it this long. That’s not to say they couldn’t, but I feel that there needs to be more of a story between Divas for them to put on a long, action-packed match. There has to be a real hate that fuels them. That being said, I always like a good “target the injury” kind of match, especially when it’s given enough time to play out and is on a body part that allows for some versatile moves. I especially loved the second to last armbar attempt, with Paige locking her hands together to prevent Nikki from locking it in. I’ve never seen that before, at least in a Divas match. Very clever!

I’ve always believed that the mark of a good, lengthy match was when both competitors are exhausted by the end, and you believe it. You feel their exhaustion. This was another case of that. Granted, Nikki wasn’t exactly emptying her tank here, but Paige’s violent bursts of offense were enough to make me believe that she’d be tapped out by the end.

Miraculously, though this match was long (just shy of 12 minutes), the rest holds didn’t feel like placeholders. Nikki kept them interesting, using variations to both punish Paige and keep the audience locked in. They functioned to help tell the story, not give the Divas’ a breather. That’s how they should be used.

Nikki was great here. Unlike in her feud with AJ, she felt like a real heel: cocky, sneaky, inventive and relentless. She busted out quite a few new moves here, demonstrating that she’s a lot more capable in the ring than some people give her credit for. There’s only so much variation a Diva can bring to her moveset when she’s booked in a five minute match, after all.

Paige didn’t get to shine too much, but her suffering was essential to the match’s story, and helped her jump over the “heel/face” fence back to the side of the good guys. I have to be honest: I’m very hesitant about the idea of a babyface Paige, but she looks to be a bit of a tweener here. I don’t think we have to worry about a return to the bland babyface Paige from last spring – she’ll probably be more of a wildcard, beating the crap out of the heels and remaining cocky. As popular as she is, it’s smart of the WWE to give fans an excuse to cheer for her. As long as she isn’t a smiley, gracious Paige, I think I’ll be okay with it.

So, how will this play out in the weeks heading into the Royal Rumble? I hope this leads to a big Divas Title match. I’m pretty sure AJ has missed out on this cycle and will be returning after the Rumble, leaving room for other Divas to step up and challenge Nikki. Somehow, though, I don’t think Paige will be the only one facing her at the next PPV. Would it be too much to ask for a Fatal Four-Way? That way, Natalya can get her due, the Tyson Kidd tension can be exploited, Paige will get to shine and we might finally see the leftover Bella animosity hashed out. It’s efficient and entertaining! Though, in the world of the WWE, with its drawn-out, motivationally murky storylines, that might make it nothing more than a pipe dream.

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