Tuesday, January 31, 2023

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NXT Redux (August 26th, 2015): A Brooklyn Encore

NXT looked to come off strong from its triumphant TakeOver of Brooklyn, putting on two big Divas matches on this week’s show.

Eva Marie had her second NXT match, wrestling Carmella in a blow-off bout from their Twitter feud. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a blow-off, but it was an interesting chance to see two inexperienced Divas face off in front of the raucous Brooklyn crowd.

In the main event, Becky Lynch and Charlotte faced off for the first time since teaming up for PCB, competing in a Fatal Four-Way match with Dana Brooke and Emma.

Our first Diva sighting came from the aforementioned Team PCB members, Charlotte and Becky speaking to Devin about the main event:

Charlotte dismisses Dana, saying that she’s been trying – and failing – to prove her dominance for months now. She calls Emma Dana’s “lap dog”. She and Becky make it clear that there’s no hard feelings between them heading into the Fatal Four-Way, saying “May the best woman win.”

Next, we have Carmella and Eva’s face-off:

Eva’s out first, basking in some impressive heat from the Brooklyn crowd. Carmella gets a great pop upon her entrance, cutting her trademark promo. Both Divas remove their flamboyant outerwear, and the match begins!

Off the bell, they tie up, Carmella taking control of Eva’s arm. The two jockey for control with competing arm wrenches and waistlocks, Carmella eventually knocking Eva off her feet and going for an early pin. Eva kicks out and springs up to attack Carmella, but she misses. Carmella celebrates her smooth move with a moonwalk.

Eva comes charging at Carmella, but she’s caught in a side headlock. Eva reverses it into one of her own. Carmella shoves her into the ropes, but is knocked to the mat on the return. Eva hits the ropes again, but this time is taken down with a hip toss. Carmella then hits an atomic drop and a dropkick, celebrating with a victory dance and mocking air kiss to Eva.

Eva charges again and is caught in a waistlock, but she frees herself quickly, backing Carmella into the corner and fighting her off. She hits back elbow and runs the ropes, decking Carmella with a forearm. She punctuates it all with a senton and then covers Carmella for the pin. Carmella kicks out.

Carmella is propped up and locked in a submission, Eva twisting back her right arm. Eva mockingly does the “S-A-W-F-T” call as she stretches Carmella. Carmella soon gets to her feet and tosses Eva away, hitting her with a forearm. Her whip into the corner is reversed, but she fights off Eva’s attack and climbs to the second rope for a headscissors takedown. She then hits two consecutive Lou Thesz press. Eva back into the corner and Carmella follows, driving a shoulder into her midsection before pounding her face-first into her boot, propped up on the turnbuckle.

Carmella slams Eva to the mat by her hair and goes for another pin. Eva kicks out. She pulls Eba to her feet, but Eva battles back, jaw-jacking her and immediately hitting the Sliced Bread #2! She pins Carmella for the win.

Backstage, Dana and Emma are approached by Devin, who relays Charlotte and Becky’s words from earlier. Dana agrees that this match is about determining who’s the best – she and Emma are already two of NXT’s best. Emma says Charlotte will learn that there’s a difference between looking dominant and actually being dominant. Becky, she says, is about to become the WWE’s biggest joke. She and Dana depart, but not before Dana gets in her trademark head pat on Devin.

At the end of the night, it’s time for our main event! Emma enters first, followed by Dana. Becky’s out third, and Charlotte brings up the rear.

The bell sounds, and the Divas appear to pair off, Charlotte squaring off with Dana while Emma faces Becky. Emma and Dana are timid and end up backing into each other. They turn around to be met with attacks from Becky and Charlotte and are soon tossed out of the ring. Left alone, Becky and Charlotte eagerly circle each other, tying up. Becky takes control with a side headlock, kicking Emma away when she tries to enter the ring.

When Dana slips into the ring, Charlotte and Becky team up again, taking her out with tandem dropkicks. They kip up at the same time and square off again. Becky again takes control, suckering Charlotte into a test of strength that she quickly switches into an arm drag and a hammerlock. The crowd duels with competing “Let’s go Charlotte/Let’s go Becky” chants as Becky bridges, increasing the pressure on Charlotte’s arm. She switches back to a kneeling position and Charlotte gets to her feet, flipping Becky to a seated position before catching her in a headscissors hold and flipping her across the ring repeatedly.

Despite the dizzying attack, Becky springs up to her feet, as does Charlotte. They circle each other, but before either can attack, Dana and Emma reenter the ring and unleash attacks of their own, Dana beating down Becky and Emma pummeling Charlotte. With Becky down, the two face off with Charlotte, dumping her out of the ring when she comes charging. They follow her out of the ring, kicking her and fending off her attempts to fight back, eventually slamming her back-first into the barricade. With that, we head to a commercial break.

When we return, Dana and Emma have turned their attentions to Emma, taking turns stomping on her in the corner. Emma snapmares Becky to the mat, and the two continue to beat her down, taking their time and relishing the boos they receive from the audience. They knock Charlotte off the ring apron when she tries to rejoin the match and then take turns pounding Becky’s head into the mat. They pull Becky to her feet and hit her with a double suplex. Charlotte takes that moment to reappear, grabbing hold of Dana. Emma disposes of her again. Dana exits the ring to beat down Charlotte some more while Emma focuses on Becky.

Emma slams Becky and goes for the pin, but Dana’s back in the ring quickly to break it up. The allies start to bicker, Emma shoving Dana. Before they can actually fight, though, Becky surprises Emma with a roll-up. Dana breaks it up and knocks down Becky, telling Emma that she “saved” her. They high five each other, but Dana’s clearly not sincere about it, because she then nails Emma with an enziguri.

A triumphant Dana taunts the crowd, flexing her arms, as Charlotte sneaks back into the ring. When Dana notices her has company, she swings at Charlotte, but misses, as is launched into a series of chops and a neckbreaker. Emma comes charging at her, but is met with a big boot, and Charlotte takes hold of both heels, dropping them both with a double DDT. She kips up, triumphant. Charlotte covers Emma, who kicks out. She tries the same on Dana, but she too kicks out. She tries pinning them both once more, but still gets nothing.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Charlotte, Becky’s scaled the turnbuckle and awaits her on the top rope. Dana and Emma shove Charlotte towards Becky’s flying dropkick, and it’s clear from Becky’s reaction that she wasn’t aiming for her PCB sister. Becky takes on both Dana and Emma, fending them off easily. She tosses Emma with a suplex and sends Dana into the corner, sandwiching Charlotte behind her and springing up from the rope to kick them both.

Becky hits her soon-to-be-trademark suplex on Dana and covers her for the pin, but Emma breaks it up. Emma tosses Becky into the corner and, having Charlotte and Becky in opposing corners, hits them with consecutive Emmamite sandwiches. Emma pulls Becky away from the corner and covers her, getting a surprise win! Emma looks pleasantly surprised, while Charlotte and Becky just look straight up shocked.

Charlotte ends up spearing Emma and hitting the Natural Selection before pinning her for a phantom win. When she gets to her feet, it’s Dana turn to ambush her, knocking her to the mat. Becky hits her with a suplex and Charlotte follows it up with the Figure Eight while Becky locks in an armbar on Emma. The show ends with two members of PCB standing tall.

This confusion is touched on in a post-show interview with the victorious Emma:

Emma is very pleased with her win, saying that she’s done exactly what she promised she’d do. This is the new Emma. She says that everyone talks about the Diva Revolution, but they forget where it started: with her and Paige at NXT ArRIVAL. There is no Revolution without her.

Thoughts: Carmella vs. Eva match wasn’t the smoothest match, but it did take guts for NXT to book this in front of the relentless Brooklyn crowd. Yeah, it had the security of being pre-taped, but you can’t completely drown out any negative crowd reactions. They both are still very green and don’t feel 100% comfortable in the ring, but that’s not a complete surprise, given that they were wrestling in front of such a huge audience. Needless to say, it was far from the trainwreck some predicted it would be.

It’s definitely the right call to make Eva a heel – people are going to boo her, no matter how much they invest on making her likable. It’s just a done deal at this point. She leaned into it a lot more here, mocking Eva and smirking at the audience’s chants. I wonder how much NXT will play into that. Part of the reason the fans hate Eva is because they feel her position is undeserved. How could they exploit that in kayfabe? Maybe have her advance up the ranks in some unfair way – have some faceless “powers that be” insist that she get the big matches, the big opportunities because she’s one of the faces of WWE, having the same hot shot agent as The Rock and being one of the stars of Total Divas. They should embrace the hate, because there’s no getting around it, and they could easily turn Eva into one of the most over heels if they blurred the lines between reality and fiction. It wouldn’t be the first time!

The Fatal Four-Way was a fun, fresh combination. The middle of the match dragged a bit, but I found it interesting that Dana was the one to turn on Emma. Emma seems like the one to be so aloof that she’d have no problem tossing an alliance out the window. I guess Dana’s the one who needed to get over here, though, and having her attack Emma first got her good heel heat. On the flipside, I loved seeing two full babyfaces – teammates, nonetheless – have a friendly competition, not pulling any punches. I’m always eager to see the heel/babyface lines get toyed with a bit, since the WWE tends to shy away from that, so this match was a treat in that regard.

Dana’s definitely coming into her own as a heel, playing up her obnoxious side with her taunts and trash talk. I’m not sure if there’s a specific character to be crafted from “obnoxious, arrogant Diva”, but she might have something there, with the outfit, the pigtails, the swagger…

What the hell was that finish, though? I don’t like to play the blame game, but wasn’t it on Becky to kick out? It’s not like Emma could stop her own pin. Neither could the referee halt his own count. I’m guessing Becky might have had the wind knocked out of her on that move and wasn’t all there when the pin was made. It just goes to show you how even the smaller moves can really take it out of wrestlers.

I think they recovered the segment well, Charlotte getting the last laugh and still looking strong. I’m guessing she was supposed to get the win, so at least she wasn’t the one who took the mistaken pin. You know, not that Charlotte needs the win. I actually like that Emma won – it was unexpected and can actually play into future NXT storylines. If Charlotte or Becky had won, it wouldn’t amount to anything, since those two are, for all intents and purposes, main roster Divas now.

So obviously, all of this paled in comparison to TakeOver, but it did a pretty good job paving the way for the future. We have two more pre-taped episodes to go before Women’s Champion Bayley returns (outside of any backstage segments), but I already like where we’re headed. Eva and Carmella, though not title contender material just yet, are certainly coming into their own as performers and characters. Emma, accidental win or not, is a great wildcard for the division, and I wouldn’t object to her being Bayley’s first challenger as champion. Dana, meanwhile, is probably the “one” out of the next crop of Divas, judging by how hard she was pushed right out of the gate. I suspect she could follow up on an Emma loss by deciding that she’ll accomplish what her ally couldn’t, stepping fully into the limelight for the first time. I doubt she’ll be NXT Women’s Champion any time soon, but she’ll make an interesting foe for Bayley, for sure.

The future of NXT’s Divas division may look a bit uncertain, with so many new faces yet to break out and the big stars having headed off to the main roster, but I have full faith in NXT’s ability to avoid a slump. It’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble that I’m sure will pay off.

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