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NXT Redux (December 28, 2016): Welcome to the land of the rising sun

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Welcome to this week’s NXT review. I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday and is ready to kiss this year goodbye! This week we witness footage from NXT’s tour of Japan, Asuka‘s homecoming!

Before we get to that though, Peyton Royce and Billie Kay have some unfinished business with Liv Morgan and Aliyah.

As Liv and Aliyah make their entrances commentary starts to build a story around their blooming friendship, this is what we’ve been looking for! Commentary does a great job here building up a story between the four before the women tie up. Billie and Liv go back and forth, trading a succession of rolling pins!

Aliyah gets tagged in shortly after and her and Liv work together in tandem offense. Aliyah works Billie over in a rest hold before getting to her feet to tag in Peyton. Peyton comes in full force and clubs Aliyah several times. They square off, trading blows. Aliyah then works over Peyton’s arm.

A back breaker by Peyton takes Aliyah down and Billie comes in. They tag each other in and out, dominating Aliyah in their corner. Peyton and Aliyah sqaure off again, trading blows until Peyton makes her way back to Billie. She tags Billie in and again the Aussies work together, now targeting Aliyah’s arms. Billie holds Aliyah in a submission where she claws at Aliyah’s face. Billie chokes her and bends her backwards. Aliyah escapes but still gets struck several times by Billie.

Peyton gets tagged in again and the Iconic Duo takes Aliyah down. Aliyah struggles to get to Liv. After a few strikes by Aliyah, Peyton is able to force Aliyah back into her corner where she tags Billie in and they work her over again. After a stalling vertical suplex Peyton gets tagged in again and stomps a mudhole in Aliyah.

Peyton strangles Aliyah in the middle of the ring before tossing her head around. As Aliyah tries to get out of the hold, Peyton drives her down with her knees. Aliyah struggles to get to her feet and tag Liv in but now she’s attacked by Billie who performs a beautiful modified suplex.

Billie headbutts Aliyah and then strikes Liv off the apron. Billie tags in Peyton again and they continue flattening Aliyah. While they hoist Aliyah up into another vertial suplex, she escapes and tags in Liv. Liv rushes in and takes down Peyton with a cross body block and Billie goes down from a double clothes line into a bulldog. With the crowd on her side she pushes down Billie with an STO. Peyton breaks up the pin and then Aliyah rushes at her.

Peyton tags back in where she hits Liv’s face into Billie’s knee for the win!

Next up Asuka defends her title against the returning Nia Jax.

The crowd welcomes Asuka back joyously. Right off the bat it already becomes a test of speed vs strength. Asuka tries to strategically strike her while Nia starts manhandling the champion. A David vs Golitah battle ensues, showing shades of their previous bout in June. Asuka tries an Octupus hold but it doesn’t phase Nia one bit.

Nia tries a vertical suplex on Asuka but Asuka escapes. Asuka strikes her but Nia plants her down roughly with a spine buster. Nia chokes Asuka in the ropes and taunts her. Nia continues to weaken Asuka. Asuka mounts a comeback with strikes but gets shut down again. Asuka tries to outstrike her but Nia’s power overcomes her again.

Nia goes for rest holds and mat slams. They continue to trade blows but a sidewalk slam grounds Asuka again. Asuka tries to knock down Nia with a succession of quick strikes but one headbutt by Nia takes Asuka down. Nia tries various submissions again before Asuka can counter it with a headscissor-like reversal into a knee bar.

Nia stands up out of it but eats a few more kicks and strikes from Asuka. Nia continues to throw around Asuka before Asuka sends Nia outside the ring. Nia climbs back on the apron but a hip attack by Asuka sends her crashing back outside the ring. Nia tosses Asuka into the ring apron. Nia collects herself in the ring. She leg drops Asuka and Asuka rolls out of the ring again. They fight briefly with Nia laying out Asuka again outside the ring. She stands by while the ref counts.

Asuka gets back into the ring and strikes Nia several times stiffly. Nia tries a powerbomb but Asuka escapes. Asuka kicks Nia in the face though and then suddenly transitions Nia into an arm bar out of nowhere! Nia dead lifts her but is still caught in Asuka’s submission. Nia then hoists Asuka up and power bombs her.

Asuka strikes and kicks Nia several more times before performing an impressive suplex on her! Nia lets out a primal scream before getting kicked hard in the face. Asuka retains the championship.

After the match NXT hypes a triple threat for next week:

Thoughts: Let me start off by saying, I saw the comments last week criticizing my overall negative demeanor lately. I think we know the difference between a review and a news story, one is opinion, the other is fact. I will not normalize or praise bad booking or lack of story telling. NXT is developmental and it should be laying a foundation for these women to practice, learn, and work with each other to establish themselves as worthy competitors for the main roster programming.

Instead what NXT has done lately, and what this episode illustrates a little bit even though I’ll get to my feelings on that after this (which is positive!), is focus on having matches for the sake of having them without any strong narratives to back them up. The golden era of NXT worked because we saw Paige, Summer Rae, the Four Horsewomen, Carmella, Alexa Bliss, Emma, Dana Brooke, Nia Jax to an extent, grow, work against each other, have highs and lows, reach peaks and valleys, pioneer women in the main event, organically introduce meaningful character arcs, and allow women a platform to challenge preconceived notions of what a women’s wrestler could do in the WWE.

We’re now fighting for time for the women again. We should be demanding much more for them. I’m also always supportive of these women despite any criticisms I may have of them, I want them to succeed. I want Liv to have a deeper character, I want to root for her, for Ember Moon. I want to know more about them and be captured fully by their programs that pit them against their foes while they fight for justice, or just a place at the table. It’s booking and creative where this problem lies. The women can only do so much to turn “chicken shit into chicken salad.” It’s frustrating, this is where I come from.

However, last night’s broadcast showed subtle shades of the NXT I’ve been looking for! Some of the more exciting and experimental bits from house shows really worked here on TV. Billie and Liv’s rolling pin combination looked so smooth and was quite entertaining. As a fan of NJPW, I also really like the crowd reactions in Japan too. The crowds in Japan are quiet but very appreciative. It’s a unique atmosphere.

Billie working opposite Liv is helping Liv carve out her skills. Liv is so young and she has so much more time to grow, I may not connect with her character now but she still has a long way to develop deeper traits. Time is on her side.

The same can be said about Aliyah. She already has a strong offense and now she’s experimenting with getting the crowd on her side. Next she should work on her character. I still don’t know what she’s all about but I’m already rooting for her based on her mat performance. She has experience from working on the indies in her teens and it shows. Pairing her up with Liv should benefit the both of them moving forward.

Billie and Peyton worked great together here. I’d like to see more from both of them in single competition but they work the best as a team. Moving forward I want to see them continue to decimate the competition together. I want to see them become strong enough where their solo weaknesses don’t show at all, where a face has to do something special to overcome them. They are the big heels of the division and they should become more ruthless and hungry. I think working opposite along developing talent has lead them to tone down their moves a little bit. But, with practice and time, Billie and Peyton should feel more comfortable dolling out more creative and deadly offense.

I’m very happy they got the win here. They need to continue to show up the rest of the division while NXT crafts some more paths to move the women forward.

Onto our women’s title match. I got choked up seeing Asuka’s hometown welcoming her back, it was very heartwarming. Asuka’s undefeated streak is a bit worn out at this point but she is the “big gun,” so to speak. She’s very special and her country celebrating that is a sweet reminder of how unusual she is. I may not like that they only trot her out for big events and separate her from the developing division but when the other girls get to work against her as the final boss battle, it’s a spectacle worth watching every time.

I liked the various call backs to their TakeOver match this past year though with the vertical suplex and other maneuvers. However, I was a little puzzled by Nia just letting Asuka possibly get counted out? Uh, that’s not how you win the championship. But, Nia’s strong showing towards the end of the match showed progress.

Asuka’s suplex to Nia was such a sight to behold too! Asuka continues to dazzle with her prowess. Though the ending mirrored their last battle, it wasn’t completely deflating, which has been a complaint about the ending of Asuka’s matches in the past. That’s definitely an improvement. Nia working opposite Asuka continues to help her gain an edge and smooth out her skills.

And I’m always entertained by Nia ragdolling Asuka but I need to see a little bit more from her. In my opinion Nia should still be working on her skills in NXT. She should add more power moves to cement her hoss status. Throwing girls around almost always works but, she just needs to enhance her strength abilities just a pinch more. Some women who have powerful move sets are Nikki Bella and Charlotte and Nia should be integrating more power bombs, dead lifts, suplexes, and a variety of slams into her repertoire too. She is a monster and will look more powerful if she can match current or surpass powerful girls on the main roster.

Next week we’re treated to another international showing as NXT comes from Australia. The advertised triple threat should be a good one and, if anything, works to rebuild the division’s in ring strength. Maybe this will also open up NXT’s willingness to experiment more on television? Next, we just need more character and story development to put these girls further on the map.

What did you think of this week’s NXT? Sound off in the comments below.

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