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NXT Redux (February 10th, 2016): Baymella Battle for the Gold

The time has come for the Battle of Baymella! In what has become a regular occurrence for NXT’s Divas, they’ve been booked in the night’s main event. This time, Bayley‘s defending her NXT Women’s Title against her best friend, Carmella. Can their friendship withstand the tempting allure of gold? We’ll see…

Before we can get to that, we have to head to the other end of the spectrum, where proud villains Alexa Bliss and Cameron collide in a rare (but thankfully, becoming more common) heel vs. heel match-up. There’s no love lost there, to be sure, after what went down in the number one contendership Battle Royal.

The night’s Divas action kicks off with Carmella and Bayley, who take part in a tandem interview:

Bayley says the only thing harder than winning the title has been keeping it. She talks up her opponents and says she couldn’t be prouder of Carmella, but she’s not quite ready to give up the belt.

Carmella calls this match the biggest of her career, and she’ll have to make the most of it, because she doesn’t know if she’ll get an opportunity like this again.

When asked if this match will affect their friendship, Carmella says she’s all about loyalty, and nothing will change their friendship. Both vow to “let the best woman win.”

Next up is Alexa Bliss, who takes on main roster refugee Cameron:

Alexa enters with both Blake and Murphy in tow, while Cameron is flying solo. The announcers cite the Divas’ interaction in the Battle Royal from last month, which seems as good enough of a reason for a match as anything.

The bell rings, and they tie up, Cameron, taking Alexa to the mat quickly. She taunts Alexa and they circle again, tying up once more. This time, Alexa sends Cameron to the mat. They tie up a third time and find themselves tussling for control, Cameron eventually back Alexa into the corner.

Alexa tries to go on the attack out of the corner, but Cameron ducks it, knocking Alexa to the mat. She chokes her against the middle rope and then runs the ropes, driving double knees into the back of her neck. With Alexa hunched over, she runs the ropes once more and drills her with a sliding split kick. Alexa rolls out of the ring for a breather.

Soon, Alexa heads back to the ring apron, grabbing hold of Cameron and dropping her throat-first into the top rope. She scrambles back into the ring and pummels her in the head. She goes for the cover, but Cameron kicks out.

Alexa continues to beat on Cameron, talking trash and wearing her down. She stands on Cameron’s back and stomps her face into the mat. When she turns her back, it gives Cameron the opportunity to strike. She takes Alexa to the corner and stomps her down before splashing her into it. She plants her with a face buster and goes for an unsuccessful pin. Immediately after, Alexa pulls off a surprise pin attempt for her own, but Cameron kicks out.

Cameron lays out Alexa with a flipping neckbreaker before going for another pin. Alexa kicks out at two. Alexa takes refuge in the ropes, where she takes control of the match. She slams Cameron to the mat and hits her backflip double knee drop. She then climbs to the top rope and flies off of it with the Sparkle Splash! She pins Cameron for the pin and the win.

After her loss, Cameron spoke to about her resilience:

She says she came to NXT to prove herself and won’t let this loss keep her down. After all, “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

Later on, it’s time for our main event!

Carmella enters first, delivering her signature promo with an extra pep in her step. Bayley’s next, handing out slap bracelets and holding her NXT Women’s Title high.

After the customary title match introductions, the bell sounds, and they hug before tying up. Bayley takes control with a side headlock, which Carmella quickly reverses. Bayley then turns the tables by grabbing an arm, straddling it and playfully slapping it with a high five. Carmella locks in a waistlock, which Bayley easily powers out of. She locks in a headlock and goes to send Carmella into the corner, but it’s reversed. Bayley blocks Carmella’s attack, though, and climbs to the second rope to take her down with a big arm drag.

Bayley runs in for an attack in the opposite corner, but Carmella dodges it, lifting up Bayley and dropping her tailbone onto her knee. She immediately goes for a follow-up dropkick, but Bayley has the same idea, and both women hit the mat. They spring to their feet and acknowledge their synchronization, slapping hands. Bayley then goes to strike first, but Carmella ducks her. Bayley still manages to lock in a waistlock, but Carmella powers out of it, locking in a wristlock.

Bayley tumbles out of the hold and rolls Carmella up into a pinning combination. Carmella kicks out. Bayley stays on her, locking in a front facelock. She sends Carmella into the corner and hits a splash, snapmaring her into the middle of the ring, running the ropes and taking her out with a lock clothesline. She drives her knee into Carmella and goes for another pin, but Carmella kicks out. We then head to a commercial.

When we return, Bayley has Carmella locked in a painful arm submission. Carmella soon works her way out of it, rolling Bayley into a pin attempt. After kicking out, Carmella springs to her feet and goes on the attack, taking Bayley down repeatedly before driving her face into her corner-propped boot. Carmella climbs up the turnbuckle and hits Bayley with a headscissors takedown, but Bayley is quick to recover, responding with a fierce clothesline.

Both Divas struggle to their feet, but Bayley is up first. When she approaches Carmella, though, she’s pulled into a small package pin. She kicks out and manages to take back control, attacking Carmella in the corner repeatedly. She then lifts Carmella up, carrying her on one shoulder and slamming her to the mat. She goes for the pin, but it’s not enough.

Bayley climbs to the second rope, but Carmella stops her in her tracks. The two struggle for control, resulting in Bayley taking a rough tumble to the outside. Carmella looks concerned for her friend, but soon realizes what she needs to do, running the ropes and flying through the ropes to take down Bayley with a suicide dive! Carmella soaks in the crowd’s cheers.

Carmella slips back into the ring to stop the referee’s count and then decides to go for the suicide dive again, taking out Bayley once more! She then tosses her friend back into the ring and goes for the pin. Bayley manages to kick out at two. Carmella tries for two more pins, but Bayley kicks out again…and again.

Bayley regroups in the corner, where a fired-up Carmella strikes with a Bronco Buster. She hits her trademark faceplant and tries to follow it up with her headscissors submission, but Bayley reverses it into a pin attempt! Carmella kicks out and goes for a pin of her own, but Bayley kicks out as well. They continue to trade pins, Carmella hitting a sunset flip into a pinning combination that Bayley reverses into a successful three-count! Bayley wins!

Carmella and Bayley embrace in the middle of the ring, Bayley holding her friend’s hand high. Carmella exits the ring graciously, but before she can leave the area, Eva Marie comes out of nowhere with an attack, taking her out. Nia Jax arrives as well, taking out Bayley. The evil duo toss Carmella into the ring, Eva laying Carmella prone for two legdrops from Nia. Nia then pulls Carmella up, allowing Eva to kick her in the midsection. Suddenly, Asuka appears, entering the ring for a standoff.

Asuka stares down Nia until Eva signals that it’s time to go. Nia seems reluctant to pass up the fight, but she leaves. Meanwhile, Bayley’s entered the ring, and Asuka soon sets her sights on her. She gestures at the Women’s Title before leaving, sending an ominous message to the champ. Bayley then checks on Carmella, ever the loyal friend.

Post-match, Bayley talked to about her unending list of challengers:

Bayley talks up Carmella’s performance before addressing Eva and Nia’s attack and Asuka’s menacing stare. She says she has a lot of things to sort out.

Thoughts: I love seeing heel vs. heel and face vs. face Diva matches, since they challenge the simplistic boxes women are often written into and deliver some rare nuance. In that way, it feels like this week’s show was right up my alley, with Cameron vs. Alexa delivering on the heel side and Bayley vs. Carmella providing a babyface response. Cameron and Alexa, being heels through-and-through, battled to see who could play the dirtiest. In the end, though, Alexa won out by relatively cleans means. I would’ve loved to see this match stretched out a bit longer, with a battle of cheaters building to a stolen win. That would’ve been really fun to see.

Cameron still feels a bit unsure in the ring, her sporadic NXT appearances not doing much to give her that “NXT shine”. Putting her up against fellow heel Alexa certainly exposed the audience’s NXT bias, as they clearly weren’t fond of Cameron for what I suspect are “She’s not a real wrestler!!!” reasons. Hopefully, Cameron will see more NXT ring time in the future – it could go a long way towards making her a more confident performer and ridding the NXT crowd of their bias against the “outsider.”

Bayley vs. Carmella was a treat, and I have to admit that it exceeded my expectations. Carmella has been so undersold on the in-ring front lately – the storyline has carried her forward with wins, but she hasn’t really been tested in the ring – so it was great to see her deliver here. She looked better than ever. I really liked the “crisis of conscience” moment where she ultimately decided to take out Bayley on the outside. She’s still a good guy, sure, but it’s nice to see some of the edginess she’s shown in the past come into play. It’s always so much more interesting she see the shades of grey, and everyone has them, even Bayley, though you don’t see them unless she’s pushed to an angry place. Carmella’s confidence-bordering-on-arrogance is what makes her unique as a babyface, so to see her forget her friend’s plight for a moment in pursuit of the belt is totally within character for her. I’m so glad they allowed her to show that side of herself, even against her best friend.

Once again, Bayley found a way to tell a unique, memorable story with her opponent, using her familiarity with Carmella to put together a cool tete-a-tete that tested her in a very different way. The match even ended in an unexpected way, with Bayley picking up a quick, not-so-decisive win against a woman she should have easily been able to take out with a Bayley-to-Belly. It sold Carmella as a real threat and capped off the match with a “good sportsmanship” vibe, the feeling being that two great athletes fought toe-to-toe and the more experienced one was able to shift momentum in her favor long enough to pick up the win.

The Eva/Nia/Asuka involvement post-match was pretty interesting. Asuka is obviously next in line for a title shot – she’s been built up for months, and the fans are salivating at the thought of the match – but the question is where that leaves Eva and Nia. To save the spoiler-averse, I’ll not dive into what actually happens in the lead-up to TakeOver: Dallas, but I will say that it puts a unique spin on the title match build-up, even for a division known for its creative title feuds. The rules of writing Divas need to be broken in order to move beyond the old tropes and worn out stories, and as this night proved, NXT is doing it with style.

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