Monday, December 4, 2023

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NXT Redux (February 17th, 2016): Strong Words, Stronger Actions

Last week, Bayley managed to hang on to the NXT Women’s Title when she defeated her bestie Carmella in the night’s main event. With yet another challenger thwarted, the division is rapidly regrouping, the Divas jockeying for position in the hope to be the next woman to get a shot at the belt.

On this week’s show, Asuka makes her case (yet again) to be that woman, taking on the woman she knocked out cold late last year: indy star Deonna Purrazzo. Eva Marie and Nia Jax make their presence felt as well, hoping to jump to the front of the line with a win next week.

We kick off the show with Alexa Bliss, who accompanies Blake and Murphy to the ring for a match that teams them with Dash and Dawson to take on American Alpha, Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady:

Next, indy wrestler Deonna Purrazzo got the rare (unprecedented?) opportunity to speak her mind in an interview backstage prior to her rematch with Asuka:

Deonna says Asuka is an amazing competitor, but being knocked out by her was a learning experience. She says she has to be ready for anything if she’s going to compete in NXT.

Dana Brooke and Emma then appear, accusing Deonna of not respecting them. Dana says she and Emma run NXT, and reminds Deonna that when Asuka beat them, she was just lucky, so if she thinks she can do what they couldn’t, she’s as pathetic as she looks. Dana and Emma mockingly wish her good luck.

Shortly after, it’s time for Deonna and Asuka to dance:

The women circle, Deonna jumping back to avoid a spinning kick from Asuka. They circle once more, Asuka landing a series of kicks to Deonna’s sides, back and chest that send her to the mat. Asuka pulls her to her feet, only to receive a blow to the face. Deonna runs the ropes, but Asuka follows her, getting the upper hand with a flying takedown that she turns into a knee bar. Deonna frantically crawls to the ropes and breaks the hold.

Deonna climbs to her feet and backs into the corner, fending off an attack from Asuka with her boots. She hits the ropes, ducking Asuka’s swinging attack and answering it with a crossbody. She goes for a pin, but Asuka kicks out easily.

Both women get to their feet and Deonna gets desperate, hitting Asuka with a series of blows that have no effect on the enigmatic Diva. A final slap seems to rock her, though, and she takes down Deonna, sending her into the corner and stopping her double axe handle attempt with a sickening kick to the midsection.

Asuka locks in an ankle lock, but Deonna gets to her feet, struggling for freedom. Asuka then simply grabs hold of Deonna bodily, hitting her with a German suplex that she bridges into a pin. Deonna kicks out, but Asuka immediately locks in an armbar. Deonna flips herself free, but she can’t completely escape, as Asuka grabs hold of her again, brings her to her feet and blasts her with a series of spinning jabs. She caps it all off with a roundhouse kick, going for the cover and earning the three count.

Immediately following this, we recap last week’s NXT Women’s Title match between Bayley and Carmella and Eva Marie/Nia Jax attack that followed it:

When it finishes, we see Eva and Nia backstage. Eva says they made a statement last week. Nia says the attack was justified, because if she had been cleared to compete in the number one contendership Battle Royal, she would have been competing in that title match instead of Carmella.

Eva says Asuka needs to stay out of their business. If she doesn’t Nia warns that she’ll end up “broken.”

Later in the program, a match pitting Bayley and Carmella against Eva Marie and Nia Jax is announced for next week. That will be an interesting one…

Thoughts: Though she hardly needed it, it’s always a pleasure to see Asuka look strong. The win wasn’t as impressive as her last one over Deonna – KO and all – but I suppose there’s only so many knockout wins you can give a Diva when the devastating effect of concussions are a real life issue the sports world is struggling to address. And, of course, there’s only so many Asuka Lock tap outs she can elicit before her matches become one-note.

Still, I was really impressed by how big a role Deonna played in the narrative. As an indy wrestler not under contract with NXT (though her recent tryout may soon change that), Deonna could have easily been shuttled in to the match with just a passing mention to her previous bout with Asuka. Instead, NXT not only acknowledged that match, but they gave her mic time! They had her cross paths with Dana and Emma! A fan not “in the know” might assume she’s a NXT Diva, judging by her use here. I think it’s so cool that NXT is making the effort to make the “enhancement talent” more than two dimensional jobbers, adding them to the division’s tapestry and thereby creating a rich “universe” of women’s wrestlers from which to craft their stories.

It was also nice to see an appearance from Dana and Emma, even if they’re not actively participating in a storyline. It helped remind us that they’re lurking in the background, scheming and stirring shit. They really need to become the division’s “mean girl” puppet masters, starting rumors and letting their foes destroy each other while they sit back and eat popcorn.

Eva and Nia’s promo was, in my opinion, the strongest mic work both have displayed so far. They were confident and looked good together, showing more personality than ever before. It set up next week’s tag match pretty well, too. I still want to know what Nia’s getting out of this partnership, but maybe next week will shed a bit more light on that. As we inch closer and closer to NXT TakeOver: Dallas, I’m looking forward to that and many other Diva-related things getting the quasi-WrestleMania treatment. It may not be the “big show”, but there’s no reason this TakeOver – the first to grace WrestleMania weekend – shouldn’t kick the division into high gear.

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