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NXT Redux (February 3rd, 2016): Proving a Point

We’re one week away from Bayley‘s NXT Women’s Title defense against her BFF Carmella. The bright lights of a TakeOver special won’t be on the bout, but you can bet the match means the world to both Divas.

With plenty to prove and momentum to build, Carmella spends her final week as number one contender facing off with one of her biggest detractors: Emma. Meanwhile, another Diva who surely has her eye on the gold, Asuka, looks to make another head-kicky statement against former TNA Knockout Santana Garrett.

The Diva action kicks off with an interview with Carmella:

Carmella tells Tom Phillips that winning the #1 contendership is a moment she’ll never forget. She reflects on her wrestling heritage, noting that many fans aren’t aware of her father’s history in the business.

She calls Bayley her best friend, the first female friend she made in NXT. She says this match will not affect their friendship.

On her match with Emma, Carmella says she’ll prove to everyone why she deserves to be the #1 contender and the next NXT Women’s Champion.

Soon after, it’s time for Carmella to put her money where her mouth is:

Emma enters with her one-woman cheerleading squad Dana Brooke by her side and taunts Carmella at the start of the match. They tie up, Emma taking control and backing Carmella into the corner. Carmella ducks Emma’s follow-up attack and locks in a side headlock. Emma battles back, locking in a headlock of her own.

Camrella shoves Emma off, but is knocked to the mat on the return. Emma goes to run the ropes, but is dropped on her face. Carmella hits a dropkick and covers Emma for the pin. Emma kicks out. Carmella sends Emma into the corner, but Emma charges out of it, tkaing her down with a clothesline. Emma pounds Carmella on the head and goes for a pin. Carmella kicks out.

Emma snapmares Carmella and kicks her square in the back before standing on her hair and yanking her upwards by her hands. The referee forces her to cease and desist, so she tumbles to the mat, Carmella’s hands in her grasp, and plants boots on her shoulders, stretching her arms upwards. Emma eventually hooks Carmella’s legs for the pin, but it’s no good.

Emma stays on Carmella, landing a blow to the back. However, Carmella soon manages to take back control, tossing Emma across the ring with a monkey flip and then taking her down with a Lou Thesz press. She hits a few right hands before pulling Emma to her feet and sending her face-first into the corner. She hits a hurricanrana out of the corner and then flies at Emma, who has seated herself in the opposite corner, hitting her with a modified Bronco Buster.

Carmella springs to her feet and grabs Emma, going for her signature face plant. Emma stops it, though, slamming her to the mat. Emma drives Carmella into the corner and toys with her a bit, lifting her up for a double underhook suplex. Carmella wriggles free, though, and hooks Emma’s arms for a backslide pin attempt. It’s enough for the three-count!

Later on, Asuka returned to the ring for a match against all-around indy superstar Santana Garrett:

Off the bell, the competitors circle each other and tie up. They shove off and Santana makes the not-so-wise decision to deliver some right hands, a headbutt and a slap to Asuka. It does nothing but fire her up, of course, and when Santana makes a break for it, Asuka sandwiches her against the ropes with a flying hip attack.

Asuka hits Santana with kicks to the chest, but her final one is caught. Santana releases the boot and swings at Asuka, but her blow is ducked. Asuka responds with a spinning heel kick, but that’s ducked as well. A fierce right hand from Asuka finally connects, knocking Santana to the mat.

Asuka runs the ropes and takes a swing a Santana’s head, but it’s dodged, and Santana takes her down for a roll-up pin attempt. Asuka kicks out, but Santana stays on her, kicking her and taking her back to the mat with a side Russian leg sweep. She goes for another pin, but Asuka again kicks out.

Santana pulls Asuka to her feet and locks in a standing submission, but her positioning leaves her vulnerable, and Asuka grabs hold of her boot, eventually grabbing her bodily. Santana elbows her way free and runs the ropes, but she meets a ready Asuka, who leaps and takes her down for an armbar! Santana flips until she frees herself, but Asuka stays on the attack, capturing her in the Asuka Lock. Santana quickly taps out, delivering yet another victory to Asuka.

Thoughts: I wasn’t crazy about Carmella and Emma’s match. It just wasn’t all that exciting, and the way Carmella picked up the win was pretty anti-climactic. I know she’s the underdog, but she doesn’t have to kick Emma’s ass to get a statement win. Really, anything other than a tricky pin would have done more to sell Carmella as a threat to Bayley’s title.

It would have been cool to see Carmella use a few wiles and rule-bending to win, which I believe would be completely in-character, given how she won the Battle Royal. Kind-of-sorta cheating would’ve set her apart from goody-goody Bayley and added some unpredictability to their match next week – would she level the playing field with Bayley by bending the rules? That’s really the only way I’d think she’d have a shot at winning the belt at this stage, because we all know a few hurricanaranas and a backslide pin isn’t going to take down Bayley.

In contrast, Asuka and Santana’s match was much more thrilling. Asuka was fantastic as always, but Santana really impressed me here too. I mean, it’s no surprise that she can go, given the 2015 she had, but this match really demonstrated how badly TNA wasted her talent. She more than kept up with Asuka and gave her her biggest challenge since Emma. I wouldn’t be surprised if Santana is signed by the end of the year – her talent and energy make her an absolute catch.

What Carmella and Emma’s match lacked in nuance, Asuka and Santana’s match delivered. It always tells you more about a wrestler to see them battle back and overcome challenges to win a match – that’s why squash matches are boring and do nothing to add interest. Seeing someone dodge Asuka’s speedy kick and slip out of her armbar don’t make her look weak: it offers Asuka the opportunity to show her resilience and tenacity in working until she finds a weakness to exploit and takes down her prey.

Next week finally sees the collision of Baymella. Will they survive? Will we see a new Women’s Champion? I’m not exactly on the edge of my seat waiting for those questions to be answered, but I’m extremely interested in seeing how they’re answered. It’s about the journey rather than the destination. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun ride.

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