Sunday, December 3, 2023

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NXT Redux (July 15th, 2015): The Revolution Will Be Televised

If you enjoyed Raw’s “Divas Revolution”, have I got a treat for you! You know Charlotte and Sasha Banks, two of the NXT Divas who invaded Raw at behest of Stephanie McMahon and upturned the Divas division in one night? They’re wrestling in the main event of this week’s NXT, with the NXT Women’s Title on the line. If you ever needed convincing that the fans lost their shit on Monday night for good reason, this will do the job nicely. If after watching this, you’re still not convinced, I don’t know what to tell you.

Before we can get to the main event, though, we must travel through the rest of the show. First, we were greeted by Eva Marie, who came out to what I figure is new music. Somehow they’ve made it even more generic than her old tune. She’s got a mic in hand:

Eva tells the audience that’s she’s excited to see them too. She’s also excited to see Sasha and Charlotte battle in the main event. But that’s not why she’s here. She’s here to announce that she’ll be making her in-ring debut next week. Get those signs and “little horns” ready!

She’s definitely improved on the mic – her increased confidence is obvious. I appreciate that she’s acknowledging her infamy and is using that to her advantage. That’s really the only way to play Eva Marie at this point.

I’m just nervous about how she’ll deliver in the ring – it’s kind of make it or break it at this point, right? After all that hype, she has to deliver. If she gives the NXT fans an opening, and they’ll eat her alive. I’m no masochist, so I sincerely hope she can pull it off and silence the detractors. Am I 100% confident she can do it? Not really, because short training videos and a shit ton of hype doesn’t guarantee anything. I’m just really, really hopeful.

Alexa Bliss also made an appearance, accompanying Wesley Blake and Buddy Murphy to the ring for their match against Angelo Dawkins and Sawyer Fulton. I can’t find video of that match, but rest assured: they won, and she hit the Sparkle Splash for emphasis. Again, I say: bring back the Alexa/Carmella feud!!!

Now, it’s time for the main event? Ready? Let’s go!

Both Divas enter to great reactions and get the full title match treatment with in-ring introductions, adding even more weight to the match. Sometimes, it’s the little things.

To the tune of competing “Let’s go Charlotte”/”Let’s Go Sasha” chants, the two start with an explosive tie-up, Charlotte taking control and backing Sasha into the corner. She lets go at the referee’s insistence and mocks her good-naturedly with a Flair strut. They circle each other again and tie up, this time flattening out on the mat and rolling around in the desperate struggle to take control. Charlotte lands a pin attempt, but it’s not successful.

When both women get to their feet, still tied up, Sasha bridges Charlotte backwards for a pin attempt of her own. Charlotte kips up to break the pin and tosses Sasha across the ring, finally breaking the hold.

The Divas stare each other down before Sasha makes a move, charging at Charlotte. She gets knocked to the mat with a shoulder block. Charlotte runs the ropes, but Sasha flattens out to avoid her, and comes charging again. Charlotte sends her into the ropes and leaps over her at the first pass, catching her on the return with a headscissors takedown. Incensed, Sasha comes charging yet again, but Charlotte takes her down, bridging over her for a cocky pin attempt. Sasha kicks out.

Sasha finally takes control when they get to their feet, kneeing Charlotte in the midsection and taking her by the hair, talking some trash and attempting to smash her face-first into the turnbuckle. Charlotte turns the tables, though, and Sasha finds herself on defense again. When both Divas are flat on the mat, Charlotte wraps her legs around Sasha’s neck and repeatedly flips her around the ring, sending the blood rushing to the champ’s head. After a few go-rounds, Charlotte releases her.

Sasha tries to battle back, but Charlotte skirt around her, smoothly slipping out onto the ring apron. Sasha manages to take control with a knee to the stomach, pulling Charlotte over the second rope and across the corner for her double knee drop. She hits it, and Charlotte’s hurting. Sasha covers her for the pin, but only earns a near fall. With Sasha busting out a sarcastic “WOOOO!”, we head off to a commercial break.

When we come back, Sasha’s still in control, having locked Charlotte in a painful submission hold. Charlotte quickly battles free, tossing Sasha across the ring over her head. She doesn’t maintain control, though, Sasha flattening her quickly with a clothesline. She covers Charlotte for the pin, but she kicks out at two. Sasha tosses Charlotte into the corner and kicks her in the side of the head a few times, sending her stumbling across the ring and falling flat onto it, Ric Flair-style. Sasha notices this, busting out a Flair strut of her own.

Sasha tries to pull Charlotte to her feet, but she’s suddenly dropped jaw-first onto her head. She regains momentum, though, reversing Charlotte’s ensuing attack into a partial Bank Statement, opting to choke Charlotte instead of flipping her over for the submission. She then props her up for a different submission, Charlotte’s arms again crossed over her throat and a boot in her back. As she inflicts the physical pain, Sasha gets in some psychological jabs too, telling Charlotte she’ll never be champ again.

Charlotte tries to reverse the hold, flipping backwards. Sasha stays strong, though, merely switching the hold to a headscissors submission. She rams Charlotte face-first into the mat repeatedly before switching back to a seated position, letting out a “WOOO!” as she continues to apply pressure to Charlotte’s throat. Charlotte attempts to free herself, swatting at Sasha, but Sasha just slaps her roughly and hooks a leg for a pin attempt. Charlotte kicks out, but Sasha doesn’t let go.

It’s then that Charlotte finds the strength to battle out, slowly making it to her feet with Sasha seated on her shoulders. She attempts a powerbomb, but Sasha hangs on, so she swings her back up for another try. The second attempt is a winner, the champ being slammed to the mat on the back of her head. As both Divas try to regain their bearings, the fans show their appreciation, chanting “This is Awesome!”

The Divas stumble to their feet and exchange blows, from forearms to chops. Charlotte ultimately wins the exchange with a neckbreaker and one hell of a spear. Charlotte goes for the pin, but Sasha manages to kick out.

Charlotte pulls Sasha to her feet and tries to hit a suplex, but mid-air, Sasha claims the momentum, landing on her feet, spinning free and shoving Charlotte away. They reconnect and hook their arms, Sasha pulling Charlotte into a backslide pin attempt. Charlotte kicks out, but the Divas maintain the arm hooks, standing up back-to-back. Sasha takes back control, twisting around and dropping Charlotte to the mat. She covers Charlotte for a desperate pin attempt, but only gets a two count.

Sasha pulls Charlotte to her feet, laying in on her with some smack talk and slapping her across the face. Charlotte responds with furious chops, backing Sasha into the corner and driving her shoulder into her midsection repeatedly. When Sasha stumbles out of the corner, Charlotte greets her with a boot to the face. With Sasha flat on the mat, Charlotte goes for the figure four. Before before she can lock it in, though, Sasha grabs her by the hair and pulls her into a small package pin attempt. Charlotte narrowly kicks out, but is immediately met with another pin attempt, which she again kicks out of. Sasha is livid, screaming at the referee.

The champ eventually cools down and grabs Charlotte by the legs to attempt a figure four. Charlotte kicks her away into the ropes, but Sasha comes springing back. Charlotte takes back the momentum, though, rolling to her feet and immediately locking in the figure four! I imagine if Jim Ross was commentating this match, he’d then say something like, “Bah Gawd! She just pulled her own hair out of her head!” The two Divas do battle hand-to-hand over the submission, Sasha desperately trying to break to hold. She eventually manages to roll both of them to the bottom rope, breaking the hold. Except… Charlotte doesn’t want to break it. She drops herself off the ring apron, dangling Sasha’s legs over the edge of the ring in a submission Gail Kim would be proud of.

Charlotte soon breaks the hold to avoid a DQ, but the damage might be done. Sasha’s left knee looks to be in bad shape. Once Charlotte reenters the ring, though, she’s fighting fiercely, taking control and rolling her into a pin attempt. Charlotte kicks out and takes Sasha down into a pin of her own. Sasha fights out. Charlotte gets to her feet quickly and hoists the champ up for a scoop slam, but Sasha slips free, hitting the Bank Statement! She locks in the submission, bending Charlotte back painfully. Charlotte somehow finds it in her to roll over and cover Sasha for a pin. Sasha kicks out easily and maintains the hold, flipping Charlotte back onto her stomach. Soon, it’s too much for her to bear, and Charlotte reluctantly taps out. Sasha is still your NXT Women’s Champion!

Post-match, the foes greet each other emotionally, hugging each other as we fade to black. Wow.

In a post-show exclusive, Charlotte spoke about the match:

Charlotte, clearly still emotional, says she was honored to wrestle Sasha in a Women’s Title match. Sasha’s come so far, she says, and though she doesn’t like losing, she’s confident that she’ll face her again some day.

Thoughts: Just incredible. One might expect a match like this from a TakeOver special, but to see it on a regular old episode of NXT – in the main event, no less – speaks volumes about how seriously NXT takes its Divas division. To take up nearly half of its one hour show… wow. And, like always, they delivered a match that put it all out there and brought something new to the table. NXT Divas have set a standard and somehow keep exceeding it. It’s just outstanding. There’s a reason people lost their shit when Becky Lynch, Charlotte and Sasha popped up on Raw, and this is it.

I don’t know if there’s anything I can say about Monday’s “Divas Revolution” that hasn’t already been said, but the timing of that and this match couldn’t have been more perfect. The WWE had its follow-through on that segment ready weeks ago, having taped this match last month. If fans were curious about Sasha and Charlotte, they could have tuned in to this week’s show and gotten hit over the head with pure women’s wrestling goodness, the Divas stealing the show once again. Can you imagine being a pure main roster-watcher, used to five minute Divas matches that are treated as throwaway segments, tuning into this? Seeing two Divas wrestle for nearly 15 minutes in the main event with the crowd behind them all the way? With history between them that amounts to more than “I want that title!”? I wouldn’t go so far as to say that their brains would explode, but I’m sure their stance on women’s wrestling was altered greatly.

Charlotte and Sasha have been at the forefront of NXT’s Divas renaissance, so I don’t think there are two women more deserving of this match and spotlight. There’s no telling how quickly they’ll move to being exclusive to the main roster, but part of me wants them to pull a Kevin Owens and stick around a little bit longer. However, the Divas division is packed enough as it is, so maybe them leaving would be the better option, as that would open up some much needed room. At the very least, I imagine Becky will stick around. She’s still coming into her own, and I definitely see a Women’s Title run in her future.

I can only hope that the WWE manages to roll the momentum from the segment on Raw into meaningful change. I’ve said multiple times that, for me, #GiveDivasAChance was about making the Divas matter, giving them storylines, matches and TV time that treated them as integral parts of the show, rather than distractions. If you want a pure example of what that looks like, this match was it. It took up nearly 20 minutes of TV time on a 60 minute show, was given the main event slot and capitalized on a long, complicated history between these two women that transcended your usual, shallow Diva feuds. And, perhaps most importantly, the fans ate it up. Their reaction told us – and the powers-that-be – that a kick-ass, well built Divas match can main event a show and the fans will love it. Lita and Trish Stratus first taught us this over a decade ago, but Charlotte and Sasha just provided us with a firm reminder.

To my mind, this was probably an even more important statement, because back when Trish and Lita exploded our brains in the main event of Raw, they were practically it for the Divas division, as far as the bookers were concerned. Once they retired, we didn’t see an opportunity of that kind be extended to the Divas ever again. Charlotte and Sasha, though they are two of the biggest rising stars, aren’t the end-all, be-all of the Divas division. We know that the Divas bench is deep. If they can be given such an opportunity, countless other women can get it too. I’m excited to see other NXT Divas main event the show once these two are exclusively on the main roster.

Speaking of the main roster, I know many of us (me included) fear what will become of Sasha and Charlotte once they’re wrestling weekly on Raw and SmackDown. I don’t think the quality can be maintained, but it can’t be ignored the way they were introduced to the audience: a revolution. The WWE told us, in no uncertain terms, that these women are supposed to bring about change. I have no doubt that they can bring it, but it’s up to the WWE to hold up their end of the bargain. Change can come, but only if the powers-that-be want it to happen. After the reception this match and that Raw segment got, though, they’d be crazy to not want it.

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