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NXT Redux (May 17, 2017): The many faces of Asuka

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Welcome to this week’s NXT review. With only a few days before TakeOver: Chicago there’s only one thing on the minds of the competitors within the women’s division, can anyone beat Asuka?

Asuka has remained an elusive yet diabolical force in the division. This week’s show starts off with the brand trying to gauge her feelings about her upcoming Triple Threat match.

Asuka sits in a car as an interviewer asks her to elaborate about how she feels about her upcoming title defense. She brushes him off repeatedly before the car pulls up to Full Sail. She calls for the interview to be over as she steps out of the car to greet her adoring fans. She poses and takes pictures with them before wandering off to the entrance. As she moves away from the crowd, her demeanor changes from her outgoing bubbly persona to a darker, more brooding one.

After the interview Lacey Evans makes her way to the ring to take on Sonya Deville, formally known as Daria Berenato.

They tie up but it’s not long before Sonya overpowers Lacey with hard knees and a punch to the face. Lacey starts fighting back but is immediately grounded by a spear from Sonya. Sonya continues to stall Lacey with a body scissor. Lacey tries to fight out of it. They trade pin attempts as Sonya reverses it and Lacey scrambles out.

Sonya hits Lacey hard in the midsection with her knees. She then takes her gloves off and begins striking Lacey in the midsection. She starts taunting Lacey but Lacey fires back with a hard slap to Sonya’s face.

Lacey hits Sonya with a clothesline and a knee to the midsection. She starts working Sonya over with more knees and a neckbreaker. She kips up into a float over maneuver for a pin. Sonya kicks out. She then side kicks Lacey in the midsection. A step up kick by Sonya takes down Lacey for the count.

She smugly looks at Lacey as she celebrates her win.

Thoughts: Not a bad go-home show, but not a spectacular one either. Two things are happening here and I’ll zone in on them. First up is a look at Asuka’s many faces.

Asuka is a ruthless champion who is now completely full of herself after destroying everyone NXT has put in front of her. She is the strongest competitor male or female NXT has. She is above NXT in skill and charisma. She doesn’t need to command perfect English to get herself across. She’s a master of relaying herself through her body language. Once a playful yet dominating face, she is now a conniving, callous heel. However, she is a wolf in sheep’s clothing when it comes to the adoring audience.

Props to NXT for having some subtlety as they continue to touch upon the many layers of the Asuka character. She acts one way with the brand but another when faced with her fans. This two-faced nature also explains why she plays a face during house shows but is basically in shades of gray heel territory on television.

I’m unsure what to think going into TakeOver on Saturday. Asuka needs a loss to put her character further over the edge and let her run loose, peel back the layers of what broken Asuka can do. She’s an incredibly dynamic performer.

But, I can’t help and think it’ll probably be Ember Moon who ultimately ends her reign. NXT doesn’t take much risk anymore in the women’s division. We practically have to beg them for multiple stories and time for the women again. As much as I want Nikki Cross to unexpectedly win and Sanity to cause complete chaos in the division and NXT as a whole, I just don’t see the brand being unpredictable here.

The second thing showcased last night was the continued development, or lack thereof, of the division. I’m happy to see both women get some time to shine. Sonya, who I think should have kept her former name, will work wonders as a heel. I’m already getting the vibes from her that she’s here to take what’s hers and shake things up. It’s a good sign that she’s being featured as well. I like her gimmick and I can definitely see her going places. I’d like to see a deeper story for her and a longstanding feud with Lacey perhaps.

I really like Lacey already too. I think her background will continue to set her apart from the others and so will her combat/pinup aesthetic. I’m already rooting for her and I want her to get some time to cut a passionate promo. I think this will solidify her as the next up and coming baby face. She could also play a ruthless heel, maybe carry her marine background with her as a tool that beats her opponents into submission, but those layers could come later.

NXT still has so much work to do. The women should be getting more than three minutes to truly show what they can do.

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

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