Sunday, December 3, 2023

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NXT Redux (November 11th, 2015): The Pursuit is On

In one week, Bayley will make her second title defense as NXT Women’s Champion. This time, the glitz and glamor of a live special main event won’t be there, the the sparkle of Alexa Bliss will be.

This week, NXT’s mission is to build to the match and make Alexa a believable threat to Bayley’s belt. To do so, the Divas have been booked in a Six Man Mixed Tag Team match, Bayley teaming with her spiritual kin, the Hype Bros, while Alexa pairs with her boys Blake and Murphy. Can Zack Ryder and Mojo Rawley help Bayley deliver some last minute…hype?

Our first Diva sighting of the night comes with this very match:

The teams tease having Ryder and Murphy start things off, but Alexa asks for the tag, bringing in Bayley with her. Bayley takes control off of the opening tie-up, taking Alexa down to the mat with a side headlock. As Bayley gets to her feet, Alexa gets free, yanking her to the mat by her ponytail.

Bayley responds by taking Alexa down again with a side headlock. She climbs to her feet, keeping the hold intact, and rolls Alexa into a pin attempt. Alexa kicks out. Bayley immediately springs back on Alexa, catching her in a front facelock and attempting a suplex. Alexa blocks it with a knee to the midsection, taking her by the hair and smashing her face into the turnbuckle. Bayley doesn’t feel it, though, and when Alexa tries it again and again, she merely Hulks up, turning the tables and slamming her face into the corner repeatedly.

After the barrage, Bayley backs up and slams Alexa’s face into the corner once more. She then attempts to end things right then and there with the Bayley-to-Belly, but Alexa slips free, frantically crawling to the corner and tagging in Blake. As Bayley goes to tag in one of her male teammates, we head to a commercial.

When we return, Rawley and Blake take over the action. It’s not until Alexa breaks up a pin by Rawley that the Divas reenter the ring, Bayley charging in to exact revenge. She takes Alexa down with a Lou Thesz press, landing a few right hands before Alexa squirms free. She stands on the ring apron, inviting a blow from Bayley that sends her all the way to the outside. Bayley resumes her spot on the ring apron as Alexa sneaks over to the timekeeper’s table, stealing Bayley’s NXT Women’s Title from its resting place and dashing off.

Bayley stands in the ring, trying to decide whether to follow her or stay and incidentally distracting the referee. She breaks up an illegal pin attempt by Murphy, drawing his ire. She responds with a Bayley-to-Belly and then exits the ring, finally giving chase to Alexa.

The match eventually ends with the Hype Bros getting the win on their own, hitting the Hype Ryder on Murphy. I’m sure Bayley was celebrating with them in spirit.

Shortly after this, we’re given a tease of Nia Jax‘s upcoming match:

She’s seen in the backstage area conversing with Eva Marie. What could they possibly be discussing? Is Eva shoring up friends?

Next, it’s time for Nia to meet her next victim. This week, it’s indy wrestler (and 2015 Super 8 ChickFight tournament winner) Deonna Purrazzo.

Off the bell, Deonna comes charging at Nia, but is shoved to the mat easily. Nia picks up Deonna and lifts her, but the agile Deonna flips backwards, landing on her feet. She runs the ropes and tries to take Nia off her feet with a crossbody attack, but she’s caught, Nia lifting her to her shoulders with ease. Nia hits the mat with a Samoan drop, leaving Deonna hurting bad.

Nia pulls Deonna to her feet and knocks her back to the mat with a hip check. She paces a bit before blasting Deonna with a headbutt. She then tosses Deonna into the corner and sandwiches her into the turnbuckle, following that up with a hip smash to the head.

As Deonna tries to get her wits about her, Nia is cocky, dancing in place. When she goes in for more, Deonna shoves her away, showing some surprising life. Nia takes offense to this and immediately hoists her up for her spinebuster finisher, slamming her to the mat. She adds a legdrop for emphasis before pinning Deonna for the win.

As Nia celebrates, we learn that she’ll be facing off with Carmella next week. *Gulp*

Later on, we join Bayley and Alexa’s chase, still in progress. Guess that conditioning is paying off, huh?:

Bayley finds Alexa posing for official photos with the belt. Alexa, having been spotted, drops the belt and runs. When Bayley retrieves her belt and tries to leave with it, she comes face to face with Nia. This is enough to distract Bayley, allowing Alexa to ambush her and knock her to the floor.

Alexa talks trash while Nia takes a look at the belt, picking it up. Alexa realizes that she’s not going to be exchanging high fives with Nia, so she splits. After a few moments, Nia returns the belt to Bayley, her message clear: I’ve got my eye on your title.

Speaking of eyes on the prize: near the end of the program we learned that, next week, Bayley will put her title on the line against Alexa in the night’s main event:

Bring it on!!

Thoughts: The tag match wasn’t terribly exciting, aside from Alexa stealing the belt and Bayley’s big move on Murphy, but it was a unique way to build to a title match, so I’ll give them that. Seeing Bayley interact with the Hype Bros was cute, too. Alexa still doesn’t seem like a huge threat, so I like that they’re compensating for her lack of kayfabe in-ring credibility with a lot of sneakiness. Bayley’s overcome mind games before, but we all know Alexa’s got her own way of pushing her buttons. It’ll be very interesting to see what she’ll have up her sleeve next week.

I know it’s beating a dead horse to complain about the WWE’s aversion to pitting men against women, but Bayley’s Bayley-to-Belly on Murphy just proved that, when done right, intergender action can create big moments that the crowd goes gaga for. There’s a lot moments like that could accomplish: they can be feel-good moments like a Bayley-to-Belly delivered to a man or despicable ones, like Stone Cold Steve Austin and Triple H‘s beatdown of Lita alongside Matt and Jeff Hardy. When done right – not gratuitously, but to sell a specific story and get characters over – it can be dynamite.

It doesn’t even have to be just “moments”, either: Sexy Star and Ivelisse‘s successes in Lucha Underground have proven that, the playing field can be set up in a way that makes intergender wrestling believable and entertaining. It’s all about the staging.

The WWE’s real concern when it comes to in intergender wrestling, I’m sure, is advertising dollars. There are probably a lot of companies that refuse to advertise on programs that promote man-on-woman violence. It’s a narrow way of looking at wrestling, but I guess optics are everything, and I can’t exactly implore the WWE to to give a middle finger to their big ticket advertisers. Maybe if we start off small – like Bayley’s Bayley-to-Belly on the relatively advertising-free WWE Network – they can demonstrate that staged acts of violence aren’t promoting real acts of violence, domestic or otherwise. It won’t be easy, but I think, in order for the WWE to expand beyond their limiting gender divisions, it has to be done eventually.

That Nia match was surprisingly short – her previous bouts, while still relative squashes, were drawn out a bit more. I can appreciate them getting to the point, because everyone knows Nia probably isn’t losing until she challenges Bayley, but success or failure in the “build up Nia” program depends on her staying interesting. We know she can destroy everyone, so it’s up for NXT to book her in ways that teach us more about her. This match, albeit short, showed us that Nia is getting better and better at picking apart her opponents quickly. We also learned that Nia doesn’t take kindly to someone messing with her triumphant mood, as she so succinctly showed Deonna at the end of the match.

So no, Nia hasn’t gotten stale for me yet. She’s got an energy to her that few “big women” of wrestling do, and it’s refreshing. I hope they continue to mix up her matches. I’m sure her bout with Carmella will provide a fresh angle, since she’ll be her first “official Diva” opponent.

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing indy wrestlers pop up for these matches, even if they’re usually squashes. It keeps the landscape exciting and proves that the WWE is keeping an eye on the booming indy women’s wrestling scene.

As for the bigger picture: it’s looking more and more interesting, Alexa’s sneakiness posing a direct threat to Bayley’s title while the rest of the Divas circle like vultures, Nia kicking ass and Eva Marie plotting. It’s a lot for a champ to deal with, and it’s the perfect place to put a babyface like Bayley. When she overcomes these challenges (and I’m confident she will), she’ll be an even bigger star, and when the time comes for her to pass the torch, that destined-to-be-epic moment will have been earned with her blood, sweat and tears. Hooray for good booking!

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