Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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NXT Redux (November 18th, 2015): Charging Forward

Surprise! This week’s NXT isn’t just offering you a Women’s Title main event match: it’s presenting you the most Diva-heavy episode yet. We’ve got three (count ’em, three) Diva matches on deck, as well as countless storylines to set up, with twists galore just around the corner. Suddenly, the Diva Revolution doesn’t feel quite so imaginary.

It feels like real, lasting change is happening. Booking Divas throughout the show in complex, entertaining ways isn’t some showy, empty gesture: it’s a promise. Let’s hope NXT keeps it.

Kicking off the show is none other than the unstoppable Nia Jax, who is taking on her first non-jobber opponent, Carmella:

Off the bell, Carmella ducks Nia’s opening attack and catches her in a waistlock, but Nia easily tosses her away. Carmella gets to her feet and tries a new strategy, nailing Nia with forearms. When she tries to run the ropes, though, Nia body blocks her, whipping her into the opposite ropes and taking her down with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker.

Nia pulls Carmella to her feet and knocks her back down with a hip check. She then does it again, trading the hip check for a headbutt. When she pulls Carmella up for a third time, it’s for a bearhug. Nia violently squeezes Carmella for a while, Carmella desperately trying to get out of the hold. Eventually, she finds a way to turn the tables, catching Nia in a front facelock. This forces Nia to walk Carmella into the ropes, freeing her.

Nia charges at Carmella, but is rebuffed with a back elbow. Carmella then pushes her luck a bit too far, leaping at Nia for a crossbody. She’s caught, and Nia leisurely takes her to the middle of the ring, where she hoists her up for a Samoan drop. Carmella slips down her back, though, and attempts to pull her into a pin. Nia responds by dropping into a seated position, but Carmella scoots out of the way, leaving Nia to land on her tailbone.

Camrella dropkicks Nia twice and nails her with a knee, but if shoved away easily. Carmella heads to the corner, where she attempts a headscissors takedown. Nia remains standing, though, swinging Carmella up and slamming her to the mat for her finisher. She hits a legdrop and covers Carmella for the pin and the win.

Immediately after this, we join Alexa Bliss backstage, where she discusses her big Women’s Title shot tonight:

Alexa says her ears are hurting from hearing people jabber on about Bayley and Sasha Banks‘s Iron Man match. She acknowledged that Bayley has earned the NXT Universe’s respect, but she wants something more than respect: the NXT Women’s Championship.

Unlike Bayley, she’s not just “happy to be here.” She says she’s what girls aspire to be and times are changing. The Four Horsewomen are gone, and it’s time for a new era.

Just as she’s wrapping up her speech, she’s interrupted by a referee, who informs her that NXT GM William Regal has decreed that Blake and Murphy are to be banned from ringside during her match. The men are pissed, but Alexa still seems confident, promising to destroy all of Bayley’s “innocent” dreams.

A bit later, we’re treated to a fantastic video package hyping Bayley and Alexa’s match:

Following the promo, Bayley joins Tom Phillips backstage for an interview:

She says becoming NXT Women’s Champion wasn’t easy, and keeping it isn’t going to be easy either. However, if Alexa thinks it will be easy to take the belt, she’s got another thing coming.

Bayley promises to teach Alexa the “wrestling lesson of her life”: respect isn’t given, it’s earned. She says Alexa’s out of her league and will learn the hard way why she is the NXT Women’s Champion.

Next, it’s time for more Divas action! Emma takes on SHINE star Andrea (formerly the TNA Knockout Rosie Lottalove), who’s going by the name Mary Kate here.

Emma heads to the ring sans Dana Brooke. That’s a curious development. Maybe Emma’s trying to prove to Asuka (and herself) that she’s tougher than she looks…

Emma and Mary Kate tie up, Emma getting tossed backwards by the more powerful woman. Emma ducks the follow-up tie-up and turns around right into a forearm to the face. She’s whipped into the ropes and knocked off her feet, but when Mary Kate bends over to pull her to her feet, Emma strikes back, driving knees into her face.

Emma grabs Mary Kate by the hair and pulls her to the mat, pummeling her with some right hands. Mary Kate shoves her off, but Emma responds with a dropkick to the face. Emma hits another dropkick to the back and lays her down, standing on her hair and pulling her up by the arms. She lets go of the illegal hold quickly and distracts the referee for a moment by tasking him with setting aside her gloves. She runs over and chokes Mary Kate against the ropes. The referee forces the break.

Emma fends off Mary Kate’s attempt to fight back and drives her face into the turnbuckle repeatedly, following that up with some blows to the back of the face. She hits a modified curb stomp into the turnbuckle and continues to pummel Mary Kate, who’s looking a little woozy at this point. Emma stomps a mudhole into her and slams into her with a the Emmamite Sandwich.

May Kate is dragged to the center of the ring and Emma fights hard to subdue her, eventually locking in the Emma Lock. Mary Kate taps out! Emma hands on to the hold for several seconds after the bell, showing some real tenacity. You watching, Asuka?

Later on, we join Asuka backstage for an interview:

Before Asuka can utter a word, she’s interrupted by Dana, who says she’s been angry at her ever since she deigned to pat her on the head. She says it’s time for her to prove the naysayers wrong. She challenges Asuka to a rematch. Asuka accepts, and departs. Dana dismisses Tom too.

Emma then appears, asking Dana if Asuka “bought it.” Dana says she did, “hook, line and sinker.” What in the hell have they got planned?

Next, finally, it’s time for our maaaaaain event!

Alexa and Bayley head to the ring, Alexa running solo as per Regal’s ruling. They get the full championship introduction.

The bell rings and the Divas tie up, Bayley backing Alexa in to the corner. She stomps her a bit and nails her in the back of the head, chasing her to the neighboring corner for more of the same. Alexa turns the tables out of nowhere, stomping on Bayley and standing on her back. She toys with Bayley, but her kick is caught and Bayley knocks her off her feet, pummeling her in the head.

Bayley takes her back to the corner and slams her head repeatedly against the turnbuckle. Alexa fights back again, knocking Bayley off her feet with a blow to the face. Alexa sends Bayley into the conrer, but Bayley vaults over her. Bayley lifts Alexa up for a bodyslam, but Alexa slips free and grabs hold of Bayley. The Divas hook arms and fight for control, Bayley getting free quickly, snapmaring Alexa to the mat and flattening her with a low clothesline. She hits a knee drop and goes for the pin, but Alexa kicks out.

Alexa back in to the corner and dodges Bayley’s flying attack, but Bayley gets back control with a kick through the ropes. Bayley hits a bulldog and goes for another pin. Alexa again kicks out. Bayley immediately locks in an arm submission, but Alexa fights out, slipping out of the ring for a breather. Bayley follows, but Alexa sends her into the ring apron. Alexa enters the ring and drops Bayley onto the ring apron, adding more punishment with her boot as we head to a commercial.

When we return, Alexa has Bayley in a submission hold, working on her left shoulder. Bayley starts to fight out, hitting Alexa with forearms, but Alexa sends her back to the mat. Bayley backs into the corner and though she tries to fight back, Alexa keeps control, sending Bayley to the mat and getting a near fall off of a pin attempt. She locks in an armbar submission, delivering more punishment to that left arm. Bayley again gets to her feet, but Alexa knocks her back down. She covers her for the pin, but Bayley kicks out.

Alexa locks in the same arm submission, punishing Bayley’s shoulder. When Bayley gets to her feet again, Alexa hangs onto her back. Bayley backs into the corner, knocking Alexa off. Bayley tosses Alexa over her shoulder and returns the favor, beating on her left arm. She sends Alexa into the ropes and hits a series of double axehandles. Alexa halts her offensive streak suddenly with a slap to the face. Alexa hits the Bliss Flip and covers Bayley, but it’s not enough for the win.

Alexa climbs to the top rope, but before she can take flight, Bayley fights back, grabbing her off of the turnbuckle and slamming her to the mat. Bayley goes for the pin, but Alexa kicks out. Bayley hits a suplex and attacks Alexa in the corner. When she attempts one final attack, though, Alexa dodges it, taking Bayley down with a sunset flip into a pin attempt. Bayley kicks out.

Alexa screams at Bayley, her frustration palpable. The crowd is fully behind Bayley, and they’re ecstatic when Bayley answers Alexa’s taunts with a slap. She hits the Bayley-to-Belly and covers Alexa for the pin and the win! Bayley is still your NXT Women’s Champion.

Bayley holds her title high as Alexa retreats on the ramp, but we’re not done here: Eva Marie‘s music hits, and the reigning Most Popular Diva in NXT joins Bayley in the ring, a mic in hand.

Eva soaks in the crowd’s adoration, asking the “little dorks” to be quiet. She tells Bayley that the “inevitable” is happening. She says next week, Bayley will be defending the belt against her. Bayley wordlessly accepts the challenge-that-wasn’t-a-challenge by holding the belt high.

Thoughts: Wow.. That had to be the most airtime NXT has ever given the Divas, right? It was a pleasant surprise, especially since it was far from one-note. Numerous angles were advanced, characters were refined and gauntlets were thrown, and as a result the Divas division is more alive than it’s ever been. It’s a marvelous thing to see.

Nia/Carmella was fun, in its way. It was nice to see Carmella find a way to fight back, even if it was just for a moment. That was the most offense Nia’s taken so far, right? It makes sense it would be against her first Diva opponent – it both demonstrates that Carmella’s a bigger threat than the ones who have come before her and adds some suspense to Nia’s NXT future. If others can exploit her weaknesses better than Carmella, we may see the first Nia Jax loss sooner rather than later. I’m not betting on anyone other than Bayley getting that win, though.

I’ve long been a fan of Emma’s ring psychology, but her heel turn has made it even greater. She’s good at adding little touches to matches that present her as a real wily wrestler. It’s part of what makes her matches so fun to watch. Her striving to prove a point to Asuka and herself gives her even more of a story to tell. She’s insecure and is working overtime to prove her toughness. She’s overcompensating, clearly, so it’ll be really interesting to see how she behaves the next time she actually comes face to face with Asuka.

I wonder what Dana and Emma have planned… An ambush, maybe? It’s gotta be more involved than that, surely. This is really unique buildup, and I’m loving it. As eager as I am to see that match, I hope they hold off on it until TakeOver: London. That’ll be a barn burner, for sure.

I really love how they hyped Alexa and Bayley’s match like it was a TakeOver match, mentioning it throughout the show, putting together a great video package and giving it the main event slot. That adds suspense to the match, even though in the back of your mind you know Bayley won’t be dropping the belt on a regular episode of NXT. Bayley is being set up as a fighting champion, so she’s going to have plenty of non-TakeOver defenses, and it helps to set this up as the “new norm”, with big ticket Divas matches taking place between TakeOvers. They’re establishing that future NXT Women’s Champions will need boundless energy and tenacity to hold on to the title. This will help elevate the “cred” of NXT’s Divas division even higher.

The match itself was fun and energetic, allowing us to see a new side of both Divas. Alexa (the character, not the person) was clearly out of her depth against Bayley, and I appreciate that they weren’t afraid to show that. Not everyone who knocks on Bayley’s door is going to be another Sasha Banks, so it’s important to show that Bayley will have to use different tactics to defeat her myriad of challengers. Alexa performed really well, getting in the licks that she could and bringing the brattiness full force. Judging by the crowd’s reactions, her mission was accomplished: giving Bayley a feel good win.

Eva’s title challenge is bound to generate more heat than a power plant, so it’s smart for NXT to pull that trigger now, so they can get another title defense in the books before TakeOver. Eva Marie will probably always be hated, but NXT needs to strike while the iron’s hot, before the boiling hatred cools down to annoyed indifference. This angle will help Eva avoid that for the time being, since I’m sure Twitter is now teeming with people APPALLED that Eva’s getting a title shot. Mission accomplished!

Her promo wasn’t the greatest, especially since she seemed so shook by the crowd. They were probably a lot louder than it sounded on my end, but the constant pauses kind of put a damper on the segment. Either way, I’m glad to see that Eva’s getting her title shot over with as quickly as possible, since we all know she ain’t winning the belt yet. It’s no use for NXT to tease it as an actual possibility.

I’m interested in seeing what her larger plan is, since her budding Nia Jax alliance is still a mystery. Somehow, I bet Eva’s title shot will put Nia in the challenger’s seat heading into TakeOver. Maybe Eva’s plan for domination is a much longer game than she’s letting on.

There are a lot of unknowns in the NXT Divas division at the moment, but not in the “no one has any clue what they’re doing” kind of way. Things are mysterious. Divas have plans and tricks up their sleeves. For the first time in a very, very long time, Diva fans have a reason to be sitting on the edge of their seats.

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