Happy Thanksgiving! This week, NXT gave us Diva fans plenty to be thankful for, setting up two big bouts for NXT TakeOver: London. No matches have been officially announced yet, but the picture is becoming a lot clearer thanks to two major confrontations.
The theme for this week’s show appears to be “collusion”, as Emma and Dana Brooke hatch a plan to take out Asuka while Eva Marie gets a rather sudden shot at Bayley‘s NXT Women’s Title, the stars aligning a little too well for Miss All Red Everything in her quest to win the gold.
We kick off this week’s Divas action with NXT’s Most Popular Diva herself, who is interviewed by Tom Phillips:
Eva’s in GM William Regal‘s office. She says that she needed more space to prepare for her big match and claims that Regal wouldn’t mind, as he’s off recovering from surgery. She says Bayley’s a “swell girl”, but it’s time for a real woman to become champion. She says she has the support of the WWE Universe and, more importantly, Nia Jax. Nia then appears, presenting her with a gift emblazoned with the Total Divas logo. Eva says, very ominously, that “nothing beats friendship.”
Next, it’s time for Asuka and Dana to face off… or maybe not:
Asuka makes her entrance, followed by Dana, who has a microphone in hand. Dana jaws at Asuka, threatening to smack the ever-present smile off her face.
As she continues, a hoodie-clad Emma storms the ring, attacking Asuka. Asuka fights her off, but a distraction from Dana allows Emma to overpower her and lock in the Emma Lock. After the damage is done, Emma exits the ring. She and Dana leave side by side, satisfied with their little coup.
Immediately following this, Bayley joins Tom Phillips backstage to talk about her title defense:
Bayley acknowledges that, to some, Eva would make the perfect champion, being a beautiful reality star. She even admits that Eva has a lot of support from NXT management.
But that’s not everything. The most important thing, Bayley says, is this: unlike Eva, she is a wrestler. She says she’s going to prove to Eva why she’s the champion.
Soon after, it’s time for our main event! Hm.. I just realized that we’ve had main event Divas matches for two weeks in a row. That’s something, huh?
Before we can get to the match, senior WWE referee Charles Robinson comes to the ring to supervise the match from the outside. It is said that this is being done to prevent any “controversy”. Ruh roh…
Eva makes her entrance with new ally Nia Jax in tow. The crowd isn’t happy about this. Bayley enters next, the crowd going gaga for her. We get our championship match introductions (complete with mood lighting), and off we go!
They tie up, Bayley taking Eva down with a side headlock. Eva gets to her feet quickly, reversing the hold. Bayley quickly gets out of it, taking back control and again taking Eva to the mat. Eva gets up again and slams Bayley to the mat by her hair. She celebrates, taunting the crowd.
Eva fights Bayley into the corner, driving her shoulder into Bayley’s midsection. She hits a suplex and goes for the pin. Bayley kicks out. Eva pulls her to her feet and unwisely lets her guard down, allowing Bayley hit the Bayley-to-Belly out of nowhere! Bayley goes for the pin, but the referee is yanked out of the ring by Nia!
Bayley is distracted by this and Eva slips behind her, rolling her up! Bayley kicks out. Bayley realizes that Robinson has switched in as the match’s referee, and she’s not happy. Robinson is quickly distracted by the original referee’s departure, allowing Nia to get a lick in on Bayley. Eva follows that up with a senton and goes for three frantic pin attempts, Bayley kicking out of all of them.
Eva chokes Bayley against the middle rope, soaking in the crowd’s jeers. Eva backs Bayley into the corner and drives a shoulder in her midsection repeatedly. After this, Bayley slowly starts to battle back, taking Eva off her feet and flipping into a pin attempt. Eva kicks out, but Bayley tries again, getting the same result. Eva springs to her feet and takes back control, leisurely attacking Bayley. She sends her into the corner and hits a back elbow. Eva then runs the ropes, but Bayley turns the tables with a thunderous clothesline!
Bayley hits a suplex and charges at Eva in the corner, nailing her midsection. Bayley rolls back and busts out the wacky flailing arms, but before she can attack, Robinson stops her! Apparently Eva was in the ropes, but the pause in the action conveniently allows her to take control. She hits the Sliced Bread #2 and goes for the pin! Bayley kicks out and Eva can’t believe it.
Eva goes for another Sliced Bread in a neighboring corner, but Bayley shoves her into Robinson! Eva is distracted by this, but fends off Bayley’s attack with a kick. She climbs to the second rope, but Bayley stops her, climbing up there with her. Nia yanks her off and out of the ring, but Bayley fights back! She disposes of Nia and climbs back into the ring and hits a super Bayley-to-Belly just in time for the original referee to return and count the pin! Bayley gets the pin and the win! She is still your NXT Women’s Champion!
Nia attacks Bayley post-match, hitting a leg drop and standing over her. She stakes her claim on the Women’s Title by grabbing the belt and hitting another leg drop. Nia leaves the champ in a heap in the middle of the ring as the show comes to a close.
In a WWE.com exclusive post-show video, we can see Bayley valiantly walking out of her own accord after Nia’s attack:
In another post-show video, Eva talked about her loss:
She disputes that she was “handed” her title shot, calling herself the hardest working Diva in NXT. She says Bayley had to pull out a “million” stops to beat her, which exposes the kind of champion she is.
Thoughts: Both of these matches went down pretty much as expected. That’s not to say they were disappointments; they pointed us in very interesting directions for TakeOver: London, with Emma on a collision course with Asuka and Bayley getting the chance to be the first woman to take down Nia Jax. Being the most obvious directions doesn’t necessarily make them boring or lazy – they’re just the logical next steps.
The Dana/Asuka match was the most predictable by far, but cowardly heels tend to have two strategies when faced with a tough opponent: run or ambush. Emma’s ambush was especially effective, since she’s Asuka’s real target. The segment was much more than your usual heal sneak attack, managing to make Asuka look vulnerable (no easy feat) and sell the fact that Emma is desperately trying to overcome her fear of Asuka. She attacked her from behind and still needed some additional distraction from Dana to lock in the Emma Lock, after which she hightailed it out of the ring. It’s got an extra layer to it, which Emma plays so well.
I’ve gotta say, Dana has come really far, too. She looks so much more comfortable on the microphone. She’s still not the smoothest talker or the most convincing character, but she’s starting to really look like she belongs here, becoming less of a cookie cutter arrogant Diva and more of an overconfident, too-big-for-her-britches type who needs steering to keep her from getting her ass kicked. I think it helps that she’s playing a supporting role here, as there’s fewer expectations to be placed on the role of Emma’s hype woman. I hope they continue to play her carefully, allowing the cleverer Emma to lead her and steer her out of situations where her overconfidence might get them both into trouble. That duo works best when they contrast each other, so they’d do best to define their differences even more.
Eva’s Women’s Title shot was a lot more involved than I thought it would be, but it was kind of cool how much the booking acknowledged the fans’ complaints about her: her reality show background, her “resting on her looks”, management pushing her to the moon, etc. I’ve long felt that the best policy with Eva, at this stage, is to be as self aware as possible, leaning into the crowd’s hate and using it to her advantage. Playing directly into the “She doesn’t deserve this!!!” mentality gets her great heat and puts over her opponents even more, so I hope, even if she’s not in line for another title shot anytime soon, they continue to stack the deck in her favor, with little moments and matches reinforcing the idea that The Powers That Be want their “investment” in Eva to pay off. It also allows her to keep a leisurely pace to her wrestling under the guise of being cocky and toying with the crowd, which masks her limitations. Her limitations on the mic are a lot more glaring, but she hasn’t gotten a ton of heel mic time before now, so I’m willing to give her more time to get comfortable with it.
It would’ve been pretty interesting to see this story stretched out over a few weeks rather than one night, with the lead up to the match playing into fans’ anxieties by showing the “Eva conspiracy” grow. Though, I’m not sure the Full Sail crowd could’ve handled that well. Not sure if NXT staff could’ve handled the rash of aneurysms that would’ve resulted.
So, we have Nia as Bayley’s next challenger, and thus we’re presented with some pretty big stakes: Bayley’s title reign vs. Nia’s undefeated streak. I’m not convinced that Bayley’s title reign is anywhere close to being finished, so I’m more focused on speculating how she’ll exploit Nia’s weaknesses. Undefeated streaks are built to be broken, so it will surely be treated as a big deal if/when Bayley beats her. I hope Nia will get the chance to show a new side of herself because, while she’s not stale yet, it won’t look good if we see the same old strategy thrown at Bayley. Her alliance with Eva Marie showed she’s more cerebral than your usual “monster” wrestlers, so maybe they’ll make an effort to demonstrate that going forward.
Judging by spoilers, Eva looks to be sticking around with Nia, so that’s another thread to follow: who wants what, and how is this pairing serving that goal? For now, though, we do know one thing: Nia’s eyes are on the prize.