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NXT Redux (October 14th, 2015): Staking Claims

Last week’s NXT TakeOver: RESPECT went a long way towards setting up a bright future for NXT’s Divas division. Now comes the process of taking that hype and turning it into a real, tangible thing. History-making matches are all well and good, but if this division wants to implement real, lasting change, it needs to be built for the long haul, and this week’s show took on that task with gusto.

NXT Women’s Champion Bayley, one week removed from history, is met with her next challenger, while the formidable Nia Jax makes her much-anticipated debut. Ch-ch-ch-changes!

We kick off this week’s show in the same way TakeOver ended: with Bayley in the ring, soaking up the cheers from the crowd. As she takes a microphone, she’s inundated with “Match of the Year” chants.

Bayley says that NXT made history last week, and she’s not just talking about her own match: the whole Pay-Per-View made history, as it was about respect. She says being in the main event was something she dreamed of since she was a kid. She and Sasha started a whole new level of the Diva Revolution. She crowd concurs, giving her a “Women’s Wrestling” chant.

She says they want women’s wrestling to be respected, and NXT’s women’s division makes the future look validated. Just then, Alexa Bliss‘s music hits, and she heads to the ring flanked by Blake and Murphy.

Alexa takes a microphone of her own and tells Bayley that what she accomplished last week was “incredible”. She admits to being in awe. She says no one deserves to be champion more than her: she’s incredible.

Alexa says Bayley’s right: the future of NXT’s Divas division has never been brighter. She’s excited to share that future with Bayley. She hoists Bayley’s hand up, lifting the NXT Women’s Title with it. Suddenly, she snatches the belt away from Bayley and saunters off with it, Blake and Murphy preventing Bayley from following her.

With the mic still in hand, Alexa says that while she and Bayley may be sharing the future, they won’t be sharing the belt. She mocks Bayley, saying that they aren’t much alike, because she didn’t write letters to herself when she was 10 years old. Nevertheless, she wants the glory too.

Alexa says people like Bayley aren’t meant to be champion, and that’s going to make it much easier to take the belt from her. She tosses the belt back to Bayley and departs.

Later on the show, it’s time for the long-awaited debut of Nia Jax! Her first victim opponent is none other than indy darling Evie:

She gets a full entrance, tron, music and all. Nia’s next, accompanied by surprisingly peppy music. The crowd’s into it, chanting for her as she enters the ring and squares off with Evie.

The bell rings, and Nia simply stalks toward Evie, blocking her way. They tie up, Nia immediately shoving Evie to the mat, treating her like a rag doll. Evie ducks Nia’s next attack, running the ropes and attempting a clothesline. It’s no good, and when she tries again, Nia merely catches her, latching her into a bearhug submission.

After a few moments, Evie elbows her way free, slipping over Nia’s shoulder and attempting to roll her into a pin attempt. Nia stays vertical, though, grabbing Evie by her hair and shoving her into the corner. She sandwiches Evie into the turnbuckle and leaves her to fall to the mat.

The crowd starts chanting “Nia’s gonna kill you” as she pulls Evie to her feet, hip-checking her in the face and dropping her to the mat again. As Evie crawls on the mat, the crowd advises her, in chant form, to “Just stay down”. Nia pulls her to her feet again, but Evie seems to have found her courage, kicking Nia square in the chest three times to free herself from her grip.

Evie runs the ropes once more, but she’s again caught by Nia, who makes it look easy. She slams Evie to the mat with a modified spinebuster finisher (name TBA) and folds her up for the pin. Nia scores the three count and the first of what will probably be many victories.

In addition to all of that goodness, we were treated to a great video package recapping Bayley and Sasha Banks‘s main event match at TakeOver, as well as the heartwarming reactions to it:

Also, Eva Marie checked in from Paris:

I hated this idea when I first heard it, but then I remembered that Eva’s going full heel now. In that sense, this was a great move, leaning into the criticisms fans have for Eva: she’s not dedicated, she’s coasting. This video kills two birds with one stone, putting over her heel character and telling us why she won’t be present on the next few weeks of NXT. Au revoir for now, Eva!

Thoughts: I love love love that despite being in the clear jobber role, Evie was given a full entrance, including a tron and music. Introducing us to female indy talent makes the wrestling world feel more alive and real. It also makes NXT look like it’s got its shit together, pulling in real, legitimate talent for these matches. Long gone are the days where Divas were mainly scouted in bikini magazines – now they’re scouted in televised matches. Nice.

Nia’s portrayal surprised me, if I’m being honest. Her promos, combined with how big, intimidating women have almost always been booked, had me expecting a more brooding, angry Nia. I’m not in love with the look, but I appreciate that they’re venturing outside the well-worn territory of bigger women dressing in head-to-toe black leather. Her constant smiles are a welcome departure too. It’s clear that NXT is really trying to break the mold with Nia, and I look forward to seeing what they do with her.

Her first match was fun, if a bit limited. It helped that the crowd was super into it, and Evie is obviously a fantastic seller. I’m optimistic that NXT has plans to keep her matches fresh and won’t fall into the rut that TNA did with Havok. I’m not well-versed in the “big men” of wrestling history, but I’m sure there are a few they can look to for inspiration in booking her matches. Hell, there’s likely a few women internationally that they can draw from as well. As long as we’re not in for a slew of predictable, slow-paced matches, I’m good. It’s been a long time since the WWE’s had a bonafide female bruiser, so I’m excited to see where this goes.

On to the Alexa/Bayley set up… I’m all about Alexa getting the next shot at Bayley’s title, though I know full well that this is a placeholder feud. We’re two months away from the next TakeOver, after all, so it makes sense that we’d have a placeholder feud. Alexa fits the bill nicely, since she’s built up a great heel persona while managing Blake and Murphy, and could definitely use the feud to raise her profile in the division. Even in losing to Bayley, she’ll shoot up a in the ranks a few spots, regaining the mojo she might have lost while managing instead of wrestling.

I loved Alexa’s promo, especially when she was feigning emotion – it made the moment much different from the typical, cocky heel promo. Her swerve was great, even if it was expected. That moment would have made a great heel turn, come to think of it. Her delivery was great, and I love that she dissed Bayley’s lifelong passion for wrestling, because I’m sure there are some assholes on the internet who have done the same. Keeping the Divas self aware is great, and this prevents them from slipping into cheesy storylines where even a certified bitch like Alexa doesn’t make fun of Bayley, because you know that if this was real life, someone as optimistic and innocent as Bayley would be ripped to shreds by someone like Alexa.

I can’t help but see this as an indirect response to those terrible articles that came out last week criticizing Bayley and Sasha for showing emotion and *gasp* breaking kayfabe after their main event match at TakeOver. No, your faux concern that the Divas are being handled with kid gloves is not valid. Go back to your cave, trolls. Granted, this was taped the night after TakeOver, so those articles probably weren’t circulating by then, but it still serves as an excellent response to that argument. Despite the tears that were shed, the sun still rose, and women’s wrestling is still respected at Full Sail. I’m guessing a few folks should examine their own fragile masculinity before they start worrying about the effects “feminine” displays of emotion have on wrestling. Just a suggestion!

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