As NXT’s Divas division continues to evolve into its newest form, this week’s show worked to refine the audience’s perception of some of its biggest players.
We kick off the show with Asuka’s entrance, the crowd clearly already in love with her. As Billie makes her entrance next, she pops up in the corner for a short video promo. She introduces herself and acknowledges that she’s faced Asuka in the past. While Asuka is impressive, she too has wrestled all over the world. She’ll remove anyone who stands in her way.
The bell rings, and Asuka extends her hand for a good natured handshake. Billie takes Asuka’s hand, but then pulls her into a knee to the stomach, sending her into the ropes and taking her down with a kick to the face. She pulls Asuka into a pin, but she barely gets a one count.
Billie pulls Asuka to her feet, nailing an elbow to her back and taking her to the corner, where she chokes her with her boot. She then drags Asuka towards the middle of the ring, talking trash and lifting her up into a delayed vertical suplex. She goes for another pin, but Asuka kicks out at two.
Billie locks in a modified armbar. As soon as Asuka starts to show signs of life, she breaks the hold, maintaining control by snapmaring Asuka to the mat. Before she can lock in another armbar, Asuka kicks her in the head. Asuka delivers a series of kicks, which Billie halts by catching her leg and socking her in the face. This only seems to piss Asuka off, because she ominously raises her head and laughs at Billie. Billie runs the ropes, but her momentum is halted by Asuka, who leaps onto her, taking her to the mat and locking in an armbar! Billie flips around the mat desperately and manages to free herself.
Billie goes for another kick, but Asuka catches her leg, spins her around and nails her with a German suplex. Asuka runs the ropes and nails a seated Billie with a knee. She circles Billie a bit before grabbing her left arm. She locks an arm around Billie’s throat, takes her down to one knee and onto her back, where she locks her legs around her and latches on the Asuka Lock! Billie taps!
Our next Diva sighting comes from Carmella, who accompanies Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady to the ring for their match against Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson:
Enzo and Cass pick up the win with a surprise small package pin, earning them a beatdown from Wilder and Dawson.
Later, we’re again greeted by Eva Marie, who is still in Paris:
She disses the NXT audience, insinuating that none of them have been privileged enough to travel the world like she does. She hopes they haven’t forgotten about her and promises to see them soon.
Finally, it’s time for Alexa to put her money where her mouth is when she takes on Peyton Royce:
Alexa makes her entrance with Blake and Murphy by her side, followed by Peyton, who, for some reason, is using the same entrance music Billie used earlier in the night. That’s…an interesting choice…
The bell rings, and the Divas tie up, Peyton taking control with a side headlock. She whips Alexa to the mat and maintains the hold. Alexa frees herself by locking in a headscissors, but Peyton kips up, breaking them apart. they square off again, but Alexa’s wild swing is ducked by Peyton, who rolls her into a pin attempt. Alexa kicks out.
Alexa gets to her feet quickly and takes another swing at Peyton. Peyton ducks it again and attempts a backslide into a pin, but Alexa blocks it, snapmaring Peyton. However, Peyton rolls through it, taking Alexa with her and pinning her! Alexa manages to kick out.
When both are on their feet, Peyton locks in another side headlock. Alexa powers out of it, locking in a side headlock of her own. Peyton shoves Alexa off into the ropes, but she catches herself, casually stepping onto the back of the flattened out Peyton and posing there for a few moments. She toys with Peyton a bit more before Peyton’s fury boils over, and she tackles Alexa, pummeling her.
Alexa reverses Peyton’s whip into the ropes, but her follow up hip toss is blocked. Alexa blocks Peyton’s kick, though, and tosses her over her shoulder, maintaining a hold on Peyton’s left arm. Alexa plants a boot on the side of Peyton’s face, pulling her arm upwards. She drops to the mat, jerking Peyton’s arm painfully. She continues to assault Peyton’s arm, twisting it into a hammerlock. when Peyton tries to fight out, Alexa wraps a leg around her right arm, trapping her in the hold.
Slowly but surely, Peyton makes it to her feet, delivering blows to Alexa’s midsection to fight her off. She pushes Alexa into the ropes and nails her with a spinning heel kick on the return. This sets off a series of kicks that eventually levels Alexa and sets her up for another pin attempt. Alexa kicks out.
Peyton pulls Alexa to her feet and sends her into the corner, but her charging attack is blocked with a back elbow. Alexa knees Peyton and beats her down, slamming her to the mat and stepping over her dismissively. She hits a standing backflip into double knees, drilling them into Peyton’s midsection. With Peyton prone, Alexa heads to the top rope, hitting the Sparkle Splash! She pins Peyton for the victory.
After the win, Alexa takes to the mic, mockingly congratulating Bayley for all she’s accomplished. While Bayley has become a role model and inspiration, that’s all about to stop. She, Alexa, is what everybody strives to be. She was made to be NXT Women’s Champion. With that, she drops the microphone and departs, the gauntlet officially thrown.
Thoughts: This night did a good job of setting up big pieces for the new status quo in NXT’s Divas division, solidifying Alexa as Bayley’s next challenger and reminding us of the threat Asuka poses, just on the outskirts of the title picture. Also, very importantly, NXT made strides toward making Billie and Peyton more than glorified cannon fodder, which has been one of my biggest complaints about the division recently.
While the WWE isn’t doing themselves any favors by giving Billie and Peyton the exact same entrance theme (Seriously? Is that a rib?), I have to give them credit for finally letting them bust out of the box a bit. Billie almost looked Emma-esque upon her entrance, but I think a lot of that had to to with her similar ring gear. Still, she sells the arrogant heel persona well. It’s a helluva lot more interesting than the generic, happy babyface schtick NXT saddled her with before. Peyton, being the babyface, wasn’t exactly oozing personality, but her in-ring work made her stand out nonetheless, especially against the arrogant Alexa. The fans are starting to get behind both Billie and Peyton, and that’ll pay off in the long run, especially once they aren’t sharing entrance music like sisters in an overburdened family.
I enjoyed Billie’s pre-match promo, though I’m not sure what having the “longest legs in NXT” means, unless she adopts a bodyscissors as her finisher or something. It was very very very cool to see them acknowledging the Divas’ pasts on the indies. We’re far removed from backstories between Divas being limited to “Before we were in the WWE, you were my friend, but then you betrayed me!”
Billie/Asuka was an excellent little match and gave us Billie’s best NXT performance yet. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she finally shined against a former indy opponent – they were able to give the match a fast-paced, exciting feel that we’re just not used to seeing in the “WWE style”. I hope this is a sign that that style is about to be forgone, because matches like these can go a long way towards converting the most stubborn folks in the audience into women’s wrestling fans.
While the name leaves something to be desired (yes, I know it was the Kana Lock previously), the Asuka Lock is amazing, like nothing we’ve seen from a Diva before. The way she has to slow down her opponent before locking it in gives her the air of an animal taking down its prey, weakening them enough so they can make the final strike. So cool.
Alexa/Peyton surprised me. I was expecting it to pale in comparison to Asuka and Billie’s match, but those two did a great job keeping the match fast paced and unpredictable, Peyton thwarting Alexa at every turn in the beginning of the bout. Alexa looked great too, getting in her licks in very sneaky, heelish ways and showing her arrogance with her body language and mid-move actions. She’s improved so much, and plays that evil heel so perfectly that I can’t even imagine why she was ever relegated to “bubby babyface” status.
Alexa doesn’t exactly pose a huge threat to Bayley, but I like the angle they’re working with here, acknowledging that Alexa is more of an “ideal” than the convention-busting, kid friendly Bayley will ever be. It’s a nice reference to the idea that the WWE used to only put the belt on the most “marketable” Divas, and in that era, Bayley probably wouldn’t have stood a chance. When she inevitably overcomes Alexa, it’ll be a nice reminder that the “Diva standard” has changed forever, and for the better.