Friday, July 1, 2022

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NXT Redux (September 2nd, 2015): The Future is All Red and Full of Sparkles


This week’s NXT took its first bold post-TakeOver step towards the future, showcasing two of the Divas division’s future stars: Alexa Bliss and Eva Marie. With a new Women’s Champion and a clear path to the top, both Divas had big opportunities to make their case for stardom.

Alexa took on Blue Pants, seeking revenge for the interference that cost Blake and Murphy their NXT Tag Titles at TakeOver. Eva, meanwhile, faced off with the newly re-christened Billie Kay.

Before we could get to those, though, we were treated to another ominous promo hyping the debut of Nia Jax:

Those are some big promises, Nia. No pressure!

This is followed directly by our first Divas match of the evening: Miss Bliss vs. Miss Pants:

Off the bell, Alexa locks in an arm submission, but Blue Pants is quick to power out. Before she can reach freedom, though, Alexa slams her to the mat by her head. She covers her for the pin, but only earns a two count. Still confident, Alexa stands up and presses a boot to the side of Blue Pants’s face, twisting her neck. She pulls her to her feet and sends her into the corner, but is fended off with a back elbow by Blue Pants.

Before Blue Pants can take control, though, Alexa comes charging into the corner, driving her shoulder into her midsection repeatedly. She snapmares Blue Pants into the center of the ring and, despite some resistance, locks in the arm submission again. The crowd gets behind Blue Pants and she starts to feel it, but before she can power out, Alexa hooks a leg around her free arm, keeping her right where she wants her.

Still, Blue Pants finds a way to turn the tides, rolling backwards so that she pins Alexa to the mat. The referee counts the pin, but Alexa kicks out and immediately cradles Blue Pants into a pin of her own. Blue Pants kicks out.

Alexa repeatedly strikes out at Blue Pants, but her attacks are dodged, and she’s knocked to the mat thrice, two kicks and a Northern Lights suplex doing the job. Blue Pants bridges the suplex into a pin, but Alexa manages to kick out. Alexa retreats into the corner and Blue Pants charges at her, but she gets nothing but turnbuckle.

When she stumbles backwards, Alexa drops her to the mat with a leg sweep. Alexa does a back handspring into a double knee drop to Blue Pants’s stomach. With Blue Pants prone, Alexa climbs to the top rope and goes flying off of it with the Sparkle Splash, pinning her for the win.

A bit later, it’s time for Eva vs. Billie. Get your booing voices ready!

As Eva makes her entrance, Billie’s already in the ring, getting neither a fancy entrance nor a coat bequeathed to her from Ric Flair. She’s eager to prove herself some more, though, because she takes control right from the start of the match, catching Eva in a waistlock. Eva elbows herself free, though, and locks in a side headlock. Billie shoves her off into the corner, but Eva uses the ropes as leverage and hops right over her when she charges in for a follow-up attack.

When Billie turns around, she’s greeted with a mocking air kiss from Eva. She rejects it, kicking Eva right in the kisser. She covers Eva for the pin, but Eva kicks out easily. Billie locks in a headlock, but she doesn’t hold it for long, Eva standing and backing her into the corner to free herself. She drives a few shoulders into Billie’s midsection before backing off at the referee’s insistence. She doesn’t stay back for long, though, repeating the attack ferociously.

Eva pulls Billie back towards the center of the ring and hits her with a suplex, pinning her. Billie kicks out. Eva props her up and locks in an abdominal stretch. Billie soon gets to her feet and pulls Eva into a small package pin, but Eva kicks out. Billie heads to the corner, only to be hit with a back elbow from Eva. She stumbles towards the middle of the ring and is laid out by Eva’s forearm. Eva runs the ropes and hits Billie with a senton. She covers her for the pin, but only gets a near fall. She tries again, only to get the same result.

With the pins not working, Eva goes back to the abdominal stretch. She manages to hold it on longer this time, but Billie eventually powers out, prying Eva’s limbs off of her. Billie tosses Eva to the mat and hits her with a series of clotheslines, dropping her with a suplex before going for the pin. Eva kicks out. Or did she? Well, she did in kayfabe. The match continues.

Eva fends off Billie in the corner and hits the Sliced Red #2, pinning her for the win to the tune of Full Sail’s jeers.

Thoughts: Alexa vs. Blue Pants was pretty much a squash match, but I suppose that could be considered classic Blue Pants. It worked, too, making Alexa look like more of a threat than ever. It’s not like Blue Pants is hindered by this, either, since her whole schtick is her buoyant optimism. Getting squashed isn’t going to kill her gimmick – it’ll just enhance it. In that way, that match was pretty much “mission accomplished” all around.

Alexa looks more and more at home as a heel. I love her character – it’s like what a T&A-era Trish Stratus could have been if she had NXT’s trainers at her disposal. Bitchy and bullying, but with a bit of spunkiness, too.

I’ve seen some negativity over the Eva/Billie match (shocker!), but I have to say that this is absolutely the best Eva’s ever looked in the ring. I’ve always said that ring presence goes a long way, and Eva’s got it here: she doesn’t look unsure or lethargic, as she had in the past. I can even see improvement from her match last week, which is odd, considering this was taped before that one. It just goes to show how much having an experienced opponent helps – not just in executing the moves, but in having confidence. Eva looks so much more confident facing off with Billie, who has years of experience under her belt, than she did with Carmella, who is just as green as she is.

Eva still had her sketchy moments, being a bit sluggish in receiving Billie’s offense and not kicking out properly. Full Sail gave her a lot of shit for that, and I can understand why they would, since it’s a dumb mistake to make, but let’s not forget that Becky Lynch did the same thing in Brooklyn and didn’t get nearly as much grief for it. I’m sure things would have been different if the referee pretended Becky kicked out, but I can’t imagine the crowd would have booed her the way they did Eva. Truth be told, the Full Sail crowd was just looking for a reason to give her “bad heat” – heat that couldn’t be mistaken for genuine heel heat. She performed really well in most of the match, though, so they must have been thrilled that she botched right in the knick of time. At some point, it just comes across as mean spirited, seeing a bunch of grown men taunt a woman for trying to live up to their expectations. Sure, we Diva fans haven’t been kind to her either – far from it – but it’s kind of sadistic to see it play out like that on television. Having that many people dead set against her has got to rattle her confidence, but if she’s made it this far, I’m sure this won’t faze her.

Eva isn’t a wrestling prodigy by any means, but you can’t deny she’s progressing. She’s developing a presence in the ring, which will be the foundation for every improvement she makes. She’s starting to look like she belongs in there, which is half the battle. I admit that I didn’t have much confidence in her abilities, but a lot of that had to do with how unnatural she looked in the ring. I thought if she never locked down her ring presence, she’d never sell herself as a wrestler. She’s achieved that, though, so the doors are wide open now. I’m a believer – not in the sense that I think she’ll be the biggest star the Divas division ever saw, but rather that hard, focused training pays off. Eva’s had opportunities few will ever see, and while that may be unfair, at least they’re not going to waste.

She’s got a big believer in WWE Hall of Famer Mick Foley, too:

Mick is such a class act, but he wasn’t doing all of that as some sort of charity – well, charity for Eva Marie, that is. He genuinely sees big potential in her, and I can see where he’s coming from. I don’t know if she’ll be having TakeOver-quality matches anytime soon, but she’ll definitely surpass most Diva fans’ early expectations. It’ll be fun to see how far she progresses over the next few months. I just hope the WWE takes it slow with her, because if they try to push her too quickly, it could blow up in their faces. Fans aren’t inclined to support Eva, to say the least, so they’ll have to walk a tricky line with her, giving her the gradual underdog booking while maintaining a heel persona that will allow them use the crowd’s distain to their advantage. It’s definitely unprecedented, which is probably why I’m excited to see it.

Alexa and Eva are clearly two of the biggest stars-to-be in the NXT Divas division, and their strengths as heels – Alexa in her ability to do the “bitchy bubblegum” thing and Eva in her capacity to make Full Sail foam at the mouth – make them big assets for the WWE, but it all depends how the WWE chooses to use them. If the past year of NXT’s greatness has proven anything, though, it’s that they know how to cultivate talent. I’ve got faith.

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