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NXT Redux (September 9th, 2015): Carmella and Dana Step Up

NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn is a few weeks behind us, but the Divas division is still in flux, with recent departures and a new Women’s Champion making it a relative free-for-all. Everyone’s jockeying for position, looking to prove themselves as serious threats not only to their fellow Divas, but to the Diva: Bayley.

Like last week, we have two Diva matches ahead of us. This time, it’s Carmella and Dana Brooke who have something to prove. Carmella takes on Peyton Royce, while Dana faces off with Billie Kay. The outcomes of the matches may be predictable, but it’s what happens between the bells that could determine where we’re headed in the weeks to come. Who will impress the most? Let’s see…

We kicked off this week’s show with Carmella and Peyton, Carmella greeting the crowd with her trademark promo and Peyton showing off some impressive splits.

After the bell, the Divas start with a show of good sportsmanship, slapping hands before tying up. Carmella takes control with a sideheadlock, tossing Peyton to the mat. Peyton immediately turns the tides with a headscissors hold, which Carmella quickly kips out of.

The two then repeat this sequence with the roles reversed, Carmella locking in the headscissors. Peyton slips free and the two get to their feet at the same time, again slapping hands and circling each other. Peyton goes for the attack, but Carmella ducks it, taking her down for a pin attempt. Peyton kicks out. Peyton quickly claims a pin attempt of her own, pulling Carmella into a backslide pin. Carmella pulls herself into a sitting position, maintaining the hold but breaking the pin.

Both stand, Carmella adjusting the arm hooks to perform another backslide. Peyton kicks out. Carmella immediately goes for another pin, tumbling over Peyton and cradling her. Peyton kicks out. Peyton gets up swinging, but misses, Carmella smoothly avoiding the blow and doing a moonwalk to celebrate.

Peyton swings again, but misses again, Carmella lifting her up and hitting an atomic drop. Carmella hits a dropkick before making another pin attempt, which Peyton kicks out of. Carmella pulls Peyton to her feet and goes for a suplex, but Peyton blocks it, hitting a suplex of her own. She bridges it into a pin, but Carmella kicks out.

Peyton then captures Carmella in a headlock. After a few moments, Carmella starts to get to her feet, but Peyton doesn’t let her get far, kneeing her in the back and yanking her to the mat. She modifies the hold, wrapping an arm under Carmella’s and arching her back.

Slowly but surely, Carmella gets to her feet, tossing Peyton off of her back. Peyton fires back with a kick, doubling Carmella over before whipping her into the corner. Carmella fights off her ensuing attack, though, hoisting herself up and taking Peyton down with a headscissors takedown. She follows Peyton into the opposite corner, driving her shoulder into Peyton’s midsection, slamming her face-first into her propped up boot and, finally, hitting a reverse X-Factor. She hooks Peyton’s legs for the pin, but it’s not enough.

Carmella quickly locks in a headlock, trying desperately to wear Peyton down. When Peyton starts to struggle, Carmella forces her to the mat. The next time Peyton gets to a standing position, it’s with Carmella on her back, doggedly hanging on to the hold. Peyton backs into the corner, knocking Carmella off of her. A back elbow and a few kicks later, Peyton takes to the second rope, sailing off of it to hit Carmella with a crossbody. She goes for the pin, but Carmella kicks out.

Peyton readies for another attack, but out of nowhere, Carmella takes control, slamming her face-first to the mat with a DDT-like move and immediately locking in a headscissors submission. Peyton quickly taps out. Carmella is your winner!

A little bit later, we were met with another Nia Jax promo:

It’s the same as last week’s, but it’s still cool that they’re consistently hyping her. Will she show up at tonight’s tapings?

Prior to her match, Dana Brooke caught up with her favorite interviewer, Devin Taylor, to discuss something that’s stuck in her craw:

She says she’s been bothered by watching Bayley become NXT Women’s Champion. She’s beaten Bayley before and deserves to be recognized as NXT’s greatest Diva. She says people don’t take her seriously and expect her to use her looks to get to the top. On the contrary – she actually passed up a chance to compete at an Arnold Classic event to compete here tonight. She says everyone in the Divas division needs to watch out, because playtime is over. Hey, that sounds familiar…

After a commercial break, Billie and Dana make their entrances. The bell rings, and they tie up. Dana quickly shoves Billie away, so they try again. This time, Dana maintains the hold long enough to back Billie into the corner. When she lets go, it’s only to pat Billie on the head. This pisses off Billie, who stalks Dana until she wraps herself in the ropes for protection, gaining the referee’s help in keeping Billie away.

Billie’s impatient, so she pulls Dana away from the ropes by one of her Chuck Taylors and locks in a side headlock. Dana shoves her off into the corner and charges after her, but Billie slips over her, taking her down to the mat for another side headlock. Dana gets to her feet and uses her strength to power out, lifting Billie for a bodyslam. Billie slips free, though, and latches on another side headlock.

Dana shoves Billie the ropes and attempts a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, but it’s spun into an impressive armdrag by Billie, Dana getting tossed hard to the mat. Billie locks in her fourth side headlock of the match (but who’s counting?), which Dana soon powers out of. She covers Billie for the pin, but barely earns a one count.

Dana sends Billie into the ropes, but swings and misses on Billie’s first pass. Billie hits the ropes again and hits Dana with a headscissors takedown. Billie pulls Dana to her feet, locks in that side headlock, which Dana again powers out of. She locks in a side headlock of her own. Billie shoves her off, but only gets slammed hard to the mat for her troubles. Dana climbs atop Billie and slams her head into the mat, clearly frustrated. She lands several right hands before she backs off, flexing as she feels her mojo returning to her.

Billie crawls away to a corner, but Dana’s right on her, nailing her shoulder into Billie’s midsection a few times. She does a handstand into a foot choke, deftly rolling backwards, getting to her feet and leveling Billie with a clothesline. She flattens Billie out and does another handstand, this time crashing down on her with an elbow. Instead of going for the pin, she pulls Billie into a chokehold. Billie gets to her feet and tries to fight her way out, but Dana just tosses her to the mat like a ragdoll.

Dana hits her handstand elbow again, going for a cocky pin. Billie kicks out. Dana opts for a submission, wrapping her legs around Billie’s left arm. She quickly switches to a headscissors. Dana says something about breaking her toys as Billie flounders. She lifts herself onto her hands, pulling Billie into a seated position, and then promptly twists back, slamming her back to the mat.

Billie manages to work her way free, flipping so that she’s on top of Dana, who’s shoulders are pinned. The referee counts, but Dana quickly kicks out. Billie takes control of the match, hitting a series of clotheslines, another headscissors takedown and a big boot. She covers Dana for the pin, but it’s not enough.

Dana seeks refuge in the ropes, hanging on as Billie tries to drag her away. Dana gets to her feet on her own accord and tries for a kick. Billie catches her leg, but Dana hits an enziguri that drops her to one knee. Dana grabs Billi, hoisting her up on her shoulders and hitting her Samoan driver finisher. She hooks the legs and claims victory.

That’s not the end of our Diva coverage, though: like dessert at the end of a meal, we were treated to a super sweet clip of NXT Women’s Champion Bayley bringing her number one fan Izzy behind the scenes of the Performance Center. Aw…

Thoughts: This felt like repeat of last week, with two rather predictable singles matches setting up title contenders. It doesn’t make for super compelling television, but I appreciate that NXT is working overtime to establish this new division, not settling for highlighting one Diva at a time. I didn’t enjoy this week’s matches as much as last week’s – Eva’s improvement and Alexa’s great heel work stood out, while Carmella and Dana’s victories weren’t nearly as memorable. Of the this week’s matches, I think I preferred the Peyton/Carmella bout. It was a lot less repetitive than Dana/Billie, and Carmella’s antics are always fun. Dana’s antics are fun too (see the Fatal Four-Way from two weeks ago), but she didn’t get much of a chance to show off, since she spent much of the match on defense. The match itself just didn’t have much energy. It dragged.

Like Alexa and Eva last week, Carmella and Dana got a chance to prove their worth, and did so in their unique (if pre-packed) way. The only one of the four wins that felt organic, really, was Alexa’s, because it doubled as payoff to Blue Pants‘s appearance at TakeOver.

This wasn’t Dana’s best performance, and actually kind of undermined her pre-match promo, since she got her ass kicked for a lot of the match. Maybe that’s just a heelish, hypocritical thing, but it didn’t exactly sell her as a title contender. Her biggest weak point, for me, remains her mic work. It just feels incredibly hammy and rehearsed. She’s obviously getting more comfortable in her character, though, so maybe her promo work will follow suit.

Carmella’s getting there – she looks increasingly comfortable in the ring, and her character makes her a rare kind of babyface: a fun one. It was also cool to see her portrayed as someone who’s learning from her opponent. At least, that’s the way I saw it. There were two instances where she repeated Peyton’s tactics, making her look like a much more observant wrestler than her personality would indicate. I like her finisher, too. It feels like it’s been a while since we’ve seen it, at least since she had that string of wins when she first started to wrestle. So many Divas are using submissions finishers these days, but I think hers is unique enough, allowing her to pose all cocky while her opponent thrashes and taps out.

I feel bad for Peyton and Billie, in a way, because they seemed entirely interchangeable here. Sure, Peyton was playing a heel and Billie was a babyface, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the people at Full Sail mistook one for the other or thought they were one Diva pulling double duty. Unfortunately (and probably by design), both Divas were forgettable here. At this early stage, they’re pretty much glorified enhancement talent. They have names, sure, but nothing else that would define them. In a sea of Divas with finely-tuned characters, entrances and finishers, they just don’t stand out. But again, I’m sure that’s by design. NXT only has so many women they can push at a given time, so I’m sure Billie and Peyton will get their chance to shine eventually. It’s just kind of frustrating to see such talented indy names come across so…inconsequential? It’s not that they’re losing – that’s to be expected, since they’re not the ones being pushed – it’s that they’re just *there*. I guess being so spoiled by NXT makes seeing two Divas completely devoid of character that much more irksome.

So, at this point, we have four women jockeying for position, all with their eyes on Bayley’s title. If rumors are to be believed, Dana’s gonna get that shot first. Her win this week wasn’t impressive enough for her to jump the line, though, so she’ll have to show something more. Maybe it’s as simple as turning her bullying ways against Bayley. That’s an interesting story, for sure. Bayley’s ascension was the ultimate underdog story, so it only makes sense that she’s still going to have to deal with people who underestimate her. Who better to play her foil, then, than the queen of condescension herself, Dana? One well-placed head pat, and you’ve got a TakeOver match. Okay, so it’s not a feud for the ages, but it’s an interesting test for the new champ.

In a way, it’ll be a test for the division as a whole: a chance for them to prove that it can survive without the likes of Charlotte, Becky Lynch and Sasha Banks. This division has been on top for so long, it should be a nice twist to see them work to earn the WWE Universe’s respect all over again. It won’t be an easy task, but easy victories aren’t fun to watch, anyways.

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