WWE NXT is on the road of TakeOver: Brooklyn, as as we all know, NXT is in a holding pattern when there’s a TakeOver on the horizon. Yes, title matches are announced for the weeks to come, but come on, it’s not like they’re going to change hands on a pre-recorded, non-TakeOver show, right? Then again, the current tag team champions won on one of those holding pattern episodes on the way to a TakeOver. Then again (once more), the current tag team champions were two of the blandest members of the roster at the time, and now they’re just the two weirdest. So it’s an anomaly. Every thing’s building up to TakeOver, and if there’s just one thing NXT has over the main roster, it’s the fact that NXT certainly knows how to build up to a big event.
It’s the moment everyone has been waiting for, so let’s just get to it right now: Eva Maria’s NXT “debut.” The one we’re acknowledging, at least. The interview with Devin beforehand is a bizarre start, as calling it a promo sounds like a misnomer, and nothing about it reads as in character (unless the character is “person who doesn’t have any acting ability and doesn’t care to”). There is one positive with the Eva Marie match: She’s finally learned how to move like a real human being in the ring, all thanks to Brian Kendrick. It’s a shining light in a match full of a solid misunderstanding of how running works, submissions that make John Cena look like Chris Benoit, pinning predicaments where her opponent simple gets off of her (instead of Eva Marie kicking out), and an upsetting assisted Sliced Bread #2 that suggests Eva Marie really shouldn’t honor her trainer. It’s not good, despite all the early flips masquerading as wrestling ability. But the kicker here really is the fact that it fully has the guise of looking competent.
Trish Stratus—who I sing the praises of regularly and just today lauded for how great she was on the mic—spent her years in WWE with a terrible finisher that took all the assistance of her opponent. So that’s not going to stop Eva. But as the most unlikely of critics also said today—my mother—Eva Marie lacks the one thing that she needs to be a true superstar, and that’s a personality. That’s why it’s practically impossible to tell whether she’s heel or a face in this scenario, though everything prior to this (and the post-match behavior) screams heel. The match exists, and compared to Eva Marie’s other work, it’s a five star match. It’s just not actually good, no matter how much Corey Graves has to sing her praises.
All of this really segues into the fact that this week’s NXT is not a good one for the NXT arena. In fact, if ever there was a time to compare it to the Impact Zone, this might be the time; though in this case, indifference isn’t so much the problem as it is a crowd getting too big for its britches. It’s understandable that the regulars would be upset that the next big event isn’t taking place in the arena, especially after Japan just got a monumental moment. But now it transfers hatred of what is sure to be an awesome event with NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn, solely because it’s in Brooklyn and not Orlando. As NXT becomes bigger and essentially a higher profile indy (if that’s not an oxymoron or even an impossibility, in this case), the NXT arena crowd isn’t going to be able to contain its resentment of that.
But at the same time, for all the good chants to come from this crowd, they have become more and more obsessed with getting themselves over and not the NXT product, to a point where it’s for the best they don’t get everything. I mentioned this with last week’s episode, but the chants for Eva Marie (and to a lesser extent, Dana, who at least has a personality, as bizarre as it is) are clearly contrarian just to prove a point. That point is that audience members can get attention doing anything, even if it’s just half of dozen of them chanting “THIS IS WRESTLING” during an Eva Marie match (where enhancement talent/NXT recruit Cassie out-wrestles her greatly).
To say it’s a matter of preference and not some ironic joke ignores the Cena-esque chants like “LET’S GO EVA”/”EVA SUCKS” or random Dana Brooke chants when Emma and Bayley (two objectively superior wrestlers or sports entertainers or Divas or whatever) are about to lock-up. This is the same show where Dana Brooke said this: “Chance after chance to reign the NXT Woman’s Championship.” Her appeal stems from her inability to properly form words (or move like she’s not a video game character constantly doing “Taunt”), even with cue cards, and to say she’s being cheered over Emma and Bayley in earnest is impossible to do without laughing.
Although, there’s nothing ironic about the love that comes from Dana patting Devin on the head (three pats this time) and Devin getting progressively heated. That’s just feud of the year potential.
Changing gears, the tag team match is the perfect example of holding patterns in NXT, as the Vaudevillains go against the lamest team on the card in the form of Angelo Dawkins (who I assume wonders how he got left behind when Sasha Banks became The Boss) and Sawyer Fulton (who, with his name, I assume hopes there will be a new Mighty Ducks movie he can audition for). But there is a story here, with the “new, aggressive Vaudevillains.” If nothing else, watching the match for Simon Gotch’s inventive, foot-based escape from a submission maneuver. Then there’s the reaction from the tag champs, which is surprisingly the more interesting part. The BAMF (which is just painful to type) dynamic has been an almost interesting one with the Alexa Bliss of it all, as she Sparkle Splashes the guys’ opponents to add insult to injury, but this week really goes a long way to up the intrigue factor. Having Blake and Murphy (with one of them deciding to take hair-dying tips from Old Man Dana Brooke) be absolute goofs, only for Alexa to be the serious one is something you don’t really see in contemporary WWE, and it tracks. I for one welcome our new fairy princess overlord.
All of that is probably the most I will ever compliment Team BAMF, so enjoy it.
The episode ends with a contract signing between Owens and Balor, and while it’s fun for what it is, the gold standard of NXT contract signings is Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch. You remember those two, right? They’re on the main roster now. It’s all pretty standard, which is the case for the episode as a whole, except for the nonsense that is Baron Corbin and Eva Marie. Not bad for a holding pattern.
- RESULTS: Eva Marie defeated Cassie; Baron Corbin defeated Who Are Ya?; Samoa Joe defeated Mike Rallis; Bayley defeated Emma; Vaudevillains defeated Dawkins and Fulton
- Now that I really think about it, how cool—well, weird—would a team of Blake, Murphy, and Johnny “Dirty Curty” Curtis be? No, I’m never giving up my dreams of Dirty Curty.
- Baron Corbin now wrestles in a t-shirt (no doubt to hide his terrifying belly button), and his matches can’t even be categorized as matches. I don’t know what they’re trying to do with him, but whatever it is, it’s terrible.
- I don’t think I’ve ever said it, but Bayley’s flying elbow is so beautiful.
- Dana Brooke is too much of a joke to hate at this point, but I will say her motivation against Charlotte is absolutely frustrating. She’s been in NXT for a minute and is surprised she’s not on top of the world. Then again, that would make it the rare time where a WWE heel isn’t completely right. Carry on.
- Also, I’m sure I said it before, but Dana and Emma are partners like Blake and Murphy are in partners, right?
- Samoa Joe gets a new, much more Samoa Joe, theme this week, but he’s still just replaying Samoa Joe’s greatest hits. We’ll see how that goes with wrestling for wrestling’s sake in two weeks, with Joe versus Rhyno. Honestly, I spent most of the Joe match distractedd by how much Mike Rallis looks like Lucky Cannon. Is… Is he Lucky Cannon?
- Bayley’s redemption arc starts now, and I hope the final match before she reaches Sasha is Titus O’Neil. That was an NXT: Redemption joke.