The NXT Women’s Division has seemingly had a credibility problem for a few months now. It wasn’t something that came out of nowhere, either. Anyone paying attention saw that WWE creating two separate main roster women’s divisions – one for Raw, one for Smackdown – was going to need talent to round them out. In his media conference call today regarding NXT, Triple H acknowledged having to essentially rebuild the division from scratch since the roster split.
The departures of Bayley, Nia Jax, Alexa, and, to a much lesser extent, Dana Brooke and Carmella left the NXT female roster almost overnight thin, inexperienced, and very weak. And in a bit of a counter-intuitive twist, at the top of the roster has sat a hugely dominant, undefeated, wildly popular (did you hear the chants on Raw this week?), ass-kicking champion in Asuka with no one to work with who poses any iota of a threat. I’m here to talk about how things slowly but surely turned around.
Asuka beat Bayley for the NXT Women’s Title in a tough, hard-fought match, but Asuka handled hers and there was no doubt she was the better, much tougher wrestler forcing Bayley to tap out and relinquish her Women’s Championship. Same thing happened in the rematch except it was a kick to the head that ended Bayley’s NXT Title dreams. Asuka looked even stronger in that second match. Asuka even fended off the much larger and more powerful Nia Jax. So when they all left, even Alexa was gone; she managed to skirt past Asuka without ever facing her in a big time match. All that was left were former enhancement talents turned contenders who were going to get a crash course in Asuka 101.
What happened next is where things get interesting. While the division on paper might have looked underwhelming and certainly had seen better days, matchmakers seemed to embrace it instead of running from it. Those enhancement women got that crash course. Liv Morgan, though utterly and thoroughly outmatched in every conceivable way, called out Asuka for a match. After a while, Asuka accepted and they built the match up for TV. Asuka ate Liv’s lunch in one bite, as everyone knew would happen. It was still fine, though. Liv got the crap kicked out of her, maybe got better in the process, and Asuka shined. Mickie James was then signed for a match with the champion in a very-much-needed clash of credible workers Asuka hadn’t had a serious challenge in months and Mickie represented an experienced worker who’d push Asuka physically and be a real threat to Asuka’s title and winning streak.
The match with James came and went. It was a wonderful match, one of if not the best match on the Takeover Toronto show. Asuka even got to heel it up a bit and stretch her personality in an NXT environment. Then Mickie James turned up on the Smackdown roster and the NXT matchmakers had to get creative. Ember Moon, who is physically gifted and a decent wrestler, has an undefined gimmick that is anything but creative. She does, though, have wins behind her, most of which have been dominant. She has the size and thickness that lends credibility in a match-up against the champion. Also going for her is a jaw-dropping finishing move, a top rope stunner she calls the Eclipse. She desperately needs a gimmick overhaul for her long term success, right now it just feels like she’s doing unexplained cosplay. In the meantime, she is a solid and legitimate opponent for Asuka for a short term run.
You might not be a fan of Sanity. They’re kind of boring and had some setbacks with injury. I’m not a fan of Sanity, but I am a fan of Nikki Cross, the one woman that is apart of that crackpot faction. I love her! Everything that I said about Moon above goes double for Nikki Cross… except the bad gimmick stuff. She has a lot going on. Besides being an outright maniac and having no off button, Cross is super fit and totally buff. Nikki could be the strongest woman Asuka has had to fight in NXT. She would certainly be the craziest. We saw how the four-way match ended: Cross eyeing down Asuka. Even in her battered state, Nikki made it clear that she wasn’t done coming after the champ. She has the best chance of dethroning the Women’s Champion. I personally hope Asuka never loses the NXT Women’s Title, but Nikki Cross is probably Asuka’s biggest threat.
I know this is about credibility, and Billy Kay and Peyton Royce aren’t near the top of any list of most credible wrestlers, but they have come a long way in the last three to six months in the ring. What they don’t have in size or in-ring prowess they make up for with an abundance of confidence, which is half the battle, and credible characters that feel authentic. Plus, folks can relate to them, even with if not especially because of their bitchy, mean-girls bully routine. As a heel tandem that somehow are able to never leave each other’s sides and use dirty tactics and double teams, they can get by on their charisma and heel act while hopefully improving physically and in the ring over time until one or both are ready to breakout on their own. Kay and Royce are arguably the most dynamic pairing on any WWE roster now that JeriKO is over.
Let’s not forget that Asuka herself is a GD star and an ass-kicking empress! The video package that was put together to hype the Orlando Takeover match against Ember Moon was top notch and emphasized and solidified that fact. The talent around her during her title reign may not have been all the cream of the crop, but she has proven that she is the most credible woman wrestler in the company – maybe in the entire hemisphere – which in turn makes whatever division she is apart of a credible division. She isn’t just credible, she is pretty damned incredible.
Just my take.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: BRYANT’S TAKE: The Joe We Want
(Travis Bryant, the newest PWTorch staff columnist, co-hosts the PWTorch Livecast every Friday night with senior columnist Bruce Mitchell, is often part of VIP Post-PPV Roundtables, and hosts the PWTorch East Coast Cast.) ###