Last week, we said goodbye to Tyler Breeze...and maybe to Big Cass for a while, as well. But we did say hello to a babyface version of Chad Gable & Jason Jordan, and throwback heels in Dash & Dawson. Speaking of great heels...
Emmalution is a mystery
We could talk for a long while about how great Dana Brooke is as Emma's sidekick...the way she just repeats Asuka's name over and over in that clip is an excellent example of the Killer Barbie honing the elements of her character & delivery that are grating into something that's entertainingly annoying.
But I want to talk about the match to come, not the one past. Asuka vs. Emma is coming. Since TakeOver: Respect, where the joshi star kicked Dana's butt so badly that she doesn't remember what actually happened, each has had a tune-up victory.
William Regal's big Japanese free agent acquisition won a tune-up match over Billie Kay a couple week's, while last week, Emma defeated her countrywoman Shazza. The interesting thing is that neither woman interfered or even appeared when the other was in the ring. Their program has leaned heavily on the heel duo (who should get some kind of team or stable name) reacting to the idea of Asuka.
Which is almost as brilliant as Brooke's ringside reactions during Emma's bouts are becoming. And something NXT should string out over the next month in order to keep the formerly bubbly main roster player strong during a feud she's pretty clearly going to lose.
Trick: Keeping valuable veteran pieces strong is typically something this show does well. Guys like Samoa Joe and Rhyno have remain viable without main event wins - although Rhyno is reaching the point that creative got to with Breeze where they have no plans to ever put him over at the top and he's failed to win a big one too often for wins over him to mean a whole lot.
Couple of reasons it's crucial they don't reach a similar point with Emma too quickly. It's early on in her transition to fallen heel, and so far it looks like this could be a gimmick with legs for her...unlike he meta first character that crashed and burned as Santino's main roster sidekick.
More importantly, she's in a unique position to serve as both a veteran hand and a continuity bridge to the early days of not only NXT, but also the roots of a women's division that has become a key selling point for the brand.
Tip: Not only should the Asuka program be drawn out until at least December's TakeOver: London, and in a way that leaves Emma with as much credibility as possible, but somewhere in the aftermath of that feud, she should pursue - and beat - Bayley. For the NXT Women's title.
Another big issue that the brand has right now is predictability in its booking patterns. With the exception of the last couple of tag champs, winning the belt means you're getting called up to the main roster. It eliminates a lot of suspense from title rematches and gives the audience a reason to not take seriously the increasing number of veterans NXT is using.
We need one of those veterans to win the belt, and Emma is a great candidate because she's both a veteran AND a NXT product.
Eventually, we'll also need multi-time NXT champions, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, because we do have a title match to consider for tonight...
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Neither of NXT's singles titles have ever changed hands on a pre-taped episode, and despite great work by the video production team on a series of "Who is Apollo Crews?" vignettes, it almost certainly won't happen when Crews gets his battle royal-earned shot at Finn Bálor tonight.
- The NXT champ does need a dance partner for London, though, and this bout should provide some clarity on who that will be. More face vs. face with Apollo? An honorable battle with Joe, or a turn for one of them? Elevating Baron Corbin? A surprise return from injury? The possibilities are endless, and all good.
- Women's champ Bayley has fewer good options right now. She is set to face Alexa Bliss at another show on these tapings (after a six-person tag with her and her boys Blake & Murphy tonight...could it be the match whence this stunning footage came?), will a rematch come for the next TakeOver?
- Or could Nia Jax be rushed into a spot against The Hugster? Or...GASP...is that where all these Eva Marie segments from Perry have been leading?
- Simon Gotch & Aiden English are certainly candidates for Bayley's back-up tonight, given their history with BAMF. Would that put Alexa's boys back in line for The Vaudevillains tag belts? Or will that honor go to Dash & Dawson now that they've dismantled Enzo Amore & Colin Cassady?
Note: I know some folks have come looking for a more definitive match listing - we strictly avoid NXT spoilers here at Cageside central (except when we don't, like right here). If WWE.com releases or the performers tweet more information on anything that's officially going to take place on tonight's show, that'll be updated in the results thread. If anyone wants to put a match listing in the comments, please use spoiler tags.