NXT, Where the Women Work

The WWE's developmental branch finds success with a novel concept: letting female wrestlers actually wrestle

Bayley and Becky Lynch battle it out on NXT. Credit: WWE

This week, following a shockingly short Divas match – even by WWE standards – on Raw, #GiveDivasAChance began trending on Twitter. On Wednesday night, NXT showed once again why that hashtag would never be directed at its show.

On the surface, the match between Bayley and Becky Lynch was nothing out of the ordinary: From first entrances – yes, both entrances were shown in full, a rarity these days for main roster Divas matches – to final bell, it spanned just seven minutes. But both wrestlers were over with the fans, and inside the ring, the two had a good back-and-forth, with Becky working on Bayley's arm before finally catching her in a brutal armbar, which caused the Huggable One to tap. Yet compared to your typical Divas match, it was striking in its depth, showing what can be accomplished in seven minutes with the support of a company, a compelling storyline and fully developed characters.

It allowed Bayley to explore her aggressive side. It drove home the point that Becky Lynch is consumed with getting out from under Sasha Banks' shadow. Even without Banks being there, the NXT Women's Championship was an underlying current. And it actually had a finish, instead the random rollups favored by the folks on Raw or SmackDown. All of this was illustrated in just a few minutes.

Yet without strong characters, it would have been just another match. Fans understand that Bayley is the longtime wrestling mark getting a chance to live her dream, and is figuring out how to balance her giddiness with the mean streak necessary to become champ. We know Sasha Banks is the "mean girl," yet we respect her because she's worked her way up from sidekick to strap-holder. The face and heel dynamics are clearly defined. Compare this to the main roster, where most Divas seem to be sketches, at best, with allegiances and motivations changing weekly (think Paige and Alicia Fox over the past several months).

This isn't exactly a new development. The difference now is that main roster Divas have begun talking about it. AJ Lee recently had a back-and-forth with Stephanie McMahon about screen time (and wages) on Twitter. The Bella Twins were also asked about main-roster booking, and Brie responded, "If I was in NXT I would not want to come up to the main roster because you get so much time down there" (you can watch her full response around the 6-minute mark of this clip):

If the AJ Lee and Bella Twins, who have received more TV time than anyone on the main roster, are openly saying this, then what are Alicia Fox, Emma or Summer Rae thinking?

While there is no doubt the NXT women are talented, the biggest difference is that the division as a whole is treated like a group of wrestlers, rather than a sexy diversion at best, or a popcorn break at worst. They have tournaments, they have multiple storylines and those storylines are often played out in the ring, rather than backstage (or on the E! channel). The women's division actually matters in NXT, because the women of NXT are given a chance. That's why their matched don't have to be 15 minutes long to be compelling – funny how that works out.

  • The returning wrestler tour continued on NXT this week as Brian Kendrick – or should I say THE Brian Kendrick? – made a return to WWE programming. Kendrick was best known for winning the tag team titles with Paul London, where they became the longest reigning WWE Tag Team Champions ever. Unlike Rhyno, who was fed a jobber to start his run, Kendrick was immediately put into a main event match with Finn Bálor. Bálor went over, and it seems like he may start running through these veterans before getting his shot at NXT champ Kevin Owens.
  • Speaking of Owens, he was on commentary during the main event. He got into it with Alex Riley, and left the announce table midway through the match. At the end, he came back out and attacked Riley, throwing him over the desk and had a stare down with Bálor. We'll have to see where this is going, but it could be an attempt to get Riley back in the ring. Riley's role in the booth is now being taken by Corey Graves, who does color better than Riley ever did. Maybe Riley is a better fit back in the ring.
  • The team of Tye Dillinger and Jason Jordan broke up during their match with the Lucha Dragons. It was rather odd timing, as Dillinger and Jordan really hadn't done much as a team to warrant a public breakup. It also seems weird considering the Lucha Dragons seem to be heading to the main roster, leaving a somewhat depleted tag division in their wake. It doesn't seem like it's being done to push Dillinger either, as he stayed in the ring after Jordan left him, and was summarily squashed by Baron Corbin. Maybe this is being done to push Jordan, but right now, it seems to have been rushed.
  • Hideo Itami beat Bull Dempsey. Dempsey may need a reboot, because after his feud with Corbin, he just doesn't seem like a credible threat to anyone. Tyler Breeze came out and attacked Itami after. Elongating this feud could be just what Itami needs, as he really hasn't faced off against anyone with a major personality yet. He came in feuding against the Ascension, and then moved right into the Number One contender tournament. This new storyline could allow him to show off his personality, which is needed at this point.