The life of a wrestling fan is not easy.
Between all of the different promotions, all of the different shows and literally thousands of ideas every day on social media, it’s very hard to lose yourself in a match; to be taken back to those blissful moments when you were a kid on the floor in front of the television watching professional wrestling.
I just had one of those moments, and it was amazing.
The Eva Marie and Bayley angle from Wednesday’s NXT might be the single best bit of storytelling I’ve seen in 2015.
From start to finish, top to bottom, everything about that was pure and utter gold. I sat here, just a few minutes ago, chuckling to myself with glee. For that small bit of time, I was back in my grandmother’s living room, tossing pillows around with improvised suplexes and slams, completely lost in the wonder of the writing and performances. After a number of days dealing with massive amounts of negativity and criticism in regards to the WWE product as a whole, I needed to suspend disbelief and become a fan again. I couldn’t be happier right now.
So what made it so good? I’m not sure I can organize my thoughts enough to try to come up with some sort of ranking order, so off the top of my head, here’s my list.
Number One – They Embraced the Hate
Everyone knows that Eva Marie is who WWE wants as the poster girl for the next 5-10 years, and in much the same way as with Roman Reigns, people resent having her forced upon them, especially when she is so obviously a work in progress. (Also like Reigns was / is)
Unlike Roman, however, the creative team decided to run with that and use it to make their story better. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times by now, the best angles are when art imitates life. By having Corporate announce that this match was taking place, by having a WWE official come down to “help keep things under control”, Eva Marie became the “chosen one”, which is exactly as it should be. Had Roman Reigns shaken the hand of Triple H a few weeks ago, this is what we would have seen with him in the WHC tournament.
Number Two – They Appealed to History
Besides possibly Earl Hebner, no referee might be more famous for being a “heel” than Charles Robinson. Sure, Bill Alfonso and Danny Davis did it first (I’m sure, of course, among others), but “Lil Naitch” is the only one still on the roster. As soon as he came down, any fan who followed WCW in some form or fashion knew exactly what was up, and because of that, it was magical.
Robinson, to his credit, played his role perfectly, looking pained as Bayley continued to kick out of Eva’s pin attempts, all while assuring his innocence and impartiality to the champion.
Number Three – The performances of Eva Marie and Bayley
The vitriol that spilled from fans regarding Eva Marie has been incredible. Everything she did seemed to just irritate people more and more, and when she was going to get a title shot, I seriously thought some were going to lose their minds.
Oddly enough, I thought, in the last 24 hours, I hadn’t noticed as much of that hate erupting on my social media. Now, since it’s Thanksgiving (and a happy holiday to you and yours), there’s probably more than one reason for that – Everyone is too busy fighting tryptophan comas to be snarky. But I also think that Eva’s performance, at least for one night, silenced some of her critics.
Let’s look at this in stages.
Is Eva the best talker ever? No, of course not. Last night, though, I submit that she was better than Finn Balor. While the NXT champ stumbled a bit through his brief contract signing promo, Eva did a solid job conveying her message to Tom Phillips.
She’s in Regal’s dressing room, which hints at some potential corporate connections right off the bat (plus, perhaps, some hanky panky on the side, which would be great just for the Regal facial expressions). She blatantly cops to why she’s there – Total Divas – while also acting confident that she’s going to win the title. Then, she brings out Nia Jax as her friend / enforcer.
I posted this on Twitter, but I’ll say it again – This could be the best “bodyguard” pairing since Shawn Michaels and Diesel. Now, the ending of the show hinted that Nia Jax might be the next person to challenge for Bayley’s title, so perhaps the partnership will be somewhat short lived, but this is exactly what Eva Marie needed. Someone to do the heavy lifting, to take some of the pressure off of her so she didn’t need to be a fantastic, or even very good, women’s wrestler.
But something odd happened on the way to the end of the show. . .
Eva Marie had a really solid wrestling match.
Over the last few weeks / months, I’ve admitted that Eva’s ring work needs work, but I’ve also argued that she gets better in the ring with each match. This time, Eva looked to have made significant in-ring improvements. Her moves were crisp, she played to the crowd very well. . . “My gawd, King, she even ran the ropes like a pro!” For that one match, Eva Marie looked like a solid member of the women’s roster, and someone who could have won the women’s title, even by suspect means.
Now, Bayley needs some praise for her work as well. Not only did she, most likely, carry Eva to a good match, but the champ did an excellent job on her own. While this gimmick could get old after a while, for now, Bayley is the ultimate underdog. Having the deck stacked against her like this is what makes her so captivating – seeing her struggle to overcome the odds, but eventually be victorious. Facial expressions, appealing to the audience, finally hitting the Super Bayley to Belly – all done very well by our NXT women’s champion. When it comes time for Bayley to hit the main roster, she’ll be a much more polished product thanks to this extra time at Full Sail.
When you put all of these things together, all of these things lead to the main reason this was so good.
Number Four – The Suspension of Disbelief
The biggest problem with NXT, besides perhaps only giving the talents 60 minutes a week to work, is that they pre-tape all of their shows. Spoilers are a guarantee, and that takes a lot of the surprise and mystery out of the product. You can’t lose yourself in a match as well when you know who is going to win.
I had avoided spoilers for this show as well as I could, but you knew Eva Marie wasn’t going to walk away with the Women’s Title. It would have made news everywhere and it would have been all people wanted to talk about.
Regardless, for those ending few minutes, I actually thought Eva was going to steal the belt. THAT’S how good this story was. Knowing the result ahead of time, but being so swept up in the action that you forget what’s going to happen.
That’s what makes this one of, if not THE, best storytelling segment of 2015. That’s why, if you haven’t already, you need to #GiveEvaAChance
What do YOU think? Were you impressed by the storytelling and performances? Did Wednesday’s NXT change your opinion of Eva Marie? Be Heard.