I must confess, I haven’t been entirely captivated by NXT recently. I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment, as interest in WWE’s aloof third brand has varied wildly over the past year.
Since rebranding fall 2021, pastel NXT has gone out of its way to distinguish itself as distinctly separate from the black and gold brand that was so championed just a few years ago. I can appreciate a good reboot, and NXT certainly needed one, but things have been rocky since the complete overhaul of all things 2017. A lot of this comes down to the same issues WWE has with Raw and SmackDown: their inability to move on from the same old story.
She Was a Sk8er Girl
Let’s look at Cora Jade. Jade technically debuted pre-NXT’s rebranding, but she found her footing under its new neon umbrella. She won War Games for team Raquel back in November, earning herself a title shot at New Year’s Evil.
As I had COVID at the time, New Year’s Evil was actually prime viewing for me, and I remember it well. This was a triple threat against Mandy Rose and Raquel Gonzalez, and at first look, Jade didn’t stand much from her more established opponents. Gonzalez was the built star here, with plenty of power moves and big spots, and Rose the crafty vet. Still, Cora’s moments were solid, even if she didn’t always have chemistry with the others. Her last minute breakup of Gonzalez’s pin attempt led to Mandy stacking her up to retain, protecting Big Mami Cool, who was just a few months away from a SmackDown debut.
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Jade continued on with the skater girl gimmick, which is a bit 2005, but it’s not like anyone’s real pressed about it. She had a brief feud with Natalya of all people, proving herself to the BOAT before she jumped back to the main roster.
Jade then began teaming with Roxanne Perez, another talent who was still in middle school while I was getting my Bachelor of Arts. You hate to see young people winning. Jade and Perez beat Toxic Attraction for the women’s tag titles at the beginning of this month, a huge win for friendship and happiness. They seemed the opposite of Dolin and Jayne, who had gone whole hog into their self-serving villain era. Perez and Jade were all about staying true to yourself and working hard, preaching classic white meat babyface values and lauding their bond and genuine respect for each other … for all of two weeks.
She Said to Her L8er Girl
The NXT parking lot made its comeback in the 2.0 era this week, as the show opened up to find Roxanne knocked out just outside the venue. She was meant to challenge Mandy Rose for the NXT Women’s Title, which meant Toxic Attraction were the likely suspects.
Rose taunted Perez for being unable to compete through her injuries, which lead Cora to come out and offer to fight in her friend’s place. Roxanne then appeared herself, promising the main event was still on. Jade cheered on her friend as the match started, but things fell apart for the duo soon enough.
Perez faced an uphill battle, selling the injured ribs as she attempted to unseat the champ. She fought off both Dolin and Jayne on the outside, and after Roxy landed Pop Rox on Rose, Jade began clamoring for her friend to get Mandy back in the ring. Yet, as Roxanne was very slowly ascending the apron, she was blindsided by Jade, hitting her in the ribs with the women’s tag title.
It’s symbolic, get it?
Rose easily got the win, and Cora went on to break her skateboard on thin air and then throw the pieces on Perez; a bit awkward, but she stayed committed. The heel turn was executed as well as one could expect for a segment involving a gimmicked skateboard, and it did what it needed. Jade is a selfish baddie, and Perez looks like the saddest of babyfaces.
She Wasn’t Good Enough for Her
WWE splitting up a tag team too early isn’t news; it’s more like a favorite pastime. This turn feels a bit more unique given that Perez and Jade are actively holding the tag titles together. The last time I can recall this happening in recent memory was Dean Ambrose (remember him?) turning on Seth Rollins about 90 seconds after they won the Raw Tag Team Titles back in 2018.
While that was a spin on the failed Shield reunion that couldn’t be, the story there relied on the years of shared history between both men. Here, Perez and Jade have known each other less than a year. They’ve only been teaming for a month, holding the belts for two short weeks before Jade elected to make her move. Either Roxanne is truly terrible to travel with, or Jade’s jumped the gun a bit here. The team had just experienced their first success, it seems a bit counterintuitive to shoot yourself in the foot, even if self-damaging decisions are at the root of most wrestling heels personae. At least Cora is already on trend.
The intrigue here comes from where Jade and Perez go as champions; it’ll be hard to defend the titles when they’re trying to knock each other’s backwards hats off. Cora’s decision to go into business for herself feels more surprising given how recent the tag victory was, and (hopefully) it suggests there are big things in store for the young star.
It’s hard to guess how the feud plays out; both Perez and Jade have begun to make names for themselves, and as Mandy continues her lengthy reign as champ, either could become potential repeat challengers down the line. Of course, Rose is still entangled with Nikita Lyons, so we could be hurdling towards some kind of fatal fourway in the near future.
There’s a lot of directions this story could go, and it’ll be interesting to see just how heel Jade stacks up against the pop-punk skatergirl. Personally, I’m more into this cutthroat Cora than the smiles and leather jackets we’ve gotten over the past few months. She feels like a performer who’s more at home as the bad guy, so long as the props hold together.