— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) August 19, 2018
Match of the night, best match that Shayna Baszler has ever had, best women’s match overall since Asuka/Moon II.
Can I just take a moment to heap a whole bunch of love on Shayna Baszler? I hate her but it’s for exactly the reasons that I am supposed to hate her, and that almost never happens in wrestling nowadays! Seriously, her character work in and out of the ring is utterly immaculate. Baszler, simply put, is a bully. Like, did you ever have that one bully back in school who just wanted everyone to fear them? They didn’t want respect, they didn’t want to find some kind of worthy adversary, they didn’t come from a broken home or anything like that, they just wanted everybody to be afraid of them. Worst of all, they actually loved it when somebody stepped up to challenge them because they were good enough to back up their smack talk and would slam that person back down with authority, thereby further cementing their power and fear over everybody else. That kind of bully? That’s Shayna Baszler and she’s so utterly detestable that I simultaneously respect the hell out of her for it whilst hating her guts, which is exactly the reaction she’s going for.
Kairi Sane, meanwhile, is a Japanese pirate princess with the most beautiful elbow drop you will ever see in your worthless goddamn life. Of course she’s a natural babyface, how could anyone not want to root for the Japanese pirate princess with the sweet-ass elbow drop?! Sane defeated Baszler last year in the finals of the Mae Young Classic and, despite Baszler getting her win back once she debuted in NXT earlier this year, it’s a fact that’s been gnawing away at her ever since because a) nobody can stop bringing it up and b) it gives Sane a measure of confidence and lack of fear when facing Baszler which drives the latter insane since, again, Baszler wants nothing more than total heart-stopping fear out of every woman in the NXT locker room. Give an inch or show any hesitation, and Baszler will systematically break every bone in one of your appendages with a sadistic smile. Withstand that and refuse to back down, and Baszler becomes rattled and furious, eventually making that one momentary mistake which costs her it all.
Baszler vs. Sane for the NXT Women’s Championship proceeds to weave all of those threads together into a magnificent 13 and a half minutes that ranks amongst the absolute best matches from any promotion all year. It’s just incredible. From the opening ground game between Sane and Baszler, the former trying to throw the latter off by valiantly attempting to best Baszler at her own specialty, to the brutally hard to watch spots where Baszler tries to destroy Sane’s knee (the torque she gets on it is just unnatural)… that spot, not coincidental to my exemplary grade on this match, benefits tenfold from Sane selling the hell out of it throughout the rest of her match, never letting us forget just how much damage Baszler has caused to it whenever she has to go to the top rope or tries in futile to lock in The Anchor. And, once again, there’s NXT paying off its own history by having the biggest segments of the match occur as a direct result of Sane’s actions on the go-home show – demonstrating her finishers to an observing Baszler in an attempt to strike fear into Baszler’s heart, only for Baszler to then come up with counters that lead into the Kirifuda Clutch.
That finish, by the way, is a magnificent work of art. Sane goes up for a third Insane Elbow, Baszler blocks it with her knees and locks in the Kirifuda Clutch, but Baszler is so confident that this is the end of Sane that she takes her head out of the game for long enough to allow Sane to hit her own counter, rolling up Baszler for the three-count because it never crossed her mind that Sane may have also been scouting her too. Sane wins, but Baszler lost, which is the crucial difference Baszler herself points out in her excellent post-match interview, and it’s pretty much the exact same way that Ember Moon first defeated her back in TakeOver: Philadelphia (albeit with a different finisher). God, this whole match was just incredible and both women should be immeasurably proud of themselves.