Dakota Kai should be the babyface in this feud with Raquel Gonzalez

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Well, the turn everyone expected from the moment Raquel Gonzalez won the NXT Women’s Championship finally happened on the July 27 episode of NXT. That’s right, the Dakota Kai vs. Raquel Gonzalez championship program is about to commence.

The big breakup occurred at the conclusion of a segment where Gonzalez proclaimed that she had beaten everyone who stepped up to face her followed by Kai cheerleading for her statuesque pal in a manner that made the impending turn obvious to everyone (except Gonzalez, apparently).

The champion’s reward for her obliviousness was a boot to the head from Kai, which drew audible cheers and “Dakota” chants from the Capitol Wrestling Center crowd. However, it appears that NXT plans on ignoring the applause and pushing forward with Kai as the heel in this program. That would be a mistake.

Dakota Kai is miscast as the heel in this feud with Raquel Gonzalez

Like a lot of heels in NXT (like Candice LeRae, Johnny Gargano, Toni Storm pre-callup, and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott), Kai is a natural babyface that has long been miscast as an antagonist. Her heel run always felt like more of a “let’s see how much range she has as a performer” test than it did a move to maximize what she excels at, and it has hampered a brand that is short on quality faces.

She deserves a ton of credit for putting forth her best effort in the role, but most would agree that she’s far better wearing the white hat.

Everyone, that is, except the NXT creative team.

It didn’t help that they did nothing to make the fans sympathize with Gonzalez outside of the betrayal, and even that likely left fans thinking that she should’ve seen it coming. Aside from the glorified photo-op with Bianca Belair and Rhea Ripley following WrestleMania weekend, Gonzalez has operated as a heel.

Sure, she wins most of her matches clean, but her run as champion has featured just as many double-team attacks and post-match beatdowns, setting up a scenario where fans are meant to choose Gonzalez over Kai because she’s slightly less of a jerk. And this is before getting to her terrible real-life political views, which make her a turn-off for a significant portion of the viewers.

If the writers really wanted to make Gonzalez the babyface in this story, they could’ve set it up by having her accept challenges from babyfaces right after Kai tells them they aren’t worthy of a shot. Asking Kai to remain backstage during Gonzalez’s title defenses would’ve worked, too.

They could’ve even had Gonzalez give Kai a title shot, had Gonzalez beat her, and then built to the turn. Any of those would’ve been more effective than what they did. But it still would’ve been an arduous climb while ignoring the functioning elevator that was having Gonzalez turn on Kai — who’s effortlessly affable and easy to garner sympathy for — and positioning Kai as the babyface.

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Of course, we won’t know what the NXT creative team’s full plans are until we see the follow-up. For now, though, it looks like the brand is continuing to misread how the fans feel about Kai.