In an effort to mitigate potential viewership losses from 1.) a special Tuesday airing of All Elite Wrestling (AEW): Dynamite and 2.) the opening night of the 2022-23 NBA season, WWE loaded up this week’s episode of NXT with a myriad of stars from Raw and SmackDown. One trope it used as a pretense to get these wrestlers on the show was “Pick Your Poison”
As mentioned in a previous piece, WWE employed “Pick Your Poison” to help build to the Roxanne Perez vs. Cora Jade in a Weapons Wild match at Halloween Havoc. Perez picked SmackDown’s Raquel Rodriguez to face Jade and Jade picked Raw’s Rhea Ripley to wrestle Perez.
Unfortunately, both matches ended with the sort of finishes fans grew tired of during the pre-Triple H creative regime.
WWE made some weird booking choices with the Pick Your Poison matches.
Let’s start with the Perez vs. Ripley match, which, to be clear, ruled from an in-ring standpoint. The two told the obvious story of Ripley overwhelming Perez with her strength and Perez constantly fighting from underneath and using her guile, technique, and quickness to counteract the size disparity.
Then, the finish brought things to a screeching halt. After Ripley got out of the Pop Rox, Dominik Mysterio offered up a slight distraction that allowed Ripley to hit the Riptide and pin Perez relatively clean. This makes sense given that Ripley has a big pay-per-view match comi…wait, Perez is the one with the big grudge match on the horizon. Well, that makes this decision look a lot worse.
We get it, WWE didn’t want a main roster star losing to a “developmental” talent and it wanted to keep the Judgement Day strong heading into their match with AJ Styles, Karl Anderson, and Luke Gallows at the sportswashing smorgasbord on Nov. 5. Plus, if Perez is winning at Halloween Havoc, she can afford to lose to Ripley in a competitive match with the slightest of protection in defeat.
Of course, this operates under the premise that WWE was forced into booking this match and the creative team has no say in who wrestles who. If they were so concerned with upkeeping Ripley’s in-ring credibility, they could’ve booked her to beat anyone else on the roster. Sure you probably don’t get as good of a match, but you also aren’t reducing fans’ excitement for Perez/Jade by continuing to bog down Perez with their counterproductive “underdog” booking.
That said, at least Ripley and Perez worked a real match with a real finish. The Jade/Rodriguez match didn’t even reach the three-minute mark and the ladies filled that time with Jade running away from Rodriguez and Rodriguez catching and overpowering her. That stuff was ok, but Rodriguez getting disqualified for hitting Jade with a kendo stick was not.
Again, this was another example of WWE booking itself out of a corner that it put itself in; the company has clearly earmarked Rodriguez as a future star and didn’t want her to get pinned, but also wanted Jade to win in a way that attempted to maximize her heat.
So, WWE picked the result that satisfies no one and makes Jade look like a chickens*** that no one should take seriously as an in-ring threat, which is a problem when she is scheduled to fight someone in a heated grudge match filled with weapons. It also makes Rodriguez look dumb more than it makes Jade look smart; with Rodriguez dominating 90 percent of the match, why would she hit Jade with a stick instead of simply using her regular offense to continue the beatdown?
In the end, both finishes have made this match less anticipated than it should be and have significantly lowered the potential impact of who wins. Why should fans care if Perez finally beats someone who flukes her way to most of her wins? And why would beating someone who loses most of her matches be a major accomplishment for Jade?
With the match taking place in front of a reliably receptive NXT crowd, it may not matter, especially if Jade and Perez turn in a great performance. But WWE could’ve helped them out with some better booking, particularly when you know that the mistakes the promotion made were completely avoidable.