Ember Moon: Blending Performer and Persona

This Sunday at SummerSlam, Ember Moon is set for the biggest match of her career. Taking on Bayley for the SmackDown Women’s Title, Moon will look to maximize a major main roster opportunity. Not long ago, these moments appeared inevitable within Moon’s future but since arriving on RAW in April last year, those expectations have steadily diminished. For Moon, it’s been an admittedly inconsistent path to this point but opposite Bayley, she can erase the lulls that have limited her main roster stint thus far.

In truth though, those instances aren’t particularly obvious even in retrospect. Moon’s main roster fortunes haven’t been impacted by multiple miscues but instead, just a general lack of focus. Since being called up from NXT, Moon has seldom been spotlighted, instead featuring in lesser roles and stalling as a result. That trend has impacted far more than only Moon of course but her case often felt slightly different. In NXT, ‘The War Goddess’ sometimes divided fans but by the conclusion of her term, had become quite formidable centerpiece.

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As a character, Moon’s presentation wasn’t always consistent but once the bell rang, she usually thrived. Most famously, that included staggering showings opposite Asuka, producing two enthralling encounters for the NXT Women’s crown. Following Asuka’s departure, Moon then solidified herself as a worthy champion, superbly highlighting Shayna Baszler’s strengths in two gripping TakeOver tilts. Following that programme, an increased optimism surrounded Moon’s oncoming call-up. However, not all of the skeptics’ questions had been answered. Far from it in fact.

Following an encouraging start on RAW, Moon soon got lost within an increasingly shifting landscape. Before long, the former NXT Women’s Champion was almost aimless and without a creative direction in sight, had seemingly suffered from some of the critiques that shrouded her NXT arrival. Ember Moon was certainly intriguing and athletically, unquestionably dynamic but as a personality, she wasn’t always easy to pinpoint. For some onlookers, she was a character lacking definition, a persona without precision.

Moreover, those same people would likely argue that after over a year on the main roster, those issues remain as prevalent as ever. Nonetheless, here she is, just days away from a major opportunity that in truth, came almost out of nowhere. Since shifting to SmackDown Live, Moon has at least been featured in relatively consistent fashion, returning from injury and becoming quickly embroiled in a programme with Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville. That direction led her to this moment, a spotlight that realistically, could overwhelm the somewhat shallow character that’s appeared on TV.

It’s unclear if at this particular point in time, the main roster audience is truly invested in Ember Moon. In fairness, that’s certainly not simply a reflection of her performance but nonetheless, could dramatically impact her upcoming SummerSlam showing. Within a lengthy, loaded line-up, this match feels reliant on Moon’s appeal as a challenger, a test of the persona as well as the performer. In Moon’s case though, those elements are best served blended and in just one match, Ember can prove exactly that at SummerSlam.

In her strongest NXT showings, the Ember Moon character was far simpler than any glossy vignette suggested. It poured through her every action, with an unparalleled enthusiasm and vigor elevating her already sublime skill-set. That performer was naturally engaging, magnetic on movement alone and charismatic beyond any word she’d ever spoke. It feels as though at times, we can overcomplicate the babyface’s role. At their core, the finest wrestling heroes were and are simply likable. Not always due to their actions either.

In my view at least, Moon can capture that essence, even if it may not have been obvious in her time on WWE TV thus far. There’s certainly been fleeting moments though, especially in NXT. Against Baszler, Moon’s role wasn’t complicated but as a character, she’d never been more effective. Matched with the division’s resident bully, Moon was an almost throwback protagonist, fighting the good fight and portraying a figure that was more mortal than mysterious. That presentation isn’t as clear-cut opposite Bayley but Moon’s purpose certainly can be.

Verbally, Ember Moon may never be authoritative and as a personality, her presence could always appear slightly muted by comparison. Thankfully though, that doesn’t necessarily have to change. Moon is already capable of her own elite feats, firmly standing out as one of the division’s finest physical performers. With spectacular execution and almost unmatched timing, Moon’s in-ring showings are rarely anything but sublime and that alone makes her a unique female factor. It’s now simply a matter of connecting and at SummerSlam, that process appears more possible than ever.

Just like every other talent awaiting their moment to shine, Moon’s ceiling remains in question. This Sunday though, it could become much clearer. It’s hard to predict how circumstances will affect Moon’s title match with Bayley but it’s harder to believe that if they are provided ample time and opportunity, they won’t make the most of it. In truth, Moon’s character likely hasn’t been properly prepared for this moment but once the action begins, it’s then firmly in the performer’s hands. For Moon, that could be enough and if her future belongs in the title picture, it may have to be.

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