In a short time, the NXT Women’s title has built up quite the lineage. It all started with a precocious anti-diva and from there transitioned into an emerging Queen, a conquering BOSS, a beloved hugger and most recently, an unbeatable Empress. Considering the kind of impact that each of those women had in NXT and beyond, it’s fair to say that being the brand women’s champion is a very important thing. What if I were to tell you though that whilst it may not seem obvious as of right now, the belt’s current owner actually has the tools to end up a bigger and more enduring star than almost all of them. I’m talking of course, about Ember Moon.
The first vignettes surrounding a then more mythical Moon’s debut emerged around 18 months ago, and she’d have her first televised bout at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 2. She was presented as a major player from the outset, on that night beating Billie Kay in front of a packed Barclays Centre. Moon’s athleticism was immediately impressive and paired with such an interesting and unique presentation, seemed set to create a dynamite package for the NXT Women’s division. The end game was clear from day one, Asuka’s eventual conqueror had surely just arrived.
The truth was though, behind the cool contact lenses and neat entrance music, there wasn't a lot to see. I don’t mean that as an indictment on Moon to be clear as once the bell rung, she usually did everything she could but this initial characterization was simply lacking in substance. I understand the idea of maintaining a character’s mystique but as an audience, we were given almost too little to latch onto and that began to create a disconnect that stunted Moon’s momentum for a while. Nonetheless, Ember continued to win and the inevitable Asuka match was soon booked for TakeOver: Orlando.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe that by the time we got to this first title match, almost eight months had transpired since Moon’s debut. Regardless of why, it’s fair to say that a poor job had been done in establishing who Ember really was and that created the sense that for all her talent, Moon was an undercooked challenger not quite ready to dethrone the unstoppable champion. The match itself would unsurprisingly be great and the finish smart as Asuka was forced to take a shortcut for the first time, retaining her title with a feel of uncertainty and perfectly laying the table for a major rematch down the line.
As most would’ve predicted at the time, that rematch would eventually come in Brooklyn, but the developments that took place in between were interesting to say the least. With a shoulder injury briefly pulling her aside, Moon had a chance to focus on redirecting her character in the build-up to the awaiting Asuka rematch. Ember became a contender hungry for revenge and for my money, finally began to find herself as a promo. She started speaking with a little more conviction and was now channeling human emotions rather than trying too hard to play an enigmatic character that in truth, wasn't as engaging as it looked.
Moon did an excellent job in the lead up to Brooklyn and her TakeOver rematch with Asuka absolutely delivered once the bell rang. I’ve purposely avoided too much analysis of Ember’s in-ring ability here as not only are the other areas often more important in connecting but also because frankly, she’s so good that it’s almost not worth discussing. Basically, Moon is the single most dynamic bell-to-bell female performer I’ve ever seen. Offensively, she’s spectacular but much more than that, she wrestles with a vigor and passion that makes her work matter. She’s exceptional and showed that clearer than ever here with Asuka in Brooklyn.
Her selling was quintessential babyface brilliance, and exposed how misguided their initial direction was as Moon’s relatability became clearer by the minute. The match thrilled, especially in the latter moments but to the surprise of many, Ember once again wouldn't come out the victor as Asuka remained champion. Regardless of the result the match had been an instant classic, even if one had to ponder its long-term impact on Moon’s popularity as a top female babyface. In hindsight, it may well have been a watershed moment for her, though time will tell as to how and why.
Either way Asuka would vacate her crown and move up to the main roster, but only after an embrace with Moon on NXT TV first, a spiritual ending to their rivalry so to speak. With no champion, four women earned a chance to battle for the title in a Fatal 4-Way at TakeOver: War Games. I must say that for me personally, Ember felt almost hidden in the background here at times but then again, the build for the match was rather limited in general with the story a simple one, she may have had no conqueror but who was Asuka’s successor?
Moon unsurprisingly found herself in the match and after ten minutes of battling it out with Kairi Sane, Nikki Cross and Peyton Royce, she scored the win. Ember Moon was finally the NXT Women’s Champion. Though she wasn't the most popular choice among ardent fans, Moon made sense as the new centerpiece, especially considering her famous battles with the former champion. It had been a long journey for the victorious Moon and whilst I wish they’d have delved into that story slightly better beforehand, this was the completion of a nice story and with Asuka handing over the belt, it was now Ember’s time to be champion.
This ushers in a very important moment for Moon. That NXT Women’s title has transformed careers before and a quick look at the landscape shows that Ember will have to be a champion that brings others up as she tries to make her own reign one of the most interesting yet. That was already clear in her first defense too as Ember faced a departing Sonya Deville. Thus far, the brief direction has been fine even if uninspiring but fortunately, Moon has the raw ability needed to maintain this division’s now famed importance on almost every major TakeOver show.
On the recent recap episode of NXT, Ember’s success story was detailed and with just a little bit of effort, the true magic of this character was finally being tapped into. Ember Moon is special but not for the reasons first suggested. Honestly, she’s not particularly mysterious or intriguing but what she is can often be much more unique. Ember is likable. Her charisma is very human in that way. It’s her smile that connects with people, not a blank stare. You see, the money in Ember Moon as champion exists in her simply being her, a hard working underdog that has slowly but surely become one of the most skilled performers in her whole profession.
Ember said herself that losing in Brooklyn didn't matter because she had earned the NXT universe’s respect and honestly, I think I agree with her. Those losses to Asuka humanized this character and whilst for many that’s a death knell, for Moon it may have been the road to stardom. In a world of wrestlers searching for their perfect character or gimmick, Ember’s route seems simple. The more she can make ‘Ember Moon’ like the performer behind it, the more popular it’ll become, that I am confident of. Ember Moon is a star, and with a division now resting on her very capable shoulders, it’s finally time for her to shine.