In terms of matches, her booking is far from a total burial. Just recently, she competed against Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax in a #1 contender's match on NXT. Despite taking the pin and being outshone by the charismatic heel Alexa Bliss, she performed well in it. But something with her character is just not connecting, so here's how we take Carmella from afterthought to actually fabulous.
Step 1: Chill.
This is by far the biggest thing holding Carmella back. Yes, Enzo and Cass made a career by acting ridiculous and hyping crowds up, but Carmella is not Enzo and Cass. She was a fun addition to their group, but it was painful when she'd come out alone and heard crickets. For the most part, she's dropped the Enzo-esque entrances, but is still working with the little comedy-act elements. I'll admit, I like the occasional moonwalk. The screaming and dancing more than just occasional, though? Cut it.
Her energy could be used in a different way with much more success. Instead, she should just be really happy to be here. Her smile is fantastic, so if she's smiling from the moment she comes out from behind the curtain to the moment the bell rings, that says something about her. She doesn't have to be all business all the time, but taking it down a few notches for her regular matches will do a lot of good. It also lets the audience know that this is serious when a match is important enough to lose her big smile. When she puts forward this crazy comedy act style, it feels forced and crowds stop caring.
Step 2: Get Out of the Shadow
In fairness, WWE has done alright on this front. They made the very wise decision to keep Carmella in developmental while Enzo and Cass were called up to the main roster. She's got a ton of potential, but she's not ready. Since her boys have left Orlando, however, NXT has lost a sense of direction for her. More than anything, she's become Bayley's sidekick, and hey, there are worse gigs out there, but she needs to find her own voice.
When Carmella was running with Enzo and Cass, about the only thing I liked about her was her theme song. Then, I watched WWE Breaking Ground, which featured her pretty heavily, and saw something in her. Carmella has a huge heart, and it comes through so well on the show. It's apparent that she wants nothing more than the people around her—from her best friend Bayley to her boyfriend Collin Cassidy—to succeed. That's a character just waiting to be explored.
Who is Carmella? She could be a fiercely loyal friend with a big heart who has started to wonder when it's going to be her turn at glory. The ball was dropped on her match with Bayley. It should've been a moment for her to show depth as a face, to show frustration and struggle. She became a footnote in Bayley's reign when she should've been solidifying her character as a relatable underdog.
Step 3: Put Some Attitude In It
That doesn't mean she needs to be a squeaky clean super-babyface. Some are successful with it (yes, Bayley) but for most, it just turns stale. We already have the loyal friend with a big heart who is maybe getting a little impatient. Add in that she's easily pissed off and has a bit of an attitude problem. Her finisher, the modified scissor submission, is killer. I remember my jaw dropping the first time she locked it in. It's ruthless. That had to come from somewhere inside her character.
It's easy to instill that as a part of her character. There have been a few moments where she's shown it before, but never really dug into it. Bayley is a good catalyst; she's got credibility to spare in NXT. It could be set into motion in a simple interview where she says "Carmella's my best friend, and she's a sweetheart but, she might just have the shortest temper of anyone I've ever met." Then Carmella would have to bring it into her moveset, getting frustrated easily and more successful when she's angry.
For Carmella to succeed, the character needs to be honed and brought into every aspect of her time on screen. That includes her entrance, which currently verges on boring. Despite myself, I'm a fan of those giant earrings she wore the other day. They fit her. The problem is that she took them off during her opponent's entrance, off camera. If she added a little drama to it, they could really do something for her. She should be taking them off as she comes down to the ring, as if to say "it's time to fight." It's a little detail, but everything needs to start to come together to convey a consistent character.
Step 4: Find a Rival
This last step will be vital to expressing her new character to the audience. The last time she had a solid, long-lasting feud was...maybe Alexa Bliss when Blake and Murphy were fighting Enzo and Cass? There wasn't much to her run with Bayley, or in her most recent #1 contender's shot. She needs a rival who she can bounce off of and develop with over time.
Alexa Bliss is actually still a fantastic contender for that spot. She's a star and is a pro at old-school heel tactics and telling an in-ring story. I'd like to see her coming up to the main roster in a bit, but this could be her NXT swansong. Her and Carmella both lost the title shot to Nia Jax, so they're well positioned to butt heads. Alexa Bliss could also argue that without Carmella in the match to take the pin from Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss is who would've won. It's a perfect excuse for Alexa Bliss to pick a fight with our newly Repackaged and Remadeover Carmella.
Do you think Carmella could still turn her character around? Or will nothing she does successfully get you to sing along to her theme?