It's been a year since we had our first NXT live special, and in that time, these two hour shows have earned quite a reputation. The last one, December's R Evolution, was cSs' show of the year.
What can Rival add to that legacy?
Judging by the card they've laid out for us, quite a lot. And we're here to break it all down to get you ready for tonight's 8PM Eastern showtime on WWE Network (which will actually kick-off at 7:30 with a live pre-show). Click here for information on how to watch.
Enjoy this preview, watch the show along with us tonight in the live blog and stick around afterwards for our reactions - each comes with a complementary side of the best pro wrestling discussion around in our comment sections. When it comes to NXT, we here at Cageside Seats don't get hyped. We stay hyped. Howudoin?
Bull Dempsey vs. Baron Corbin - No Disqualification match
We've been given no reason to believe that Bull can last much more than a minute against The Lone Wolf and his End of Days finisher, but he keeps acquitting himself well on the microphone, and Corbin hasn't shown that he's completely ready for the next level yet, so here we are.
The stipulation should cover for areas where both still need to grow, and could be used to get Dempsey off the schnide. That one of these guys has had a match with Adrian Neville and just got his first piece of merch while they other has a feud against Mojo Rawley under his belt should tell you everything you need to know about this one, though.
Wesley Blake & Buddy Murphy (c) vs. Lucha Dragons - NXT Tag Team Championship match
If Triple H's baby has a weak spot, it's the midcard. And that is most evident in the tag division.
As a Developmental show, the drop off from the top independent veteran signings to the next level of young wrestlers or folks transtioning from other sports and entertainment fields can be pretty steep. Factor in that the main event scene in NXT has been white-hot for the past six-to-nine months, and it hasn't left a lot of room, or need, for the show to really build up the undercard.
That shows in the former tag champs, Sin Cara & Kalisto, who ended a really long run by The Ascension and proceeded to...just kind of keep having matches. The luchadors are over because they're babyfaces and both - especially Kalisto - can really knock your socks off with fast work and flashy manuevers. Other than that...the Vaudevillains don't like them?
Blake & Murphy were designated enhancement talent for the division, until they got the nod for a title change on a recent taping. Their characters are nearly identical to the Dragons...they're enthusiastic good guys. The set-up for the match is that they want to be fighting champs, so they offered Sin Cara & Kalisto a rematch any time, any where.
Neither team coming out with a win would be terribly surprising. In fact, the most shocking outcome would be if anyone is talking about this bout come tomorrow. And that's not a knock on either pair, but the top three announced matches (and a fourth rumored one) are the real deal...
Finn Bálor vs. Adrian Neville - Final of the tournament to determine the #1 contender for the NXT Championship
As a man you really don't want asking if he ever told you how he got his scars once said, here...we...go.
Neville has declared himself to be on a road to redemption similar to the one the man who bested him for the NXT title just completed. In an effort to prove himself the greatest champion in NXT history, he's beaten Tyson Kidd and Corbin to find himself one step away from a bout to reclaim the belt.
In order to get there, he has to go through the hottest act in the state of Florida that isn't in tonight's main event. Bálor has impressed fans who knew him as Prince Devitt and ones who never saw him before he debuted on WWE Network. His path to the tournament finals took him through main roster workhorse Curtis Axel and another international sensation signed about the same time he was, his tag partner Hideo Itami.
Where Itami has struggled a bit to adjust to the States and the world's largest pro wrestling promotion, Finn has flourished. With every diving double foot stomp and theatrical entrance, fans are screaming for (or dreading, depending on your point of view) his call-up to the main shows.
This will be the second time these dynamic performers from across the pond have squared off. If you're not into the whole strictly legal thing, Google Prince Devitt vs. PAC.
Charlotte (c) vs. Sasha Banks vs. Bayley vs. Becky Lynch - Fatal 4Way for the NXT Women's Championship
The Hugster and The Boss have been chasing the Queen since she won the title last May at the first show named Takeover - back before they gave them subtitles or decided to capitalize the 'O'. Each lost on a live show, and fell short in a taped rematch.
But Banks now has a (tights assisted) pin of Charlotte in a tag match to crow about, and Bayley is slowly developing a bad ass streak - something that most notably showed itself in the form of a Belly-to-Bayley to the Nature Girl after saving her from a Team B.A.E. beatdown.
It's the other half of that duo that provides the newest dimension to the NXT Women's title picture. Becky Lynch's inclusion not only adds a fresh challenger, but it's served to drive a wedge between the Irishwoman and Banks.
Will those two be able to stay on the same page? Will Bayley keep her edge when the chips are down? Is a match where she can lose her belt without being pinned just another mountain for the Genetically Superior champ to climb?
This bout will probably end up being more about answering those questions than stealing the show. Fourway dances are tricky to pull off, and the amount of time given to the men's main event bouts will most likely cut into every other match on the card. If Charlotte, Bayley, Banks and Lynch can hit their spots and play their characters as well as usual while advancing their division's story, future one-on-one affairs will stand an even better shot at delivering a match of the night.
Sami Zayn (c) vs. Kevin Owens - NXT Championship match
The only concern here is, with 'smark' anticipation so high, anything less than the second coming of Savage - Steamboat will be a disappointment.
But, watch this and have your anxiety reduced. Or, watch this...
and get even more hyped while you remember that these men could probably wrestle each other in an empty barn in Quebec and get a four star rating from some crows in the hay loft.
In the course of two months, they've channeled their history into a program that somehow neither feels recycled or dependent on the past. You can view this as straight babyface champion vs. heel monster set on destroying him and taking his belt. Or you can view it as two flawed brothers with noble intentions - Zayn to prove that you don't have to cut any corners to get and remain on top, Owens to provide for the best for his family by any means necessary - whose goals and careers are forcing them to try to destroy one another yet again.
There's very little indication which man might get the nod here, either. KO has the proverbial rocket strapped to him as proven by the fact that he has this shot so quickly. Sami finally captured the title just two months ago, and while he's a great character to have chasing the belt, since there doesn't seem to be a main roster spot awaiting him at present, cutting his run off this quickly would raise eyebrows.
Zayn is scheduled to leave for some WWE Live! shows in the United Arab Emirates immediately following Rival, and will miss the tapings scheduled for later this week at Full Sail. But he could retain the championship, by winning or schmozier means, and miss a few episodes just as he did after R Evolution.
In the long view, it may not matter who wins this round, because we're so clearly far away from their issues being over. As The Likeable One told WWE.com this week, "I think we're destined to fight forever."
As if all that wasn't enough for you (for the low, low price of FREE), we're also expecting the long awaited debut of Solomon Crowe, and Tyler Breeze's post-show attack on Hideo Itami from last week could lead to a kick-off between Prince Pretty and the Japanese Superstar (I really want to see those two get more time than they had in the tournament, but I don't know if I can handle it in addition to the other three bouts at the top of this card).
That's our rundown of what should be a great night of pro wrestling, Cagesiders!
Who's leaving with a title around their waist? And what will Bálor paint himself up as this time?
Photos and video via www.wwe.com. Kevin Steen vs. El Genrico video via ROHWrestling.com.