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NXT Preview (Feb. 20, 2019): Main roster implications

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NXT returns to us tonight (Feb. 20) with their third episode from their most recent taping.

Here is what is advertised for tonight:

  • Johnny Gargano (c) vs. Velveteen Dream for the North American championship
  • Aleister Black vs. Roderick Strong
  • Mia Yim vs. Xia Li
  • The original Bro speaks out
  • Special announcement!

Here are our five questions about NXT tonight:

1) How will NXT stars on Raw & SmackDown affect stories on NXT?

It was a bit surprising to see the top male stars of NXT on the main roster this week for a few reasons.

First off, they just introduced a batch of call-ups to the main roster who still haven’t found a spot. EC3, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery, and Nikki Cross have been used sparingly on both brands and have no directions. If this week represents full call ups, they’re introducing more people to find a spot for, spots they really don’t have.

That’s if they are full call ups. Two champions, including the NXT champion, were part of Raw and SmackDown this week. Maybe it was a one time thing. Maybe this is part of a new territory system within WWE. (Though even if it is, I’d like to see the stories in NXT still in play and less of DIY as a babyface act who doesn’t seem to have a problem working together despite still having issues on their main brand.)

But if they are call ups, do they end up rushing the end of the stories they are telling on NXT? I surely hope not. Aleister Black and Ricochet can head up to the main roster no problem. Black has done all he can in NXT. Ricochet has more he could do, but he’s not amidst a big story. Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa, however, are the main story in NXT right now. It would be a damn shame if that were rushed to a conclusion to get these guys on the main roster so they can hang out with EC3 and Heavy Machinery backstage.

2) How will it be addressed on NXT?

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that those who were in Louisiana this week had no clue they would be when they taped the episodes of NXT we’re currently watching.

The way WWE works, this was probably a last minute decision and these guys went about their tapings not knowing that they’d be wrestling in front of a main roster crowd in a few weeks. Because of that, the storylines don’t reflect that either right now.

If they end up using these men more on the main roster to the point they need to be written out or speed things up, that won’t be represented on TV until the next taping.

With speculation about a “special announcement,” my guess is it will cover some of these questions. Perhaps we’ll learn certain NXT acts will be featured on Raw and SmackDown from here on out. Or perhaps we’ll learn that they are straight up moving these guys to the main roster and the NXT title will be vacated. If it is, it’ll likely be a backstage video with William Regal that was taped well after the rest of these tapings.

It’s possible that the special announcement is not related to any of this. Maybe it has to do with TakeOver: New York, a new Dusty Classic, or even NXT on FS1. But my guess is it will have to do with seeing more NXT talent on Monday and Tuesday, perhaps as a new talent share.

3) Who needs the North American title more?

Now onto the angle we’d probably have led off with before a bunch of talent showed up on Raw and SmackDown, and that’s the North American title match between Velveteen Dream and champion Johnny Gargano.

Velveteen Dream earned this match by winning the Worlds Collide tournament. He bypassed another chance at the NXT title and instead opted to focus on Johnny’s secondary title.

Both men could really use a win here.

Johnny Gargano does not want to be a one and done champion. It’d be rather humiliating to win the title and then lose it three weeks later. In his case, he’s also using that title to gain some control in his weird relationship with Tommaso Ciampa. Losing that would lose that edge in the mind games they’re playing with each other.

On the other side, Velveteen Dream needs some direction. The man was off the last TakeOver special and surely that did not sit well with him. Holding a title guarantees a spot on their big shows.

He’s also yet to hold a title in NXT despite his popularity. In fact, you can argue that in the biggest matches, he comes up short. He’s only 2-4 at TakeOvers, with his wins coming over Kassius Ohno (who never wins) and EC3 (who also didn’t win any real feuds). The narrative that he can’t win when it counts will be there if he doesn’t beat Johnny tonight and claim the gold.

4) Is that “locker room fight” leading somewhere?

Shayna Baszler, Jessamyn Duke, and Marina Shafir had some words with Mia Yim, MJ Jenkins, and Lacey Lane backstage this weekend. My colleague Sean Rueter has already discussed how it was pretty lame on locker room fight standards.

But they taped it, so it has to be leading somewhere.

It’s likely not leading to anything in regards to Shayna Baszler’s NXT title. Both Io Shirai and Bianca Belair have their eyes on that prize and both are presented as more legit challengers than Mia Yim thus far.

A six person tag is likely. The MMA Horsewomen (of NXT) need some other opponents and this random trio will provide that while getting players like Jenkins and Lacey time on TV.

Mia Yim mixes it up with Xia Li tonight. That would be as good a time as any for Shayna and crew to interrupt.

5) Are the Sky Pirates going to get a shot at the women’s tag gold?

As part of the territory system represented on Raw two nights ago, Sasha Banks and Bayley vowed that they’d defend their tag titles on Raw, SmackDown, and NXT. Meaning the exciting team of the Sky Pirates (Io Shirai and Kairi Sane) can one day get an opportunity at tag gold.

It won’t be right away. The Boss ‘n’ Hug Connection are going to have to contend with Nia Jax and Tamina first. And there are other teams on the main roster deserving as well, such as the Riott Squad, Fire and Desire, and the IIconics.

Coordinating a taped show with a live show could prove a bit challenging. But a feud wouldn’t need much. A video from the champs a couple weeks prior to a TakeOver would do just fine if they’re going to perform at the Sky Pirates home promotion. Or they can keep Io and Kairi Sane off NXT TV and build it for a WWE PPV on Raw or SmackDown.

Either way, this match needs to happen at one point.

We’ll see if we get answers to these questions tonight at 8 PM.

NOTE: Spoilers are out there for these pre-taped broadcasts (including here), but many Cagesiders don’t partake. If you are going to post or discuss spoilers for this show before they happen, or results of future shows, please use the spoiler bar in your comment.