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NXT preview (Jan. 8, 2020): Time to say goodbye

NXT returns tonight (Jan. 8) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. It is the first live show of the year.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Keith Lee vs. Dominik Dijakovic vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Damian Priest for a shot at the North American championship
  • Undisputed ERA (Bobby Fish & Kyle O’Reilly) vs. Gallus (Wolfgang & Markus Coffey) in a first round Dusty Classic match
  • The Forgotten Sons vs. Imperium (Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel) in a first round Dusty Classic match
  • What’s next for NXT Women’s champion Rhea Ripley?

As per usual, here are our questions about NXT tonight:

1) Have we seen the last of Shayna Baszler?

Week’s back, Rhea Ripley defeated Shayna Baszler to win the NXT Women’s championship. The prevailing theory is that Shayna is all said and done in NXT, possibly moving to Raw or SmackDown for the Royal Rumble.

I expect to see her again in NXT in the next few weeks, but likely in an angle that writes her off the brand for good. Maybe a rematch for the title she lost with the stipulation if she doesn’t win, she leaves NXT.

Or maybe they just run an angle that pays tribute to her long run in NXT in its own way, such as the entire women’s locker room that she spent years terrorizing running her out of the buildingx`.

2) Who’s next for Rhea Ripley?

We may get one more match between Ripley and Baszler, but for all intents and purposes, the women’s division is moving on with Rhea Ripley.

So who’s her first real opponent?

There are two people I’m guessing. Candice LeRae and Io Shirai.

Candice LeRae was the other woman standing in the Women’s WarGames match. Rhea was built as the star, but she had a partner in her 2 on 4 victory. Winning such a big handicap should earn both women title shots.

Plus, Candice is a fantastic wrestler and can guarantee a great match for Rhea’s first title defense.

Despite losing at WarGames, Io Shirai probably looked the best. Her moonsault from the top of the cage may have cost her team the match but was also the most memorable spot from the match. She didn’t get pinned. And unlike Bianca Belair, she has not taken a one on one loss to Rhea Ripley.

Like Candice, Io is also a great wrestler and she would also ensure a strong match for Rhea’s first title defense.

3) What’s the TakeOver: Portland card looking like?

We have about six weeks until the next TakeOver so we probably won’t get a real idea of the full card for maybe another month. But we love to speculate so let’s do that.

The NXT title match is likely Adam Cole vs. Tommaso Ciampa. With Finn Bálor losing his attempt and Keith Lee getting pinned in the triple threat the other week, Ciampa stands alone as the #1 contender to Adam Cole’s title.

Speaking of Finn, he’s likely got a match with Johnny Gargano in Oregon. Rhea Ripley will surely defend her title, perhaps against one of the women we discussed. And this would be a good spot for Tegan Nox and Dakota Kai to lock up for the first time.

The tag team scene is harder to guess. For one thing, the Dusty Classic may have come and gone by then (it’s entirely possible it ends at World’s Collide given the UK vs. NXT theme). Plus they need to build some teams, likely something they plan to do in this Dusty, to really have someone worthy to face Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish.

4) Is Keith Lee above this?

Keith Lee was the Breakout Star of the Year and rightfully so.

By the end of the year, he felt like a contender for Adam Cole’s title. That shine just slightly wore off when he was pinned in the triple threat #1 contenders match, but it was still a banner year for the Limitless One.

Because of that, it feels like he’s a bit above this midcard #1 contenders match. Dijakovic proved to hold his own with Lee, but lacks that natural charisma that the big man does. Damian Priest and Cameron Grimes are fine too, but they’re no Keith Lee.

Keith should win this match, but battling for the secondary title seems like a step back. But if they don’t have a plan for him in the top title picture right now given Ciampa and Cole’s story, it may not be bad to position Lee as a stud in the role of North American champion, fending off all comers until the NXT title is ready for him.

5) We’re knocking off a champion this soon?

Oddly enough, the first round of the Dusty Classic pits the NXT UK champs (Gallus) and NXT champs (Undisputed ERA), meaning one of these teams has to lose tonight.

That’s an interesting way to go about things, guaranteed a champion goes one and done. This is instead of possibly teasing a champ vs. champ finals, even if they don’t go that way.

Perhaps they want to feature more new teams so gave us an excuse both sets of tag champs don’t advance to the second round. Maybe they’ll run an angle out of this. We’ll have a better idea after the champs collide.

If I had to pick a winner, I’d probably go with Gallus. Undisputed are in a position that they can’t be hurt with a loss. Gallus are a less known commodity with the main NXT audience so a win would give NXT UK a bit of a boon.

We’ll see if we get any answers to these questions tonight at 8 PM ET on USA Network.

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