Advertised for tonight:
- TakeOver 31 fallout
- Ember Moon opens the show
- Kushida vs. Tommaso Ciampa
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:
1) Are the Garganos’ NXT days coming to an end?
Sunday was not a good night for Johnny Gargano and Candice LeRae.
Johnny lost to Damian Priest, failing to win the North American championship. Despite being rather entertaining as a shithead heel, he hasn’t really accomplished much in this role.
The same can be said of Candice, who has also been entertaining as a villainous Gargano but not finding success with it. She lost to Io Shirai last night, and that was after her husband tried multiple times to interfere on her behalf.
The way both took a definitive loss on Sunday makes me think they could get poached in the upcoming WWE Draft. And given their tenure in NXT, a change of scenery may not be the worst thing. They’ve been on Wednesdays for a long time, rarely finding that top success. Even their heel characters, characters that have been around for only six months, weren’t able to lead to winning ways.
Of course moving someone like Johnny Gargano to the main roster is going to be worrisome. Despite his talent, he’s definitely undersized compared to most of the roster, and that may severely limit his ceiling. That is something that won’t apply to LeRae.
If they stay in NXT, creative will figure out a path for these two. Maybe they’re content with the Garganos planning the role of midcard gate keeper. That’s not the worst thing.
We’ll see if they get a major story kicked off tonight, or if their angle tonight feels more like a goodbye moment.
2) Is Ridge Holland a solo villain or a pawn in a game?
The end of TakeOver 31 was a bit weird.
After an excellent main event between Finn Bálor and Kyle O’Reilly, where the former retained his title against a game challenger, Ridge Holland appeared holding a lifeless Adam Cole. He dropped the former champ on the ground and left as Undisputed checked on Cole.
The former Rugby player hasn’t been in NXT for long. While he’s got a good look and likely a bright future, it seems very early to position him in a role where he’s going alone against the Undisputed ERA.
The other possibility is there are shenanigans afoot within Undisputed. Kyle O’Reilly seems like a babyface now. So does Adam Cole. But how about Bobby Fish and Roderick Strong? Are they changed men? Or did they see the writing on the wall and decide to do something about it?
That something could be enlisting a massive man as muscle to attack Cole (and eventually O’Reilly?) before they attack them.
This will likely be a slower build, but we’re likely to get some clues tonight.
3) Does Dexter Lumis have his eye on the North American championship?
Last week, Dexter Lumis returned in the most Dexter Lumis way.
The creepy man was standing backstage, staring at Cameron Grimes who just took a beating from Ridge Holland.
You’d think Lumis’ focus would be on the North American championship. After all, he qualified for the ladder match where Priest won the title. But an injury prevented Dexter from competing.
Cameron Grimes was in that match as well. Given his horror movie inspiration, it’s entirely possible that Lumis goes after all the men who were in that match one by one before targeting the Archer of Infamy.
4) Who’s next for Io Shirai?
Despite putting Candice LeRae aside last Sunday, two new challengers have popped up for Io Shirai.
The first was Toni Storm, who appeared on the CWC’s new big video screen and told the champ she’s coming to NXT. Storm and Shirai have a history as they were both in the finals of the second Mae Young Classic. Storm won that bout but then went off to NXT UK so they have not crossed paths since.
After that, Ember Moon revealed herself to be the mysterious motorcycle rider that had been teased the last two weeks. Moon held the NXT title a couple years back before an uneventful trip to the main roster. One of the big reasons her main roster run was halted was a very serious Achilles injury.
Those are two women who are immediately going to be in or around the title picture. That’s not to mention Rhea Ripley, who still needs a one on one rematch after losing the title to Charlotte at WrestleMania.
This division continues to be stacked from top to bottom.
5) What’s Tommaso’s plan?
Tommaso Ciampa returned to NXT just in time to be included in the fatal 4-way Iron Man match that eventually led to Finn Bálor winning the NXT championship. He was advertised during TakeOver 30, meaning he wasn’t just brought back to help fill the void that was suddenly left by Karrion Kross’ injury. (Though I suspect his heel turn upon coming back was to fill that void.)
Outside a mini-feud with Jake Atlas, the Psycho Killer has not been too active. But he could make an exciting feud for Finn. And with the need to elevate some fresh blood in the main event scene, they can use the time spent building a Bálor/Ciampa program to continue to elevate talent to the spot where they’d be believable challengers for the Prince.
In the meantime, WWE announced last night Tommaso will face off with Kushida, who’d roll continued Sunday night with a vicious win over Velveteen Dream.
We’ll see if we get any answers to these questions tonight at 8 PM ET on USA Network.