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NXT preview (Nov. 18, 2020): At full strength?

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NXT returns tonight (Nov. 18) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. The was a report about a TakeOver in December, but nothing has been announced by NXT.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Io Shirai (c) vs. Rhea Ripley for the NXT women’s championship
  • Finn Bálor returns
  • Leon Ruff (c) vs. Johnny Gargano for the North American championship

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

1) Is Bálor good to go?

It’s been over a month since we’ve last seen Finn Bálor. He sustained a broken jaw at TakeOver 31 and has been rehabbing it since. Tonight, he’ll finally be at the CWC to let us know where he stands.

Hopefully, he stands ready to defend his title against all comers. But if he’s not ready to go, he may be leaving the gold in the ring. Obviously, that’d be a poor outcome, but if his rehabilitation is going to have another month or so ahead of it, he can’t hold onto the championship. NXT has been doing a good job keeping the show interesting without any NXT title stories. But they can’t do that much longer.

Surely, we’ll know where things stand tonight. Also may be a good idea to keep an eye out for Karrion Kross, who’s also been teasing a comeback. Could we be seeing both men staring each other down as early as this evening?

2) Does Undisputed need to do major work to be babyfaces?

When Undisputed ERA inevitably returns, they’re going to be poised as babyfaces to take on Pat McAfee an his Kings of NXT. It can be tough for certain long term heels to slot into the babyface role given all the dastardly deeds they’ve done in the past.

But I don’t expect it to be difficult at all to make the switch for Adam Cole, Bobby Fish, Kyle O’Reilly, and Roderick Strong. When they were in front of a real live audience, they’d have fans cheering for them anyway. The four men were talented enough to get those crowds to boo them, but the desire to cheer them has been there for awhile.

Plus, Undisputed were never the worst heels. Sure they were douchebags who would use their numbers advantage all the time. But they were never those vicious villains who crossed lines that are very hard to return from. They’re cool heels.

Add in the fact that Pat McAfee, Oney Lorcan, Danny Burch, and Pete Dunne have been very great at being bad. With McAfee’s natural heel attitude, it’s easy to want to hate them. That makes it easy to cheer whoever wants to take it to the Kings. That’s going to be Undisputed.

3) Are they rushing Rhea Ripley vs. Io Shirai?

Ever since Rhea Ripley defeated Raquel González at Halloween Havoc a couple weeks back, she was the presumed #1 contender for Io Shirai’s title. That match was not officially for the right to face Io for the gold, but given the state of the division, it was assumed.

Even so, it feels like they could have done more to build up tonight’s title match a bit more. Hell, with a TakeOver possibly around the corner in December, this could have headlined that show. Running it without exploring the story more is curious.

The Prime Target video special they aired last week was excellent, as video packages by WWE normally are. And after watching it, I know I was excited for this match. These are the two top women in NXT and now they’re going to fight. There’s not much story to tell. Because of that, it really isn’t an issue they’re running it so quickly. It’s going to be good. But they probably could have added even more drama to it.

Maybe they just want to have a strong viewership Wednesday. Maybe they have main roster plans for one of the two. Or maybe this doesn’t go to a finish, leaving this open for a later TakeOver.

4) Is Leon one and done?

Last week, we saw the biggest upset in NXT history. Leon Ruff defeated Johnny Gargano to win the North American championship. Gargano handpicked Ruff to get an easy win in his first North American title defense. Then he lost it.

Leon Ruff’s feel good story isn’t going to lead to a long title reign. The win itself was the moment. Most likely, Johnny Wrestling is going to win it back tonight. Losing last week was humiliating, but that can be chalked up to a hubris related fluke. But losing twice in a row could start weakening heel Johnny.

He’s rather teflon so they could book it in a way he loses and can still recover. But more likely he gets his heat back and crushes poor Ruff.

5) When do we know about the next TakeOver?

We’ve alluded to a December TakeOver that was reported a couple times during this preview. However, right now there’s nothing official.

It’s very possible that the Dec. 6 was the plan, but then they changed plans. And they can easily do that. There’s no venue they need to reserve given they run it out of their own CWC. They air it on the WWE Network which they also own so they’re not beholden to cable pay-per-view deals. (I don’t know if there are international obligations.) So they can decide when they want to run a show and when to announce it.

This all means any uncertainty about Finn Bálor and how his injury could affect a planned December show allows them to just hold out and see where he stands before committing. The champ’s return tonight could come with an official announcement regarding the next time a TakeOver comes our way.

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