Essential business NXT returns tonight (Apr. 15) from the WWE Performance Center. Normally we’ll tell you what TakeOver they’re building to, but it is probably a long while until we get another specific TakeOver event.
- The Cruiserweight Tournament begins
- Finn Bálor vs. Fabian Aichner
- Will Velveteen Dream respond to Adam Cole’s invitation?
- How will the Queen’s reign in NXT continue?
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:
1) Why interim champion?
The use of the word “Interim” when talking about the Cruiserweight championship is curious. The reason for this tournament is that current/former champion Jordan Devlin is in Ireland and because of the global coronavirus pandemic, cannot return to Florida to defend his title.
Normally, in a case like that, he’d be stripped of the title. It wouldn’t be fair to him, but that happens in WWE. They need a champion and if you can’t defend it within 30 days for whatever reason, they crowd a new champion.
But the fact they are calling this the “interim” championship makes it seem like Devlin will not stop being cruiserweight champ. It also makes winning the tournament seem much less desirable. For one, “interim” often means the job is yours until they find someone better. (That’s what an “interim manager” is in baseball.) But also, it makes cutting a promo much harder. Drake Maverick cut a strong promo when he discussed opting to compete in this tournament. But it lost some spice when he closed by claiming he’ll be interim cruiserweight championship.
In the end, they probably did it this way because they’re so high on Jordan Devlin that they still want him to be champion. And this is how it’s been done in UFC before. If it goes that way, they’ll have a champion vs. champion match as soon as he’s back. It’s just different than how we usually see a situation like this handled in pro wrestling.
2) Who will be in the finals?
Looking at the blocks we can venture some guesses for the finals of this tournament.
In Group A, Kushida has to be the clear favorite. Drake Maverick isn’t really a wrestler in WWE, outside a match against Mike Kanellis and all his 24/7 title shenanigans. Tony Nese is a former champion, but his reign didn’t light the world on fire by any means. Jake Atlas could get the nod if they’re very high on him. However, Kushida was always promoted as a blue chip signee and has yet to have a chance to prove that.
Group B is a bit more open. I love Jack Gallagher and Akira Tozawa is very entertaining, but I don’t see either getting the nod. That leaves the exciting Isaiah “Swerve” Scott and the newcomer El Hijo de Fantasma. Scott is probably the favorite given he’s been there longer, but Fantasma may be the guy kidnapping all of Kushida’s former opponents.
My guess: Kushida vs. Fantasma. You let us know yours below.
3) Will Adam Cole finally be live tonight?
Since WWE started going to empty arena shows, Adam Cole has been absent.
His “Championship Celebration” weeks back was taped on his cellphone poolside. Same with the last promo he cut on Velveteen Dream.
It’s possible they were just keeping people off TV who don’t need to necessarily be present to help limit the amount of people there. And I doubt he was sick since Britt Baker was on AEW TV (taped the other week) and they live together. They probably didn’t need him to show up and decided to have one less person to have to distance from.
Cole called out Velveteen Dream on Twitter for a face to face so maybe we’ll see the Panama City Playboy this week. Unless they end up doing that confrontation over Zoom.
4) How long to do they stretch out this Bálor/Imperium feud?
Before the world went on shutdown, Finn Bálor was feuding with WALTER and his Imperium stable on both NXT and NXT UK. That’s hit a slowdown, likely because a lot of players in this story reside in Europe and have no way of coming to the United States to further it, despite how essential it is.
It could be many months before Finn and WALTER are in the same country. Do they try to just tread water until they get there or do they give the Prince an interim feud until they can finally get to the meat of this one?
As of now, they’re still going forward with it since Bálor is facing Imperium member Fabian Aichner tonight. They will be able to only stretch it so long, dependent on how many Imperium members live in the US.
5) So is Candice LeRae a heel now?
Last week’s empty arena match between Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa ended with Candice LeRae fully supporting her husband and kicking Ciampa in the beanbags.
That makes sense. She’s always been a part of this story and her relationship with her husband throughout this has been a focal point. Factoring Candice in at the end was a logically way to go. However, now that it’s said and done, it takes a natural babyface and turns her heel.
Candice can’t just show up to the women’s division and pretend all of that didn’t happen. So she’s a villain now. Maybe that’s a good thing. She’s only been able to make it so far as her natural babyface persona. A switch up may have been in order anyway. We’ll see how she pulls it off and if it’s the best for her going forward.
We’ll see if we get any answers to those questions tonight at 8 PM ET on USA.