NXT returns tonight (May 20) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. They are building to TakeOver: In Your House on June 7.
Advertised for tonight:
- Drake Maverick vs. Kushida
- Io Shirai vs. Rhea Ripley
- El Hijo de Fantasma vs. Akira Tozawa
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight?
1) Is this it for Drake Maverick?
It’s do or die for Drake Maverick. If he defeats Kushida tonight in the cruiserweight tournament, he forces a tie in the block, ensuring he lives to fight another day.
If he loses to Kushida, Kushy wins the group. And more importantly, that’s it for Drake in WWE. He’s been released and all that’s keeping him in the company is this tournament. We know how much being in WWE means to Maverick. He discussed it in this very good video released yesterday. But it’s not going to be easy.
It will be quite the uphill battle for Maverick. He’s got tons of heart but Kushida is no doubt more skilled. Drake is a bigger underdog tonight than he was his last two matches. It’s heart vs. talent. Maverick will try to prove that will and drive can trump anything.
With Kushida’s skill and Drake’s superb character work, this should be quite the match, full of drama. I’m calling the big upset but no one should be that surprised if Kushida swept group play.
2) What if it is a three way tie?
If Drake does pull the upset, he, Kushida, and Jake Atlas will all be sitting at 2-1. (Tony Nese is long out at 0-3.) NXT has not let given us any tie breaker rules.
Most likely it’ll lead to a triple threat match. There’s no other way. There’s no strength of schedule. Kushida beat Atlas, Atlas beat Drake, and Drake would have beaten Kushida. The only real tie breaker would be how fast they were able to beat loser Tony Nese.
The triple threat would also give them a way to allow Drake to make it one step further before he eventual heart breaking loss.
3) Do we finally get a finish?
Io Shirai and Rhea Ripley have been dancing around each other for awhile. The match has been teased but hasn’t happened since the second Mae Young Classic years ago. Until tonight.
These are two women that NXT has done a lot of work to protect. Rhea Ripley doesn’t lose often. When she does, it’s at WrestleMania to Charlotte. And since her heel(ish) turn, Io Shirai hasn’t lost a one on one match outside one DQ loss.
If they want to work towards a triple threat match, we don’t get a finish tonight. If they want to do either woman one on one against Charlotte, then we probably get a legit finish. If I had to guess, I’d say they go the triple threat route for In Your House, saving the potential one on one feuds for down the road.
4) Does Tozawa sweep?
If Akira Tozawa wins his match tonight, he sweeps his block and goes the finals. If El Hijo de Fantasma wins tonight, that puts them both at 2-1. And once again sets up a tie breaker scenario.
Unlike the other block, the tie would only between the two men in this match. So running another match wouldn’t be as appealing as the triple threat in Group A. Not that they couldn’t make a tie breaking match exciting with a stipulation such as a 2 out of 3 falls match.
Akira’s journey to win back the cruiserweight title has been one of the stories of this tournament so a clean win tonight makes sense. But they’d want to find a way to protect the newcomer.
5) What of the kidnappers?
Something on the backburner in the NXT cruiserweight division are these masked men that abduct cruiserweights. They’ve taken Joaquin Wilde and Raul Mendoza. They’ve tried twice to nab El Hijo de Fantasma but they haven’t been successful.
If Fantasma isn’t victorious against Akira Tozawa tonight, these luchadors could be a factor in why. Maybe they finally try to steal someone mid-match. This would be a way to protect the newcomer.
Or maybe Fantasma is actually in on it. That’s been my feeling. They successfully grabbed two men but El Hijo de Fantasma is suddenly too much for them? If he is their leader, maybe that’s revealed tonight.
We’ll see if get any answers to these questions tonight at 8 PM ET on USA.