NXT returns tonight (July 1) from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida. Tonight is the first night of the Great American Bash special.
- Io Shirai vs. Sasha Banks
- Candice LeRae vs. Tegan Nox vs. Dakota Kai vs. Mia Yim in a #1 contenders match
- Dexter Lumis vs. Roderick Strong in a strap match
- Rhea Ripley vs. Robert Stone & Aliyah
- Timothy Thatcher vs. Oney Lorcan
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:
1) What’s the finish of the main event?
Sasha Banks vs. Io Shirai is going to be incredible. It was what I was hoping for when they announced the Golden Role Models would defend their tag team titles in NXT, that it would lead to this bout. It’s a veritable dream match.
And while sometimes those anticipated match ups don’t have the desired chemistry right away, I’m fully expecting this to be an incredible match. I’m also expecting there not to be a satisfying finish.
That’s OK. There really can’t be a clean finish. Io is champion and rather protected in NXT. Plus, this is her first match as champion. She shouldn’t lose clean. Meanwhile, Sasha is challenging Asuka for the Raw Women’s championship in a couple weeks (another match that’s going to be a banger). So she can’t really lose ahead of that either.
That means we’re going to get a countout finish. Or a DQ finish. Maybe the winner from the #1 contenders match will get involved. The closest thing to a real finish we’re going to get is Bayley cheating to allow Banks to pick up a dirty win, but even that feels like a long shot.
Again, this doesn’t matter. The match that happens prior is what matters. And if these ladies get 20 minutes, we’ll have no problem looking past a smoz finish. It’ll just give them something to come back to down the road when we can have a real ending.
2) Who’s the #1 contender.
Keeping it on the topic of NXT women’s division, there’s also a big #1 contender’s match to crown Io’s next challenger.
These names are familiar. These are the same women that were in the recent ladder match to crown the last #1 contender minus Io Shirai and Chelsea Green. All the women in tonight’s match could feasibly win and become #1 contender. But I think it’s going to be Dakota.
Kai has been on a hot streak now that she and her heavy Raquel González have found their stride. After their most recent win, Dakota even called out Io. And that was before tonight’s match was announced. Kai has been built up enough to be a challenger but at the same time, doesn’t feel like a real threat to take the title. That’s normally the best type of challenger for a new champion’s first program. Because it’s unlikely that the new champ is going to lose her first program, especially when that champ is as protected as Io Shirai has been.
That’s why future programs with Candice LeRae and Tegan Nox should wait. Both should be a story where we feel they have a good chance to win. Candice’s heel turn is off to a good start and revisiting her feud with Io Shirai, that was a bit of an NXT coming out party for both women, is a must. But Candice has to be a threat to win.
Meanwhile, Tegan is the babyface that should slowly work her way to the top so by the time she gets there, everyone is emotionally invested her chance to win the title. She shouldn’t be losing any one off championship feuds prior to that.
Mia Yim could fit into the role that Dakota has. She found her groove when teaming with Keith Lee. But it feels like Dakota is just a bit hotter right now.
3) Do we get a showdown between the champs ahead of next week’s match?
Next week, North American Champion Keith Lee will face NXT Champion Adam Cole. Title vs. title.
That was officially booked last week when Lee won the triple threat with Johnny Gargano and Finn Bálor to retain his gold. And while the idea of the match sells itself, we should get one segment tonight to make it personal.
This feels like it can actually be the end of Cole’s reign. Yes, it’s possible that Karrion Kross costs Lee the win because the Limitless One broke his hour glass last week. But even if they go that way, they should sell us on the idea that Keith Lee could walk out as double champion next week.
One promo segment between two talented talkers in Adam and Keith could help make us believe that Keith Lee could very well reach the summit next week.
4) Is Rhea joining the Robert Stone brand?
She will if she loses her handicap match tonight, but that’s very very unlikely. This is surely meant to be another comedy bit with a very good comedy man in Robert Stone and Aliyah, who’s been entertaining in all of this as well.
But what if she did? It feels like Rhea is not going to be in the title picture for a little while. Why not force her to join the Robert Stone Brand for a month for some comedy segments before she finds her way to kick the loser to the curb. The people with the longest careers in WWE have learned to do a little comedy as well as kick ass. This is a chance for Rhea to show she can do that.
The chances of it happening are slim to none, but it’s something they should consider.
5) What kind of strap match are we looking at here?
The first ever NXT strap match goes down tonight between Dexter Lumis and Roderick Strong. This match was booked because Roddy keeps running from Lumis so now he has no choice but to stay and fight.
We don’t know the rules to this strap match. Is it just a regular match that ends in pinfall or submission? Or are they going old school with the rule that you win if you touch all four turnbuckles in a row?
NXT has an old school vibe once and awhile so they may go with the four corners, and I’d actually dig that more, but the chances are it’ll be pinfall or submission.
We’ll see if we get any answers to these questions tonight at 8 ET on USA Network.