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NXT preview (July 29, 2020): The Cole Conundrum

NXT returns tonight (July 29) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. They are building towards TakeOver: XXX on Saturday, Aug. 22.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Keith Lee responds to Karrion Kross
  • Finn Bálor vs. Timothy Thatcher vs. Dexter Lumis to qualify for the North American title ladder match
  • Io Shirai has a message for Dakota Kai
  • Johnny Gargano vs. Roderick Strong
  • Mercedes Martinez vs. Shotzi Blackheart

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

1) Is Adam Cole going to work an angle with Pat McAfee at XXX?

Adam Cole’s f-bomb laden rant against Pat McAfee on Pat’s radio show is obviously a work. There were plenty of tells, like the fact they waited until they were on the internet only portion of the show. Or the fact that Adam Cole is actually one of the nicest guys in shoot interviews. Or the fact that Cole got upset when Pat McAfee was was prodding him about kayfabe things (such as surrounding himself with people to help him win) that he wouldn’t be upset about at all.

The fact Cole apologized for his actions is a weird one. It could be a signal that they’re not planning to do anything more with it. Though given the former champ never actually apologized to McAfee, and the fact that Triple H told the former NFL punter that he could come to NXT any time, this is probably going to continue.

Adam Cole is out of the championship scene and right now, it’s tough to find a program for him that is big enough for his talents. A celebrity angle would fit the bill.

I doubt McAfee would wrestle. But maybe they have another face to face and McAfee gets a couple shots in at TakeOver. Maybe McAfee gets to pick an opponent to face Cole. Whatever they choose, it would be an angle worth running for the next month or two.

We’ll look at some other options for the longest running NXT champion when we ask our next couple of questions.

2) What’s next for Finn Bálor?

If NXT’s idea for the North American title ladder match at TakeOver: XXX is to elevate upcoming talent, which Bronson Reed’s win over Roderick Strong and Johnny Gargano last week indicates, it’s unlikely that Finn Bálor is going to win tonight’s qualifying match.

He’s mentioned that he wants to win the North American title because he’s never held it, but at the same time, it feels like that belt is beneath him.

But if he isn’t going to be an anchor for this ladder match, what is there for him to do?

An eventual feud with the man we were just discussing, Adam Cole, should be on the table. They are #1 and #2 on the list of the longest reigning NXT champions ever. Even if neither of them hold the gold right now, that’s a feud that really should happen.

There’s no obvious other feuds in the cards for him. I mean Edge is down for an eventual TakeOver match, but he’s going to be out for a while with his triceps tear. But that’s a match that should happen.

3) Is Keith’s title reign going to be short lived?

After last week’s closing angle, Keith Lee vs. Karrion Kross for the NXT title seems to be in our future. Likely our near future.

While my initial guess was they’d slow build that program as Keith has a couple other feuds first, last week’s closing angle warrants a much sooner feud. It’s too personal to slow build. One way or another, Kross and Lee will be fighting for the title at TakeOver: XXX.

The question is are they doing it alone?

I don’t think Keith is going to defeat Kross if this is one on one. Kross has just been built too dominant for him to lose. It’s not impossible. WWE may want to give Lee a win in the feud. But that would weaken what they’re doing with Kross a little bit.

That’s why it’s more likely Keith would successfully defend when there’s someone else in the match.

We talked about Adam Cole already. Maybe he slots into the match and takes the pin in a triple threat, protecting Kross in the loss and giving Lee his win in the feud.

Lee is addressing Kross tonight. It should give us a better idea of what their match together will look like.

4) How long until Mercedes Martinez is kicking the crap out of Robert Stone?

In a surprising turn of events last week, Mercedes Martinez agreed to join the Robert Stone Brand.

Her reason is she wants someone to do all the logistical work. She doesn’t want to make matches or deal with any of the behind the scenes business. She just wants to get in the ring and kick ass.

It makes sense, but Stone is such a doofus that the pairing seems doomed. Martinez isn’t going to take any BS from RS. As soon as he slips up, she’s beating the hell out of him. It’s almost more a matter of when.

It’s entirely possible Stone screws up as early as tonight when Mercedes faces Shotzi Blackheart and Martinez beats the crap out of him. Maybe they last a bit longer. Or maybe she beats him up tonight but doesn’t fire him. Then they find themselves in a pattern where he’s constantly pissing her off, and she’s constantly beating him up.

5) How much of a threat can they make Dakota?

The TakeOver: XXX Women’s title match is likely going to be Io Shirai vs. Dakota Kai. That’s clearly the next program but we don’t know for sure it’s slated for next month’s TakeOver. It’s very probable though.

Dakota Kai’s heel turn has found its footing in the last month or so. It really started when they paired her with Raquel González, giving her a bodyguard that has paid dividends time and time again.

Even with that, it feels very unlikely that Kai is going to win the title. Io Shirai has been presented as a dominant wrestler. Overall, this version of Dakota has not. She’s taken her share of losses.

In the next month, creative will be tasked with convincing the audience that while Dakota probably won’t win, there’s a world where she could. They’ll try to start that tonight when Io Shirai delivers a message to her future opponent.

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

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