NXT returns tonight (Aug. 19) from Full Sail University in Winter Park, Florida. This is the go home show for TakeOver: XXX this Saturday.
- Adam Cole and Pat McAfee meet face to face
- Velveteen Dream vs. Finn Bálor in a ladder match qualifier
- Johnny Gargano vs. Ridge Holland in a ladder match qualifier
- Isaiah “Swerve” Scott & Breezango vs. El Legado del Fantasma
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:
1) Do they pull out the stops for tonight?
For the first time since October, NXT on USA will be running unopposed tonight. AEW has been pushed to Saturday due to the NBA playoffs.
In general, AEW has won the rating war. While NXT has occasionally eked them in viewership, they’ve never taken the prime demo rating. While I doubt that number will markedly jump tonight, especially given they’re going up against the NBA playoffs, NXT is going to try to pick up some viewers they normally don’t have and try to convince them to continue checking out their show. But they’re not changing their game plan to do that.
The show isn’t super stacked with title matches or anything. That wouldn’t make sense with the TakeOver just days away. But they have the Pat McAfee/Adam Cole face to face, hoping to pull in some people with this pseudo celebrity angle. And Velveteen Dream vs. Finn Bálor could grab some eyes, though Dream does not have the steam he once had and is even a turn off for some.
In the end, this feels like a normal episode of NXT. This feels like the show they’d run if AEW were on their normal time. That’s a good thing. I don’t want to see NXT try to put on some unreasonably stacked show, ignoring the show on Saturday, just to prove how good they can do when they have no wrestling competition.
2) Which veteran helps anchor the ladder match?
The issue with booking a ladder match with a bunch of up and comers is they don’t have a veteran to anchor it. This type of stipulation needs someone with plenty of experience to help things move smoothly. It’s possible they get two of them tonight.
Johnny Gargano will face Ridge Holland in a last chance qualifier. Ridge looked impressive in his debut, but Gargano is too established to lose this. So he’ll probably end up a veteran presence in Saturday’s ladder match.
The other could be Finn Bálor if he can defeat the recently returned, recently heel turned Velveteen Dream. Dream would not classify as a vet to help guide the match since he’s still relatively new to the business. Finn would definitely bit that bill though.
Perhaps Kushida will enact some revenge tonight after last week’s Velveteen post-match attack and cost Dream his second chance. However it’s more likely Timothy Thatcher interferes to cost Bálor the match, leaving Saturday with just Gargano as the veteran.
3) Who stands tall prior to TakeOver?
Pat McAfee’s face to face with Adam Cole has to accomplish a couple of things.
They need to find a way to make us believe that Pat can hold his own in the match but at the same time, establish that this is definitely not his world. Because we need to believe Pat has a chance or what’s there to anticipate? At the same time, making him seem like he completely belongs undercuts Adam Cole and his recent long standing title reign.
It’s a fine line they need to walk. So far, they’ve pulled it off. McAfee relied on a cheap shot using a skill that he made millions off of in the punt. Adam hasn’t given any ground in the wrestling area while Pat has proven shrewd and athletic enough to hold his own in this program.
They will try to continue walking that line as they deliver a big go home angle.
4) How do the ladies take it home?
The women’s title feud between Io Shirai and Dakota Kai doesn’t have much to it.
It started with a kick to the face from Kai to Shirai. Then Dakota won a match against Rhea Ripley (by luck really) to win right to face her on Saturday. And that’s that. Last week, we got some pretty good video promos, but there isn’t much to make us believe this is anything more than a one match feud that Io is going to cleanly win.
And those feuds in itself aren’t bad. But they need to accomplish something along the way. Often that’s elevating the person who’s taking the loss. Unfortunately, right now, Dakota Kai isn’t being elevated given how little this feud has offered.
With tonight being the last stop prior to TakeOver, hopefully they figure out a way to add something to this program. Because as of now, it’s one of the shows more forgettable matches.
5) Does Lee finally get one up on Karrion Kross?
Through the build to this NXT title feud, Karrion Kross has always seemed to have the upper hand.
Last week, a fireball in the contract for the title match nearly blinded Keith Lee. Now it’s time to show us that Keith Lee can put his rival down.
No matter how they plan to book the title match on Saturday, reminding the fans that Keith Lee is a stud and showing he has the ability to drop the elusive Kross would put both men on equal footing for Saturday, prepping us for a big hoss match.
We’ll see if we get any answers to these questions tonight at 8 ET on USA Network.