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NXT preview (Sept. 16, 2020): The first feud

NXT returns tonight (Sept. 16) from Full Sail University. This is the fallout from Finn Bálor winning the NXT title last week.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Finn Bálor begins his championship reign
  • Damian Priest (c) vs. Timothy Thatcher for the North American title
  • Breezango (c) vs. Imperium for the NXT tag team titles
  • Io Shirai vs. Shotzi Blackheart
  • Undisputed ERA vs. Drake Maverick and Killian Dain

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

1) Who is Finn’s first feud?

Finn Bálor won the NXT title in a really good match against Adam Cole last week. It wasn’t the plan though. The plan was likely a long Karrion Kross reign of terror. But Kross got hurt so they put the title on the man who made the most sense.

Now he needs a new program. And unfortunately, NXT still has the same few guys in the main event - Adam Cole, Tommaso Ciampa, and Johnny Gargano. Losing Keith Lee and Matt Riddle to the main roster and Kross to a shoulder injury left them with little new blood to allow some variation in the main event. But that’s not something they can fix immediately. In the mean time, they need a good next challenger for Finn.

They could run a longer program with Cole. He and Finn had really good chemistry last week and there probably is a little more to milk about them being the top two longest reigning NXT champs, but it really feels like it’s time to move on from Cole in the title scene.

Tommaso Ciampa would be a strong choice. He’s a freshly turned heel and Bálor is enough of a tweener that he can face both heels and faces. Plus this is a program that hasn’t been run. They’ve crossed paths and they’ve locked up. But they’ve never had a real program together.

A vicious Ciampa and a confident Prince could make for a fun title feud.

2) Is Rhea the next big challenger for Io Shirai?

Last week’s main event cage match between Rhea Ripley and Mercedes Martinez could be considered an unofficial #1 contender’s match. Given the landscape of NXT, the winner really would be the top of the heap.

It’s possible Shotzi Blackheart gets a title match first. If she beats the champ in non-title action tonight, no doubt she’d become #1 contender. But it doesn’t feel like Blackheart is in the league of Io Shirai just yet. Instead, tonight’s bout is probably going to be one where Shotzi loses but can hang with the champ.

Rhea Ripley never got a one on one rematch for the title she lost to Charlotte at WrestleMania. She was pinned in the triple threat match at TakeOver: In Your House but that was never going to be the end.

Defeating Mercedes Martinez in a steel cage positions the Nightmare to face Shirai in a marquee matchup.

3) So this is it for Mercedes in NXT?

After last week’s loss, Robert Stone dropped Mercedes Martinez from the Robert Stone Brand. He even issued a restraining order against her. This was something my colleague felt was a write off for the veteran badass, especially considering many believe she’s part of RETRIBUTION, something that reports continue to point to.

It certainly could be the end of her on Wednesday nights. That’d be a shame though. Even if we had to wait, seeing her face Io Shirai would be fantastic. Working women like Candice LeRae and Tegan Nox down the road would be really good too. Martinez is great and there’s a lot of mileage for her in NXT.

It’d also be a bummer because RETRIBUTION has been completely lame so far and it feels like it’d a big downgrade from her go from the killer NXT women’s division to that underwhelming faction.

4) Will Killian Dain eventually accept Drake Maverick?

Drake Maverick and Killian Dain have shared enemies in Undisputed ERA. However, they don’t see eye to eye about a potential team together. Drake Maverick is all about it. Dain is definitely not. This makes sense since Drake needs Killian more than vice versa.

This is likely the beginning of the classic odd couple tag. The big bad killer and the funnier little guy.

It’s going to take a lot of convincing to get the Beast of Belfast to go along with it, but NXT enjoys their odd couple tag teams and this is definitely one that has potential to be fun.

5) Will we be getting an official announcement about Wade Barrett soon?

The shake up of NXT’s announce booth could be complete. Mauro Ranallo is out and Vic Joseph is in. Wade Barrett has joined commentary, at least on a trial basis, with Beth Phoenix being the only one sticking around from the pre-pandemic booth.

We haven’t had any official word on Barrett sticking around for longer, but it feels like it’s inevitable. He’s been very good in the role and seems to fit in well with Beth and Vic. It’s likely only a matter of time.

I don’t recall him saying “I’ll be back again next week” during last week’s episode after he had the last couple weeks and there’s been no official announcement. It’s possible we’re just to assume he’s going to be there again tonight.

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

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