NXT returns again on their temporary-for-now new night.
Advertised for this week:
- Finn Bálor vs. Adam Cole for the vacant NXT title
- Rhea Ripley vs. Mercedes Martinez in a Steel Cage match
- Austin Theory vs. Bronson Reed
- Roderick Strong vs. Killian Dain
- Wade Barrett returns to commentary
Different previewer for tonight’s show, but same five questions formula for the preview:
1) Should the brand be even more focused on their women’s scene than they already are?
The hype video for this week’s show focuses on the men’s championship match (and we’ll get to that in a moment), but Bálor vs. Cole will actually open tonight’s episode. The main event is the “The Battle of the Badasses,” aka Rhea Ripley & Mercedes Martinez’s steel cage showdown. The cage match is a well-built clash between someone who helped make women’s wrestling what it is today and someone who should help take it to even greater heights in the future. It’s fitting they’re going on last.
But should WWE be making a bigger deal out of that? And building the brand around their women’s division even more than they already are?
NXT’s women’s roster is stacked. It feels a lot fresher than their men’s scene - partly because there are so many talented performers playing interesting characters, and partly because we haven’t seen them all feud with one another for past 2 - 3 years. In addition to Rhea & Mercedes, they’ve got a Candice LeRae/Tegan Nox program simmering (Tegan, don’t accept that invitation to discuss your friendship over dinner at Candice’s house... it’s a trap!), a well established champ ready to take on all comers in Io Shirai, a great heel pairing with Dakota Kai & Raquel González, a rising star in Shotzi Blackheart, and more.
As we’ve argued before, whether NXT stays on Wednesdays opposite AEW Dynamite or not, the strength of their women’s division is a strategic advantage over Tony Khan’s promotion. It would be interesting to see what results they’d get if they inverted the usual formula and gave us two hours that spends as much or more time showcasing women’s wrestling as it does on the men.
Maybe if enough people tune in to tonight’s final half hour? “The Battle of the Badasses” should be a banger, and the culmination of a program that started out as comedy when Ripley turned down an invitation to join Robert Stone’s brand, then turned personal when Martinez hired Stone and decided to make a statement by thwarting the Nightmare’s efforts to regain the Women’s championship.
2) Do they need a super-heavyweight division?
This brand has also become a very good place to see hosses. Tonight we’re getting self-proclaimed Thicc Boi Bronson Reed in action against Austin Theory and the former Big Damo, Killian Dain, locking up with Roderick Strong. Last week we had Reed vs. Timothy Thatcher. Tall drink of water Damian Priest is North American champ. Maybe Malcolm Bivens’ clients Indus Sher will return someday.
That’s a lot of beef! And there’s already a cruiserweight division. Just sayin...
3) Oh yeah, the title match... we getting a finish this time?
The two longest reigning NXT champs in history go one-on-one to break the tie last week’s 4Way Iron Man match ended with. The booking of that tie, though well done, was criticized as a copout and/or way to pop a rating for this week’s show. It was also rumored to be one of two options for how to do the non-finish. The other could still be in play for Finn & Cole’s singles match. What would the reaction be in Pat McAfee crashes tonight’s opener?
Honestly, I’d probably be okay with it. Because I need more Pat Mac on my wrestling shows, and because I think there’s more story to tell with McAfee and the Panama City Playboy’s famous faction.
4) Are Undisputed ERA fine?
The group held together for Cole’s match at TakeOver: XXX, but they’ve stopped getting involved with his matches. The group attack that set-up tonight’s Roddy vs. Dain match indicates the entire quartet hasn’t turned face. What gives?
Again, this might just be wishful thinking because I fell in love with the fantasy booking of the McAfee program revealing a schism in TUE and starting a Kyle O’Reilly/Adam Cole feud. But something seems amiss with the ERA since their prophecy ended. If there is, we should start to learn more about it soon.
5) Did Velveteen Dream get in another car accident?
Dream isn’t the only person who was in TakeOver’s NA title ladder match who hasn’t been on our screens since that pre-SummerSlam event (bring back Cameron Grimes and push him to the moooon, baby!). But he’s the one Triple H had to nervously field questions about on media calls, and had calls for his firing trending on Twitter & showing up in ThunderDome.
Another person accused in the #SpeakingOut movement will have a match on tonight’s show. Theory’s various run-ins with Reed get him his first in-ring action since he was taken off Raw at the same time a story about him engaging in inappropriate online activity with a teenager hit social media.
WWE’s strategy - and they’re not alone in this, as AEW has taken the same approach with talents accused online but not in the legal system - is to hope the storm passes and the majority of their fans move on or forget about the allegations. We’ll see how well it’s working the next time Velveteen appears on screen.
Join us in our live blog tonight at 8 p.m. ET and we’ll see if we get any answers to these questions, or have any new ones raised, during NXT’s initial broadcast on USA Network.