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NXT preview (Jan. 20, 2021): Out of character

NXT returns tonight (Jan. 20) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. They are building towards their next TakeOver on Feb. 14.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Tommaso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher in the FIGHT PIT
  • Kushida & Leon Ruff vs. Johnny Gargano & Austin Theory (Dusty Classic)
  • Lucha House Party vs. Imperium (Dusty Classic)
  • Mercedes Martinez & Toni Storm vs. Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro (Dusty Classic)

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

1) Will Tommaso’s character be tweaked with the outcome of Fight Pit?

Tonight’s Fight Pit main event should be a blast. The first Fight Pit between Timothy Thatcher and Matt Riddle was really fun. The structure is unique enough to make the entire concept feel fresh. Tommaso Ciampa and Thatcher will surely put together a slobberknocker. And hopefully, Ciampa is somehow changed with the outcome.

Because unfortunately, Tommaso’s current character isn’t clicking, leaving the journey to get here a bit lacking. Right now, Ciampa is playing some type of locker room policemen. He feels people aren’t holding themselves to the standards they should, and he’s going to be the one to do something about it. His crusade starts with Thatcher and the way he treated his fellow students along the way.

This specific character just isn’t landing. It’s an uninspired angle for a character like Ciampa, who’s traditionally done some of the best character work in NXT history. It’s also a deviation from what works for him, which is acting as someone not concerned with the actions of others are long as those actions don’t affect him. Add in the fact this followed an abrupt vicious heel turn and an every more abrupt turn back, the normally entertaining Psycho Killer is missing something.

During their sit-down face to face last week, Thatcher accused Ciampa of doubting himself. That’s an angle they should be exploring. There was never any follow up to the time Tommaso was squashed by Karrion Kross. They surely can’t forget that. A loss tonight can bring that doubt to the surface and give Ciampa a more interesting character wrinkle to focus on.

2) Are there only four teams in the women’s Dusty Classic?

Last week, NXT announced four teams for the women’s Dusty Classic: Kayden Carter & Kacy Catanzaro, Indi Hartwell & Candice LeRae, Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon, and Toni Storm & Mercedes Martinez.

Is that it? Given there aren’t as many women as there are men in NXT, it’s possible. Could they put together four more teams? While Dakota Kai & Raquel González seem like a lock, there aren’t enough established women in NXT to put together three other threatening teams.

If they go with eight teams, they’d have to use a couple main roster teams to fill out the field. Normally they could use the ladies from NXT UK, but the pandemic makes that harder than that normally would be.

3) Do we see an underdog upset tonight?

The women’s Dusty match tonight feels like a David vs. Goliath match. The smaller, less overall experienced team of Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter face the deadly team of Mercedes Martinez & Toni Storm.

However, I feel like the underdog team should win. While they’re less experienced in general, they’re more experienced as a team. That’s been their role as of late. Storm and Martinez aren’t a normal duo. It’d be nice to see a true tag team advance.

It won’t be an easy task though. The only way I see that happening is if Io Shirai returns to get revenge on Martinez in a way that doesn’t result in a disqualification. That can happen though. Io vs. Mercedes may be a plan for the Valentine’s Day TakeOver so it would be the time for them to move forward with it.

4) Are we getting that triple threat?

Last week, Pete Dunne made his intentions for the NXT world title known. But when it turned into Dunne and the tag team champions attacking the champ Finn Bálor, Kyle O’Reilly made the save. In the main event, when the Kings of NXT targeted Kyle, Bálor made the save.

This likely keeps Kyle O’Reilly in the title picture, despite losing his last two chances. His solo opportunities are likely over though. If he gets another shot, it’ll be in a triple threat with Pete Dunne. Then Pete Dunne should eventually get a one on one with Finn.

The shadow of Karrion Kross hangs over all of this. That match is an inevitability. This is just what happens prior to Finn’s date with destinty.

5) Does Ruff score one more upset?

Tonight’s Dusty Cup match between Austin Theory & Johnny Gargano and Kushida & Leon Ruff is surely meant to advance the North American title feud between Johnny and Kushy. But it could also be a chance for Leon Ruff to score yet another underdog victory over the leader of the Way.

If they want to set up the title match between the Japanese star and the Ohio native in a traditional manner, Kushida would pin the champ in tonight’s tag bout. That would allow Ruff to get one more W over Gargano.

It’s possible Leon takes the pin and they advance the angle anyway, but I’d like to see Ruff be the man that Johnny just has a hard time defeating.

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

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