NXT returns tonight (Jan. 6) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. This is their big New Year’s Evil show.
- Finn Bálor (c) vs. Kyle O’Reilly for the NXT championship
- Rhea Ripley vs. Raquel González in a Last Woman Standing match
- Karrion Kross vs. Damian Priest
- Xia Li and Boa return
- Santos Escobar (c) vs. Gran Metalik for the NXT cruiserweight title
- Tommaso Ciampa vs. Timothy Thatcher in the FIGHT PIT
As per usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:
1) Do they go with Kyle?
Tonight’s NXT title match is highly anticipated. After Kyle O’Reilly and Finn Bálor destroyed each other in a classic at TakeOver 31, they poised for the sequel tonight. Bálor won their initial battle but was left with a broken jaw, keeping the Prince out for over a month’s time. In fact, this is his first match since.
This entire program has done a very good job in establishing O’Reilly as a main event guy. It would not be at all unbelievable or unrealistic for Kool Kyle to walk away with gold around his waste. And I’d be totally down with it. If I had the book, I probably wouldn’t go that way though.
While I certainly wouldn’t be upset with either outcome, I think Finn still has work to do as NXT champion. His second reign was in its infancy when he sustained the jaw injury that kept him out. There’s still stories to explore. I know I’m still holding out hope for a brief program with Kushida.
We always have to keep Karrion Kross in mind when talking about the gold. The former champion will surely win his match against Priest tonight. Given he never lost the title, he’ll be in a future program with tonight’s winner sooner than later. That’s a match up that feels bigger with Bálor on the other side of the ring.
However they decide it, tonight should be fantastic, hopefully with less injuries. And whoever they chose as their standard bearer, the title will be in good hands.
2) How much offense does Damian Priest get?
Speaking of Karrion Kross, he’ll be in action tonight against Damian Priest.
The outcome is in little doubt. Kross is going to win as he waits for the title match that’s owed to him. The question surrounding this match is how Damian Priest fares.
Kross is a killer. He has squashed legit talent. That includes one of their top stars in Tommaso Ciampa. He brutalized Dominik Dijakovic so bad that the big man lost himself and put on a mask for Mustafa Ali. Keith Lee gave Karrion a challenge, but Lee was NXT’s top star at the time.
So how does an upper midcard talent like Priest make out. This could be a chance to remind folks just how dangerous Karrion Kross is. If he makes easy work of the Archer of Infamy, he’ll be immediately re-established.
But Priest is doing great work as the badass babyface right now. Feeding him to Kross in that fashion would be a bad move. If Damian holds his own against this dominant force, he’ll look better for it, even in a loss.
Given how these two took each other out last week, I think NXT agrees with that. I expect Priest to do well even though he will lose to Doomsday.
3) How many NXT matches does Rhea have left?
I’ve believed for awhile that Rhea Ripley’s days in NXT are numbered. When she lost to Io Shirai on TV over a month ago, it felt there was nothing left for the Nightmare to do. After losing a title match clean, it takes some time to get back to another one.
With the Royal Rumble at the end of this month, that would be an ideal time for Rhea Ripley to main a permanent shift to the main roster. But before leaving, there was one more thing she needs to do: Let Raquel get her win back.
Before Rhea received her title opportunity, she defeated Raquel González at Halloween Havoc. Despite that setback, González has continued to ascend the card. She even pinned Io Shirai inside WarGames, likely setting up a title match in the future. Before getting there, she needs another marquee win. Defeating her former best friend and evening their series is that win.
After that, Rhea could be done. She lost to Toni Storm (with help of Ripley), another match that they needed to do to some degree. (I wouldn’t oppose to a full program though.) There’s no one else she absolutely needs to put over on her way out.
4) Is the FIGHT PIT happening?
I was pretty jazzed when they announced a Fight Pit between Tommaso Ciampa and Timothy Thatcher. It’s a unique concept and the initial Pit between Thatcher and Matt Riddle was a blast. But as I started putting this preview tonight, I couldn’t find anything in WWE’s NXT preview about it. And the original page that advertised it is now archived.
That all points to NXT scrapping the match for tonight and not forgetting to advertise one of their major bouts.
Perhaps they worried they wouldn’t be able to put the Pit together and tear it down fast enough to get to the next match on the card. Maybe they felt the card was tight enough and could use this to main event later. And, unfortunately, there’s always the possibility of injuries or covid related quarantines. If we don’t get it tonight, I look forward when we eventually do.
5) How will Boa and Xia’s story translate to the ring?
For weeks, Boa and Xia Li have been enduring punishment and/or training from a mysterious woman and her assistant. These have been presented as a cinematic every week.
Tonight, they return to the CWC and we find out if this cinematic story that clearly has some mysticism involved can translate into the more grounded in-ring area. Of course, many wrestlers have been able to blend the mysticism with the reality. But that takes a special skill. Both Boa and Xia are relatively new to the business so this could pose a bit of a challenge.
We should also find out who the mystery woman is. Speculation is it’ll be Karen Q, but we should finally find that out tonight. Whoever it is, it’ll be interesting to see if she looks as menacing in the CWC as she did with quick close up camera shots of her eyes and hands. Will that all translate or will it look corny?
We’ll see if we get answers to these questions tonight at 8 PM ET on USA Network.