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NXT preview (Feb. 17, 2021): Future shock

NXT returns tonight (Feb. 17) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida. This one will have all the fallout from last Sunday’s TakeOver: Vengeance Day.

Advertised for tonight:

  • Karrion Kross vs. Santos Escobar
  • Is the Undisputed ERA finished after Adam Cole superkicked NXT champ Finn Bálor & teammate Kyle O’Reilly?
  • What’s next for Dusty Classic winners Raquel González & Dakota Kai and MSK?

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

1) Where do Finn Bálor and the NXT title fit in the pending Adam Cole/Kyle O’Reilly feud?

Yeah, I’m a little bummed Undisputed ERA won’t go The New Day “friends forever” route. But as someone who followed their Ring of Honor come-up and the rivalry that followed there, I have been eagerly anticipating the resumption of hostilities between the duo once known as Future Shock. I think NXT is going to make me wait a little while longer, though.

The ending of Sunday’s WWE Network event not only left us asking “Why BAY BAY Why?” and “who gets Roddy in the divorce?” It also raises the question of what role the NXT champ will play in this drama. Cole is presumably frustrated that KOR has been too busy having Finn Bálor’s back to focus on again fulfilling the ERA’s golden destiny. It would stand to reason that he wants to the Prince’s belt. Bálor can’t be too happy about that surprise kick to his surgically reconstructed jaw, either. Maybe he lets Kyle handle internal Undisputed business. Or maybe Finn wants to pursue his own justice.

We also have to wonder if Pat McAfee will stick to social media gloating, or look to capitalize on his nemesis’ turn in a more hands on way. Is McAfee’s hired gun Pete Dunne content to step away from the title scene?

There are a lot of moving parts coming out of the main event of Vengeance Day. They can be used to build tension in the coming TUE war, but they shouldn’t distract from it for too long.

2) How competitive will Santos Escobar vs. Karrion Kross be?

Another man who figures to make sure the belt won’t be part of the ERA’s break-up is Karrion Kross. He never lost the belt, and has in fact never lost since signing with WWE. He keeps telling Bálor the clock is ticking on his title reign. This program with the Cruiserweight champ feels like a side mission to delay him eventually regaining the strap he had to relinquish days after winning it.

That doesn’t mean this showdown with fka El Hijo del Fantasma should be overlooked. As he’s shown in the build-up to this match, Escobar’s as good at playing a cocky heel as he is a wrestler (and that’s very good). I fantasy booked this program as a way to move both men up the card - and Kross quite possibly to Raw or SmackDown - a few weeks back. Scarlett’s man taking Santos’ Legado Del Fantasma lackeys out last week makes it seem unlikely he’s going to get a lot of offense in on the guy who just took out Raul Mendoza & Joaquin Wilde single-handedly. But Damian Priest had Kross on the ropes a few times, and if they ever plan to get Escobar off 205 Live, he should too.

3) Will Raquel González stay focused on the WWE Women’s Tag titles, or make time for solo goals?

It’s hard to think of a wrestler who’s been better built than González over the past year. Her Dusty Cup win with Dakota Kai ensures they’ll be dealing with some main roster women in the not-too-distant future. But considering how she’s bulldozed past former champs Rhea Ripley and Ember Moon, she has to be the person who will take the NXT Women’s title off of Io Shirai, right? They could wait until Raquel & Dakota tangle with Nia Jax & Shayna Baszler (or Lana & Naomi, or Bianca Belair & Sasha Banks (and now that I think about it, González & Kai vs. Banks & Belair is something I would very much like to see)). But I hope they don’t wait too long.

4) What’s next for Grizzled Young Veterans, Shotzi Blackheart & Ember Moon, Timothy Thatcher & Tommaso Ciampa, and every other team that made a splash in the Dusty Classics?

Men’s Dusty winners MSK will clearly go after NXT Tag champs Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch. But the tournament reminded us there are several compelling men’s teams. Can Triple H & company squeeze a non-title tag feud into two hours? And what about the women’s teams, who don’t even have belts to chase on the regular? Whatever good the Classics did, it’s for naught if the winners are the only ones we focus on next.

5) Is Austin Theory okay?

Seriously, I’m concerned...

Indi Hartwell is too, and the North American champion is so right...

Join us in our live blog and we’ll see if we get any answers to these questions tonight.

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