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WWE NXT preview (July 20, 2021): Humbled

NXT returns tonight (July 20) from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida.

Advertised for the show:

  • Raquel González (c) vs. Xia Li for the NXT Women’s championship
  • Kushida & Bobby Fish vs. The Diamond Mine’s Roderick Strong & Tyler Rust
  • The first round of NXT’s Breakout Tournament continues

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

1) Will they address the elephant in the room?

Well, this is awkward...

The commercial for tonight’s show asks if “anyone will be able to take down the NXT champion” after he beat Johnny Gargano and choked out Samoa Joe on last Tuesday’s episode.

Yeah, I think I know a guy.

Continuity between the main roster and NXT is a strange thing, but the black-and-gold brand usually acknowledges what happens when their stars get to step up to the bigger stages of Raw and SmackDown. But if they were ever going to ignore it, this would be a good time.

Assuming Kross is headed to the red brand (and while Scarlett is teasing more to her man’s story after Jeff Hardy handed him his first loss in WWE, I’d still bet Kross is headed to an Andrade or Aleister Black-like existence on the main roster), they’ll also have to deal with his title.

Before last night, it seemed likely Kross could leave NXT without taking a loss. They’ve had champs hand over the belt after call-ups in the past, or the angle with Joe could be used to strip him for attacking General Manager William Regal’s right hand man. Now that his singles record is no longer clean, having someone beat him on his way out the door is in play. They don’t seem to have been building to a clear cut choice for their next champ, but they have plenty of good options, from past champions like Gargano and Adam Cole, to Pete Dunne, to even Joe.

We’ll see how they play it. It seems safe to assume this isn’t the position Triple H planned to be in, though.

2) Is her Women’s title shot Xia Li’s NXT swan song?

It remains difficult to view this show without spending a lot of time wondering who will be on it in two months. Li reportedly worked a dark match before last Friday’s SmackDown in Houston, which puts her name in the conversation for a promotion. Unless they plan to have her dethrone Raquel González, losing a match or quick feud to Big Mami Cool on her way out the door makes sense.

Would all of Tian Sha go with her? Or would this be like Kross being promoted without Scarlett (at least at first)?

I’d rather just be thinking about this on its own merits, but there’s not much to go on there either. Xia is pretty well built up for this opportunity, having rung up some wins over former #1 contender Mercedes Martinez - but it’s still fairly out of nowhere.

3) Will other main roster stars follow Mandy Rose to NXT?

While we wait to see what Otis’ ex-peach is up to on Tuesday nights, it’s worth wondering if others who aren’t doing much on Raw and SmackDown will also find their way to the third brand.

In a recent interview with Busted Open, Johnny Gargano openly fantasy booked a Cesaro NXT run. Not sure Vince would give up a crowd-pleasing star like the Swiss Superman when he’s got tickets to sell, but maybe the guys he worked with last Friday (Alpha Academy) could be available. It’s somewhere NXT could use some help because...

4) What’s the plan for the tag divisions?

Current champs MSK are an amazing act, but so far that hasn’t translated into a hot feud - or much more than quick buzz for a COOL MOVE. This isn’t an area where we can say the main roster’s gutted the division, either... its just been spinning its wheels since the Dusty.

Some of this may be sour grapes because my personal pick for MSK’s big rivals (Grizzled Young Veterans) have been used to put over Tommaso Ciampa & Timothy Thatcher. But pushing tag wrestling was once NXT’s bread and butter. It’s a way they could stand out from the other WWE show, and Wes Lee & Nash Carter seem like guys who could lead the way.

The Women’s Tag scene is only a few months old, but it doesn’t seem like there was ever match of a plan beyond introducing the belts. Io Shirai & Zoey Stark are the fourth champs since the titles were introduced in March, and I guess they’re going to keep working with the previous champs?

5) Is it too soon for Hit Row and Legado Del Fantasma to mix it up?

Personal bias again, but these two groups - and Isaiah “Swerve” Scott & Santos Escobar in particular - should be capable of carrying NXT through this transition period and beyond. Maybe they should go on separate paths of destruction before colliding at, say, WarGames? That would also allow time for the crowd to turn Hit Row face, which seems pretty inevitable.

Instead, they squared up last Tuesday. I’m excited for the possibilities. But neither group needs to be losing right now, especially Escobar’s crew, which has struggled to break through the cruiserweight ceiling.

Give us your questions and answers in the comments below. Then join us in our live blog and we’ll see what Qs and As tonight’s show gives us.

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