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WWE NXT preview (Aug. 17, 2021): Mixed signals

NXT returns tonight (Aug. 17) live from the Capitol Wrestling Center (CWC) in Orlando, Florida.

Advertised for the show:

  • Kushida (c) vs. Roderick Strong for the NXT Cruiserweight championship
  • Imperium vs. MSK (c) for the NXT Tag Team titles
  • Duke Hudson vs. Carmelo Hayes in a Breakout Tournament Semi-Final match
  • Samoa Joe & Karrion Kross face-to-face
  • The final push to Sunday’s TakeOver 36

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

1) Will we see title changes on Title Tuesday?

The gimmick for tonight’s show seems a bit odd, as it comes when most promotions just mount the final push for their weekend PPV. The Cruiserweight and Men’s Tag Team championships weren’t going to find room on the TakeOver 36 card though, and you have to wonder where some of the wrestlers involved in the current feuds for these belts fit in an NXT focused on bigger, younger guys.

It’s hard to argue any of them would be impact players at the next level. At least with how NXT’s used them, they’ve struggled to create much buzz on the third brand. Television time has been spent to build the two matches we’ll get tonight, and I can’t say I’ve seen wrestling fans talking a lot about either of them.

Roderick Strong and The Diamond Mine stable were supposedly a big part of Triple H’s plans before the reports NXT would be re-tooled back into a primarily developmental show. One member of the stable’s already been released (Tyler Rust), as has the guy Roddy went over to establish him as a threat to Kushida (Bobby Fish). With 205 Live moving away from being strictly cruiserweight focused, the purple belt seems destined to remain an undercard attraction.

Still, if we do see a title change hands tonight, I’d guess Strong is the most likely to hear “AND NEW”. At least that way we can see if WWE can ever find a way to channel Diamond Mine manager Malcolm Bivens’ talents from the web to an on-screen character.

MSK’s titles are probably safe, unless Vince has plans to call them up to hang out with Riddle on Raw. Strictly tag team acts have a ceiling in WWE, but Wes Lee & Nash Carter can pop a crowd - and do meet the “under 30” condition of NXT’s new mandate. The Imperium duo of Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel are guys Haitch & team clearly like. But as with Grizzled Young Veterans & Legado Del Fantasma, they don’t seem to like them enough to strap them.

If Imperium does win tonight, it’ll probably be so they can transition the belts to Hit Row’s Top Dolla & Ashante Thee Adonis. Even though he’s just over 30, the former is definitely someone WWE probably has plans for.

There’s lots to consider about Title Tuesday - not the least of which is we should get two really good matches out of it - even if it doesn’t feel like traditional go home show fare.

2) Can they turn up the heat any further on Sunday’s NXT championship match?

Speaking of go home show booking, Samoa Joe & Karrion Kross are the only TakeOver 36 match which has something being promoted on this episode (at least as of Tuesday morning). They’ll take part in WWE’s new favorite segment, but I wonder to what end? The contracts are signed, and we’ve already seen numerous attacks and pull apart brawls in this program.

It’s worth watching any time Joe has a mic in his hand, though. Perhaps we’ll also be reminded that Kross is actually looking dominant on Raw these days, too.

3) What’s Mandy Rose up to?

Rose arrived on the black-and-gold brand back when it was still thought of as a third brand. They were teasing her as a manager-type, secretly recruiting new talent like Gigi Dolin and Jacy Jayne. On social media, she’s still keeping the angle alive...

... but she was nowhere to be seen after Dolin’s win last week, and neither the former Priscilla Kelly nor Jayne mentioned her in their post-show interview.

Could they pull the plug on moving Mandy to NXT in light of pending changes to the show? Her story feels a bit redundant, seeing as Franky Monet has been doing a similar recruitment schtick with her takeover of The Robert Stone Brand (which currently only consists of Jessi Kamea).

But if the idea is to develop Rose’s outside-the-ring skills, time in the new NXT could still be beneficial. We’ll see if she returns to our screens in the near future, or if her past appearances just get hand-waved away.

4) How will The Way’s story wrap up?

Candice LeRae says she wants to stay on television for as long as her pregnancy allows, and you have to think her time will be spent wrapping up the stable she & husband Johnny Gargano established over the past year.

Austin Theory already ran away from home (to Main Event), and Indi Hartwell is defying her “parents” to date Dexter Lumis. If Twitter is any indication, InDex is probably headed to a mixed tag match against Stone & Kamea. Maybe Mama Wrestling coaches them to some wins, finally accepts Indi’s independence, and heads off to prepare for raising a newborn?

That still leaves Johnny, but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion...

5) Are we going to see more & more UK stars on NXT Prime?

Toni Storm, Imperium and GYV have made the jump in the past. WALTER and Ilja Dragunov are here now (based on past comments, The Ring General won’t stay, but Unbesiegbar might). There were rumors Kay Lee Ray was stateside.

Factor in reports WWE is pulling the plug on Triple H’s “global localization” plan, and it seems possible NXT UK could become more a feeder system for the U.S.-based show as it tries to become more of a feeder system for Raw and SmackDown. It’ll be interesting to see where the aftermath of Sunday’s WALTER/Dragunov clash plays out.

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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