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WWE NXT preview (Dec. 27, 2017): Race to the top

Tonight’s show finds us at Full Sail, for the fourth episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which starts us on the road to TakeOver: Philadelphia.

Here's what to expect.

The Headliner(s)

With his victory over Roderick Strong, Lars Sullivan joined Aleister Black, Killian Dain and Johnny Gargano in tonight’s main event: a Fatal 4Way to determine who will challenge NXT titleholder Andrade “Cien” Almas at TakeOver: Philadelphia on Jan. 27.

All four men present an intriguing match, and story.

Black remains undefeated in his NXT career, and despite (or maybe as a result of) only having said a handful of words since debuting on television is one of the most popular acts on the black-and-yellow brand. A showdown with Cien would be a rematch of Black’s debut, although with the Mexican Superstar’s career in a very different place than when they squared off at TakeOver: Orlando last March.

Dain made his main roster debut on that same weekend, which would be the highlight of most stars year. But the Irishman followed that up with a tag title run alongside his SAnitY mates, and a standout performance in WarGames last month... he seems primed for a step up.

It’s probably not Sullivan’s time yet - unless Triple H and team decide they need to strike while the iron is hot. His escalating run through jobbers, tag teams and more recently, Kassius Ohno and then Strong has folks calling him the next Braun Strowman. Being compared to a man who will face Brock Lesnar for a second time at Royal Rumble is no small feat.

In addition to Lars being early in his push, he’d also make for a heel vs. heel title bout. Not a problem NXT would face if they went with Gargano. Johnny Wrestling is not only one of the purest underdog good guys in the company, he’s also got a built in story with Almas, and his associate Zelina Vega. El Ídolo’s victories over Gargano fueled his rise, and pushed Johnny to the brink. A championship match at TakeOver would be a fitting next chapter for both men.

Which of these directions will we head off in after tonight? You’ll have to watch WWE Network, or stick with Cageside Seats, to find out.

The Title Scene

While Dain has his eyes on singles gold, his faction mates are likely plotting a rematch for the tag team championship they lost last week to Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly. Maybe Eric Young can get General Manager William Regal to book something where Fish and O’Reilly’s Undisputed ERA running buddy Adam Cole can’t get involved?

She may be tearing it up on Raw with Paige and Mandy Rose, but Sonya Deville is making like Braun with NXT. A challenge to Women’s champ Ember Moon set up a a shot at Moon’s recently won belt for this week. Here’s another place to look for SAnitY’s influence. Nikki Cross was Ember’s protector against The Iconic Duo - likely to protect her for a future title fight. She may want to keep an eye on Moon when she faces the ankle-twisting Absolution member tonight.

After Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate completed an amazing 2017 trilogy when The Bruiserweight retained last week, the United Kingdom title deserves a couple weeks off. But if the quality of matches in the division’s first year was any indication, we hope it’s not off for long.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Plans for a Horsewoman feud may be off, but Shayna Baszler is definitely arriving in NXT soon. What will the Queen of Spades have planned when she gets here? The champ has been around, and as Mae Young Classic runner-up, she has a good case for shooting to the head to the head of the class. But maybe Shayna’s competitive fire will lead to her wanting to avenge her loss in the finals? We haven’t seen Kairi Sane in a few weeks...

- Street Profits are out here giving red cups to children outside Full Sail. Make of that what you will.

NOTE: Spoilers are out there for these pre-taped broadcasts (including here), but many Cagesiders don't partake. If you are going to post or discuss spoilers for this show before they happen, or results of future shows, please use the spoiler bar in your comment.

See you tonight for NXT, Cagesiders!

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