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WWE NXT preview (Jan. 18, 2018): No room

Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s new home away from home, Atlanta’s Center Stage, for the second episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which takes us all the way to TakeOver: Philadelphia.

Here's what to expect.

The Headliner(s)

It’s going to be a big week for the pairs division.

On our last episode, tag team champs Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly, along with their Undisputed ERA captain, Adam Cole, again got the jump on the men of SAnitY. After ambushing them backstage, Fish and O’Reilly thought they’d gotten out of defending their belts, but General Manager William Regal had other ideas. The ensuing match with Aleister Black and Roderick Strong continued The ERA’s long-running story with fellow Ring of Honor alum Strong and escalated issues between Cole and Black to the point Regal announced their upcoming TakeOver bout would be contested under Extreme Rules.

But that wasn’t all the GM was working on for the tag scene, or persistent thorns in his side, The Undisputed. His other big move will set up Fish and O’Reilly’s next title defense - and could tell us a lot about the future of the division.

Street Profits have quickly become one of the more popular acts on the black-and-yellow brand, and Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins will be quick to tell you about their undefeated streak. That streak, and their charm, helped them get a #1 contender’s match from Regal. But as entertaining as they’ve been in a series of squashes and with their “Street Talk” segments and videos, we still haven’t seen a longer, barnburner type of contest featuring the pair.

They’ll get a chance to change that tonight, as Regal has put them up against Authors of Pain. The former champs have worked sparingly of late, but you only need to look at Paul Ellering’s charges to be impressed. That was initially almost the only thing Akam and Rezar had going for them, but the big guys in tactical gear have come into their own as dynamic power wrestlers who know how to emote in the ring. NXT has even been handing them the microphone more often instead of letting their Hall of Fame manager do the talking.

Ever since dropping the belts to SAnitY in Brooklyn, fans have been predicting an AoP call-up. While the number of tag teams not doing much on the main roster gives you an understanding of why they probably haven’t been promoted yet, there’s also not much more for them to do here. Storyline-wise, sure, there are lots of grudges to settle. But with a growing number of talents at The Performance Center - including a new pair of athletic hosses in War Machine - time is at a premium here, too.

Are Street Profits ready to take the next step into a title match in Philly? Or is their next step, and Authors vs. ERA another possible end of the line for Rezar and Akam?

The Title Scene

Business associates Zelina Vega and Andrade “Cien” Almas already know who will be challenging for Almas’ NXT title in Philadelphia - their old friend Johnny Gargano. Vega is already playing mind games with Johnny Wrestling, as is Velveteen Dream. But Dream has a legitimate point about Gargano only being #1 contender because he got his spot in the mini-tourney when Velveteen came up with an injury. We’ll see if Johnny can overcome all these doubts - and any of his own still lingering - on the road to TakeOver.

She doesn’t have an official challenger yet, but Women’s champion Ember Moon appears to be on a collision course with the new bully on the block, Shayna Baszler. A title shot is what Regal thinks The Queen of Spades is angling for with a series of assaults on Kairi Sane and Dakota Kai, and fighting champ Moon looks willing to give it to her.

The United Kingdom championship looks to be taking this TakeOver cycle off, but we’ll keep this spot for it cause we like Pete Dunne.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Strong gets right back on the horse with a scheduled fight against Fabian Aichner, one of NXT’s exciting young talents who’s only one big win away from the start of a push. Is this it?

- With Shane Thorne back from injury, TM61 will be trying to carve out a place for themselves in the crowded tag division. Looks like they’re getting the video package reintroduction treatment starting tonight. Will it help them grab a spot in the scene with Heavy Machinery, Tino Sabatelli and Riddick Moss and others?

- No other matches are official for Jan. 27 yet, but in addition to the NXT title bout and Cole vs. Black, Lars Sullivan did call out Killian Dain after a demolition of Lio Rush which left the youngster questioning his future...

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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