While the rest of the wrestling world was thinking about Japan, NXT went to Atlanta last night (Jan. 4) for its first full set of tapings outside of Winter Park, Florida’s Full Sail Live. But the show from Center Stage wasn’t only noteworthy for putting Triple H’s territory in the same venue which hosted WCW Saturday Night... it also gave us the television which will take us all the way to NXT’s next WWE Network special, Takeover: Philadelphia - set for the night before Royal Rumble, Saturday, Jan. 27 at Wells Fargo Center.
We already knew about two matches, but as we saw at the last taping, the black-and-yellow brand has been teasing changes to their storylines after reports from the live crowd hit the web. They continued to play with that idea a bit, and left room to do it even further before we get to Philly - and we still don’t have the usual complement of five matches confirmed.
Here’s the card, as it stands based on Thursday night’s spoilers (get them in full here):
- Johnny Gargano vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas (c) for the NXT championship
Johnny Wrestling put his #1 contendership on the line against the man he replaced in the field of men who competed for the right to challenge El Ídolo in the City of Brotherly Love. He defeated Velveteen Dream and had a staredown with Almas and business associate Zelina Vega, so all systems are go for the main event. Still no sign of Gargano’s former tag partner and Vega’s psychological wedge, Tommaso Ciampa...
- Aleister Black vs. Adam Cole in an Extreme Rules match
His Undisputed ERA faction-mates Kyle O”Reilly and Bobby Fish picked up a win over Black and Roderick Strong thanks to some interference by Cole, so General Manager William Regal added the stipulation to what was already a personal battle between two of NXT’s rising stars.
- Ember Moon (c) vs. Shayna Baszler for the NXT Women’s title
The Queen of Spades just wouldn’t stop choking people out. After the second time the champ butted heads with the Mae Young Classic runner-up over her anti-social behavior, Regal booked the match.
- Authors of Pain vs. Undisputed ERA (c) for the NXT Tag Team championship
There were reports Fish and O’Reilly would face former champs SAnitY in a steel cage match, either in Atlanta or at TakeOver, but that doesn’t appear to be the direction. Eric Young, Killian Dain and Alexander Wolfe were taken out backstage and Fish, O’Reilly and Cole ran afoul of Nikki Cross, while Akam and Rezar won a #1 contender match over Street Profits and are coming for the belts.
Then one final match was teased...
- Roderick Strong vs. Lars Sullivan
Pretty much everyone who witnessed their kaiju battle moments during the Fatal 4Way Gargano won to become #1 contender was hoping for Dain vs. Sullivan, but instead Strong challenged Lars, presumably to impress Regal and get back in the title hunt. Looks like Roddy will be playing the role Kassius Ohno took at WarGames to help build Sullivan, hopefully for a hoss fight against Dain... perhaps in New Orleans. Or, Lars could be added to a Triple Threat (with Roddy taking the pin, natch), since he called out The Beast of Belfast earlier in the taping.
That still leaves a lot of big names off the card - Cross (and the rest of SAnitY), Ohno, Kairi Sane, The Iconic Duo, Dream - but such is the nature of NXT these days. We’ll also undoubtedly see a couple matches set up for filming before TakeOver, as they’ll need to fill one Wednesday after Philadelphia (Jan. 31) before their next taping (Feb. 1).
Does this have the makings of another stellar NXT live special? Let us know what you think.