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WWE NXT preview (Oct. 17, 2018): Superlative

Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the fourth and final episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which continues the build toward TakeOver: WarGames 2.

Here’s what to expect.

The Headliner(s)

A month out from the show in Los Angeles, we don’t have any matches set for Nov. 17’s live special. That will certainly change tonight (maybe on this episode; definitely via the tapings at Full Sail Live that will be happening as it airs).

But the black-and-yellow brand does have a championship match coming up in less than two weeks, when Shayna Baszler and Kairi Sane face off for the fourth singles match of their WWE careers at Evolution. This will be their third televised go round for the Women’s title currently held by Sane. And... yeah.

It’s not been a bad build. The belt changing hands in Brooklyn and Baszler’s contractual rematch gives them the “why”, and all involved have been adding some nuance to what they clearly hope will be a storied, career-spanning rivalry. The Pirate Princess is the one who seems overconfident now, while Shayna has gone back to her roots with a fight camp. In the process, the Queen of Spades has given us glimpses of what a tweener or even babyface version of her MMA badass gimmick might look like.

It’s not even the “been there, done that” truth of their match-up which is keeping it from feeling like a huge deal, though. You’d expect their match to be overshadowed by the main roster parts of the Evolution card when Michael Cole or Tom Phillips is promoting the show on Raw or SmackDown. But Sane/Baszler IV is the only second most interesting women’s feud on NXT, too.

There are two big reasons for that, and their names are Nikki Cross and Bianca Belair.

Both women command your attention whenever their on screen, through a combination of commitment to character and sheer charisma. Cross is one of the more magnetic performers on any televised wrestling show these days, and Triple H & team know it. She wouldn’t be at the center of a big television feud with a rising star like Belair AND the focal point of the “who attacked Aleister Black?” saga otherwise. Thanks goodness for whatever decisions and twists of fate led to Nikki not being moved to SmackDown with SAnitY.

Bianca’s been generating buzz since her showing in the 2017 Mae Young Classic, and her slow climb up the ladder since then is likely deliberate. The EST is still a work in progress in the ring, and a gimmick NXT doesn’t want to overexpose until she’s ready to be a featured act.

Which is also why their rivalry is so compelling. Not only do their characters clash in an interesting way - the primal chaos of Cross against Belair’s inherent swagger - but it’s interesting to watch as a developmental exercise, as the indie veteran helps guide the Performance Center product to the next level.

Kairi & Shayna have their own MYC rivalry, the belt and the spotlight of Evolution going for them. But it still feels like Nikki & Bianca have the momentum. Perhaps it’s just the newness of the latter feud, and the champ & challenger will take our breath away at the Oct. 28 pay-per-view (PPV). Each storyline gets a chance to make their case tonight, as Baszler has a warm-up match, and Belair vs. Cross tries to come to an actual finish on this week’s show.

The Title Scene

The big fight on the men’s side tonight features War Raiders finally getting their shot at Undisputed for the tag team championship. Hanson & Rowe set their sights on the belts shortly after arriving on television. We’ll see if Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong have a plan to stop them, and how this ends up fitting into the presumed WarGames match at TakeOver...

Which also figures to involve at least a couple of the guys from last week’s instant classic main event, which saw Ricochet successfully defend his North American title over United Kingdom champ Pete Dunne (who gets his own show this afternoon when NXT UK premieres on the Network) and the ERA’s Adam Cole.

He and Velveteen Dream definitely have issues (and possibly sexual tension), but is Dream NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa’s next feud? That may depend on the resolution of the Black caper, which saw Cross implicate what felt like half the roster last week.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Nikki knows what Kassius Ohno did. The only thing we know is he’s got a chip on his shoulder and wants the first shot at Matt Riddle. Bro.

- They’re just a couple of “average blokes”, but Oney Lorcan & Danny Burch resume their quest to prove they can achieve great things when they return to action tonight.

- Forgotten Sons are forgotten no more, Keith Lee wants us to bask in his glory, The Mighty and Street Profits do not get along, we’re still waiting to see how Otis Dozovic builds on his great showing against the champ... there’s a lot going on!

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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