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WWE NXT preview (Dec. 19, 2018): Progress report

Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the third episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which builds from TakeOver: WarGames 2.

Here’s what to expect, and some thoughts on the overall landscape of the black-and-yellow brand.

The Headliner(s)

Even before Ronda Rousey showed up at Royal Rumble eleven months ago, there was talk of a feud between her Ric Flair-sanctioned Four Horsewomen of MMA and the obviously-Ric Flair-sanctioned Four Horsewomen of NXT. With Ronda Rousey’s last two allies signed and the Rowdy One embroiled in a rivalry with Charlotte Flair & Becky Lynch rumored to produce the WrestleMania 35 main event, considerable time is spent on podcasts & in comment threads fantasy booking how to get to a four-on-four program at some point in the not-too-distant future.

There are a lot of pieces to that puzzle, which is part of what makes it such a fun discussion. What makes it more than just a storytelling exercise, however, is the big unknown of “Can Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir pro wrestle?” We’ve saw them mix it up a little ringside at TakeOver: WarGames 2 when they interfered in Shayna Baszler’s match with Kairi Sane, brawling with Io Shirai & Dakota Kai. They took a bump inside the squared circle a couple weeks ag off a Shirai drop kick that... didn’t look great. NXT house show crowds have seen the pair in action as part of multi-woman bouts and reviews are mixed.

When will we get a real answer?

We should get a partial one on the episode which airs tonight. Shirai & Kai wanted a match with them after TakeOver, and after they tried to put the boots to Dakota after her match with Baszler a couple weeks ago, they demanded one. General Manager William Regal booked it, and we’re off.

Now, this will be something that’s likely short, rehearsed and edited. The Queen of Spades will probably get involved. But for at least some sequences, we’ll get to see how... I want to say Jessica and Mary?... are progressing, and whether we should postpone our fantasy booking debates for another year while they get up to speed.

Meanwhile, there’s the NXT story with of the joshi super-friends vs. the Queen of Spades to deal with. We still don’t have official work on Kai’s knee injury, but initial reports weren’t good. That may force some changes to the plan for Triple H and team. It’ll be interesting to see where the Kingslayer is in kayfabe after this match.

The Title Scene

This episode’s marquee match, of course, is the steel cage showdown between NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa’s challenger at TakeOver: Phoenix, Aleister Black, and his former tag partner, Johnny Gargano. He took a Black Mass for it, but Ciampa baited his two biggest rivals into tearing themselves apart in a rematch from WarGames 2. Look for him to grab a front row seat for tonight’s main event, and for it to have major ramifications for the brand going forward.

Fighting North American champion Ricochet outlasted a game Tyler Breeze last week. What’s next for the One And Only? Who will Regal find next to surprise him with?

With War Raiders banged up, Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong will defend their tag titles against Heavy Machinery next week. Otis Dozovic & Tucker Knight just got called up to the main roster, so that saps some of the suspense from that. In fact, between that news, Nick Miller of The Might’s release and Hanson’s injuries, Undisputed ERA may be in for a long reign.

While she’s not keeping an eye on her fellow MMA Horsewomen, Women’s champion Shayna Baszler will be keeping an ear out to see who the fourth woman will be for next week’s Fatal 4Way to determine her challenger in Phoenix. The Un-De-Fee-Ted Bianca Belair, recently promoted Lacey Evans and newly signed Mia Yim are already in the field.

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Tucky & Dozer are in the middle of lots of things right now, including running in to save fellow call-up EC3 when the ERA tried to run DAT NUMBERS GAME on him after he pinned Bobby Fish. Heavy Machinery are in action this week, but expect Adam Cole & company to be looking for payback before next week’s title match.

- We’ll get to feast our eyes on whatever it is the relaunched Dominick Dijackovic is all about when he works over somebody tonight.

- Another recent signee, Matt Riddle, is still looking payback after Kassius Ohno attacked him after a match a few weeks back. The Bro’s buddy Keith Lee is still looking for feud. We might have to wait until the next tapings, but the call-ups may clear room for these guys to get on our screens more often, in more high profile roles.

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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