Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the first 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.
Earlier this year, the first big storyline Dakota Kai was featured her being menaced by now-Women’s champion Shayna Baszler. The New Zealander many wrestling fans fell for when she wrestling in Japan & western independents as Evie conquered her demons and eventually managed to stand up to Baszler, but she never won their feud in the traditional way an underdog babyface often rises up and defeats a bullying heel.
Since then, she’s been a roleplayer and a gate keeper on this show and its UK spinoff. And as Triple H makes like Benicio Del Toro or Jeff Goldblum in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, amassing talent or his black-and-yellow brands, hers is a model we should get used to for our indie faves.
Kai will get a shot at the Queen of Spades on this week’s episode. And she probably won’t win.
The match will certainly build on the moment at last month’s TakeOver: WarGames 2 where Dakota & the debuting Io Shirai ran in to even the odds alongside Kairi Sane in her match with Baszler, where Shayna was again assisted by her fellow MMA Horsewomen, Jessamyn Duke & Marina Shafir. It’s there, in a future tag or trios match, that the Captain of Team Kick is most likely to pick up a signature win. But with all the Ronda Rousey vs. Becky Lynch/Charlotte Flair stuff brewing on the main roster, it wouldn’t be surprising if Kai or Shirai eventually does the job for one of either of the champ’s grass-green allies before this program is done.
It’s the double-edged sword of seeing the best and brightest all achieve their dream of signing with WWE. In a deep, wide pool of talent, not everyone can be at the top.
The Title Scene
Still squarely on top of the men’s division is NXT champ Tommaso Ciampa. He’ll deliver his usual post-victory gloating promo tonight, and there’s a long list of guys who could interrupt him to set-up a match at TakeOver: Phoenix, or before. Aleister Black is the most likely name, but the man Black just put down in L.A. will probably be looking to cause trouble. It’s unlikely Velveteen Dream is ready to stop chasing the spotlight, and Lars Sullivan hasn’t been called up yet and just won a match last week. There will be a lot of names stepping up to follow Tommy Sports Entertainment’s lead.
North American titleholder Ricochet needs a new challenger, since he beat Undisputed ERA & Adam Cole in WarGames, and United Kingdom champion Pete Dunne has his own brand, and TakeOver, now (click here if you want to be spoiled on who he’s facing there).
Meanwhile, if they’re not too banged up (we saw Hanson & Rowe in the trainer’s room during last week’s episode), War Raiders should be next in line for Kyle O’Reilly & Roderick Strong’s tag titles.
Other stuff to keep an eye on:
- Jumping back to Baszler, it’s been announced her next challenger will be determined via a Fatal 4Way on the Dec. 26 episode. So far, Bianca Belair is the only name announced for that match. We’re never gonna get the end of The EST’s program with Nikki Cross, are we?
- King of Bros Matt Riddle has his first match since knocking out Kassius Ohno in Staples Center. His opponent, former Ring of Honor TV champ Punishment Martinez, is another one of those talents we were talking about above... a guy who was big fish in a small pond. We’ll start to see where the 6’ 6” Martinez will fit in the WWE ecosystem.
- Another (literally) big signing from ROH, Dominik Dijakovic (fka Donovan Dijak) has already been on our screens as enhancement talent, but the hype video we saw last week indicates he’ll be re-rolled out as a threat soon.
- The crowded tag division gets a match tonight, as two teams who’ve shown some promise recently go head-to-head as Steve Cutler & Wesley Blake of Forgotten Sons face the exciting pair of Humberto Carillo & Raul Mendoza.
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See you tonight for NXT, Cagesiders!