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WWE NXT preview (April 18, 2018): Clean slate

Tonight’s show finds us in back in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the first episode from the taping (spoilers from which are here) which will build out from TakeOver: New Orleans.

Here's what to expect.

The Headliner(s)

Welp. There’s a No Disqualification slobberknocker lined up between Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain for tonight, but considering Dain will be working on SmackDown with the rest of the male SAnitY members going forward, I think we can safely predict the outcome there.

It’s not a match, but this episode’s other heavily hyped segment was likewise impacted by the Superstar Shakeup which played out on Raw and SmackDown the last couple nights.

Johnny Gargano returns to Full Sail as a full-fledged member of the NXT roster for the first time in months. Thanks to getting Tommaso Ciampa to tap out in New Orleans on April 7, Gargano got his job back. Now he’ll address the fans on not only the emotional road back and his big win* over his former best friend and tag partner, but also his plans for the future.

Presumably, those plans will include aiming for the NXT Championship just won by Aleister Black. And the path to Black just got a little clearer for Johnny Wrestling and the rest of NXT’s main eventers.

That’s because in addition to a frequent #1 contender match participant in Dain, the black-and-yellow brand just sent two former champs with legit claims at title shots to the main roster. There’s precedent for promoted talent to stick around to close out storylines and put over guys and gals who will remain on the black-and-yellow brand, but if Andrade “Cien” Almas and Drew McIntyre do anything (especially doubtful in the latter case, considering his main lingering storyline would have been with El Ídolo), it will probably be on television, not at TakeOver: Chicago 2 in June. And not winning.

Which means there are a few less hurdles for Gargano to clear en route to title shot. And past potential contenders like Sullivan, after/assuming he takes care of business tonight.

But even with the promotions and a new secondary belt officially in play - the North American Title held by Adam Cole thanks to his ladder match win in NOLA - the influx of recent talent will make for a very crowded championship picture.

* Ciampa is quick to point out his loss is not reflected in the record books, since his TakeOver match with his old #DIY mate was “Unsanctioned”. Which might help him get into championship conversations...

The Title Scene

The pack pursuing Women’s Champ Shayna Baszler thinned out a bit, too, but not as much. And NXT’s tendency to push one challenger at a time probably doesn’t change things too much here, even with a crowded roster. Kairi Sane is clearly being positioned as the #1 contender to her Mae Young Classic (MYC) rival’s throne, and it’ll be interesting to see what Nikki Cross does without SAnitY - especially since she was namedropped by the woman Sane defeated last week, Lacey Evans, in a recent promo from The First Lady.

The field of former Tag Team Titleholders has thinned with Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe and Dain’s call-up a week after Authors of Pain moved up. But Undisputed ERA have plenty to deal with - starting with a pissed off United Kingdom Champion Pete Dunne. The Bruiserweight is not understandably not happy Roderick Strong turned on him to help Cole and Kyle O’Reilly keep their belts. He’s even reached out to some old friends...

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

- Not to bury the lede, but WWE updated their official preview to confirm this match late (guessing it spins out of the Gargano address segment)... Candice LeRae and Zelina Vega will go one-on-one in Candice Wrestling’s first official match on NXT television. Probably not much suspense about the outcome considering this is a likely tying-up-of-lose-ends-before-promotion loss for La Muñeca, but still!

- Ricochet’s first match on the Wednesday night show has also been announced. No opponent is mentioned, so this is probably a showcase/squash. But NXT’s “jobbers” include talented cats like Raul Mendoza and Fabian Aichner, so this could still be a barnburner.

- Back to the pairs division, one group of big beard-os exit, another arrives. War Raiders crushed Heavy Machinery and Tino Sabatelli & Riddick Moss last week... before Moss or Sabatelli even had a chance to walk out on one another. Hanson and Rowe will likely be looking to continue making statements.

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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