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WWE NXT preview (Dec. 28, 2021): Interoperability

NXT 2.0 returns tonight (Dec. 28) live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando!

Advertised for the show:

  • Grayson Waller vs. Dexter Lumis
  • Raquel González & Cora Jade vs. Toxic Attraction (Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne)
  • The Brian Kendrick vs. Harland
  • Carmelo Hayes & Roderick Strong contract signing
  • MSK & Riddle will call out Imperium

As usual, here are our five questions about NXT tonight:

1) Will main roster crossovers grow NXT’s audience?

A clear upside to the 2.0 rebranding has always been better synergy with Raw and SmackDown. In the past, NXT call-ups arrived on the red and blue brands with little acknowledgment of their history and less understanding of their characters. Increased input from Vince McMahon & team should lead to more planning for developmental talents eventual transition to WWE’s bigger stages.

Over the past month or so, we’ve seen more than just behind the scenes coordination. For the first time since the Wednesday Night War, NXT wrestler have shown up on Monday and Friday nights without any talk of a call-up. Raw stars are working NXT, not because they’ve been moved to the brand a la Finn Bálor or current Women’s champ Mandy Rose, but because they’re involved in angles. In the case of AJ Styles and Grayson Waller, that story is no playing out on both the paint splatter brand and the red one.

We’ll see if Styles responds to Waller’s heckling when the Aussie faces Dexter Lumis tonight. We know Riddle is supposed to be here to help MSK get back into the NXT Tag title scene. Question is... will moves like these get anyone not already interested in 2.0 to pay attention?

Based on what we’ve seen so far, I doubt it. The Phenomenal One’s beef with Waller, and Bro’s mentorship of Nash Carter & Wes Lee are fun easter eggs for the people who keep up with all of WWE’s product. They’re not hot angles generating a whole lot of conversation outside of that core audience, though. That could change with a talent generating a lot of interest on his own like Bron Breakker, or someone the internet seems to enjoy like Tony D’Angelo. The right story always attracts attention, but that’s true of every show, regardless of crossover or Forbidden Door booking.

WWE should keep plugging away at it, though. There’s really no downside. It gives developmental talents experience and exposure to life beyond NXT. The larger fanbase gets introduced to wrestlers they’ll probably see down the road. And the longer interactions like Styles and Waller’s continue to occur, the more likely people are to pay attention to them. If Grayson becomes a player at the next level, the audience will want to get in earlier the next time an NXT talent starts something with a Raw or SmackDown one.

2) What impact will WWE’s COVID outbreak have on tonight’s show?

At one point last week, we heard that WWE’s COVID issues were worse in NXT than on the main roster. Since we already know they’ve had a big impact on Raw and SmackDown’s roster — and since despite announcing a full card for tonight’s show on last week’s episode, we’ve seen little promotion of those matches & segments over the past few days — you have to wonder how short-staffed they’ll be at the Performance Center this evening.

3) Can Cora Jade and Raquel González co-exist?

Proving that they still don’t listen to CM Punk, WWE will trot out one of their favorite tropes tonight. Jade and González have had each other’s backs since before they teamed at WarGames, but now that they know they’ll each have a chance to take the title from Rose in New Year’s Evil’s Triple Threat... how will they function as a tag team when they face Mandy’s Toxic Attraction teammates Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne on this week’s show?

4) How many other matches will be added to New Year’s Evil?

The three title clashes we know about — Breaker vs. Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT championship, the Triple Threat for the Women’s belt, and North American champ Carmelo Hayes & Cruiserweight king Roderick Strong’s title unification bout — will all get a good chunk of time. Assuming Riddle gets MSK a chance to reclaim the Tag titles from Marcel Barthel & Fabian Aichner, most of Jan. 4’s two hours would be accounting for.

Or do they save that championship clash for later in favor of following up on D’Angelo’s assault of Pete Dunne after the Bruiserweight beat him last week. Maybe a 4way with the midcard tag teams that have been beefing, and jockeying for position — Jacket Time, The Creeds, Briggs & Jenson, and Grizzled Young Veterans. Or something with the Xyon Quinn/Legado Del Fantasma story. Speaking of that...

5) What is Io Shirai still doing here?

The Genius of the Sky outgrew NXT a while ago (many would argue she was too big for it to begin with). At this point, it just seems silly. Give her a chance to catch on with main roster audiences or set her free.

Give us your questions and answers in the comments below. Then join us in our live blog, and we’ll see what Qs and As tonight’s show gives us.

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