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WWE NXT preview (Jan. 25, 2022): What’s in a name?

NXT 2.0 returns tonight (Jan. 25) live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando!

Advertised for the show:

  • Persia Pirotta, Indi Hartwell & Kay Lee Ray vs. Toxic Attraction
  • Tony D’Angelo vs. Cameron Grimes for a North American title shot
  • MSK vs. Jacket Time in a Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic first round match
  • Grizzled Young Veterans vs. Andre Chase & Bodhi Hayward in a Men’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic first round match
  • Boa vs. Solo Sikoa in a No Disqualification, Falls Count Anywhere match
  • An OllieJayy performance

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

1) Okay, he’s GUNTHER... now what?

In case you were blissfully offline last week, WALTER is now GUNTHER. That would have been a hot topic no matter what, but it went nuclear for a few days because WWE filed a trademark on the name “Gunther Stark”, which is the name of a Nazi U-Boat commander from World War II. They quickly abandoned the trademark once the connection was made, but not before most of the wrestle web weighed in with what they thought it did or didn’t say about the company.

Other than adding to the list of grievances many have with WWE, it seems unlikely the controversy will have much lasting impact. I still don’t really see the logic in changing the name of someone who’s an established brand — including within your own company — just to own a trademark. Especially without any kind of character development or corresponding gimmick switch. But if the 34 year old Austrian goes on to become a main roster champion, the name change won’t be more than a line on his Wikipedia page.

As is almost always the case in pro wrestling (and life), the issue is “what comes next?”

The Imperium/Diamond Mine feud that was set-up by last week’s main event is a good way to start. A rumored Royal Rumble appearance is too, especially if GUNTHER gets some impressive eliminations. A showdown with Bron Breakker there could also be a great way to build excitement for a match with the NXT champion... maybe WrestleMania week after Breakker deals with Santos Escobar?

Basically, if they let WALTER be WALTER, he’ll get over as GUNTHER.

2) Was the GUNTHER debacle cover for Sarray’s new gimmick?

Just kidding (I think), but this would have been a bigger topic of conversation if we weren’t debating the number of Nazis in Stamford:

Sarray wasn’t clicking before, so a character refresh is a good idea. A Shazam/Sailor Moon-esque gimmick fits in with what WWE seems to be going for with 2.0. But putting someone in a schoolgirl outfit feels weird when so much else about the show is “sexy”. If Sarray’s act is supposed to appeal to young kids, does it fit on a show where stars Mandy Rose & tonight’s musical guest OllieJayy, and the myriad of stories where Superstars are trying to get with one another like the Kacy Catanzaro/Kayden Carter/Brooks & Jensen angle, are clearly trying to hook a slightly older — and hornier — demographic?

There’s also the optics of giving another Asian woman an inspired-by-my-ancestors-to-be-a-hero character while Xia Li is doing something similar on SmackDown. Whether you think it’s a racial stereotype or just lazy creative, you have a good argument.

This feels more doomed to fail than GUNTHER. Even when it does, it’ll probably continue to fly under the radar. But it’s probably a worse example of WWE’s outdated tendencies than changing WALTER’s name.

3) Does Kay Lee Ray have a chance of taking Mandy Rose’s NXT Women’s title?

The longest reigning NXT UK Women’s champion has had her sights on this brand’s version of the belt since before the show was “upgraded” to 2.0. That feels like a Triple H era decision, though. We’ve been going through the motions of getting Ray a shot at Mandy Rose since WarGames, and that process sped up last week when Rose’s distraction cost Kay Lee her match against Ivy Nile, and all of Toxic Attraction jumped the Scotswoman post-loss.

Now she’ll team with the team who had her back in that beatdown. Indi Hartwell & Perisa Pirotta just so happen to be the team chasing Gigi Dolin & Jacy Jayne for the NXT Women’s Tag titles... so that works out nicely. I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kay Lee pin Mandy tonight. But I don’t give her much of a chance for a bigger win down the road.

4) Boa’s already burnt Solo Sikoa’s face, so what’s gonna happen in their no rules match?

During their backstage brawl two weeks ago, we learned that one of the Tian Sha powers Boa retained is the ability to shoot fire (from off camera, of course... even mystics have budgetary constraints). That left Solo Sikoa looking like this...

... and wanting to revenge.

Which is a good way to escalate a feud! But how do you top “third degree burns”, especially when your boss is turned off by “gory self-mutilation”.

5) Is Duke Hudson still playing poker?

When he attacked Dante Chen last Tuesday, we saw that his hair is growing back nicely. But is he still a gambler? Sometimes you’ve got to know when to fold ‘em, and Hudson’s chances of future success drastic go up if he gets a better gimmick.

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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