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WWE NXT preview (Feb. 22, 2022): Vertical integration

NXT 2.0 returns tonight (Feb. 8) live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando!

Advertised for the show:

  • Tommaso Ciampa vs. Dolph Ziggler in an NXT championship #1 contenders match
  • LA Knight vs. Grayson Waller
  • Kay Lee Ray & Io Shirai vs. Amari Miller & Lash Legend in a women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic first round match
  • Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter vs. Ivy Nile & Tatum Paxley in a women’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic first round match
  • Nikita Lyons debuts

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

1) Are the Raw crossovers good?

It looks like Bron Breakker’s next challenger for the NXT title will be Dolph Ziggler, a man who’s held 14 championships on Raw and SmackDown. The man Ziggler has to (and probably will) beat to make that official, Tommaso Ciampa, has become a semi-regular on Monday nights. Last night, he was there for a tag match with the returning Finn Bálor against Dolph & his Dirty Dawgs partner Robert Roode. That served to not only advance the Ciampa/Breakker/Ziggler story, but to remind us that three of the men in the match have held the belt Bron now carries.

Even though it was almost certainly to protect him a bit before he puts the Show-Off over, it’s also noteworthy that the Blackheart not only won on Raw, but got the pin. It was less than a year ago, but we’ve come a long way from when undefeated NXT champion Karrion Kross showed up on Monday night without the belt — or mention of it — and lost.

When all the criticisms were being levied at NXT’s 2.0 rebranding last summer, one thing almost everyone agreed should be a positive was better integration of creative. Most of us thought that would aid call-ups, but we haven’t seen that aspect of it just yet. Still, when someone like Breakker does get promoted, being able to say he’s friends with frequent Raw guest star Ciampa, and beaten a main roster lifer like Ziggler will be an easy way to explain him to the non-NXT watching audience.

Is any of this convincing folks who didn’t check out the black-and-gold brand to give 2.0 a shot? We haven’t seen signs of it yet, but the odds have to be greater this way than when it was its own side universe, right?

2) Will Level Up be required viewing for NXT fans?

The show taped before NXT and uploaded to Peacock/WWE Network each week has been NXT’s B-show for a while. Last week, WWE finally closed the book on their latest attempt at a cruiserweight division and put 205 Live out of its misery. Level Up debuted last week, and so far it’s still pretty much as inessential as 205 Live was. I don’t think I can use my “NXT Dark” joke to refer to the show, because the new set is just too dang colorful...

... but the idea is the same. This looks like the place where diehards can see new acts debut, and longer matches featuring stars not currently getting TV time on Tuesdays.

One thing of note did happen on the Feb. 18 premiere. Malcolm Bivens’ new Diamond Mine tag team debuted. Ivy Nile & Tatum Paxley picked up a win over Fallon Henley & Kayla Inlay (is this a wrestling show or a prep school?), but Nile didn’t seem excited about her new partner. And as we head into the battle for the Cup, that makes us wonder...

3) How many of the teams in the women’s Dusty Classic will eventual feud with each other?

Not sure what Paxley has coming counts as a feud, but I do think Ivy will kill her after they exit the tournament. Which could happen as early as tonight, since Kacy Catanzaro & Kayden Carter seem focused on wrestling after Carter friend-zoned Brooks Jensen. That sets them apart from Indi Hartwell & Persia Pirotta, who — as their lackluster showing in last week’s Tag title match showed — are distracted by their various boy issues.

Those two could be headed for a break-up over Duke Hudson. Wendy Choo will either convince Dakota Kai to try being a good person again, or get kicked in the head by the captain of Team Kick. Neither Io Shirai or Kay Lee Ray are known for playing well with others, and I think Lash Legend is a heel, so Amari Miller better watch her back. Cora Jade & Raquel González seem to have bonded, and Yulisa Leon & Valentina Feroz are a real team, so they should be okay.

Still, I’d put the over/under at 4.

4) Is Solo Sikoa ready for WALTER GUNTHER?

Bold move by Sikoa, stepping to the Ring General. I’m intrigued though, as this gives Imperium’s leader something to do while waiting his turn with Breakker (and while Fabian Aichner & Marcel Barthel defend the Tag belts against Dusty Cup winners The Creeds). It should also be a big test for Solo after he emerged victorious from his program with Boa.

And I know he’s a loner, but if WWE really wants to get some cross brand synergy going... acknowledge Sikoa as part of The Bloodline.

5) Are Australian restraining orders really different from U.S. ones?

Despite the time he spent on Raw during his rivalry with AJ Styles, I’m still not sold on Grayson Waller’s star potential. I did get a kick out his thinking he could get physical with LA Knight without violating the restraining order he filed against Knight because “in Australia it’s one way!”

This kid might grow on me yet.

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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