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WWE NXT preview (April 19, 2022): But change is

Dakota Kai’s Twitter

NXT 2.0 returns tonight (April 19) live from the WWE Performance Center in Orlando!

Advertised for the show:

  • Santos Escobar vs. Carmelo Hayes
  • Natalya vs. Tatum Paxley
  • Tiffany Stratton vs. Sarray

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

1) Who will follow Kushida out the door?

Not the question I was planning on, or wanting to open with, but I’m sure I’m not the only person thinking about it after last night’s news.

The writing’s been on the wall for Kushida since the rebrand. It’s hard to get farther away from 2.0’s mandate than a 38 year old cruiserweight. It’s a bummer this didn’t work out the way he’d dreamed it would, but he should have options in the States and in Japan.

Combine the former New Japan star’s departure the recent moves involving other veteran acts like Tommaso Ciampa & LA Knight, and it’s going to be difficult not to wonder about folks like Roderick Strong and Dakota Kai until NXT consists of little more than the young, Performance Center-trained types.

There are others I wonder about, like Santos Escobar and Io Shirai. But I didn’t pull Strong and Kai’s names out of a hat. It’s hard to see what else they do in NXT. 38 year old Roddy’s been featured on NXT UK for the past several episodes, while Diamond Mine’s turned face in his absence and is in the midst of a feud with new Tag champs Pretty Deadly. The soon-to-be 34 year old Dakota reunited with Raquel González/Rodriguez for a brief Tag title run, then lost the latest of her singles championship matches shots to Mandy Rose last week. He could play a role as mentor to Julius & Brutus, and she could stick around as Wendy Choo’s sidekick. But if their contracts come up, or another round of budget cuts are mandated?

The times keep changing in NXT. Ask the Time Splitter.

2) How many people will end up getting involve in Santos Escobar vs. Carmelo Hayes?

Speaking of Escobar, he and former North American champion Carmelo Hayes will fight to determine who is most worthy of shot at current champ Cameron Grimes tonight. This feels like it could be Santos’ swan song... if NXT was going to strap him or his Legado Del Fantasma mates, they would have by now. And Raul Mendoza being renamed could signal a call-up for the group.

But while my money’s on Melo, I doubt this will be a clean result. In addition to potential involvement from LDF-ers Joaquin Wilde, Cruz Del Toro & Elektra Lopez, there’s also Hayes’ man Trick Williams. Grimes and his last honorable opponent Solo Sikoa could want payback for the beatdown they took from Hayes & Williams after their match last week. Escobar made an enemy of NXT’s new Don when he rejected Tony D’Angelo’s peace offering. And now that Grayson Waller is done pursuing tag gold... hey, the gang from Stand & Deliver’s ladder match is all here!

Rematch, anyone?

3) So... Joe Gacy’s a cult leader/Batman villain now?

Not complaining. I wasn’t terribly interested in his Woke parody heel gimmick, and even less interested in the discourse around it. Just want to make sure I’m reading this right.

There are still traces of that in what he’s doing as a foil for Bron Breakker, but he seems to be criticizing society in a more general way now. It makes sense for a program with WWE’s purest superhero-type this side of Cody Rhodes. But the shift in character is almost as jarring as his ascension to the NXT title scene has been?

4) What’s the plan for Natalya’s time in NXT?

Presumably she’s here to work with Cora Jade, giving the youngster some experience and something to do away from the title scene after a couple of losses to Rose in multi-woman matches. How long will that program last though? Is she here for a couple months like Dolph Ziggler was? Or just a week or two like the Mysterios and Riddle?

5) Has Nikkita Lyons recovered from this?

WWE’s YouTube

Lash Legend kicked her in the face real good.

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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