RAW Deal: The end of NXT, or the end of NXT as we know it?
FULL SAIL UNIVERSITY, FL— The next NXT Takeover event is coming up on Wednesday, June 7, and curiously, it’s called The End.
The end of what? many fans are asking. The end of… Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor, which had been going on for around a year now? Is it the end of an era for this current crop of NXT faces, because of the impending brand split next month? Is it, heaven forbid, the end of NXT itself, because of the brand split?
Well, fear not. Rumors have it that it’s merely the end of the Takeover concept, possibly returning the brand to a continuous one-hour program every week. Weekly episodes will no longer build to a huge live Network special every two or 3 months, reverting to its pre-Takeover system that isn’t unlike how Lucha Underground tells its stories.
This could be a blessing in disguise for the developmental brand. Even though Takeover has well established itself as the highly-anticipated home of some of the best wrestling under the WWE banner, the weekly NXT program suffers from it. It’s like in the main roster—the weekly episodes are now forced to continually build up to Takeovers and sacrifice actual in-ring quality in the process because they don’t have RAW’s 3 hours or even SmackDown’s two hours.
Although part of the problem is its steadily-ballooning roster, a more freestyle storytelling format with fewer obligations could help increase ring time and make NXT must-watch TV again. Before Takeover specials became prevalent, workhorses were allowed to go all-out on random NXT episodes. We’d get things like Cesaro and Sami Zayn’s 2-out-of-3 falls match or Kassius Ohno vs William Regal or countless NXT Championship matches on free TV. Maybe we don’t need to cram 5 matches in one hour anymore.
Then again, NXT could scrap Takeovers and still continue the way it is right now. But one can hope.
On to the predictions!
Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Tye Dillinger
Poor Tye Dillinger. Well-regarded by his peers and many savvy fans, but is really here to make other people look good. That’s the downside of being such a solid hand in the ring; officials will recognize your talent, but will smartly take advantage of it to put other people over. What’s baffling about Dillinger is he’s clearly got the skills and the charisma to be at least a strong midcard player, but he keeps getting overlooked. Be careful, WWE. A guy like that isn’t always gonna have the patience to keep playing along, and other promotions would kill to have a workhorse from the big leagues.
Meanwhile, I can’t blame you if you’re not familiar with Andrade “Cien” Almas (which I’ll hereby call ACA). He’ll be more familiar to regular NJPW watchers, and the best way to describe ACA to WWE fans is a better, much more marketable Sin Cara. Of course, without the mask. Good-sized luchadors with a high upside are a rarity this side of the border, and WWE made a good pick-up with the former La Sombra, who you know is going to win his debut match. Unless shenanigans.
Winner: Andrade “Cien” Almas
Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Austin Aries
It took a couple of months, but we finally have the King of Strong Style’s first real storyline in NXT, and who better to take him on right now than the Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, Austin Aries? Aries is currently trying to find his stride in WWE right now as his default indy-star packaging is hampering more than it’s helping him, and slowly turning heel in the process against the unhateable Nakamura will only do him good.
I’ve noticed that Aries is slightly lacking that all-important fire babyfaces need, and I can’t tell if he’s purposely holding himself back or naturally uncomfortable in the role he’s playing. He’s going to work best as the NXT version of Chris Jericho, the bitter ring veteran who’s trying to prove that he can still hang with the younger, more popular kids. And a loss to Nakamura should set him off on that right path.
Winner: Shinsuke Nakamura
American Alpha vs. The Revival for the NXT Tag Team Championships
The Revival might need a little help—no matter how good they are, it seems like they’re going to have to keep fighting for their spot. American Alpha is better in the ring and better-loved than them. Ciampa and Gargano as a team are savvier than them. Newcomer team TM61 go harder than them. As much as I want the Revival to succeed, they’re really going to have to scrap to stay afloat.
That said, this won’t be the night they take their titles back—unless there are other, bigger plans for American Alpha. I can actually see the Revival winning the belts back in some underhanded fashion, as the champs could use the good old Dusty Rhodes heat of always being in the chase, but as champs, their odds are better. I’m very prepared to be surprised, however.
Winner: American Alpha
Asuka vs. Nia Jax for the NXT Women’s Championship
Much like American Alpha, Asuka’s odds as incoming champion are much, much better than Nia Jax. This is even though they’ve done a good job of building some hype around Jax by destroying Bayley, which is a bit of an understated story because of how new Jax is to the scene. People were expecting a Bayley rematch to happen, especially after how good her match with Asuka turned out to be, but I can see that they’re going the Daniel Bryan route and building sympathy for her comeback (unless she’s really injured). The main roster could learn a thing or two from NXT on how not to overexpose its stars.
That said, with all of Jax’s size advantage and momentum, don’t expect a clean win from Asuka here. It’s possible (considering just how dangerous Asuka really is) but if I were writing NXT, I wouldn’t make a big girl like Jax go down clean.
Samoa Joe vs. Finn Balor in a Steel Cage Match for the NXT Championship
NXT is infinitely interesting. It’s new, but in its newness lies in its truly old-school nature, which I can say is breaking free from the sleek, established WWE mold. It’s so refreshingly old-school that a now-commonplace steel cage match (the very first in NXT history, might I add) is treated with amusing reverence. That makes me look forward to a cage match more than I have ever looked forward to one lately.
Meanwhile, Joe vs. Balor is anything from new. It’s all we’ve gotten for the past year, and I’m really, really hoping it comes to an end on Wednesday. I hope they brutalize each other and provide a fitting close to their long (but not necessarily storied) rivalry, so we can all finally move on. Guys like Nakamura, Aries, maybe even Bobby Roode and Eric Young are waiting in the wings. Balor is overdue for the main roster. If the End must signify only one thing, I hope it signifies the end of this NXT generation—the NXT Five Generation. (Poor Hideo, though, people have largely forgotten about him.)
Winner: Samoa Joe
What do you think? Who do you have winning? Let’s talk about it!
Do you listen to podcasts? Would you want to listen to a local podcast about pro wrestling? If the answers to those questions – especially that last one – are yes, then you should check out the cleverly-named Smark Gilas-Pilipinas Podcast, featuring Mellow 94.7 DJ and PWR General Manager Stan Sy, wrestling writer Romeo Moran, and all-around multimedia person and former voice of PWR Raf Camus! This week, they talk about the NBA Finals and how people are hating on the Warriors, Will Ospreay vs. Ricochet, and a lot more! Listen to it here! – Rappler.com