RAW Deal: How NXT should 'take over' Orlando

Let’s talk about NXT real quick.

Due to the general awesomeness that is SmackDown Live (oh, there I go again) I keep forgetting about discussing the low-key territory of NXT, down at Full Sail University. Here’s the thing, though: NXT really isn’t the best it could be right now, even with all the highly-acclaimed international talent it has right now. It’s never really fully recovered from all the callups it got at the brand split and WWE Draft last year, and it’s still in a rebuilding process.

It seems like it’s been in a rebuilding process forever, though, but you can’t quite blame it. NXT only runs shows once a week, and big shows seemingly every other couple of months—whenever there’s a Big Four PPV happening on the main roster, and when there isn’t, it does its own thing to break up that long stretch. The problem with it, however, is that it’s fallen into a pattern that’s not really predictable in a good way: big stories will culminate in the Takeover shows, but they’ll build a rematch for the next Takeover instead of writing stronger weekly episodes. 

You end up with guys like Shinsuke Nakamura doing not much of anything every week until it’s time to build toward Takeover again, like they did when he feuded with Samoa Joe. The midcard talents get a lot of exposure, but not enough opportunities. What used to be an exciting program that existed outside the established rules of the WWE main show has now really become an indie-fied version of RAW—and I can’t even call it SmackDown, because SmackDown progresses storylines at a relatively more furious pace.

That said, let’s take a quick look at what should be the biggest Takeover of the year (so far) and see what needs to be done.

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Aleister Black

If there’s one thing I keep harping on and on about NXT (other than the length of a weekly episode) it’s the fact that there isn’t a midcard championship. The reason why the midcard is so scattered—consider that you always know who’s playing for the NXT Championship, and apparently there can’t be more than two guys in the scene—is because there’s nothing to anchor them, no award to build stories and an entire scene around.

So guys like Almas, Kassius Ohno, Roderick Strong, Eric Young, Tye Dillinger, and No Way Jose end up with the most random of roles. Their role usually is to be the solid match fodder for debuting NXT stars, and this season’s hot debut, Aleister Black—Dutch professional wrestler formerly known in the indies as Tommy End—will go up against Almas in this role. For what reason? None, really, other than it’s another established NXT trope for a big name to debut on a Takeover show.

A midcard championship would help a lot in pulling guys into an orbit they could follow, and further delinate who’s next in line for an NXT Championship shot. Or even just a shot at the main event. It doesn’t matter what you call it, really. Hell, even the WWE United Kingdom Championship would do fine—nobody says a Briton has to hold the title, and in the UK, foreigners keep holding titles that are designated as United Kingdom Championships. Have Tyler Bate and Pete Dunne, and whoever else is involved with that title scene, come out and defend the title against all comers on NXT, since that’s what they’re doing already.

As for this match, the trope follows that the debuting wrestler wins, so…

Winner: Aleister Black 


#DIY vs. The Revival vs. The Authors of Pain (c) in a triple threat tag match for the NXT Tag Team Championship

Honestly, this is the only course of action left for this.

To show you how gutted the NXT tag team division is, half of last year’s Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic was made up of singles competitors paired together and cruiserweights now competing on RAW and 205 Live. One team (American Alpha) got shipped to SmackDown, and another team had one member get badly injured. So the triple threat tag match is pretty much the right way to go, because it’s the only way to go.

Now, I’d like for #DIY and the Revival to be called up to SmackDown, but after a closer look it just can’t happen. The division has to restock itself first before it can let go of two of its top teams, and while I’ve branded the Authors of Pain as a team to watch, they can’t hold down an entire scene by themselves. These guys are going to stay down here for a little while longer. I do wish, however, that American Alpha weren’t the guys who got called up.

Winner: The Authors of Pain


Ember Moon vs. Asuka (c) for the NXT Women’s Championship

Another scene that was almost completely destroyed after Bayley and Alexa Bliss got called up, this match is everything they’ve been building up to ever since Ember Moon debuted on NXT. It would be the Unstoppable Force vs. the Immovable Object, but the entire division around these two women is so weak that none of them have really built anything meaningful in the six months or so that they’ve had the divison to themselves.

It’s really not their fault; women like Liv Morgan, Peyton Royce, and Billie Kay were just not ready to take over from Bayley, Alexa Bliss, and the other Horsewomen.

Anyway, this is the future they wanted for the NXT women’s division. All year, both Ember Moon and Asuka were destroying nobodies, and it’s time for Ember Moon to destroy Asuka’s streak.

Winner: Ember Moon (new NXT Women’s Champion)


Shinsuke Nakamura vs. Bobby Roode (c) for the NXT Championship

What should be the biggest match on the card is getting by with barely a whimper. If there’s anyone that has to be on the show all the time, it’s always the main champion and contender, someway, somehow. I’ve already described the pattern of the NXT Championship storylines in my intro above, so what’s left now is to determine who’s really going home the winner.

Nakamura’s spent too long a time down at NXT being trotted out for the occasional highlight. Even his championship chase and subsequent run felt like he was a part-timer in the vein of the Undertaker. This isn’t what WWE signed him for, and I’m sure that this isn’t what Nakamura set out to do when he went stateside. Now that the NXT midcard is full of notable names who could switch in and out in the title scene, it’s time to make this Nakamura’s last stand down at NXT after one year. Have him lose so he can finally say his farewells and get called up to SmackDown (hopefully).

Winner: Bobby Roode


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