NXT kicks off their year of Takeovers on Saturday night, with a Royal Rumble warm-up in San Antonio.
As usual, it’s a five-match show – so let’s get going with our preview and picks!
NXT Championship: Shinsuke Nakamura (c) vs. Bobby Roode
Despite losing the title at the last Takeover event in November, Nakamura managed to regain the title a fortnight later on NXT’s tour of Japan – and with Samoa Joe having disappeared from NXT, it’s left Bobby Roode free to claim his title shot.
Of course, Roode won a four-way against Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong and Andrade “Cien” Almas just before Christmas to get this shot – but thanks to the way NXT’s taped, there’s barely been any interaction ahead of the go-home shows. Save for “I’m the number one contender” there isn’t really any issue here, and since both of these guys really should be on the main roster, it’s hard to pick a winner here. Part of me feels that Nakamura isn’t going up anytime soon, nor should be be losing back-to-back title matches on Takeovers, so this should be a no-brainer. Prediction: Shinsuke Nakamura
NXT Women’s Championship: Asuka (c) vs. Billie Kay vs. Peyton Royce vs. Nikki Cross
Guess the odd (two) out! NXT have really struggled to replenish their women’s division since this summer’s call-ups, and let’s be honest, in the fan’s eyes there really is a yawning chasm between Asuka and the “second tier” of Nikki Cross and Ember Moon. There’s a Grand Canyon between those and Billie Kay and Peyton Royce… and yet again to the perceived “bottom tier” with the likes of Livv Morgan, Aaliyah and Daria Berenato.
So yeah, this really should be Asuka vs. Cross, but the addition of the Aussies makes the finish less assured. If there is going to be a title change, it means that Asuka keeps her unbeaten record alive, and I’m thinking that as Asuka has now eclipsed the period WWE recognises Paige for as the longest reigning NXT champion, there could be a switch. If there is, I can’t see anyone but Nikki taking it… but she’s not been established as a competitor in my mind.
It’s a crap-shoot, but I’ll go for Asuka to retain. Prediction: Asuka
(Note: although Paige’s run was 308 “real” days, WWE only recognised the start as the date her title win aired, which shortens the reign to 274 days; as of Takeover, Asuka’s reign will be 302 days long)
NXT Tag Team Championship: #DIY (Tommaso Ciampa & Johnny Gargano) (c) vs. Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar)
This is the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic winners vs. the newly-crowned champions in a match that very few are expecting much of… and that’s only for the challengers. The Authors of Pain have only been working as a team for a year – with Akam having the most experience of the two, thanks to his two years in NXT.
The size difference will mean that this will be a fun “smaller guys bounce around, then tie their opponents up in knots” match, but it’s way too early for the Authors to be holding the gold in my mind. Of course, if there’s any plans for Gargano or Ciampa to be called up, that may force a change, but there’s been no rumblings, so I’m predicting that #DIY will retain. Prediction: #DIY
Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger
Some suspect that this may be Tye’s farewell to NXT, as his high-profile but not unsubtle losing streak seems to be pointing towards him moving up to the main roster. There is a story going into this, as Young offered Tye a spot in SAnitY… but Tye turned it down, and instead we got the former Big Damo (now Killian Dain) getting that spot after the group ejected the injured Sawyer Fulton. Still, Eric’s bitter about it, so we’re getting this blow-off. Given the storyline is “Tye struggles to win”, there’s only one way this can go – with Tye losing and popping up the next day in a certain match. Prediction: Eric Young.
Roderick Strong vs. Andrade “Cien” Almas
This continues the run of well under-built Takeover matches for Almas since his NXT debut. He wasn’t even on the last Takeover card, and his recent matches have been indicative of someone who’s been bobbing along without much direction. Strong, on the other hand, has largely been on the winning side of matches, and given that there’s not much going on for either man on the back of this, I’m going to go for an Almas win to keep things even. Prediction: Andrade Almas.
- Reproduced from BackBodyDrop.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ian Hamilton has been a wrestling fan since 1992, and when he’s not watching WWE, New Japan or his latest wrestling love, PROGRESS, he’s usually suffering through Sunderland AFC and the New York Jets. He’s got a couple of books out on Amazon – “Wrestling’s Sinking Ship” and “Gone Too Soon”, and can be reached via his website, BackBodyDrop.com, or on Twitter @theianhamilton