The case for NXT as a destination rather than a pit stop

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Tonight’s show finds us in NXT’s home base of Full Sail Live for the third episode from a taping (spoilers from which are here) which occurred less than a week after TakeOver: Brooklyn 4.

Here’s what to expect.

The Headliner(s)

This week’s episode will feature Aliyah in tag action with Lacey Evans against Dakota Kai & Deonna Purrazzo. It’s a match set-up by a random interaction shot at the Full Sail student center of all places. And if this is your first time hearing about it or you’re checking back in on the black-and-yellow brand after some time away from it, you’re probably wondering if that’s the same Aliyah you saw wearing cat ears and jobbing out as a babyface two years ago or if they’ve signed someone else and re-used the name.

It’s the same person. The Canadian has been in NXT for about three-and-a-half years now, and seems to tweak her gimmick every time she gets on television. Which until the last couple months was about twice a year.

Lately, she’s been working a heel fashionista schtick. There’s still not much that stands out about her wrestling, but this character feels more polished, more her, than any she’s worked previously. If even a loose alliance with Evans is in the plans, it would serve to lessen Lacey’s act from alt-right racist to snobby southern belle.

More than anything, though, if Aliyah can turn this into a career – even at the level of an ocassionally elevated undercard enhancement talent a la Alicia Fox or Tyler Breeze – it’s a testament to giving talent as long as they need to find their footing, provided they’re showing some growth, are willing to learn, etc. It’s a luxury WWE’s surging stock prices and global growth afford them right now, and it could be a boon for the company, it’s contractors and the fans.

This doesn’t have to be limited to future main roster house show fodder, either. An act like Undisputed ERA (who’s almost certainly gonna get involved in tonight’s main event) is ready for a bigger stage like Raw or SmackDown. But if there’s not room for them, why not use keep them where they still look like stars rather than where they’ll disappear for weeks at time.

Triple H used to be fond of saying call-ups would only happen when there was a story or need in place for the talent in question. That doesn’t seem to strictly be the case any more – or the need for SAnitY was to work a few tag tournaments months after their promotion was announced then disappear again. Space is tight in NXT, as well, but with a UK show launching and 205 Live an option, Performance Center-based talent can be used elsewhere without moving them there full-time.

It’s food for thought. And the development of Aliyah, and the entertainment value acts like Undisputed provide to NXT despite having acquired all the knowledge they need to succeed at the next level, are arguments Haitch and team are likely using to get Vince McMahon to consider it.

The Title Scene

The real headliner (not just the topic I feel like rambling on about because I plan to write about the main event a lot in the review later tonight) is, of course, NXT’s first ever match with two titles on the line. It’s also a bonafide dream match between North American championship Ricochet and United Kingdom champ Pete Dunne.

Adam Cole and Tag Team titleholders Kyle O’Reilly and Roderick Strong have announced they’ll be keeping a close eye on this one. Is it to jump the winner and set up Cole’s challenge for the man with two belts? Or to crash the party after we get just enough action to want a longer TakeOver match between all involved? And, in either case, will others like Dunne’s British Strong Style mates or War Raiders join the fray?

No matter how it shakes out, this is going to be good.

NXT champion Tommaso Ciampa showed back up at Full Sail last week to gloat, and declare his innocence in the attack on former champ Aleister Black. We bought the Blackheart’s reasoning, but Heavy Machinery certainly didn’t. General Manager William Regal may not have either, since he pulled Ciampa into his office. What was discussed? Tune in and find out (maybe)!

A week after she chased off Shayna Baszler when the former champ tried to get the drop on her, Women’s titlist Kairi Sane was meeting with Regal when the Queen of Spades took out her aggression on a new face last week. What’s next in the road to their rematch?

Other stuff to keep an eye on:

– Forgotten no more, the push of The Forgotten Sons stable continues when Jaxson Ryker (fka Gunner in TNA) makes his in-ring debut in singles action. Can he continue the group’s winning ways after Wesley Blake and Steve Cutler scored a (Mighty distraction-assisted) win over Street Profits?

– The one thing we learned from Kassius Ohno’s meeting with Mr. Regal is that he’s ready to face anyone… BRO.

– Issues between Nikki Cross and Bianca Belair are certainly not settled after their match last week ended in a double countout and a show-closing brawl.

NOTE: Spoilers are out there for these pre-taped broadcasts (including here), but many Cagesiders don’t partake. If you are going to post or discuss spoilers for this show before they happen, or results of future shows, please use the spoiler bar in your comment.

See you tonight for NXT, Cagesiders!




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