NXT Review – September 6, 2017

This week’s NXT may have seemed like another episode, but it wasn’t. We saw the retirement of Asuka as NXT Women’s Champion after a historic 523 days, as well as […]

This week’s NXT may have seemed like another episode, but it wasn’t. We saw the retirement of Asuka as NXT Women’s Champion after a historic 523 days, as well as some other storyline developments that foreshadow the future of the brand. Here are my thoughts:

That NXT Midcard Title Can’t Come Soon Enough

The last few weeks of NXT, starting from Takeover Brooklyn to this week’s episode, has undoubtedly shown that NXT has a depth of talent that is worthy of having a second title to compete over. The match between Johnny Gargano and Andrade Cien Almas was a highlight of Takeover and demonstrated to some that a midcard title is possible with the amount of competitors on the roster.

Besides Gargano and Almas, there is Cezar Bononi (who scored a pinfall victory over Almas some weeks back), No Way Jose, Lars Sullivan, Hideo Itami, Kassius Ohno, Aleister Black, Killian Dain, even Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly if the brass decide not to keep them together as a tag team unit. The thing about the NXT Championship is that the storyline development around it is very simple because of the constrained timeframe they have to work in; currently the titleholder Drew McIntyre is most likely going to feud with Roderick Strong, with Adam Cole lurking in the background for an opportunity down the road.

An NXT midcard title, perhaps calling it “the NXT Network Championship” in homage to the medium by which all others outside of Full Sail University consume the product, would be helpful in establishing some credible stars in NXT as a stepping stone towards the NXT Championship.

The Fleshing Out of the Tag Team Scene

I was actually kind of surprised that Sanity managed to upset the Authors of Pain at Takeover Brooklyn to dethrone them as NXT Tag Team Champions, giving the AOP their first loss in NXT ever. The Authors were booked to be so dominant I thought they would just retire as tag champs when they got called up to RAW or Smackdown.

But in the end having the AOP lose was a good thing; the ambush afterwards on both teams by Fish and O’Reilly cemented a crop of new teams to compete for the titles in the future. Even if the AOP were called up to the main roster, now you have Sanity as the champs, Fish & O’Reilly, Heavy Machinery, Sabatelli and Moss, The “Street Profits”, The Ealy Twins, and Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch (who fought each other twice a few NXT’s ago but from the clip at the Performance Centre this past week, it looks like they were training together).

So what you have here is a decent depth of talent to build a focus around the NXT Tag Team titles. Or even a 3rd annual Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.

Ruby Riot’s partner to face Peyton and Billie

Also on NXT, in that aforementioned Lorcan-Burch training session, we saw Ruby Riot asking Commissioner William Regal for a handicap match against Billie Kay and Peyton Royce, the logic being that either one would interfere on behalf of the other during a match, so might as well face them both. Regal gave Riot the option of choosing a partner to take on the “Iconic Duo” if she could find one.

We’ve already seen Billie and Peyton feud with Liv Morgan, Ember Moon, and Nikki Cross wouldn’t make much sense. If the booking isn’t to rehash old feuds, then it’s only logical that someone eliminated from the Mae Young Classic or still in the tournament by the time of next week’s episode would be Riot’s partner. Perhaps someone like Mia Yim (Jade from Impact Wrestling) or Kairi Sane? It’s not that far off an idea; Kota Ibushi had a match with Buddy Murphy while Ibushi was still one of the favourites to win the Crusierweight Classic last summer.

Speaking of the women’s division…

Asuka’s Departure and the future of the NXT Women’s Championship

There was precedent on how they could have booked Asuka’s departure from NXT, but since the tape delay gave them an extra two weeks, I think they managed to make her exit look strong without weakening Asuka. First of all, there was little chance she would walk away looking weak: Asuka has had the longest reign for any champion in modern WWE history and is still undefeated; she will go down as the only NXT superstar with an undefeated record in singles competition.

But I say they booked her leaving right because it was revealed she tore her rotator cuff at NXT Takeover Brooklyn defending the championship against Ember Moon. I am reminded of when Seth Rollins blew out his knee and had to relinquish the WWE title; he wasn’t even on WWE TV to hand it over, instead leaving it to Triple H to make the announcement in the ring. The same with Naomi, who while was in the ring doing so had to give it up due to an injury. NXT could have said Asuka was vacating the title due to injury, but chose to have her leave on her own terms, which is a good thing.

Perhaps the timing was just right that they decided Asuka was to move onto the main roster, and the time to recover would only help because it would give the company time to repackage her and plan out how she is to be introduced to the wider WWE audience. But it would be too easy to simply put the NXT Women’s Championship on the Mae Young Classic winner; the title is an existing championship and should go to someone competing on NXT regularly. Maybe there is room to host another tournament to crown the new champion at Full Sail University?