The latest set of tapings for NXT’s February episodes have just taken place, giving us a better indication of what the landscape of the brand will be post-NXT TakeOver: Phoenix and where things are heading for NXT TakeOver: New York.
Since it’s the event preceding WrestleMania, WWE will undoubtedly wish to present the best card possible to not only satiate fans for the biggest weekend of the year, but also offset all the competition going on in the New York/New Jersey region around this time.
As it stands, no matches have been officially announced for the event, but let’s gaze into our crystal balls and attempt to predict what we may be in store for come April 5, 2019.
WARNING: SPOILERS BELOW
North American Championship Match
During these tapings and what will air in the future, Velveteen Dream utilizes his Worlds Collide tournament win and title shot opportunity to challenge Johnny Gargano for the North American title. He ends up being successful in that bid and wins the championship.
Normally, I would think this would mean we’d get a rematch of sorts between Velveteen Dream and Johnny Gargano, but WWE has been trying to stray away from the guaranteed rematch clause concept (even though they still end up repeating the same match over and over quite a bit, like AJ Styles vs. Daniel Bryan) so I don’t think this is as set in stone as it would have been at this time last year.
It’s certainly a possibility that we simply get Velveteen Dream vs. Johnny Gargano, but I’m leaning more towards something else happening in the next set of tapings on February 20th, which will cover the last bit of February into the March 13th set.
That is plenty of time to establish a new No. 1 contender and there are only a few people I’m even entertaining to get this spot.
One of them is Dominik Dijakovic, but I’d actually go with him as being the next champion and I don’t think Velveteen Dream drops it this early, so I’d rule him out. The other three are tied to each other as I can consider Roderick Strong, Bobby Fish or Adam Cole a possibility.
Why not Kyle O’Reilly? I think they want him to stick in the tag team role. But if I’m jumping the gun (and I am) with a random prediction, it wouldn’t shock me if they change the duo that challenges War Raiders by going back to Kyle O’Reilly and Bobby Fish instead of Roderick Strong, freeing Roderick Strong up to challenge Velveteen Dream here. Alternatively, they could just give that singles match to Bobby Fish—although I personally think Roderick Strong has more of a singles presence, but whatever.
Or, if they’re feeling frisky, they can do Velveteen Dream vs. Adam Cole and give people the biggest match possible out of The Undisputed Era. But I don’t think it will be Adam Cole, for reasons I’ll get into below.
Ultimately, I think this match will end up being Velveteen Dream against either Bobby Fish or Roderick Strong, depending on if they want to switch things up.
NXT Championship Match
No solid indication was made as to who will challenge Tommaso Ciampa for the NXT Championship, but he continues to have interactions with Johnny Gargano, who eyed Goldie and is still not ready to reform #DIY. Those two are going to clash again at some point and I think it will be here… with a caveat.
Ricochet and Adam Cole lock horns, which prompts Aleister Black to get in the mix. Black eventually fights Roderick Strong and Ricochet helps him. There’s a camaraderie going on and I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t going to spill over into the main event scene.
It’s a bit of a leap, but I’m also going to jump the gun on two sets of tapings to say that I think we’ll get the right set of circumstances to set up a Fatal 5-Way for NXT TakeOver: New York as a means to get as many people on the card as possible and cram in five of the “NXT 6” into the main event picture.
It will be Tommaso Ciampa defending the title against Johnny Gargano, Ricochet, Adam Cole, and Aleister Black—and the only reason why Velveteen Dream won’t be in there is because he’ll have the other title to keep him busy with that other member of The Undisputed Era.
NXT Women’s Championship Match
I’m certainly not expecting Shayna Baszler to suddenly drop the championship on an episode of NXT that will air in March or something along those lines, particularly after the Johnny Gargano/Velveteen Dream situation. It’s just too unlikely they’ll have that happen a second time.
What she’s up to during this set of tapings is running through the entire roster and proving that she, Jessamyn Duke and Marina Shafir are too dominant of a force for anyone to stand a chance to quell, taking out the likes of Aliyah, Taynara Conti, Vanessa Borne, Mia Yim, Xia Li, Lacey Lane, MJ Jenkins, and Jessie Elaban.
But they happen to lose their match to Bianca Belair, Io Shirai and Kairi Sane, which points me in the direction of one of those three being the woman to stand up to the bullies.
Kairi Sane has already had her chances in the past around Evolution, so I’m ruling her out and narrowing it down to a rematch of Bianca Belair/Shayna Baszler or that they’ll skip to Io Shirai/Shayna Baszler in order to do something different.
There’s one other element that’s missing, though, which is Candice LeRae (okay, technically, Deonna Purrazzo as well, but shhh). Maybe, maybe, the March content is used to build to Candice LeRae getting a title opportunity against Shayna Baszler, but I’m nowhere near banking on that.
Admittedly, there could be a plan to do some non-title situation like having Toni Storm come from NXT UK to do a Champion Versus Champion scenario, just for a featured spot in order to drag out Shayna Baszler’s title reign a little longer without having to establish a No. 1 contender, but I doubt that, too.
Instead, I’m going with my gut and saying Io Shirai challenges Shayna Baszler for the belt and there’s some kind of gimmick attached to it like a Lumberjack Match or a cage in order to prevent Marina Shafir and Jessamyn Duke from interfering. Or, maybe, Io Shirai just has Kairi Sane and Bianca Belair by her side and that’s good enough.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match
This is certainly tough, as all that’s been established so far is that War Raiders are open for a challenge posed by Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, European Union, The Street Profits, Humberto Carrillo and Stacey Ervin Jr, and of course, The Undisputed Era, who want their belts back.
I mentioned before that I wouldn’t be shocked if they switched things up by having Bobby Fish team with Kyle O’Reilly instead of Roderick Strong, but that’s also taking a leap. Plus, that may be my bias wanting to just change things up a bit, because I think we’re getting a rematch here and if they at least swap out of the members of The Undisputed ERA, it won’t be exactly the same as NXT TakeOver: Phoenix.
The Undisputed Era are too popular and important of a team on this brand to be overlooked and since they have unfinished business, it would be good if they had one final attempt to win back their titles by facing War Raiders again, definitively losing and moving on to the main roster after WrestleMania.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals
Last year, the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic took place around this time with its conclusion happening at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, combined with the NXT Tag Team Championship.
They haven’t forecast that it will return at all yet, least of all here, but I’m working under the assumption that that will be the case, if not just as a means to utilize Matt Riddle and Keith Lee as a unit and get them on the card.
Between live events and the February 27th to April 3rd episodes of NXT, that’s plenty of time to go through the tag team tournament with the likes of Matt Riddle/Keith Lee, The Street Profits, European Union, Oney Lorcan/Danny Burch, The Forgotten Sons, Humberto Carrillo/someone (Ervin Jr? Raul Mendoza), Drew Gulak and Gentleman Jack Gallagher, Moustache Mountain, Flash Morgan Webster and Mark Andrews, Kona Reeves and Dan Matha (if that’s still a thing), Rinku Singh and Saurav Gurjar, etc.
Who faces Matt Riddle and Keith Lee in the finals? My guess is The Forgotten Sons, who lose.
Something Representing NXT UK
I don’t know what, but my gut tells me we’re getting a sixth match and this will be a slightly longer event, with them wanting to showcase the NXT UK brand in some fashion.
If that does happen, it can be a multitude of different things. Jinny could fight Toni Storm for the NXT UK Women’s Championship, Grizzled Young Veterans can be part of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament, WALTER could fight Pete Dunne for the United Kingdom Championship, or WWE could have a concoction of the division by putting on a battle royal or a big multi-man tag team match (Gallus and GYV against British Strong Style and two other people?)
Absolutely nothing of any sorts with NXT UK happened at this set of tapings other than European Union showing up, but they’re a cross-branded team anyway, so that’s not something special. I’m just taking a shot in the dark that they won’t want NXT UK completely absent from WrestleMania activities.
NXT Championship Fatal 5-Way Match: Tommaso Ciampa (c) vs. Adam Cole vs. Aleister Black vs. Johnny Gargano vs. Ricochet.
NXT Women’s Championship Match: Shayna Baszler (c) vs. Io Shirai.
NXT Tag Team Championship Match: War Raiders (c) vs. The Undisputed Era
NXT North American Championship Match: Velveteen Dream (c) vs. Roderick Strong or Bobby Fish.
Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Finals.
Something with NXT UK…maybe.