WWE‘s Royal Rumble weekend is a few days away, which means the Road to Wrestlemania is about to begin. While many fans are excited for the annual 30 man over the top battle royal – as well as the first women’s Royal Rumble match – there are folks who are looking forward to this weekend’s NXT Takeover: Philadelphia event.
This Saturday’s NXT Takeover, which takes place the night before the Royal Rumble in the Wells Fargo Center, features five matches on the main broadcast, one being the NXT Championship bout between Andrade “Cien” Almas and challenger Johnny Gargano.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) January 25, 2018
Also on tap is the NXT women’s title match between Ember Moon and challenger Shayna Baszler and the tag team championship bout with titleholders The Undisputed Era – Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly – facing former champions The Authors of Pain.
There are two non-title matches on the card. Adam Cole will face Aleister Black. Although Black and Cole are not fighting for NXT gold, they will no doubt beat the tar out of each other as their match is under Extreme Rules.
Rounding out the card is Kassius Ohno, who will face off against the Velveteen Dream in a match announced by Triple H in a media call.
WWE has made a tradition of holding NXT Takeover events on the night before bigger pay per view events. While the WWE and NXT Universes get to devour two nights of wrestling, there are some fans who will watch and enjoy NXT, then are exhausted the next day.
There are also multiple wrestling events happening this weekend, such as New Japan Pro Wrestling’s New Beginning of Sapporo events on Saturday and Sunday.
Even though it seems like there is too much wrestling for a person to consume in the course of two days, wrestling fans should at least carve a little bit of time of time during the weekend – at least 2-3 hours – to watch NXT Takeover: Philadelphia.
One reason is fans will appreciate the quality of wrestling put on by the performers at the event.
For being designated as WWE’s developmental brand, NXT has some of the best wrestling in the world. This is a credit to the performers – both experienced and new – who sign with the company and the trainers at the WWE Performance Center.
But the performances are turned up to 11 at Takeover events. Every NXT Takeover event in the last year has produced a “Match of the Year,” candidate from non-title matches like Velveteen Dream vs. Black at NXT Takeover: Houston to the WWE United Kingdom title bout between Pete Dunne and Tyler Bate at NXT Takeover: Chicago.
The NXT championship match between Gargano and Almas has the potential to be the match of the year. Their bout at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn III set the bar to an unattainable height that evening. Their rematch on an October episode of NXT also delivered.
The other three contests have the potential to steal the show. Fans can expect Bazler to turn up the intensity when she faces Moon for the title, while Cole v. Black will be a memorable slugfest.
— WWE Network (@WWENetwork) January 25, 2018
Fans will also be in store for an entertaining match between the Authors of Pain and the former reDRagon. Can O’Reilly and Fish use their speed and technical skills to out match and out class AOP?
There’s also the possibility that Ohno and Dream could be a breakaway. Even though this match came out of nowhere, both wrestlers have the capability of putting on great matches.
Viewers at home not only have the opportunity to watch good wrestling, they can listen as NXT’s commentary team – Mauro Ranallo, Nigel McGuinness and Percy Watson – shine as they put over the matches and the talent.
— Kyle O'Reilly (@KORcombat) January 21, 2018
Besides seeing the popular NXT superstars, there are usually cameos from NXT alumni and WWE superstars, as well as the on-screen debuts of new wrestlers. One example is Bobby Roode, who was a face in the crowd at NXT Takeover: Dallas. Drew McIntyre was sitting in the front row at NXT Takeover: Orlando – the next day he announced he would be wrestling on the NXT brand.
WWE recently announced the signings of popular talents Ricochet, Candice LeRae and War Machine and there is a chance we could one or all four of them at Takeover.
Fans may even see LeRae stand in the ring and celebrate with Gargano if he wins the NXT Championship.
NXT Takeover: Philadelphia brings an air of uncertainty when it comes to the men’s and women’s championship bouts.
— WWE NXT (@WWENXT) January 18, 2018
Although Almas is 2-0 against Gargano, there is a chance “Johnny Wrestling” could usurp him as the NXT champion. Fans who have watch Gargano struggle to make it to the top of the NXT mountain will finally see him win the big one.
NXT Takeover: Philadelphia may only have four matches at this point, but the brand will pack a lot into the show that fans will enjoy and be talking about until the next Takeover event, which is scheduled for April 7 in New Orleans.
Tyler Bate Believes He is Strongest Man in WWE
NXT’s Mustache Mountain, Tyler Bate and Trent Seven have been tearing it up in NXT and both sat down recently for an interview with The Mirror. Bate wasn’t holding back, claiming that he believes that he is the WWE’s strongest man.
“I like to think I’m the strongest man in WWE. It’s why I call myself the Big Strong Boi” Bate proclaimed.
Bate also chimed in on the NXT UK Women’s Championship and how it creates an amazing opportunity for the women’s division.
“It’s a great opportunity for all of the women in the company to show the world what they’re made of and show everybody how good they are. I’m looking forward to everybody else getting to watch them perform and I’m sure they will do a great job.”
After their performance at NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn 4 when the lost to The Undisputed Era in a NXT Tag Team Championship bout, Pat McAfee compared the duo to the British Bulldogs tag team composed of Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid.
“Yeah, well he was very complimentary” Seven said. “It does make you think about just what kind of impact we can have as regards being UK and British wrestlers, having the chance to travel abroad and overseas, being able to wrestle on that stage, it’s a burden I’m more than happy to have.”
“Yeah it’s a lot of pressure to be compared to teams like the Bulldogs and I think Mustache Mountain can really live up to that pressure” Bate said.
“I agree” Seven added.”I think it’s that kind of pressure that really pushes people on to the next level. Our goal is to continue climbing the ladder of WWE and eventually get on the main roster but for now, let’s just keep building the brand of NXT UK.”
Jessamyn Duke Makes NXT Live Event Debut
A professional wrestling prophecy was fulfilled during the NXT live event in Largo, Florida as Jessamyn Duke made her NXT event debut alongside her Four Horsewomen comrades Shayna Baszler and Marina Shafir.
The trio defeated the team of current NXT Women’s Champion Kairi Sane and 2018 Mae Young Classic competitors Io Shirai and Deonna Purrazzo.
Last nights victory was just the beginning.
— Jessamyn Duke (@jessamynduke) August 26, 2018
It was a good showing Duke’s debut and is the beginning of what could be an impressive run for her. It is also the first step toward the three Horsewomen reuniting with Raw Women’s Champion Ronda Rousey on the main roster.
It has been almost five years since the four first appeared together on “The Ultimate Fighter 18: Team Rousey vs. Team Tate” where Rousey coached Bazler and Duke, and Shafir was an assistant coach. Their time on the show together grew into a friendship that would lead into a mutual love of pro wrestling and life changing experiences. The four started calling themselves the Four Horsewomen as an homage to the famous stable – and even started flashing the four fingers sign like their namesake.
This drew mixed reactions from people, mostly critics would call them out saying “They aren’t the real Horsemen.”
Each member of the Four Horsewomen found a different path to professional wrestling with Baszler competing on the indies and in Japan, and in the 2017 Mae Young Classic where she lost to Sane in the finals. Rousey signed with WWE in 2018 after months of speculation, making her on-screen debut in the Royal Rumble and competing at Wrestlemania 34.
Duke and Shafir signed with WWE back in May and were signed to NXT. Some speculate they will be called up to the main roster with Baszler to reunite with Rousey and kickoff the Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen feud. While fans are chomping at the bit to see this storyline come to life, they shouldn’t be disappointed if Duke and Shafir stay on NXT for some time.
Both Duke and Shafir are relatively rookies when it comes to professional wrestling. While their lack of experience does not mean they don’t belong in a WWE ring, their time in NXT will help them develop their in-ring abilities, promo skills and persona to prepare them for a main roster run. Being in NXT allows Duke and Shafir an opportunity to learn from some of the best trainers, as well as practice and refine their abilities – all while working in a production system similar to WWE’s main roster.
If they jumped straight to the main roster, they are going to have to grow their skills really fast without that coaching, and in front of a WWE crowd that will eat a performer alive if they feel that person isn’t ready for a main roster run.
An issue with Duke and Shafir being called up to the main roster with little experience, is there’s a chance they could be lost in the shuffle after several months on Raw or Smackdown. They will gain experience and have good matches with the Four Horsewomen storyline, which could last for several months. Where do they go after the angle is done? Do they stay in Rousey’s shadow, or does WWE creative go with the classic break up angle.
WWE has talent on both Raw and Smackdown women’s divisions, but the company’s creative department does not have a great track record when it comes to creating qualitystorylines for wrestlers outside of the competitors in the championship picture.
The Horsewomen will have to face those challenges when they are eventually called up to main, but their time in NXT will have better prepared to adapt to that environment.
If there is a time on the main roster where creative separates the Horsewomen on seperate brands, Duke – who had established herself on NXT – can welcome that challenge and make the most of the opportunity.
Another benefit of training in NXT is Duke and Shafir will have a chance to wrestle some of the best competition from the world. Athletes like Shirai, Sane and Purrazzo are regarded as some of the best in their field, and Duke and Shafir could gain good experience from being in the ring with them.
With WWE establishing the NXT UK brand, Duke and Shafir have some new potential opponents across the pond like Toni Storm, Jinny and Isla Dawn.
NXT is not a dead end for any wrestler, let alone inexperienced talent like Duke and Shafir. It is a place where they can gain a wealth of knowledge and experience that will benefit their professional wrestling journey.
NXT UK Women’s Title Lineage Begins
NXT UK fans did not have to wait for a championship coronation to receive a glimpse of the NXT UK Women’s Championship belt.
During the NXT UK tapings at the Insomnia Festival in Birmingham, England, Triple H unveiled the NXT UK Women’s title.
The inaugural NXT UK Women’s Champion will be crowned this weekend during a two-day tournament featuring the following competitors: Toni Storm, Dakota Kai, Rhea Ripley, Jinny, Isla Dawn, Killer Kelly, Millie McKenzie, Nina Samuels, and Xia Brookside. The finals of the tournament is scheduled for Aug. 26.
Fans will not have to wait too long to see the NXT UK Women’s titleholder to defend their belt. The NXT UK Women’s is scheduled to be defended at WWE Evolution pay per view on Oct. 28.
The NXT UK Women’s title design appears to have elements of current championships shown on WWE programming. It has a white leather strap like the Raw and Smackdown women’s titles, as well as the WWE Intercontinental Championship. The belt’s center and side plates have the same design and detail as the WWE United Kingdom Championship, currently held by Pete Dunne.
While the men’s UK title has the WWE logo in the middle of the center plate, this new belt has NXT etched in the middle of the plate.
Fan reception of the new championship has been positive so far, with some folks even saying the design of the women’s and men’s UK titles are better than the belts on the WWE main roster.
When it comes to championships, WWE likes to use different design concepts, especially when it comes to championships with continents or countries in their name. The center plate design of both the men’s and women’s UK belts is based on the United Kingdom’s royal coat of arms.
The NXT North American Championship’s design has a center plate with a globe showing only the North American continent.
The Greatest Royal Rumble title belt, which Braun Strowman won at the event with the same name, received a title belt for winning a 50-man Royal Rumble. For the belt’s center plate, designers used an Arabic pattern with the WWE logo in the middle. The title’s side plates were modeled after the the official logo of Saudi General Sports Authority, which is identical to the country’s emblem. The belt’s green leather strap was modeled after the color of the Saudi Arabian national flag.
WWE unveiling the NXT UK Women’s title shows the company is taking the first step to establish the UK women’s division. If the company allows the titleholder to defend the belt in other promotions – like they have with the men’s UK title – then fans will likely see the championship at European independent events.
Any of the women competing in the tournament would make a great inaugural champion for the title. A seasoned veteran like Storm, who has been all over the world, would bring legitimacy to the title right off the bat. Meanwhile an up-and-comer like Brookside could raise her stock by winning and holding on to that title.
Critics could say the title doesn’t really mean anything outside of a WWE ring because NXT is considered a developmental brand. Yet the wrestling world at large knows that being a part of WWE whether it’s through the main roster or NXT is still a big accomplishment.
Part of what separates a good champion from a great one, is a great titleholder will elevate that title and make it as important to them as a world champion would with their title. If WWE and the wrestlers invest their time and energy into growing the NXT UK Women’s division, this new championship could have a the same prestige as any of the women’s titles on WWE’s main roster.
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