After Andrade “Cien” Almas dropped the NXT Championship to Aleister Black at NXT Takeover: New Orleans on April 7, fans speculated it was only a matter of time before he was called to the main roster – and sure enough it happened.
On the April 17 episode of Smackdown Live, it was announced Almas and his manager Zelina Vega were being drafted to Smackdown Live as part of the WWE’s Superstar Shakeup.
So when the NXT Universe at Full Sail University watched Vega tangle with Candice LeRae on the April 18 episode of NXT, they may have not realized it would be the only time they would see her compete in the ring.
The same could probably be said for NXT Takeover after Almas dropped the title. NXT fans, including myself, didn’t know they were probably witnessing Almas’ last match with the brand. Usually when an NXT champion drops the belt, they will have their rematch and maybe a short program or two before they called up to the main roster.
As much as tonight’s episode of NXT is a sign of new beginnings – Johnny Gargano challenging Black for the NXT title and the in-ring debut of the War Raiders – it’s hard not to look back and view Almas and Vegas’ time in NXT.
Most fans know about Almas’ time as La Sombra and how he made a name for himself in Mexico and Japan – including forming the Los Ingobernables stable. He came to WWE in 2015 and started slow in NXT. He found himself in the lower card, losing matches and seemingly adopting a party guy character before Vega came into the picture.
The on-screen chemistry of Almas and Vega was apparent from the get-go. Although there was a hint of a past romance, their relationship was strictly business. Almas had a renewed focus and started winning matches and putting on great performances, specifically with Gargano, who he defeated twice.
Almas won the NXT Championship from Drew McIntyre at NXT Takeover: War Games, which surprised fans who thought he would drop it shortly to a Roderick Strong and Gargano.
But while the win over McIntyre gave him his first gold in WWE, Almas’ title defense against Gargano at NXT Takeover: Philadelphia was a star-making performance – five stars to be exact. The next night Almas made a surprise appearance during the 2018 men’s Royal Rumble match.
Almas seemed to be just another body in NXT, but he’s broken through and become one of the brand’s hottest acts.
While Almas was impressive in the ring, he usually didn’t win matches on his own. Vega would interfere in some way, costing Almas’ opponent the match.
Vega is special because the WWE or NXT Universes haven’t seen a female manager like her in quite some time. She can talk a good game on the microphone, get in the face of Almas’ opponents and take bumps in the ring. In an era where managers in professional wrestling – especially in WWE – is a lost art.
Prior to signing with WWE, Vega had wrestled in independent promotions and TNA. She’s only 27 years old and has a whole career ahead of her – and while it would be great to see her mix it up with women on the current roster, Vega has the opportunity to set a new standard for managers.
She is on her way to becoming a worthy person to take over Heyman’s role once he is done in wrestling. Her presence in WWE could also usher in a new era of managers.
It’s good to see Vega and Almas make the trip to the main roster together. As someone who loves NXT and has seen them grow into their characters, I expect big things from the both of them.
NXT UK Premiers on WWE Network October 17
WWE has officially announced the premier of NXT UK on the WWE Network, in a Twitter post that appeared on Wednesday morning.
Per the announcement, the UK division of the NXT brand will debut on October 17th at 8pm BST and will air weekly, featuring male and female wrestlers in the UK.
BREAKING: #NXTUK, a new weekly episodic series featuring the greatest male and female competitors from the UK, will stream on @WWENetwork on Wednesdays beginning 17th October at 8pm BST. pic.twitter.com/L8wVJquMdF
— WWE UK (@WWEUK) October 11, 2018
Lita Praises Bianca Belair
WWE Hall of Famer Lita had some high praise for NXT superstar Bianca Belair, noting her “great attitude” and how “physically gifted” she is, adding that “when I very first saw her she had that intangible star quality that I just want to see more”, during an interview with The Sun.
“Down at the performance center, all the guys at NXT are in the ring every day and in class,” Lita said. “They have everything they need to learn and there is so much talent in regards to physical ability and thinking about their character. But for someone to have that intangible star factor… Bianca Belair, along with some other the others there, is very talented.”
Lita is also impressed with how Blair uses her hair as a weapon.
“It’s crazy, no-one has ever used their hair as a weapon. It’s so cool how she thought of that and how it works. She sure has that star quality and uniqueness.”
Johnny Gargano Talks NXT, Dream Matches
NXT superstar Johnny Gargano remains one of the most popular superstars on the brand and while his callup to the main roster seems imminent, he prefers to stay on the NXT brand, a brand he takes a lot of pride in.
“I do not see why not, everyone’s dream – and mine too – is to wrestle at WrestleMania, but right now NXT is such a special place” Gargano said of a potential call up, during an interview with the Daily Star.
“We are focused on building something wrestling fans can be proud of, and we are building it together.”
But Gargano, during a recent media session, discussed some dream matches he would want to make a reality when he does make it to the main roster.
“[…] so I’m going up to the main roster…after I win the NXT title and everything’s done. After that, man, I’m gonna say, obviously Daniel Bryan” Gargano said. “That’s a dream match that a lot of people would love to see now.”
“I think I just posted a Tweet recently that the internet went nuts for, and that’s me and Seth Rollins,” Gargano said. “Because, of course, I wore my Captain America Infinity War gear and he just wore the Thanos gear, so you never know what can happen there.”
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