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.
Donovan Dijak Suffers Injury at NXT Vengeance Day
NXT Vengeance Day was a rousing success for WWE on Saturday which saw a number of headlines come out of the event that was well-received by fans, including an injury suffered by Donovan Dijak during his match with Wes Lee for the North American Championship.
Dijak suffered an apparent broken finger during the match, which was seen on camera and shared on social media.
Following the event NXT general manager Shawn Michaels provided an update on Dijak, stating he did not suffer a broken finger – “Yeah, everybody is good” Michaels said. “I announced it at gorilla, it’s got to be a miracle, It’s not broken.
“We got him x-ray, they said it’s not broken and so yeah, I guess what you do is you kind of numb it and put it back in place and that’s what’s happening now. But it is, again, a modern miracle because we all saw it, it was pretty gnarly looking. But, apparently, he’s going to be okay, which is obviously fantastic news for us and him.”
William Regal’s New Title in WWE Return
William Regal has made his return to WWE following his brief stint with AEW and now has a new title that is much different than what he had prior to his release from WWE during budget cuts last year.
Regal was Director of Talent Development and Head of Global Recruiting prior to his release. Regal was also the former General Manager for NXT and also had an on-screen role before he made his way to AEW.
According to PWInsider, Regal is now the Vice President, Global Talent Development for WWE.
Ahead of his return to WWE and amid his exit from AEW, Regal issued the following on social media:
“Yesterday was my last official day with @AEW. I’d like to thank @TonyKhan, Megha and all the hard working crew. Contrary to people who’ve never spoken to me or have their information from people who don’t know me or are trying to make themselves noticed, I had a lovely time working there and had a great time. Lots of talented Wrestlers, and lovely people to work for. To my fellow BCC members, it was a special, albeit brief few months but it cemented our already strong friendship. To everyone there, thank you for welcoming me. Best wishes.”
Ex-NJPW Star Karl Fredericks Signs with WWE
Former New Japan Pro Wrestling star Karl Fredericks has officially signed with WWE following the conclusion of his four-year tenure with NJPW. Fredericks announced on social media back in summer 2022 that he would not re-sign with NJPW.
Fredericks was initially linked to WWE last September, when he was reportedly spotted at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida.
According to PW Insider, Fredericks has officially signed with WWE and will be a part of the NXT brand initially.
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