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NXT: Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas and Zelina Vega Wrap Up Impressive Run

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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.

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NXT’s Adam Cole Discusses Creative Freedom

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NXT Champion Adam Cole is at the height of his success with the promotion, recently defeating Johnny Gargano in another instant classic to capture his first NXT Championship, and he is talking about how things go down in NXT.

Unlike much of the main roster, where promos are often scripted and comedy-acts are more common, Cole says that superstars in NXT get a bit more creative freedom, as he had with Gargano for their match.

“One of the coolest things about NXT is we have a ton of creative liberties to come up with the story and the vision we have for the match” Cole said, during an interview with TalkSport. “Of course, there’s input and advice given and there’s suggestions or, you know ‘we need something this way’ (but) we do have a lot of freedom, which is great.”

Cole added that he and Gargano came up with the format for their two out of three falls classic at NXT Takeover: New York.

 

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Fandango, Apollo Crews, Killain Dain Make Returns to NXT

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Apollo Crews

WWE is starting to allow superstars on their main rosters to transition back to NXT, much like they did with Tyler Breeze, who recently returned to NXT, where he had his most success, following around 2 years of meandering on the main roster following his callup.

Fandango, Apollo Crews, and Killian Dain made their returns to NXT tv at Winter Park, FL at Full Sail University for Thursday’s NXT TV tapings.

Fandango, also making his return from injury, made the save for his Breezango partner, Tyler Breeze, who was on the receiving end of an attack at the hands of the Forgotten Sons. Crews made his return to take on Kushida in singles competition, and Dain made a brutal attack on Matt Riddle following Riddle’s win over Arture Rass.

Fandango had been out of action after suffering a shoulder injury back in July 2018.

 

 

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Tommaso Ciampa Undergoes Successful Surgery

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NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa has undergone successful neck surgery this past Thursday in Birmingham, Alabama, according to WWE.

Ciampa is expected to miss 3-6 months as he recovers from the surgery.

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