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 Takeover: Blackpool Card
WWE is preparing for their upcoming NXT event, NXT Takeover: Blackpool, and after the airing of this week’s NXT, the full card is now in focus.
NXT UK’s first Takeover event hits the WWE Network, live from Blackpool, England, this Saturday.
Here is the card, at the time of this writing:
NXT UK Women’s Championship Match – Rhea Ripley (c) vs. Toni Storm
NXT UK Tag Team Championship Match – Moustache Mountain (Trent Seven and Tyler Bate) vs. Grizzled Young Veterans (Zack Gibson and James Drake)
WWE United Kingdom Championship Match – Pete Dunne (c) vs. Joe Coffey
No DQ Match – Dave Mastiff vs. Eddie Dennis
Travis Banks vs. Jordan Devlin
WWE Reportedly Interested In KUSHIDA
IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion KUSHIDA is reportedly drawing interest from WWE, according to a report from the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
KUSHIDA, 35, has been the cornerstone of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s light heavyweight division and one of their most recognized stars, globally.
The report indicates that NXT is the destination if WWE were to lure KUSHIDA from New Japan.
With NXT globalizing, an NXT Japan seems like a natural progression for the brand and KUSHIDA could be in those potential plans moving forward.
Matt Riddle Talks About Joining WWE/NXT
NXT superstar Matt Riddle has been gaining popularity since his landmark signing earlier this year, and during a recent interview with ESPN for their story on the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Florida, Riddle says that he should have been with WWE long before his 2018 signing.
“I moved my family down here, I’ve got three kids and a wife, so it’s nice,” Riddle said.
“I just wrestle in Florida every weekend. We occasionally do tours or TakeOvers, but for the most part, now I get to spend more time with my family. I’m more local, and it’s great. The training here is top-notch,” he continued. “Where I was, I was lucky to even train three times a week, because my schedule was so insane — and I didn’t have the coaches or amenities to do [much more than that].”
“I just feel like I belong here. I felt like I belonged here three-and-a-half years ago when I had my first try out.”
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