The Future is Now.
That is the idiom Executive Vice President of Talent, Live Events and Creative Paul “Triple H” Levesque has been using since he led the charge in the transition from developmental Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW) to the self-proclaimed “third” brand of WWE, NXT.
The on-screen C.O.O. of WWE is the founder and senior producer of NXT. In just over two years after the first WWE Network special, NXT Arrival, the former developmental has morphed into one of the hottest wrestling promotions in the world. Combining the production quality of the biggest name in sports entertainment with the feel and size of an independent promotion, it seems there is only one direction NXT is headed: up.
A new dilemma facing the main roster of WWE and its flagship show, RAW, is who is better? The die-hard wrestling community would most likely agree that NXT’s storylines and characters are more compelling and dynamic. Yet, RAW boasts established stars and storied championships.
Many fans are looking toward the NXT special in Dallas, Texas during WrestleMania 32 weekend with more anticipation and fervor than for the Grandest Stage of Them All. And with the plethora of talent on the NXT roster right now, it does not seem like too much of an overstatement.
When the card for NXT TakeOver Dallas looks a lot better than the card for WrestleMania 32…
— John Quinteros (@SpaceScreamJohn) March 1, 2016
There is one superstar who is very well capable of headlining the Show of Shows itself. And he is expected to make his in-ring NXT debut at Takeover: Dallas. That superstar is Shinsuke Nakamura. Just last year, the King of Strong Style collected five-star ratings from renowned pro-wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer for two of his matches.
Right now, it’s unclear who Nakamura will face. Although, it may be safe to say, his opponent will be the loser of the number-one contender match between Samoa Joe and Sami Zayn. Zayn and Nakamura’s style are more closely aligned, so it’s safe to lean that way.
Other matches include the NXT championship. Finn Balor will face either Zayn or Samoa Joe. Now although we have seen Joe-Balor recently at NXT Takeover London in December, creative may use Dallas as a launching pad to move either Joe or Balor to the main roster.
Baron Corbin, who is aching to make it to the main roster, will most likely face new NXT signee Austin Aries.
On the women’s side, Bayley received a clear message from Asuka on the Feb. 10 edition of NXT. The stiff striker came to the rescue of Bayley and Carmella after their championship match and helped ward off Eva Marie and Nia Jax. However, Asuka brushed her hand across the NXT Women’s championship, making her intentions known to the champ. This match is very anticipated as both women have not locked up yet since Asuka arrived.
In the tag team division, if the last few weeks are anything to go by, champions Dash and Dawson will face Jason Jordan and Chad Gable. American Alpha has a ton of steam behind it as it continues to grow. The duo’s technical prowess, Gable’s charisma and Jordan’s recently-discovered Kurt Angle strap pop spot, all point to a shot at the tag team gold at the biggest NXT Takeover in history.
Finally, the NXT creative team has shrewdly booked the mysterious Elias Samson as untouchable. His recent actions have made his character lean toward the heel side of the gauge. So what better face to knock him off than Apollo Crews. The high-flying power wrestler has been trying to get back on track since his loss to Corbin in London. He tried his hand at downing Balor in a non-title contest, but failed. With wins against Tye Dillinger and Christopher Girard, Crews is poised to pick up a strong mid-card victory.
The Samson booking is a perfect example of how NXT is more effectively building non-main event stars. It’s common sense that not all superstars can be in the main event at once. So it is necessary to build storylines under the main event that draw the fans toward a superstar they can cheer to one day be in the main event picture or boo for that star to never make it there.
Either way, NXT’s Dallas card is more tightly constructed and positioned to make a hell of an impression come April 1 when it takes over the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. With over 10,000 fans expected to be in attendance, the NXT stars will be the first to set the stage for WrestleMania weekend. And like all talents not in the main event, NXT will look to make its show impossible to follow.