This past weekend at NXT TakeOver XXX, Karrion Kross defeated Keith Lee to win the NXT Championship. A few days later, neither man is champion, nor even in the running to hold the title any time soon.
Lee moved up to the Raw roster this past Monday night, while Kross has been forced to relinquish the title due to a separated shoulder injury. There’s no telling how long he’ll be on the shelf, but it’s long enough he can’t stay champion.
To fill the void, William Regal announced there will be a 60-Minute Iron Man match on NXT Super Tuesday to crown the next champion. The Fatal 4-Way will consist of Adam Cole, Finn Balor, Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
Who is the best option for the next champion? Let’s break down all the participants!
#4. Adam Cole
After having 403 days with Cole as champion, I think I can rule him out as my favorite option. That’s no knock on his skills by any means, though. He’s one of the most talented talkers and in-ring performers the brand has and if he were a little taller, he’d be a world champion on the main roster by now, for sure. That’s the only thing working against him climbing higher in WWE when it comes to the powers that be and who they push.
But he was champion for over a year and it wasn’t even that long ago. Keith Lee only dethroned him at Great American Bash in July. That was 44 days ago—just over a month.
I don’t think there are enough fresh matches for him that I could see getting heavily invested in. Frankly, I think he might even go to Raw or SmackDown with the upcoming draft, for that matter.
#3. Johnny Gargano
If Gargano was a babyface, I think I’d be much more inclined to make him higher on this list. He could even be a good option to hold the belt all the way until Kross could return so that he’d be a sympathetic loser to get wrecked.
I love the guy—he’s another one of my absolute favorites in WWE as a whole right now. In fact, I’d say he’s a top 10, maybe even top 5. But just because I like a performer doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for every role.
Right now, if Gargano were to win the title and play the character he’s playing, I think it would be a bit of a drag. Sure, he’s reliable for all his matches to be great, but I don’t want Dinner with the Garganos to be the main headline featurette of every episode of NXT.
#2. Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa just made his return to NXT this week after being squashed by Kross at TakeOver: In Your House. In his comeback, he reverted to his true villainous nature by turning heel on Jake Atlas, attacking him after their match and sending him out on a stretcher.
I was surprised to see this. While I like Ciampa better as a heel, I didn’t think they’d be going in this direction so soon. Granted, maybe they planned on having Kross fight Ciampa and the heel turn would come later down the line, so they’re just skipping ahead, but in any fashion, that’s where we’re at.
He never lost the title during his reign as he had to vacate it, too. Maybe there’s a story to be told about that, with him capitalizing on someone else’s injury to reset his status quo.
One major positive is that Ciampa as a heel is fresher than Cole and Gargano, so we could see him against some names that he couldn’t have feuded with over the last stretch of time. Dominik Dijakovic, Pete Dunne (when he’s able to travel), Damian Priest and Dexter Lumis (when he’s recovered) come to mind.
But the real winner here is…
#1. Finn Balor
To be honest, Balor is my least favorite of the four options. I tend to enjoy everything the other three put out better, whether it’s their matches or their promos. However, I think he’s the right man for the job right now.
Balor brings a different level of clout to the belt at first-thought. He’s a former champion like everyone else, but he’s also won multiple titles on the main roster. No one else can say they were a world champion, even though he only held it for one day.
He’s the most well-known of the bunch, which doesn’t hurt. Plus, he’s been playing a bit of a tweener character, feuding with anyone at random since his return to the black and gold brand.
We’ve seen him against babyfaces, heels and people like Priest who actually turned from heel to face because of their match. That means more flexibility and variety in that Balor can have matches with Ciampa, Gargano, Cole and some of the other big guns while also fighting Dijakovic, Lumis, Dunne, Thatcher and anyone else who could step up. He’s got the arrogant, pissed off nature in his character that I could see him picking a fight with anyone on the roster and believably playing whatever part he needs to for that feud before moving on to do the opposite, if need be.
Balor vs. Kross could also be the money match for down the line. The battle of who has the cooler, edgy entrance. It makes sense to me in more ways than the others, so I’d have to give my endorsement to Balor.
I guess we’ll find out next Tuesday. Be sure to check back here then for coverage of NXT to see who wins the belt!
Who do you want to be the next NXT champion? Tell us your preference and your predictions of who will win the title in the comments below!