Before we take care of the superstars missing from NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, let’s examine who will be the lucky few who will not only perform, but likely steal the show in some capacity.
Whether it’s in a scripted or non-kayfabe sense by factoring in everything from wins and losses, how much of an emphasis they’re given on the show, their momentum for the next TV episode, match performances and everything between, here’s my shortlist for who I think will be stealing the show at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, in no particular order.
Simply put, Aleister Black is winning the NXT Championship in the main event of the evening. That sentence sums it all up.
If you’re looking for something deeper than that, though, the reasoning for this is three-fold: Andrade “Cien” Almas has accomplished everything he can possibly do in the NXT system and falls into the same category of previous champions who graduate to the main roster pretty much as soon as they drop the title, Aleister Black has been poised as a nearly undefeated top guy and they’ll keep that mystique around him because they’re clearly fond of him, and when it comes to the NXT title itself, Almas has had a longer run with the belt than 5 other title reigns in the championship’s history, so it’s not as though he’ll be looked at as a transitional champion. It’s a more than adequate enough title reign, and it’s time for it to end and Black’s to start.
This is the TakeOver for WrestleMania, so it’s the perfect time to switch over to somebody new to refresh the brand with a different top dog and to give Almas the chance to move up to the main roster around Backlash.
Black will be part of a shift from heel to babyface to counterbalance another title change that will go the opposite route with babyface to heel…
Simply put, Shayna Baszler is winning the NXT Women’s Championship, and you’ve already heard this before up above with Black’s situation.
This is a different scenario, though, as it presents the opportunity for a mixture of a rehash between Asuka’s dominance at the top of the division and the struggle to overcome a heel like when Sasha Banks was holding the title.
There is no way Baszler, a friend of Ronda Rousey’s, is in WWE to be the runner-up for the Mae Young Classic and to lose her two title shots against Ember Moon. No, I’m of the opinion that Moon retaining was just because they didn’t want her to lose the title that early and they figured they’d be able to put a hold on it and just do the title change here for WrestleMania weekend when Rousey would be officially in WWE so they could have some sort of tie-in together down the line about that.
Moon will put up a fight, of course, but Baszler will figure out a way to make her tap out and take the strap, which I feel like she’s going to hold for quite a while until either Kairi Sane or Candice LeRae manages to take it off her much later in 2018.
The leader of The Undisputed Era will be pulling double duty as he competes in both the Triple Threat for the NXT Tag Team Championship and Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic finals as well as in the Six-Pack Challenge ladder match to crown the North American champion.
Wrestling twice on the same card in two title matches instantly gives him double the opportunity to do something to be talked about, even if it’s just the pure act of doing that two-turn performance.
On top of that, I have to believe he’s going to win at least one of those matches, and between the two, it makes more sense to me to keep the titles on The Undisputed Era rather than to transition them to either the makeshift tag team of a guy who will likely graduate to 205 Live after WrestleMania and the United Kingdom champion, or the previous winners of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic who already held the titles and should be main roster bound soon in their own right.
Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly were the original intended people for this match, not Cole, but due to The Freebird Rule, Cole will take Fish’s place going forward and I think WWE realizes that they need to keep the momentum in their direction if they are going to also keep The Undisputed Era as a topic we should be talking about.
Cole may not get the pin to retain the titles, but I do think that’s a strong possibility, and I think this will be the first match of the night to give him some momentum into the later segment.
The North American Championship Winner
It’s extremely hard to tell who WWE is going to pick out of the impressive list of competitors fighting to obtain the North American Championship.
As mentioned before, though, I don’t think this is Adam Cole’s match to win, as his victory will be in the tag team title match instead and it would be overkill for him to hold two titles.
Everybody else, though, is up for grabs, and it’s a crapshoot to determine which one has the advantage.
Lars Sullivan and Killian Dain are the two powerhouses who could easily take the title and have a long reign as a dominant person to overcome—something Aleister Black doesn’t have in his wheelhouse.
Then again, this is exactly the type of match they can lose without looking weak, so wouldn’t it make sense for WWE to take advantage of that by having someone smaller than them get a victory instead?
Between EC3, Ricochet and The Velveteen Dream, I have to eliminate Ricochet on the grounds that the babyface winning makes it harder to build a story out of it, but a heel coming out on top and then feuding with Ricochet (who will undoubtedly wow the audience here) makes for an easier path.
Then, it becomes a coin toss for EC3 and The Velveteen Dream, and I honestly have no idea which one I would lean toward. I’m a big fan of both of them, so personal bias doesn’t even help determine that.
Either EC3 gets the win because he’s the more established star and this angle started with him, or TVD gets rewarded with the belt due to his awesome matches as of late and vast progress in character development.
Shared Glory: Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa