We’ve already broken down the superstars missing from NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, which means it’s time to take a look at the lucky few who not only will perform, but will likely steal the show.
Whether it’s in a scripted or non-kayfabe sense by factoring in everything from wins/losses, how much of an emphasis WWE puts on that superstar, their momentum heading into the next television episode, match performance and everything between, here’s the shortlist for who I think will be coveting the most of the spotlight:
Shinsuke Nakamura / Bobby Roode
This one is a tough call, as it could go to either man. The case for keeping the belt on Nakamura is somewhat harder to defend than giving it to Roode, though.
We’ve already had a decent amount of time of Nakamura as the champion of NXT, so going with Roode causes a change of pace. Clearly, Roode is popular enough with the crowd and has the proper pedigree and experience to be trusted with the title as opposed to being someone not ready for the limelight, so he’s a great candidate to be the person to end Nakamura’s second title reign.
It does feel a bit too soon, admittedly, but we’ve had shorter runs in the past. Just take Samoa Joe’s most recent one for an example. In a way, it almost felt as though trading the belt back and forth like that was just a means to stall before the inevitable where they would need to have the title back on Nakamura so he could pass it on to Roode. For Joe to be booked in that scenario would have been strange, but since Nakamura is a babyface, it’s a more natural transition.
Still, there’s nothing that facilitates a need to change the champion at this particular event. Nakamura can retain and Roode can find his way into another title shot for Orlando before WrestleMania and he could win the championship there.
With Kassius Ohno making his return and signaling that he’s coming for the belt, it’s safe to assume he’ll be put into the title picture in the first quarter of this year, which could make a big difference on how WWE books San Antonio. Is he supposed to be a babyface feuding with Roode or is he a heel to feud with Nakamura? Alternatively, is he just a tweener that can go in either direction until they need to cement things a bit more?
Right now, if I were forced to make a call, I’d say Bobby Roode probably wins the championship and they have their rematch in Orlando with some kind of gimmick attached to it like a steel cage while Kassius Ohno gets paired up with somebody else in the meantime before moving on to feud with Roode after Nakamura is promoted to the main roster post-WrestleMania.
I wouldn’t be absolutely shocked if Roode comes up short here, as that can definitely happen, but at the very least, I think both men will share some of the glory for putting on a fantastic match. By WrestleMania, NXT will have shifted more in Roode’s favor, so if I had to lean one way or the other, I’d consider San Antonio the starting point for this rather than a bump in the road.
The Authors of Pain
This match is very much dependent upon what WWE has planned for the main event, as I don’t think we’ll be seeing two titles change hands. It’s certainly not unheard of, as it has happened before on NXT TakeOver shows, but typically, one new champion on a pay-per-view is good enough as it spreads things out to make it so every show has something on it.
Since I’m leaning towards Bobby Roode winning the NXT Championship, my guess would be DIY retains the tag titles here, but that might not be in as grandiose of a fashion as their fans would like. The Authors of Pain have been on a mean streak since their debuts which is unlikely to end here. If the plan is for Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa to hold onto the NXT Tag Team Championship for a little while longer, they can do so through some kind of shenanigans to sidestep actually pinning Akam or Rezar.
For example, The Authors of Pain can lose by disqualification or the decision can be a count out against either team (or both). Since that operates under the champion’s advantage, Gargano and Ciampa don’t have to go down in the record books as having a very short title reign, but they also don’t have to offset the momentum The Authors of Pain are on.
Then again, this could be something as simple as new champions being crowned, in which case The Authors of Pain definitely would be one of the featured stories of the evening. Any time a championship changes hands is typically a big deal, especially when you’re going into it with a record as impressive as Paul Ellering’s boys are.
In either fashion, The Authors of Pain will be booked much better, so whether they come out of the match holding the titles or not, they’ll look like the more imposing duo.
After going through an undefeated streak for months and beating the likes of Bayley, Nia Jax, Mickie James and everybody else who gets in her way in the process, I can’t imagine Asuka would finally lose to one of the three other women in this match—much less also losing her title in the process.
Sure, she’s eventually going to have to drop the NXT Women’s Championship somewhere down the line, but her first loss should be done in a way that actually puts someone over. If Billie Kay, Peyton Royce or Nikki Cross were to win the title here, it doesn’t have the same impact, particularly if Asuka isn’t the one being pinned. Some might argue that that would allow her to stay strong but also usher in a new champion, but do you really want to see any of those women with the title instead?
I’m a fan of Kay and Royce and I still think Asuka is the better choice to hold the belt going forward. When it comes to Nikki Cross, she’s so new and hasn’t wowed me yet, so I really can’t justify her coming out on top.
This seems to me more like filler than anything else and I still have Ember Moon pegged as the one to dethrone Asuka. By that rationale, Asuka continues to wreck her competition here and once more, continues the trend of being one of the biggest stars for this show.