NXT made a bold move recently and announced out of nowhere that they were adding a TakeOver to the beginning of October, leaving WWE's black and gold brand with very little time to build up feuds for their top prizes. What the NXT Universe is getting as a jam-packed episode two weeks before the special dubbed "Take Off to TakeOver" in which there will be a battle royal to determine the number one contender for Io Shirai's NXT Women's Championship and the first-ever Gauntlet Eliminator to determine the number one contender for Finn Balor's NXT Championship.
The gauntlet eliminator is a brand new, but familiar concept combining the multi-competitor element of elimination matches, with new opponents entering at predetermined intervals similar to a royal rumble or AEW's "casino-style" matches. Overall, I am excited to see how the match turns out, and hope this isn't the last we see of this unique stipulation.
Over the weekend and into Monday the NXT twitter account announced who will be competing in the match, and as of yesterday, we have our full 5-man lineup going into Wednesday, Kushida, Cameron Grimes, Timothy Thatcher, Kyle O'Reilly, and Bronson Reed. So, it is time to look at our field of wrestlers and rank them by how likely they are to win the match and go on to face Finn Balor at TakeOver.
5. Kyle O'Reilly
I will admit that I found it odd to see Kyle O'Reilly on the list of names going after the number one contender spot. In his career with WWE, O'Reilly has been mostly seen as a tag-team guy as he is a three-time NXT Tag-Team Champion, and even won the Dusty Rhodes Tag-Team Classic in 2018 with Adam Cole. These tag accolades don't disqualify him from having success as a singles competitor, but this aggressive approach to reintroducing O'Reilly as a singles guy does not give me faith that he will be taking on Balor at TakeOver.
All of this being said, Kyle O'Reilly is super dependible guy in the ring and if NXT wants to push him on a singles run, we should expect big things in the future.
4. Timothy Thatcher
If you go back and look at any of my opinion pieces with Thatcher you will see that I am a huge fan of this guy's work. His throwback style and technical prowes make him one of my favorite break out stars of NXT in 2020. Timothy Thatcher is going to be huge and I am so excited to see where he goes. All of that being said, there is no way that Thatcher wins the gauntlet elimintor and takes on Finn Balor for the NXT Championship.
Not only did Thatcher just lose in his last match for the NXT North American Championship, but he's also just lost recently to Finn Balor at TakeOver XXX. Thathcer will likely have a good run in this match maybe he'll tap O'Reilly and they'll have a program building them up over the next month or so, but there is no way that this match ends with Timothy Thatcher's hand held high.
Kushida is a busy man these days. After a brief disapperance following his losses in the interim NXT Cruiserweight Championship tournament, the former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion has returned to feud with The Velveteen Dream and Austin Theory. I am a fan of this new attitude for one of the most exciting wrestlers on the roster, but I think he needs to establish himself a bit more in his new role before truly going for NXT's top belt.
Kushida falls smack dab in the middle of this list for one reason though, if he does manage to get the spot as number one contender we are almost guaranteed a banger of a match between Finn Balor and Kushida. I'd love to see this match and I really hope we do see it soon but give Kushida some extra time to figure out his new path and maybe give us this match at Wargames or the following TakeOver.
2. Cameron Grimes
Cameron Grimes's trip to the moon has been a little bit rocky this summer, but I think he deserves a bigger place on the NXT roster. Like Thatcher, Grimes has already faced off with Balor this summer, albeit much earlier and therefore a little bit further back in our minds. A win in the eliminator and a match for the NXT Championship at TakeOver could be huge for the North Carolina native, even if he doesn't walk away with the gold.
Grimes has what it takes to be an obnoxious heel champion if NXT would just pull the trigger on him. I think Cameron Grimes's time is coming soon, and it really could take off once again if he walks away this week as the number one contender.
1. Bronson Reed
The only NXT wrestler who in my opinion has broken out more than Timothy Thatcher this year is Bronson Reed. The former "Thicc Boi" and now "Colossal" Reed went from enhancement talent for Karrion Kross to competing for the North American Championship at TakeOver XXX in only a matter of weeks. While I am not sure that Reed could beat Balor for the title, he is definitely at the point where a high profile loss would not slow his momentum.
Reed seems to me to be the most primed to take advantage of the main event (or likely co-main event) match at TakeOver and really run with it regardless of the outcome. The question to me is less "will Bronson Reed win the gauntlet eliminator?" and more "how much will Bronson Reed impress us when he wins the gauntlet elimintor?"
What do you think? How would you rank these four wrestlers, and do you think any of them actually have a chance at beating Finn Balor? Let me know by tweeting at me @robydeshazer
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