On last week's NXT Karrion Kross opened the show by having to vacate the NXT title he had won just three days earlier at NXT TakeOver: Thirty due to a shoulder injury that will likely take several months to heal. None of this was all too surprising considering that news of Kross's injury had been swirling for several days and speculation as to the fate of the title dominated post TakeOver news. Of course NXT GM William Regal was there on Wednesday to announce a Fatal 4-way Ironman Match between four former NXT Champions: Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, Adam Cole, and Finn Balor, with the winner taking home the now vacant title.
Of course with this match on the near horizon for the NXT fans, I think it is important to look behind all four of the potential match outcomes and rank how I think each championship run would go as well what I think the best outcome for NXT as a brand is.
Alright let's jump right in, these will be ranked from "worst" to "best" and to clarify I think there are positive possibilities for each of these outcomes, but just like how there is a first there also has to be a last.
Number 4: Adam Cole
Adam Cole is the longest-reigning NXT Champion of all time, and that is not a feat to scoff at. Not only has he held the NXT Championship, Cole is also a former NXT North American Champion, a record-setting three-time ROH World Champion, and was recently ranked number two on the PWI's top 500 for 2020. Adam Cole is a great wrestler with a fantastic record, and that's undisputed.
But here is the thing with Adam Cole and his chances of taking back his belt this week, he just lost the belt to Keith Lee at The Great American Bash, and to put the title back on him would feel like a huge reset of the last two months. The other major point against Cole is that it really feels like he and the rest of The Undisputed Era have hit their ceiling in NXT. There isn't much left for Cole, Strong, Fish, and O'Reilly to do on the black and gold brand and maybe it is time for them to move on to SmackDown or Raw.
None of these points against him mean that he couldn't have a successful second run with the NXT Championship, in fact, I think that Cole could hold down the title scene as a steady champion until Kross returns or a new challenger is ready to take the belt off of him. However, it just seems unlikely that Cole will be leaving Full Sail this week with the gold over his shoulder.
Number 3: Johnny Gargano
The last few months have been interesting for Johnny Gargano as he continues to develop his new heel persona along with his wife Candice LeRae. It seems like only a matter of time before Johnny gets his second run with the NXT title, but I really don't think that now is the time to pull the trigger on a Gargano title reign.
First of all, Johnny needs more time to develop his persona. Don't get me wrong he is headed in the right direction, and I really cannot wait to see him start molding NXT in his image like he keeps promising to do, but he needs more time (and probably a few more major loses) to go from disgruntled former babyface into a deranged mega heel who is only out for himself.
I also think that there is a good chance that NXT wants to at some point have both Johnny and Candice holding both the NXT and The Women's Championships at the same time even if it is just for a short time. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like LeRae will be taking the title of Io Shirai anytime soon, so I predict we won't see NXT's power couple at the top until there is a clear path for both of them.
Number 2: Finn Balor
Now we are up to what I feel are the most likely candidates for picking up the vacant title this week. Finn Balor hasn't held a championship in WWE since July of 2019 when he lost the Intercontinental Championship to Shinsuke Nakamura on the kickoff show for Extreme Rules. Since his return to NXT, Balor has been in and out of different title pictures, he's challenged here or there for the NXT Championship and the North American Championship, and was even teased to be taking on Walter for the NXT UK Championship, but none of these have materialized into a title run.
Well, it seems like, with the NXT UK plans shelved for now (but who knows as WWE's British brand returns this month) and the North American title firmly on the waist of Damian Priest, it might be time for Balor to have his second run as NXT's top guy. Balor is a huge name and his return has definitely helped people see NXT as more than just a developmental brand for the "main roster" shows, and a title run could continue to help build the demon up as a major attraction. I firmly believe that Finn Balor as NXT Champion could help pop ratings and bring more eyes to a show that is desperately fighting for viewers.
Number 1: Tommaso Ciampa
Look, the story writes itself here. Tommaso Ciampa never lost his NXT Title and had to vacate it due to injury, just like Karrion Kross. I strongly believe that Ciampa came back to NXT following TakeOver: Thirty to enter a feud with Kross had he not been forced to vacate the title. When Kross gets back from his time off it makes so much sense to have him fight Ciampa for the title, the promos about two guys who were never defeated for their titles, the intensity that both men wrestle with, it not only writes itself, it is exciting to think about.
Let's also talk about how Ciampa's return last week also saw the return of his heel persona. With the belt on Ciampa NXT's plans can remain relatively unchanged by having a massive heel who cannot be beaten destroy the entire locker room. Ciampa has the potential to fill the shoes that NXT creative needs to fill. Then when it is time for Kross to come back let them have a more competitive match than their first meeting back at TakeOver: In Your House and let's really see these guys go at it.
It seems to me like everyone else on this list has something else that they can do away from the NXT title scene, but Tommaso Ciampa is primed and ready to tell goldie that daddy's home.
What do you think? Who's your top choice to become the new NXT Champion? Let me know on twitter @robbydeshazer.
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