Hey before we jump into this list, I will be the first to admit it, I did not want Samoa Joe to go back to being an active wrestler. Back in June, I laid out three reasons why he shouldn't return to the ring, and I stick by what I said. But here we are, Joe returned to action and took out Karrion Kross to become the first-ever three-time NXT Champion. But what is a champion without challengers? Well, let's take a look at some of the best-suited competitors to challenge Joe for the gold.
5. LA Knight
The now-former Million Dollar Champion is a great match to challenge Joe for the belt early on in Joe's run.
Knight has in his brief time on NXT shown himself to be one of the most entertaining members of the roster with the in-ring work to back it up. His recent story with Cameron Grimes has given him a lot of room to shine, and it has become clear that he will work well in whatever spot you put him on the card.
Do I think that LA Knight has a solid chance of beating Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship? No. Do I think that a great NXT TV main event featuring these two will elevate the title scene? 100 Percent.
4. Kyle O'Reilly
Kyle O'Reilly is another big winner from TakeOver 36, and NXT could use this opportunity to strike while the iron is hot.
O'Reilly has proved many times over that he has what it takes to be the top guy in NXT. His run since last fall has had cool Kyle face off with some of his greatest opponents to date including Finn Balor, and Adam Cole. The NXT Championship is clearly in the cards for O'Reilly, but the real question is when?
Joe makes for an interesting opponent for Kyle as both use a mix of kickboxing and submission style that can add a unique twist to a more traditional opponent, but seeing them work with each other could go either way. A big issue for Kyle is also his standing with the fans following his win this weekend. The end of the Undisputed Era saga did not go over well with the crowd at the Capitol Wrestling Center, and that could affect his booking going forward.
It is clear that gold is in Kyle O'Reilly's future, but he may need to wait it out until another champion steps forward.
3. Pete Dunne
The bruiserweight has waited long enough. It is time for him to get a real shot at the NXT Championship.
Pete Dunne's unique in-ring style is incredibly suited to the way that Samoa Joe works in the ring and this match-up is one of the most brutal that could come from the current NXT roster. Dunne hasn't had a major storyline in a minute, but NXT is already aware of how reliable he is for elevating whatever match he is in, so this match is a near-guaranteed banger.
It has been reported that Dunne is nearing the end of his contract with WWE, and while that could throw a wrench into things, a title run could be what brings him to sign an extension with NXT.
2. Tommaso Ciampa
Ciampa is another one of those guys that could have a magically brutal match with Samoa Joe.
As far as I can tell, Joe and Ciampa have only mixed it up one on one just one time, but since then both men have grown and evolved as competitors and are now known as two of the most violent workers in WWE. This match needs to happen even if the title isn't on the line.
Ciampa is currently focused on the tag team division with Timothy Thatcher, but he has left his partner to attempt a singles run before by facing WALTER at TakeOver Stand & Deliver, so I don't see that being an issue.
I don't care if WALTER wants to stay in Europe, have him beat Joe for the title, and take it with him back home. WALTER is one of NXT's greatest assets and any match he is in feels like an event on its own.
I know I keep focusing on the brutality that Joe can exhibit with other partners, but this match would be the end all be all of brutality. WALTER is already on my match of the year list twice with his matches against Tommaso Ciampa and Ilja Dragunov so why not go ahead and make it three by putting him up against Samoa Joe.
One final note here, give every title to WALTER and let him go back to Austria and only show up once a quarter and defend all of them.
So there you have it, 5 potential challengers to Samoa Joe's new NXT Championship. Did I miss anyone? Do you think Joe should be NXT Champion to begin with? Let me know by tweeting at me @robbydeshazer!
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