I will be perfectly honest. After the draft, I completely lost interest in NXT. I just felt like the writing and the characters weren't captivating enough and gradually stopped watching. It didn't help of course that Ryan Ward, head writer during NXT's much lauded 'Golden Age' had been promoted to head writer on SmackDown Live during the draft, leaving NXT to flounder somewhat.
However, since the last Takeover, based in San Antonio the night before The Royal Rumble, I've been dragged well and truly back into the product. With rumours of Shinsuke's imminent promotion to the main roster and Samoa Joe's elevation earlier on this year, it leaves NXT in an interesting predicament; who will be the next breakout star of the brand? This, and the fact that some of the characters have progressed so well, are the reasons I find myself genuinely excited to watch NXT once again. So with that, here we have it, my predictions for NXT Takeover Orlando!
Side note: The first match is merely a rumoured match thus far, though it is heavily rumoured to feature on the card in some capacity. Whether it is broken down into a six man tag and then a stand alone women's bout, or left as an 8 person inter gender tag match is unclear. I've left it as an 8 person tag match;
Match #1 - SAniTy vs. Tye Dillinger, Roderick Strong, No Way Jose & Ruby Riot
We have already seen an incarnation of this match and I must admit, the promise of a rematch hardly fills me with enthusiasm. I love Eric Young and all the other members of SAniTy, but they have been on top of Dillinger for too long now, and especially as the numbers game has been nullified with the addition of Ruby Riot to counteract the fantastic Nikki Cross, I can only see a face win and the team of DILLINGER, JOSE, STRONG and RUBY RIOT claiming the win to close the chapter on this feud.
Match #2 - Aleister Black vs. Andrade 'Cien' Almas
I mentioned earlier about how I was impressed with some of the character work that the NXT superstars were clearly putting in, and no where is this more clear than in Andrade 'Cien' Almas. His work as an infuriatingly smug heel is fantastic and his squash of Ho Ho Lun and subsequent brilliant bout against Oney Lorcan on NXT 383 proves that he can certainly take the place of the brand's top heel; his Hammerlock DDT is also a thing of beauty.
However, though not wrestling a match yet for the company, I am plumping for ALEISTER BLACK. The former Tommy End is an absolute beast of the highest order and his vignettes that have been airing for the past few weeks on the show have gotten me extremely excited to see him wrestle under the WWE banner.
Match #3 - The Authors of Pain (c) vs. The Revival vs. #DIY
This match has the potential to either be an absolute barn storming affair, reminiscent of the matches The Revival and #DIY have had during Takeover Brookyln II and Takeover Toronto, or it will be a cumbersome mess of a match which leaves us unsatisfied and does nothing to elevate the standing of the current champions - Authors of Pain.
However, I have enough faith in the feud between the three top teams and the ability of Wilder, Dawson, Gargano and Ciampa to carry the AOP to a good match. I do like AUTHORS OF PAIN though, and in fact they are my choice to win this match and retain their titles. The reason? The Revival will shortly be arriving on the main roster, hopefully to SmackDown, to aid the ailing tag scene there; tag title win would be pointless to say the least. #DIY are the underdogs, and thrive on being so, I don't think they should win the title again in NXT and should wait for their own main roster debut.
Match #4 - Asuka (c) vs. Ember Moon
Possibly the trickiest match to call of the night.
Ember Moon has certainly been protected a lot in the last couple of weeks, getting strong victories over Billie Kay and Liv Morgan, and even in the Triple Threat with Peyton Royce and Morgan, she was kept out of the ring and left the bout looking strong despite the loss. Her finishing move - The Eclipse - is up there with the most beautiful moves in the WWE and I pop massively whenever I see it performed - it's vicious.
However, Asuka looks unstoppable at the moment. Her absolute destruction of the jobber talent on NXT 383 proves that she is in no mood to give up the title lightly, and with her a mere week away from breaking the lauded (and highly fabricated) Goldberg streak, it seems unlikely that she will drop the title here. Add to this the fact that she has been added to the NXT tour of England later on this year, I anticipate ASUKA retaining the title here, but then dropping it on the Takeover before Summerslam to Ember Moon during the rematch, before debuting on the main roster on the RAW or SmackDown the week after.
Match #5 - Bobby Roode (c) vs. Shinsuke Nakamura
This one seems like a no-brainer to me if I'm perfectly honest. With Nakamura's absence from the promotional material released for the NXT UK Tour in June, there has come a fresh spate of rumours that Nakamura will debut on the RAW or SmackDown after Wrestlemania (a thought and notion that gives me great pleasure as it is high time the King of Strong Style is exhibited where he belongs.)
This however does mean that a title win over the current champion Bobby Roode would be illogical at best. Roode is doing excellent work with the title, and really feels like a champion at the moment, it would be a shame to end it so abruptly, so I am going for BOBBY ROODE!
There you have it good people, my predictions for this NXT Special are as follows; DILLINGER, STRONG, NO WAY JOSE & RIOT, ALEISTER BLACK, THE AUTHORS OF PAIN, ASUKA and BOBBY ROODE!
To end then, I know during this I have predicted the fairly imminent call up of 3 of the brands top talents (this is unfortunately the way when you are a developmental territory) but this is part of the reason I was sucked back into the NXT Universe; there are so many talents waiting to take their place! Sure, not as established as these stars, but the best way of promoting these stars is by giving them TV time and high stakes matches. Yes, The Revival are going to leave a big hole in the tag division in NXT, but we have TM-61, Heavy Machinery and The Ealy Brothers waiting in the wings. The same with Asuka; her departure to the main roster will allow talents like Liv Morgan, Nikki Cross and Ember Moon to feud over the title. As for Shinsuke, yes he will be extremley difficult to replace as such an established star is bound to be, but NXT have brought in Kassius Ohno and Aleister Black to fill the inevitable void. Add to this the return of Hideo Itami, the promotion of Andrade Cien Almas and top babyfaces Roderick Strong and Tye Dillinger, as well as persistent rumours that Kyle O'Reilly is on his way to WWE sooner rather than later, and it makes NXT a very exciting programme to be watching over the next few months.