NXT TakeOver Chicago – Triple Threat POV | Smark Out Moment

NXT TakeOver Chicago – Triple Threat POV

Posted by Jordan Chaffiotte Saturday, May 13, 2017
Welcome to another edition of Triple Threat from Smark Out Moment, where three of us get together to discuss three questions based on one big topic going down in the week of professional wrestling.

This week, Jordan Chaffiotte, Callum Wiggins, and Robert DeFelice will be giving their opinions on the hottest topics going into NXT TakeOver: Chicago. With Roderick Strong coming off a tough loss, Asuka taking on two challengers for her title, and SAnitY always looming, the NXT roster is in for a big night next weekend. We haven't had much of a chance to talk about NXT recently, but it has consistently put on great work week after week. NXT TakeOver: Chicago should be no different.

Question 1: Has Asuka been in NXT too long? Who has a chance of defeating her now?

CHAFFIOTTE: I was starting to feel overwhelmed by Asuka's reign. Perhaps they made her too strong and in comparison to the home-grown talent like Liv Morgan and Aliyah, they may have booked themselves into a corner. Then they started playing her character, and I think they've hit on something great.

Asuka is no stranger to adversity. Her entire career has been about standing up and proving that she is just as good. If you had to name the top five women wrestlers in the world today and you didn't include Asuka, you'd just be wrong, and you don't get to that level without a lot of hard work. But once she got to WWE, there seemed to be a distinct lack of challenges. Sure, Bayley was a hard-fought battle, but she won the championship on her first try. Nia Jax, no problem. Mickie James—one of the all-time greats—handled. She's laid waste to the division, and what does she do? She starts to go a little stir crazy. Suddenly Asuka's acting out, she's doing things that are dumb and reckless. Did she really not think William Regal would make her face all three opponents after her actions? Of course she knew that would happen, but she's so bored that she doesn't care anymore.

That lets her slip into the monster heel we've all been waiting for her to be, but it also lets her slip back into the face role when she's being properly challenged. For that reason, the person who is equipped to defeat her is Nikki Cross, one-on-one at NXT: Brooklyn (which I'll see in person, by the way). Asuka will take Nikki light after defeating all three of them in Chicago, and be humbled by Nikki's fortitude. She'll offer the hand, a sign of respect she'd been neglecting, and Nikki Cross will murder her.

WIGGINS: Asuka has been in NXT for longer than she should have been, but that hasn't necessarily been a terrible thing. Fans of NXT now recognize Asuka as an unbeaten monster—a model she can follow when she enters the main roster. She's been allowed to run roughshod over what was a weak division when she first captured the NXT Women's Championship, and is now once again showing signs of promise thanks to the likes of Ruby Riot, Ember Moon, Nikki Cross, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce.

The issue now is how to handle Asuka's transition onto the main roster, because it is likely she will have to lose before heading onto either Raw or SmackDown. Personally, I think this is the wrong decision, because her unbeaten streak doesn't need to elevate someone in NXT. While people talk about how NXT is a third brand, in reality it is still developmental, and all too often outgoing stars are left watered down and "do the honors" for those that will be sticking around a while longer. In most cases, that's fine, but for Asuka, it doesn't feel merited. I think Ember Moon and Nikki Cross have great potential as future champions, but Asuka should be considered in a different league.

Personally, I'd have her main event the next two TakeOvers, as her reign has more credibility than the NXT Championship at this point, and retain the title. Then, she appears out of nowhere on the main roster after SummerSlam and immediately goes hunting for one of the Women's Championships. Asuka can reluctantly surrender the NXT title and remain undefeated in her pursuit for new gold, carrying this momentum into a major event to give another superstar a huge shot in the arm by defeating her.

DEFELICE: A simple answer for the question of who deserves to defeat her is nobody. Asuka is the most dominant female in mainstream pro wrestling in the last decade, and there's no reason to derail that for a "time honored tradition" of going out on your back, which I feel devalues NXT talent anyway. Rumor has it that the former Kana will be debuting as the first Paul Heyman girl, which I feel is perfect for her, but either way, the title should be vacated and Asuka move up undefeated.

Question 2: Does SAnitY as a faction have the potential to be the next Shield?

CHAFFIOTTE: Yes, while they're together, but I'm not sure it will create four (or five) stars when they break up. The beauty of The Shield was its fleeting nature,as  they were together only for about a year and a half before Seth Rollins turned his back on them. Yet in that time, they built something that really felt like it had been there all their lives, to the point that I would believe you if you told me they spent the kind of time together that Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens had. When it fell apart, I felt it, and I don't know if anything in wrestling will ever shock and German Suplex my heart like that again. SAnitY could capture some of that magic, as they certainly have all of the talent to do so. Nikki Cross and Killian Dain are incredible performers, while Eric Young can spin straw into gold. They will dominate NXT and then the main roster for the next couple of years at least. The test for me will be in their relationships to each other. The only one who has clear motivation is Killian, while everyone else just appeared in this faction. I need to know who Nikki Cross is, specifically, who she was before she met Eric Young. Alexander Wolfe (not to mention the currently exiled Sawyer Fulton) has yet to show much that I feel like I can sink my teeth into, though I do see promise in the angle that he's being edged out by giant baby brother Killian. For SAnitY to get to the next level, we need to know what they mean to each other, and what they're willing to do to protect one another.

Still, I'm unconvinced that a big breakup will cause the rift that The Shield inspired. Two years later and last week's Dean Ambrose and Seth Rollins interview still left us itching for more. Shield reunions are constantly being dangled over us and we eat it up. All three are marquee guys and will be for the rest of their careers. Could SAnitY be that? The jury's still out. Eric Young will prosper no matter what, but the others could easily get forgotten in his shadow.

WIGGINS: SAnitY shouldn't be looking to become the next Shield, but instead becoming the first SAnitY. With regards to their look, promo skills and in-ring ability they are an effective combination, but they are missing one vital component to push them over the edge: a motivation. Why are SAnitY in NXT? What do they want to accomplish there? Do they want to hold all the titles? Do they want to recruit more members? Do they just want No Way Jose to stop dancing? The reasons they are united and what they fight for have not been explored in any great detail, and it needs to become a priority if they are to realize their full potential.

Their component parts are excellent. Eric Young as the leader and grizzled veteran works well, especially with his gravelly voice and unhinged personality. Young is a convincing world champion. Nikki Cross is pure aggression and chaos, and I have no doubt will become a huge asset in both NXT's and WWE's women's divisions. Killian Dain is an athletic behemoth that shows no mercy, which makes him great as their enforcer for now before becoming the breakout male star. The odd one out is Alexander Wolfe, as although he is a good wrestler and has shown great commitment to his unbalanced character, it doesn't feel like he has much longevity beyond SAnitY. That is fine for now though, as the unit is perfectly fine right now and can only improve in the coming months. A split shouldn't even be considered at the moment.

DEFELICE:: To piggyback off what Callum said, they should not be looking to become the next Shield, but the first SAnitY. They have a similar strength in NXT's mastermind Triple H, but they do not have the same break off potential as the riot gear clad trio of 2012. However, what they do have is a 20-year veteran in Eric Young—who, if you follow his career, will see that he has an unbelievable knack for adaptation and is gold in any scenario given to him. Killian Dain received his first opportunity at solo superstardom when he was featured in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal this year, and from my perspective, was pretty underwhelming in his effort. That's no disrespect to his prior accomplishments, but I just wasn't all that floored with what I saw from him in the battle royal. Once again echoing the sentiments of Wiggins, I couldn't care less for Alexander Wolfe right now, outside of the tag team potential within SAnitY. He is very much the Erick Rowan of the group and it will be interesting to see his development.

The true potential breakout star of the group is Nikki Cross. In her short time with the company, she has proven to be a major player in the women's division. I believe that she is the one person in the group who can stand on her own if need be and I look forward to seeing what she does in the near future and I wouldn't be surprised if she was broken away first and sooner if ever at all. All in all, I do not believe that they will be as successful and recognized as The Shield, but in due time they will make their own mark and etch out a place in history books. They are their own group with their own formula and who knows we may see them run roughshod over Monday Night Raw by this time next year.

Question 3: What's indie darling Roderick Strong's ceiling in WWE?

CHAFFIOTTE: He could easily be WWE's next Finn Balor as a mainstay in NXT that they're able to build around and a star the moment he steps foot on the main roster. The caveat here is that they cannot afford any missteps with his character. It's no secret that I love Finn Balor, but the reality is his run as champion was lukewarm and it still doesn't 100% feel like he knows his voice. If they do that again with another established star, that just serves to prove that the NXT system doesn't actually work, which is a huge problem.

I know Roddy is a big deal on the indies. He's Mr. ROH, and it didn't take any sort of extensive indie wrestling knowledge to figure out he was important when he debuted. While I definitely do not advocate for the WWE clean slate, I do think they should operate under the assumption that no one has seen any of his past work. Expecting fans to be able to fill in the blanks is a bad choice, so they need to hit the ground running with showing us exactly who Roderick Strong is and what his motivations are. Those video packages are a fantastic start, but it needs to extend past them. Take the example of Finn again—his video packages were all about how in his heart he was just a kid with a dream, but that wasn't really carried into his performance. If Roddy is a highly accomplished competitor who stumbled into a life where he suddenly has something bigger than himself to fight for, they need to tell that story every time he's in the ring. So far, he's been fairly generic, and he doesn't yet feel like a star to me. They have all of the pieces for him, they just have to put them together.

WIGGINS: I've not really warmed to Roderick Strong, and even though I've followed his work in TNA and ROH, he has never stood out to me. The recent vignettes to explore who Strong really is have been effective to a degree, as it has allowed his real personality to shine through beyond just being a really good hand in the ring. It's introduced people to the adversity he had to overcome to become a world-renowned wrestler and his current life of being a new parent and trying to climb the ranks in NXT. That was very helpful in giving him a platform, but Strong needs to bring that into the ring more. He's a fantastic wrestler, but two-thirds of WWE and NXT superstars are fantastic wrestlers. He needs to discover his X Factor.

Currently, I think Strong's ceiling could be NXT champion if he is booked correctly and allowed to ride the momentum of a supremely over heel like Bobby Roode or Eric Young. However, beyond that I can't see much hope for him on the main roster. Strong doesn't carry the gravitas of other independent darlings like AJ Styles, Samoa Joe or Austin Aries. Harsh as it may seem, Strong would be on the main roster to bolster numbers and make the real stars look good, and his slim hopes for gold would be contained in the Cruiserweight and Tag Team divisions. Unfortunately, I don't feel he's Strong enough to lift this ceiling any higher.

DEFLICE: To put this boldly, the notion that people in the independent scene make it to the WWE and are faced with glass ceiling after glass ceiling has been shattered since at least 2014. You can point to certain people like Cesaro, but I think that his issue stems from the fact that he's foreign and at the end of the day, the man in charge has never cared for that. Roderick Strong is the latest major independent name to come through NXT. The recent vignettes have proven that there is definitely a following for Mr. ROH. However, if we're being realistic, I don't see him headlining WrestleMania and that isn't a bad thing. One of the major issues plaguing today's pro wrestling seen in my opinion is this idea that unless you make it to the pinnacle which is the main event of the biggest show of the year, then you are a failure overall.

Before we talk about what I think Roderick Strong's realistic ceiling is, I would like to talk about where I think he could be in a perfect world. In my opinion, he has the potential to be a modern day Bret "Hitman" Hart. Roddy has the technical prowess, the good looks, the ability to play the scrappy underdog role in the squared circle and just about every other attribute you could want in a top-tier babyface. Where I believe that Roderick will run into trouble is whether or not the people turn on him once he's at a top level. My realistic cap for Roderick Strong is very much the current Dean Ambrose role. There was a time where everybody wanted to see Dean and once they were given what they wanted at the highest level they turned on him faster then Seth Rollins turning on The Shield. This could very much be Roddy's fate. It is for that reason that I suggest that rather than go against the fans' wishes, should they decide to turn on him, Roderick Strong turn quickly and become a top level heel and run wild with the 'Roddy Versus The World' tagline, but I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, the highest I see him going is maybe a small world title run winning and defending on the B-level pay per views but never being beyond the Intercontinental title on the big shows. However, the true power resides in the vocal sections of the audience in this case. I for one hope he reaches the perfect world scenario I laid out for him because I've become a huge fan and I want to see him at the very top of the card.

Those are our thoughts on the issue, but where do you stand?
Let us know your answers to these questions in the comments below!

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY JORDAN CHAFFIOTTE

Jordan Chaffiotte is a writer and blogger on a variety of channels and is an alum of Her Campus. Her long-term love of writing has been matched recently by a new love for professional wrestling. You can follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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