Photo from WWE.com
23 January 2017

Well, here we are again. Another TakeOver special looms around the corner. It’s amazing to see how far NXT and these TakeOver shows have come since Triple H first started mounting live NXT specials on the WWE Network. You have to hand it to him for envisioning these specials as events that could very well be part of the main roster’s big four tentpole shows, and then actually executing it such that the weekend of the show is as much about NXT as it is about RAW and SmackDown Live

It also helps that these TakeOver specials have been so booked so well that they end up being better than the main pay-per-view itself more often than not (side-eye to WrestleMania Star). Of course, that should motivate the main roster to step its game up so they don’t get outshined by what once was simply “developmental.” Then again, looking at the roster of names on the TakeOver: San Antonio card, it’s safe to say that NXT has long transcended that “developmental” tag because it’s already a legitimate brand on its own. So let’s go down this card and predict who’s going to come out when the dust settles in the Alamo, shall we?

NXT Championship: Bobby Roode vs. Shinsuke Nakamura (c) 

I have been salivating over this matchup since the moment it became clear that Bobby Roode would be the new #1 Contender for the NXT Championship. The NXT main event scene seemed destined for Roode when he first showed up, and for good reason. It also helps that we’ve all become tired of Samoa Joe vs. Shinsuke Nakamura at this point, no matter how awesome their matches got. 

So what are we getting at TakeOver: San Antonio? A GLORIOUS championship celebration.

Picture a cocky Nakamura getting a bit complacent in his defense of the title and an opportunistic Roode taking advantage of that en route to victory. Much like Asuka, Nakamura’s been built up so strongly throughout his own NXT run such that any defeat should be shocking. Remember how we were all so sure that Nakamura would defeat Joe in Toronto, only for us to be left mouths agape when Joe won the title back? NXT might be looking to replicate that result here. The only difference is that Roode’s keeping the title for much longer, which has the potential to take the Roode/Nakamura feud from “just there” to great.

Bring out your choir outfits and get your vocal chords ready. We’ll be singing “Glorious Domination” all night long.

Prediction: Bobby Roode wins the NXT Championship

NXT Tag Team Championship: The Authors of Pain (Akam & Rezar) (with Paul Ellering) vs. #DIY (Johnny Gargano & Tommaso Ciampa) (c) 

One of the reasons why NXT has done so well over the years is because it’s been booked like a traditional territory. They can go back to the well for this match and book it the way Dusty Rhodes would have been booked in his heyday.

That means #DIY is losing in San Antonio. Gargano and Ciampa are going to be simply outmatched by the physicality and brutality of the Authors of Pain. They know it, the Authors of Pain know it, and you know it, too. Besides, this story’s only going to get better when #DIY are the underdogs chasing the championships and thinking of a way to outsmart or outlast the Authors of Pain after suffering a crushing defeat.

As for the Authors of Pain, they wrote the first chapter of their story at TakeOver: Toronto, when they won the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic. If they really are being built to be a legendary tag team of the future—which is very much in play—then winning the NXT Tag Team Championships at TakeOver: San Antonio is the logical second chapter of the story.

Prediction: The Authors of Pain win the NXT Tag Team Championships

Fatal 4-Way match for the NXT Women’s Championship: Nikki Cross vs. Peyton Royce vs. Billie Kay vs. Asuka (c) 

Alright, time for a ballsy pick. Nikki Cross is winning the NXT Women’s Championship in San Antonio.

That’s right. This is the perfect opportunity for NXT to have Asuka drop the title without actually making her look weak in the process. Asuka’s already broken Paige’s record for longest women’s title reign through her undefeated streak, and while that’s done wonders for her character, it’s also had the unintended consequence of making the rest of the women’s division look weaker than her. While that may actually be the case, you can’t have a compelling storyline about the women’s title when the champion just looks too dominant that she can’t be beaten for the championship anymore.

That’s why this booking makes sense. You know Peyton Royce and Billie Kay aren’t ready for the title yet, but they’ll be good hands in this matchup. As for Nikki Cross, she could be the first member of SAni†Y to hold a title on NXT, and that will go a long way towards establishing their legitimacy as a stable. Besides, I wouldn’t mind seeing a feud between Cross and Asuka over the title as a result of the title switch.

Prediction: Nikki Cross wins the NXT Women’s Championship

Andrade “Cien” Almas vs. Roderick Strong

Looking at this matchup, I find myself getting interested only because I know both Roddy and Cien are really good and that they can put out a solid outing together. There’s not much else that’s getting me hyped about it, though. That says something about Strong, who hasn’t really been given much of a character since debuting on NXT. Creative just stuck him in the general “accomplished indy veteran” template since his run as Austin Aries’ tag team partner got cut short due to Aries’ eye injury. It doesn’t help that Roddy isn’t that good on the mic, so it’s not like he can cut a compelling promo to get people behind him.

On the other side, there’s Andrade “Cien” Almas, who’s becoming one of the more intriguing characters on the yellow brand. He’s finally letting his inner Ingobernable out, acting like such a natural in the pretty boy d-bag role. It’s comforting to see that NXT didn’t give up on him when his initial babyface run fell flat. Instead, they let him break out of his the same mold they’re sticking Strong in right now, and it’s paying dividends. It won’t be long until we start talking about Cien in NXT’s main event scene. That being said, Cien is going over on Strong in San Antonio, and that’s to give him more credibility as a threat, regardless of who wins the championship in the main event.

Prediction: Andrade “Cien” Almas wins

Eric Young vs. Tye Dillinger

It’s been refreshing to see Tye Dillinger take the role that Sami Zayn used to have on NXT. Even when Zayn wasn’t the top babyface, he was relevant enough to remain in top storylines as either the #2 face or the perennial underdog. That’s what we’re getting from Dillinger right now, especially after Creative wrote him as having doubted himself following his loss in the Fatal 4-Way elimination match for the #1 Contendership to Nakamura’s NXT title. 

And then there’s Eric Young, who we don’t really get to see in singles action a lot because of his role as the leader of SAni†Y. Don’t get me wrong, Alexander Wolfe, Nikki Cross, and Killian Dain (the former Damo) are all going to get involved in this match for sure. But before that happens, this match will be a good introduction for WWE fans who haven’t seen much of Eric Young’s work in TNA, as well as a reminder that today’s NXT is pretty much what TNA could have been if Tita Dixie didn’t drop the ball one too many times. 

Young’s going to pick up the win here, but it’s not going to put Dillinger down in the process. In fact, I expect the Perfect 10 to use the loss to light a fire under him and make him want to prove himself eventually against SAni†Y. Or he could just run into brick wall after brick wall after brick wall and realize he can’t beat these guys ever. Welp. 

Prediction: Eric Young wins

*****

NXT TakeOver: San Antonio is shaping up to be an exciting affair, even if not all five of its matches appear to be solidly built. It’s not exactly the fault of the Superstars themselves, although NXT really should have done more with the time between TakeOver: Toronto and TakeOver: San Antonio to give the feuds some teeth. I’m excited to see if all three championships will indeed switch hands as I predicted because that’ll pretty much set the tone for NXT for the first quarter of the new year. I’m ready for a GLORIOUS second chapter to 2017, no matter how insane it’s going to be. Are you?

P.S. Notice that Samoa Joe has been noticeably absent since losing to Nakamura in Melbourne, Australia during the house show circuit. It’s all but certain at this point that he’ll be debuting at the Royal Rumble, which I’ll be writing about later this week. Let’s keep speculating, internet!

Photos from WWE