The Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic Tournament was a great idea. NXT has thrived on the use of tournaments and the only complaint NXT fans seem to have is that the winner doesn’t specifically win anything prestigious. That’s one way of looking at it, but the momentum for the team that wins is going to be massive and they’re obviously going to challenge for the NXT Tag Team Championships, or even move on to the main roster.
What’s more important is all the subplots that are going to escalate as the tournament continues. New feuds are developing and the possibilities are really interesting. For example, guys like Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa are being featured on NXT, which is awesome. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable are picking up steam. Most interesting for a lot of people, we’ve got NXT Champion Finn Balor and Samoa Joe teaming together.
As wonderful as that is, in the case of Balor and Joe, you can’t help but feel there is development there beyond the Dusty Rhodes tournament. NXT is still in transition, which is what makes this tournament such a good idea. It’s a reset of the NXT world as Bayley begins her reign, Kevin Owens bows out of NXT and Balor represents the brand as it’s champion.
For NXT, the first half of 2015 was about Owens. The second half is clearly about Balor. He’s on a high after winning the NXT Championship and Owens putting him over twice in two big-match situations on his way to the main roster. Balor is NXT right now, but he doesn’t have a challenger for the title and there has been obvious foreshadowing of Joe’s desire for the championship.
It’s subtle and their dynamic is surrounded by tension and it’s especially noteworthy while they were in the ring against the Lucha Dragons last week. That’s good work on both of their parts to work well together and yet plant the seeds for something to change. If NXT storylines are building toward Balor vs. Joe, it’s curious what route creative is going to take to get there if that is the plan. Is there a heel turn coming?
The obvious choice is for Joe to turn heel by attacking Balor mid-match to cost them their spot in the tournament. Many times in wrestling, the obvious booking decision is the right one.
If that’s too predictable, there is the possibility of Balor and Joe winning the entire tournament and going head up against each other to find out who the better man is. That would bring a lot more prestige to a match that a lot of fans already would be interested in seeing. That also doesn’t force a heel turn that the fans may not want to see.
But what if there was another major swerve and it was Balor that turned?
It’s a huge risk. No one is questioning that. Balor is very comfortable as the top face in NXT and it would be very difficult to gain significant heel heat with the entrance he has, especially when he becomes “The Demon.”
However, this is a NXT smart crowd and they’ll accept a swerve like that if they respect the performer. The question with a turn is always motivation — the seeds have already been planted.
The answer is Hideo Itami. His injury was written into the show as him being attacked in the parking lot and being taken out of action. Who’s benefited more from his absence than Balor?
Because Itami got hurt, Balor was able to become No. 1 contender, champion and now the face of the NXT brand. All Itami has to do is reveal that it was Balor who attacked and injured him and the Balor heel turn is off and running.
Suddenly, “The Demon” isn’t enchanting. It’s terrifying.
Itami’s quest for the NXT Championship and revenge with their history is something that would be the perfect way to end 2015.
In the mean time, whether it’s face vs. face, or some combo of heel vs. face, the Joe vs. Balor matchup is the most obvious confrontation NXT seems to be building toward. Something is about to shake up NXT, the question is will it be Balor or Joe?