WADE KELLER PODCAST - EARLY PREVIEW OF ROYAL RUMBLE 2020 MEN'S MATCH, PLUS 2019 AND 2010 LOOK-BACK ROUNDTABLES
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Welcome once again to the NXT TRACKER, where I pick an NXT talent, assess their progression to this point and make bold, sure-to-look-hilarious-in-retrospect predictions about their future prospects. Today I’m going to cover a favorite of mine whose booking has been a bit scattered – Dakota Kai.
Kai log wrestled on the independent scene as Evie, notably for Impact Pro Wrestling (no relation to the former TNA) , Shimmer and Shine. The New Zealander is half-Samoan, but is no relation to the Samoan Dynasty (which might seem a weird observation to an outsider, but normally I expect some connection in there). She debuted at 19 in New Zealand and worked for some all-female promotions; she worked a match on NXT, jobbing to Nia Jax, before wrestling in the Mae Young Classic in 2017 and winning twice before losing to eventual winner Kairi Sane.
With under a year working TV and no major push as of yet, Kai’s wins are still few. The wins against Kavita Devi and Rhea Ripley in the MYC suggested there may be interest in Kai beyond the tournament, and Kai was positioned as a sympathetic figure as Shayna Baszler destroyed her to send a message to the women in the locker room. Kai has beaten Lacey Evans and Vanessa Borne on TV while losing to top-carders like Baszler and Bianca Belair; she most recently picked up an enhancement win on TV, most likely to set up her participation in the NXT UK Women’s Title tournament, which has already been wrestled (and spoiled for me, but I’ll leave that out).
Kai enjoyed some of the bigger pops in the Mae Young Classic last year, as her character is easy to like from her entrance alone. Literally everyone I’ve watched NXT with has asked if she’s a Bayley clone; while Kai has been wrestling longer, it’s fair to ask if this is the intent with her. Everything is derivative to a point, though hopefully they can keep the stories of the two different enough that we don’t have a “chanting ‘Goldberg’ at Ryback” situation.
While I last covered Lacey Evans, who has grown exponentially since her time in NXT began, Kai has been somewhat stagnant as a character for a while, and at this point is little more than a guaranteed good match that’s ultimately being used to set up a different feud. I thought NXT had gold on its hands the way that the Kai-Baszler feud was shaping up, but it turned out to be a clumsy setup for Nikki Cross, who had been nowhere near TV, to unsuccessfully challenge Baszler at TakeOver in a surprisingly one-sided match. Kai’s story of being bullied by Baszler was engaging and organic, and I hope it isn’t forgotten, though I suspect Baszler’s time remaining in NXT is short.
The Future and Predictions
There’s always going to be a place for a plucky underdog who can work. They can be used to enhance other feuds, but as long as they pick up wins in between, they can be inserted into title matches anytime, which is a valuable asset on the main roster with so many major shows to fill. I think Kai’s chances of competing for gold, and even winning it, might be better on Raw or SmackDown! than they are on either NXT brand.
As long as Kai can retain her intrinsically likable quality, while not falling prey to the character assassination possible on the main roster (a tall order, I know), I think she can be a valuable piece of the main roster at some point, even if I doubt that she would be pushed all the way to the top.
NOW CHECK OUT THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: NXT TRACKER – Lacey Evans: Assessing and predicting the prospects of NXT wrestlers’ main roster future