FEUD TRACKER – NXT: Tracking the length and key developments of ongoing feuds including Balor vs. O’Reilly, Shirai vs. LeRae, Priest vs. Gargano, Ripley vs. Gonzales, Escobar vs. Scott, more

By Jeffery James, PWTorch contributor


SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

TOP TIER FEUDS


(1) FINN BALOR vs. KYLE O’REILLY

New Developments: A video package aired showing Kyle O’Reilly’s wrestling journey. The package was really well done and really showcased O’Reilly’s heart and desire to beat Balor and win the NXT Championship. The two wrestlers met face-to-face in a cinematic-style segment. Balor and O’Reilly did a great job of building each other up while showing confidence in their own abilities. Balor questioned whether or not the Undisputed Era would be present during the match, Shawn Michaels questioned the health of UE as a faction. The segment was excellent and built the right heat between champion and challenger, both guys came across as stars and wrestlers at the top of the game.

Highs & Lows: Can every championship feud be built this well in only one week? Obviously not, but when you have two great wrestlers and performers like Balor and O’Reilly, you can turn nothing into something very quickly. O’Reilly has been elevated to main event status over these last two weeks and it doesn’t seem like he’s out of place at all. Balor seemed like a confident champion who is not underestimating the challenge that his opponent poses to him.

Start of Feud: September 23, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: As a fan I want to see O’Reilly win, but I don’t think they are going to pull the trigger on the O’Reilly championship win yet. There have been plenty of seeds planted that are leading to the dissolution of Undisputed Era, and perhaps O’Reilly is the member of the group that gets kicked out and made into the babyface that can lead NXT at some point down the line.


(2) IO SHIRAI vs. CANDICE LERAE

New Developments: LeRae teamed up with Johnny Gargano to take on Io and Damien Priest. LeRae and Gargano picked up the win after LeRae hit Priest with a low blow. Even though the segments of the match that featured Io and LeRae felt clunky at times, this match still built up excitement to the match at Takeover.

Highs & Lows: The segments of the tag match that featured Io and LeRae looked a bit rough in spots, but hopefully that was due to the somewhat awkward teaming of Io and Priest. LeRae and Io should be able to put on a good match, so I’m not too concerned about some of the clunky spots in the tag match. The build to this match and the North American Title match is set around the idea that LeRae and Gargano could be the first married couple to become champions on the same night, so it’s hard to not just view Io and Priest as props in that story.

Start of Feud: September 23, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: Io still has a good story to tell with a title feud against Rhea Ripley down the road, so I think that she will retain against LeRae. That being said, I think the best way to build drama for the Gargano/LeRae storyline is to have whichever match goes on first see a title change, so if this match goes on first I think LeRae will walk out as champion.


MIDDLE TIER FEUDS


(1) DAMIEN PRIEST vs. JOHNNY GARGANO

New Developments: Priest teamed up with Io Shirai to take on Gargano and Candice LeRae in a mixed tag team match. Gargano and LeRae picked up the win after LeRae hit Priest with a low blow. The match was fine and did a good job of building up excitement for the match at Takeover.

Highs & Lows: Priest and Io tried to establish the similarities of their rock star personalities, but the two just didn’t seem to click. Priest and Gargano put out a good preview of their match that will happen on Sunday. Much like the Women’s Title match, the build to this match and the women’s match is built around the idea that Gargano and LeRae could be the first married couple to become champions on the same night, so it’s hard to not just view Priest and Shirai as props in that story. There wasn’t much personal heat built between the two guys, so the draw is built only upon whether or not the Garganos can capture the titles. With that being the premise, it’s hard to imagine that if whichever match goes first does not involve either Priest or Shirai losing the title that fans will care as much in the match that goes second.

Start of Feud: September 23, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: I think that whichever match that goes on first at Takeover, whether it’s the North American Title match or the Women’s Title match, will see a new champion. That way there is drama built up in the story that NXT is trying to tell with the Garganos aiming to become the first married couple to win their titles on the same night. With that being said, I think that Gargano probably has a better shot at being Priest than LeRae does of beating Io.


(2) RHEA RIPLEY vs. RAQUEL GONZALEZ

New Developments: Ripley attacked Gonzalez after Gonzalez interfered in Dakota Kai’s match against Shotzi Blackheart.

Highs & Lows: Both women have been positioned as powerhouses within the women’s division. With Ripley slowly working her way back up the card to eventually challenge for the title, Gonzalez is a great next opponent. This feud was teased and introduced back in August, so it’ll be nice to see it finally paid off.

Start of Feud: August 26, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: Since it seems like this match is not happening at Takeover, I’d expect to see this feud sorted out next week so that Rhea can be put in position to become the number one contender for the Women’s Championship.


(3) SANTOS ESCOBAR vs. ISAIAH “SWERVE” SCOTT

New Developments: It was announced that Escobar would defend the Cruiserweight Championship against Swerve at Takeover. Swerve and Escobar took part in a split-screen interview that did a great job of building the character of both wrestlers.

Highs & Lows: This feud has cooled off quite a bit due to the lack of any significant activity, so the interview was necessary to reestablish the characters headed into Takeover. Swerve was a good, passionate babyface, but Escobar was also a very believable heel. It’s no surprise that Swerve would be challenging for the title at Takeover, since he’s really the only wrestler who has shown interest in the title. More should have been done to build up the feud, since both of these guys haven’t been on tv for nearly a month.

Start of Feud: August 26, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: I expect Escobar to successfully defend the title at Takeover. After Takeover these two wrestlers would probably be better served moving on to different feuds due to the fact that this has been so drawn out and there is very little heat between these guys, despite the good interview segment.


LOWER TIER FEUDS


(1) KUSHIDA vs. VELVETEEN DREAM

New Developments: A video package was shown building up Kushida’s character, highlighting that despite injury setbacks, he is vicious. Kushida then took on Tony Nese where he focused on weakening Nese’s arm before getting the win with the hoverboard lock. After the match Dream said that he puts on his best performances at Takeover, so he will see him at Takeover.

Highs & Lows: The video package was good and is probably the best way for NXT to develop the personality of a wrestler who is not comfortable speaking English. Kushida continues to showcase his intensity, which can help him continue to move up the card.

Start of Feud: August 12, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: With the match set for Takeover, we should see a good match between these two wrestlers. I wonder if Kushida is being positioned to move into the cruiserweight division after this feud, since the commentators continued to mention Nese’s credentials as a former Cruiserweight Champion.


(2) RIDGE HOLLAND vs. CAMERON GRIMES

New Developments: Holland came out and interrupted Grimes’s invitational to completely dominate and beat down Grimes. Grimes picked up the DQ win after Holland got the five-count for refusing to stop stomping Grimes in the ropes. Later in the show Grimes was shown backstage asking for Regal when Dexter Lumis was shown staring at Grimes.

Highs & Lows: There isn’t a lot to go on yet. It looks like Holland will be positioned as the babyface who didn’t want any of Grimes’s nonsense and just wanted to fight.

Start of Feud: September 30, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: With Grimes not getting much offense and being completely caught off guard by Holland attacking him, I would expect Grimes to try and get an official match against Holland soon. With Lumis’s appearance it looks like as soon as Grimes is finished with Holland he will move on to feuding with Lumis.


(3) SHOTZI BLACKHEART vs. DAKOTA KAI

New Developments: Blackheart picked up a win over Kai in a decent match. Kai was clearly counting on Raquel Gonzalez protecting her from taking a loss, but Gonzalez got attacked by Rhea Ripley, which allowed Blackheart to get the win.

Highs & Lows: This is a good feud that can help elevate Blackheart to the top tier of the women’s division. With Kai being involved in the title picture, Blackheart’s win boosts her credibility. This win coupled with her strong showing against Io a couple weeks ago could be signaling that Blackheart will be set up as a underdog title contender in the future.

Start of Feud: September 30, 2020

Forecast & Prediction: With Blackheart picking up a win that was nearly a roll-up, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kai gets a rematch in the next week or two.


CONCLUDED, DORMANT, OR FORGOTTEN FEUDS

– Tommaso Ciampa vs. Jake Atlas – CONCLUDED

– Candice LeRae vs. Tegan Nox – DORMANT


RECOMMENDED: NXT HITS & MISSES 9/30: Intergender Tag Main Event, Build to Takeover 31, Nox’s Injury, Undisputed Breakup?

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