Less than a month ago, several NXT superstars made their debut on the main roster. One of those men included the NXT Champion, Tommaso Ciampa.
He teamed up once again with his #DIY partner Johnny Gargano and picked up several big victories against the RAW Tag Team Champions The Revival, and former SmackDown Tag Team Champions The Bar.
However two weeks later, it was reported that Ciampa would have to undergo an anterior cervical fusion in his neck. He underwent successful surgery this Sunday and is out of action for around six months, forcing him to vacate the title he held for over 200 days.
Who will replace him atop the black-and-yellow brand? I offer up five options for NXT moving forward; some are rather easy choices, and some probably won’t happen for a while, if at all.
Starting off the list is, in my opinion, the most obvious choice out of the group. Gargano has quite the history with Ciampa, and it would be rather fitting to see him take his rival’s place as champion.
He had failed to dethrone Ciampa on several occasions throughout 2018. Many had believed it was only a matter of time before he became NXT Champion however things didn’t work out that way. It’s hard to believe that Gargano has only had one singles championship in NXT, which came only two months ago after defeating Ricochet for the NXT North American Championship at TakeOver: Phoenix.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Gargano returns to NXT and stays there for a little bit. He has been noticeably absent from RAW and SmackDown Live since Ciampa’s injury. The creative team is probably deciding on what to do with him since their original plans had to be scrapped.
Even though he’s still in creative limbo, it would make sense for Gargano to be the next NXT Champion. He’s shown that he can perform at a high level on a consistent basis, a trait that a quality titleholder possesses. So why not turn Johnny Wrestling into Johnny Champion once again?
Up next is a pick that might take some of you by surprise. Keith Lee hasn’t been with NXT very long—making his in-ring debut back on August 8th, 2018—but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far.
He has that unique blend of strength and agility that makes him such an entertaining competitor. A guy his size shouldn’t be able to do some of the things he does, plain and simple!
In all honesty, him becoming champion after Ciampa is highly unlikely. He probably won’t win the title for quite a while, but there’s still a reason why I picked him.
NXT hasn’t had a formidable champion since Drew McIntyre back in 2017. Maybe it’s time to spice things up and put the belt on a bigger guy. Lee could not only bring that imposing size, but could also hang with some of the high-flyers on the roster if need be.
Like I said earlier, this likely won’t happen until the end of this year or longer. But hey, at least I was thinking outside the box!
Now we move on to someone who already has a taste of championship gold. Velveteen Dream is currently the NXT North American Champion, but it isn’t far-fetched to imagine him with NXT’s top prize around his waist.
Many are already predicting that he’ll be NXT Champion by next year, but now it might happen sooner than anticipated. He has the talent and charisma that has already made him quite the fan favorite. Add that to the fact that he’s already a champion at the age of 23, and it shows how much faith Triple H and company have in him.
While this might mean he would have to drop the NXT North American Championship, I don’t think he would mind if the NXT Championship was his consolation prize. To those who want to see him rule over NXT dream on – it could become a reality in the near future.
We then turn to another superstar who has only been with the company for a little while. Matt Riddle made his in-ring debut on October 31st, 2018, but is a rising star in NXT.
Though his MMA style of wrestling is entertaining, it’s his laid back and care-free attitude that has endeared himself to fans. While we haven’t seen much of him yet, it’s only a matter of time before he becomes a regular on NXT TV.
I think Riddle belongs in the “probably won’t be the champion after Ciampa” category but again, it doesn’t hurt to throw it out there! If not, I’m sure The Original Bro will be in the title scene by the end of next year.
Last, but certainly not least, we come to the other guy I think has the best chance of becoming champion next.
Adam Cole has been one of the more popular performers since joining the company in 2017. However, much like Gargano, he has only won one singles championship in NXT. I’ve wanted him to be NXT Champion for a while but it felt like the timing was never quite right. What better time than now to finally give him that chance?
He’s even said himself that it’s an outrage he’s not NXT Champion yet, and I definitely agree with him. Cole’s proven that he is championship material, winning gold everywhere he has gone throughout his career. This includes being the first-ever NXT North American Champion, a reign that lasted 133 days. He has what it takes to be the face of the company, and I’m sure a lot of people would say the same.
I think now’s the time to pull the trigger on giving Cole the belt. He’s earned it and that, boys and girls, is undisputed!