Favourite Five

Five Potential Challengers For The NXT Title

Shalene Hixon counts down five potential new challengers for NXT Champion, Adam Cole.

Saturday night in Toronto, Adam Cole defended his NXT Championship once again against his bitter rival, Johnny Gargano, in another 2-out-of-3-falls match.

Cole won the first fall, while Gargano won the second, so for the third fall William Regal utilized a steel cage match with weapons (à la Ambrose vs. Jericho’s Asylum match) to determine the definitive winner. The champion would emerge from the carnage victorious, seemingly ending the feud and sending Gargano off to the main roster.

Now that the dust has settled from another incredible TakeOver, who will be the next challenger for Cole’s NXT Championship? Let’s look at five potential contenders that we might see in the coming weeks.

5. Matt Riddle

First on our list is the “Original Bro”, Matt Riddle.

He has made quite the impact since being signed in July 2018. He was undefeated from late October 2018 until April 2019, when he unsuccessfully challenged the Velveteen Dream for the NXT North American Championship at TakeOver: New York.

His wacky and carefree nature, exemplified mainly in his wearing of flip-flops, has quickly made him a fan-favorite among the NXT Universe, but once the bell rings, that all changes. His MMA background is on full display, unleashing a variety of strikes and holds that many opponents can’t handle – just ask Kassius Ohno, who was unable to retain consciousness after a barrage of elbow strikes.

While he is currently involved in a feud with Killian Dain, it wouldn’t surprise many if he was in the title picture sooner rather than later. It feels like he’s going to be a big star for the brand, so a showdown between him and Cole seems likely in the near future. That’s if Goldberg doesn’t get to him next.

4. Pete Dunne

Next, we look at the man who holds the record for the longest NXT title reign in history.

Dunne is a bona fide star in every sense of the word. He elevates whomever he steps in the ring with, and almost every single match he’s a part of is a match of the night candidate. His NXT UK Championship reign is testament to his talent and star power, with him holding the title for an astonishing 685 days. The only reason he doesn’t have the title anymore is all a result of an anomaly – an Austrian one at that.

So why wouldn’t he try to go after the NXT Championship next? He hasn’t been doing a whole lot over in NXT UK as of late, so he could spend a little while in NXT’s main event scene.

Cole and Dunne have some previous history; The Undisputed Era and British Strong Style had plenty of memorable battles last summer, along with Dunne teaming up with Ricochet and The War Raiders to face Cole and his stablemates in War Games.

This match-up would be extremely entertaining if it comes to fruition, especially since we’ve had glimpses of it in the past. These two going at it under the bright lights of a TakeOver have the makings of quite possibly one of the best feuds NXT has seen in years.

3. Winner of the NXT Breakout Tournament **Spoilers Ahead**

Then we look at a choice that might come out of left-field, but that does seem to be NXT’s modus operandi at times.

Whoever won the NXT Breakout Tournament was said to have an opportunity to challenge for any title in NXT. Jordan Myles and Cameron Grimes outlasted the rest of the field and were on a collision course to determine the winner, and launch themselves into potential NXT stardom.

The finals took place before TakeOver: Toronto aired, with Myles emerging victorious. Him winning shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since he was booked as the quintessential good guy throughout the whole tournament.

While this might be the least likely scenario out of the five, that doesn’t make it any less valid a suggestion. If it were to happen, it could be the “plucky underdog vs. cocky heel” kind of storyline that is easy to book and can ensure that Cole gets another quality defense under his belt. At the same time, it could be used to make Myles look like a worthy opponent and place him at the upper echelon of the black and yellow brand. That and there really aren’t many other options for him. Unless Myles finds himself a partner and goes after the NXT Tag Team Championships, he can really only choose the North American Championship or the NXT Championship.

2. Roderick Strong

Sticking with the surprising picks, why not have Cole’s next challenger come from within his own group?

It was only several months ago that tensions were running high in The Undisputed Era, especially between Cole and Strong. There was a lot of speculation about the future of the group and who was going to turn on who first. However, things seemed to have calmed down between them…or have they?

Strong might have been lying in wait this whole time, looking for the perfect opportunity to strike. He has previous with that, having turned on Pete Dunne during the final of the Dusty Classic and giving everyone watching a tonne of heartache. Cole’s just been through an absolute war with Gargano, so this might be the time for Strong to kick the champion while he’s down.

If this were to actually happen, this could be one of the more personal feuds NXT has seen in a while. Adding Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish into the mix would add another layer that would make things even more interesting. Those two could be torn on who to side with and would increase tensions even more.

This one might be unlikely to happen as well, but you never know with NXT!

1. Tommaso Ciampa

Finally, we come to the man that never lost the NXT Championship in the first place.

Ciampa relinquished the title in March after he was forced to undergo an anterior cervical fusion in his neck. He was said to be out of action for at least six months, which means he could return by September at the earliest – whoch by my reckoning is ample time to get back in the ring and remove some of the ring rust before the TakeOver at Survivor Series weekend.

He seems hell-bent on returning to claim his title as soon as he can, and doesn’t care who’s holding it once he gets back. For all we know, he could be ahead of schedule in terms of his rehab and might be back sooner rather than later.

This seems like a pretty obvious choice; it’s just going to be a matter of “when”, not “if”. Cole can be bragging about how he got rid of ‘Johnny TakeOver’, which would draw out Ciampa to avenge his DIY comrade who came to help him when he was injured.

Regardless, Cole better watch his back once Ciampa returns, because he’ll stop at nothing to bring Goldie back home where she belongs.

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