NXT’s annual tag team tournament is set to showcase the and black and gold brands best duo’s as they compete for the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic trophy, with the Women finally getting to show their tag team talents.
The tournament has been pivotal in establishing a number of teams, firing the Authors of Pain to the tag team championships, as well as forming memorable pairings like Samoa Joe and Finn Balor and last year’s winners, the Broserweights.
This year’s tournament sees another mixture of established teams and pairings, with multiple debuts scattered throughout both the men’s and women’s brackets.
A Strong Showing for The Way
The Way have been heavily featured across NXT TV and this is represented in this tournament, with Johnny Gargano and Austin Theory in the Men’s bracket and Candice LeRae and Indi Hartwell in the Women’s.
The North American Champion Gargano does face a hurdle with the man who took the title from him last year and the man who is set to feud with him for the title going forward, Leon Ruff and Kushida.
Despite this, I can see both teams representing The Way going far in their respective tournaments, teasing a possible clean sweep for the group.
MSK to go the Distance
But on the men’s side of the bracket, the favourites have to be the newcomers of MSK. The former Rascalz, now going the by names Wes Lee and Nash Carter, arrived at the Capitol Wrestling Center with a bang, eliminating Issiah ‘Swerve’ Scott and Jake Atlas from the competition.
NXT has recently been criticised for the strength of it’s Tag Team division, with many of it’s top teams being heels, such as Imperium, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch, Grizzled Young Veterans, Legado del Fantasma and Everrise. But MSK arriving on the scene and immediately claiming the Dusty Cup would go a long way to remedying this issue.
A Takeover match between MSK and Lorcan and Burch following the Dusty Cup would be a great showcase to introduce MSK, with them potentially capturing the tag team championships.
Catanzaro and Carter the Dark Horses
The dark horses of the tournament heading into what was the long-term partnership of Kacy Catanzaro and Kayden Carter, with the perennial losers picking up a huge first round win over Toni Storm and Mercedes Martinez.
Although they may not be at the top of the totem pole on NXT, Catanzaro and Carter have been teaming for almost a year now and the company may be looking to reward an established tag team as they look to bolster a floundering Women’s tag team division on the main roster.
Kai and Gonzales on a Collision Course with Blackheart and Moon
But the favourites of the tournament have to come down to four of the biggest female stars that the Black and Gold brand have to offer in Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzales, and Shotzi Blackheart and Ember Moon.
With the two teams on the opposite side of the bracket, this is likely to be the final of the tournament, with two halves of the Women’s War Games match facing off once again.
Gonzales has been on a tear through NXT of recent, having pinned the NXT Women’s Champion Io Shirai in the War Games match as well as defeating long term rival Rhea Ripley at New Year’s Evil in a Last Woman Standing Match.
Blackheart has also clearly been earmarked as a focal point of the NXT Women’s Division going forward and could mark her place as one of the top contenders with a Dusty Cup victory. Moon on the other hand has not set the world on fire as many may have predicted upon her return to NXT, but this could be the launchpad that the former NXT Women’s champion requires.
Men’s Bracket winner: MSK
Women’s Bracket winner: Dakota Kai and Raquel Gonzales