The final match added to NXT Takeover: Philadelphia this Saturday, as mentioned by Triple H on yesterday’s NXT Media Conference Call and cemented by a vignette on WWE.com, has the least about of backstory, but it’s the story that could emerge going forward that’s the most interesting – and that’s the newly announced match-up of Kassius Ohno vs Velveteen Dream.
Velveteen Dream, hot off a Match of the Year candidate for his contest versus Aleister Black at NXT Takeover: War Games, spent the next month on the injury shelf. The injury cost him his spot in the #1 Contenders tournament, with his replacement, Johnny Gargano, ultimately winning it all to face NXT Champion Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas this Saturday in Philadelphia. Dream disrespected Ohno as a weak opponent to kickstart Gargano’s tournament run, which lead to Ohno confronting Dream last night to issue the challenge for Saturday.
Kassius Ohno has been in a bit of a holding pattern of late in NXT. While there’s no denying the absolute talent that the former Chris Hero possesses, lately he’s been used more as the test pattern in NXT – that is, the man that others have to go through in order to move up the ladder of NXT. While he’s still putting on great matches – such as his match vs Johnny Gargano – he’s not actively in any singular storyline. Ohno’s chance to enter the NXT Championship picture has unfortunately passed. With Gargano, Almas, Adam Cole, Black and a soon to return Drew McIntyre (not to mention the likes of Ricochet or EC3 coming in), Ohno is farther from the top than at any single point in his NXT career.
Velveteen Dream, on the other hand, is a star on the rise. His match with Johnny Gargano this week was another fantastic effort of athleticism and storytelling and, while he may still be a ways off from entering the title picture, he’s got loads of untapped potential. He’s taken two very tough losses – against Black and now Gargano – and the NXT crowds are more and more behind him than ever before. He needs this win – even if it’s at Ohno’s expense – in order to kick his character up a notch.
Don’t be surprise if this match is actually Ohno’s swan song with NXT. A match with this little storyline seems almost better fitted as one of the dark matches that ultimately makes it to the NXT programming in the week’s following an NXT Takeover, while the next set of tapings are being filmed. But the WWE wants this one to air live on Saturday. There’s a very real chance that after Ohno puts over Dream for his first major win on NXT television, that we see Kassius as a surprise entrant in Sunday’s Royal Rumble as he makes his ascension to the main roster. And with so much focus on the fragility of Sheamus‘ neck, could he possibly interfere in The Bar‘s tag team match? After all, for much of the 2000s, Ohno was the tag team partner of Cesaro in Kings of Wrestling, 2x ROH World Tag Team Champions, 2x CZW Tag Team Champions and Campeanatos de Parejas in CHIKARA. Adding a third man to The Bar could help extend Sheamus’ career if they had someone to help out with the Freebird Rule.