Since winning the NXT Championship on the July 18th episode of NXT against Aleister Black, Tommaso Ciampa has remained untouchable. Ciampa has been the face of NXT for exactly 200 days now with no end in sight. Yet, there is always an end to every championship reign, even if it’s the reign of the self-proclaimed “Greatest Sports Entertainer of All-Time”. As NXT continues to be one of the hottest brands in wrestling, there continues to also be plenty of contenders for Ciampa to face. After his spectacular defenses against Johnny Gargano, Velveteen Dream, and Aleister Black, it seems that someone new is ready to step up to the NXT Champion. Let’s take a look at five stars who are realistic choices to dethrone Ciampa of his love Goldie, the NXT Championship.
“Feast Your Eyes.” Dominik Dijakovic re-debuted on NXT television (as his official NXT name) on the December 19th episode of NXT and let everyone know it was time to feast your eyes. Previously, he had answered a Ricochet open challenge on the May 30th episode, suffering a loss and not being seen from until his refreshed debut. And since his debut, he has made himself look like a beast. And while he has not been on NXT television for a long time, people may remember him from ROH in which he called home for four years, winning their 2015 Top Prospect tournament in the process. The Worcester, Massachusetts native brings a unique form of size, physicality, and unbelievable athleticism that can easily get over with the NXT crowd. And with Lars Sullivan moving on, NXT is waiting for a new monster to take over. Dijakovic can not only do that but take Ciampa’s NXT Championship in the process. It is clear that Dijakovic will be a star.
“The Panama City Playboy” has been a big part of NXT since his debut in 2017 when he took out then NXT Champion, Drew McIntyre. However, he has yet to get a big Takeover match for the NXT Championship. And while he was the first NXT North American Champion, it seems as though Adam Cole has been in some sort of rut. Cole made that clear this past Friday as well, talking to TMZ about Halftime Heat and voicing his frustration, “I’m a guy who feels like I should be a champion at ‘NXT’ … I think it’s an outrage that I’m not.” The frustration continues to grow for the former three-time Ring of Honor World Champion, as NXT Takeover: Phoenix was the first that he has not appeared on since joining NXT. Later on, Adam Cole would team with Ciampa and Gargano, both of the champions of NXT, it is quite possible he takes his shot at Ciampa tonight in hopes of going for the NXT Championship, in his ultimate quest of the Undisputed Era holding all the gold this year, and being champion once again.
In less than a year, “The One and Only” Ricochet has taken NXT by storm. From stealing the show at NXT Takeover: New Orleans in his first match to defeating Adam Cole for the North American Championship, Ricochet has continuously been a main point on NXT since his debut. After losing the North American Championship, it is time for Ricochet to find something new. How about chasing the NXT Championship, which many see him capturing one day. The uber-athletic Ricochet is one of the best performers in the world, proving so in incredible matches with Pete Dunne, Adam Cole, and Johnny Gargano, his talents may be exactly what it takes to become NXT Champion. After losing his North American Championship to Johnny Gargano, it is possible Ricochet goes for Gargano’s buddy’s championship to get back at Ciampa for pushing Johnny towards his title. As he is prepared to face off against Ciampa for the first time on Halftime Heat, it could be a chance to spark a rivalry between the One and Only and the Sicilian Psychopath.
After being the hottest free agent of the second half of 2018, the “King of Bros” Matt Riddle officially signed a contract with the WWE. The former UFC welterweight has become one of the most popular professional wrestlers in the world. From making a name for himself in companies like EVOLVE and PROGRESS, it was finally time he caught the eye of Triple H. In Riddle’s Takeover debut, he defeated Kassius Ohno in just seven seconds. He had the Los Angeles crowd in a frenzy that night, as the Bro had officially arrived. And though he hasn’t had many matches under his belt in NXT, it has become clear that not only is he a fan favorite, but is a megastar in the making. His ability to connect with the audience, hard-hitting in-ring style, and oozing charisma, Matt Riddle is a future champion in NXT. Ciampa should watch his back, because the “King of Bros” will be continuing his fun, yet serious warpath through NXT.
If you were to ask 100 wrestling fans who would take the championship off of Ciampa when the time comes, it seems at least 90 percent would choose Johnny Wrestling. The feud between the former #DIY team ruled the NXT brand in 2018, winning the 2018 Feud of the Year as well as being the main event of three straight Takeover events. However, since NXT Takeover: Brooklyn IV, something in Johnny Gargano had changed. The fact that Ciampa was champion and he could not take the championship from him was driving Johnny crazy, making it seem that this would lead to a reformation of #DIY. And while we are yet to learn it that will be true or not, Halftime Heat will be the first time #DIY is teamed up in a match on NXT television since NXT Takeover: Chicago, the night Ciampa threw Gargano’s friendship away, starting this incredible rivalry. Could they continue to show unification between the former partners, or will this finally be the time that Gargano realizes that the end of his “fairytale ending” is dethroning Ciampa of the NXT Championship? Gargano has done everything possible in NXT, except capture the NXT Championship, which makes him the lead candidate to do so despite being the current NXT North American Champion. It is time for Gargano to realize who Ciampa is and take the title that he has truly earned.
No championship reign can go on forever, and it becomes truly believable that one of these men will take Goldie away from Tommaso Ciampa in the near future. While some may be more unique and others seem destined to do so, Ciampa better hold on to his championship real tight.