There are two months until the spotlight beams through the Toyota Center onto a revised NXT landscape at TakeOver: Houston, and the direction of the currently undetermined card is becoming clearer with each passing week.
A great deal of the focus surrounds the three newest members of the roster: Adam Cole, Bobby Fish and Kyle O'Reilly, known as the Undisputed Era. Last week, after Fish and O'Reilly earned a win over U.K. stars Trent Seven and Tyler Bate, the other enemies they've made over the course of their brief stay in NXT made a statement of their own. NXT champion Drew McIntyre and SAnitY exacted a bit of revenge and got some shots in on the former Ring of Honor standouts.
TakeOver's possibilities involving this crew are focused on two avenues: McIntyre and SAnitY. In either case, both of those impending showdowns involve championship gold, and this group is on the fast track to earn it.
In most cases, working your way up the ladder to prominence within the brand would be the preferred path for newcomers. McIntyre, a former Intercontinental champion in the WWE, wasn't even dropped directly into the main event scene upon his return to the company. In fact, he didn't make it on the first TakeOver card (Chicago) following his in-ring return. He performed in a taped preshow match.
Aleister Black is another example. Black joined NXT with a ton of credibility, and despite becoming one of the most popular acts in NXT, he hasn't sniffed a championship opportunity.
However, there are exceptions, and this is one of them. Bobby Roode has shifted to SmackDown Live. Asuka is on her way to RAW. The brand was in need of star power, and quickly. They've gotten just that in this trio.
SAnitY, another example of a group that worked their way up the NXT ladder before earning their place as tag team champions, kicked off this week's show with a message for Cole, Fish and O'Reilly. In the ring, Eric Young delivered a message saying, "Tonight, Adam Cole, I'm gonna take you to the edge of sanity."
And with that, the night's main event was set, as the leaders of both factions would go head-to-head in what would be Cole's NXT in-ring debut. Even better, Cole, whose top-notch mic skills have been peculiarly absent since his debut, finally got a chance to speak.
"We are untouchable," he said. "We are unstoppable. And we are undisputed, and this, this is our era."
It was a good in-ring debut for Cole, who looked sharp on his way to his first NXT win, earned mostly due to Young paying attention to Cole's crew and not his opponent.
Lars Sullivan continues to rise
No current superstar in NXT has gotten the monstrous, untouchable type of build the way Lars Sullivan has -- and for good reason. He's got the look, the presence and can go in the ring.
Over the course of the past four months, Sullivan has been presented with increasingly higher-profile challenges. He started out decimating weak link tag team partners he was being paired up with and then shifted up to a short program with No Way Jose, whom he handled with ease. This week, he faced off with the always physical Oney Lorcan.
The dominance continued with a convincing Sullivan victory. After the match, he attempted to continue the assault, but Lorcan was saved by a recent adversary of his own, Danny Burch, who got the attention of Sullivan, allowing Lorcan to escape.
Two takeaways: First, it seems likely that Burch will be the next one in line to experience the wrath of Sullivan. Secondly, the hinted-at tag team combination featuring Burch and Lorcan seems to be coming to fruition.
Kassius Ohno defeats Fabian Aichner
The case of Kassius Ohno in NXT is a curious one. He's had some splashes of success since his return to the brand late last year, including an intense rivalry with Hideo Itami and a wonderful match with former NXT champion Bobby Roode. However, he hasn't surpassed what some would call "mid-card status." That was never more apparent than two months ago, when he was omitted from the TakeOver: Brooklyn card, the biggest show on the NXT calendar.
Why is that? He's over with the crowd, he's a fantastic in-ring performer and he can talk. It's a strange situation. He continued to walk the path of irrelevancy on Wednesday night with a win over Cruiserweight Classic participant Fabian Aichner, who is impressive but is not close to the level of Ohno.
If there are bigger plans for Ohno, they haven't remotely presented themselves yet.
Qualification matches will take place over the next few weeks to see who will join Mae Young Classic winner Kairi Sane in a Fatal 4-Way to determine a new NXT Women's Champion at TakeOver.
Liv Morgan defeated Mae Young Classic competitor Vanessa Borne.
Heavy Machinery scored another decisive victory, beating Demitrius Bronson and Patrick Scott.
Drew McIntyre will take on Roderick Strong for the NXT Championship next week.
In two weeks, Johnny Gargano will take on Andrade "Cien" Almas in a TakeOver rematch.