Coming up on the end of 2020, it is fair to say that NXT had somewhat of a reset this year. The brand looks very different than it did 12 months ago after the likes of Keith Lee and Matt Riddle moving up to the main roster.
NXT has rebuilt, with some new Superstars and some returning stars set to make their mark. The NXT Championship has changed hands three times so far in 2020. Adam Cole entered the year as champion and Keith Lee dethroned him in July, during night two of NXT: The Great American Bash. Lee would only hold the championship for a little over a month as newcomer Karrion Kross defeated The Limitless One at TakeOver: XXX.
Unfortunately, Kross suffered an injury in that match which forced him to relinquish the championship just days after winning it. This gave the man that returned to NXT at the end of 2019, Finn Balor, the opportunity to win the vacant NXT Championship, over five years since he last won it in 2015.
Strangely, Balor also suffered an injury in a match where he defended his championship against Kyle O’Reilly at TakeOver: 31. Afterward, Balor revealed that he broke his jaw. The Prince of NXT is currently recovering from this injury, and there has been no word on if Balor will need to vacate the championship. At this point, it almost seems like the higher-ups in NXT are reluctant to vacate the championship again.
Whether Balor has to vacate the championship or returns to defend it, it will be interesting to see who becomes the next challenger for the coveted NXT Championship.
#5 Kyle O'Reilly could become NXT Champion in 2021
Kyle O’Reilly has primarily worked as a tag team wrestler during his time in NXT, having held the Tag Team Championship on three occasions. He also won Tag Team of the Year on two occasions at NXT’s Year-End Awards in 2018 with Roderick Strong and 2019 with Bobby Fish.
However, O’Reilly recently received the opportunity to show what he can do as a singles competitor. On the Sept. 23 edition of NXT, he defeated Bronson Reed, Cameron Grimes, KUSHIDA, and Timothy Thatcher in a Gauntlet Eliminator match. As the winner, he received an NXT Championship match at TakeOver: 31.
O’Reilly’s talents as a singles wrestler will have come as no surprise to fans of his pre-WWE work. The Vancouver native previously reigned as the PWG World Champion and the Ring of Honor World Champion, two of the most respected world championships on the US independent wrestling scene.
Following O’Reilly’s big Gauntlet match win, NXT made the championship match official for the main event of TakeOver: XXX. The build-up to this match was fantastic, featuring an intense face-to-face segment with the two hosted by "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels.
On Oct. 4, 2020, at TakeOver, O’Reilly fought Balor in a hard-hitting encounter where Balor suffered a legitimate broken jaw. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to stop the Prince of NXT as Balor nailed O’Reilly with a devastating Coup de Grace for the win after over 28 minutes of intense action. The match was very well received by fans and critics alike, with Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer rating the match 4.5 stars out of five.
Although O'Reilly was unsuccessful, this could be the start of a tremendous singles run. What better way to keep this momentum going than for O’Reilly to step up to the plate to challenge Balor in a rematch, but this time come out on top and became the new NXT Champion?