By Haydn Gleed
For my blog this week, I wanted to be a bit more upbeat than I and others have been over the last couple of weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I share in the disappointment of the build to WrestleMania. The last two years, and arguably the last several, the road to WrestleMania has felt more like a dirt track than a smooth highway (or motorway if you are in the land of kings known as the UK). Well, my friends, when all is lost and you worry about the future of WWE, I look at the NXT roster.
The tradition over the past handful of years is the night or just after WrestleMania, several people get called onto the main roster to freshen things up. So with that in mind, let me present my own personal top five picks if I was able to call up anyone. Just for clarification, I will try and stay away from mentioning the fact that WWE has not done a great job after calling up talent, I will instead look at what they offer and how they can improve the main roster. I’m also not including Sami Zayn, as he’s pretty much been brought onto the roster already.
5. Shinsuke Nakamura: This is very much a long shot, as he has signed a contract with NXT rather than WWE whatever the difference may be. The fact they made that distinction makes me feel that they have plans for him in NXT at least in the short term. For me, however, Shinsuke has that undefinable and rare X Factor. When you find it, you need to embrace and showcase it. He has an undeniable charisma that makes you want to watch him and then you see him performing in the ring and you are transfixed. As I’ve said previously, my schedule and budget won’t allow me to watch New Japan on religiously, but he has wowed me in Ring of Honor and when I have had the opportunity to watch his New Japan work it has doubled the wow factor.
Of course, the powers that be on the main roster will worry that a “limited” English vocabulary will not allow Nakamura to connect with the crowd and likely claim that he will need to be in NXT until he can make that connection. I disagree completely. He has the ability to tell a story without words both with his body language and in the ring. I’m hoping that Vince McMahon and/or others will see his match against Zayn at NXT Takeover: Dallas. I hope it’s the classic we all expect to allow McMahon to see firsthand what all the fuss is about. I listed him at number five simply because he’s just signed, and there must be a reason behind the wording of signed for NXT rather than WWE as a whole.
4. Finn Balor: I hear your cries that he is too low on my list. As the NXT champion, I see Finn as someone that NXT can build around. I appreciate that NXT is a developmental territory, but I see Finn as key to continue to attract the type of fans that NXT is drawing and continue to create the buzz that they’ve been creating. I’m not saying that Finn should never be called up, far from it or he wouldn’t be on my top five list. However, with the lay of the land on the main roster as it is right now, I worry that Finn would get lost in the shuffle with the other multitude of babyfaces on the card.
I would like to see on the main roster sooner rather than later, but I’ll take another six months of Finn as champion on NXT TV before transitioning to WWE in time to build up to WrestleMania 33, and hopefully the first time we see the Demon entrance gimmick on the biggest of all stages. Of course, the other option is to bring him up now as a heel leader of some kind of “Bullet Club” style faction as has been touted, but I don’t see him dropping the NXT Championship before ‘Mania (more on this later).
3. Bayley: I’ll admit it straight away. I love Bayley. No, not in a perverse way in the slightest, more in a big brother who is so very proud of the success of his little sister type of way. Put it this way, I’m not a hugging kind of guy, but I want to give Bayley the biggest hug and tell her well done for being awesome every time I see her on the screen. You may be noticing a theme here, and that is these are wrestlers and characters that you feel some connection with, which is exactly what WWE is missing right now. Add to the fact that Bayley (and the previous two mentioned wrestlers) is great in the ring, there’s a lot to look forward to.
Despite making a point in my intro of saying I wouldn’t go down this road, I can’t help myself in this case. You have to fear that they won’t know what to do with her on the main roster. Indeed, part of the appeal of Bayley was the story of her being seen as the weak member of the “Four Horsewomen” and rising all the way to the top of NXT. Although it could feel somewhat like a repeat, I hope they do the same on the main roster. It’s pure fantasy booking on my part, but it would make sense to me that at NXT Takeover: Dallas she loses the title to Asuka, and I can see her making her main roster debut and playing off her history with the women currently on the roster the night after ‘Mania.
2. Baron Corbin: Nope, you haven’t read that wrong, and no I haven’t lost my mind. The main roster desperately needs heels that people react to. In the case of Corbin, the reaction is pure dislike. On Breaking Ground, whether it was an act or not, Baron came across as a self-entitled, dislikable, up his own backside, sleazy, think he’s better than he is douchebag (kind of like Roman Reigns as a babyface but I digress). In fact, at the NXT Takeover: London show that I attended with Darren Gutteridge in December, for a moment I forgot all about analyzing what was going on on a professional level and in the moment hated Baron Corbin defeating Apollo Crews and ranted about what a bonehead move it was………until I actually calmed down and realized it was a smart move by NXT and my reaction was exactly the reaction they were looking for.
Okay, I understand he’s not the best wrestler in the world, but he has improved. He has the size and the build that Vince drools over, and while perhaps he hasn’t got the look that Vince typically would look for in someone to get behind as a babyface, he has the exact look right for a main heel badass type, so I think he would be looked after.
1. Samoa Joe: You know what I’m going to say even before I’ve said it. See my line regarding heels on the main roster in the Corbin section and you can certainly apply that to Joe. One of the most gifted wrestlers of this generation, Joe has finally made it to the WWE system and he’s currently in NXT. The man who had the fans on their feet cheering him when he made his debut has managed to turn those fans who adore him against him. Now that’s a talented heel. I remember just before he signed with NXT, he was on Jim Ross’s podcast, and he said words to the effect of everywhere he has gone, no matter what company he has worked for, he has always gone in and had to prove himself. He has gone into NXT and more than proven himself in so many ways.
The possibilities of Joe as a heel in WWE is out of this world. Joe vs. Seth Rollins, Joe vs. Dean Ambrose, Joe vs. John Cena, the list goes on and on. Of course, in the background you’ve always got the possibility of another Joe vs. AJ Styles feud. Because of his age, the time to maximize Samoa Joe is now, and I hope the night after WrestleMania we are talking about the start of the Samoa Joe on the main roster story.
Missed The Cut
Austin Aries: One of my personal favorite wrestlers, but he just arrived at NXT and I feel he will stick around for a while to help with the youngsters. At this point, I think it’s still touch and go whether Aries will ever make a main roster appearance, which is unfortunate.
Apollo Crews: Another of my personal favorites, but the truth is he hasn’t had the big impact that I and others thought he might have made in NXT by now. Another year in developmental honing his skills and a call up at the right time will probably make more sense.
Tag Teams: If I had my way, the majority of the tag teams on the NXT roster would be on WWE television week in, week out……but only if they are used in the same fashion they are in NXT. This is more of a personal choice as opposed to a business choice, but I would rather watch extremely good and entertaining tag team wrestling on a show that values them.
Emma: A highly entertaining heel act right now, but I’m not sure she’s ready to reappear on the main roster at this time. I enjoy watching her development in NXT.
Asuka: As previously mentioned, I think she will be winning the NXT Women’s title and the division will be built around her for the foreseeable future.
Hideo Itami: Been out injured for a good long while now and he will need time to get back into ring shape and to reintroduce himself to the wrestling world. It makes more sense for him to do that in NXT than on the main roster.
Agree or disagree with my list? As always, feel free to get in touch via twitter @haydngleed or via email email@example.com
It just doesn’t seem like a good thing to be brought ‘up’ to the main roster these days. I wonder if there are wrestlers on the main roster wishing they would be sent back ‘down’?
I think the main draw of going up to the main roster is the money and the larger crowds. If NXT paid more, most would opt to stay.