Pro wrestling is cyclical. Major stars tend to have 10+ year runs at the top and then fade into the mid-card. WWE had issues in the past trying to build homegrown young talent able to take the next step when the time is right.
Triple H is semi-retired from competing in the ring and is now the Chief Creative Officer for the WWE. He decided to focus on talent development. They opened the WWE Performance Center and rebranded their developmental territory (Florida Championship Wrestling) into NXT. The results have spoken and it has exceeded all expectations.
Bray Wyatt, Seth Rollins and Paige have all had success since graduating from NXT to WWE’s main roster. Which stars are ready to take the leap?
Finn Bálor – He’s been ready since he signed with the WWE. He was once known as Prince Devitt when he wrestled in New Japan Pro Wrestling. WWE was after the Irish-born wrestler for some time before he agreed to sign. He has a dramatic ring entrance and explosive move-set in the ring. If there was a ‘sure thing’ in NXT, it would be Bálor.
Hideo Itami – I would put Itami in the same boat as Bálor. Itami wrestled as KENTA in Japan and in the states for Ring of Honor. He actually invented the ‘Go 2 Sleep’ finishing maneuver that CM Punk made famous in the States. Itami is probably the most technical wrestler in NXT. He’s ready to take the leap.
Sami Zayn – He’s another guy who wrestled all over the world before joining NXT. He was known as El Generico in the independent wrestling scene. He wrestled for Pro Wrestling Guerilla, Chikara, Ring of Honor and many other promotions. He’s already owned the NXT Championship and has been in NXT for over a year. I expect to see him appear on RAW soon after ‘Wrestlemania’.
Kevin Owens – Owens and Zayn had some epic battles against each other before signing with WWE while they were in Ring of Honor. He’s the current NXT Champion and is extremely over with the crowd. He was once known as Kevin Steen in the indies. During his matches, fans would chant “Kill Steen Kill’ or ‘Fight Steen Fight’. He’s going to be a fan favorite when he appears on RAW. I expect his time in NXT to be limited.
Charlotte – Charlotte is WWE legend Ric Flair’s real-life daughter. She’s nearly six feet tall and can move well in the ring. She may not have the model looks of many other WWE Divas, but there’s a place for her on the main roster. NXT Divas get much more ring time than those on the main roster. Until they fix that, NXT women talent will have a hard time getting over with the crowd. Charlotte’s lineage will definitely help her get over with less television time.
Tyler Breeze – Breeze didn’t have much wrestling experience before joining WWE in 2010. He was trained by ECW legend Lance Storm, so he was trained well. His nickname is ‘Prince Pretty’ is has a model gimmick. It works well for him.
Sasha Banks – Banks had some experience before joining WWE. She was known as Mercedes KV and Miss Mercedes in the indies. She is the current NXT Women’s Champion. She moves around the ring well and her mic skills are better than most current main roster Divas.
Enzo Amore & Big Cass – This tag team intrigues me more than any other team in NXT. Amore has the best mic skills in NXT. He may be small in stature, but his personality is huge. Speaking of huge, Colin Cassady is nearly seven feet tall. He doesn’t have the huge muscles and abs yet, but the pair is perfect together.
Adrian Neville – Known as the ‘Man Who Gravity Forgot’ was known as PAC in the indies. His high-flying move-set is very entertaining. I think he could do well on the main roster, but he needs a strong gimmick. His mic skills aren’t the best and could excel with a mouthpiece manager or tag team partner at first..
NXT has so much potential for the WWE. Even if all those guys appeared on RAW tomorrow, they still have Baron Corbin, the Vaudevillains and Solomon Crowe, and Divas like Becky Lynch, to take over the top spots.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.