Ever since Triple H took a bigger hand in the expansion of the NXT brand, the developmental promotion has gone from a training ground where new wrestlers learn the ropes to a fully-fledged promotion that houses some of the best indie talent in the world. While this transition has been great for fans, it has raised some questions regarding what the long-term plans for NXT’s biggest names are. Now, it seems that stardom in NXT doesn’t automatically mean a quick trip to the main roster. As for those who do go to the next level, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be given the chance to succeed. There's also no guarantee the same gimmick that got them over in NXT will relate to the mainstream audience.
The future is vague for NXT’s biggest stars, but the most recent series of call-ups and releases from NXT have given us a clue as to how WWE perceives some of the promotion’s most notable names.
With that clue, it becomes a little easier to decipher the prospects of wrestlers like Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and Asuka. While the fly-by-night nature of WWE’s booking sometimes leads to bizarre twists of fate, these are our likely projections for the future of NXT’s 15 biggest stars.
15 Hideo Itami: Will Feud with Shinsuke Nakamura and Then Leave WWE/NXT
Signing Hideo Itami is one of the best moves that WWE ever made in terms of building the NXT brand. At the time the acquisition, Itami – better known before then as KENTA – was seen as one of the best pure pro wrestlers in the world. Since signing to NXT, however, Itami is seen as a liability. His constant injuries have made it hard for WWE to rely on him in terms of long-term booking and – quite honestly – there’s very little reason to suspect that Itami will be able to overcome such devastating setbacks and become a main roster member.
14 Tye Dillinger: Moves To The Main Roster and Becomes A Comedy Character/Television Worker
The NXT career of Tye Dillinger has been interesting. He’s one of the few guys on the developmental roster you can call an NXT vet – he’s been with the brand since 2013 – but it wasn’t until recently that he really became a roster staple. His mastery of the “Perfect 10” gimmick has earned him a great deal of fan accolades, leaving some to wonder when he’ll make his move to the main roster. That should happen this year, but it’s highly likely it doesn’t go well.
13 Austin Aries : Becomes a Top Heel In The Cruiserweight Division
As difficult as it is to admit, Austin Aries’ run in NXT hasn’t exactly been everything that it could have been. Some of that is on Aries himself who hasn’t had that one blow-away match yet that puts him on everyone’s radar, but it has more to do with a lack of opportunities. Aries hasn’t been given the chance to really work a major program for long and develop his fantastic heel character. That should change this year as Aries makes the likely transition to the cruiserweight division.
12 Team DIY: Move to the Main Roster as a Team before Gargano Becomes A Singles Champion
Over the last few months, Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa have established themselves as the kind of tag team that NXT’s creative staff can build a division around. While both arrived in NXT as singles stars, they’ve quickly turned their real-life friendship into the foundation of Team DIY. While there is still a strong possibility that the two break up and feud while in NXT – this is WWE after all – it feels like they’re going to make the main roster move as a unit. Don’t expect that to last long, however, as WWE will likely be unable to resist utilizing these guys’ potential as singles competitors or having them feud on the main roster.
11 The Revival: A Brief Run As Tag Team Champions Before WWE Forgets About Them
While Team DIY currently holds the belts, the best tag team on the NXT roster at the moment is still The Revival. At a time when it’s almost impossible for wrestling heels to really make fans hate them, The Revival have managed to consistently put on the best match every night and still get people to boo them. Their move to the main roster may only be a matter of weeks. From there, The Revival’s chances to make an impact are pretty good.
10 No Way Jose: Doesn’t Make the Main Roster and is Out of NXT By the end of 2017
Calling No Way Jose a star may be a bit of a stretch, but on an NXT roster that’s a bit thin at the moment, he’s still one of the most distinguished names on the roster. While Jose isn’t the best in the ring, he brings a tremendous energy to every match he’s in that’s perfect for warming NXT crowds up. Unfortunately, that’s likely going to be Jose’s biggest career accomplishment. In times gone by, Jose could have actually made a main roster transition into a reoccurring jobber on some of the lesser WWE shows.
9 SAnitY: A brief run at the top of NXT before a feud with the Wyatt Family
This entry could have focused on SAnitY leader Eric Young, but it seems likely that the fate of all the faction’s members are going to be intertwined for at least a while. Since NXT was turned into a distinct wrestling brand a few years ago, the show’s creative staff have refrained from doing a “faction dominates everyone” storyline. As that storyline can be a gold mine of entertainment when done correctly, it’s likely that SAnitY is going to get a brief run at the top of NXT. It’s even possible that every member could hold NXT gold.
8 The Authors of Pain: A Shot on the Main Roster Followed by a Quick Departure
7 Kassius Ohno: Becomes an NXT Main Eventer before He Turns into an NXT Trainer
If you didn’t get to watch Kassius Ohno – aka Chris Hero – during his initial NXT run, you missed out on some of the best matches in the promotion’s history. At a time when NXT was still trying to find its identify as a promotion, Ohno was making a habit of stealing the show. The rumor is that he was let go because he refused to get into shape. Since then, he has gained quite a bit of weight and is having the best matches of his career. He’s back now, and his future is interesting. Ohno has the talent to be an NXT Champion, but it seems more likely that he’ll be a constant contender with main roster aspirations.
6 Roderick Strong: Challenges for the NXT Championship but Doesn’t Make the Main Roster
5 Andrade “Cien” Almas: Out of NXT and WWE Before the End of the Year
4 Bobby Roode: Will Win the NXT Championship In 2017 Then Contend for the Main Roster Championships
If WWE was smart, they would have signed Bobby Roode eight years ago. Roode is a throwback wrestler who has often been compared to guys like Triple H. What that means is that he’s solid across the board and can often do exceptional things when given the right guy to work with. Combine that with his incredible NXT gimmick, and you’ve got a guy with a lot of potential. The problem is that Roode is 39 years old. No matter how good he is, that fact limits what he has left to accomplish.
3 Asuka: Leaves NXT Before the end of 2017 and Enjoys a Brock Lesnar-like Run on the Main Roster
2 Shinsuke Nakamura: Remains NXT Champion For a Few Months Before Becoming WWE Champion on SmackDown
When Shinsuke Nakamura joined NXT, his fans feared the worst. They said that WWE would make him change his name, change his style, change the way he wrestles, and change everything else that made him special. So far, none of that has happened. So far, Nakamura has been able to be himself. However, he’s still in NXT. Nakamura will likely remain champion for a few more months before dropping the belt to either Strong, Ohno, or Roode.
1 Samoa Joe: A WrestleMania Main Roster Move Followed by a Long Championship Run
Much like Bobby Roode, WWE missed the boat on Samoa Joe’s best years. In 2004-2005, Joe let the world know that he was a uniquely talented competitor that was capable of serving as the centerpiece of any promotion. Sadly, WWE either overlooked him or Joe elected to remain faithful to TNA. Now, however, fans who didn’t get to watch Joe over 10 years ago are getting to see why he’s been a fan favorite for years. Joe will be on the main roster at or around the time of WrestleMania and will be the WWE Universal Champion before the end of 2017.
In fact, there’s a very good chance that Joe could grab the belt around the time of SummerSlam and not let it go until next year’s WrestleMania. Whatever years Joe has left in WWE will be spent at the top.
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