The culture of WWE has changed with the rise of NXT. Triple H originally wanted to create a respectable developmental brand that could still be entertaining enough to satisfy a fan base. Things would grow and NXT emerged into a legitimate alternative to the traditional WWE product. Many fans often get frustrated with the trite storylines in WWE and NXT has filled the gap to become the brand those jaded minds flock towards. The promotion is also starting to churn out stars for the main roster. Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Bray Wyatt and Sasha Banks are just some of the names to find instant success in WWE after killing it in NXT.
ESPN featured the NXT system on an episode of E:60 to showcase what life is like for a prospect trying to make his way up in the WWE system. One of the more interesting segments featured important minds discussing whether it’s time to “fish or cut bait” with a talent. There are only so few spots available in NXT and wrestlers are honing their crafts all over the world to get their chance in WWE. The company is looking for the best, so they would have a room full of various important members of the WWE team break down whether a wrestler should be pushed, repackaged or let go if he was in the system for too long.
There are a couple of performers that just no longer have a place in NXT and it’s truly time to fish on the main roster with some or cut bait by releasing the others. The popularity has made expectations grow and fans are expecting a home run every time out for what has become the best source of great wrestling shows via the seasonal live TakeOver specials. The aspect of certain names gaining momentum and showing all the tools to make it on the roster should lead to more call-ups this year. The main roster feels a bit stale at times and NXT has a plethora of talent ready. Looking at performers either needing to get brought up to the big stage or no longer deserving a spot, here are the fifteen NXT stars that need to be out of NXT by the end of 2016.
15 Samoa Joe
The storied career of Samoa Joe finally found its way to WWE in 2015 with his shocking debut in NXT. Joe is currently the top heel in NXT and is scheduled to main event TakeOver: Dallas against Finn Balor in a NXT Championship match. As one of the most talented wrestlers of the past fifteen years, The Samoan Submission Machine has quite a bit of wear and tear on his body after all the classic matches. WWE has to call up Joe before it’s too late. The main roster is lacking depth of credible main event performers and Joe has proven himself instantly in any company he steps foot in.
14 Dana Brooke
While NXT has somewhat evolved into a super independent wrestling company under the WWE umbrella, the system still allows new performers a chance to find themselves and improve before getting to the main roster. Dana Brooke is one of the better examples of that. The early indication was that she would be another former fitness model to flop but her gradual growth as a wrestler has seen her become good enough to hang with the top female wrestlers in NXT. Brooke is clearly someone WWE believes in to become a future star on Raw and SmackDown, so it would be wise to pull the trigger this year rather than prolonging it as she looks ready.
13 Jason Jordan and Chad Gable
The New Day becoming one of the most over acts in the WWE has given us new hope for a credible tag team division. There are a few good teams on the main roster but it’s still lacking depth or excitement. Chad Gable and Jason Jordan would be an outstanding addition to the main roster as a top tag team. The duo shows a great deal of chemistry and excites the fan base every time they are in the ring. Many believe Gable is the next breakout NXT superstar to become a big deal on the main roster and Jordan compliments him perfectly. Despite having just under a year of experience together, Gable and Jordan are one of the best teams in the world and could help WWE’s tag team problem.
12 Shinsuke Nakamura
The debate between wanting to see an obvious star talent shine with great matches in NXT or take the risk of getting watered down on the WWE main roster has been met with various viewpoints. Shinsuke Nakamura may be the most charismatic wrestler in the world and deserves the opportunity to shine on WWE television. We know he’d have outstanding matches on NXT but at the end of the day, the main roster is still what matters most. TakeOver specials are great but WrestleMania is where stars shine brightest. Raw is what fans care about the most on a weekly basis. A talent the caliber of Nakamura should be on USA television every week and WWE is missing out with him in NXT.
11 Corey Graves
JBL is intolerable. Jerry Lawler is over the hill. Byron Saxton is adequate at best. WWE desperately lacks entertaining color commentators. For all the criticism he gets, Michael Cole does a fine job in the WWE style of play-by-play announcing and the new SmackDown voice Mauro Ranallo is nearly perfect, so the two lead announcers need better help alongside them. Corey Graves has grown into a tremendous commentator with a perfect heel persona. Graves never goes over the top with his antics, delivers fun humor at the right time but always lets the story in the ring dictate how he calls a match. You could argue Graves is already the best commentator in WWE and needs to be called up as soon as possible.
The NXT women’s division has been the highlight of the promotion and has forced the main roster to try to create an atmosphere for the female performers to succeed instead of just short lackluster matches. Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch and Charlotte are trying their best to push the movement forward but the division will need a couple more highly talented performers to keep it going. Asuka has been one of the best wrestlers in the world for a few years now and has become an instant star in NXT. Her superb in-ring work and unique character presence has shown Asuka can succeed in the WWE whenever she is called up and that should be before the year ends.
9 Bronson Matthews
The selections on this list so far have all been cases of talent that should be called up onto television in the near future. This is not one of them.
Bronson Matthews won Tough Enough as Josh and was portrayed as the frontrunner all season due to Vince McMahon’s fandom of his look. Matthews has the classic bodybuilder’s physique and was a former NFL player which means the WWE tried to give him a chance to succeed. The problem is Matthews already has a world of hate in the locker room after making tweets referring to The Social Outcasts jobbers, where Kevin Owens and Stardust trashed him. Matthews also showed very little wrestling potential. WWE are better off cutting bait once his $250,000 prize contract ends in the summer.
8 Alexa Bliss
The comparisons between many young female wrestlers and Trish Stratus have been made but Alexa Bliss is one that could actually live up to the potential. At just 24-years-old, Bliss is one of the better performers in the current NXT women’s division and continuously gets better with each match. Anyone could already see her potential but Bliss took big steps forward when aligning with the tag team of Blake and Murphy as a heel. Her character work shined and showcased her ability to cut a great promo. Her athletic ability is always on point and she’s ready to become a star whenever WWE calls her up to the main roster.
7 Mojo Rawley
NXT’s fish or cut bait outlook on talent is rather interesting when looking at Mojo Rawley. The former NFL player has a great look and a lively personality, but it hasn’t translated into someone the fans care about. Rawley has been on television for quite some time and is working in a tag team with main roster member Zack Ryder but they are near the bottom of the NXT totem pole. For as much time as he has been given to get over, Mojo’s greatest strength is being a goofball friend of Rob Gronkowski. Rawley was caught partying on Gronkowski’s cruise and it was more noteworthy than anything he's done in the ring. It may be time to cut bait and give the NXT time to other new talents waiting for an opportunity.
6 Baron Corbin
The best case of a new performer coming into the Performance Center and using an NXT spot to grow into a hot commodity is Baron Corbin. Diehard fans will never invest in him the way they do with Finn Balor or Samoa Joe, but Corbin improved to become one of the top stars on the show as a hated villain. The easy story of Corbin facing off with an internet darling has been used on multiple occasions and always delivers great results. Corbin is officially WWE TV ready now and will get over if he is put in a position to succeed as a credibly booked heel.
5 Eva Marie
The Eva Marie project in WWE is getting old fast. It’s time to put up or shut up. Eva being in NXT for the ironic heel heat of playing the self-aware villain that the diehard fans hate is starting to get rather stale. If WWE believes Eva is a money-making star, put her on television every week to show it. It can be as a valet if her in-ring ability prevents her from being an effective performer. Placing her in NXT to pass time in hopes fans grow to accept her is a weak mindset that shouldn’t be used in a company like WWE. Eva should be on television one more time with a true sink or swim test. She should be released if there’s not even that much faith in her left.
4 Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady
It feels like we’ve been hearing rumors of Enzo Amore and Colin Cassady moving to the main roster for almost a year now. The tag team is one of the most beloved acts in NXT history and fans eat up everything they do. From the opening entrance of the chant-worthy catch phrase promos to the in-ring action with both men perfectly complimenting each other, Enzo and Big Cass are ready for the big stage. There are comparisons being made to The New Age Outlaws but the NXT duo are far better in-ring talents with a higher potential. WWE’s tag team division needs a couple more tag teams to make the division credible in 2016 and the combination of Amore and Cassady are perfect.
3 Alex Riley
Does Alex Riley have some kind of secret information about WWE that he uses to blackmail them into employing him forever? Riley shows very little worth in the wrestling ring and has devolved over the years. Many assumed he would be a future main eventer when working as The Miz’s protégé but he flopped when given a singles push. Riley has done nothing of note and tried his hand at broadcasting in WWE but is once again a wrestler in NXT. Following Bull Dempsey’s release, Riley is the worst wrestler in NXT and looks like he hasn’t showered in months. Riley has lost any chance of success in WWE and looks to have just given up at this point. It’s time to hit the bricks.
2 Finn Balor
Finn Balor has been the face of NXT for quite some time and has been ready for the main roster since day one. Balor won the NXT Championship at TakeOver: Brooklyn during the weekend of SummerSlam and has led the brand since then. While he would still be fun in NXT for another year or two, the time is now to push him to the moon on WWE television. Balor has the potential to be a main event superstar and future WWE Champion. At 34-years-old, WWE can’t continue to prolong his debut as his prime years are on the latter end. The money being made on merchandise and his body of work in NXT dictates that he’s a can’t miss star unless WWE waits too long to call him up.
The rise of the Four Horsewomen in NXT had Bayley originally ranked fourth behind Sasha Banks, Charlotte and Becky Lynch. With the other three women now on the main roster, Bayley has developed into the top female performer in the business with an incredible slate of matches in the latter half of 2015. With her fan-friendly persona causing children, especially little girls, to idolize her, Bayley has the potential to become the female version of John Cena. There is no scenario in which Bayley isn’t a massive success on the WWE main roster and they are leaving too much money on the table if she isn’t on Raw and SmackDown by the end of the year.