From the Performance Center, to the buzzing Full Sail University, to sell-out shows across America, one could argue that WWE NXT is the hottest program on WWE television, surpassing Raw, SmackDown, and smaller shows like Main Event.
It may even be the best wrestling show on the planet.
It's as if WWE has its own indie brand, featuring a roster of superstars looking to wow crowds and steal the spotlight every time they walk through the curtain. Unlike the first few seasons of NXT, where WWE superstars served as mentors and tournaments were the norm, WWE promotes NXT as an hour-long episodic show featured on the WWE Network every Wednesday night. The roster varies from superstars WWE have built in their gym, guys and gals that have busted their asses on the independent scene for years, and accomplished pros that have held world titles in TNA Wrestling, Ring of Honor (ROH) and New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW).
The brand couldn't be any hotter right now, stemming from their sixth NXT Takeover Special that took place in a jam-packed Barclay Center in Brooklyn, NY, just a few weeks ago. Not only do they have two more Takeover shows on the horizon (one featuring the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic tournament finals and the other in England), the small promotion is making a lot of noise in the industry.
Not only do young aspiring wrestlers want to take part in the festivities, but older wrestling superstars like Rhyno, Samoa Joe and The Brian Kendrick have been featured on the program, not to mention cameos from wrestling legends at house shows.
A number of wrestling veterans that have recently debuted in NXT and there's definitely room for more. While details are unclear about the contracts wrestlers are tied down to in other promotions, some do freelance work all over the globe, which means there's a possibility they'd be a good fit for the product.
It's not an official list of wrestlers who would be willing to make the jump, but here are a number of familiar faces and former WWE superstars many observers would be itching to see in NXT:
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15 Jushin Thunder Liger
Fresh off his WWE debut at NXT: Takeover in Brooklyn, many young North American fans were introduced to the Japanese icon well after the glory years of his career.
Jushin Thunder Liger defeated Tyler Breeze in the opening contest and seemed to have impressed the faithful. There are reports that suggest Liger will be working with WWE again, and even though the 11-time IWGP Junior Heavyweight champion certainly deserves a main card place, a veteran of his caliber can elevate the younger talent like no other with his 30 years of pro-wrestling experience.
14 David Otunga
Even though the jacked superstar went awol to focus on family life and has remerged as an analyst on the Raw Pre-Show (he never truly left WWE), he's itching to get back into the ring. He may get lost in the shuffle should he show up on Raw or SmackDown, therefore NXT would be a good option for him, considering he could work either as a face or heel by challenging the territory's best in feature and main event matches.
Former WWE Divas champion Kaitlyn stepped away from the wrestling business, retiring to focus on businesses relating to fitness and bodybuilding. This may be a far stretch, yet someone like Kaitlyn - whose had good matches against her bestie AJ Lee - could fit right into the NXT women's division and elevate stars like Emma, Dana Brooke, and Bayley.
She's definitely put on the muscle should she change her mind, even though she's currently not interested in returning to the business.
12 Stevie Richards
The leader of ECW's Blue World Order still competes from time to time and he'll be challenging Jay Lethal at ROH Reloaded in Lockport, NY, on Sept. 26.
Big Stevie Cool could probably still run circles around some of WWE's main roster competitors and having him around in NXT would generate big pops, with multiple opportunities in terms of how he could be used.
Just don't hold your breath for another ECW invasion.
Performing as Nicho these days, Psicosis was a Cruiserweight superstar in WCW and ECW, competing in exciting bouts against the likes of Liger, Ultimo Dragon, and Rey Mysterio. He wasn't exactly dazzling as a Mexicool, yet WWE's use of him was downright deplorable.
He mostly works in Mexico, having been released by AAA a little over year ago. He may not be able to have five-star matches anymore, yet he could be a helping hand in WWE's unofficial Cruiserweight revolution, working with the likes of Breeze, Finn Balor, Sami Zayn, and Neville, when the Englishman comes along for scattered appearances.
10 Paul London
Considering Kendrick (who works closely with talent at the Center) surprised fans by coming back to compete against the current NXT Champion earlier this year, why not his former partner-in-crime, Paul London?
London seems content freelancing as of late, but he isn't closing the door on a WWE return, either. A comeback for London would be a perfect opportunity for WWE to resurrect one of the most underappreciated Cruiserweight tag teams of all time.
9 Tommy Dreamer
Working closely with up-and-comers for the majority of his career, Tommy Dreamer made an appearance at an NXT show in Albany, NY, this past spring against Baron Corbin. Although Dreamer nearly broke his back taking a chokeslam by Lance Archer a few weeks ago, he's still rough enough to tussle with hard-hitters like Corbin, Bull Dempsey, and Samoa Joe.
The former apple-cruncher performed well under the WWE banner, appealing to fans with his original and colorful gimmick. Carlito comes from the Colon family, who are currently in good standing with WWE (his brother is Primo from Los Matadores.)
Carlito has been working non-stop in the indies and considering his ties to the Matadores, the tag team could be sent to help out the division in NXT, with Carlito by their side. This would be a perfect opportunity to promote a new faction, regardless if it could work on the main card. But it's not like Carlito can't hold his own as a singles competitor.
Recently let go by TNA, the former United States champion would serve as a good fit for NXT and he doesn't even need to be a wrestler full-time.
MVP did a fine job as a heel authority figure and boss to the Beat Down Clan. Even though NXT is William Regal's quarters, the seasoned veteran can make an impact by clashing with the European or even terrorizing the younger superstars on the mic or in the ring from time to time.
Christian all but confirmed his retirement on the Stone Cold Podcast this past week, but Captain Charisma could have one more go even though he's been plagued by injuries in the latter half of his career.
He would surely generate a good reaction from the faithful in Full Sail and his role doesn't even have to be permanent; he's a good option for main event tag team matches involving legends, and he could even lend his services to the commentary team if needed.
5 Shelton Benjamin
The former Team Angle stud is currently under contract with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, on excursion in Pro Wrestling Noah by taking part in the Suzuki-gun invasion angle.
WWE has developed a partnership with NJPW as of late, which explains why Liger graced a WWE ring a few weeks back. When it comes to Benjamin's skill set, he's still as energetic and explosive when competing. It may be too much to ask for Charlie Haas to come along for the ride, but they did compete as the World's Greatest Tag Team in late 2014, so anything's possible.
Maybe it's best to leave Momma Benjamin at home, though.
4 The Hardy Boyz
You shouldn't hold your breath for a Hardy Boyz return, since it seems unrealistic at the moment. Both brothers are still competing for TNA, but ending their careers in WWE would just feel right.
If anything, the tag team would jump straight to the main roster, like their former TLC counterparts, The Dudley Boyz. Ironically, Bubba Ray was seen on TNA television just weeks ago, so it's not like going back to WWE would be an impossibility.
It seems pointless to go on about what the Hardys can bring to NXT, since they're one of the best tag teams in wrestling history.
3 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio is another superstar that isn't opposed to a WWE return, even though he left the company not long ago. The Mexican standout is working a lighter schedule in Mexico and the U.S. these days, which is better for him when you consider family life on the road and the surgeries he's had.
Still, matches against Balor, Itami, and Breeze would tear the house down, and should Mysterio return, NXT would be a fruitful destination.
2 The New Age Outlaws
Road Dogg Jesse James already works with NXT talent backstage and Bad Ass Billy Gunn is one of the trainers at the Performance Center. Gunn also worked with Finn Balor in a tag team match against Breeze and Kevin Owens this past Spring, so the former Assman still has what it takes to compete at a high life.
In the Outlaws' last outing, they came up short against The Ascension, but they did hoist the WWE tag titles in early 2014 due to a WWE Network push. Much like The Hardys, the Outlaws can work well with blossoming teams like Jason Jordan & Chad Gable, The Vaudevillains, and Blake & Murphy, to name a few.
1 Rob Van Dam
He hasn't wrestled for WWE in over a year, but Rob Van Dam can easily become a hot commodity for NXT, rejuvenating himself as Mr. Wednesday Night in the process.
The Battle Creek superstar is venturing off to other projects, but he hasn't fully closed the door on pro-wrestling. In the past six months, Van Dam has indeed been active, wrestling matches in the indies against huge names like A.J. Styles, Scott Steiner, and The Hardy Boyz.
It wouldn't be difficult for him to fit in a role, either, considering his aerial style would match well with both light heavyweights and heavy bruisers, too. He may not be one to stick around for a while, yet the former ECW juggernaut relishes in the role of dazzling audiences in smaller venues, and he's definitely still got it.
Maybe we do have a potential ECW reunion on our hands.
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