Being a successful WWE superstar is never an easy task to accomplish. Just being able to earn a spot in NXT can be quite the physical and mental grind. There are thousands of professional wrestlers who are competing on the independent circuit hoping for a WWE scout to take notice of their tape and resume. They all want the chance to be in the WWE.
But it first begins with an invitation to the WWE Performance Center in Florida, followed by competing on the WWE’s developmental promotion, NXT. It’s really the first opportunity for wrestling hopefuls to be exposed to the WWE Universe. Thanks to the WWE Network, it’s a great opportunity in achieving that dream of competing on the WWE main roster.
NXT has brought us some great superstars who were able to make some big impacts within WWE’s main roster. Unfortunately, the success rate is low overall. Not everyone who comes to WWE from NXT with expectations is destined to win championship. Look at Tyler Breeze. He had one of the best gimmicks in NXT, but he quickly fell to the lower part of the card and is barely used in a tag team with Fandango.
Many NXT stars who can’t find success on the main roster have various reasons for why they can’t get a push – i.e. creative issues, someone not being too fond of the character, backstage heat, etc... The following are the top 15 NXT stars who would need to have some kind of gimmick change before joining the main roster.
15 Elias Samson
Whoever thought that a drifter would be a great idea for a wrestling gimmick must have taken lessons from the school of Jim Herd. Elias Samson looks like someone who got lost after finishing up the opening act of a Keith Urban concert. The idea of a musician gimmick doesn’t seem like it would get over very well in the WWE. It hasn’t even worked since he started coming out with the guitar on his shoulder in 2015.
Samson has been on the losing end of most of his matches in 2016. He’s certainly not a terrible wrestler, but he would need some type of new gimmick to even have a shot at being considered a main roster prospect. Maybe if the guitar was used to help him win matches, it would have some nostalgia to former WWE superstars Honky Tonk Man and Jeff Jarrett.
14 Peyton Royce
It might seem a little unfair to put Peyton Royce on this list considering that she’s still pretty young in her NXT run with the WWE. She’s certainly talented in the ring with a number of various strikes and throws that could make her one of the best female wrestlers in the WWE. But one of the things that should change is the awful attire. She’s one of the women who could benefit from making a drastic change to her look when moving up.
Look at how Alexa Bliss is able to transform herself to look similar to Harley Quinn from the Suicide Squad movie. While this isn’t recommending that Royce rip off a movie character, but she should maybe take on a different look to help her look more appealing on television. The purple hair is not likely going to do well on television.
13 Angelo Dawkins
One of the gimmicks that seems to be overplayed in WWE history is the promotion of one’s athletic background. It’s obvious that anyone who goes into professional wrestling has to be somewhat athletic. Angelo Dawkins is no different as a three-sport collegiate athlete in football, amateur wrestling and track and field. The problem with making this the main part of one’s gimmick is that it’s become redundant.
It didn’t really work for someone like Jack Swagger or Charlie Haas. At least former athletes like Brock Lesnar and Shelton Benjamin were given something different to allow themselves to grow. That hasn’t been seen with Dawkins yet. While he’s great athletically, he has to have some personality to allow him to stand out from the rest of the NXT roster.
12 Andrade “Cien” Almas
This is a great example of a great wrestler having a very boring gimmick overall. It doesn’t matter how well you execute your movements in the ring, as there is something to be said for having a character the fans can get behind. Andrade “Cien” Almas is also a perfect example of how high expectations set by fans can lead to a huge disappointment. Formerly known as La Sombra, the Mexican-born superstar now has a weird look.
The suspenders seem a little over the top as part of a look that makes Almas look like a hipster from a department store catalog. Maybe taking away the hat and suspenders is a good start. Maybe dropping the “Cien” nickname will help. The beard is also a little unnecessary. The entire Almas character needs a makeover.
11 No Way Jose
There’s a lot to be said about someone who can be fun-loving and entertaining for the WWE Universe. That’s why superstars like Rikishi were able to have a long career in the world of professional wrestling. It just hasn’t been the type of gimmick that has worked for today’s generation of WWE superstars. There is a good chance we could see that trend change with No Way Jose, but some of the fun has to be turned down a little bit.
His feud with Austin Aries saw him build up more of a mean streak that could help his overall character. It would actually be better if No Way Jose was able to take the party gimmick to the ring and then snap into a full-blown heel once the bell rings. Consider it a chance to run with a Jekyll and Hyde type character.
10 Liv Morgan
Liv Morgan is showing some early signs that she could have a bright future in the WWE. She’s certainly athletic, but she looks very familiar in how she looks and struts into the NXT arena. Upon further review, she is very similar to another Northeast-born female wrestler in Carmella. Right away, Morgan would have to begin changing her look before coming to the main roster.
It’s actually quite amazing that there are two female superstars being given the same kind of look and have a similar build by creative officials. Someone should have noticed earlier, right? Maybe the WWE will have Morgan wear glow-in-the-dark ring attire with tech. No, that won’t do. How about dying her hair red and teasing a debut that never happens. She might actually be better at that gimmick than the superstar currently on the main roster.
9 Tye Dillinger
While the NXT Universe might consider Tye Dillinger a “Perfect 10,” it’s hard to believe the folks in charge of the WWE creative direction to see it that way. When looking at how Vince McMahon and other similar-minded officials treat NXT stars like Tyler Breeze doesn’t mean good things for someone like Dillinger. The “Perfect 10” is something that seems fun as a side part of an overall gimmick, but not something around which to base everything.
Dillinger should be able to have a character who is more of a heel that considers himself at the highest standard of being a WWE superstar, rating himself a 10 out of 10 while others are no more than an eight or seven. He could be snotty about how he rates his opponents, which would allow him to get over as a villain. It’s better than him doing a surfing gimmick.
8 The Authors of Pain
There’s nothing wrong with a tag team’s gimmick being a couple of large men who are big bruisers that dominate their opponents. Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Authors of Pain – except the name of their team. Using the term “authors” in wrestling should only be allowed if the wrestlers using the nickname also write poetry for a coffee house open mic night after winning a match. It’s a terrible name for a monstrous duo. They also need to possibly drop Paul Ellering as their manager.
While having someone who is established guide them towards the main roster is a good idea, most of the WWE Universe aren’t too familiar with the former manager of the Legion of Doom. Maybe Paul Heyman can be the upgrade they need if they are brought up to the main roster. In addition to the team name, let’s drop the useless masks.
7 Eric Young
Eric Young is an unstable wrestler who would be capable of a successful run in the WWE main roster. Fans were also excited to see Eric Young revealed as the leader of a new faction in Sanity. While it made a memorable debut last month, there might be some concern with the gimmick being a little too similar to other factions that haven’t quite succeeded in the WWE. It’s slightly different, but close to the Wyatt Family stable.
Young could be able to do something with Sanity, but it might be best to allow him to be on his own without having an army around him. Young’s character should be allowed to be unstable and unpredictable in the somewhat goofy way that allowed him to succeed in TNA Wrestling and elsewhere.
6 Tommaso Ciampa
When Tommaso Ciampa had his first run with Ring of Honor, he was on an undefeated streak as a vicious heel that was billed as the “Sicilian Psychopath.” That type of character could be utilized when he does make the full-time jump to RAW's Cruiserweight Division. While we’re not expecting the WWE to have him use the Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” song as his entrance theme, we’re sure the CFO$ could pull something similar off to help Ciampa’s change.
We’ve seen Ciampa in a successful tag team with fellow independent star Johnny Gargano. The two are eventually going to split as rivals on the red brand. They will help boost the prestige of the WWE Cruiserweight Championship with a rivalry where Ciampa would be better served as the heel that needs the gimmick change.
5 Roderick Strong
If there’s one thing that WWE fans can be happy about with NXT, it’s that we’ve seen the brand attract a number of big stars from the independent circuit. Many of them were the type we never thought we would see in the WWE ring. Roderick Strong is someone who has certainly proven to be one of the best overall athletes in the ring. He’s also someone who has created different ways to utilize the backbreaker. However, he’s going to have to have a gimmick change to separate him from his peers.
His character is currently basic, which isn’t something that is going to be liked by many of the powerful officials in the WWE. Strong will need to show some character and the ability to let his personality help boost his in-ring abilities. Otherwise, he might come across as boring to some of the younger WWE fans.
4 Austin Aries
First, Austin Aries doesn’t need the cape. Considering that Neville has been wearing a cape to the WWE ring on the main roster makes it a useless prop for someone like Aries. He’s also someone who should consider dropping the “Greatest Man That Ever Lived.” It might be viewed by some members of the WWE Universe as a knock on CM Punk’s “Best in the World” gimmick.
That doesn’t mean that Aries should enter the main roster as anything less than confident. In fact, Aries doesn’t need too many adjustments on his personality. It’s really more about the overall look he has. Maybe Aries can return to something similar to “Mr. It” persona that focuses on how Aries has his own definition of the “it factor” that wrestlers are judged by.
3 Bobby Roode
Considering the age of Bobby Roode (39), he’s likely going to get rushed to the WWE main roster sooner than many fans might think. If that’s the case, the one thing that he has to keep is the “Glorious” theme song. It’s already over with the crowd. However, it might mean he would have to make the switch from heel to face. The fans have already supported him and always sing the song as he comes to the ring.
That’s the sort of reaction that forces WWE to change how a wrestler is booked as the good guy or bad guy. “Stone Cold” Steve Austin was supposed to be a bad guy, but became a face in the Attitude Era. Roode could be booked as a fan favorite if things are done properly. One thing that would need to be changed would be dropping the robe. It’s a little too similar to Ric Flair’s look and Roode should do something more unique.
2 Hideo Itami
Hideo Itami might be on the shelf for a few months after a neck injury during a NXT live event. But this could be the right time to come up with a different persona for the Japanese wrestling star. With WWE continuing to bring in a number of superstars from countries like Japan, Itami might have to make a subtle change from the striking style he’s known for. Shinsuke Nakamura comes from the strong style background and he’s being built as the NXT Champion.
While it might be hard to alter one’s move set, Itami should consider bringing in more submission moves to add to the striking arsenal. With the popularity Nakamura has gotten, Itami will have to make some drastic changes to earn his spot on the main roster. The WWE can’t have two Japanese strikers with similar moves and mindsets on the same roster.
1 Samoa Joe
Before sending the hate mail, let’s consider that not everyone who comes to the WWE is able to bring their own way of doing things to the main roster. We’ve seen some subtle changes with established names like AJ Styles after years of being a star outside of the WWE. Samoa Joe comes from a similar background with other promotions. Samoa Joe is someone who doesn’t need a lot of changes when called up to the main roster.
Keep his mean streak intact as someone who will hurt anyone and everyone in a dominant winning streak. Joe doesn’t need to have time on the microphone. His character can walk in, destroy his opponent and then walk out. Maybe Joe could be the silent striker who can be built to the same standard as other dominant powerhouses like Goldberg and Brock Lesnar.
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