Over the course of nearly two years, NXT has gone from a developmental brand to the most revolutionary thing to hit pro wrestling since ECW in the late 90s. While Triple H overlooks the entire process at NXT, there are two key components to which you can attribute the success of the brand. The signing of some of the best talent in the world, along with the vision to develop a state-of-the-art Performance Center that enables these wrestlers to be well-versed in all aspects of the business.
It is no secret that the level of talent is high in NXT, and with their partnership of EVOLVE, the depth will continue to grow. You can make an argument that there are a lot of NXT matches that outshine those on the main roster. Some attribute it to Triple H being more in touch with the current fan base than Vince McMahon. Due to this success, there are many graduates from NXT to the main roster.
Since the NXT brand is as big as it’s ever been, there will no doubt be many on the roster to make their debut on Raw and Smackdown in 2016. This article will rank the 10 wrestlers who have the best shot to do so next year. Within this list, there are a combination of women, men and tag teams. Some with big indie backgrounds; while others were developed solely at the Performance Center.
Here is my ranking of the 10 NXT Call-Ups To The WWE In 2016.
10. Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke is a body builder and fitness model who made her NXT debut in September 2014. She was signed to a developmental deal in the middle of 2013 with no prior wrestling experience. For having no experience, Brooke has made great strides in just a short amount of time.
The entire time Brooke has been in NXT, she has been portrayed as a heel who is the “Total Diva,” and she has played the villain very well. A great signature action that she uses on interviews or promos is patting who she’s talking to on the head like they’re a child.
With every match Brooke wrestles, she has rapidly done better in the ring. She did an amazing job in her most recent match with Asuka. Her amazing persona and rapid growth are two key attributes to say that Dana Brooke can easily be on the main roster in 2016.
9. Hideo Itami
Hideo Itami is one of five extremely talented wrestlers recruited from the indy scene known as The Leaders Of The New School with Finn Balor, Neville, Kevin Owens, and Sami Zayn. Itami debuted in September 2014 and has been a fan favorite ever since.
Unfortunately, Itami suffered a shoulder injury that puts him out until the end of this year or early next. That is the reason why he is ranked a little lower than if he was healthy. He’s got some great talent, but is still learning the WWE style of things in and out of the ring.
Once he gets back into the daily grind, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Itami in the WWE in the latter part of 2016.
8. Apollo Crews
Known as Uhaa Nation in the independent scene, Apollo Crews signed a development deal with the WWE just a few months back in April, and he has already made a huge impact in NXT. His official television debut was on August 22nd at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn against Tye Dillinger.
Crews has taken the fast track through NXT as he is currently undefeated. In addition to that, he just won a battle royal to become the number 1 contender for Finn Balor’s NXT Championship.
His charisma and athleticism are through the roof, and can easily be a future top star in the WWE. If Crews has gotten to the championship picture in NXT so quickly, it is not going to be a surprise to see him in the WWE in 2016.
7. Baron Corbin
Baron Corbin was a boxer and a pro football player before he decided to try professional wrestling. He signed a developmental deal with the WWE in August of 2012 and was mainly used as enhancement talent until he was repackaged as the Lone Wolf in May 2014.
He went on a long undefeated streak with most matches being so short and dominant, the NXT Universe would chant the number of seconds it would take for Corbin to get the win. His End Of Days finisher is very impressive, especially on bigger wrestlers.
Corbin has really come into his own lately and has continuously improved inside the ring. He has a unique look and great size that will help him stand out in the main roster, and a debut in 2016 is definitely in his sights given his improvement.
Bayley is a member of a de facto group of women in the WWE known as The Four Horsewomen with Sasha Banks, Charlotte, and Becky Lynch. Three of the four got the call-up to the main roster this year, but it wasn’t all bad for Bayley as she defeated Sasha Banks for the NXT Women’s Championship in Brooklyn.
Many considered that a match of the year candidate, and then they followed it up with a 30-minute Ironman Match at NXT Takeover: Respect with a match of the same caliber. She is the best NXT has to offer currently.
Bayley is definitely ready for the main roster, it is just a matter of finding the right spot to put her in. You also have to consider that with three of the top women leaving NXT at once, you have to replenish the division before she can leave.
5. Enzo & Cass
There is no doubt that the most popular entity in NXT over the past year would be the tag team of Enzo and Cass. They have a popular routine that is spoken as they come to the ring with the NXT Universe chanting loudly along with them. It’s similar to the New Age Outlaws’ entrance from the Attitude Era, but with their own twist.
Though they have never held the NXT Tag Championship, this duo is more than capable in the ring. While Cass started in the indies, Enzo had no prior experience before signing a development deal with the WWE in August of 2012.
With NXT gaining popularity exponentially, a lot of fans know who Enzo and Cass are. They will be an instant impact in the tag team division when they are called up, which could be sooner than later.
4. Tyler Breeze
As of this publication, Tyler Breeze has not yet been called up to the main roster, but according to PWInsider, the day is very close. It could be at Hell In A Cell or the October 26th Raw as Breeze has been recently touring with the main roster.
Though he’s short in stature, Breeze is large on talent. He’s been in NXT since June 2012, and it took him a while to find his way. Once he transformed into Prince Pretty, Tyler Breeze has been one of the greatest inside and out of the ring. From his fashion to his selfie stick to his seasonal residences, it is one of the best characters the WWE has.
I have long compared Tyler Breeze to a young Shawn Michaels who has the total package to be a superstar. If he is utilized right on the main roster, he can eventually make his own mark as one of pro wrestling’s greats.
3. Sami Zayn
Triple H knew he had something special when he hired the independent sensation Sami Zayn early in 2013. Zayn has been wrestling professionally since 2002, mostly with a mask as El Generico. Wrestling without a mask and cutting more promos than ever was a big change, but one that Zayn has knocked out of the park.
Unfortunately, Zayn hasn’t wrestled since this past May due to a shoulder injury. That was an appearance as a challenger to John Cena‘s Open Challenge for the United States Championship on Raw.
He is set to return early in 2016, and putting him on the main roster to start a WrestleMania feud with Kevin Owens would make the most sense due to the history they have from not just years in the indies, but from NXT as well.
2. Samoa Joe
The biggest signing made this year by far was when Triple H was able to get Samoa Joe to NXT after he left Impact Wrestling. Joe has been wrestling professionally since 1999, and could be regarded as one of the best ever to never wrestle for the WWE.
Joe made his debut this past May to stop Kevin Owens from further injuring Sami Zayn. Most recently, Joe and Finn Balor won the 16-team Dusty Rhodes‘ Invitational Tag Team tournament and has made it known he wants to go after Balor’s title.
The great thing about Samoa Joe is he’ll be content in NXT, but has the appeal and brand name to be on the main roster as well. He’s too good of a talent not to be featured on the main roster sometime next year.
1. Finn Balor
Out of all of the wrestlers signed over the past couple years to NXT, Finn Balor is one of the most valuable. He’s in the prime of his career at age 34, and has had 15 years of professional wrestling experience, most notably with New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Balor was signed to a developmental deal in May of 2014, and debuted in NXT four months later as the backup for Hideo Itami against The Ascension. On July 4th in Tokyo, Balor would capture the NXT Championship by defeating Kevin Owens.
Skill and charisma can make Balor the company’s biggest face or most vicious heel. While Balor has stated he would love to remain in NXT, he is too talented not to be on the main roster for 2016.