With the WWE set to undergo a major upheaval shortly, the company is to be split into strict, separate Raw and SmackDown rosters. To accomplish this, a roster split and draft will take place live on the July 19th edition of Smackdown.
Given the need for two stacked rosters, it’s expected that several NXT talents will make the step up to WWE TV as part of one of these two brands, but the big question is just which performers will be getting the call to leave Full Sail behind for a life on the road with Raw or Smackdown.
At present, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, NXT has over fifty male performers and over fifteen female performers under contract. It’s not sure just how many will be making the jump to the main roster, and it could even be that there are a few surprises in amongst the call-ups.
So, with all of that in mind, here’s the fifteen NXT superstars who are most likely to be a part of the upcoming WWE draft and roster split.
15. Austin Aries
What can I say, I absolutely love The Greatest Man That Ever Lived. If it was down to me, A Double would have been a part of the main WWE roster years ago.
As it stands, though, the chances of Austin Aries moving to Raw or SmackDown any time soon are slim at best right now, hence why he is so low down on this list. Aries is undoubtedly a huge, huge talent – on his day, one of the very best in the world – but the WWE needs his presence in NXT right now.
While others may soon be waving goodbye to NXT, the brand needs some veterans with name value to stick around and take centre-stage whilst also helping to elevate younger talents to their level. Right now, that is apparently where Austin Aries fits in the bigger picture.
If Aries was to be a part of the roster split and subsequent draft, he’d be a major plus point for any show that he ended up on. Unfortunately for fans of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, it seems that we’ll have to do with an hour-long burst of Aries on NXT each week for the foreseeable future.
She may be one of the most popular and talented female performers under the WWE umbrella – some would argue she is the most talented female performer the company has – but don’t be expecting Asuka to turn up on Raw or SmackDown during the upcoming roster split or its impending aftermath.
From a booking standpoint, the reason that Asuka defeated Bayley for the NXT Women’s Championship during WrestleMania weekend was to position the Empress of Tomorrow as the face of the NXT Women’s Division going forward so that Bayley could move up to the main roster.
Her subsequent battles with Nia Jax have only strengthened Asuka’s position as the main female presence in NXT, and that looks set to continue as she’ll likely have a rematch against Bayley before the company’s resident hugger moves up to the big leagues to join the rest of the Four Horsewomen.
Asuka is needed now more than ever on NXT, and expect her to be the one to guide some of the less experienced females on the brand over the next few months.
It seems right now that the only way Asuka will be turning up on Raw or Smackdown any time soon is if the NXT brand as a whole somehow integrates into one of the main roster brands, allowing her to still be NXT Women’s Champion whilst also kicking people’s faces off on WWE TV each week.
13. Shinsuke Nakamura
Much like Austin Aries, it seems that Shinsuke Nakamura moving to the main roster isn’t meant to be right now.
In fairness, Nakamura is more likely to get the call than A Double at the moment, but it still seems unlikely that The King of Strong Style will turn up on Raw or SmackDown at any point over the next few months. Is that right? Most would say no, but that seems like the case for now.
Nakamura is arguably the most charismatic pro wrestler on the entire planet at this moment in time, and he’s also an absolute beast when it comes to his in-ring skills. As such, he is a talent who could be thrown straight into the very top echelon of the main WWE roster should the powers-that-be so wish.
For now, though, it appears that Nakamura’s attention will be focused on NXT and a likely TakeOver match with Samoa Joe for the NXT Championship during SummerSlam weekend.
Unfortunately for Shinsuke, it seems that the main roster split has just come a little too early into his WWE tenure. As such, expect him to be one of the focal points of the NXT brand for the immediate future while some of his NXT cohorts make the step up to main WWE TV.
12. Alexa Bliss
If the WWE is looking to expand the amount of female performers on the main roster, Alexa Bliss is one of the talents who should be under consideration.
Sure, Alexa may not be at the level of a Bayley or an Asuka in terms of her in-ring work, but she’s still a talented performer in her own right. Since transitioning from the all-smiling, whiter-than-white babyface to a nefarious heel, Bliss has blossomed into one of NXT’s most despicable females.
What puts the former manager of Buddy & Murphy relatively low on this list, though, is that some more time in NXT may end up benefiting her hugely in the long run. With Charlotte, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch already having departed NXT, and with Bayley likely to follow soon, that leaves Alexa with the chance to step into the spotlight and partake in some of the TakeOver bouts that made those aforementioned names into stars.
11. Hideo Itami
According to various outlets, Hideo Itami is now finally 100% fit and raring for action once more following a problematic shoulder issue causing him to miss a year of ring time.
Whilst NXT could well be in need of Hideo to give it a shot of star power depending on which talents make the jump to Raw or SmackDown in the next few months, the former KENTA could do wonders if he was shockingly drafted to one of the main roster shows.
A fit and healthy Itami is one of the best in-ring talents in the world, and it may be deemed a bit of a risk to throw him straight onto main WWE TV so soon after getting over his injury problems, but it could be a risk worth taking, particularly when it comes to the main WWE product appealing to its ever-expanding Asian market.
For Itami, it may be best to have a few months in NXT first and foremost in order to make sure that he really is 100% after his shoulder problems, but his arrival on Raw or SmackDown would certainly be a shock move and cause plenty of publicity for the WWE in Asia, a market that the company has been targeting for the last few years.
10. Buddy Murphy
I might be in the minority here, but the Murphy half of Blake & Murphy could be a hell of a star if given the opportunity.
The upcoming WWE roster split and draft may result in one or two shock call-ups from NXT, and Murphy is a perfect outside bet for a spot on Raw or SmackDown.
Despite being stuck in a tag tandem for the majority of his time in NXT, the Australian has shown plenty of charisma when given the opportunity. Similarly, he has proven himself to be a good hand between the ropes. With this charisma and in-ring talent matched with a good look, Murphy could well be a wild card during the impending draft.
When allowed some time in the spotlight, this former NXT Tag Team Champion has shown plenty of personality and seems like he could be a great midcard heel if offered the opportunity.
Many were surprised when the Princess of Staten Island was left behind in NXT when her boys Enzo and Big Cass made the jump to the main roster after WrestleMania, but that could also be seen as a chance for Carmella to become a star in her own right.
Since her NXT debut, Carmella has come on leaps and bounds as an in-ring talent, but being synonymous with Enzo and Cass was maybe holding her back a little in regards to how some audiences viewed her actual wrestling skills.
To many, Carmella would be better served by spending some more time as a singles star in NXT, eventually getting to the point where she could find herself challenging for the NXT Women’s Championship. That said, the chance to pair her up with Enzo and Big Cass once more may prove too big an opportunity for the WWE to turn down during the upcoming roster split.
Whether Carmella gets called up to the main roster or not, there’s positives to take from either situation. Her turning up on WWE TV alongside her boys once more, though, seems like an inevitability at some point in time. It just remains to be seen whether that time is now or further down the line.
8. Tye Dillinger
The Perfect 10 has been on quite the losing streak in NXT lately, but that’s not to say that he’s not one of the most overrated stars that the brand has.
Sure, he may lose a lot and he’s supposed to be a heel, but Tye Dillinger is a hugely talented performer whom the NXT audience eats up.
To give you an idea of what the higher-ups think of Dillinger, he is one of NXT’s go-to guys when it comes to making a new star look good. Over the years, guys like Ted DiBiase, Jake Roberts and Chris Jericho have been used as “gatekeepers” by the WWF and WWE – basically the guys who are used to get other guys over and ready for bigger things – and Dillinger fits the role brilliantly for NXT.
Whilst the Canadian is certainly ready for another crack on WWE TV – he actually appeared as Gavin Spears under the WWE’s ECW umbrella back in the day – it remains to be seen whether his value as NXT’s gatekeeper ultimately holds him back from moving from the WWE’s developmental arm. It may be that he’s just seen as too much of a valuable commodity to the NXT brand.
7. Billie Kay
I know, it seems like a bit of a random shout, but right now Billie Kay seems like one of the more likely female performers to make the jump to the main roster during the upcoming roster split.
Kay may not be the most well-known or well-revered of the women in NXT, but she recently made her main roster debut in a losing effort against Dana Brooke during a SmackDown taping. Whether this was just a one-time thing remains to be seen, but it certainly indicates that the WWE has the Australian native in their thoughts.
Even though many may not be too familiar with her, that’s not to say that Kay is a slouch in the ring. Having competed across the globe, including battles in CZW, ROH and Shimmer, she’s only been tied to a WWE contract for a year or so but clearly has a strong background and more experience that you may have initially thought.
6. Mojo Rawley
Yes, as in that Mojo Rawley. But hear me out…
Undoubtedly, there are far more talented performers in NXT than the brand’s resident hype man, but the main WWE roster is a place for a whole variety of acts. In Mojo Rawley, they have someone who is a unique talent in that his enthusiasm is infectious and he is a natural draw to kids of a certain age.
In a modern day where everyone is an ass-kicker, everyone is a badass, everyone takes everything too seriously, now and again you simply just need a superstar to come out to an arena and have fun. That’s where Mojo is perfect.
For anyone who has watched the WWE Network’s Breaking Ground show, you’ll know that Mojo is a genuinely awesome guy who goes above and beyond to brighten the lives of any fan he comes across. As wrestling fans, we’re all a little guilty of taking things too seriously and overanalyzing things. Mojo Rawley is the tonic to this; the light hearted guy who appeals to a certain demographic.
If Rawley does indeed make it to WWE TV as part of the upcoming roster split, expect him to continue the Hype Bros tandem with Zack Ryder. Whilst they may not be seen as a major threat to the top pairings, this duo would be great as a babyface team to fill out the WWE tag ranks.
5. Samoa Joe
Isn’t it great to see Samoa Joe simply be Samoa Joe?
After making a huge name for himself in ROH and across the globe, the Samoan Submission Machine wound up in TNA. During his first few years, Joe was booked as a legit monster in that company, with his battles against the likes of Kurt Angle, AJ Styles, and Christopher Daniels the stuff of legend.
And then things went bad. As in real bad. As in Joe started wearing face paint, he was running around with a knife, and he generally fell into the black hole known as TNA booking. Because of this, he became unmotivated, complacent and seemingly one of the great “remember when…” stories.
Since arriving in NXT, the now-37-year-old Samoa Joe has taken the brand by storm. In better shape than at any point in his career, motivated, driven and focused, this is the real Samoa Joe; the one we thought was left somewhere back in 2006.
NXT has handled Samoa Joe in the best possible way, making him a true behemoth of the brand and having him be the one to finally beat Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. Going even further, Joe then beat Finn “The Demon” in a rematch – something that nobody has done previously.
Seemingly on a collision course with Shinsuke Nakamura, could it be that Samoa Joe drops the NXT Title and finally become a staple of the WWE main roster? A year ago, nobody thought that possible. Now though, it looks like it could very well happen, which is a credit to Joe and to the powers-that-be behind the NXT product.
3. & 4. American Alpha
In the realm of NXT, there are very few, if any, who are more natural athletes than the pairing of Jason Jordan and Chad Gable.
Jordan was a lost soul in NXT for the longest period of time; whether it was teaming with Mike Dalton (hey, Tyler!) or simply being fodder for single stars to steamroll over, JJ was going nowhere fast. Enter, Chad Gable.
Whilst the teaming of Gable and Jordan was initially positioned as a heel team, the two’s undeniable chemistry, charisma and explosive in-ring style saw them organically become one of the most popular acts in NXT.
American Alpha seem to have the complete package when it comes to tag-team wrestling. Both are smooth as silk when it comes to technical prowess, Gable is the perfect underdog, Jordan is great as the bigger man who clears house, and most importantly they both bring the best out of each other and compliment what the other brings to the table.
“Hey, we want some Bayley”, sing the NXT Universe on a weekly basis.
In terms of true babyfaces, there really is no one on the WWE or NXT roster that is quite as over as Bayley. Literally 100% of the NXT audience – be they man, woman or child – absolutely adore her. Granted, at the moment she’s been plying her trade in NXT, and the main roster will be a different kettle of fish, but the WWE has their next John Cena on their hands if they handle the former NXT Women’s Champion in the right way.
Many expected to see Bayley debut on the main roster in the aftermath of WrestleMania. That didn’t come to pass, with her seemingly set to get her long-awaited rematch with Asuka before finally bidding adieu to Full Sail and to NXT.
It’s still unclear whether there will be separate women’s rosters for Raw and SmackDown, but regardless of how the female talent are positioned come the roster split, Bayley is long overdue a call-up to the big leagues.
1. Finn Balor
The main roster debut of Finn Balor has been imminent for what seems like forever. Barely a week goes by without Balor teasing an appearance on WWE TV or somebody spots him backstage and rumours of a debut spread like wildfire.
As it stands, though, Finn is still very much an NXT superstar.
With Balor’s huge match against Shinsuke Nakamura to take place on an upcoming edition of the regular NXT show rather than one of the brand’s epic TakeOver events, that would suggest that Finn’s main roster call-up is ominously close, hence why there’s no time to hold off on that major match until the next TakeOver on SummerSlam weekend.
This former NXT Champion is more than ready to make a huge splash on Raw or SmackDown – hell, he’s been ready for a long, long time – and expect to see big things ahead for the Irishman when he finally gets a shot on weekly WWE television.
Make no mistake about it: Finn Balor will become a vital staple of the WWE for years to come, and his imminent move to the main roster is a no-brainer.