NXT has become a phenomenon of its own over the past few years, but while the NXT roster is currently eyeing up the NXT Championship, the one thing that everyone in NXT is really fighting for is the chance to make a good impression so that they can debut on WWE’s main roster. Raw and SmackDown Live are the two WWE shows that are televised worldwide, while NXT is only broadcasted on the WWE Network. The company has recently begun signing a number of names from all over the world of wrestling and sending them down to NXT so that they can see what their ability level is before they give them the chance on their main shows.
Over the past few months, there have been a number of NXT stars who have been able to make an impact because they have been given the opportunity to become stars on the main brand. The likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe, Sonya Deville and Liv Morgan have all debuted on the main roster over the past year and have since become successful in the roles that WWE has given them.
There are a number of stars who are just waiting in the wings to take their places if WWE give them the opportunity to step up. The following list looks at the 15 most likely candidates to be called up to either Raw or SmackDown over the next few months, since WrestleMania season is usually the prime time for call-ups.
15. Pete Dunne
Technically WWE UK Champion Pete Dunne has already made his debut on Monday Night Raw, but this could have just been WWE’s way of ensuring that “The Bruiserweight” received a loud reaction when he was made part of the show, since the show was in Manchester, England just down the road from where Dunne grew up.
Dunne defeated Enzo Amore before he was invited to 205 Live the following night, but it seems that he has since been forgotten. Amore has continued his rivalry with Kalisto and Dunne returned to NXT ahead of their NXT: Takeover War Games show, where he defeated Johnny Gargano. Dunne has become quite a popular star when it comes to the WWE Universe because many feel he is this generation’s answer to William Regal. Dunne would definitely force change on the main roster, but with a WWE UK weekly show being rumoured, his future on the main roster is currently unclear.
14. Kairi Sane
The winner of the inaugural Mae Young Classic tournament back in the summer was inserted into the fatal four-way match for the NXT Women’s Championship back at NXT Takeover: War Games last weekend, but she came up short as Ember Moon was crowned champion after Auska vacated the Championship a few months ago.
The NXT roster needs a strong woman running the division after Asuka’s lengthy reign over the past year, which could be why the company chose Ember, which means that Kairi will either be made the main challenge for Ember Moon moving forward, or she could be the next female wrestler to invade the main roster along with the five women who decided to make an impact on Raw and SmackDown this past week. Something is definitely going on, and someone is definitely making a statement with the women of NXT and that could mean that many more debuts are on their way.
Nick Miller and Shane Thorne haven’t been seen in NXT for a number of months because Thorne suffered a knee injury last year which has kept the duo off-screen, even though The Australian Duo did make their return to action back in September.
TM61 were one of the teams in NXT much like DIY that big things were expected and it was obvious that the former independent stars worked well together. Much like The Revival, ever since their main roster debut, injuries have affected them over the past year, but it is hoped that WWE officials saw enough potential in the tag team stars to see that they would be able to head to the main roster soon. NXT’s Tag Team Division is stacked with the likes of Sanity, The Undisputed Era, The Street Profits and Tino Sabbatelli and Riddick Moss so it seems that there is nowhere that TM61 fit in anymore.
12. Tyler Bate
Tyler Bate was crowned the first ever WWE United Kingdom Champion back in January before he was dethroned by Pete Dunne at NXT Takeover: Chicago back in May. Since then Bate has been reduced to being part of WWE Live Events and part of the dark matches on the main roster, but the company won’t allow him to make a full debut.
Bate did appear on 205 Live from the UK along with many other UK stars a few weeks ago, but as already stated, WWE has acted as though this never happened over the past few weeks, so it is unknown where Bate currently stands. The British star is reportedly in a relationship with main roster star Liv Morgan, so this could be the pull that WWE needs to finally push Bate to where he belongs. However, with the UK show hanging over the British roster in early 2018, their future is hard to predict.
11. Lars Sullivan
Lars Sullivan has been paving out his own destructive route on NXT over the past few months and is still currently undefeated as a singles star since he made Kassius Ohno his latest victim back at NXT Takeover: War Games.
Lars could be the answer WWE is looking for when it comes to neutralizing Braun Strowman on the main roster. Lars is also a giant who has been booked like a monster over the past few weeks, which means that if he was to continue this way in early 2018 then he would be a fantastic pick for a debut on the Raw After WrestleMania next year so that he could step up to Strowman following WrestleMania. WWE has stepped away from the big man matches in recent years, but this would be a feud that would be worth bringing back big man main events for, because both Braun and Lars have the athleticism of men half their size.
10. Kassius Ohno
Kassius Ohno was the superstar that CM Punk originally pitched to be part of The Shield when he gave WWE executives the idea for the three-man stable ahead of their debut at Survivor Series back in 2012. Kassius has made a name for himself as Chris Hero on the Independent Circuit over the past few years before he came to NXT and it seems that he has very little left to prove on the developmental roster.
Ohno has either made the right or wrong impression at this point, which means he will either be released from NXT in the near future to make room for new talent or he will be promoted along with a number of other stars. Ohno has gained a lot of heat backstage in recent years because he has gained a lot of weight, which now forces him to wrestle in a shirt. This could work against him when it comes to progressing through the ranks in WWE.
9. Nikki Cross
Nikki Cross debuted as a unique character in NXT when it was revealed that she was part of Sanity. Nikki has since helped her stable to become Tag Team Champions, even though she failed to capture the NXT Women’s Championship at NXT Takeover: War Games this past weekend.
Nikki has been performing on the Independent Circuit in the UK and the US for a number of years and should be in a position now where WWE can see her working on the main roster. Nikki would be the perfect, unpredictable entity that the company needs if they wanted someone to be part of another invasion angle. The only issue here would be that NXT would want to ensure that they still had women on their roster that could carry the division over the next few months and help create new stars. While Nikki would be most people’s first choice, WWE might decide to hold her back to ensure the future is in good hands.
8. Velveteen Dream
The Velveteen Dream has just been part of his first main storyline in NXT against Aleister Black and he stole the show at NXT Takeover: War Games. It seems that WWE has found a definite future star with Velveteen Dream, even though he was once a star that the company thought only had a fantastic elbow drop.
Dream has proved that he is at a level above all other stars on the roster right now, so it will be interesting to see if his next feud is against someone who is completely different to Black so that the company can see how he adapts. Dream could be a star like Tyler Breeze who is lost amongst the shuffle on the main roster, so it is much better for the company to use him on NXT for the time being while the creative team come up with an interesting angle that will allow him to make an instant impact on the main roster.
7. Roderick Strong
Roderick Strong has been part of NXT for a while now and he doesn’t seem to be moving any further forward. Strong was once pushed towards the NXT Championship but came up short in his hunt, which many of the WWE Universe hoped was because he was set to make the switch to wrestling on the main roster instead.
Roderick recently made history when he was part of the first ever War Games match at the NXT Takeover show of the same name and he may not walk out of the cage the same way he walked in. Now that there is a heel NXT Champion, it is also feasible that Strong could be seen as the next challenger for Andrade Almas. Strong is always a safe pair of hands and if NXT going onto a transitional period then he would be the perfect star to carry the main event picture alongside Almas in the coming months.
6. No Way Jose
No Way Jose had one of the most infectious gimmicks on the NXT roster until he disappeared earlier this year. The dancing star always ensured that the live crowd had a good time and seemed to have the right amount of ability in the ring as well, but he has seemingly been AWOL from NXT for the past few months.
Usually, when NXT stars are absent it is because WWE is preparing them for their main roster debut and ensuring that they have the cover they need when they are gone. Jose’s gimmick was always going to be a hard one for the main roster audience to comprehend, but it will be interesting to see if WWE is preparing for the infectious style of Jose to be promoted to the main roster, or if he is on the list of superstars who could be getting the chop in favour of the new talent coming through from the Performance Centre right now.
5. Johnny Gargano
Johnny Gargano is one of the most popular stars on the NXT brand right now and was recently part of one of the biggest matches of his career when he faced UK Champion Pete Dunne as part of NXT Takeover: War Games. Gargano is more technically advanced than any other star on the brand after years of performing all over the world.
The former NXT Tag Team Champion and his one time best friend Tomasso Ciampa still need to have the feud that began building when Ciampa attacked Gargano at Takeover: Chicago back in May. The feud has since been delayed somewhat over the past few months because Ciampa has since been out with a knee injury, but it seems that he could be back in the coming months and the duo can finally have their show-stealing feud. This would be the perfect feud for Johnny Wrestling to bow out on before he takes his rightful place on the main roster.
4. Peyton Royce And Billie Kay
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce were voted “The Breakout Stars of the Year” in NXT last year, which shows just how much the iconic duo have connected with the NXT Universe over the past few years. The Australian Duo has been overlooked in the Women’s Division so many times, even when fans thought that it was finally Peyton’s time to become Champion last weekend.
Billie and Peyton should have been chosen by Paige last week to be part of the stable that invaded Monday Night Raw. The women are much more capable in the ring and on the mic than Sonya Deville and Many Rose, but once again they have been overlooked. It is hoped that if there are any more women set to join Raw or SmackDown Live in the coming weeks, then Billie and Peyton will definitely be the two women that the WWE Universe would love to see on the company’s flagship show.
3. The Authors Of Pain
No Tag Team in NXT has been more dominant than The Authors of Pain. The duo wasn’t one of the best teams in NXT when they first debuted and showed that they had a number of faults and went on to make many mistakes, but fast forward more than a year and they have won over many of the WWE Universe with their unique style.
Akam and Rezar have been rumoured to be set to debut on the main roster in the coming months ahead of WrestleMania 34 since they now have nothing moving forward in NXT. The Authors of Pain, who are managed by WWE Hall of Famer Paul Ellering, have already lost their NXT Tag Team Championships to Sanity and came up short in the first ever War Games match last weekend, which could have been their swan song. SmackDown would definitely benefit from the dominant duo, so hopefully, their promotion is sooner rather than later.
2. Drew McIntyre
WWE seems to follow a system with NXT Champions. It usually sees all former Champions drop the title to their predecessor before they are then promoted to the main roster. Shinsuke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, Samoa Joe and a number of other stars have followed this tradition over the past few years and since Drew dropped his Championship last weekend to Andrade Almas, it seems that his time could finally be coming.
Of course, Drew has already been on the main roster and was released from WWE back in 2014 along with a number of other stars before he was resigned earlier this year. Drew has since proved that he has returned to the company as a completely different man, but he was injured in his match against Almas at Takeover: War Games, which means that his call-up could be delayed because of the injury, but it is definitely in the works.
1. Aleister Black
Aleister Black has certainly made an impression on the NXT brand over the past few months ever since his debut back in April. The Undefeated star stole the show last weekend as he took on Velveteen Dream and managed to maintain that unbeaten record.
Black is a star waiting to happen and WWE needs to cash in on him as soon as possible and hope that the main roster audience will take to him the same way that NXT has. Black is an enigma; a man his size should not be able to move the way that he does, which makes him even more appealing to WWE since they don’t have anyone else quite like him to fill that void on Raw or SmackDown. Black has the ability to steal the show on any occasion and against the stars that WWE already has on their main roster, Black will definitely be at home.
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