Right now, NXT is rightly regarded as one of the hottest places in the wrestling world. But you already know that, right, for the WWE’s supposed "developmental" territory has been wowing wrestling fans for the past several years now.
As of this writing, WrestleMania 34 is nearly upon us, and so too is NXT TakeOver: New Orleans in which expectations are high for some truly epic matches. Following the Showcase of the Immortals, of course, the WWE has made a habit in the past few years of moving NXT talents to their Raw and SmackDown brands.
So with that in mind, who could potentially get a call-up to the big leagues of Monday and Tuesday nights once this year’s WrestleMania is in the books? That’s something we’re looking to explore here.
If you take a good look at the current NXT roster, certain names obviously jump out as no-brainers to make the move to the main roster at some point in the near future. Then there are those others who are possibly viewed as dark horses, but who could well be a sensible choice to move to the red or blue brand sooner rather than later.
With that logic in play, let’s take at look at 15 superstars who you could well see on the main roster once WrestleMania is in the rear-view mirror.
15 Pete Dunne Is Destined For Greatness
In terms of dream NXT call-ups, one of the names that most fans would love to see cracking skulls on Raw or SmackDown Live is the famed Bruiserweight, Pete Dunne. Whether that happens or not depends on how important Dunne is going to be to NXT going forward over the next year.
Much like certain other talents, Dunne is "main-roster ready" right now and could easily fit on either the red or blue brand should the WWE see fit. Impressive in the ring, a decent talker, and with an immeasurable skill for simply carrying himself like an absolute badass, the current UK Champion is destined for greatness in the WWE.
With Pete Dunne, however, it depends which other names make the move from NXT following WrestleMania. If someone like Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas or Drew McIntyre gets the main roster nod, that could see the decision made to elevate Dunne to a top spot on NXT in their place. If the Bruiserweight did get moved to Raw or SmackDown though, it wouldn’t feel a moment too soon or out of place. It’s happening at some point, it just depends on whether the WWE feels it’s time to pull that trigger or not.
14 Billie Kay Might Need A Little More Work
In terms of seasoning, you could easily make a good argument for keeping Billie Kay in NXT for a little while longer in order to further polish her in-ring work. While that is certainly a sensible approach to take, the more fruitful avenue could be to have Kay make a main roster move along with her Iconic Duo bestie, Peyton Royce.
While Royce is a far superior in-ring competitor who has been "main-roster ready" for a while now, the act of the Iconic Duo is what has served both Australians best to date – and will continue to serve them best in their immediate future.
Have Billie join Peyton on the main roster, with them playing the numbers game to constantly get one-up on the babyfaces of whichever roster they find themselves on. It’s smart business, and it’s a way to get value out of both of these ladies.
13 Buddy Murphy Has Had Some Impressive Appearances
Depending on whether you fully consider 205 Live to be a major step up from NXT or not, you could argue that Buddy Murphy has already half moved to the main roster following his participation in the tournament to crown a new Cruiserweight Champion.
Murphy has had huge potential for years now. Even when the Blake & Murphy tandem were at their peak, there was still glimpses that Buddy Murphy could break out and become a special talent in the singles ranks. With his 205 appearances, the Australian has only enhanced his reputation with a couple of mightily impressive performances.
It could be that Murphy makes the most sense to be a fierce competitor who ultimately turns heel and bullies the smaller cruiserweights on a regular basis, but there’s also the prospect of seeing the impressive former NXT Tag Team Champion on either Raw or SmackDown. If given the opportunity, Buddy Murphy really could become one the breakout stars of 2018.
12 Tino Sabbatelli Is The Full Package
Just from taking one look at him, you can tell that a whole of WWE higher-ups likely got tight in the proverbial pants after seeing Tino Sabbatelli walk through their doors. With a shredded physique, designer tan, dashing good looks, a legit sports background, and a natural confidence that verges on arrogance, the powers that be likely saw instant dollar signs.
It took Tino a while to become a frequent part of NXT TV, and it now looks as if his tag team with Riddick Moss is sadly about to be cut short before they could fully get going. That team — loosely named the God Gifted Athletes — has such potential to become a truly great heel pairing, but the seeds have been sown for a break-up of the two.
If and when that does happen, you’d think that Sabbatelli making a main-roster jump to work alongside somebody like The Miz could be a great move. Think Alex Riley but, you know, far, far better. Where A-Ri failed, Tino Sabbatelli could well hit a homerun. Either way, he’s a mover and shaker to be keeping your eyes on.
11 Roderick Strong Has Potential
Having challenged for the NXT Championship, the United Kingdom Championship, and the Cruiserweight Championship, Roderick Strong is currently in limbo where his singles career is concerned. And that’s not meant to say he’s in a bad place, for Roddy is a regularly featured talent who is presented as a legit star between the ropes.
As of this writing, there’s a chance that Strong and Pete Dunne could leave NXT TakeOver: New Orleans as the NXT Tag Team Champions, but beyond that you have to think that Roddy makes the jump to the main roster by the time 2018 is out. That jump could well come as soon as the Raw or SmackDown after WrestleMania should he and the Bruiserweight come up short at TakeOver.
Whether Strong’s short stature may hold him back on the main roster, that remains to be seen. But if presented correctly and allowed to showcase his world class in-ring ability, Roderick Strong would be a welcome addition to either Raw or SmackDown.
10 Lio Rush Is Rising To The Top
If the WWE is as serious as they appear about finally making their 205 Live show a legitimate attraction, the addition of Lio Rush to the 205 ranks could be a masterstroke.
Sure, he may have attitude and he may be hugely undersized even by cruiserweight standards, but Rush is an electric, engaging presence between the ropes. In a wrestling landscape where even the heavyweights are sadly regularly pulling off moves once reserved for cruiserweight competitors, Lio brings a whole new dimension to the party.
Of course, this kind of also relies on whether you see 205 Live as being part of the main roster. Given how the division was regularly featured on Raw each week up until only a matter of weeks ago, we’d say so. As such, Lio Rush is well worth a mention here in this feature — especially as there’s so many tantalizing prospective matches lying ahead for him should he indeed get moved to 205 Live post-WrestleMania.
9 SAnitY Is Good To Go
With the SAnitY stable, you get a whole lot more than just one simple addition to the main roster. Given how the group is made up of Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, Killian Dain, and Nikki Cross, the addition of SAnitY to Raw or SmackDown instantly adds depth to the entire landscape of that particular show.
Right now, you’d say that Raw would be the better fit for SAnitY should they make the jump from NXT. While Nikki Cross would be a strong addition to the Raw women’s ranks, the fact that the red brand also has The Miztourage, Balor Club, and potentially The Shield amongst its number makes the SAnitY stable a natural fit for the brand.
It seems that Cross has had her stint as an NXT Women’s Champion contender, the group has had their spell as NXT Tag Team Champs, and right now none of the male performers are close to the NXT Championship. SAnitY are ready for the main roster, more than ready even. As such, expect them to make the move in the aftermath of WrestleMania.
8 Tommaso Ciampa Is Ready
There’s a good argument to be made for Tommaso Ciampa to stick around in NXT for a while, especially if Aleister Black manages to take the NXT Championship from Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans. If Black did indeed take home the gold at that show, Ciampa could be a great heel opponent to go up against the Dutch Destroyer throughout the rest of 2018.
But let’s be real, so many of us wrestling fans would love nothing more than to see Ciampa and Johnny Gargano take each other to their limits at TakeOver: New Orleans before continuing their intense rivalry somewhere on the main roster. In fact, we’d even settle for the Psycho Killer and Johnny Wrestling taking their hatred to 205 Live so long as we get to see this heated feud continue.
Tommaso Ciampa may only just be making his way back from serious injury, but he’s one of several NXT talents who are absolute ready in every possible way for a main roster move. And that move? Well, it could easily come in the weeks and months following WrestleMania 34.
7 Lars Sullivan Is A Beast
While some superstars have a natural path of entering NXT, make a splash in NXT, move towards the main event scene, win the NXT Championship, defend the belt several times, lose the gold, lose the subsequent rematch, and then make the jump to the main roster, other talents are best served by simply spending a minimal amount of time with the black and yellow brand. Case in point, Braun Strowman.
The Monster Among Men essentially bypassed NXT and went straight to the main roster regardless of how green he was. For Lars Sullivan, that could be the best model to follow.
Sullivan had been decimating the competition in NXT before his progress was curtailed by injury. Now back in action — and still undefeated — it might be a smart move to give Sullivan a main roster call-up, possibly to the SmackDown brand. You can then continue Strowman’s domination on Raw, have Sullivan do the same on SmackDown, and finally have these two behemoths collide down the line in an ‘unstoppable force meets the immovable object’ battle.
6 Johnny Gargano Would Be A Smart Choice
While Seth Rollins, Big E, Neville, Sami Zayn, Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, and Bobby Roode all won the NXT Championship before getting the main roster call, it could well serve Johnny Gargano well to not take home NXT’s most coveted prize.
Before the return to action of Daniel Bryan, there was an extremely good case to be made that Johnny Wrestling was the most natural, organic babyface within the entire WWE. Currently technically no longer employed by NXT, it could be a smart move to have Gargano move to the main roster once he’s finally had his hotly anticipated clash with best friend-turned-biggest enemy Tommaso Ciampa. In fact, you could even continue that rivalry on the main roster, such is the excitement surrounding it.
With a new emphasis on actual wrestling and delicate character development on 205 Live, it could be that Gargano — and Ciampa — may well end up competing in the cruiserweight division. Then again, it may be a smart move to put both men on SmackDown, especially if some of SmackDown’s biggest names are lost to Raw in the impending superstar shakeup.
5 Peyton Royce Has Goals
One half of NXT’s Iconic Duo, some fans have been half expecting Peyton Royce to turn up on the main roster for a good six months or so now. While partner Billie Kay was initially seen as the one who grabbed the most eyeballs out of this duo, it’s Royce who is easily the best in-ring worker of the two and who has the best grip on her character.
Some may say that Peyton Royce should be kept in NXT if the yellow and black brand loses a top star like Ember Moon, but if Moon does depart then it would be Shayna Baszler running roughshod over the female roster for the foreseeable future. As a fellow heel, it would be a better fit for Royce to be taken out of the picture and to help flesh out the roster on Raw or SmackDown.
With the prospect of a superstar shakeup on the horizon, the main roster’s female talent may go through some heavy changes. As things stand though, Peyton seems a great fit for SmackDown as a cocky heel with her eyes on the Women’s Championship held by either Charlotte Flair or Asuka.
4 Ember Moon Got A Chance To Shine
Ember Moon may not have appeared in NXT until 2015, but the Texas native actually made her professional debut eight years prior to that. Unfortunately for the engaging Ember, there was one huge obstacle in her way for the first year or more of her NXT run. That obstacle? Why, that would be none other than the dominant Empress of Tomorrow, Asuka.
The pair would have several tense, tight battles, but Moon would always come out on the losing end of the equation. It was only after Asuka jumped to Raw that Ember was finally given the ball to run with as the NXT Women’s Champion.
With Moon’s reign currently closing in on five months as of this writing, it appears that Shayna Baszler will be the one to take the gold from around her waist. That will likely happen at TakeOver: New Orleans, or maybe possibly at the TakeOver following that, but once that happens then expect Ember Moon to make the jump to Raw or SmackDown before 2018 is out.
3 Andrade "Cien" Almas Is Ready To Move On
When La Sombra turned up in NXT in 2015, anticipation was high that this truly world class talent was going to take the black and yellow brand by storm. Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the case, with the newly-dubbed Andrade "Cien" Almas struggling to get a decent reaction from both the NXT fan base and those behind the scenes in the developmental arm of the WWE.
It looked at one point that Almas could be on the chopping block sooner rather than later, but the addition of Zelina Vega to his act reinvigorated him and propelled him to the NXT main event scene. Now proudly standing as the NXT Champion, as of this writing Cien is set to tangle with Aleister Black at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans.
With Almas having appeared in the 2018 Royal Rumble match to such a huge reception, the WWE decision makers will have taken note of that. And let’s face it, he’s as ready as anybody in NXT to make the jump to the main roster. Whether he loses the title to Black at this TakeOver or the next big show, it looks as if a Raw or SmackDown spot is in Andrade’s immediate future.
2 The Authors Of Pain Proved Themselves
Let’s face it, the Authors of Pain have been ready for the main roster for a year or so now. Seriously, there is absolutely nothing at all left for the hulking tandem to achieve in NXT as a tag team act. Already, they’ve had a memorable 203-day run as the NXT Tag Team Champions and won the second edition of the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic.
The only way that Akam and Rezar would have any further business to take care of in NXT is if they somehow split up and competed in the singles ranks. And let’s be frank, that’s an absolutely ridiculous idea.
Let the AoP partake in the Tag Team Title/Dusty Rhodes Classic bout at NXT TakeOver: New Orleans, and then that’s it. Just get these brutes to the main roster as soon as possible, maybe even on the Raw or SmackDown straight after WrestleMania.
1 Drew McIntyre Needs To Move On
By the time Drew McIntyre departed the WWE in 2014, he’d become a joke figure as one third of the jobber-tastic 3MB trio. Fast forward to 2017, and a vastly different McIntyre returned to Vince McMahon’s company.
In a relatively short space of time, Drew would defeat Bobby Roode to become the NXT Champion. A bullish, unrelenting babyface, fans were instantly connected to this new attitude for the former Chosen One. But then a cruel twist of fate was around the corner, with the Scot tearing a bicep as he lost the NXT Championship to Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas at NXT TakeOver: WarGames.
At a rugged 6’5” and now a much more seasoned performer, it would be no surprise whatsoever to see Drew McIntyre appear on Raw or SmackDown Live rather than heading back to NXT upon his impending return from injury. Because, frankly, that's what's best for business.