New Blood: How WWE Have Successfully Introduced Some NXT Stars onto the Main Roster – by Mike Sanchez

NXT Takeover returns to the Barclays Center the weekend before Wrestlemania. The card has been announced and once again looks to be a stellar show. The Takeover shows have become a must-see in recent years and the loud, boisterous crowd in New York (likely populated by fans from across the globe, as is traditional for Wrestlemania weekend crowds) will be there to see some of the best performers in professional wrestling. It’ll also prove to be a swansong for some of the NXT talent who have recently said their goodbyes in the Full Sail arena down in Florida. Though some have already appeared on Monday Night Raw or Smackdown Live, this will be their official farewell from NXT.

Promoting NXT talent to the main roster was always going to be difficult for WWE, with the surge in popularity of NXT and the growing following the brand has. Their growing star power and talent meant that it would always be a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ they’d make the leap to the main roster. WWE have had incredible successes in putting NXT talent on Raw or Smackdown Live such as; Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks, Bayley, Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch and Finn Balor. One could argue that the Shield all hailed from NXT, although the federation was in its infancy back then and a far cry from the established brand that is in place now.

For every success, there have been the odd NXT star who perhaps hasn’t hit the heights expected, and that’s not necessarily their fault. To promote one or two from NXT into the limelight means one or two established stars moving out of the way, and that’s hard to do. WWE has one of the best rosters in its history. It’s stacked from top to bottom with talent, a thriving Women’s Division and a 205 Live group who put on show-stealing matches when given the opportunity.

For every Finn Balor or Becky Lynch, there’s an Apollo Crews or Tyler Breeze. Top talents, no doubt, but a crowded roster and limited opportunities have hindered them thus far. Hopefully, they’ll have a chance to make that step up in the near future.

Back to recent events and the latest brood from NXT to have been brought up to the main roster. As I’ve mentioned before, Takeover will host the final NXT appearances for some talent who will firmly be part of Raw or Smackdown Live post-April 15-16 and the Superstar Shakeup. Two of these, Aleister Black and Ricochet, have been nothing short of phenomenal. I like how WWE have played their hand with both men; utilizing them on both brands, having them pair up and go against a variety of opponents and, most importantly, not giving them a feud or storyline to work with. I say that because their respective stories will probably get going after Wrestlemania, so there’s no need to cloud the water to bog them down right now. Just have them appear on the show, work with different guys and naturally build a strong rapport with the crowds. The same can also be said for Andrade.

On a personal level, I’m impressed with Black and he grows on me more and more with every match. I hope they invest in his entrance a little more as it can be so much more impressive. Keep the rising out the grave gimmick, but perhaps make the set and equipment a bit more realistic.

As for Ricochet, he’s incredible and I’m sorry it took me so long to realize it and watch his matches. Many of his long-time fans say what we see is only the tip of the iceberg and if he were to be let loose, it would be something incredible to witness. I hope WWE allow him to express himself more.

Naturally, when you see the top tier of NXT talent migrate to the main roster, you’ll hope your favorites will succeed there. I worried about Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa making the transition if I’m honest. Both guys are what WWE would call ‘small’, so I was concerned they’d be viewed as lesser players by the office who may not have fully appreciated the depth of their storylines whilst in NXT. Sadly, we won’t be seeing both men for a while as Ciampa has undergone neck surgery, so his natural opponent Gargano has stayed in NXT for now, at least. Rumors are that both men may be making NXT their permanent home, which is good for NXT and the fans. Both guys are incredible talents and they portray the story of wrestling as good as anyone. Hopefully one day they can elevate their feud into WWE’s main roster, but for now, we’ll have to wait.

It seems like waiting is what we’ll have to do for a certain EC3. I’ll be honest; I’d totally forgotten he’d been brought up to the main roster until I saw him in a backstage spot on Raw. Hopefully, WWE are just waiting for the right time to get him going on the main roster. It’s a shame that he hasn’t been used more, because he’s a top talent. Look at how familiar the WWE Universe are now with Aleister Black and Ricochet. Both men have had little, if any, promo time, yet fans cheer for them, know who they are and look forward to seeing them wrestle. Would it have not made sense to have EC3 fight against some of the roster who need an opponent right now? Elias? Luke Harper? Apollo Crews? Dolph Ziggler? Zack Ryder? Anyone, just to get the guy on TV regularly and into the minds of the fans. Perhaps his push will come after mania, but he’ll be trailing behind Black and Ricochet in the popularity stakes at that point. Hopefully, WWE will kick on and push this crop of NXT talent so the roster will only get stronger.

What do you think? Have WWE brought Black & Ricochet in better than others? How would you involve EC3 more? Do you think Gargano and Ciampa will stay in NXT? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading.