by John Duffy
Earlier this year, WWE’s developmental programme was talk of the wrestling town, mostly due to stellar matches performed by the superb athletes in the yellow-roped squared-circle. The likes of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Cesaro, and Tyson Kidd, when called up, were replaced by Adrian Neville, Sami Zayn, Finn Balor, Hideo Itami, and Kevin Owens. Paige and Emma established the most exciting women’s division seen in a long, long time, and Charlotte, Becky Lynch, Sasha Banks took it even further.
But now most of those names are gone, ascended to Raw and leaving a rather large gap in the NXT roster. This is the nature of NXT – as a developmental, their job is to develop the wrestlers’ craft to the point were they are deemed ready to be called up to the main roster on Raw and Smackdown.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my concerns for the NXT roster that would soon be left depleted because the talent on show were all ready for the call. This is exactly what has happened, especially in the woman’s division, after Charlotte, Becky Lynch, and (at the time) champion Sasha Banks were all called up to Raw on the same night. This leaves a somewhat sparse selection as their replacements. Alexa Bliss is unfortunately tied up with Blake and Murphy, Dana Brooke has a long way to go, and Eva Marie is über green, leaving the popular Bayley and the entertaining evil Emma next in line. The Tag Team division is the worst it’s been since NXT’s inception, and Finn Balor is the only real superstar left in the singles division (at least until Hideo Itami and Sami Zayn recover from long term injuries).
No doubt there are plenty of other worthy wrestlers yet to make an appearance but to get back to the high standards the company set for itself, NXT needs to go on a recruitment drive. So lets take a look at some of the indie stars that WWE could – and should – sign to replenish the NXT roster…
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The Quick Fix
There were high hopes for the Samoan Submission Machine, Samoa Joe, although its hasn’t been a positive start due to poor booking, awful entrance music and sub-par matches the signing of Samoa Joe raised eyebrows because it went against the theory that WWE would not sign TNA stars. The positive to bringing in former TNA stars is of course experience that would give NXT fresh talent with points to prove, intensifying storylines, matches and competition for places.
AJ Styles – It seems like a no-brainer, as Styles is the highlight anytime he steps inside the ring and would be a welcome addition to the roster by any fan. He would also bring bona fide star quality to the programme, media attention, and the all important WWE Network subscriptions.
Austin Aries – “A Double” is a former ROH and TNA Champion, and recently became a free agent, so now would be the perfect time to bring him on board and instantly gain an exciting and talented veteran with oodles of charisma. Aries is also a recognised and respected name, and would instantly up the game of all in NXT.
Bobby Roode – A great technical wrestler, with an intense personality with elements of Flair and HHH, Roode possess a certain quality in his ability to play both heel and face easily. Like Kurt Angle he can “go” with anyone shown in his TNA matches with Aries, Samoa Joe and, Jeff Hardy, and if brought to NXT he could transgress his talents to opponents like Balor, Itami and Zayn with no problem.
The Young Bucks – Young, exciting, and extremely over, Nick & Matt Jackson are enjoying a prosperous run in ROH and NJPW. A mixture of The Rockers and The Hardy Boys, with an injection of DX, they are cocky, charismatic, and hold an innovative and impressive move set, although perhaps featuring too many superkicks. They would give NXT and its tag-team division a shot in the arm with a style that would fit in with the current NXT remit.
reDRagon – Three-tim e ROH Tag-Team champions, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish – like The Young Bucks – are a well-traveled and technically-sound tag-team, having great matches in ROH and NJPW. Very popular due to an in-ring style that features a mixture of old and new school, they would bring authentic skill and power to a weakened division.
The Long Term
Adam Cole – Despite a very long, injury-induced absence, Cole remained prominent in ROH, and his comeback match with AJ Styles made it seem as if he’d never been away. Cole has the “it” factor – he’s good looking, extremely talented in the ring, and has a great connection with the fans with a smart microphone ability. He is young, hungry, and one of the most well-rounded performers on the indie scene and would set NXT alight on match possibilities alone.
Kenny King – A former Tough Enough competitor that has been criminally underused by TNA, King deserves to be in a more prominent position. As former X-Division champion, he’s shown he can produce exciting matches in an environment full of young and hungry guys itching to get to the next level. With a good look, great in-ring talent, and imposing height, he would be a sound asset for NXT.
Prince Puma – His five-star matches on Lucha Underground as the face of the company and its champion must have certain trainers in WWE scratching their heads as to why he wasn’t snapped up when they had the chance and, boy, has he proven them wrong. Puma would a great fit for NXT, with his mixture of styles and high-octane athleticism making him a perfect opponent for Balor.
Cage – He’s big, ripped, mean, and exciting in the ring – everything that Vince McMahon looks for in a superstar. Which makes it even more surprising that WWE passed on him a few years back, but with head-trainer changes at NXT maybe it is time for a second chance. His performances on Lucha Underground have been awesome, with him doing moves a man of his physique should not be able to do, and with NXT’s amalgamation of high intensity, stiff “indie”, and WWE’s slow and powerful style he would be a great addition to the team.