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NXT to WWE main roster: The hits and misses.

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So we all love NXT and we’ve talked before in different threads about the varying fortunes of NXT wrestlers when called up to the main roster. Thought it would make for a topic on its own right. I had to start with Asuka and the Revival…

Asuka. Asuka’s time on the main roster can be split into two, before and after WrestleMania XXXIV. Before then, Asuka kept defending her perfect record in WWE and winning the first women’s Royal Rumble match. Asuka wrongly lost said streak to Charlotte Flair at WrestleMania XXXIV with her tapping out of nowhere and the post match getting interrupted by John Cena finding out the Undertaker had arrived. Asuka lost WWE Smackdown Live Championship matches to Carmella, never won the title you thought she’d be a certainty to win and she wasn’t on some PPV’s either. MISS.

The Revival. The best tag team in NXT history called up the day after WrestleMania XXXIII. Unfortunately injuries followed with a fractured jaw and torn bicep respectively. I was channel surfing the other day momentarily surprised that the Revival was on Main Event. Revival’s booking rivals Asuka’s for my most frustrating NXT to main roster drafts. Revival’s may be more frustrating as they’ve never had a high unlike Asuka. MISS.

Seth Rollins. The first NXT Champion has held nearly every major title in the WWE including the WWE/United States Championships and the WWE Intercontinental Championship/WWE RAW Tag Team Titles at the same time. HIT.

Kevin Owens. Owens’ tenure in NXT was short. Owens’ arrived on the main roster as NXT Champion cleanly defeating John Cena in his debut match at Elimination Chamber 2015. I thought KO would win an IC or US Title but never the biggest on RAW, the Universal Championship. The chemistry between KO and Y2J was fun. This year was bad for KO’, getting squashed by Braun Strowman, saying he quit only to be brought back in no time at all and knee surgery putting him on the shelf. HIT.

Sasha Banks. The best women’s wrestler on the roster, Banks' held the WWE RAW Women’s Championship four times but all of those reigns were short. HIT.

Becky Lynch. The first WWE Smackdown Live Women’s Champion remained over with the fans despite her win/loss record. Becky wrestled Carmella and Charlotte Flair for that title at SummerSlam 2018 and got the biggest reaction of the night attacking Charlotte post match. Lynch is the best thing going in the WWE right now, fans won’t boo her despite WWE’s attempts. HIT.

Charlotte Flair. Flair’s won championships galore holding the Divas’, RAW and Smackdown Live titles, the only woman to do so. As noted she also handed Asuka her first defeat in WWE. HIT.

Bayley. Bayley’s high point was brief, defeating Charlotte Flair for the WWE RAW Women’s Championship and retaining it at WrestleMania XXXIII. The writing of her feud following versus Alexa Bliss did her no favours. I can’t ever see Bayley becoming a WWE Women’s champion again. MISS.

Alexa Bliss. One of NXT’s biggest success stories, Bliss was the first woman to hold the WWE Smackdown Live and RAW Women’s Championships. Little Miss Bliss is heavily featured on WWE programming. HIT.

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I think the biggest HIT is either Braun or Elias.  I don't know if I'd count the Shield guys that was kind of before the NXT revamp.   Braun and Elias also have one thing in common.  They didn't have a lot of exposure in NXT. They were able to come in as relative unknowns and build towards where they are. 

Somewhere along the way the main roster creative teams decided that what works in NXT...  doesn't work on the main roster so instead of just allowing many of them to do what they did to get over they are altering their characters or shying away from the way they were booked in NXT.  

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Asuka's WM 34 loss is more complicated than it would seem, and I still feel her losing there was the right call given the circumstances. The problem is that WWE was absolutely determined to give Carmella that cash-in and title run, which left Asuka in a tough spot, and WWE with the options of ending the streak in a high-profile match at WM34, or losing it to a cash-in two nights later. I feel they made the right choice by having her lose in a show-stealing match in front of 70,000. I won't defend what happened to Asuka subsequently, though.

What's also interesting is that many of the HITS are stars who weren't really utilised much in NXT, such as Alexa and Elias. (there are exceptions to the rule though, like Seth Rollins and Charlotte Flair.)  And as much as I enjoy her NXT work, Bayley's first few months on the main roster are a bad harbinger for what was to come, including pointless midcard feuds with Dana and Alicia Fox (the latter over teddy bears) and her shaky HIAC Raw Talk interview. The booking of the Alexa feud was brutal, but it wasn't the only reason she fell down the card.

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44 minutes ago, Niners Fan in CT said:

I think the biggest HIT is either Braun or Elias.  I don't know if I'd count the Shield guys that was kind of before the NXT revamp.   Braun and Elias also have one thing in common.  They didn't have a lot of exposure in NXT. They were able to come in as relative unknowns and build towards where they are. 

Somewhere along the way the main roster creative teams decided that what works in NXT...  doesn't work on the main roster so instead of just allowing many of them to do what they did to get over they are altering their characters or shying away from the way they were booked in NXT.  

Weren't Braun's only appearances in nxt as part of Adam Rose's Rosebuds?

I know Rusev wasn't in nxt for very long, but I'd still count him as a success for the most part, but it has been a mixed bag for him. He started out great, but the WM loss to Cena hurt him a lot. Splitting Lana and Rusev and adding Dolph to the mix was beyond stupid. Rusev Day was super over and it had helped rehabilitate both Rusev and Aiden, so instead of the doing the logical thing and give them the tag titles after Erick Rowan's injury, they get split up. Just another time where you shrug your shoulders and say...because WWE.

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I thought Braun appeared as one of the Rosebuds after Rose was brought up to the main roster. I didn't think Braun had any on screen time in NXT. 

Also, right now, I'm reserving a spot for Montez Ford as a HIT.

COME ON WWE! That guy is fucking awesome and is nearly a true home grown talent. Every time I see that guy I think, damn, that man is going to be the next Rock if WWE doesn't fuck it up.

So of course they'll fuck it up.

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Also, Corey Graves is progressively becoming the voice of the WWE. That guy is definitely a hit.

And because I'm biased and like his work, I'll say Tom Phillips is a hit as well.

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1 minute ago, West Newbury Bad Boy said:

The next NXT hit is gonna be Otis. Vince loves farts and poops. 

I just imagine Vince laughing his ass off every time he sees Otis.

"COME ON PAL! Say something in that voice of yours! Say anything!"

"Hey pal, send Otis to my office, I need a good laugh!"

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Nakamura is a miss for me. From matches (match producers don't seem to understand him) to handling to the angles (can't beat former at the time jobber Jinder for the world title)

I don't consider Asuka a miss, they still protect her I think and she wasn't going to override what WWE wanted in the sense of pushing and etc. They obviously wanted the shock that Carmella can beat Asuka but nobody really cares about heel Carmella. Yeah...they leave Asuka off tv some times but it's not like her promos are that good English wise.

Bringing Asuka in and then losing to Charlotte was the plan before signing. WWE bookings of Cena, Roman, Charlotte is keeping giving them accomplishments then they're finally over years later.

I knew the Revival would be buried due to their height, something only Rey can escape due to Hispanic and Lucha and kids marketability. Or D-bry due to crowd reactions being so loud. Vince probably also thinks they're hokey NWA style and/or bland hence the booking. They would better off in Wrestle-1. Predestined miss.

Elias seems fine so a hit.

Braun shouldn't had turned heel facing Roman and needing a faction, dumb move. in limbo for me.

Sasha has been demoted to a miss to me, it's probably because of Vince's lookism and the dive botches. Her baseball slides are fine though. Seems to not be treated as the big deal as she was anymore.

Bayley botching that promo hurt her. Miss.

Alexa Bliss is a hit but injury prone it seems.

Becky is a hit but really due to being buried but getting over with the sympathies of the fans. Similar booking that benefited others intentional or not. She's more over than most women and men in the roster.

Devitt is a slow project so I dunno.

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I consider Asuka somewhere in the middle since she is still somewhat protected a year in.

I really wish Revival didn't get those badly timed injuries. It feels like they can do nothing to regain faith despite stuff like the match with Dolph and Drew from last month.

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So we're ignoring the Ascension wholly?

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Pretty much, because no one really likes them, even though they were hugely over in NXT and it was clearly a gimmick they wanted to get over since there were so many versions of the Ascension.

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Let's be honest most of the "misses" would have been easy hits if WWE creative was worth a shit.   Nakamura, lazy or not,  would have been a massive star with the momentum he had. Now he's a JAG just like everyone else..  

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The Vaudevillains were obviously a miss. I'm honestly surprised they got called up. Aiden was being rehabilitated along with Rusev, but then came the genius idea to split Rusev Day. 

Enzo and Cass were going to be a hit. Being split up shouldn't have happened, and I don't hold that against them. Everything else that happened to them was their fault.

Unlike Enzo & Cass, Carmella has a been hit. Unfortunately, it made Asuka look really bad in the process.

After being an afterthought when he and Wesley Blake were split up, Buddy Murphy has turned into a hit of the crusierweight division, and is deservedly getting a title reign.

 

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I think the worst thing that can happen in NXT for your main roster career aspirations is to get over via some long form storytelling or angle as opposed to some instantly identifiable character or gimmick.  You looks at Bayley and American Alpha and too much of the audience had no idea who they were or what their deal was, but too much also knew about it for WWE to just restart from scratch or do the whole thing over again.  It isn't a case of WWE being bad at writing, it is a legit tricky transition with no real obvious great options.  If you want to look ahead, Gargano and Ciampa are facing a nightmare-level transition if/when they are called up.

 

You compare this with Enzo & Cass or Elias where within a segment the crowd can easily grasp who they are and what they are about even if they have no idea what they've been doing the previous year, and it is just the better situation.  There is also the deal that, regardless if the developmental fed is more... let's be polite and say critically acclaimed, the main roster shouldn't feel boxed in by what they did with a talent and yet because it is such a per project of one of the top people in WWE they aren't comfortable just ignoring what happens down there.  No doubt some acts should be brought up as is, but I look back at OVW and think a lot of people who ended up being huge stars were very fortunate to get fresh starts once called up, and those fresh starts just don't seem to exist any more.  If you look at the past several years and those people who were called up with either new gimmicks or no real NXT past, you get Roman, Braun, Rollins and Ambrose, maybe even Drew.  Starting your story on the main roster as opposed to having it pick up midway just seems like it works better, so they should probably do that more and let NXT be its own separate universe.

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That seems like a very fair and astute analysis.  I think looking at Tyler Breeze against Xavier Woods really highlights this case. 

Breeze has an arc in NXT where he went from complete fop to a much tougher staple of the upper midcard who was featured in feuds constantly.  He goes to the main roster with a very easily main roster ready gimmick and gets stuck in the Summer Rae - Dolph Ziggler feud of doom and is almost immediately removed from the spotlight to form a comedy tag with Fandango which gets over despite weeks of not being on the show in anything other than backstage segments.  The act is almost immediately depushed and he's an afterthought immediately.

Woods really doesn't do anything in NXT is critiqued (I think rightly actually) for trying too many new things constantly until he gets promoted to the main roster with nothing to do until he makes a break with the New Day and takes it to the next level where I don't think its insane to think he's going to be a singles main event player some day.  It's insane to say the same about Breeze.

All this being said, I don't think Woods is that much more talented than Breeze.  Xavier has more of a leadership mentality which probably why he's a Vince favorite.  

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There was a rumour that Breeze left a TV taping early near the start of his main roster run and that derailed his initial main roster push. 

There are always certain backstage attitude and culture things which get overlooked when these discussions come up. 

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I think this conversation can sometimes lead to a larger conversation regarding HHH and his political currency in WWE. I'm always fascinated by the nxt acts that seem to remain protected on the main roster and which ones flounder. For example, We know Hunter loves Bayley and Sasha, but they don't seem to be in the same "Safe zone" that Charlotte, Alexa, and now Becky seem to be in. I'd be interested in a look backstage at those conversations. 

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28 minutes ago, just drew said:

I think this conversation can sometimes lead to a larger conversation regarding HHH and his political currency in WWE. I'm always fascinated by the nxt acts that seem to remain protected on the main roster and which ones flounder. For example, We know Hunter loves Bayley and Sasha, but they don't seem to be in the same "Safe zone" that Charlotte, Alexa, and now Becky seem to be in. I'd be interested in a look backstage at those conversations. 

Becky wasn't in the safe zone either until the last 4-5 months. That safe zone is Vince. When he loves you are generally well protected unless you're in that Owens type of position where he feels your so good you're bulletproof. When he loses interest or just can't give you much focus it tends to be when you start losing more often and sometime more than you really should.

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6 hours ago, West Newbury Bad Boy said:

There was a rumour that Breeze left a TV taping early near the start of his main roster run and that derailed his initial main roster push. 

There are always certain backstage attitude and culture things which get overlooked when these discussions come up. 

I would find that surprising given how much training in that sort of thing they get in NXT and since Breeze had been in the system for so long.

I think HHH’s sway only goes so far and it’s up to the talent to make that connection with Vince. In one of the backstage shows or maybe an interview I remember it was discussed that HHH basically told Kevin Owens (and maybe Joe too) that he could get them signed and spotlight them in NXT, but everything else was all up to Vince.

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I don't think Bayley has been a particular failure, she just isn't one of the WWE's chosen ones. And to be honest, I think that's not entirely incommensurate with her performance level. She's not a rip-roaring success but I wouldn't call her a failure tbh.

Sasha Banks is a massive hit because 'Boss Time' is a legitimate 'I don't need to be champion to be over' phenomenon. Being the master of the secondary feud is actually a great spot. Lest we forget, it's essentially the Eddie Guerrero spot. There's nothing wrong with feuding with the Riott Squad 'ad nauseam' as long as the matches are good and people care. They are and they do.

Asuka had a huge push which lead to a Royal Rumble win and a Wrestlemania Title Match. Now the problem with secondary title matches at Wrestlemania is that you probably won't get as much time as you want, especially given Brand Split II, & that lead to a slightly weak finish - but whatever.  Good chance she will turn heel and feud with she-who-will-not-be-turned, assuming Charlotte wins the Rumble and goes to Raw to face Rousey. They were teasing heel Asuka in NXT and I think that will be more fun anyway.

Liv Tyler and Ruby Riott have worked out pretty well - the former way better than expected. Sarah Logan wasn't on NXT as a regular so she doesn't count but the Riott Squad have overachieved fair to say.

Sami Zayn......it's complicated but it just feels he never ever really got out of Kevin Owen's orbit so he's a miss. I hope they actually keep the two apart when Zayn returns.

PAC's push was a bit stop-start, but he had his moments until the ankle injury. Then 205 Live happened, but that was a great heel run while it lasted. Fuck you Enzo. I wouldn't quite call Neville a miss though per se.

Joe has been an utility player on the roster, but he's always stepped up when needed. They've clearly never had a vision for him beyond that, because they did throw away a pretty clear opportunity for a babyface run when he got over against Lesnar. But he's still been a hit really.

Roode is a miss, but his gimmick was never going to work as a midcarder. 

Jason Jordan was well on his way to being one of the biggest heels on RAW when he got injured. It's sounding more and more like he's done but I'd still call him a Hit tbh. Gable....hasn't fared that well and might benefit from going back to NXT if he could get a singles push.

Itami has to be the biggest miss really. I don't know of he regrets going to WWE but you do have to wonder.

The Revival are a miss so far, but I still think they could go to Smackdown and yet get a run. 

Ultimately people have overinflated expectations in terms of the pushes they expect NXT guys to receive.
 

 

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2 hours ago, ComingToAmerica said:

Liv Tyler and Ruby Riott have worked out pretty well - the former way better than expected.

Yeah I was worried for a while that following in her rockstar Dad's footsteps would be too much for her to handle but she's had a nice career.  😛 

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It all goes back to the way they are taught in NXT where you have to work at getting over.  On the main roster, you are not allowed to get over unless told to get over.  Getting over on your own is frowned upon.  People may have oversized expectations regarding main roster pushes, it is clearly a different environment.  

Did we forget about Emma?  Oh wait, everyone in WWE did.  

It is hard to call Joe a hit because he was huge before he arrived in WWE.  He has been more of the good little employee and utility man in the WWE but he is not main eventing and the focus of TV like he was outside of the WWE.  For a short stretch, yes.  But not like TNA or any other place he wrestled.

I think there are more misses than hits by a far margin. 

It really comes down to who is on the favorite list.  If you are, you are a hit.  If not, a miss.  It is not talent or your ability to get over.

That and the fact the WWE has too many people on their rosters for the amount of TV time.  Honestly, they could lop 25% off and nobody would notice in six months time.  They would not be missed.

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I feel like Joe's issue is the fact that he's gotten injured twice at iffy times.  They weren't bad injuries, but I think WWE looks at them and his age and feel more comfortable with him in the gatekeeper role.  They aren't even necessarily wrong for thinking this, I just think it is kinda unfortunate that he couldn't have made it to the main roster a few years earlier with a bit more tread left on his tires.  

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