I know, I know… it’s not a war.
It’s just two rival wrestling companies putting competing wrestling shows on the same night at the same time to offer fans the chance to choose between the two.
Totally not a war.
However, if it’s not a war, it is at the very least a battle for our eyeballs. And. as such, both WWE (by way of NXT) and AEW are going to need to have all their troops ready to go on the front lines.
We are getting a clearer and clearer picture of what the AEW roster is with each outing from the company. They have a nucleus of top guys. Lé Champion and “bubbly” enthusiast, Chris Jericho, sits at the top alongside Cody, The Young Bucks, Jon Moxley, and Kenny Omega, as well as a diverse group of mid to lower card talents to round things out. While we may not know exactly what to expect from their weekly TV, it is safe to say that the talents featured on their PPV shows thus far are likely to be the same that receive focus on TNT.
NXT, on the other hand, despite being the better established product, is a bit more of a question mark. Their roster is in somewhat of a state of flux following a rash of call-ups last year. With Ricochet, Heavy Machinery, The Viking Raiders, Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, and Nikki Cross having all made the jump since this time last year, there is a lack of star power on the black and yellow that WWE needs to address before they head to network TV. True, this is how things ebb and flow in the old NXT model. Guys and gals come in, they go out, new stars are made, the roster refreshes itself. This is all well and good for those of us that watch on the WWE Network and can settle in for a KUSHIDA vs Drew Gulak submission match. But, viewers on the USA Network are used to the stars and format of main roster programming.
Now I would never, ever, suggest that what NXT needs to do to put their best foot forward is to do ratings popping visits from the likes of Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins. However, the current roster just isn’t ready for prime time. Yes, the Undisputed Era are fantastic and Velveteen Dream is a treasure, but with two live hours to fill each week, it is my opinion that WWE needs to send in a few ringers.
So, with that all set up, here are my top five picks of main roster talents that I would like to see make the move to NXT!
Nobody knows what he did, or who it was that he pissed off, but for a guy with his look and ability, EC3 clearly stepped on some powerful toes when he arrived on Monday Night RAW. Of all the talents that Papa Hunter sent to his father-in-law to play with, EC3 was one that I looked at as a slam dunk for main roster success. The guy is carved out of stone, tanned to the eye sockets. and has an “I’m rich and you’re not” heel gimmick in his back pocket that books itself. However, since getting murdered by Braun Strowman a few months back, the Top One Percent has been nothing more than a 24/7 Title-chasing goober with a red Solo cup.
EC3 is the type of guy that could make a real difference if he were allowed to return to Full Sail. He looks great, can work, and cut a promo. He has main event experience from his time at Impact as their world champion. He can work face or heel, and add some much-needed depth to either the North American or World title picture. A battle of egos between him and Adam Cole would be a lot of fun to watch.
I also really miss his entry music.
As proven throughout his career, and as we saw at NXT UK TakeOver: Cardiff, Big Dick Tony can friggin’ go.
With superhuman strength and the ability to mix styles and keep pace with just about anyone, Cesaro is a talent that can put on the type of banger match that NXT fans want to see. If he a great talker? No. But really, if he’s going 15 minutes with Roderick Strong, who gives a toss?
NXT can present itself as the North American place to go for great, pure wrestling sports entertainment. Cesaro can be a gatekeeper, a measuring stick, and a guy that wants to prove himself in athletic contests after years of main roster start and stops.
I’d also add that, after the round of applause he got from the grateful UK crowd a few weeks back, I’m pretty sure he’d be as happy to make the jump as we would be to see him make it.
3. Kairi Sane
Vince McMahon doesn’t understand Asian talents. Period. In a world where some of the most talked-about wrestlers on the planet are from the Land of the Rising Sun, Vince has managed to have exactly one active on his main roster in the form of Shinsuke Nakamura. Despite a few moments, Vince really hasn’t seemed to know what to do with Nakamura.
And he’s worse with the ladies.
I’ll get to the other half of The Kabuki Warriors later in this list, but Kairi Sane is a performer that was absolutely beloved by the NXT audience. In a year where Tomasso Ciampa had his sensational championship run, Velveteen Dream emerged as a top guy, Johnny Gargano put on some of the best matches on the planet, and Adam Cole was Adam Cole (BAY-BAY!), Kairi was voted, by the fans, as the brand’s top star.
Her pirate gimmick is unique, her offence is legit, and her lack of English skills don’t mean a damn thing when she is dropping the best elbow off the top this side of Randy Savage.
She was pulled out of an existing tag team with Io Sharai to fill a spot next to Asuka because they are both Asian. Since then, they have done nothing but job to teams like the Iiconics and Cross/Bliss.
Bring her home, have her feud with now-heel Shirai, and let her past as a Kabuki Warrior die.
2. Aleister Black
Speaking of star talents, is there a better option than a return of the Dutch Destroyer to the men’s main event scene in NXT?
I don’t think so.
To me, Black is what you might get if you crossed The Undertaker with CM Punk. He is dark, mysterious, and powerful, but also lives an alternative lifestyle with a look to match. At his best, he was a strong, silent warrior that put on great matches and kicked guys heads off with the Black Mass – one of the best finishes in the game today. His NXT title run was cut short by injury. Although he had some success in a thrown-together tag team with Ricochet on the main roster (despite holding the dubious distinction of being the only tag team to ever challenge for and lose all three sets of tag titles in the same week), Black has been relegated to sitting in a room and talking about wanting to fight. No notable feuds. No PPV appearances. No title chase. Just a room and a handful of TV matches.
Oh, and a new creaky sound effect for his entrance because someone on the main roster likes old vampire movies.
Black is a guy that once you see him, you want to look again. He is imposing, athletic, and marketable. His alt-goth-punk look is unique across the sports entertainment landscape and a serious, lengthy run as champion could be just what NXT needs to establish itself to a new audience.
It’s all been said already. WWE got this one wrong. All the way wrong. Asuka and the longest, greatest undefeated streak in sports entertainment history were cut short to make Charlotte Flair look good at WrestleMania.
Not the worst way to go, but it was the start of a downward spiral for Asuka that saw her lose matches to Carmella, of all people, before a title run was cut short in order to put Charlotte and Becky over before being shuffled into the drawer of forgotten talents in The Kabuki Warriors tag team. Of all the carefully protected and curated talents that HHH has sacrificed to the main roster, none have proven as disheartening as what has happened to Asuka.
Asuka versus NXT women’s champion Shayna Baszler is a money match. Two unbeatable warriors with killer, legitimate offence. Shanna can’t be beat, Asuka never lost. The pop Asuka would get on her return to challenge Baszler would drown any and all memories of her botched main roster run. Similar to her tag team partner, Kairi Sane, Asuka’s difficulty with English is not an issue in NXT, where actions speak louder than words. She can tear through Duke and Shafir, put an E N D to the E S T, and basically run roughshod over the entire division until, just maybe, we get a Kabuki Warriors collide match at TakeOver-Mania.
AEW wants to put a spotlight on their women and that is a great move. They had a female referee for the first world title match and they will crown their first women’s champion on their TNT TV debut. What better way to counter-program than by allowing one of the best, most believable women in wrestling today to return to NXT and do what she does best: kick ass?
“Asuka’s gonna kiilllll you!” Yes, yes, she is, AEW… If WWE gives her the chance.
There you have it, fans Although there are so many great wrestlers to choose from, currently gathering dust at catering on the WWE main roster, those are my top five that I believe can head to NXT as difference makers in the battle to come.
So, until Sid gives up softball, I’ll see you marks around the loop.