On Road To WrestleMania, What Comes Next For NXT?
NXT is a brand used to frequent changes. Talent comes and goes all the time. The brand has seen a lot more change than usual recently, and more is coming.
This week, we tackle a bit of a more complex question: on the road to WrestleMania, what comes next for NXT?
There are a few different ways to take that question. On one hand, NXT has and is undergoing a lot of changing. On the other hand…more is likely in store. Already, since late last year, NXT has seen a number of talents called up. To close out 2018, we saw Nikki Cross, Lacey Evans, Heavy Machinery and EC3 show up. Lars Sullivan was hyped to arrive too, but thus far, he has not been seen. Of the early batch, no one has been particularly impressive. However, rumors indicate Evans may find herself in a position to be pushed later in 2019.
Those arrivals were trumped by the surprise February arrivals of Aleister Black, Ricochet, Johnny Gargano and NXT Champion Tommaso Ciampa. These four, especially Black and Ricochet, have been vastly more impressive in much less time. Both teams own victories over significant main roster names, with Black and Ricochet now in a feud with The Revival-the current RAW champions. Not too shabby.
So, what next, and why are we asking?
Well, for one thing, Tommaso Ciampa was called up while still holding the NXT Title. That booking was very curious, and it was made more curious when DIY was reformed and (spoiler) then split up during NXT television tapings. The split was to lead to yet another Gargano/Ciampa bout, this time during WrestleMania weekend, for the NXT title.
But…that was already odd because both men were on the main roster. Usually, you’d expect that title match to involve someone not yet poised to be called up, so that they could win and carry the brand. Not this time.
Unfortunately for Ciampa, an injury occurred and may give WWE an out there. The Superstar just had neck surgery, and had to relinquish the NXT Championship.
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Now, with next month, we get WrestleMania. Which means, the RAW and SmackDown AFTER WrestleMania. Which has, over the past several years, meant some NXT call ups. Which, if that holds true, means even more change for the brand. Who could come up? Who runs with the title? One thing is certain-the brand has some options.
So who gets called up, and who carries the torch? Lets toss out a few options.
Now, for the call-ups, it’s an interesting selection. The ones I truly favor: Velveteen Dream, Undisputed Era and Shayna Baszler. Ironically, if some had not been called up last month, I’d probably prefer either Dream or Adam Cole be next in line for the NXT Championship. Now, not so much. As for Baszler, I think she’s already better in the ring and on the mic than a friend of hers. I also think she could come in and immediately threaten for-and possibly take-Asuka’s title. She represents depth for the women’s main roster options, and the blue brand needs some love.
Some wild card options? Moustache Mountain and Pete Dunne. If Dunne isn’t in the mix for a main roster call, I’d think he could be elevated to the main NXT brand and be in the mix for the NXT title.
As for who carries the brand? NXT has had no shortage of options, but not many as notable as the ones recently elevated-yet. My favorites, barring Dream or Cole or Dunne? Honestly, how about a couple of relatively recent additions: Keith Lee or Matt Riddle. If someone more tenured was to be considered, this could finally be Kassius Ohno’s chance. For the women, I could see Kairi Sane getting another run before a late 2019 elevation, but I’d think Io Sharai or Bianca Belair are strong candidates too.
The downside here? WWE could have used this talent shakeup as a chance to “demote” a Superstar and elevate them with a title run. Recently released Tye Dillinger asked to be sent down and was denied. Lars Sullivan maybe could use the tune up. But I doubt it happens.
One thing is for certain. In a few weeks, NXT will likely lose a few more faces, giving some Superstars new chances. Change is a constant down in NXT, and every time it happens, they keep humming. I for one am curious how the brand handles this latest round of changes.