WWE NXT just reeled in Eric Young, a veteran wrestler who promises to be more steppingstone than centerpiece despite his impressive talent.
Young's arrival is the perfect example of NXT's dual nature. It is both developmental territory and traveling brand—a place to season newbies and to showcase stars from the wrestling world outside of WWE. Expect Showtime to be a bridge between those worlds, much like Austin Aries and Rhyno have been.
The former TNA world champ showed up to Full Sail University on April 28 at an NXT taping. WWE didn't wait until the show aired to reveal the news, instead announcing that Young had entered the NXT landscape.
He is just the latest TNA alum to make that move, joining Bobby Roode, James Storm, Aries and Samoa Joe.
Count on him staying at NXT rather than making a mark on the main roster. WWE has shown itself willing to borrow from TNA's cabinet with its developmental brand, but not so much on the bigger stage. If a rejuvenated, red-hot Samoan Submission Machine hasn't made the transition to Raw and SmackDown, then there's little chance of Young doing so.
The early verbiage from him in front of WWE cameras suggests that he's sticking to NXT.
In an interview with Cathy Kelley, Young said, "The best are here. The best are in NXT." He talked up his skills before adding, "This is where I belong. This is where I've always wanted to be."
That's similar to the tone Rhyno took when he arrived. He too played up NXT as a place where the best go to prove themselves.
And Young will remain at the NXT level. WWE won't try to infuse him into the main roster; however, his ability isn't the issue. As Scott Fishman of the Miami Herald pointed out, he's a well-rounded talent:
Chair Shot Reality host Justin LaBar talked up Young's entertainment value:
All of that is true. Young is a wild-eyed showman who wields a fun energy. But at 5'11'', 225 pounds and 36 years old, he won't be a part of the long-term plan. Instead, he will be around to help the next generation of stars look good.
That's what WWE looks to have in mind with Aries, who is slightly smaller and two years older than Young. Aries helped launch Baron Corbin with a recent rivalry, allowing The Lone Wolf to have a high-quality, veteran opponent before moving on to the main roster.
Officials also had Joe play both in-ring mentor and foil for Corbin. Young should expect the same treatment.
Chad Gable, Jason Jordan, Tye Dillinger and Elias Samson are among those who are likely to clash with The World-Class Maniac.
Those prospects all need further experience and intriguing opponents to help get the best out of them. That's where Young comes in. His ability to play either heel or babyface, to work in tag team bouts or singles, to produce in traditional or hardcore bouts makes him an ideal puzzle piece for NXT to play with.
And the former TNA star fits the mold for NXT.
Young's name power has more weight among the diehard wrestling fans who consume all things squared circle. That's NXT's wheelhouse. WWE will use his name to sell tickets for the NXT brand.
In that way, Young will provide buzz while helping to build up NXT talent on the rise.
Don't go conjuring up dream matches for him against main roster guys. Instead, look for him to trade blows and bark at lesser-known names, working as a conduit for other wrestlers' success.