5 WWE Superstars Who Could Benefit from Moving Down to NXT
Another WWE Superstar Shake-up could be in the works after WWE SummerSlam, and this one could present a new wrinkle.
Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter noted that in addition to the typical roster moves, WWE is thinking about sending select Superstars from the main roster back to NXT—Superstars "Vince McMahon isn't going to push or who simply aren't getting over with the crowds" or "could be useful in developmental" (h/t Wrestling News).
The idea is an interesting one, and not necessarily unwelcome. Simple math dictates that not every WWE Superstar can get the requisite airtime to make a meaningful impact on the main roster, leaving them aimless in the grand scheme of things.
In addition, there have been a number of call-ups that left fans scratching their heads, believing additional time with the developmental brand would have better benefitted a Superstar's main-roster run.
In that light, if WWE is considering this, the Superstars who get bumped back to NXT shouldn't consider it a demotion. Rather, they should treat it as an opportunity to reinvent themselves. Emma went from a bubbly face with little direction during her first main-roster run to a bona fide heel upon returning to NXT. Her second promotion to the main roster has been affected by injuries and lackluster story development, but hers is a prime example of how to maximize the move back to Full Sail University.
With that, let's look at the Superstars who could most benefit by heading back to NXT.
1. Apollo Crews
There may not be a Superstar on the roster with a better combination of strength and athleticism than Apollo Crews.
His signing with NXT was met with excitement from wrestling faithful, knowing the up-and-comer from Dragon Gate had all of the tools to become a major Superstar in WWE. In the ring, his abilities were never in doubt, as he put on good, if not great, matches in NXT with Tye Dillinger, Finn Balor and Baron Corbin.
Eight months at Full Sail was enough for WWE to promote Crews to the main roster following WrestleMania 32. Since then, he's been little more than midcard fodder.
His glaring weakness? A lack of character. Crews continues to be the happy-go-lucky guy he was in NXT, with no real motivation other than to put on a show.
He desperately needs to become someone, anyone, fans can connect with, either as a face or a heel. Heading back to Full Sail could provide the opportunity for him to find his voice while also bolstering a woefully thin NXT men's division following a year of call-ups that has decimated the top of the roster.
2. The Ascension
It's hard to believe there was a time when The Ascension were considered the next big thing for the WWE tag team division. Konnor and Viktor's reign as NXT tag team champions was dominant, and their usage in NXT was great.
Then they came to the main roster, and everything fell flat.
WWE attempted to mold them into a modern-day version of The Legion of Doom, and their characters became poorly concieved knock-offs. Their talk of being better than all-time great teams before accomplishing anything on the main roster turned off many fans.
Nothing WWE has done with The Ascension on the main roster has worked. Placing the team against an aged New Age Outlaws on their pay-par-view debut backfired, pairing the team with Stardust never took hold and more recent runs to challenge for the SmackDown tag team titles (while met with excitement from many WWE fans) have been scuttled to push teams like American Alpha (no longer together) and Breezango.
A move back to NXT could prove beneficial. It would give Konnor and Viktor a chance to once again prove themselves in an environment where they were—and arguably still are—beloved by the fans.
Remove the overly done face paint, shed the wasteland gimmick and get back to their roots: smashmouth wrestling.
The NXT tag team division could use more competitors. That arm of the developmental brand is thin, featuring only The Authors of Pain, TM61, Heavy Machinery and Sanity as true teams. Adding The Ascension back into the fold would benefit both the team and NXT.
3. Dana Brooke
Much like Crews, Dana Brooke's call-up to the main roster was a rushed decision.
Brooke came to WWE from the world of professional bodybuilding. As such, she was an impressive physical specimen who needed a lot of in-ring seasoning.
She's had opportunities in both NXT and on the main roster but is overwhelmed her fellow competitors in the ring. WWE fans have taken to social media to point out Brooke's failings, which have turned into popular GIFs and memes on Twitter.
Popular wrestling website Botchamania even named her the worst wrestler of 2016. Ouch.
B/R's Ryan Dilbert wrote an assessment of Brooke's potential over a year ago, and it still rings true today: "She is raw and awkward in the ring. At times, she looks unsure of herself in there."
Simply put, Brooke needs more training to overcome her in-ring deficiencies. She'll get that in NXT, and there's no better person to learn from than NXT trainer extraordinaire Sara Del Rey.
4. Tye Dillinger
There's no doubt Tye Dillinger is a WWE Superstar waiting to happen. He's got all the physical tools and is a charismatic presence.
Dillinger's only downfall is he's a victim of poor timing.
In NXT, he came into his own when Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, Baron Corbin and others were lighting the world on fire. He hit his stride in developmental as Bobby Roode and Samoa Joe were making their big pushes up the ranks.
He debuted on SmackDown Live the same night as another, more hyped NXT Superstar, Shinsuke Nakamura. A week later, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Chris Jericho, Jinder Mahal and Rusev made their way to the SmackDown men's division via the WWE Superstar Shake-up.
There simply isn't enough camera time to go around, and Dillinger—for all of his gifts—is one of the odd men out.
If WWE plans to keep Dillinger as a singles competitor, he needs to be showcased. That will only happen in NXT, where we would be hailed a hero inside Full Sail University.
Let him challenge the likes of Roode, Drew McIntyre, Hideo Itami, Aleister Black and others. Between him and a returning Apollo Crews, as previously mentioned, the NXT men's roster would once again be the most talked-about division in the company.
Whether by design or not, Lana does not deserve to be wrestling inside the squared circle on any WWE program, including NXT. She is so far below the level of anyone on the roster she should not be featured anywhere until she improves.
The Ravishing Russian is pure spectacle, similar to how Eva Marie was cast. But even All Red Everything was better inside the ring than Lana.
WWE fans will always view Lana as Rusev's mouthpiece, the brains behind The Bulgarian Brute's brawn. If she is to strike out on her own, she needs to become her own woman.
WWE's first attempt at this, essentially giving Lana the failed Emmalina gimmick, has proved disastrous. When first presented the idea in May, B/R's Erik Beaston wrote that "the lack of in-ring substance will be masked by the presentation of the character, which will only help Lana as she transitions from the role of arm candy to an in-ring worker."
Unfortunately, it has not. WWE fans have been brutal in their assessment of Lana as a competitor.
If WWE is serious about her being a wrestler, she needs to head back to Full Sail immediately. There, she could not only get the necessary training to compete but also revamp her persona, something that is vital if she is going get over with WWE fans.
Also for Consideration
The news of potentially moving main roster Superstars down to NXT has resulted in a flurry of names being bandied about on the internet. Some seem to make sense; others don't. They include the following.
Sami Zayn: Sami Zayn is one of the most popular Superstars on the main roster, but many believe he will never get a real shot at headlining in WWE. As Alfred Konuwa of Forbes wrote, "If the plan is to continue treading water, why not do it in NXT, where he was a folk hero?" Zayn, however, has outgrown Full Sail, and moving him back down to NXT would be a disservice to him.
Mike and Maria Kanellis: Kowuna also called out the most recent additions to the SmackDown roster, writing that, "both would have benefitted by starting out in a smaller pond." While that may be true, pulling the plug on the Kanellis experiment so soon after their debut would be asking WWE to admit making a major mistake, which likely won't happen.
Dolph Ziggler: WhatCulture recently pushed this idea, laying out a number of sounds reasons that a Dolph Ziggler-to-NXT move could work. If presented with the option of heading to Full Sail or taking his talent elsewhere, however, it's more likely the Showoff makes the same decision Cody Rhodes did and sets off on his own.
Enzo Amore: With WWE splitting The Smack-talker Skywalker from Big Cass, it would be reasonable to believe Enzo Amore could to head back to NXT for some in-ring seasoning. The problem is, he's a fan favorite who, even with additional reps in the ring, probably wouldn't break the roster on his own again. Whether that means placing Amore in the cruiserweight division or into a new role (possibly as a manager), sending him back to Full Sail would be more of a detriment than an opportunity.
Which main roster Superstar do you think would most benefit from a move to NXT? Let your thoughts be known in the comments below, or bring the conversation to Twitter, @jamesmoffat.