NXT Stars Most Likely to Enter WWE Royal Rumble 2018

Anthony Mango@@ToeKneeManGoFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2018

NXT Stars Most Likely to Enter WWE Royal Rumble 2018

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    Original image: WWE.com

    WWE always likes to pronounce how anything can happen on pretty much every show, but there is no better example of that statement coming true than the Royal Rumble pay-per-view.

    The titular match itself owes much of its success to the ability to have surprise entrants and shock appearances from people returning from injury, coming from outside the regular roster pool and more.

    This year in particular, there will be twice as many opportunities for this to happen as there is now a women's Royal Rumble match with plenty of open spots to fill.

    While there are many different avenues from where potential men's and women's candidates can come, there's no better source to tap than the folks in the developmental system of NXT.

    Those Superstars are primed and ready to go perhaps more than anybody else, with history showing us WWE does like to play around with calling wrestlers up to the main roster during this event.

    Bo Dallas, Rusev and Tye Dillinger have all made the jump before, so we should expect to see at least a handful of men and women in the running to do the same on January 28.

    Nothing is guaranteed, but let's put on our speculative goggles and try to see which wrestlers are the top possible candidates for an appearance in this year's Royal Rumble matches.

Honorable Mentions

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    Credit: WWE.com

    NXT has so many talented men and women that this list could span nearly half of its available wrestlers, but there simply aren't enough spots in the Royal Rumble for everybody.

    Johnny Gargano will either be holding the NXT Championship or possibly rekindling his feud with Tommaso Ciampa, so he should be too busy to also get a number in the Battle Royal.

    Others such as The Ealy Brothers or Aliyah are too small-time to usurp a spot from the bigger names to pick from.

    Still, wouldn't it be nice to see The Velveteen Dream make an appearance in the Royal Rumble as part of a show of confidence after his stellar performance against Aleister Black?

    Kassius Ohno is a veteran and the argument can be made he should already be on the main roster, so this could be the stepping stone for that.

    Evan a fresher face such as Lacey Evans could get the random lucky tryout as she seems to have a bright future ahead of her, and the momentum she would receive from appearing in this match would boost her recent heel turn.

    Anyone who doesn't seem quite ready can surely be thought of as biting off more than they can chew, and that would be a perfect rationalization for why Roderick Strong or Nikki Cross don't make it further in the match.

    Killian Dain and Tian Bing were featured in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33, so there's a precedent for surprising picks who might not appear to make the most logical sense.

    Just because the names discussed in our list stand a better chance doesn't mean the rest of the NXT crew should be counted out by any means.

No Way Jose

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Given his name alone, it might seem strange to put No Way Jose on this list, particularly after doing nothing of note for the past several months.

    Surely that should be a death knell for his career and not a sign he's being called up?

    Oddly enough, that lack of a push might be the best indicator of a more optimistic start to his 2018 career.

    When someone is given a title to hold in NXT, they are clearly expected to stick around for at least a handful of months, as they will be virtually assured at least one defense at the next TakeOver event.

    The people who don't have this responsibility, though, are free to go anywhere without disrupting traveling schedules and booking plans.

    No Way Jose has been on the NXT roster for some time and never risen to the top of the division's ranks, but neither did Tye Dillinger, Rusev, Hideo Itami, Big Cass, Alexa Bliss or many others who have been brought to Raw or SmackDown in the past.

    It could seem like a premature move as it's doubtful WWE's creative team would have any solid plans for him after his Royal Rumble appearance, but that doesn't mean shortsightedness hasn't happened before and won't happen again.

    Just ask The Ascension how their push turned out when they came up around this time three years ago.

    WWE may look at the situation as simply being entertainment to have the fun party guy's entrance during the Royal Rumble, similar to Dillinger's Perfect 10 gimmick position last year.

    If there's nothing left for Jose to do in NXT, bringing him up in this match is the next best thing for him even if he flounders afterward, as it wouldn't be much different from what he'd be doing on a smaller scale anyway.

Ember Moon or Shayna Baszler

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    Credit: WWE.com

    There are a multitude of variables that could factor into the women's Royal Rumble when it comes to Ember Moon and Shayna Baszler, which makes it difficult to discern which one of the two has a better chance at showing up.

    First and foremost, the NXT Women's Championship could be both a hindrance or a golden ticket for an entry spot.

    WWE could justify having the NXT women's champion compete in the Royal Rumble by the sheer virtue of being the top of her division and earning her number.

    Conversely, that could also be the reason why someone doesn't compete, if they want to look at it through the scope of the Raw and SmackDown women's champions being left out of the field.

    Moon has been in NXT longer, so she's more likely to be called up to the main roster as far as seniority is concerned, but she also has a better chance at sticking around to help the women's division regrow after Asuka's exit.

    Then again, Baszler only debuted on NXT in Augusthaving her join Raw or SmackDown so quickly would make that summer move seem pointless.

    There is also the possibility Ronda Rousey enters the Royal Rumble, which would give Baszler a major boost to at least potentially make an appearance, as she could simply interfere on her friend and former UFC colleague's behalf.

    To play devil's advocate, though, wouldn't Baszler's appearance take away from Rousey's and seem awkward if the two other horsewomen weren't also there?

    The title match at TakeOver: Philadelphia and the plans for Rousey are two things we don't know the conclusion to yet, but those elements could dictate which of these two women appears in the Royal Rumble.

Aleister Black

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Aleister Black's bookings have made it clear he is one of the most prioritized pet projects on the NXT roster.

    For months, he's been putting on great matches and winning nearly all of them, so his trajectory is upward with no signs of stopping.

    The only question is whether WWE has plans for Black as NXT champion or if he's going to be brought up to the main roster in 2018.

    Those aren't mutually exclusive as he could do one and then the other, but in the event his promotion comes sooner than later, we are looking at his Extreme Rules match against Adam Cole being one of his final NXT performances.

    Whether he suffers a victory or a loss at TakeOver: Philadelphia on January 27 may not matter, yet the way he exits his segment assuredly does.

    More often than not, when someone is leaving for Raw or SmackDown, they have some sort of sendoff, so if that happens the night before the Royal Rumble, the chances of him popping up in the Battle Royal skyrocket.

    Fans who watched TakeOver will be more than familiar with him and happy to hear his music kick in, giving cause for a big pop which is never a bad thing during the Royal Rumble.

    Following that, he could go to the 205 Live roster, head straight into the midcard of Raw or SmackDown, or possibly even stick around in NXT for a little longer. But he'll at least have made his main roster presence known for the future.

Pete Dunne

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    Credit: WWE.com

    It's assumed the men holding the Universal and WWE Championship titles are barred from the Royal Rumble to prevent a challenger void at WrestleMania.

    However, nowhere in WWE's ever-changing rules does it state the United Kingdom champion falls under the same stipulations.

    If the Intercontinental and United States titleholders are OK to competeand the ECW champion was permitted to enter in 2008Pete Dunne should have no obstacles preventing him from being in consideration.

    While the tournament to crown the inaugural champion was one year ago, little or no progress seems to have been made in getting a show for this division up and running in those months.

    The longer this goes on, the more WWE will have to remind the audience the United Kingdom division even exists, so this would be a perfect opportunity to share some of the spotlight temporarily.

    Obviously, if anybody were to be representing this division, the champion is the best candidate, particularly as Dunne could get a pop from those who watched his Monday Night Raw appearance and still remembered him.

    Taking up one spot in the Royal Rumble would do more for Dunne's career and the division he tops than any positive momentum that would be given to an inconsequential main roster Superstar such as Curt Hawkins or Sin Cara.

    The Bruiserweight could use the rub, and the Royal Rumble itself would see only benefits from having someone as talented as Dunne in the ring.

The Iconic Duo

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    Credit: WWE.com

    Peyton Royce and Billie Kay have proved themselves for a long enough period in NXT that they are ready to move to the main roster.

    That makes the transition so much easier, and it allows a Royal Rumble appearance to make more sense than someone with less experience.

    What works against their chances is how The Iconic Duo are a team of heels who would have to compete with the relatively new Riott Squad stable, leaving minimal room for them to grow on their own if called up.

    However, a Royal Rumble spot doesn't mean an instant graduation to Raw or SmackDown, as evidenced by the stalling period for Tye Dillinger, who took several more months before going to the blue brand.

    Royce and Kay are conspicuously absent from recent affairs in NXT, including TakeOver: Philadelphia, despite being the most tried and trusted heels in the women's division.

    Perhaps this is because they will be doing something else that weekend by joining the Battle Royal?

    With over 10 spots to fill in the women's Royal Rumble, they could take up two and leave plenty of opportunities for legends to come in as well.

    The Philadelphia crowd will be smart to who they are, giving them a warmer reception than some less familiar names such as Lacey Evans, Vanessa Borne and Dakota Kai.

    As heels who gloat about everything they do, Royce and Kay can take their Royal Rumble appearance mojo back to NXT and lord that over the women who weren't chosen to compete, setting up something for them to do during the months leading up to TakeOver: New Orleans on April 7.

    These two are far too talented to stay in NXT the rest of 2018; bringing them into the fold at the Royal Rumble could be the best way to introduce them to the more mainstream audience in preparation for their eventual ascension.

    After all, what's a Royal Rumble without some iconic performers in it?


    Do you feel there is anybody missing from this list? Tell us your predictions in the comments section below. 

    Anthony Mango is the owner of the wrestling website Smark Out Moment and the host of the podcast show Smack Talk on YouTube, iTunes and Stitcher. You can follow him on Facebook and elsewhere for more.


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