Matt Riddle's Top Potential Debut Opponents Amid WWE SmackDown Call-Up Rumors

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2020

Photo credit: WWE.com.

Matt Riddle is one of the faces of NXT, but he reportedly may soon bring his infectious personality and impressive in-ring ability to the main roster.

F4WOnline reported Monday that his call-up is "imminent." Later, PWInsider (h/t WrestlingInc.com's Marc Middleton) noted he is expected to be part of the SmackDown roster when he does move.

Riddle on the blue brand is an intriguing thought considering the sheer amount of talent on the roster. Also, even though he never won a singles title in NXT, he has what it takes to be a top star on SmackDown immediately.

If Riddle does get called up to the blue brand as rumored, here are a few Superstars who would make the most sense for his potential debut opponent and feud.


AJ Styles

It was announced on last week's episode of SmackDown that AJ Styles was officially traded from Raw to the blue brand for Superstars to be named later. As a result, he is again part of the house that he built.

The Phenomenal One is competing in the Intercontinental Championship tournament and seems a safe bet to reach the finals. If he beats Elias in the semis, he will take on either Daniel Bryan or Jeff Hardy for the title.

Regardless of whether that results in Styles winning the Intercontinental Championship or not, a feud with Riddle immediately after the tournament would be ideal for both men.

They have never faced each other in a singles bout, but they have been on opposing ends of a match before. Styles, Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson invaded NXT before Survivor Series in November, which resulted in them facing Riddle, Keith Lee and Tommaso Ciampa in a six-man tag team match.

Styles and Riddle were both part of the 2020 Royal Rumble match as well, although there wasn't much interaction between them since the latter exited quickly.

Riddle vs. Styles is a true dream match, and facing the two-time WWE champion right out of the gates would show fans that the NXT star is a big deal who needs to be viewed as a main event player and potential title contender.

Having The Phenomenal One brag about SmackDown being the "house that AJ Styles built" only for Riddle to interrupt and enter into a rivalry with him would be the perfect way to get him over quickly and inject some instant star power into the blue brand.


Shinsuke Nakamura

If WWE wants to start Riddle slightly lower in the pecking order before having him work his way up, then Shinsuke Nakamura is a Superstar who would be a good fit to oppose him.

Like Riddle, The Artist arrived to WWE in 2016 with plenty of fanfare and developed into a big-time star in NXT. He held the NXT Championship and headlined several TakeOver events before finally getting called up to the main roster.

Nakamura has accomplished quite a bit on the main roster, including winning the Royal Rumble and holding both the United States and intercontinental titles. Even so, there is some thought that his main roster run has been largely disappointing since he hasn't held a world title or gotten a sustained run as a main eventer.

NXT fans may have the same concerns about Riddle and how he'll be used if he gets called up, especially since both he and Nakamura have an unspoken charisma that helps them connect with the crowd in a special way.

Nakamura is a midcard attraction rather than a top star on SmackDown currently, but he has built up no shortage of credibility throughout his career, and a program with and win over The Artist would work wonders for Riddle early in his main roster run.

Riddle and Nakamura have never shared the ring together, and it is fair to expect that there will be some electricity when they finally do. Not only would feuding with Nakamura help Riddle, but it could perhaps put The Artist back on the radar as a top star as well.


King Corbin

Riddle likely wouldn't put on as good of a match against King Corbin as he would with Styles or Nakamura, but there is some history between the two that the WWE creative team can draw from.

When Riddle entered the Rumble in January, it was Corbin who threw him out in less than one minute. The fans in attendance were deflated when the NXT star exited so quickly, and The Lone Wolf reveled in the fact that he was the one who caused that reaction.

Corbin may not be the perfect performer, but he understands what it means to be a villain, and Riddle needs to face a true heel in order to get over as a babyface to the greatest extent.

Someone like Corbin won't have any problem allowing Riddle to play that role, and he won't try to steal away any of the crowd's adoration. Most fans tune in to watch him get beaten, and if Riddle is able to do that, he'll be an instant fan favorite, even for those who aren't familiar with his work.

Corbin makes sense as a gatekeeper for babyfaces who are looking to reach the next level. He has been around on the main roster for a few years, has the size to dominate most of his opponent physically and doesn't mind taking losses when it's the right booking decision in the grand scheme of things.

As much as fans probably want WWE to jump right into the bevy of dream matches awaiting Riddle on the main roster, delaying that gratification with a Corbin feud wouldn't be the worst idea.


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