Who Will Be the Next WWE Raw or SmackDown Star to Go Back to NXT?
Although NXT wasn't involved in the 2020 WWE draft, nothing is stopping the Superstars of SmackDown and Raw from making their way over to the black-and-gold brand. Whether they're returning to their old stomping grounds or going there for the first time, several notable names have surfaced in NXT over the years in an attempt to rejuvenate their careers.
In the last year alone, Finn Balor, Breezango and Ember Moon have all made their way over from the bigger stages of WWE to NXT. Moon has been a dominant force in the women's division, Breezango won their first pair of tag titles in August, and Balor recaptured the NXT Championship to become only the third two-time NXT champion ever.
Even Mercedes Martinez, who debuted on Raw as a member of Retribution not too long ago, may soon be back in NXT based on her recent absence from WWE TV. NXT should be smart to not overflood their roster with ex-Raw and SmackDown stars, but a few here and there can be exciting for everyone.
Looking at the landscape of Raw or SmackDown at the moment, there are a number of people who could benefit big-time from a run in NXT, specifically those who have been there already and haven't been booked as well since. Bouncing between Raw and SmackDown will only do so much for someone before it becomes evident that a vastly different environment, such as NXT, is needed.
Returning to NXT worked wonders for Balor and others, so there's no reason to think these five underutilized athletes wouldn't experience similar success if they were to follow in his footsteps.
Rumors are already swirling that a return to NXT could be in the cards for Andrade, who went undrafted by Raw and SmackDown in the 2020 WWE draft earlier this month.
PWInsider (h/t Wrestling Inc's Marc Middleton) reported that if Andrade doesn't stay on Raw with his significant other Charlotte Flair, then another NXT run might be a possibility. Based on how he's been booked recently, that can't be considered anything but an upgrade for the former United States champion.
He appeared to be on the ascent when he was moved to Raw in October 2019 and went undefeated in one-on-one action for a solid stretch of time. He also held the United States Championship for the first few months of 2020 and had a good thing going with Zelina Vega and Angel Garza for a while.
It must be noted that splitting Andrade away from Vega was a short-sighted decision, but if the plan is to have Vega embark on her own path from this point forward, then Andrade's best shot of success without a mouthpiece would be in NXT.
After getting off to a rough start, Andrade began to flourish on the black-and-gold brand in the summer of 2017 and went on to win the NXT Championship from Drew McIntyre later that year. The matches he could have with the talent there now such as Finn Balor, Adam Cole and Damian Priest would be nothing short of stellar.
It would also undoubtedly spice up an NXT Championship picture that needs an influx of fresh faces or, in this case, a familiar one.
It's criminal what has become of Chad Gable—currently known as Shorty G—on the main roster.
He arrived with such promise in the summer of 2016 alongside his tag team partner Jason Jordan, and as American Alpha, they were an incredible asset to the tag team division. WWE somehow found a way to marginalize their talents before breaking them up a year later, and Gable hasn't been the same since.
He's found some success with the likes of Shelton Benjamin and Robert Roode, but he's never been positioned as anyone special on his own when he absolutely should be. His latest stint as Shorty G on SmackDown has been horribly humiliating and has seen him relegated to enhancement status more often than not.
His best bet would be to leave for another promotion entirely, but for now, the least he could do is try his luck again in NXT. There, he was always entertaining and was allowed to have the matches he was capable of.
At a billed weight of 202 pounds, the Cruiserweight division could be an option for him as well, seeing as how that also falls under the NXT umbrella. However, he'd be a perfect fit for the NXT North American Championship scene, where his size would hardly matter and his talent could shine through.
It is virtually impossible for him to be taken seriously as long as he's going by the name Shorty G, whereas NXT would almost certainly give him his Chad Gable name back and book him to be the star that he is.
Fans likely don't remember the time Lana spent in NXT, simply because it wasn't very long. She debuted as Rusev's manager in late 2013 before the duo made their main roster debut soon after, so she never competed in a single match on NXT TV.
That was evident once she stepped in the ring for the first time at WrestleMania 32, as it was clear she needed further training and development. Unfortunately, the strides she's made in the ring on the main roster have been minimal, and thus returning to her roots in NXT may be in her best interest.
Of course, she's nowhere near the level of wrestler that Ember Moon and Io Shirai are, but working with them on a stage such as NXT will at least allow her to improve more than she has on the main roster. She isn't honing her skills at all when she's being fed to Asuka in under two minutes and put through tables, as seen on Monday's Raw.
Lana in NXT could be similar to the run Eva Marie had there in the latter half of 2015. The audience despised her, yet she gradually got better over time. She even vied for the NXT Women's Championship at one point and took Bayley to her limit in a fun match.
Now that Natalya has broken away from Lana and her husband Rusev is gone from the company, she essentially serves no purpose on the main roster. In NXT, however, there is room for her to grow.
It's been nearly a year since Bo Dallas was last spotted on WWE TV, and no one seems to know why. His B-Team tag team partner, Curtis Axel, was released from the company in April, and he's largely stayed silent on social media since then.
Dallas' name was recently brought up when fans speculated that he could have been behind the mysterious vignettes leading up to NXT TakeOver 31. Although the enigmatic individual ended up being the returning Ember Moon, that doesn't mean the former NXT champion can't make a return to the black-and-gold brand as well.
Despite being booked as nothing but an undercard talent since making his main roster debut in May 2014, Dallas was so much more than that in NXT. He worked his way up the ladder and really came into his own as an excellent heel who genuinely thought he was a babyface.
His character, as well as the connection he had with the NXT audience, was always evolving, and it eventually led him to winning the NXT Championship in mid-2013. He held the gold for almost nine months and had some stellar matches along the way with the likes of Sami Zayn and Neville.
Amazingly enough, Dallas is only 30-years-old and still has a ton to offer. Fans may not think he's the best fit for the current version of NXT, but bringing him back to the brand and giving him a chance to shine again is at least worth a shot. If nothing else, Dallas returning to NXT could make for terrific television, similar to when he had to be escorted out of the arena and chased around the Full Sail University campus.
Ricochet's been away from NXT for only a year-and-a-half, yet it already feels like he's due for a return with the way he's been handled so far on Raw.
To WWE's credit, he started off well enough in a hot tag team with Aleister Black and was later booked to win the United States Championship in June 2019. Once that reign came to an abrupt end a month later, it's been painfully apparent that the company does not see him as a priority.
His 2020 has mostly consisted of him getting destroyed by Brock Lesnar and The Hurt Business, so it's safe to say he'd be better off back in NXT at the moment. With his sensational skillset and the immense amount of talent he possesses, it's a waste to have him floundering in the Raw undercard.
Ricochet's run as NXT North American champion in 2018 saw him have standout matches with Adam Cole, Pete Dunne, Tyler Breeze and Johnny Gargano. He left the brand before he had the chance to compete for the NXT Championship, and a potential feud with Finn Balor over the gold would be too good to pass up.
Ricochet remained on Raw in the 2020 WWE draft, but with the red brand also picking up Keith Lee, Matt Riddle, Jeff Hardy and AJ Styles, it's unlikely his booking will be much better any time soon. A surprise return to NXT would help him get back on track and prove his worth all over again.
Graham Mirmina, aka Graham "GSM" Matthews, has specialized in sports and entertainment writing since 2010. Visit his website, WrestleRant, and subscribe to his YouTube channel for more wrestling-related content.