The Biggest Potential Main Roster Busts on WWE NXT Roster

Kevin Berge@TheBerge_Featured ColumnistMay 19, 2021

The Biggest Potential Main Roster Busts on WWE NXT Roster

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    NXT has always been a unique product in WWE. While it was once considered the developmental ground for talent, Triple H has taken over the black-and-gold brand and made it a unique brand with its own focus and storytelling.

    This means it can be a tough transition for talent to the "main roster". Monday Night Raw and Friday Night SmackDown are run by WWE's top team for a wide audience. Those in power have a particular idea of what works and will change wrestlers to suit that vision.

    Some of the most talented wrestlers in the business have struggled in the transition from NXT to Raw or SmackDown. In fact, very few truly shine at the same or a higher level after the transition.

    The names of NXT greats that fell flat on Raw and SmackDown are numerous. Some would even name those still on the Raw and SmackDown roster that have done well but never reached the heights most expected.

    The true busts are those that went from a high spot in NXT to barely getting time on Raw or SmackDown. In fact, most busts from NXT to the "main roster" are not even on the roster anymore.

    It has very little to do with talent. Stars like Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa do not even want to leave NXT at all to avoid losing what they have. Many that have busted left WWE and made a lasting mark outside of the company. It's all a matter of perspective and build.

    Following in the footsteps of stars like Hideo Itami, Neville, Andrade and Bo Dallas, talented stars that could never find their footing outside NXT, these are several current NXT stars that have high potential to bust in the transition.

Cameron Grimes

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    On the surface, Cameron Grimes is the ideal "main roster" guy. He is quick-witted. He has sharp ideas and accepts even the most oddball opportunities. He is a solid promo and a very good wrestler.

    The problem is that Grimes will never be a Vince McMahon guy. He's billed at 6'0" and 220 pounds, but he looks smaller. He does not have the physique of a WWE Superstar, and his look verges on constant parody.

    Comedy wrestlers rarely succeed as it is on Raw or SmackDown, but Grimes would find himself in a storm of talent that will outshine him, often just through pure looks. The Technical Savage has the talent to stand up to others but not the star power.

    He is reminiscent of Bo Dallas, a former NXT champion. He could not find his footing on Raw before disappearing entirely from television. Dallas had a greater pedigree and more size to work with than Grimes.

    The Technical Savage can absolutely succeed. He has proved especially with his new character that he can work and entertain. He just will need the business to change for him.

Xia Li

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    NXT rarely produced women that WWE has no idea how to use. The division is so thin that any talent will be utilized along the way. Most cannot shine at the same level, but that is different than becoming a complete bust.

    However, there is one area where WWE often struggles with women: the language barrier. If a wrestler's English is limited, Raw and SmackDown do not have time to let them shine. It's a tough business in that regard.

    Kairi Sane was the rare true flame-out from NXT, who deserved much better. Xia Li has the problem of both the language barrier and not having the overwhelming talent of Asuka or Io Shirai. She's a solid striker but still learning her craft.

    NXT recently reinvented her as a member of Tian Sha, a group that could make a serious impact on the business. However, WWE could also lose favor with the angle just as quickly.

    If Li is not a part of this dangerous group of Chinese Superstars, she will be left to fend for herself with limited English and a move set that others have already mastered.

Leon Ruff

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    Leon Ruff is one of the feel-good stories of the past few years in WWE. This small performer worked his heart out to show he deserved more, and he got it. He won the NXT North American Championship in a 1-2-3 Kid-esque upset.

    While size is less of a factor in modern WWE, Ruff is noticeably small. At 5'7" 157 pounds, he's smaller than Chad Gable, a wrestler that was once mocked by WWE with the moniker Shorty G. He also does not have Gable's Olympic background in order to at least get occasional relevant screen time.

    From his performances alone, he could certainly make a case for himself in Raw or SmackDown's mid-card. However, both are bloated with underused talent. If Ricochet, Mustafa Ali and Cedric Alexander can barely get out of WWE Main Event most weeks, how is Ruff going to stand out?

    The underdog has proved his worth countless times, but he has to prove something more to make it on Raw or SmackDown. If he can absolutely make it happen, it would signal a true shift in philosophy by WWE.

Legado Del Fantasma

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    Santos Escobar has a been a massive success story since his arrival in NXT. His run with the NXT Cruiserweight Championship was a huge moment for the division that catapulted the division into a better place.

    Legado del Fantasma as a whole have dominated screen time on NXT more than most any other team. Raul Mendoza and Joaquin Wilde both have thrived with a chance to become a credible tag team together while Escobar dominated the cruiserweights.

    The problem with this group is similar to that of other recent stables in WWE. Once they start losing the focus of the bookers, everything will fall apart. Escobar has lost his gold. Mendoza and Wilde cannot seem to beat MSK.

    When they come to the main roster, they won't have much momentum left to rely upon, and WWE has a tendency to poorly use wrestlers with any kind of Mexican heritage. Andrade is an ideal comparison to Escobar, and he flamed out because WWE could not find anything to do with him.

    Angel Garza and Humberto Carrillo have gotten brief spotlights as of late while Lince Dorado and Gran Metalik occasionally get to lose on a larger stage. However, all these examples set up a rule that WWE is unlike to break. WWE will always struggle to book Mexican Superstars well.


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    What is success to Kushida? The decorated performer dominate the Junior Heavyweight division in New-Japan Pro Wrestling, but he was never allowed to work with the heavyweights. He left for WWE with the hope that he could carve out a legacy beyond his weight class.

    While the Japanese Superstar is main eventing NXT, he has been defined again as a cruiserweight. At 5'9" 192 pounds, he is on the smaller side, especially if he were to venture to Raw or SmackDown.

    It does not help that his English is limited. Shinsuke Nakamura is not thriving at the level some hoped in WWE, but he has found success. A closer comparison for Kushida's success is Hideo Itami.

    Once more KENTA in Japan, he has comparable size to Kushida. He never truly got going after he left NXT. Both uniquely talented in the ring, Itami was relegated to the cruiserweight division before he requested his release due to frustration. The same could come true for Kushida.

    While Kushida is thriving at the moment, he's not the kind of "main roster" talent WWE will strive to elevate. His short stature combined with limited English would force WWE to make concessions to highlight him. Even with top stars want to wrestle him, Vince McMahon has final say in the success of stars.