NXT Superstars Who Need to Be Called Up to the Main Roster
For far too long, wrestlers have been stretching their feuds out way past their expiration points because there isn't enough variety to go around. Now, after Braun Strowman, Aleister Black, Ruby Riott and others were released, the situation is even more dire.
New blood is a necessity, and NXT is the best and most viable source to find it. Some Superstars on the black-and-gold brand are more than ready to transition to the main roster and help freshen things up.
There are several names in particular who should move out of the Capitol Wrestling Center and on to Raw or SmackDown. Let's take a look at who they are and why it's time for them to graduate.
Io Shirai and Toni Storm
Losing the likes of Riott, Lana and Santana Garrett means an influx of female wrestlers is a necessity.
Ideally, five or six women added to Raw and SmackDown would make a huge difference, but that would gut NXT's roster and WWE likely wouldn't know what to do with all of them, anyway.
Knowing that and keeping expectations realistic, Io Shirai and Toni Storm are the two who make the most sense—and likely the most impact.
Something that will be said about nearly everyone on this list is that there isn't much left for them to do in NXT at this point in their careers.
Shirai held the women's title for almost a year before losing it to Raquel Gonzalez in April. Rehashing something with the new champ is only one feud and an unnecessary one. Her return Tuesday night set up a tag title shot at best, but that's a step down for her.
Storm hasn't won that belt, but she did have her time with the NXT UK Women's Championship. It's effectively the same scenario, despite being the offshoot roster.
Since joining NXT, she's been stuck between being featured heavily to taking time off for nearly month-long stretches. Losing to Zayda Ramier and putting over Zoey Stark isn't the best use of her talents.
As former champions, Shirai and Storm would instantly be credible contenders to both the Raw and SmackDown women's titles and would have several new Superstars to feud with.
Roderick Strong was last seen resigning from NXT in April alongside his wife, Marina Shafir. General manager William Regal reluctantly accepted his decision and told him he was welcome back at any time.
Not a peep has been heard since then, though. It's perplexing, as it doesn't seem he was released from the company, but it should have followed it up with a new storyline by now.
Assuming he's still in WWE and that wasn't a legitimate exit, he should skip the return to NXT and come back on a different show: ideally, SmackDown.
The blue brand can always use more hands. It also has more of a reputation for being the in-ring program where guys like Chad Gable have a better chance of showcasing their skills while Raw focuses more on storylines.
Strong could easily feud with Kevin Owens, Shinsuke Nakamura, Cesaro, Sami Zayn, Seth Rollins and even Daniel Bryan, if he's going to stick around. He'd also have a chance to work with guys such as Big E and King Corbin.
If Strong isn't going to win the NXT Championship, it's not worth keeping him there just to be a perennial North American title contender. He's reached his ceiling and can only climb higher if he's given more freedom.
Finn Balor's return to NXT was a saving grace in ways that WWE didn't even see coming. Nothing in his run with the black-and-gold brand appears to have worked out the way it was originally planned, but he did help the company weather the storm of a terrible time frame with the NXT Championship.
Adam Cole's long run ended when Keith Lee won the belt at the Great American Bash in July 2020. Soon after, he dropped it to Karrion Kross, who was injured in the match and had to vacate it almost immediately.
However, Balor stepped up to fill in the void. While he suffered his own setbacks such as a broken jaw, it would have been much more difficult for a younger, less-established Superstar to be in that position.
But everyone knew he was holding it for Kross and the moment they could put the belt back on him, the Irishman's time as champ was over.
Now that that's happened, why keep him in NXT? He's feuded with everyone and beaten all his possible opponents.
His return to the main roster could offset the loss of Braun Strowman on Raw. Balor can easily challenge Bobby Lashley as a veteran former champion.
The Prince would also be able to work at the Intercontinental and United States Championship levels, beating or putting over guys like Apollo Crews and Ricochet.
Despite how his veteran presence is useful in the developmental brand, Balor is too big of a name at this point to be wasted in NXT. The main roster needs his help.
Karrion Kross with Scarlett
This may sound absurd for the current NXT champion, but Karrion Kross is on our list for a good reason.
This Sunday, he will either beat the four most viable contenders to his title and have few left to feud with, or he will lose the title.
If he retains, his expiration date is likely the end of the summer. The 2021 WWE draft is rumored to take place August 30 and September 3 after the giant SummerSlam pay-per-view.
As a dominant two-time champion who wouldn't have a lineup of contenders waiting to challenge him, it will be time to take the next step in his career and stand with the bigger names in the company.
Scarlett should stay by his side, though. There's nothing for her in NXT by herself, and she's too captivating as his valet to split them up. Plus, if she's keen to wrestle more, she'd be another name to add to the depleted women's division.
This is a name you likely haven't thought of for a while, but it's here for good reason.
Not everyone in WWE is going to be the world champion. Sometimes, you just need enhancement talent to be the engaging loser and do the job.
Kona Reeves has proved himself as that type of performer in NXT. It's been a while since we've seen him, as he's been out with a torn labrum, but he remains on the roster.
Bo Dallas was one of those who left WWE in recent months, though. His exit left a gap for a lovable loser heel character, which Reeves exemplifies.
After seven years in NXT, it's also time to see if The Finest has any more to his character.
Tommaso Ciampa may be an NXT lifer after telling Lilian Garcia's Chasing Glory podcast in December 2019 that he would rather retire than join the main roster (h't Aidan Gibbons of Cultaholic).
Never say never in this business, though, especially when someone like The Blackheart has feuds waiting for him against Superstars like Randy Orton, who wants to work with him and has already poked the bear in the past.
Ciampa versus The Viper is far more enticing than another match with Adam Cole, for instance, despite those contests always being fantastic matchups.
The clock is ticking for the 36-year-old. If he doesn't go to Raw or SmackDown soon, it may never happen. To think someone as talented as Ciampa may never compete at WrestleMania or SummerSlam is baffling.
Even if it's just a short stint to freshen things up, he should at least try his hand on Raw or SmackDown. He would help fill the void left by Aleister Black's departure and could have some amazing matches with dozens of wrestlers he's yet to face.
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.