NXT is arguably still the best thing happening in WWE. Under the watchful eyes of EVP of Talent & Live Events, Triple H, the black and gold brand continues to raise the bar and defy expectations, particularly in terms of how the superstars are booked.
There was a time when NXT superstars being moved to the main roster was considered a promotion, in the sense that their talents and booking would be showcased on a bigger stage. It has worked in some cases with the likes of Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns, Finn Balor and Kevin Owens.
In recent times, however, most of the NXT call ups have floundered on the main roster with no sense of direction or booking.
As a result, there has started to be a small influx of main roster superstars going back to their roots on NXT. For example, Tyler Breeze returned to NXT to challenge Velveteen Dream for the North American Championship at Takeover 25.
Another example is Sanity’s Alexander Wolfe joining WALTER’s new stable, Imperium, on NXT UK. Various superstars such as Fandango, Apollo Crews and Killian Dain have also been seen back on NXT following fan posts from live tapings.
Following this exodus -in-the-making, we’ll take a look at five NXT originals who could return to their roots back to NXT from the main roster.
5. Authors of Pain
The Authors of Pain, Akam and Rezar, were one of the most dominating tag teams in NXT since their arrival in June 2016.
Under the guise of former LOD manager, Paul Ellering, this tag team made a huge impact in such a short space of time, including defeating #DIY to win the NXT Tag Team Championships and competing inside the first WarGames match against Sanity and Undisputed Era.
When they were moved to the main roster, things immediately went downhill. Ellering was removed as their manager straight away and they never got going with a meaningful feud or dominant run.
An untimely injury to Akam put the team on the shelf for the first half of 2019 and they only returned recently at Super Showdown. They appear to have been lost in the shuffle of a main roster whose tag team division does not get any appreciation.
There is potential for a lot of new feuds if they were to return to NXT. NXT is currently lacking a dominating ‘big man’ tag team. Given AOP’s dominant presence and marquee matches at Takeover events, they’d be a welcome return to NXT.
4. Dana Brooke
Dana Brooke is someone who has never really been given an opportunity to showcase her talents in the ring.
Her background in bodybuilding and physical prowess certainly presents a huge amount of potential, but she has always seemed to be relegated to a managerial role for the likes of Charlotte Flair and Titus Worldwide.
She spent three years on NXT, but like on the main roster, she always seemed to be more of a manager than an in-ring competitor. When she has tried to break out on her own, she has never had any real momentum going for her, especially on such a big roster, with so much world class talent.
Dana could certainly benefit from a move back to NXT, as she would be in a better position to get more involved with storylines and matches as part of a smaller roster.
She could even use it as an opportunity to incorporate her body-building background as part of her character development. It would be great to see how she would square up against opponents like Mia Yim and Bianca Belair.
As mentioned before, there is a lot of untapped potential with Dana Brooke, this could be the way to unlock it.
EC3 was a hotly anticipated signing for the black and gold brand in 2018, debuting at Takeover: New Orleans.
Ever since then, the former 2-time TNA World Champion hasn’t had much luck on WWE programming. He was plagued by injuries during his time on NXT and his feuds with Velveteen Dream and Adam Cole never really lived up to the hype.
His move to the main roster did come as a bit of a surprise. He had been on NXT for less than a year, with not much gained from the black and gold brand. Nowadays he’s barely seen on Raw or Smackdown. His character/demeanour reflects someone who has completely lost all interest and enthusiasm.
A character such as EC3, who has been portrayed in the past as brash, cocky and arrogant heel could have done with more time in NXT to find his footing and build some much needed momentum.
A move back to Full Sail University would certainly give him a fresh start and help him create a bigger profile under the WWE banner.
2. Sasha Banks
Sasha Banks is widely considered one of the most influential and talented superstars in the wrestling world.
As one of the ‘Four Horsewomen’ of NXT she was a trailblazer alongside Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch and Bayley. However, the 4-time Raw Women’s champion has been treated as somewhat of an afterthought.
Her character work and match quality from her time in NXT could have placed her as the main roster’s top heel. However, she has always seemed to be overlooked in favour of others like Charlotte and Becky.
Her current status with WWE is unclear at this stage and has not appeared on WWE television since Wrestlemania 35. There have been rumours of her sitting out the remainder of her contract due to speculation that she’s frustrated with her booking as one half of the first ever Women’s Tag Team Champions, so a potential return to the main roster is doubtful.
A big surprise would be to see her move back to the brand where she established herself as one of the top heels in WWE as ‘The Boss’.
It would certainly be a curveball for the NXT women’s division throwing her in with the likes of Shayna Baszler, Io Shirae and Bianca Belair, all of which could be potentially show stealing matches.
A second reign as NXT Women’s Champion might even re-establish her as a top draw and possibly even quell any frustrations she has with the company. It’s a welcoming idea, but doubtful at the same time.
1. Shinsuke Nakamura
One of only two men to be a multiple-time NXT Champion, the sky was the limit for Shinsuke Nakamura when he was moved to the main roster after Wrestlemania 33.
Winning the 2018 Men’s Royal Rumble seemed like a much needed rejuvenation for the former NJPW star, establishing him as a top guy following a mixture of good and bad booking in 2017.
His clash with AJ Styles at Wrestlemania 34 was a highly anticipated contest amongst the wrestling community. The match unfortunately flopped with Nakamura not only losing the Wrestlemania clash but three further rematches.
A forgetful United States Championship reign followed and is now currently in a pointless tag team with Rusev.
After what was a promising start on the main roster, Nakamura has plummeted down the card to the point of obscurity. Certainly not the position any fan would want to see the King of Strong Style in. Down on NXT, he has had epic clashes with numerous main roster talents such as Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe. He was arguably NXT’s new MVP upon his arrival at Takeover Dallas in 2016.
A move back to NXT may inject some new life into both Nakamura and the brand itself. It is impossible for him to have a bad match with anyone and the possibility of new dream matches would be unprecedented!
Imagine him going up against Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano or even Velveteen Dream…the storytelling writes itself with any of these potential feuds!
Nakamura certainly deserves better. And allowing him to have this kind of booking on NXT would be a welcome treat for everyone!