Remember when the likes of Cesaro and Zack Ryder combined their roles on WWE’s main roster with brief stints in NXT?
“The Swiss Cyborg” had one of the brand’s greatest rivalries when he feuded with Sami Zayn in 2013-14, while “The Long Island Iced Z” remained a singles competitor on Raw and SmackDown while he tagged with Mojo Rawley in developmental.
Well, Triple H recently revealed in an interview with NBC Sports that more and more Superstars could start to switch between WWE and NXT. He said a move to the development brand should not be seen as a demotion, just that they’d be “competing in a different environment”.
With that in mind, this article looks at five current superstars from the Raw roster who would benefit from a move – and, in most cases, a return – to NXT.
#5 Bo Dallas
Bo Dallas showed just how good he is as an in-ring performer during the early years of NXT when he held the brand’s championship for a then-record 280 days between May 2013 and February 2014.
While he’s had more television time recently on Raw since aligning with The Miz and becoming part of his Miztourage, it’s fair to say things haven’t gone anywhere near as well for Bo on the main roster as they did when he was main-eventing shows in developmental.
As Triple H said, a move back to NXT would not necessarily be a demotion for Superstars and it should be seen as a fresh platform to rebuild characters and careers before being brought back up to Raw and SmackDown Live.
In Bo’s case, it would see him return to a stage where he succeeded in the past and where he already has a large number of fans who either love him or hate him.
#4 Curt Hawkins
Curt Hawkins returned to WWE as a member of the SmackDown Live roster in July 2016. The weeks of vignettes leading to his comeback and the amount of television time taken up by them made it seem like the company was going to give him a strong mid-card run.
Of course, that didn’t happen and, with the exception of two shock victories over Apollo Crews, he has lost almost every match he has had since returning to WWE. Now a Raw Superstar, he is on a run of defeats that span over 140 matches.
In any sport in the world, that’d be the worst record to have, but WWE is sports entertainment and right now Hawkins is more relevant than he’s been since he made his name in 2008 alongside Zack Ryder as one of Edge’s Edgeheads.
To rack up more losses and make this storyline feel more important when he eventually breaks the unwanted streak, it certainly wouldn’t be a demotion if he had a few matches in NXT. If anything, from a storyline perspective, it’d be a promotion!
#3 Apollo Crews
Let’s be honest, Apollo Crews has had a rough time of it on the main roster. His call-up from NXT in April 2016 appeared to come far too early in his time with the company and he’s been unable to live up to the high expectations that many had for him on SmackDown Live and Raw.
Remember when Vince McMahon was a guest on Steve Austin’s WWE Network podcast and he claimed Cesaro didn’t connect with fans and that’s why he wasn’t being given as much TV time as he perhaps deserved? Well, let’s revisit those quotes.
“He's not connecting yet and we hope he will. He doesn't quite have the charisma. He doesn't quite have the verbal skills as well. But those are the big things that he's lacking… He's an extraordinary physical talent, extraordinary. But at the moment, and hopefully, he'll get it, he lacks 'it'.”
There’s no doubt that the Titus Worldwide member is a talented in-ring performer – probably one of the best on Raw – but everything Vince said about Cesaro rings true about Apollo. Maybe a return to NXT, just like “The Swiss Cyborg” did in 2013, could be just what he needs.
#2 Dana Brooke
When you first saw this article, Dana Brooke probably immediately sprang to mind as a Raw Superstar who would benefit from moving back to NXT to work on her character and in-ring skills.
From the day she signed an NXT contract to the day she arrived on WWE’s main roster, “The Total Diva” spent just under three years in developmental – roughly the same amount of time as Sasha Banks and Charlotte Flair and six months less than Bayley and Alexa Bliss.
It just goes to show how much work is done in NXT before performers make it to the main roster, and when you consider that Dana was a permanent fixture on NXT television for only one of those three years, it’s no wonder she never reached the heights of her fellow female Superstars.
From a storyline perspective, Dana could continue to align with Titus O’Neil on the main roster. But from an in-ring perspective, there’s no better place for her right now than NXT.
Well, Triple H did say that moving to NXT wouldn’t necessarily be a demotion, and it almost certainly wouldn’t be viewed that way by veteran Superstar Goldust if he were asked to have a few matches in developmental.
The three-time Intercontinental champion has had a stellar 29-year career in the wrestling business with 15 titles to his name (9 hardcore, 3 IC, 3 tag team)and could teach the next generation of WWE talent a thing or two about promos, in-ring performances and, well, just about anything you can think of.
While the old gameshow format of NXT was undeniably dreadful, the one positive about it was that up-and-coming performers were given the chance to face Raw and SmackDown Superstars in matches on television.
That’s something that is missing in today’s NXT and, with guys like Goldust not involved in main-roster storylines right now, it’s probably the main reason why Triple H suggested that he will look to intermix the rosters in the future.