Opinion: Possible reason behind the disconnect between WWE's main roster and NXT
We've seen it happen a lot over the past 4 years. WWE Superstars showing promise on NXT and becoming rapidly popular. Every time someone made a name for themselves and succeeds on NXT, there was an immediate assumption among a lot of fans that they're bound to succeed on the main roster.
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While some have turned out to be a success on the main roster, you could state a case that for the most part, a lot of superstars haven't succeeded. Now, this isn't to say that every superstar should be a main eventer.
That's an unrealistic assumption. Not every superstar can be pushed to the moon. However, superstars like Bayley, Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor, Authors Of Pain and others who showed an incredible amount of promise in NXT came up to the main roster and it didn't necessarily translate the same way.
Finn Balor is perhaps a different case because he was by far the most anticipated main roster call up in NXT history.
And to WWE's credit, they did push him hard, with him being a first-round draft pick for RAW in 2016 despite not being on the roster, beating Roman Reigns clean on his first night on RAW and then being a part of the marquee World Title match for SummerSlam a month later, subsequently winning and becoming the first ever Universal Champion.
Unfortunately, his ill-timed injury forced him to relinquish his title a day later and kept him in the shelf for over half a year. When he came back, things weren't quite the same. He lost his push, never got a Universal title rematch and just floated around in lacklustre feuds. He's booked strong and featured as a top star on RAW but not among the cream of the crop.
Bayley perhaps came as the biggest disappointment to fans who followed her from NXT. Her journey on NXT saw an organic rise to the top of the division, culminating in a match with Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover: Brooklyn, which many consider the greatest women's match in the history of WWE. Apart from just being a fan favourite, fans viewed her as a female John Cena, in the sense.
Many thought that Bayley was perfectly suited for the young female demographic and could even be a potential merchandise goldmine for WWE. No way they'd find a way to mess it up, right? Wrong.
The booking of Bayley in 2017 was nothing short of horrendous, and despite walking in and out of WrestleMania 33 as RAW Women's Champion, her momentum would be derailed just a month later when she lost her title in her home town on PPV to Alexa Bliss.
Things got from bad to worse for The Hugger. In the build to her rematch with Bliss, she was put in the most horrendous segments that WWE had produced that year and never once got the upper hand on the champion.
She would go on to lose and has since never recovered from it. The fact that Alexa Bliss' strong booking has compromised the entire women's division adds to it, but that's a whole other story.
Although it is too early to say for Authors of Pain, WWE was instantly criticised for separating the former NXT Tag Team Champions from manager Paul Ellering as soon as they got called up to the main roster. This came as a surprise as he was there mainly to hide their weakness, for example - talking.
This brings up the question - why is there a disconnect between NXT and the main roster? It should be noted that NXT is a taped one hour show, so the chance of over exposing talent is very difficult.
However, the main roster is a whole different monster. As Bayley, Asuka and Shinsuke Nakamura had to find out the hard way, the main roster is far more focused on character work and mic time.
Despite being excellent in-ring competitors, this was by far their biggest weakness (particularly for the two Japanese stars) who were protected heavily on NXT and had their weaknesses hidden. Now they often cut bad promos which reduce their stock in the eyes of fans.
Who is to blame in this case? Could it be the criticism of the creative team for not having anything good for these superstars? Could it be the booking that constantly makes them look weak? Or could it be that NXT just doesn't prepare them enough for the booking and potential weaknesses being exposed?
Many NXT superstars have said that they're 'over-prepared' for the main roster at NXT and the Performance Center. This may be true for many things such as the style of wrestling, knowing how to work the cameras, etc. but under the bright lights of the main roster, a lot can go wrong.
That being said, it's not all been failure. In fact, Alexa Bliss and Elias were two superstars who were not even featured on NXT that prominently or pushed as heavily, but they've done a lot better on the main roster than NXT.
It's interesting how it works. And what's even more interesting is that the current crop of talent on NXT is arguably the best it's ever been. Adam Cole, Aleister Black, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa, EC3, Velveteen Dream, Kairi Sane, Candice LeRae, Io Shirai, homegrown talents such as Bianca Bel Air and many others are inevitably going to come up to the main roster.
This coming year could be the most anticipated batch of call-ups from NXT since 2016. However, it remains to be seen how they're going to fare on the main roster. Until then, Triple H himself may wonder how or where a lot of his NXT talents are going wrong.
It all depends on how they're viewed by the higher-ups. NXT is very likely to remain more consistent than ever. As more talents move up, the more hungry young ones wait to take their opportunity.
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