WWE NXT is no longer a developmental program, as it has transitioned into a credible third brand. NXT's growth from a reality show into one of the hottest acts in pro wrestling is quite incredible. Triple H and other officials have successfully built NXT into a show that is quite different from WWE's usual product.
Despite NXT's succcess, the brand's efforts to build new Superstars often get wasted once NXT standouts go to the main roster. WWE's lackluster treatment of NXT stars after their call-ups remains a point of frustration for many fans.
Aleister Black, Ricochet, EC3, Elias, Otis, and Lacey Evans, are some of the most prominent NXT call-ups in the last three years. While these Superstars were booked as main eventers on NXT, it seems like none of them have been able to impress Vince McMahon on the main roster.
For example, Aleister Black is a talented Superstar who has all the tools to be the company's next megastar. But he hasn't been booked properly on the main roster, and he has turned into an afterthought. In fact, Black has been entirely absent from WWE programming for a few months.
Why is Vince McMahon seemingly reluctant to push NXT stars on the main roster?
While it is almost impossible to explain Vince McMahon's thought process, part of his booking indicates that he isn't really a fan of NXT Superstars being invincible on the main roster. It seems like he wants to test these Superstars in different scenarios instead of giving them wins over established Superstars.
He clearly wants some new, fresh gimmicks for these newcomers. NXT's product is very different from RAW and Smackdown. This difference partially explains why these Superstars struggle on the main roster. Whereas NXT focuses on the in-ring action, the main roster is driven by character-based storytelling.
It's fair to criticize McMahon and WWE for mishandling the NXT call-ups. But even the most pasionate fans have to admit that these Superstars lack depth in their characters, at least based on the way they're booked. Babyfaces are often presented as foolish heroes, while heels typically come across as cowardly villains.
How is Riddle different than the other NXT call-ups?
But Riddle seems to be the exeption to this troubling pattern. Like Black, Riddle has all the qualities to be the next big thing. But Riddle's character has something that most other NXT Superstars lack. The Original Bro has endurance, a trait that has already paid dividends during his run on the main roster.
Wrestlers like Keith Lee and Black are used to being booked as superhuman stars on WWE NXT. More often than not, a few losses derail their momentum. On the other hand, Riddle's character isn't unbeatable. In fact, he loses all the time, but he bounces back from these defeats.
In his main roster debut, Riddle faced WWE Intercontinental Champion AJ Styles. Riddle shockingly beat Styles in their first encounter, but The Phenomenal One defeated Riddle when the title was on the line. This feud was a great way to introduce The Original Bro to the main audience without shoving him down the fans' throats.
Riddle's push on the WWE main roster hasn't been perfect, but it's working
So far, Riddle has been presented as a comedic babyface, a persona that can easily be changed for the right situation. His amazing Fight Pit battle against Timothy Thatcher is a prime example of how lethal Riddle can be. Although fans have rarely seen his serious side on the main roster, his legitimate MMA skills make him a standout fighter.
Over the next few months after his SmackDown debut, Riddle suffered defeats to Superstars like Bobby Lashley and Sheamus. Many fans immediately thought that WWE was burying Riddle. But it's important to point out that Riddle competed for a chance to challenge the WWE Champion. Plus, Riddle was also on the winning team at WWE Survivor Series.
Riddle's noteworthy booking on WWE RAW makes it clear that McMahon still understands the nature of his audience. If Riddle had been presented as an unstoppable force, fans would have turned on him by declaring him as overrated.
But with Riddle's statu as a solid upper mid-card act on RAW, fans seem content and satisfied with his current push. His popularity is also gradually increasing, and some fans are looking forward to seeing more of Riddle in the future. He recently captured his first title on the main roster when he won the WWE United States Championship. It looks like The Original Bro has a bright future in WWE.
Riddle's time on the main roster proves that Superstar must be patient if they hope to succeed. The Original Bro initially endured some lackluster booking, but he's being rewarded with a successful spot on RAW. The proper development of Riddle's character makes it fair to call him the best booked NXT call-up in recent years.