At the end of my piece last week, I said there was a good chance that NXT’s TakeOver: Chicago would be a better show than Backlash. That semi-prediction came true last weekend. While Backlash wasn’t awful, it wasn’t as good as the show put on by the folks from Florida. The biggest difference between the two shows can be summed up by how each performance ended. Fans of NXT were aghast when Tommaso Ciampa turned on his DIY brother, Johnny Gargano in a vicious post-match beatdown after the duo failed to take the NXT tag-team straps from the Authors of Pain. WWE fans were also in a state of shock when Backlash closed with Jinder Mahal holding the WWE Championship over his head after defeating Randy Orton.
Both endings had fans in an uproar. However, it’s these finishes that demonstrate why NXT is usually the best show WWE airs each week while Raw and Smackdown frequently leave audiences wanting more. (Or less, in the case of the three-hour Raw.)
Hardcore fans of the black and gold brand might not like the breakup angle between Ciampa and Gargano, but it’s easy to see why it was done. Ciampa immediately became the most hated (and over) heel on the roster, and Gargano is going to get Nakamura-level crowd responses when he comes back from “injury.” It was a shocking end to a show and a partnership. It also ignited a feud that will likely carry NXT through the summer.
Backlash fans were equally shocked. However, putting the belt on Mahal doesn’t seem to be anything other than a twist just for the sake of having a twist. Crowds don’t care about Mahal, and unless WWE does something to change that, he won’t last long at the top of the card. It’s often a good idea to do something unexpected, but not if it won’t benefit the business in the long run.
Good booking can make or break any superstar. NXT seldom books angles that don’t make sense. WWE does it almost weekly. Perhaps Full Sail University should be a training ground for writers as well as wrestlers.
The future is now – the faces of NXT will eventually become the faces of WWE in many cases. The next round of call-ups will likely come after SummerSlam. Here is my list of five NXT superstars who should have huge success on the main roster. (Note: For the purposes of this list, I’m not counting Asuka, who is sort of beyond the NXT realm at this point. She’ll have Shinsuke Nakamura heat when she comes up. It could be argued that keeping her in NXT hurts the women’s division, as there are no credible challengers left for her to beat. As The Empress of Tomorrow says, “No one is ready for Asuka.” At least not in Florida.
5 NXT Superstars Bound for WWE Greatness
Drew McIntyre – McIntyre might be one way that WWE could get Mahal over. The two were 2/3 of the ill-fated 3MB stable just before McIntyre (and later Mahal) left the company. Now, both are back. McIntyre was good when he left. He borders on great now. His striking and his presence are much improved over his previous WWE run, and the Scot can play both babyface and heel. He should have a big impact on the main roster.
Johnny Gargano – Johnny Wrestling could become the next Daniel Bryan in WWE. As a small-ish babyface with a highly versatile in-ring style, Gargano will have crowds behind him from the start. Keep an eye on his feud with Ciampa this summer. It’s possible that WWE is giving Gargano a test run as a top babyface.
Aleister Black – Every time I see this guy on NXT television, I’m reminded of CM Punk. From the tattoos to the MMA-style strikes and kicks, to the contemplative posture he takes sitting cross-legged in the ring, Black evokes memories of the Second City Saint. He hasn’t done much promo work yet, but if he’s even average on the mic, he’ll be a force on the main roster.
Bobby Roode – Roode is a throwback heel in the best sense of the word. Watching him speak, you get visions of Flair, Henning, and DiBiase. Roode seems like the missing son of the original Four Horsemen. In the ring, his style isn’t overly flashy, but technically sound. He’s reminiscent of HHH from the attitude era, minus the crotch chops and sophomoric humor. Roode could rival Miz as the best male heel in the company from the day he arrives. It doesn’t hurt that he’s got history with Shinsuke Nakamura, Samoa Joe, AJ Styles and Drew McIntyre, either.
SAnitY – This is a bit of a cop-out, but I think Eric Young’s stable might just get called up as a unit. Alone, none of the crew (which consists of Young, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe and Nikki Cross) is ready to make the jump, though I could see Young as a foil to Bray Wyatt. Cross may eventually be the biggest star of the group, but she still needs the SAnitY gimmick as a basis for her unhinged character. Dain also has some potential as a monster, but this is a situation where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. I could see SAnitY being the biggest WWE stable since The Shield.
Speaking of Jinder Mahal: Mahal will defend the WWE title against Randy Orton at the Money in the Bank event on June 18. Unless something happens between now and then to make Mahal relevant to the WWE Universe, I expect that he’ll defeat Orton, only to have the title taken from him by the winner of the MITB briefcase at the end of the show.
WWE: Best of 2000’s