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Posted in: My Two Centsss
My Two Centsss - Seven WWE Stars Who are Better Off on the Main Roster Than They Were in NXT
By Super Chrisss
Dec 10, 2017 - 4:57:07 PM

Tom Jenner rocks!

Guess who’s back…back again…tell a friend…Chrisss is back!

Long-time readers of “My Two Centsss” know that December is always my most productive time of the year. While many columnists will post a column or two dishing out their rewards for the best – and worst – matches, moments and wrestlers of the year, I tend to write multiple end-of-year countdowns. This is not a dig at anyone, by the way; I’m simply letting you know in advance that you have plenty of reading material coming your way over the holidays. I hope you’ll join me in the coming weeks as I look back at the best WWE AND NXT matches and moments of the year, as well as a brand new countdown – seven signs from 2017 that Vince McMahon is out of touch and needs to step down. It should be fun!

As for today, I thought I would wet your pallet by giving you a preview of one of many countdowns to come. How often do you hear people – or you yourself – say, “Man, so-and-so was so much better off in NXT. He/she has been ruined by WWE Creative!”? Victims of the NXT-to-main roster transition include former dominant NXT tag team champions like The Ascension, the once most over woman on the WWE payroll (Bayley), and even a special main-event attraction such as Shinsuke Nakamura. WWE has justly received criticism from everyone and their mother for how poorly they’ve handled the majority of NXT call-ups since 2014.

But it’s not all gloom and despair for those who have left the WWE performance center and are now performing for tens of thousands fans on a weekly basis. Several wrestlers like Finn Balor, Kevin Owens, and Sasha Banks – to name a few – have either maintained their position on the card or have gotten even closer to that damn proverbial glass ceiling. However, I can name seven NXT alums who have accomplished more since being called-up than they ever did in developmental. And it all begins with…

7. Jason Jordan

This might seem like a controversial pick to some people, but when you think about it, it’s really not. Look, American Alpha was amazing tag team and I will never forget their epic battles with The Revival. But that’s all that Jason Jordan ever was: a tag team wrestler. He was never in the main-event scene; hell, he rarely competed in singles matches, period. But since he and Chad Gable got called up to SmackDown Live in the draft in 2016, he has accomplished so much more. Let’s not forget that Alpha actually won the SmackDown tag team titles: a feat which many other former NXT tag teams have yet to accomplish. The Vaudevillains, The Ascension, Enzo & Cass, The Lucha Dragons, even The Revival – not a single one of those teams have a Raw or SmackDown tag team championship reign under their belts (and most never will). That accolade alone should be enough for both Jordan & Gable to make the list.

But when you consider the fact that JJ has been a featured part of Raw nearly every week since being revealed as Kurt Angle’s son last summer, and remember that JJ has wrestled top stars like John Cena, The Miz and Roman Reigns – how can it be argued that Jordan was better off in NXT?

6. Carmella

If I’m going to be honest here…I never thought much about The Princess of Staten Island back when she was down in NXT. WWE sort of tried to push her as a singles wrestler, but I thought she was much more comfortable in her role as the valet for Enzo & Cass, “She’s hot as hell and you can’t…teach…THAT!”. When Enzo & Cass got the call-up to the main roster, but she didn’t, I still didn’t know what to think of her. She kept the pre-match promo shtick, but always got a mixed crowd reaction. Half the crowd booed her because they thought she was the annoying part – the third wheel – of the beloved tag team, while the other half of the audience embraced her for being the sole remaining member of the act.

Everything changed when Carmella was drafted to SmackDown in July 2016. Pretty much everyone thought it was way too soon of a call-up, with silent crowd reactions to reinforce that mentality, but a double-turn and feud with Nikki Bella changed all that. Very quickly, Carmella became a confident, loud wrestler with a mean streak. She had a very underrated feud with Nikki before entering into a highly-entertaining partnership with James Ellsworth.

There’s not much to like about the SmackDown women’s division post-Superstar Shake-Up, especially since half the division is comprised of nobodies from the 2010-2014 era (Nattie, Naomi and Tamina), but Carmella is definitely the best thing they have going over there. She was never going to be pushed as the top female with Alexa Bliss around, but since Bliss left for Raw, it has allowed for Carmella to get more and more promo time. Who really thought Carmella of all people would become the first-ever Miss Money in the Bank?

5. Samoa Joe

Unpopular opinion time: I was not a fan of Samoa Joe’s NXT run. Even though he was booked like a monster, and brought plenty of excitement to the weekly product, his matches almost always underwhelmed. With the exception of one Finn Balor match (the one in San Antonio, WrestleMania 32 weekend), I was not a fan of their series. Even the matches with Shinsuke Nakamura fell flat, I thought. I couldn’t help wondering if WWE officials saw what I saw which is why it took so long for Joe to make his main roster debut. My theory was that Samoa Joe would forever be a NXT guy, or a gatekeeper for every other top talent transitioning from NXT to the main roster (side-note: I was wrong, but Joe admitted on Chris Jericho’s podcast that he was originally SUPPOSED to be NXT for life. It was hard work and being a company man that convinced the higher-ups to change their minds and call him up).

Fortunately, I have been enjoying the hell out of Joe’s run on the main roster so far (which may be an unpopular opinion in and of itself!). His feud with Seth Rollins was decent, but forgettable; Joe really began to impress when he started to feud with Lesnar. Both his singles match with The Beast and the Fatal-Four-Way at SummerSlam were great matches with disappointing results. He’s also had very good TV matches with Roman Reigns and Finn Balor in recent months. As far as I’m concerned, Joe’s main roster resume in 2017 alone surpasses everything he did during his entire NXT run. Therefore, Joe’s inclusion at number five is more subjective than it is objective, but I stand by it.

4. Baron Corbin

You know you’re an old-school NXT fan when you remember babyface Baron Corbin and his sub-one minute matches. It’s actually quite remarkable to think about how far Corbin has come since then. He went from being a silent, badass assassin to an internet-favourite hating, badmouth talking, cowardly heel. When he was called up to the main roster and later drafted to SmackDown, it seemed like Corbin was going to be a world champion by the end of 2017.

That almost happened, but Corbin had a very mixed year. At the start of 2017, Corbin was positioned as SmackDown’s counterpart to Raw’s dominant monster, Braun Strowman. He then started a WrestleMania feud with Dean Ambrose, which ended up on the pre-show (a decision that still pisses me off to this day). Afterwards, Corbin was a victim of the post-Superstar Shake-Up booking, which left him – and the majority of the blue brand – in a very weird limbo. He won the Money in the Bank briefcase but failed to successfully cash in; he was then buried by John Cena at SummerSlam for no real reason. Just when it seemed like it was The End of Days for Corbin as a top star, he suddenly became the United States Champion, defeated The Miz at Survivor Series, and is now facing WWE Champion at live events in champion vs. champion matches. A very weird year for Corbin indeed. Regardless, there’s no debate whether The Lone Wolf has succeeded on the main roster, despite all the ups and downs.

3. Enzo Amore

I just want to state that it’s a tragedy that Enzo & Cass never won a tag team championship together, be it NXT or WWE. Could you imagine uber-popular duos like The New Age Outlaws, The Dudley Boyz or Edge & Christian never winning a tag team championship at least once? It’s kind of crazy, when you think about it. Unless the New Yorkers reunite someday – and there’s a good chance they will – Enzo & Cass will go down in history as one of the most over teams to never sniff gold (as a unit).

Nevertheless, everyone knew their tag team was on borrowed time: Vince loves his big men, and he wasted no time pushing Big Cass as soon as they split. However, Cass got injured in what was probably going to be his blow off match with Enzo (and WWE reportedly having no plans whatsoever for Amore). As a result, WWE was left with one-half of the ‘How You Doin’” movement, but not the seven-foot-tall one they wanted. WWE couldn’t push Enzo to the top of the card because, well, it’s Enzo. But they could put him in a division better suited for his stature…

Enzo Amore has had the Cruiserweight division on lock since Neville left last fall. First as a face, then a tweener, and now a heel. A heel who still - and always will - gets pops because his pre-match shtick is so popular. Many people don’t like what 205 Live has become: it went from being the wrestling show with Neville at the helm to the entertainment show with Enzo as the brand’s champion. Like it or not, Enzo has done amazing business for 205 Live. He has brought in more viewers, allowed the Cruiserweights to main-event Raw more than once, and will be the champion when 205 Live goes on tour next month (can’t wait to find out how ticket sales for those shows do). Enzo has achieved nothing but success since joining the main roster – more so alone than with a partner. Who would have thought?

2. Elias

Of all the people on this list, Elias has accomplished the least: no championships, no major storylines and no accolades whatsoever. So why rank him that high, you ask? That’s because Elias went from being essentially a nobody in NXT to one of the hottest acts on Monday Night Raw. In most cases, talent that are called-up from NXT occupy more or less the same spot on the card as they did in developmental. Guys like Balor and Owens were major players in NXT; thus, it made sense for them to be thrust in the main-event or upper midcard picture almost immediately. Meanwhile, guys like Tye Dillinger and Apollo Crews were always lower on the NXT card; we can’t be surprised that they settled into similar roles upon getting promoted, can we?

That’s what makes Elias’ success so impressive. He had a terrible win/loss record in NXT (I don’t think he won more than five matches, tops) and did nothing to note, other than get beat up by Finn Balor and Kassius Ohno. When he started debuting on Raw after the Shake-Up, many people assumed he would fill a comedy role.

Wrong. Elias had good matches and non-Pay-Per-View feuds with top talents like Balor and Dean Ambrose (he actually emerged the winner of the former). He kept getting more and more heat. He got a t-shirt (which is really cool and selling very well, apparently). Just two weeks ago, WWE inserted him into a top heel spot – formally occupied by The Miz – and Elias did not look out of place at all. Elias, I think it’s safe to say, has exceeded everyone’s expectations and has become one of Raw’s top stars in a very short amount of time – despite having no credibility or experience to do so. 2018 will be a big year for Elias, something tells me.

1. Alexa Bliss

Were you expecting anyone else? Much like Carmella, the majority of people – even Alexa herself, as she recently admitted – thought Little Miss Bliss was called up too soon. She had spent more time in NXT managing Buddy & Murphy (remember them?) than actually wrestling. In fact, I think she wrestled more matches as a babyface than a heel (keep in mind, ‘Twisted Bliss’ was originally called ‘Sparkle Splash’). With the four horsewomen of NXT all but gone from the brand, many people looked at women like Alexa Bliss to be the new cornerstones of the women’s division.

Instead, Alexa and Carmella were called up to SmackDown in the 2016 Supplemental Draft and were the two rookies mixing it up with Becky Lynch, Natalya and Naomi. Almost immediately, Bliss impressed both fans and people backstage with her strong promos and character work, and it didn’t take her long to defeat Becky for the SmackDown women’s championship. Bliss would go on to do plenty during her time on SmackDown, including main-eventing the show vs. Becky in a steel cage match, reintroducing Mickie James back into the WWE, and winning the title a second time before being drafted to Raw. Alexa went from ruling over SmackDown to being the Goddess of Monday Night Raw, which also meant being the first woman to win both the Raw and SmackDown women’s championship.

Although some are critical of her in-ring work – I believe it was my good pal The Doc who christened her the master of the three-star match – it’s hard to deny the success Alexa has found, no matter which show she’s on. Truthfully, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. As a heel, she still has yet to face or feud with Asuka; as a face – because I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before WWE flips her – she has all of Absolution to feud with. I can’t see Alexa having a better year than 2017, but then again, I’m sure many people said the same thing about her back in December 2016…


YOUR Two Centsss: Do you agree with my picks? Is there anyone who I missed? Let me know!

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