NXT’s top stars invaded WWE Monday Night Raw on February 18. Ricochet, Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa and Aleister Black definitely made an impact, as well as a statement. But that statement was largely missed by the Lafayette crowd, who didn’t seem to care about the black and gold brand.
But all of that changed the following night on SmackDown Live, when all four men once again appeared. The New Orleans audience was fully invested and completely ready to be entertained. They wanted the best that NXT’s top guys had to offer and they’s exactly what they got. So what happens now?
From a fan’s perspective, this was a long time coming. Monday Night Raw has not been the easiest program to watch over the past several months and there’s been no indication that anything is changing. Roman Reigns went out due to health issues. Brock Lesnar is never around. Braun Strowman is not the main event powerhouse that fans believed he was.
With the exception of Seth Rollins, no one on the red brand has truly provided enough entertainment value to keep the audience from switching the channel. It’s not that WWE doesn’t have the talent to make Raw the absolute best pro wrestling show on the air. But there just doesn’t seem to be any real desire to actually make that happen.
Watch Ricochet take on Eric Young!
So yes, the company absolutely needed something new and fresh to reinvigorate the flagship program. Going outside of WWE to sign new stars makes little to no sense because of NXT. That brand contains some of the industry’s best talent. Why not utilize that talent to make Monday Night Raw fun again?
But the same can also be said of SmackDown Live. The blue brand typically gets much better reviews than its Monday night counterpart. The talent of SmackDown Live is almost always on its game and most of the time, fans have nothing negative to say about the show.
However one key issue with SmackDown is indeed the talent roster. There’s plenty of top stars to book, from Daniel Bryan to Jeff Hardy to Samoa Joe to AJ Styles, just to name a few. But at some point, the roster recycles and Superstars have to work each other again. So to keep the program fresh and exciting, new faces must be introduced. It’s the only way to create new matchups and maintain interest in the product.
Watch Gargano and Ciampa versus The Bar!
NXT exists for a reason. That reason is to supply Raw and SmackDown with the next wave of main roster stars. There’s definitely room to improve on both brands and there’s enough talent on NXT to make those improvements a reality. There seems to be no good reason why Ciampa, Gargano, Black and Ricochet shouldn’t move to the main roster stage of WWE.
But then there’s the problem that has plagued WWE from the moment that NXT came into being. That problem has to do with the company’s apparent inability to successfully transition stars from one brand to the other.
Somewhere along the way, something gets lost. Perhaps WWE didn’t do enough to properly introduce the talent to the masses. That’s definitely true of the latest round of call-ups. Heavy Machinery has become a sideshow act. Lacey Evans has done nothing but walk down the ramp, then back up the ramp to the back. Nikki Cross is a heel one minute and a babyface the next. EC3 has not looked this weak since he was Derrick Bateman.
Watch Aleister Black versus Andrade!
WWE has dropped the ball with each Superstar. The fans do not care about any of these talents and it will take a serious effort to change their minds. WWE seemingly had the right intentions when each one was called up, but the execution has been lackluster at best.
Is there a possibility that the same thing will now happen with NXT’s big four? It seems ridiculous that any of them could be misused, considering their individual levels of talent. Each man is a main event player waiting to happen and each one deserves the chance to prove it. But what if WWE once again mishandles the entire situation?
There has been a great deal of speculation online that WWE will announce NXT as a third main roster brand. If that happens, then NXT will no longer be seen as the company’s developmental system. NXT would instead become a viable landing spot for anyone in WWE. This means of course that Superstars from NXT would be eligible to make the jump to Raw or SmackDown.
But it also means that Raw and SmackDown talents could move to NXT. This would do nothing but give more exposure to NXT, which many mainstream fans do not follow. Of course it could potentially strengthen all three WWE brands moving forward.
The fact is that the eventual debut of All Elite Wrestling has caused WWE to up its game. Vince McMahon’s company has a major resource of talent that can directly counter AEW, or any other pro wrestling promotion that comes along. That resource is NXT. With any luck, this new evolution within WWE will succeed and so too will the quartet of Superstars that stand at the forefront.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Wrestling Rumors. His podcast, Tom Clark’s Main Event, is available on iTunes,YouTube, iHeart Radio, boinkstudios.com and live every Friday at 12pm EST on Wrestling Rumors Facebook Live