The Raw and SmackDown Live shows after WrestleMania did not disappoint this year. One of the major reasons why was the handful of NXT call-ups that made surprise appearances, signaling the official beginning of their main roster journey.
Where do they go from here? What is their potential upside?
With the Superstar Shakeup only days away, it would be foolish to predict exact scenarios. But let’s take a big-picture look at the six wrestlers who now call the main roster home.
The highest upside of the first wave of post-WrestleMania NXT call-ups belongs to Ember Moon. The former NXT Women’s Champion not only succeeded in bridging the gap between the Asuka era and the current Shayna Baszler/Kairi Sane era, she built her character into a main event-caliber act fans are more than willing to pay to see.
Moon has found the perfect character mix of being a true babyface that’s not afraid to be aggressive when the situation warrants. It’s quite difficult to trek into the area of ruthlessness while being a character babyface, but her feud with Baszler allowed Moon to put her full skill set on display.
She has “Women’s Champion” written all over her. She can carry a brand (likely opposite of Charlotte Flair) as the top female, both as a scratch-and-claw babyface and a dominant yet likable champion. Her ascent to the top of the main roster women’s division may be slower than some fans prefer, but it will be worth it in the end.
No Way Jose
We’ll call this the “Apollo Crews call-up” — the one no one really saw coming, but there’s no concrete argument against it. It’s been a while since No Way Jose was a mainstay on NXT television, but if not for injury this call-up would be right in line with the arbitrary timetable many would’ve put on him after his NXT debut.
Jose is a rare true babyface through and through. He’s fun and brings energy whenever his music plays in the arena. There’s always the concern that he falls into the Brodus Clay or Adam Rose world of WWE — a short-lived comedy act that quickly wears out its welcome. However, the role those aforementioned talents filled was a valid one and Jose has the benefit of being a better worker.
The upside here is limited, though. Jose appears destined to be a mid-to-upper-mid-card performer, which is perfectly OK. Jose can fill a vital feel-good role for WWE with the ability to wrestle in more serious situations when needed. He’ll be a fan favorite and a solid merch seller.
Iconic Duo — Peyton Royce and Billie Kay
It’s about time.
The Iconic Duo have been off NXT TV for far too long, so it was awesome to see them debut on SmackDown Live in a pivotal segment involving Charlotte Flair and Carmella.
Women’s tag team wrestling may not be a thing (yet) in WWE, but the writing team will have a lot of fresh storyline ideas to choose from with these two women. Whether they “Freebird” one of the women’s titles or decide to recruit/hold try-outs for a new third wheel every week for 6-woman tag competition, expect to see something just a little bit different from the norm.
There’s plenty of upside for both women, but Peyton Royce will be groomed to be the breakout singles star by 2020. Expect a 12-18 month reign of dominance, pettiness and comeuppance for the Iconic Duo before Billie Kay turns on Royce, creating a new heel and babyface for the women’s division on either Raw or SmackDown Live.
Authors of Pain — Akam and Rezar
Labeling this call-up “overdue” doesn’t show enough respect for the Authors of Pain’s sensational run on NXT television of late, so let’s just say they had the ability to be on the main roster sooner. The evolution of Akam and Rezar during their time at NXT was truly something special to watch.
The duo squashed the fear of them being just another big guy tag team very early in their NXT run. They put on athletic, story-filled wrestling matches with every team they faced. They learned how to sell but not die in the ring against smaller opponents while maintaining the realism their stature dictates. They learned that every move means something when you’re that size. They became one of the greatest tag teams in NXT history.
Their ascent may be rapid. Assuming they’ll be on the show opposite of the Bludgeon Brothers, the Authors of Pain seem destined for a tag team title run in the next six months. They won’t have Paul Ellering by their side any more, so now we’ll see if they can talk enough to hang with the main roster talent. It would be a mistake to doubt the ability of these two.