Being a former NXT champion probably isn’t the golden ticket that it ought to be when it comes to the WWE’s main roster. The announce team is still, for the most part, quite timid when it comes to talking about accolades and accomplishments that were achieved with the “developmental” brand.
Kevin Owens had plenty of success since being called up, but the same can’t be said for Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor and Samoa Joe. These three were foundational pillars and main-eventers during their time in NXT. That hasn’t translated to the main roster for various reasons.
Bobby Roode has been stuck in limbo as a former NXT champion since he made his SmackDown Live debut in late August. Creative once again thought the best use of a red-hot debut was a lengthy program with Dolph Ziggler — the same kind of booking that sucked the wind out of Nakamura’s sails — and the veteran worker has been without a meaningful storyline since.
After a few months of waiting for a decent feud, it seems like Roode will finally have his opportunity to shine against current United States Champion Baron Corbin.
Two weeks ago, SmackDown put on a rather forgettable card following Survivor Series. It felt like a throwaway show, and it wasn’t exactly a launching point for numerous strong storylines. One exception came during the main event; a lumberjack match that saw the New Day take on Kevin Owens and Sami Zayn.
During that contest, Corbin “accidentally” caught Roode with a punch, and things erupted from there. On the most recent edition of SmackDown, Roode challenged Corbin for the U.S. Title, which didn’t turn out so well for fans in attendance.
Corbin cut off the potential match with a simple “no” before walking away, but the seeds have been planted for what could be a fun rivalry. Which is a departure for both performers, since Roode hasn’t had much to do in recent weeks — besides getting eliminated from Survivor Series way too early — and Corbin has been stuck working with Sin Cara on a weekly basis.
The storyline here probably won’t be anything mind-blowing. Roode will chase an opportunity to fight for the belt, with Corbin ducking the matches in any way he can. At some juncture, they’ll have an actual match, though, and it would be the right time to put the U.S. Title on Roode.
Corbin has had plenty of time to establish himself as a rock-solid mid-card performer, and he’s done just that. He’s a go-to heel in many cases, and that wouldn’t be diminished one bit if he didn’t have the U.S. Title around his waist. Dropping it to Roode wouldn’t be a huge hit to his character, and perhaps it could be used as motivation to get even meaner in the ring.
For Roode, though, winning the United States Title would be a huge boon. He’s a throwback performer in many ways, and his matches tend to be of the slow-burning variety. His character is outstanding, though, and his ability to sell makes him a great face. Anyone who saw him work in NXT and elsewhere knows that he can be a great heel when needed as well.
This should sound familiar. It was that same kind of confidence, skill set and flexibility that made The Miz such an outstanding Intercontinental Champion. He elevated that title in a very real, tangible way during his run. Roode could do the same thing for the United States title if given the opportunity.
That’s a belt that could use some prestige, and Roode oozes nothing if not prestige. Corbin has been a fine U.S. Champion. Roode would be a great one.