What Went Wrong With NXT Call-Ups?

2 years ago by Andy Datson

What Went Wrong With NXT Call-Ups?

I would like to start by saying that I am fully aware that a number of NXT call ups to the main roster have been successful. You just need to look at the members of the Shield…well two of them certainly, to see that WWE does sometimes hit it out of the park when it comes to call ups.

Special mention also goes out to Kevin Owens and Finn Balor, who had arguably two of the best debut runs on the main roster in modern wrestling history. But even the likes of Owens and Balor, who started so promisingly, quickly became just another name on the main roster.

What I am not trying to do is to s*** on WWE and say they’ve never booked an NXT call up well, because that’s simply not true. What I will be explaining is that the vast majority of call ups, and there have been close to 100 of them (I know), were either completely wasted, or ruined by a creative decision.

We’ll start with one of the biggest crimes shall we? For example, current Raw Women’s Champion, Asuka.

But she’s Raw Women’s Champion! How can she possibly be a failed call-up?

Well, she debuted on the main roster in September 2017, having relinquished her NXT Championship after a record-breaking 914 undefeated streak. That is the longest undefeated streak of all time in WWE, and how did Vince McMahon celebrate this astounding effort? He fed her to Charlotte Flair, of course!

Losing to Charlotte at WrestleMania 34 ruined Asuka’s appeal in many people’s eyes. She had great match after great match in NXT, defending her belt and quickly being recognised as one of, if not the most talented female wrestler the company had ever signed. Following her loss, she would quickly become just another person on the roster, and while I understand not everyone can be booked to shine…this isn’t Tamina, this is Asuka. She has been little more than a transitional champion or number one contender for almost her entire main roster run, and frankly this sort of crime ought to be punishable by imprisonment.

If you like Japanese wrestlers being booked well in NXT and then badly on the main roster, you should also consider how Shinsuke Nakamura and Kairi Sane were booked after they were called up. Once again, they were given decent pushes, but within a year, they had completely lost the momentum they had gathered from becoming champions in NXT.

But let’s look at the wider picture. If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself that there can’t have been that many bad call-ups, here is a brief list of just some of the call-ups we’ve had down the years.

  • The Ascension – Barely won a match despite dominating in NXT.
  • Adam Rose & No Way Jose – Treated as jokes.
  • EC3 – Buried within weeks and removed from TV.
  • Sanity – Treated as enhancement talent and quickly broken up.
  • Emma – Released before she could say “g’day”.
  • Neville – Demoted to 205 Live, booked terribly.
  • The Revival – One of the world’s best teams reduced to shaving each others backs.
  • Tye Dillinger – Immensely popular in NXT, immediately buried on main roster.
  • Enzo & Cass – Arguably the most popular tag team in years, split up for no reason.
  • Rusev – Fed to John Cena and never recovered (where have I seen that before).

…and I could go on for a very long time.

What you’ll see in common for a lot of people is that Vince McMahon and his team, hoping to pop a good TV rating, would either call someone up before it was needed, or before that person was ready.

Remember those 6 call ups which included Lacey Evans, Lars Sullivan, Heavy Machinery, Nikki Cross and EC3? How are they all doing now?

Lacey was still greener than Kermit’s ballsack, Lars was an unproven monster who immediately got injured, EC3 was buried within weeks, and Heavy Machinery are little more than a comedy act and an excuse to make fat jokes.

It often feels like it’s a case of Vince saying “look, here’s some of those NXT people you like so much, see, I’m so nice and I’m doing good things.”

Yes Vince, we do like NXT people, but we prefer it if you actually have a plan for them when you call them up. It’s actually really simple. Book their debut run in advance, and that way, you have plans for the future, and not just booking without a plan, week after week.

We’d honestly rather they stayed in NXT forever if the only reason they’re on the main roster was to pop ratings for two weeks. And it’s not just the fans that are suffering as a result. These are humans who have trained for years to become professional wrestlers, and to many, the pinnacle of professional wrestling is the main roster of WWE. So to tell them they’re being called up, only to make them a joke on the main roster must be utterly soul destroying. I don’t think Konnor and Viktor of the Ascension envisioned becoming jobbers within weeks of their debut, despite being considered one of the world’s top tag teams just a few months previously on NXT.

The other, very Vince issue, is that NXT guys are often a bit smaller than your average main roster star. We all know Vince loves big, sweaty monsters, but when your NXT main event scene is full of guys like Adam Cole, Johnny Gargano and Finn Balor, you end up hoping none of them will ever be called up, because you know what will happen when they do.

Fans should want their favourite wrestlers to be on the main roster, but it’s become much more of a curse than a blessing for many.

NXT is known for allowing its wrestlers to have long matches and to develop characters, and the main roster is known for pretty much the exact opposite.

WWE is and will likely be the biggest wrestling promotion in the world for many years to come, but if it keeps treating NXT stars, who are among the most talented on the planet, like just another person to help get an established main roster star over, then we’re going to keep having this problem.

It’s no wonder so many main roster stars, including Kevin Owens, Cesaro and Finn Balor asked to return to NXT. They understand that their career would benefit from being in an environment where you actually get to wrestle and to develop yourself.

It’s frankly depressing to see how many times we’re forced to write “Vince gives up on…” headlines, because we as fans know exactly how big a mistake is being made.

It’s a pretty simple equation.

Do they have more to do in NXT? Yes? Don’t call them up.

Do they have anything to do on the main roster? No? Don’t call them up.

Are you only calling them up to pop a rating? Yes? Don’t call them up.

Are you going to ruin Adam Cole? Yes? You should probably be in jail.

So, do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments on Twitter, and shout at me if I’m wrong!


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