The announcement that the WWE Draft was going to feature NXT wrestlers left many fans eager with anticipation. Mental images of Seth Rollins facing Shinsuke Nakamura, Finn Balor holding the WWE Championship, and Samoa Joe rekindling and old rivalry with AJ Styles marinated in the brains of fans of both products.
This self-induced titillation received satisfaction as Balor was drafted in the first cluster of picks, followed later by the innovative American Alpha. The remainder of the night saw other NXT stars picked, but that list did not include the likes of Joe, Nakamura or Austin Aries — three performers who have been ready for the main roster for years — or Bayley, the only “Horsewoman” yet to be called up. Those performers would have put WWE programming in prime position to put on the best program possible.
One would think that the strategy of any corporation responsible for producing a worldwide broadcast T.V. show would be to produce the best show possible, a show that all viewers would clamor for. In 2011, CM Punk made fans realize that they were truly not being given what they want. This continued through his work, and then during Daniel Bryan’s iconic “Yes! Movement”.
Those two set the bar for WWE to strive for, and these expectations have been nourished as the New Era has rolled on. Performers like Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Cesaro, Seth Rollins and Dean Ambrose, along with innovative personalities that accompany performers like The New Day and Enz0 & Cass, have made it clear that the fans are being listened to.
This necessary habit was somewhat stalled on Tuesday night, as the aforementioned NXT icons were left out of the WWE Draft. Clearly, for some reason, WWE wants to make fans wait for optimal programming they are obviously currently equipped to provide.
What is so odd about this transition into the New Era is that NXT, which at its core was meant to be a WWE developmental program, became the hottest property the company owned. The matches taking place on a nightly basis at Full Sail University trumped the strong majority of the matches seen on Raw and SmackDown.
The acquisition of Owens, Zayn, Balor, Joe, Nakamura, Aries, etc., was an acquisition of experience that had been difficult to find since the death of the territories. These performers are world-travelled, which has allowed their innovative styles to blossom into the greatness fans routinely see on NXT. There is nothing left to develop. Their exclusion from Tuesday night’s draft is mind-boggling.
WWE also missed an opportunity to have NXT be a true developmental program. The main WWE roster is full of performers who have had great runs, but no longer have much to contribute to Raw and SmackDown Live. Their talents and experience could be utilized in NXT against up-and-coming stars like Johnny Gargano, Tommaso Ciampa,and The Revival, as well as polish an injured talent like Hideo Itami before he is inevitably called up to the main roster.
For example, Sin Cara (the current one) has most likely run his course on the main roster, and Kalisto was by light years the most impactful Lucha Dragon. However, Sin Cara can still put on a decent match, and would be put to use shining up future stars like Tye Dillinger, Gargano or Ciampa. If WWE really wants to invest further in Elias Samson, going over a former champion like Jack Swagger (in addition to a gimmick change) could really give him some momentum. Few things would be better to a future star’s development than being in the ring with veterans whose sole purpose is to make the prospect better.
The talent of those choice few left in NXT is simply too good to be kept to Full Sail, and those still on the bottom portion of the main roster could be used to help the developmental talent. In the near future, the appropriate roles for all parties need to be reassessed if the best product possible is going to be produced.