The biggest question for any NXT superstar seems to be when they will be called up to the main roster. Every year, buzz starts around the Royal Rumble for potential candidates to make surprise appearances as one of the 30 entrants. That momentum carries into the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania and spills over into the Raw after WrestleMania, where a lot of NXT call-ups tend to take place. All throughout the year, stars from developmental transition to NXT and make room for more wrestlers to come up to the Raw and SmackDown brands. With the reintroduction of the brand split this year, the need for more stars has doubled, so while the ink is still wet switching from 2016 to 2017, let’s try to predict which NXT wrestlers might graduate from the minor leagues to the big time at some point this year.
I’m convinced the only reason Asuka isn’t on the main roster already is because WWE doesn’t really know what direction to take the NXT women quite yet and they don’t trust anybody to fully take the reigns from her as champion. While I maintain my prediction that Ember Moon will be the one to dethrone her, it’s one thing to have a new champion at the head of the class and another thing entirely to also ask her to take on the responsibility as the primary star to draw crowds. Asuka is currently a big fish in a small pond and can fit in easily with the Raw and SmackDown women, with my guess being she’d go to Raw sometime shortly after WrestleMania as a heel to be part of the opposition against Bayley and Sasha Banks. On either brand, she’ll succeed and could potentially win that show’s respective title in the next coming months.
Billie Kay and Peyton Royce
In a relatively short amount of time, Billie Kay and Peyton Royce went from extras who were hanging out from time to time and losing most of their matches to being the two top heels on the brand. In part, that was due to the talent pool being drained of a lot of bigger names like Alexa Bliss, Nia Jax and Bayley, but it’s also because of their progress. They both look more like legitimate WWE superstars now than ever before and I’ve got a feeling they won’t be hanging around the yellow brand by 2018. One of the main reasons I can see them jumping up to Raw and/or SmackDown is because of the rumored women’s tournament. If that does indeed happen, we could see an influx of new signees in that division, but WWE isn’t going to trust them to go straight to the main roster over their NXT women. While folks like Evie, Deonna Purrazzo, Kimber Lee, Heidi Lovelace and others are placed on NXT to learn the WWE way of things, a woman like Danielle Kamela will move from developmental to the NXT roster as well, leaving room for Kay and Royce to go to Raw and SmackDown as they’ll be seasoned enough to trust in those spots. The same might apply to Liv Morgan and Aliyah, but I can’t imagine them gutting the entire roster and replacing nearly all of the women, so with 3 names already on this list, that’s still a decent amount.
I don’t think anybody would really complain if Bobby Roode showed up tomorrow on Raw or SmackDown, would they? That being said, I wouldn’t get my hopes up that it will happen any time particularly soon. I do still think he’s going to be called up at some point in the year, but my guess is this won’t happen until later on after the summer when things grow a little stagnant and they’ve hit some creative roadblocks. Of course, a big factor that might speed this up is if there are any injuries. If this is another year like 2015 where people go down left and right, WWE will likely start tapping NXT to make up for the depleted roster and Bobby Roode will definitely be one of the frontline wrestlers who they could trust to get audiences to pay attention. Barring circumstances like that, I would shoot for autumn time frame after Roode has had a lengthy title reign.
This is a bit of a longshot, but what else is he going to do? His girlfriend (Alexa Bliss) is on the main roster and while that doesn’t guarantee anything, it does sometimes factor in. If Bliss continues to be as awesome as she’s been lately, she might work up enough goodwill to request to have her boyfriend on the same brand as she is, if not just for a morale boost, and they may go ahead and grant that to her. Buddy Murphy is far from a priority in any capacity, but just because you’re on the main roster doesn’t mean you’re some world title contender. If that were the case, we wouldn’t have Darren Young, The Golden Truth, Bo Dallas, Curt Hawkins and other jobbers. Buddy Murphy could be the latest in a long line of NXT guys who advances to somewhere like SmackDown so he can lose in front of a bigger crowd.
All signs pointed to Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa coming up to the main roster in 2016 as they were included in the Cruiserweight Classic and mentioned numerous times in promos leading up to the creation of the division on Raw. With 205 Live, it seemed like a foregone conclusion they would be asked to join that roster, yet right around the same time, they won the NXT Tag Team Championship. At some point in the year—maybe even as soon as NXT TakeOver: San Antonio—The Authors of Pain or SAnitY will dethrone them, leaving them open to rejoining the cruiserweight division as they will no longer be needed to defend a title on NXT.
I’m more confident Dash Wilder and Scott Dawson will move up to the main roster than almost every other name on this list save for the one directly below them coming up next. They’ve already held the tag titles twice, feuded with pretty much everybody and reached a point where they’ve proven themselves capable. If NXT is 50% a regular branded show, they don’t have many options left of things to do, and if the other 50% is a training ground, what more do they need to do to impress the brass? Whether it’s Raw or SmackDown, I wholeheartedly expect to see The Revival filling out the tag team roster somewhere in early 2017, particularly if we have a few duos split up (like Cesaro and Sheamus).