As mentioned above, if I had to pick one person who I thought was a guarantee above all the rest, it would be Samoa Joe. Recent events with John Cena challenging AJ Styles have made me back off a bit on my previous prediction that Joe would turn up at the Royal Rumble event itself, but with Shinsuke Nakamura facing Bobby Roode at NXT TakeOver: San Antonio, that seems to indicate their feud has finally ended, leaving that still open for a possibility. My face won’t show any surprise if Joe pops up as one of the 30 entrants in the Royal Rumble or he interferes in either the title match here or at the Elimination Chamber, but I definitely will be shocked if the Raw and SmackDown after WrestleMania pass by and he’s still not made any appearances on the main roster. By that point, I’ll have to admit that I have no idea what they’re doing, as I think we’ll be seeing Joe much, much sooner than that.
Half of me expects Nakamura to stay well into the middle of the year and the other half thinks they’re going to bump him up a lot earlier just out of impatience. I think the latter could be a problem unless there are actual plans for him to start feuds with particular wrestlers, so if that’s the case, I’d rather see them hold off until there’s more of a need for him. Sometimes, WWE can front-load the year with call-ups and then after a few weeks, they’ve lost interest in some of them. Just ask The Ascension, Apollo Crews, Baron Corbin and The Vaudevillains what happened to them after they came up too early. Keep in mind that Nakamura didn’t make his NXT in-ring debut until April 1st of 2016, so it won’t have even been a full year of him in the company until around WrestleMania. To come into WWE in the span of 12 months and work your way up to being a two-time NXT champion is a testament to how well he’ll adapt when he’s brought up to the main roster if he’s given the right opportunities to continue to grow. It’s bound to happen in 2017, so just be patient if it hasn’t happened by SummerSlam.
Recently, rumors were floating around that Dillinger could be coming up to the SmackDown roster to start a feud with The Miz over the Intercontinental Championship, but nothing seems to be really pointing in that direction—at least, nothing I’m aware of. It still could happen, but with so many people on Raw and SmackDown fighting for relevant spots on the WrestleMania card, I’d place his chances of coming up before Orlando at around 10%. Afterward, on the other hand, is a completely different story, as he could very well be a post-Mania debut. There’s a catch with Dillinger, though: he’s the type of guy they could keep in NXT because he’s so good that they want him to stick around to teach the newer people who need a veteran to learn from. In that scenario, Dillinger may be staying in Florida for a long while, possibly even the entirety of 2017. The downside to that would be the lack of him on the main roster, but the benefit would be that his chances to win the NXT Championship would go up dramatically. It should be a good year for The Perfect 10 one way or another, but if I had to bet, I’d say he’ll show up on the SmackDown brand sometime shortly following WrestleMania.
Those are my picks, but do you think there are any other stars who could jump from NXT to the main roster? Should I have tossed Wesley Blake’s name in with Buddy Murphy, or am I shortsighted in not including The Authors of Pain? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!