The ink is still wet in the switch from 2017 to 2018, but since it’s January, that means we have not only the Royal Rumble imminently approaching, but the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and the post-WrestleMania call-up season is coming soon.
As such, it’s time for us to get our guesses out for which NXT superstars will receive the lucky news that they are making the transition to the main roster and will be moved over to the Raw or SmackDown brands.
Last year, I was able to get Asuka, Bobby Roode, The Revival, Samoa Joe, Shinsuke Nakamura, and Tye Dillinger correct, but fell short when it came to The Iconic Duo, Buddy Murphy and then-#DIY members Tommaso Ciampa and Johnny Gargano. All in all, 7 right and 5 wrong isn’t all too bad, so let’s give it another shot!
The Authors of Pain
Once they lost the NXT Tag Team Championship, it felt like this would be a matter of time. It just so happened that they were in exactly the wrong period of the year to usher in a call-up without being lost in the shuffle.
The Bludgeon Brothers effectively took over the spot Akam and Rezar could have had on SmackDown—which is fine, as Harper and Rowan needed something to do, too.
That is a collision that is definitely going to happen at some point and it’s interesting that for the past few months, The Authors of Pain have been somewhat on the tweener side of things without going full-blown babyface or staying 100% heels.
This allows for some more flexibility with their call-up and I think very soon after WrestleMania, we’ll see them come to Raw or SmackDown.
This one isn’t going to happen for a long, long time, as I expect Moon to keep the NXT Women’s Championship until the TakeOver for either Chicago (Money in the Bank) or Brooklyn IV (SummerSlam), putting her on the red or blue brands sometime in the summer or early fall.
Five women from NXT just came up to the main roster and Asuka is still relatively new to the scene, too. There’s no need to rush Moon along with them, particularly when NXT needs her to be the figurehead and the top of the food chain.
Still, she has to drop the belt at some point and when she does, there won’t be much of anything left for her to do, so when a new champion is crowned, watch out.
Things are a little different when it comes to Shayna Baszler, who is being advertised as joining the NXT lineup “soon” at the moment.
I’ve been assuming for quite some time that we’ll see a Four Horsewomen vs. Four Horsewomen match at WrestleMania, with the other women’s match being Asuka taking the Raw Women’s Championship. If that happens, Baszler will either stay a member of NXT with her teammates just being random outsiders, or she’ll be thrust onto the main roster to give fans a chance to connect with her during the build.
If WWE puts her on Raw and SmackDown leading up to WrestleMania, they aren’t going to demote her afterward by sending her back down to NXT. That just doesn’t happen. Instead, she’ll probably stick around and challenge Charlotte Flair for the SmackDown Women’s Championship or something like that, almost skipping the developmental roster entirely.
Of course, if there aren’t plans for the 8-woman tag team match at Mania, then by all means, Baszler can stay in NXT for many months to come and may not do anything on the main roster until 2019.
It’s never good to get injured, but it can sometimes be a blessing in disguise, and that might be applicable when it comes to Drew McIntyre.
After dropping the NXT Championship to Andrade “Cien” Almas, McIntyre will be out for quite a while—long enough that when he makes his return, it doesn’t have to be in NXT anymore.
Sure, he’s stated that he’ll be coming back for his title, but that would just revert back to a previous state that we’ve already seen instead of capitalizing on the momentum of the moment.
McIntyre is much better off popping up on a random episode of Raw or SmackDown in the spring or summer of 2018, depending on which brand needs him the most, and being inserted into the midcard title hunt there rather than backtracking for the NXT Championship.
As a former member of the main roster who has only gotten more physically imposing over time, McIntyre strikes me as one of the few surefire guarantees on this list.
I would be very close to saying Aleister Black was another guarantee, but the way I see it, there are two paths for Black in 2018.
a) He will be moving up to the main roster to join the 205 Live crew as a featured player and cruiserweight champion sometime after WrestleMania
b) He will be staying in NXT, wherein he will win the NXT Championship somewhere down the road by either defeating Almas or the heel who beats the babyfaces who beats Almas.
Clearly, WWE likes this guy and has protected him well so far, so they must have a lot of faith in him and want to make sure his future is a solid one. For him not to be a prospective call-up would be crazy, and there’s even a chance he accomplishes multiple things in 2018 by being NXT champion before going to the legitimate midcard of Raw or SmackDown rather than 205 Live.
With the live tours being an investment, I’m leaning more towards the cruiserweight division being where we see Black pop up after WrestleMania, at least until something makes me think otherwise.
No Way Jose
Every year, there’s at least one person who comes up because WWE must think to themselves “that guy’s been down in NXT how long now? Let’s just see if he sinks or swims.”
Mojo Rawley was an example of that in 2016 and for all intents and purposes, Tye Dillinger was the 2017 candidate, so I feel like No Way Jose will follow suit in 2018.
It’s been quite a while since anything was really done with him in NXT, even as much as a regular feud, which is not a good sign. Without making appearances here and there, it calls into question whether he’s injured or on his way out of the company, but there’s also a chance he’s being repackaged and/or moved up to the main roster and WWE simply doesn’t know what to do with him in the meantime.