Finals in college can drain a guy, but fortunately, I survived and I’m back in action, baby.
Anyways, this is a lingering thought I’ve had for quite some time now. Ever since NXT talents began to get called up to WWE’s main roster, there’s always I thought that has always crossed my mind. What exactly is the ceiling for NXT superstars? CM Punk was certainly one who didn’t mince words, as he had quite a few pipe bombs in his day. His most famous one came in 2011, but one that I highlighted was the one he dropped in 2013 before his WWE Championship match against The Rock at the Royal Rumble. I highlighted some quotes that stood out to me and you can watch the whole video for yourself below.
“Here’s the truth about the WWE. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best wrestler, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best talker, it doesn’t matter if you’re the best overall performer…..there’s a glass ceiling and no one’s allowed to break it.”
“That’s the simple story of this place. The more popular you are, the more money you make. The more you people cheer for any given superstar, the more opportunities one is afforded.”
“Why do you think a guy like John Cena, who admittedly had the worst year of his career, gets title shot after title shot after title shot. Or why a lethal grappler, why a serious submission specialist like Daniel Bryan puts a smile on his face and belittles himself with catchphrases?”
“Why an invisible child, Little Jimmy, is better positioned on the flagship show, Monday Night RAW, than a workhorse like Tyson Kidd?”
Now, NXT at this time wasn’t nearly as prominent as it is now, but there are still thoughts that resonated with me from this video that can apply to the current state of NXT. Now I think it goes without saying that NXT’s developmental program has gone a long way in harboring future WWE superstars and talents that WWE can rely upon for work in the foreseeable future. Names such as Kevin Owens, Finn Balor, and Shinsuke Nakamura come to mind. However, is CM Punk right when he says there is an invisible glass ceiling that certain people aren’t allowed to break?
Ric Flair came under fire not too long ago for some controversial comments regarding former NXT and Universal Champion Finn Balor. Here was his quote:
“If I’m looking at what’s going to draw money, what I would pay to see, I would pay to see Dolph against Ambrose before I’d pay to see Finn Bálor against Seth Rollins, so I think it’s phenomenal. I think Finn Bálor is great too. I just think you’ve got a legitimate heavyweight in Seth Rollins, a legitimate heavyweight in Roman Reigns, and I don’t think we’ll ever see the day, and I could be totally wrong, that a cruiserweight will ever main event a WrestleMania.”
Let’s start with Finn Balor. Finn Balor is shaped like a Cruiserweight, but since he was brought to the main roster, he’s been treated like a main-event talent. Before his untimely injury, he defeated Kevin Owens, Cesaro and pinned the then-United States Champion Rusev in his first match, and then went on to defeat the man who has now main evented three straight WrestleManias, Roman Reigns on the same night. Then, after some admittedly lackluster build, Finn Balor defeated established main eventer, Seth Rollins, at Summerslam to hold the newly made Universal Championship, before he was stripped of the title due to his injury. When I look at Balor, I see a unique character that does things different from the rest of the roster. His face paint and demon persona isn’t anything in new in WWE as we have seen things like that before, but his entrance captivates the crowd and gets them involved. His speaking, while a lot is left to be desired, has certainly improved, as seen with his MizTV segment. But what are the odds we see him main event a WrestleMania?
Balor as of this moment is on the RAW roster, and for all intents and purposes, let’s stay he stays there. What are the odds that he goes on last at Wrestlemania? Reports have said that he may be the next person in line to challenge Brock Lesnar for the Universal Championship, and he likely isn’t going to take the title away from him, as that seems like a destiny fit for Roman Reigns. Let’s take another former NXT Champion, Samoa Joe. At WrestleMania Axxess this past year, Samoa Joe’s session ended half an hour earlier than intended because of the lack of fans that showed up for him Instead, his session was instead used for the influx of Roman Reigns fans that flooded the line. That’s the part of the reason why I decided to write this article. That instance was sort of metaphorical in regards to what I believed to be the pecking order in WWE. When you look at Samoa Joe, one of the most successful people in the world of wrestling outside of WWE, and a guy that has incredible mobility for a man his size can you foresee him main-eventing WrestleMania? Is he that high-profile kind of guy?
Kevin Owens has won the NXT Title, the Universal Championship and both mid card titles. He carried RAW for the majority of his reign as Universal Champion ranging from August to this past February. However, when we look on the future match cards for WreslteMania down the line, will he end up being the main attraction? Even a Shinsuke Nakamura, a guy who has gotten over with the crowd without speaking fluent English because of his charisma and his unique style of wrestling, may be considered doubtful for a WrestleMania main event slot. Now, don’t get me wrong. Not main eventing a WrestleMania shouldn’t be considered a failure, because many superstars come and go, and the majority of them do not get blessed with that privilege. Superstars certainly don’t need to main event WrestleMnaia to have a successful career, especially considering what kind of metric they will measure their career success on. All that being said, is there a pre-ordained limit as to how far these superstars are able to spread their wings? The conversation at least needs to be had, because it appears as though WWE is going to continue to ride on the big names of the past and part-time superstars to shoulder the load at WrestleMania each year, even in the absence of The Undertaker.