Every year, fans get excited about the potential for wrestlers to be called up to the main roster from NXT as it presents not only new and exciting feuds for options to watch on Raw and SmackDown, but also symbolizes the progression of a superstar’s graduation.
Sadly, not everybody is able to make the transition as easily as someone like Kevin Owens, who was immediately placed in a program with John Cena. For every successful Finn Balor, there’s a Tyler Breeze who struggled for a while or worse, a Bo Dallas who never amounted to anything after a long time and several attempts. Sometimes, these wrestlers are given the ability to flourish like Alexa Bliss and other times, they’re made to be jokes like The Ascension.
This year, following WrestleMania 33, we saw the addition of a handful of names brought onto the Raw and SmackDown rosters. Since then, two months have gone by, which is a decent enough time to start assessing which men are heading in the right direction and which are floundering and need some help.
Without further ado, I present to you my personal ranking of our graduates.
#5. The Singh Brothers
Being the stooges to Jinder Mahal sounds rather lackluster at first, but the second he won that WWE Championship, the position suddenly became a lot better than some of the alternatives. Would you rather be seen every week alongside a controversial and exciting (for both positive and negative reasons) champion of a brand or would you rather be off television like Heath Slater and Rhyno?
Why The Singh Brothers rank dead last in this list, though, is because they’re window dressing. To be perfectly honest, I still don’t know their new names by heart. Apparently, they’re Samir and Sunil, but I can’t tell you which one is which, as I just barely got to the point where I could remember which of the Bollywood Boyz was Harv and which was Gurv. They appeared so infrequently on television beforehand and now that they’re on screen more often, they still haven’t been given a chance to showcase any personality.
They also haven’t wrestled a match, despite taking a few licks here and there—particularly from Randy Orton haphazardly tossing them into tables. Without having any kind of action to equate to them, they might as well be managers, but since they don’t speak on behalf of Jinder Mahal, they aren’t proving themselves particularly useful.
It’s only been a few weeks, so there’s still much more room for this stable to flourish, but The Singh Brothers need to start wrestling soon for audiences to get familiarized with them as characters.
#4. The Revival
Bad luck screwed The Revival out of a higher spot on this list not just once, but twice.
At first, they were given a big push out the gates by feuding with The New Day, but that only lasted what, two weeks? The Superstar Shake-Up killed that program and before they could reassess and starting building toward another feud, Dash Wilder suffered an injury that put them on the shelf for quite some time.
Since then, they’ve mostly been off screen outside of a cameo last week and a quick promo this week to remind audiences they haven’t been released. Effectively, when Wilder is healed up and cleared to return to action, they’re going to almost have to re-debut as it will be so long since they’ve appeared that people will require a refresher course in who their characters are, what their moveset consists of and how they can be threats to the Raw Tag Team Championship.
Here’s hoping that time comes soon and when it does, a title win isn’t too far off from it, as The Revival proved themselves to be one of the most entertaining aspects of NXT for an entire year.
#3. Tye Dillinger
Frankly, I wish Tye Dillinger was in a better position than he currently is, but as mentioned above, these are all still fresh enough that we can’t rule people out as a success or a failure.
Dillinger’s had a few wins to his name, which is good, including one during the pre-show of Backlash where he defeated Aiden English—something he seems to make a habit out of.
Sadly, there isn’t much else Dillinger’s accomplished. He’s at a level right now where he’s protected enough that nothing is hurting him, but he also hasn’t been given much mometum to work with to build up to something greater.
As a midcarder, he’s much better off than someone like Sin Cara or even Mojo Rawley, who won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal and immediately followed it up by making virtually no appearances on SmackDown. However, Dillinger has a long way up the ladder before he’s able to compete against United States champion Kevin Owens and seem like he can take the title away from him.
The Perfect 10 had a great moment at the beginning of 2017 with his Royal Rumble entrance and he’s wrestled some important matches on NXT, so WWE officials clearly like him, but the machine has to get behind him some more rather than hoping it will all sort itself out on the live event circuit, as that doesn’t translate to television and pay-per-view storylines.
#2. Elias Samson
You may disagree with me, but from my perspective, the weeks of Elias Samson doing absolutely nothing but hanging out backstage playing his guitar were hilarious. If that had kept up for a while with the volume turned up on how increasingly strange it could be, I would have loved it, but eventually, he needed to step into the ring.
Surprisingly, Samson’s been treated rather kindly, which is odd as he left NXT as a guy who lost his contract and then lost another match as the masked El Vagabundo. That was a rather unceremonious exit, but on Raw, he’s kicking some ass.
A win over a nameless jobber doesn’t mean much, but it does show that WWE values him enough that he can wreck someone just to look strong. More important is how he has been interwoven between The Miz and Dean Ambrose for the Intercontinental Championship feud. Rumors suggest he may cause the disqualification that results in Ambrose losing the title at Extreme Rules, prompting The Lunatic Fringe to start a direct feud with The Drifter, which would be a great program for him to sink his teeth into.
Feuding with a former world champion and a bona fide main eventer this early on is quite a nice lineup.
#1. Shinsuke Nakamura
There isn’t even an argument to be made here. This guy has wrestled just a few times but he’s done so against main event caliber talent, he hasn’t lost, and he is competing for the Money in the Bank. If he wins that briefcase, he’ll be set up as the challenger for the top title in the entire company, with the possibility that he actually wins said WWE Championship.