If Wrestlemania is the "season finale" for the WWE, the following night usually marks the beginning of a whole new set of storylines and drama.
The RAW after Wrestlemania has become known for debuting new wrestlers. From Brock Lesnar to Mankind to Goldberg, many of the WWE's most memorable wrestlers have made their WWE debut on the show after Wrestlemania.
In recent years, most post-Wrestlemania debuts were call ups from the NXT, as "rookie" wrestlers finally got their big chance to appear on the WWE's main roster. Neville, Apollo Crews, Enzo and Cass, Paige, and Rusev all made their debuts right after Wrestlemania, usually to a big pop from a crowd familiar with their NXT exploits.
Although Wrestlemania isn't for another week, many fans are already wondering which of their favorite NXT wrestlers will get the nod to take the next big step in their careers. Let's take a look at five of the most likely candidates to get called up from NXT:
Last year, the WWE made a big splash when it signed four major stars from New Japan Pro Wrestling, arguably the second biggest wrestling promotion on the planet. Three of those wrestlers - AJ Styles, Luke Gallows, and Karl Anderson - went straight to the main roster, in part due to a string of unfortunate injuries that left the WWE shorthanded. The fourth wrestler was Japanese star Shinsuke Nakamura, who was sent to NXT to help shore up the developmental brand during a period of major transition.
With the recent edition of Kassius Ohno and Bobby Roode and a supposed wave of talent on its way from Ring of Honor, there's no need to hold Nakamura back in NXT any longer. Nakamura is one of the best wrestlers on the planet with more charisma in his pinky finger than most of the WWE's main roster combined. Nakamura is a natural storyteller in the ring and has plenty of big match experience. While NXT needed Nakamura to help sell tickets for its ever growing tour shows, Nakamura has never needed NXT.
Bringing Nakamura up to the main roster and inserting him into a major feud would be the perfect way to signal the WWE's commitment to its international market and would inject an insane level of excitement into the WWE's most devoted fans. There's also a level of urgency to getting Nakamura onto the WWE roster - he's 37 years old and is approaching the twilight of his career. While Nakamura can still put on a fantastic match, he has a tendency to coast when not motivated (think Randy Orton, only more entertaining) and he's probably not going to want to do a full touring schedule for much longer.prevnext
The only two time tag team champs in NXT history, the Revival are arguably the best tag team on the planet. Scott Dawson and Dash Wilder were long suffering NXT wrestlers who finally found an effective gimmick in 2015 as hard-hitting wrestlers with an effortless ability to break the rules when the refs weren't looking. While their antics weren't revolutionary by any means, the Revival were both effective and ruthless and could really tell a great story while breaking the rules (and their opponent's bones.)
The Revival had a fantastic 2016, culminating in a fantastic match against the team of Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa in November that was hailed by many (including myself) as the best WWE match of the year. Since they dropped the NXT Tag Team Championships to Gargano and Ciampa, the Revival haven't had much to do, although they are scheduled to appear in a three way match at NXT Takeover next weekend.
Both the RAW and Smackdown Tag Team divisions are in desperate need of new blood, and the Revival would be instant contenders on whichever show they appeared. Given the lack of strong heel teams on Smackdown, it makes more sense to move the Revival there, although the concept of watching them beat up Enzo and Cass is definitely tempting.prevnext
Tye Dillinger has had a long run in NXT, having first appeared in WWE's developmental programs way back in 2006. Although Dillinger's first appearance on WWE TV was getting superkicked by Shawn Michaels way back on the first Cyber Sunday PPV, he didn't really find a solid gimmick until he reinvented himself as "the Perfect 10," a cocky wrestler with an endearing and infectious "ten" chant.
Dillinger was originally a heel, but his chant and his long history of futility quickly turned him into one of NXT's most popular heroes. Dillinger was rewarded this year with a spot at the Royal Rumble, where he came out (predictably) in the 10 spot and stared down Braun Strowman before eventually getting tossed out of the match.
Dillinger is never going to be a main event star (especially because he's 36 years old) but he's got a great chant and could easily become the next big underdog that piles up losses but is still popular with the fans. If NXT isn't going to give Dillinger a title run (and admittedly, his story is trending that way), give the fans what they want and bring Dillinger up to the main roster so he can act as a gateway star in the vein of Dolph Ziggler or Sami Zayn.prevnext
Everyone hates Elias Samson, the brawny NXT wrestler better known as the Drifter. Carrying a guitar and singing vaguely insulting songs, Samson is one of the few heels on NXT's roster who is truly hated by the fans. That doesn't mean Samson is a bad wrestler, it just means he is VERY good at getting fans (even the ones who love to cheer bad guys) to boo him whenever he picks up a mike or steps into the ring.
Of all the wrestlers on this list, Samson is probably the most likely to get called up. Samson is set to have a "Loser Leaves NXT" match against the recently returned Kassius Ohno last week, and it doesn't take a genius to see how that match is going to end. If Samson does get the call up, expect him to immediately get under the skin of the WWE Universe. Unlike Kevin Owens or AJ Styles, Samson is fully capable of getting heat and should elicit some great reactions as soon as he drifts into a WWE ring.prevnext
Hideo Itami is the last of the NXT's "third generation," the group of wrestlers that transformed NXT into the critically acclaimed brand known for its indy feel and world class matches. While Itami's counterparts like Finn Balor and Kevin Owens have all moved on to make waves in the WWE, Itami's career took an unfortunate setback due to a shoulder injury and concussion that has left him on the sidelines for the better part of two years.
Because of his lengthy absences, Itami probably isn't as widely known as the other wrestlers on this list. However, Itami's moveset has been widely copied, most notably by Daniel Bryan (who used Hideo's running knee and distinctive kicks) and CM Punk (who took Itami's innovative GTS.) Itami "reclaimed" the GTS during his brief return to the ring last year, using it on Austin Aries before their feud was cut off due to injuries to both wrestlers.
NXT has largely moved past Itami, so it's probably time for Itami to get the call up and get a second chance to make a major impact in a WWE ring.prev