If you’re an avid WWE NXT viewer, or perhaps just an NXT columnist, you’re probably concerned about the effect the WWE draft is going to have on WWE’s soon-to-be-third touring brand. Especially following a much-improved episode of NXT bookended by a really fun Bayley-Alexa Bliss match and a legitimate **** 2/3 falls rematch between American Alpha and The Revival.
Every loss on NXT seems like it could be a signal for imminent departure, but fear not, internet citizen, you’ll see a minimal loss to NXT from the WWE draft.
Shinsuke Nakamura? Samoa Joe? Finn Balor? None of them are going to be drafted on July 19. There will be a couple of departures to full-time touring, sure. American Alpha seems primed for departure, but I’ve written at length about the rollicking tag team division in NXT. NXT is still trying to recover from the talent drain of WrestleMania season. But even after WrestleMania, who left that NXT diehards see as a loss? Enzo Amore and Big Cass. That’s about it, but they’re doing great on the main roster. The only sad story of this year’s call-up blitz has been Baron Corbin. Trust me, there’s not going to be a main roster raid on NXT.
A Touring Force
Remove Samoa Joe, Asuka and The Revival from your “going to the main roster” lists right away. As champions, they’re sticking around for TV and Takeovers. More importantly, they’re the most important acts for NXT’s only money maker: touring.
A lot has been made about NXT talent not making money off of the house at NXT touring events, but a lot has also been made about NXT being a Triple H vanity project and a loss leader for WWE. Those gate receipts aren’t going up without NXT’s big names. It’s why Finn Balor hasn’t gone up yet. Balor in particular is in a WWE-no-man’s-land.
Balor is far too big a name to go be a midcarder on the main roster, and given their track record with newcomers not named “Owens” or “Zayn,” there’s a danger of Balor plummeting due to his size. In NXT, however, he’s the main draw and his work outclasses his contemporaries in NXT outside of Joe, Nakamura and Austin Aries. All four are essentially in the same position – too big for the top of NXT, but it’s a huge risk to move them up.
Those touring names, including Aries, are the backbone of NXT and won’t be going anywhere if NXT is to maintain even the meager revenue they’re currently earning.
So Who Could Go in the WWE Draft?
American Alpha is my only real lock and only real loss. And they should be.
After their incredible two-out-of-three falls match with The Revival tonight, American Alpha are no longer in line for the NXT Tag Team Championships and are set to fade out of Orlando against the Authors of Pain later this month. The WWE draft on July 19 should soften the blow to come on NXT July 20.
If tag teams could main event in WWE (a much larger conversation for another time), they’d be Nakamura right now. People would be clamoring about wasting their primes in NXT when they should be up drawing big money. They work the WWE style, they’re charismatic, they’re likable and they’re ready to lead the should-be thriving tag team scene on the main roster.
From another angle, is it all that hard to imagine Vince McMahon seeing a dark-skinned person dancing and thinking they’re ready for the main roster? No Way, Jose.
Depending on how Zach Ryder’s latest push works out, he and Mojo Rawley could settle into a jobber spot in the tag team division. Also, Rhyno could be looking for one last run following his reappearance on NXT this week – perhaps he’s one of the those many veterans WWE’s called for the WWE draft in anticipation of roster depth issues.
In the women’s division, only Bayley has a chance to come up. Her upcoming continuing program with Nia Jax is going to keep her in line for her NXT Women’s Championship rematch, but I could see her working double duty through Summerslam.
— WWE (@WWE) July 7, 2016
Bayley’s been ready for a year already and I predict that the women’s division will be a sizable part of either Raw or SmackDown (probably opposite the tag team division).
While a women’s division is likely to be a major part of the 2016 brand split WWE draft, NXT isn’t going to be. The necessity of touring money and the peculiar level of workers in prominent positions will insulate NXT’s best and brightest from the plight of being drafted to the big time.