8 Superstars we’d like to see re-emerge in NXT
The secret’s out: NXT is the place to be, and everyone — including those who have battled under the bright lights of WWE’s main roster — wants in on the action. Given the recent appearances by WWE Alumni Rhyno and The Brian Kendrick, as well as General Manager William Regal’s statement that he’s open to welcoming back former WWE Superstars, one can only wonder which familiar face will be the next to step inside the NXT Arena.
With that in mind, check out WWE.com’s picks for eight former WWE competitors we think would fit right in alongside the Superstars of tomorrow.
A good chunk of the WWE Universe may have missed the reinvention of Chris Masters, an early career renaissance The Masterpiece underwent in late 2010 on “WWE Superstars.” The same platform that showcased promising hosses like Tyler Reks, Mike Knox and Luke Gallows, “WWE Superstars” allowed Masters to dispatch his early Adonis persona and reemerge as a hardworking hero who showed fire from underneath and displayed talents we never knew he had.
The likeable jock parted ways with WWE just as he was finding himself in the ring, which was an unfortunate ending to a WWE run that began when Masters was barely 22. He may have been wet behind the ears at the start, but there’s no doubt The Masterpiece is a far more polished — and valuable — commodity now. Besides, the last time we heard from Masters is back when he saved his mother from a burning house by ripping a tree out of the ground and throwing it through a window. The dude just might be a genuine superhero. Give him the chance to prove it in WWE NXT. — RYAN MURPHY
Moonsaults, somersaults, corkscrew elbow drops and signature Roundhouse Buzzsaw Kicks. Tajiri’s electric move-set lit up ECW and WWE like the vibrant neon lights of his native Tokyo.
Trained in both lucha libre and Japanese styles of wrestling, Tajiri became an ECW fixture in 1998, where his matches against the high-flying Super Crazy would often whip the fickle crowds into a frenzy. The energy at those ECW shows in the late ’90s seems riotously reminiscent of the intensity within the NXT Arena today, which would allow Tajiri to feel right at home.
After landing with WWE in 2001, The Japanese Buzzsaw quickly became the assistant to then-WWE Commissioner William Regal. The working connection to Regal, current General Manager of NXT, could pay dividends. Tajiri needn’t rely on networking, however, to propel himself up the ranks. With an impressive in-ring resume, the former United States and Light Heavyweight Champion would make a formidable foe for the likes of aerial artists such as Adrian Neville, Hideo Itami and Sami Zayn. And with his former tag team partner and classic opponent, Rhyno, reemerging in an NXT ring, Tajiri could resurrect their enduring relationship and rivalry.
Bringing a litany of “How did he do that?!” histrionics and inexhaustible intensity, the Buzzsaw would energize NXT … and mow down the competition. — GREG ADKINS
Few men can equal the raw, physical talent of Shelton Benjamin. The former University of Minnesota wrestling standout — who makes highlight reel maneuvers seem effortless — is arguably one of the most gifted Superstars to ever step foot inside a WWE ring.
The “Gold Standard” and NXT are a match made in wrestling heaven. The former Intercontinental and World Tag Team Champion’s combination of speed and strength meshes perfectly with the fast, high-impact style commonly incorporated by NXT’s top Superstars. Just imagine the five-star matches Benjamin could deliver against Finn Bálor, Kevin Owens and others.
Despite an impressive in-ring career, it always seemed like the ultra-athletic Superstar was capable of just a little bit more. NXT could be just the place for Benjamin to not only showcase his physical tools, but discover a side of himself that neither he nor the WWE Universe have ever seen before. — SCOTT TAYLOR
One of the toughest Divas to ever step in the ring, Victoria was a force to be reckoned with during her tenure in WWE. Combining strength, agility and wrestling skill, Victoria powered her way through WWE Hall of Famers like Trish Stratus and Lita on her way to capturing two Women’s Championships. The innovator of The Black Widow wasn’t afraid to mix it up in Hardcore and Steel Cage Matches, a rarity for Divas.
Though she hasn’t been seen in a WWE ring since 2009, Victoria’s unique skill set and in-ring experience would make her a perfect challenge for the next generation of Divas. Could Bayley’s newfound confidence and aggression match up against the fierce Victoria? Would Charlotte’s genetic superiority lead her to dominance against a much more experienced opponent? NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks certainly talks a big game, but would The Boss be able to back it up against a woman who made her name physically bossing around the Divas division? There’s only one way to find out, and we’re hoping Victoria soon steps between the yellow ropes to give us the answers. — BOBBY MELOK
Depending on when one’s WWE fandom began, Jason Albert might be a heavily pierced enforcer, a mist-spewing Japanese lord or a funk-loving dancer. To the NXT Universe, he’s a gravelly voiced commentator whose Boston roots are made loud and clear every time he lauds Bayley’s in-ring skill. At the risk of putting his natural broadcasting talents on the backburner, it’s time for Albert to ditch the suit and put the trunks back on — this time, in NXT.
Don’t let the ignominious Lord Tensai experiment of 2012 confuse you; the 6-foot-7 protégé of WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski is as bruising a throwback as there is walking this planet. A headbutt from Albert can probably crack titanium, and his presence on the roster can only behoove NXT. Between WWE stints, Albert decimated (and, in turn, raised the game of) the wrestlers of Japan under the moniker Giant Bernard. NXT needs that Albert — the mean, snarling brute — to serve as a gatekeeper and show towering youths like Baron Corbin, Colin Cassady and Bull Dempsey what it truly means to throw your weight around.
Add in the wrinkle that Albert is already an instructor at the WWE Performance Center, where NXT Superstars train, and there’s enough student/teacher intrigue to whet any appetite. — JOHN CLAPP
Few Superstars can leave an impression quite like Carlito. The son of WWE Hall of Famer Carlos Colon unseated John Cena to become United States Champion in his SmackDown debut. He wrapped his first night on Raw with the Intercontinental Championship around his waist. He spit in the face of people who didn’t want to be cool and did it with a style we hadn’t seen since Razor Ramon.
And that afro is still a thing of beauty.
Outside of a brief appearance at the 2014 WWE Hall of Fame, Carlito hasn’t appeared in WWE since 2010. But the 36-year-old still has plenty left in his tank and he’s proved it while competing in Puerto Rico. The master of cool is aggressive, acrobatic and innovative enough to dominate the NXT scene and have some great matches against the younger Superstars in the NXT locker room. But fair warning, champions of NXT, don’t accept any title matches with Carlito on his first night. — JEFF LABOON
Former Divas Champion Michelle McCool would rock NXT like she rocked WWE just a few years ago. Coming up, herself, in WWE’s iteration of ECW, McCool knows exactly what it’s like to build success on her own terms, even if that often means booting other Divas straight in the mush. In some ways, this WWE Alumna’s ultra-physical approach inside the ring may have even been inspiration for the athletes in NXT’s women’s division.
Imagine the intriguing matchup McCool would pose for the likes of NXT Women’s Champion Sasha Banks, Bayley and former titleholder Charlotte, and how much these femme fatales could learn from those showdowns. In fact, some might say that McCool’s ability and charisma would transform the organization’s already incredible women’s division into something “simply flawless.” — MIKE BURDICK
A spot as the next veteran to shake things up in Full Sail is a perfect landing space for John Morrison. In fact, if there’s one thing that could coax The Prince of Parkour back above ground, it would probably be the chance to re-invent himself from the bottom up as a WWE Superstar in the same way Tyson Kidd recently did.
JoMo’s re-emergence as The Wednesday Night Delight would give The Lust Lizard of Love the chance to reconnect with the WWE Universe on a grassroots level and once again establish his main roster bonafides, while also giving the young’uns marinating down in the Sunshine State a chance to step up against one of WWE’s most beloved competitors … or step down as he mows them aside in glorious, glorious slow motion. What we’re trying to say is, yo, Breeze: JoMo’s gonna eat your lunch. — ANTHONY BENIGNO