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7 NXT Superstars that could go to Raw or SmackDown LIVE in 2018
One of the most compelling stories of the past year has been the influx of NXT Superstars onto Raw and SmackDown LIVE. Starting with Samoa Joe’s shocking dismantling of Seth Rollins on Raw last January and continuing through The Riott Squad’s remarkable arrival to SmackDown LIVE last month, the impact of NXT alumni on the red and blue brands cannot be overstated.
As the calendar turns to 2018, we at WWE.com came up with our list of seven Superstars (give or take) who seem primed to test the waters of Raw or SmackDown LIVE in the coming year.
The Iconic Duo
It’s hard to fathom NXT without Peyton Royce & Billie Kay. The Iconic Duo’s charmingly annoying antics, from their torment of Johnny Gargano on NXT road trips to their routine belittlement of colleagues at the WWE Performance Center, have made them must-follow Superstars on social media. Their behavior has won them admirers and detractors alike, but what’s not up for debate is Royce & Kay’s shrewdness inside the ring. The outspoken Australian Superstars have been perennial threats to the NXT Women’s Title since they first showed up in Orlando, Fla. Our only request for whichever General Manager scoops them up from NXT? Keep them as a package deal, please.
Aleister Black is good enough to be NXT Champion. The Dutch Superstar is also good enough to hold any number of Raw or SmackDown titles. The world-renowned striker has been one of NXT’s most dangerous Superstars since arriving on the scene at NXT TakeOver: Orlando. What makes Black such a compelling prospect for Raw and SmackDown LIVE is that he is an utterly unique competitor. His ability to uncork a precise head kick in the blink of an eye puts him in a class of his own, and not even the most experienced Superstar can claim to have the same unsettling composure that Black possess between the ropes. It’s not really a matter of if, but when, Black will bring his devastating Black Mass to the red or blue brand. We are betting 2018 could be the year.
Anytime a Superstar wipes the floor with the universally despised Enzo Amore, WWE fans are bound to lend their support. Yet, WWE U.K. Champion Pete Dunne’s dismantling of The Certified G on Raw during the red brand’s stopover in Manchester, England, also underscored what NXT and U.K. fans have known for quite some time: The BruiserWeight is a rare breed. More specifically, he’s a dangerous, ill-tempered psycho who enjoys punishing opponents. The NXT Universe, perhaps choosing to turn a blind eye to Dunne’s more deplorable acts and instead rejoice in the pleasure he derives from hurting others, has developed a soft spot for this coldhearted competitor. We think the same would be true of the larger WWE Universe, whether Dunne were left to tear loose on Raw’s Cruiserweight division or face fellow smash-mouth fighters like Shinsuke Nakamura or Kevin Owens on SmackDown LIVE.
No Way Jose
There is no denying that No Way Jose has the size, skill and attitude to go far on Raw or Smackdown LIVE. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound slugger from the Dominican Republic can trade blows with the heaviest hitters in all WWE. His jubilation is infectious, and he’s capable of reaching the most hard-nosed fan all the way up in the nosebleeds — a trait that no doubt makes him appealing to either brand’s executive management. And lest you think Jose’s lack of hardware in NXT portends of lackluster success on Raw or SmackDown LIVE, keep this in mind: Alexa Bliss, Enzo Amore and Baron Corbin all went from being title-less in NXT to champions on Raw and SmackDown LIVE. Could No Way Jose be the next Superstar to continue the trend?
Sure, SAnitY were the NXT Tag Team Champions until recently, and yes, Nikki Cross appears to have the NXT Women’s Title in her crosshairs yet again. However, the havoc-craving contingent of Cross, Killian Dain, Alexander Wolfe and Eric Young has never seemed to prioritize championship glory over their core unifying principle of creating chaos. And as proficient as they are at keeping fellow NXT Superstars on their toes, SAnitY might have even more opportunity to spark mayhem in a new environment, on Raw or SmackDown LIVE. Given SAnitY’s strength in numbers, it’s easy to see how their arrival on Monday or Tuesday night would be an instant gamechanger for WWE in 2018.
Kassius Ohno is widely considered one of the best wrestlers in the world today. As somebody who’s been knocking out opponents since the last days of NXT’s predecessor, Florida Championship Wrestling, he’s also one of NXT’s most experienced competitors. Although he hasn’t yet stepped in a Raw or SmackDown LIVE ring, Ohno has gone to war with many of the brands’ top dogs, from Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens to Samoa Joe and Seth Rollins, over the course of his career. His Rolling Elbow alone could easily make him a title contender from day one. The seasoned pro may be determined to win the NXT Title, but a chance to knock out the likes of Brock Lesnar or AJ Styles — maybe even his former tag team partner Cesaro — may be too good to pass up. Could 2018 be the year such an opportunity comes knocking?
Authors of Pain
Paul Ellering’s intimidating titans, Akam & Rezar, have the brute force and complete fearlessness to stand toe-to-toe with any team in sports-entertainment, and that’s exactly what should make them so enticing to the General Managers of Raw and SmackDown LIVE. Imagine The Authors of Pain throwing down with The Bludgeon Brothers on SmackDown LIVE or The Bar on Raw, and you can practically hear the freight train-like collisions. AOP have already written a Book of Dominance in NXT, having gone undefeated for more than a year, but once they reach Raw or SmackDown LIVE, we’ll all realize that tome was just the first volume in a monstrous body of work.