Pro Wrestling

10 Most Anticipated NXT Graduates In 2016 Source:

With 2015 nearly over, it’s time to look ahead to what might be in store for WWE in the New Year. This time, we’re going to look at the top NXT wrestlers who are most likely to make the jump to the main WWE roster in the next year. They may not all succeed, but all of them have shown that they are far too good to be left in WWE’s developmental program for much longer, when they could be showcasing their talents on Raw and Smackdown. Will any of these have a rookie year like Kevin Owens, or will they flop at an Adam Rose-like level? Only time will tell, but unless we miss our guess, for these wrestlers, their time is now.

10. Baron Corbin

We’re not personally big fans of Corbin, especially since his appearances on Breaking Ground have made him look like a complete jerk with a massive ego (hopefully some of that is being played up for TV). However, it’s undoubtedly a fact that Corbin will be making his way to the main roster sooner rather than later. The fact that they’ve been having him wrestle longer matches lately, in lieu of the squash matches he was wrestling for most of his time in NXT, suggests they’re getting him ready for to move up and have Pay Per View-length bouts. Fortunately, he seems to have learned enough that he won’t embarrass himself, and he does have a gimmick that gets people’s attention. If there are no plans to put Corbin into the NXT Title mix (and it doesn’t seem like there are), the only other real option is to let him sink or swim on Raw. Source:

9. Jason Jordan and Chad Gable

If you believe Breaking Ground, Jason Jordan was basically on the chopping block until his team with Gable took off. That seems impossible, given his excellent wrestling ability and the mountain of charisma he’s been showing lately, but perhaps some of that is the influence of former Olympian and ridiculously good professional wrestler Chad Gable. Gable could very well be the second coming of Kurt Angle (the only slight against him is that he is really, really short), something the NXT fans have quickly noticed, and Jordan is no slouch himself. Together, they’ve clearly turned a corner, and their matches bring to mind the classic Haas and Benjamin duo of the 2000’s, except with even better wrestling and a boatload more fun to watch. That’s not a slight on the World’s Greatest Tag Team, but Jordan and Gable just seem like they are miles ahead of other tag teams at this point, and they’re improving on a seemingly daily basis. Source:

8. Emma

Realistically, Emma’s mostly back in NXT because her character tanked so badly on the main roster (which was not at all her fault) that she disappeared in order to completely re-invent herself. Which is a really good use of NXT that WWE doesn’t exploit often enough (see also, Zack Ryder teaming with Mojo Rawley). Now that she’s “Evil Emma”, who is angry at how badly she was treated in her WWE debut, she’s a completely fresh character who still has excellent wrestling skills. It actually gets overlooked that Emma is just as good a wrestler as the 4 Horsewomen and Paige, but she got trapped in a comedy character on Raw and never got to show off her skills. It’s pretty clear that Dana Brooke’s improvement has been aided, at least in part, by association with Emma, and once she’s done being kicked into a fine paste by Asuka, she should probably start looking for ways to get back to the top of the mountain. Source:

7. Corey Graves

If you’ve listened to Raw lately, you probably agree with us that the announce team is a flaming dumpster full of incompetence, sponsored by Mountain Dew. Michael Cole still retains some credibility thanks to his work on the Beast in the East Network event (where it became clear that he’s actually pretty good when he doesn’t have a 70-year-old micromanaging megalomaniac in his ear), but JBL continues to be loud, obnoxious, and not the least bit entertaining, while the role of Byron Saxton could be played with equal impact by an empty chair. While we’re not saying Corey Graves is the answer to all our problems, the fact of the matter is that he is killing it at the broadcast booth in NXT. He’s clearly someone who has studied the great heel color commentators and patterned his work after them, without going completely over the top and shouting over the rest of the announce team in an effort to get clever lines in (unlike a certain cowboy hat-wearing color man). We’d like to see Graves get a real shot on the big stage, but we’re also worried that the more tightly managed WWE shows might take away all the qualities that have made him so good. Source:

6. Apollo Crews

Anyone who doesn’t look at Apollo Crews and see money should get out of the money-making business, and we’re not even kidding. This man has the look and the skills that will almost guarantee that he becomes WWE World Heavyweight Champion, probably within the next five years. His promo skills are still unrefined, but he has an earnestness and honesty that will really connect with fans, and he can definitely back it up in the ring. Don’t think WWE doesn’t know it, too, on a recent episode of Breaking Ground, they revealed that Crews recently received a raise that puts him on a level in NXT that only one other person has reached thus far. That other wrestler was Kevin Owens, and we all know how quickly he shot up through the NXT ranks and onto the main roster. If Crews isn’t on the main roster before the sun goes down on 2016, it will only be due to forces beyond WWE’s control, such as a long-term injury. Source:

5. Enzo Amore and Big Cass

Frankly, it’s suprising that Enzo and Cass were not brought up on SummerSlam weekend, which happened in Brooklyn, New York. The timing seemed perfect, especially since they weren’t challenging for the NXT Tag Team Titles at TakeOver: Brooklyn, which also seemed like a no-brainer. But that didn’t happen, and after a short injury-related break, they’re back on NXT, challenging Dash and Dawson at TakeOver: UK. The act is as polished as it can be, and has the added benefit of not being predicated on them becoming excellent wrestlers (so they can keep learning and still get huge crowd pops for their gimmick). If they win the titles on the European tour, that will almost certainly continue to delay their rise to the main roster, but if they don’t come away with the belts in England, there’s an excellent chance that we’ll see them on Raw as early as January. Source: ****

4. Finn Balor

The minute Finn Balor debuted at a special event in full Demon makeup, his ticket to the main roster was pretty much secured. The Demon gimmick is incredibly marketable, and much like The Undertaker, it’s an entrance that people will pay to see live. Just imagining a full entrance in a packed stadium for WrestleMania gives us the chills. Balor has a couple of things working against him, however, first and easiest to overlook is that he’s on the smaller side for a pro wrestler, and we all know how Vince feels about that (though he’s always willing to overlook it if he sees money, which the Demon would provide). The second is that, when he’s not the Demon, Finn isn’t exactly the most engaging personality on the planet. He’s actually fairly bland when not in full makeup, and his promo abilities are average at best. Perhaps a full-time transition to the Demon would accelerate his transition to the main roster, but we can’t see him wanting to go through the whole bodypainting procedure on a daily basis, either. Source:

3. Samoa Joe

It’s been said that Joe was only brought in to work with NXT in a veteran role, but now that he’s found his motivation and looks like the Joe of five years ago, there’s absolutely no reason not to put him on the WWE roster. Much like other indie veterans like Finn, Sami, and Kevin Owens, Joe isn’t the youngest wrestler in the system right now. His window for a WWE run isn’t that large, which is probably why he wasn’t particularly intended to be much more than a veteran presence in NXT. Joe may never be WWE Champion, but he is exactly the sort of solid guy with excellent wrestling skills and a marketable character that needs to be on the main roster, not wasting away in NXT. Source:

2. Bayley

It is our belief that if Bayley were not the NXT Women’s Champion she would already be on Raw, hugging children, selling ridiculous amounts of merchandise, and granting so many Make-a-Wish requests it would make John Cena’s head spin. We’re not the only ones who believe that, by the way, it’s been said by several people within WWE itself. She is so far ahead of the rest of the NXT women that at this point, they have her acting as a road agent for them, and producing matches, because there’s absolutely nothing left for her to learn in NXT. Fortunately, Bayley seems scheduled to run in to the unstoppable force of Nia Jax at TakeOver: UK, which should free her up for moving on to the main roster. Sure, we could worry about how she’ll be treated in WWE, but frankly, Bayley deserves to be there, and has an excellent chance of succeeding no matter what they do with her. Source:

1. Sami Zayn

As great as it is that NXT has been running videos promoting Sami’s return to NXT, and as happy as we are that he’ll be wrestling on the NXT UK tour (and probably appearing at the TakeOver event), Sami Zayn has done everything he can in NXT. He got his moment as NXT Champion after trying for so long, and there’s nothing more he can really learn in developmental. Plus, his arch-nemesis, Kevin Owens, is comfortably ensconced on the main roster, and graduation is the only way Sami can ever get revenge. Our ideal scenario for Zayn’s WWE debut would be a surprise Rumble entry, eliminating Owens and re-igniting their blood feud, culminating in a great Intercontinental title match at WrestleMania, but the important thing is that Zayn needs to be on the main roster as soon as humanly possible. Also, it’s a shame Zayn’s mentor, El Generico, won’t be around to see his protege’s full-time debut on the main roster, but we understand he’s busy running an orphanage in Mexico. Source:

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle

Stephen Randle is an avid wrestling and film fan. He's been writing about WWE, movies, and video games for Goliath since 2015.