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The “Impact” of NXT

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The list of performers that many fans praise as those that didn’t get a chance to showcase their skills elsewhere continue to show up in NXT, the brand that seems to keep people talking in some form or fashion almost continuously. Eric Young, who spent 12 years of his nearly two decade career on the TNA roster, was the latest former Impact star to make his way to the WWE Network when he made a surprise debut during last Thursday’s tapings.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Eric Young is without a doubt one of the most versatile workers in the business. He took whatever he was given in TNA, no matter how ridiculous, and made the best of it. Regardless of if he was booked as the paranoid “Don’t Fire Eric” character or the “Super Eric” persona, he still managed to make the gimmicks watchable and in many ways, kept his career moving forward. One of the original members of Team Canada, he flourished even after the stable dissolved, and it can’t be understated how well he adapted to the flip-flopping TNA booking style. He rotated between a comedy gimmick and a serious heel through different phrases of his career, and somehow managed to stay over with the audience.

He also deserves credit for getting in great shape in recent years and was smart enough to evolve himself to avoid becoming stale after over a decade of TV exposure. In 2014, Eric Young won the TNA Heavyweight title and it was nice to see him finally get rewarded for his hard work at the promotion. Plus, he was one of the few workers that could help establish TNA as something more than just “WWE lite” so to speak, but he dropped the belt to former WWE star, Bobby Lashley just two months later. It goes without saying, TNA missed the boat with Eric Young and he was one of the most dependable performers they had on the roster. The same could be said for several other competitors that worked for the company, including James Storm, Bobby Roode, Austin Aries etc.

During the tapings, Young cut a promo and had a match against NXT champion, Samoa Joe. Three weeks of TV were filmed and Young didn’t have a follow up appearance, but that isn’t necessarily an indication that he won’t compete there again. However, until something is directly reported, there’s some mystery to his NXT status, considering that James Storm made a brief stop there before returning to TNA. A side note about Storm, unless he wasn’t offered a contract, it’s a little puzzling why he chose to go back to Impact since it seemed like he could do well in the WWE. As for Eric Young, he has all the skills to have an extended run there. He’s solid in the ring and on the mic. Plus, he knows how to effectively work a comedy gimmick, which in itself could keep him employed for years, similar to Santino Marella. That’s not a jab either, the point being Eric Young would seem to be able to excel at some role within the WWE and will do it well. That being said, he’s capable in the ring and definitely provides some depth to the NXT roster as some of their main stars transition to Raw. It’s great to see Eric Young finally get the chance to showcase his skills on the main stage, especially since he was completely underutilized in TNA.

Along with Eric Young, his former Team Canada partner, Bobby Roode, who was shown in the crowd at the Dallas event, is expected to start in NXT soon. Many people have praised Roode as a main event level talent, but as of now, I don’t think so. Granted, he’s a solid pro, but I just haven’t seen anything that says top-level star. I could be wrong and the TNA environment could’ve prevented him from being showcased to his full potential, which is why it will be interesting to see how he progresses in the WWE setting. Where Roode is booked remains to be seen, but similar to Young, he would add depth to the shows.

Austin Aries began wrestling in NXT a few months ago and has done reasonable well so far. The former ROH and TNA champion was considered by many to be one of the best workers in the United States prior to his debut, and with Joe as champion, is it possible that a Joe/Aries feud is booked to relive their ROH history? With Finn Balor’s impending departure to join Raw, NXT will have to promote another marquee title series in the future, and Joe/Aries could work extremely well. Speaking of Balor, many fans are clamoring for his move to the main roster, but a rematch with Joe was booked for the next Takeover special so it appears that he won’t make the jump for at least a few months. Despite the anticipation for him to show up on Raw, in my opinion it would be a wise decision to keep him on NXT at the moment. The main roster of the WWE just added several new talents and for Balor to be featured to his full potential, it makes sense to wait until there’s a meaningful angle that would logistically bring him to Raw. Some have suggested the Bullet Club, but how exactly is that going to be booked?

Despite being booed out of the building almost weekly, Roman Reigns probably isn’t going to turn heel and until he gets some type of stable around him, how is Reigns vs. the Bullet Club going to be booked? Either a few guys attack Reigns, which in theory would make them heel, but they would get cheered – or Reigns clears the ring of everyone and gets more heat for being booked like super man every week. It seems as though too many fans don’t see the big picture when it comes to the direction of certain angles or the restrictions of WWE booking. Would it be awesome to see Finn Balor storm the ring and the Bullet Club pose as Raw goes off the air? Sure, but what happens the next week? If anything, bringing Balor to the main roster right now would risk him getting lost in the shuffle and it would be counter productive if he was in the background during the AJ/Reigns feud. Don’t get me wrong, Finn Balor is extremely talented and is a WrestleMania main event level performer, but with all the new talent on Raw, there’s no reason to rush him to the main roster.

The point being, these signings of former TNA talent are very beneficial to the NXT brand because it brings polished talent to the show that add depth when the previously mentioned wrestlers debut on the main roster. As I’ve said previously, some of the talent that inked a deal for NXT were probably signed specifically to keep the brand strong on a consistent basis, such as Samoa Joe and Asuka, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. If a particular competitor brings a style that is suited for NXT and they are making good money, it makes sense for them to work their WWE career there. It remains to be seen if Eric Young and Bobby Roode were signed specifically for NXT or if Raw would be in the plans, but it certainly adds to the brand.

-Jim LaMotta

@jimlamotta

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