When a WWE talent transitions from being an NXT talent to a main roster talent, it is considered a “call-up,” much like how a baseball player can get called up to the major leagues from an affiliated farm team. When the brand split happened, a lot of talent had been moved up from NXT onto “Raw” and “Smackdown” in a short period of time.
In recent years, some main roster talent did shift down to NXT. Zack Ryder notably joined the NXT ranks to form the Hype Bros. team with Mojo Rawley while still appearing on “Raw” and “Smackdown.” Cameron and Eva Marie both went back to NXT to work on their fundamentals, or so storylines on “Total Divas” had played. Cesaro appeared on NXT programming to challenge for the world title. Just a few examples…
But a lot of the recent call-ups are not working out as anticipated. Baron Corbin is undeniably a big guy, but he is not clicking and is not part of a significant storyline. The same can be said of Apollo Crews, who initially emerged as an Intercontinental Title contender, then on last week’s “Smackdown” was nearly used as an enhancement talent to Curt Hawkins. The Vaudevillains appear to be in tag team purgatory, much like The Ascension, who were also a big deal in NXT. Nia Jax had a parallel introduction to Braun Strowman in having a squash match every week, but she has been M.I.A. since her questionably-still-happening feud with Alicia Fox.
Rather than releasing this talent, or giving them new gimmicks, why not send them back to NXT? Maybe they could learn more. Maybe they can help spice up some of the current NXT storylines and help get new talent over.
Similarly, a lot of the current main roster is in the background without explanation. Jack Swagger was a “hot free agent” when picked up by “Smackdown,” but has only been seen once or twice seen, and made to look weak in those limited television appearances. Curtis Axel had a nice run as a Social Outcast, but is now without a program. It is commonly-known that Axel helped train The Rock — alongside Curt Hawkins — when he was returning for a WWE match, so obviously he has some coaching potential to him. Tyler Breeze, himself a NXT call-up not too long ago, has a character that works well as both a babyface and a heel, as depending on the storyline. His tag team with Fandango gets a great reaction, but is extremely distant from a championship-related storyline.
In addition to giving main roster WWE talent another place to work, talent-swapping would also help make NXT more interesting and less unpredictable. Aside from recent free agent signings — most of which leaked online due to spoilers — there is not a lot of surprise when it comes to NXT. If a particular main roster talent were backstage at an NXT taping and such were reported online, it may be a shocker, but it could be shocking if that person came out and cut a promo or got involved with an NXT storyline.
Within the WWE 2K video games, NXT talent can wrestle WWE talent. NXT arenas can also be chosen for main roster talent to wrestle in. NXT wrestlers’ ratings aren’t necessarily lower than WWE wrestlers’ ratings. Sure, it is a video game, but it shows that there is not much of a gap in credibility between NXT and “Raw” or “Smackdown” in the minds of the average WWE fan.
As a result of this year’s brand split and the worldwide roll-out of the WWE Network, there is extra pressure on WWE to keep pumping out new content while maintaining a deep roster of talent. For WWE to get its money worth out of its talent, and for its fans to stay loyal to the product, “Raw” and “Smackdown” will have to keep evolving with what the general public seeks in wrestling. However, NXT is in a different position of being a “loss leader” — for now — and can focus on being the cool alternative to what is shown on weekly terrestrial television. In turn, there is no harm in getting a little experimental as the company’s credible third brand.